Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


series
Thorny problems with Calvinism #4: why evangelize if everything is predestined?

In which I clear up a natural but very mistaken confusion.

Continued from part 3, on the monstrousness of double predestination

If there’s one “obvious” problem with predestination that strikes pretty much everyone straight away, it is this:

If God has already predestined the elect to salvation, then they will be saved no matter what, and so we can all sit home and have tea because there’s no need to go through the hard work of evangelizing.

It seems like an obvious problem until you work through some basic questions, like, how does God achieve the ends that he desires?

In the case of salvation, we know that…

This being the case, if God has predestined someone to salvation, then he has predestined them to hear the gospel and to respond in faith. So if you think, “Well, the Imbubu Tribe* has never heard the gospel and I am the only person who can bring it to them, but I shan’t go because if God has predestined some of them to salvation they will be saved regardless of what I do,” you are simply making a nonsense-statement. If in fact God uses the means of evangelism to save his people, and if in fact you are the only person who can evangelize the Imbubu Tribe, and if in fact you refuse to go, then in fact God has not predestined any of the Imbubu Tribe to salvation. If he had, you would not be having such silly thoughts, and you would be going to evangelize them instead.

The mistake of this objection becomes much clearer when we realize that, under Calvinism, everything is predestined. Whether I will have cereal tomorrow is just as predestined as whether I will be saved.

But imagine if I said, “Well, I don’t have any cereal in the house, and I would like some tomorrow for breakfast, but I shan’t go to the shops because if God has predestined me to have cereal then it will happen regardless of what I do.”

You would think me mad. That’s not how God has made the world to work. He uses natural means, secondary causes to achieve the results he predestines. Indeed, those means and causes are themselves predestined. Yet this example of cereal ex nihilo, which is manifest nonsense, is precisely the same statement as the one about evangelism—only with salvation swapped out for something a little more mundane.

If it is comically absurd to think you could have cereal for breakfast tomorrow without buying cereal, because of predestination; or that you could get fit without diet or exercise, because of predestination; then it is also comically absurd to think anyone can be saved without hearing the gospel, because of predestination.

So this thorny problem, like many that apply to Calvinism, turns out to be simply a case of not thinking through one’s intuitions.

To be continued…

* Not a real tribe. Hopefully.

2 comments

  1. Jose

    As a person struggling to understand this whole predestination free will issue , I am honestly hoping to find peace in truth, that said im not convinced by your arguments or your example, first of all i know scripture is true but everyone presents according to his or her views , that doesnt prove anything other than tgats how you see things, secondly if i want cereal for breakfast i do have to go get it,but doesnt mean God predestined me to have cereal does it

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    If Scripture is true, then the words have only one correct meaning. If you think I have presented the wrong meaning, then you need to be able to explain why, and what the correct meaning is.

    Similarly with predestination—of course you have to get your own cereal, but why does that mean God hasn’t predestined you to do so?

    Your response basically boils down to, “I disagree.” Well, okay. That’s your right. But simply disagreeing doesn’t advance the discussion. Why do you disagree? Where did I go wrong in my reasoning and my exegesis? What reasons do you have for disagreeing?

  I don’t post ill-considered articles and I don’t sponsor ill-considered comments. Take a moment to review what you’ve written…