For some, there’s nothing more terrifying than the phrase “free will versus predestination.” See, I already lost some of you. Whether it brings folks back to a sharp disagreement, to a religion course that significantly lowered their GPA, or to the point when their beliefs started becoming a lot more confusing, I can sympathize with such a response. Unfortunately, the topic has become onerous to many largely because explanations offered are often incomplete or raise more questions than they answer. If God chooses who is saved or not, then he can neither be a just judge nor truthful, as he says he wants us all to be saved. If God leaves it up to us, then much of what he says about predestining events and accomplishing his purposes is called into question. And we see clearly in Chapter 17 of Healing Hereafter that God can’t foreknow who will choose salvation without God actually being the one choosing, so even this attempt to merge the two concepts falls flat. Can we truly do nothing more than flee from this topic then? Is there a way to maintain all of what God tells us in the Bible and yet come to a sensible and satisfying conclusion? I certainly believe so, and I hope Chapter 18’s summary below will get you excited-not afraid-to find the great answers God gives to the good questions we ask.
In Chapter 17 we find that God voluntarily and unabashedly limits his foreknowledge so that he can fulfill his purpose of us being able to freely make our salvation decisions. However, the Bible does confirm that God commonly interferes with our free will to make a great many circumstances and events inevitably certain, so that he can fulfill his prophecies and keep his promises. We review several examples of these predestinations that have nothing to do with human salvation, but then we take a closer look at the four that most poignantly do appear to influence people’s eternal fates. By incorporating the literary context, we find that the first three comment on God’s knowledge of either present or temporary future circumstances, but not eternal destinies. They also demonstrate again how God would not contradict his nature, does limit his omniscience, and persistently links a necessary component of human faith to the salvation process. However, the final passage does confirm that before he created humans, God predestined for a group of them to be saved, but we are not told if God picked specifically who would be in this remnant or if folks who already had become Christians simply considered themselves part of it retrospectively. To choose the most logical and biblical of these two options, we ask which one is more consistent with who the Bible says God is and which one is more consistent with the context of this passage. Because God is honest and just, because Jesus tells us that Hell wasn’t originally intended for humans, because he consistently includes human action in the salvation process, and because it is hypocritical for God to encourage, reward, command against, and punish such action if he himself predestined it, we decide the latter option is the better one. In the passage itself we find three reasons God predestines that at least a remnant of people will be saved: for his glory, for his desire, and for his pleasure. The passage’s context teaches us how all three are compromised if God picks precisely who is saved, and it even reminds us that free-willed human faith is an indispensable parameter affecting a person’s eternal fate.