Predestination and God’s love

“3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he[c] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” That’s from Ephisians, chapter 1, and it got me thinking.

It got me thinking about the whole Calvinist/Arminian debate.  As you may know, some people (Calvinist) think that it is already predetermined whether or not we will go to heaven.  They have lots of scripture that backs them up.  Others have trouble with this idea.  It seems to make our actual choices in life irrelevant.  It makes our very existence something of a cruel joke.  They also have scripture to back them up. 

On the surface, the above quote seems to support the Calvinists.

But there’s an important question about the text I got to wondering:

Who is the “us” he refers to?

Is it only Christians? 

I am NOT claiming that everybody ends up in heaven.

But I find myself thinking that the destiny of everyone is heaven.  That is what we are meant for.  That is where God wants us.  That is where we’re created to be.

What better definition of desinty could there be?

If Destiny is not the place we will end up but the place that we’re supposed to end up, then this quote becomes about God’s love for all of us, rather than an exclusionary promise of damnation.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Predestination and God’s love”

  1. Taking God at his word that he loves all and wants all to be saved…

    Surely He intends the gift of salvation to be for all. The “blessings in Christ” are meant for all. The reality on the ground is that not ‘all’ accept the gift and receive those blessings.

    It’s a bit of wordplay or semantics. Paul is speaking to “…those who have ears to hear”. He’s speaking to those who have chosen to believe and receive those blessings. The words are meaningless to those who have not…yet.

    Billy read a great passage this Sunday (sadly, i can’t remember and am too lazy to look it up right now) that included the phrase, “the world stands before God condemned.” If you’re ‘feeling’ bad because Ephesians I – ergo the Calvinist – claims that there’s some kind of divine economy that’s predetermined and rigid, perhaps it’s best to start from this point.

    A brilliantly gifted local missionary put it this way:

    “All spiritual journeys end up in the same place. Everybody starts at point “A” and ends up at point “B”. If we can agree to agree on that, we’ve begun to find common ground.
    Point “A” is easy. It’s point “B” that get’s us a bit hung up. Everybody has a different idea about what and where that is. Fortunately, we can open the Bible and see that God is total agreement that we all end up at point “B” so we can have confidence in His support for this reasoning.
    What does God say then about this point “B”? He says that it’s the “Judgement seat of Christ”. “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess the Jesus is Lord”. Heaven or Hell are but a few short paces away from there.”

    That was a paraphrase of a sermon snippet from the mind of Joe Shea. The point i’m trying to make is that our sensibilities are not always aligned with a correct understanding of who God is.

    Our discomfort with a particular proclamation from God is no cause to discard or disregard it.


  2. Hi Garret
    #1) What’s “a bit of word play or semantics?” I wasn’t sure what you were referring to.
    #2) The observation from Joe Shea was fantistic.
    #3) You’re right, Our discomfort with a particular proclamation is no reason to discard it. But it seems to me that a biblically sound case can be made in the opposite direction, that we are not predestined.
    I think that when scriptures not clear on an issue it’s easy to suggest that a different side is the one that is caving in to discomfort. Emotion is clearly a poor guide in decision making, but when it seems like there’s a different way to understand scripture than one in which scripture contradicts itself, then this seems to be a move that makes sense.


  3. the whole debate of election or not election is a mind grabbing concept. I believe the bible is clear that there are two ends for man, not very easy to swallow. thinking that salvation was both a gift from God as well as a personal decision to accept the gift does seem contradictory in ways. It makes you think about your theology of sin, depravity, grace, faith.
    I think about verses like Proverbs 16:9 “A person plans his course, but the LORD determines [or directs] his steps.” Does God say go here, no here, yes here and whatever happens is really what God predetermined to happen? or is more like God sets up ‘systems,’ principles, consequences to particular actions that says go here and this will happen, don’t go there or this will happen. Ps. 119:133 “Direct my steps by your word! Do not let any sin dominate me!” If we buy into the idea that Ephesians describes God’s predetermined plan of redemption and holiness for all of humanity to be ruled under (choice is still ours), and not that Ephesians describes God’s predetermined choice for each particular person of the plan, the “us” would be all of humanity and then highlights the personal decision in verse 13. However, seeing that the letter was written to the saints and faithful christ followers, the first reading of it suggests that the “us” refers to those he’s writing which in my mind doesn’t change the fact that Paul is writing more about God’s plan than he is about God predeciding for us what we will choose.


  4. By “wordplay” i was referring directly to the two ways in which you indicated a person might read the meaning of “us”. i think God intends for there to be tension in quesions of His nature precisely because the reality doesn’t make too much sense to us.

    As Steve pointed out, the answer to “which is it?” is “both”.

    In matters of the the Spirit and spirituality, how much to we really know? i watched an episode of Ghost Whisperer the other night. It was painful, but i managed to convince myself that it was mildly entertaining. i mused to my wife how cavalierly they just make stuff up. Real people who claim they talk to spirits and dead people and the like can’t say with any certainty with whom or what they’re in contact.

    Sure they “say” they know, but we just have to take their word for it.

    How does that relate to predestination? Well, it doesn’t. But i’m seeing that the God of the Bible is very keen to give us just enough information so that if we’re honest we won’t credit ourselves or sit on our hands. While “deciding one’s fate” and “predestined salvation” seem to be in conflict, in God’s economy they aren’t.

    i think what really get’s under our skin -because it’s impossible to reconcile on this side of heaven – is Omniscience. A really big God isn’t limited by time. He doesn’t have to wait like the rest of us to see how our decisions are going to play out. It’s a pretty good reason to be frustrated and – dare i say – angry.

    The choice of which “us” a person is going to be is choice already seen by God. According to Psalm 139 He saw it before we were born.

    It’s too much to wrap our little heads around.


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