I feel it’s important to remind you all this week that I am not a biblical scholar, and although I have spent many years researching and discussing these topics, you are (as always) totally free to disagree with me.
Really, I could be wrong.
I feel the need to start with this because today we’re discussing the difficult and controversial subject of predestination. Are we predestined, and if so, what does that mean for us? At first glance, it seems impossible, doesn’t it? We’ve been constantly saying that “love requires a choice,” and any true, free-willed choice would seem to rule out predestination as a possibility.
This is the great difference between human perception and God’s perception. To us, nothing is ever really certain until it has already happened. You can’t have freedom and predestination because the freedom to choose means the freedom to subvert that destination. That’s true from our perspective, but God sees things differently.
Ancient manuscripts refer to Jesus as “The lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world.” That’s because God is beyond time. People like to talk about “God’s plan,” but the word “plan” as we would understand it doesn’t apply to Him at all, because to Him there is no difference between predicting a thing and observing it. God, I believe, gives us the freedom to make our own choices, but He observes those choices before the foundations of the world.
I don’t believe He stops at observation, either—and now we are moving into the really difficult part. Let’s take a look at possibly the most important scriptures dealing with this topic, Romans 8, beginning with verse 29: “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.”
There’s a lot happening here, so let’s break it down. First up, “those whom He foreknew He also predestined.” We’ve already touched on God’s foreknowledge, and I think here that it’s referring specifically to those who God knows will choose His way given the chance. Since He knows the choice they will make, by ensuring that they have that choice He predestines them to be conformed to the image of his Son, meaning the likeness of Jesus.
Then you have the bit that says, “and those whom He predestined He also called, justified, and glorified.” We’ve talked a bit about these before, but to refresh, justified means a lot more than just pardoned for your wrongdoing. It means that you are declared innocent—even righteous! More than that, you are glorified for it. The extent of this is absolutely astonishing because it doesn’t stop and start, as my father used to think, with each moment of sin and confession. If you’re with Him—or even if you will be with Him—you’re considered a saint, even in the midst of sin! That’s what it means to be predestined.
A number of years ago, a groundbreaking study was published in the Atlantic that seemed to refute the idea of free will. The researchers found that a moment before a person makes a conscious decision, there is a spike of electrical activity in the subconscious mind, mandating what that decision will be. They found this so disconcerting that the researchers almost buried it, for fear that people would lose hope since it seemed to indicate that we had no real control over our lives.
I have two reasons for keeping my hope in the face of this. The first is that, although I can’t specifically prove it is the case, I believe there is one choice that frees us from our subconscious mind by rewiring it to work for us instead of against us—this, of course, is the choice to live in love in the present moment. I believe it because I’ve felt it at work in my own life in a way that nothing else could, and I’ve seen it at work in countless others throughout my career.
Second, because I believe in God, and if I believe what He has to say about predestination, then it is nothing to be afraid of.
Quite the opposite.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!