Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

Where a recovering ex-atheist skewers things with a sharp two-edged sword

About Freedom & Foreknowledge Uncategorized

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

By on

3 minutes to read In which I clear up a natural but very mistaken confusion.

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…

  • We are justified by faith (Romans 5:1)—not just by God’s fiat. Justification may be a legal declaration of our righteousness, but God doesn’t make it until we respond to him in faith.
  • Our faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17)—God doesn’t manufacturer it in us ex nihilo, but rather we manufacture it in response to his word, out of our regenerated hearts.
  • The word of Christ is delivered, usually, by a person—God does not produce the words of Scripture as random thoughts in our minds in a spare moment when we aren’t thinking of anything else. Rather, the words are produced in our minds through the natural mechanism of hearing or reading them.

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…

 3 comments

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

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?

Frank Morris

Easy. You claim we are saved by faith. You say well. By Grace are you saved through faith and that (faith) not of yourself, it (faith) is a gift of God, not of works least any man should boast ( I choose God and earned my way into God’s presence.)
Faith comes by hearing. How many times are you told in scripture who it is that gives eyes to see and ears to hear.
Now explain Romans 8:28 through 9:28.