Friday, July 09, 2010

Double Predestination

I learnt a new theological term today. But I apologise to my Reformed friends if it is an objectionable phrase - one website referred to it as 'perjorative'.
My Wesley Studies notes refer to Wesley's dislike of Calvin's concept of double predestination - of which I had never heard before - and which, I suspect, was not Calvin's idea anyway.
So what is it? The dual sense of predestination as regards both election and reprobation. Here again I was stuck - I've not (as far as I can remember) come across the term reprobation before. Election is the idea that God chooses beforehand who will be saved (as far as we can see arbitrarily) and he causes these people, by his grace, to turn to him in repentance.
Reprobation is the symmetrical idea that God chooses beforehand who will not be saved and causes them to sin and thus earn their condemnation. This carries the confusion of the sense that God causes these people to sin and thus he is surely as much at fault as the sinner. As far as I understand, most Reformed thinkers don't find the doctrine of reprobation necessary. Because, surely, human beings have sinned and are already condemned, there is no need to supply a symmetrical doctrine to election.
Which is probably why I haven't come across the term double predestination.
As Methodists and from the Wesleyan tradition, we believe that God provides, in his grace, the opportunity for all to repent and turn to him, and that the final choice is ours. We believe that he predestined that all who believe in Jesus will be saved - so that he chose the way, not the people. I'm ok with that - very ok, in fact.
[As a matter of interest, I had to find out about double predestination via Google, but I do hope that our theological discussions will sometime get to that level. To be fair, we were short of time.]


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

It is Wesley's argument against double predestination that is considered THE classic. I have it on my vestry shelf somewhere. I think, though, that the central concern of Calvinism is the supremacy of God. If one looks at it like that, the double predestination issue seems more understandable.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Aagh, the Congregationalist knows more about Wesley than I do! Thanks, Thomas.
We Methodists also believe in the supremacy of God (most of us, anyway). Are you taking a slightly different angle insofar as one does have to concede that sin is somehow God's 'fault' if you believe in his sovereignty - or at least that he created the world?

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Personally, as far as I can see, I take your own view on predestination. I think that the Calvinists were not wanting to give humanity any of the glory for salvation from sin, and so perceived faith itself, as broadly understood, to be a human act. Yet as someone said, to receive a gift does not contain merit. So I would agree with their basic sentiment, though not with all their conclusions.

Incidentally, the Congregational Church has had a strong Calvinistic stream, e.g. with the Savoy Declaration. However, it has had different streams. In recent decades, there has been a lively debate as to whether Congregationalism IS a certain doctrine, or whether the Lordship of Christ over the Church Meeting means His Lordship over the local Church's theology. In this line, there is a well known Congregational hymn: We limit not the truth of God. And so one tends to find national "ethoses" in Congregationalism, some tending the one way, some the other.

Steve Hayes said...

Calvinist terminology can be very confusing to those not familiar with it. One that threw me completely, when I first encountered it (in a Unisa education study guide) was "cultural mandate"). None of the standard reference books seemed to have it (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, etc).

Jenny Hillebrand said...

I think that the argument of Wesley's that Thomas is talking about is contained in Sermon #128 Free Grace. I really like Wesley's thinking. Part of his argument is that the doctrine of election necessarily implies accepting symetric reprobation. I'm not sure if I agree, but I don't think that is key to his point of view.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

From a Calvinists point of view the Bible makes a clear argument for predestination (go read Mark 13:20; Ephesians 1:4-5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8 for a bit of perspective). I think double predestination is a logical premise based on extrapolation rather a Biblically defined truth.

I’d be comfortable stating that all man is sinful, the wages of sin is death and because of God’s holiness, justice and wrath the punishment will be metered out in exact measure. Conversely as a demonstration of His love, grace and mercy that sin-debt was metered out against Jesus in exact measure as a payment for the elect of God.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks Mark - I was looking for your input! I can agree with everything that you said, though, so there must be something more. Perhaps as Thomas has suggested, predestination to what? Or how does predestination work?
I think there is a difference in reprobation as to whether God wilfully causes a particular human being to sin or whether he simply allows humans to 'sin on their own'. The first is double predestination and technically the second isn't.
I think that the doctrine of election can be argued almost equally well from a Calvinist or an Arminian point of view (from Scripture). But it is a difference that causes quite passionate disagreement.