Feb 19, 2007

Double Predestination

The Double-Predestination Distortion

The distortion of double predestination looks like this: There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. God WORKS in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate. That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative. In the case of the elect, regeneration is the monergistic work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin and degeneration are the monergistic work of God. Stated another way, we can establish a parallelism of foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry. We can call this a positive-positive view of predestination. This is, God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation. In the same way God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the reprobate to bring him to sin.
This distortion of positive-positive predestination clearly makes God the author of sin who punishes a person for doing what God monergistically and irresistibly coerces man to do. Such a view is indeed a monstrous assault on the integrity of God. This is not the Reformed view of predestination, but a gross and inexcusable caricature of the doctrine. Such a view may be identified with what is often loosely described as hyper-Calvinism and involves a radical form of supralapsarianism. Such a view of predestination has been virtually universally and monolithically rejected by Reformed thinkers.

The Reformed View of Predestination

In sharp contrast to the caricature of double predestination seen in the positive-positive schema is the classic position of Reformed theology on predestination. In this view predestination is double in that it involves both election and reprobation but is not symmetrical with respect to the mode of divine activity. A strict parallelism of operation is denied. Rather we view predestination in terms of a positive-negative relationship.
In the Reformed view God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives. Even in the case of the "hardening" of the sinners' already recalcitrant hearts, God does not, as Luther stated, "work evil in us (for hardening is working evil) by creating fresh evil in us."2 Luther continued:

When men hear us say that God works both good and evil in us, and that we are subject to God's working by mere passive necessity, they seem to imagine a man who is in himself good, and not evil, having an evil work wrought in him by God; for they do not sufficiently bear in mind how incessantly active God is in all His creatures, allowing none of them to keep holiday. He who would understand these matters, however, should think thus: God works evil in us (that is, by means of us) not through God's own fault, but by reason of our own defect. We being evil by nature, and God being good, when He impels us to act by His own acting upon us according to the nature of His omnipotence, good though He is in Himself, He cannot but do evil by our evil instrumentality; although, according to His wisdom, He makes good use of this evil for His own glory and for our salvation.2

Thus, the mode of operation in the lives of the elect is not parallel with that operation in the lives of the reprobate. God works regeneration monergistically but never sin. Sin falls within the category of providential concurrence.

Another significant difference between the activity of God with respect to the elect and the reprobate concerns God's justice. The decree and fulfillment of election provide mercy for the elect while the efficacy of reprobation provides justice for the reprobate. God shows mercy sovereignly and unconditionally to some, and gives justice to those passed over in election. That is to say, God grants the mercy of election to some and justice to others. No one is the victim of injustice. To fail to receive mercy is not to be treated unjustly. God is under no obligation to grant mercy to all — in fact He is under no obligation to grant mercy to any. He says, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy" (Rom. 9). The divine prerogative to grant mercy voluntarily cannot be faulted. If God is required by some cosmic law apart from Himself to be merciful to all men, then we would have to conclude that justice demands mercy. If that is so, then mercy is no longer voluntary, but required. If mercy is required, it is no longer mercy, but justice. What God does not do is sin by visiting injustice upon the reprobate. Only by considering election and reprobation as being asymmetrical in terms of a positive-negative schema can God be exonerated from injustice.

Taken from "Double Predestination" by R.C. Sproul


Stan said...

It's interesting. I just happened to read this in 1st Peter this morning: "So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,' and 'A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.' They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do" (1 Peter 2:7-8). I don't make this stuff up.

Samantha said...

So do you believe that God predestined some for hell and others for salvation?

I was always under the assumption that God didn't "destine" anyone to hell, but that because He chose not to save some people, that they were destined to hell....not because God "destined" them, but because He didn't chose them.

Am I making any sense? I'm sort of confused.

Stan said...

I have an extremely hard time figuring out the distinction.

The standard "double-predestination" that Sproul is point out here is what is called "asymmetrical". God chooses some for salvation and works in their lives. He doesn't choose others and lets them be. (That's not symmetrical.) So He doesn't actively cause people to be damned; they choose that all on their own.

The problem is that if God knows that doing nothing to bring these people to spiritual life will cause them to be damned, and He knows who these people are, then it's difficult to say, "He didn't 'destine' them to Hell." The further difficulty, of course, is that there are passages that suggest He did. In Jude 1:4 he says that certain people were "long ago designated for condemnation", where the term "long ago" means literally "before time". In Prov. 16:4 Solomon writes, "The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble."

If God knows in advance and takes the actions (or lack thereof) to bring it about, and if Scripture says it is so, I think I have a hard time avoiding God's "destining" some to damnation. In this, though, He doesn't take action. It is inaction.

Stan said...

I just found this quote by John Piper:

"The death and misery of the unrepentant is in and of itself no delight to God. God is not a sadist. He is not malicious or bloodthirsty. Instead, when a rebellious, wicked, unbelieving person is judged, what God delights in is the exaltation of truth and righteousness and the vindication of His own glory and honor."

Samantha said...

What you are saying makes sense and that Piper quote put things in perspective.

What I do not understand is why some people vehemently deny double predestination, yet claim they are Calvinists? I mean, how can one work without the other?

Stan said...

I suspect that Calvinists deny double predestination for several reasons. The most common is a serious misunderstanding. They hear "double predestination" and think "symmetrical". If God acts to ensure the salvation of some, He acts to ensure the damnation of others. It makes God a monster. I agree with them that that doesn't happen. Others deny it because they think it makes God look bad anyway. I think a large number are just not thinking. If God is omniscient and doesn't do what it takes (regeneration) to save some, He has ordained (without causing) that they be damned. They're not thinking it through. And I suppose there are other reasons, but these are likely the biggest.

Samantha said...

Sometimes this theology stuff is difficult, because you can so easily turn true biblical theology into heresy!

Aye, someday it'll all make sense!