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Electionism (aka "Predestination") vs Free Moral Agency

By Chuck Henry
chuck.henry@sbcglobal.net
http://www.halleluyahfellowship.com
rev. 11/15/2014

 

 

Table of Contents

 

1. Introduction

2. “Predestination,” “Destiny,” “Fate,” and “Fortune

2.1. “Destiny

2.2. “Fate

2.3. “Fortune

3. “Predestinate” and “Predestined” in the King James Version (KJV)

4. Pre-Programmed (?)

5. Eph 2:10 and 2 Tim 1:19 – What was pre-ordained or pre-appointed?

6. Eph 1:5, 11 – “Predestined” according to Adoption and Purpose

7. Rom 8:28-30 – “Predestined” to be Conformed

8. Romans 9 – In Yahweh’s Sovereignty, He can call the Gentiles as well as the Jews

9. Verses Confirming Free Moral Agency

9.1. Gal 6:7-8

9.2. Phi 2:12-13

9.3. 2 Thes 2:1-14 (esp. vv. 10, 13)

9.4. 2 Pet 1:10

9.5. Rev 22:17

10. Other Electionist / Predestination Arguments

10.1. Pro 16:4 (the wicked for the day of doom)

10.2. Pro 27:22 (A fool’s foolishness will not depart from him)

10.3. Jude 1:4 (who long ago were marked out for this condemnation)

11. Conclusion

 

Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

 

 

 

Are we “predestined” or do we have free moral agency? This is an issue which can dramatically affect lives. What if some view themselves as predestined to be a vessel of destruction?

 

On the other hand, if there is such a thing as free moral agency, then we have a choice in the matter.

 

 

 

The term “predestination” contains within it a reference to destiny, a pagan concept which attributes the direction of our lives to false mighty ones. Shown below are several definitions from the World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary for your review:

 

2.1. Destiny

 

Destiny: Greek and Roman Mythology, the goddess of destiny. [Plural--] the Destinies, the Fates; the powers supposed to preside over human life. [< destiny]

 

destiny: 1. what becomes of a person or thing in the end; one’s lot or fortune. 2. what will happen in spite of all efforts to change or prevent it. 3. the power or agency that determines the course of events; overruling necessity; fate. –Syn. 1. See fate.

 

2.2. Fate

 

fate: 1. the power supposed to fix beforehand and control everything that happens. 2. what is caused by fate. 3. a person’s lot or fortune. 4. what becomes of a person or thing. 5. death; destruction; ruin.

[> Latin fatum (thing) spoken (that is, by the gods), one’s destiny, neuter past participle of fari speak]

--Syn. 1, 3. Fate, destiny, doom mean a person’s fortune or lot in life. Fate suggests some determining power or force, and implies that the outcome cannot be avoided, escaped, or changed. Destiny, often used interchangeably with fate, suggests a fate all laid out beforehand. Doom applies to an unhappy or awful end.

 

Fate: a goddess of fate or destiny. See Fates.

 

Fates: Greek and Roman Mythology. the three goddesses supposed to control human life. They were Clotho, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who decides how long it shall be; and Atropos, who cut if off. [< Latin Fata, plural of fatum; see FATE.]

 

2.3. Fortune

 

fortune: 1. a great deal of money or property; riches; wealth. 2. position in life as determined by wealth; standing. 3. what is going to happen to a person; fate. 4. good luck; prosperity; success. 5. what happens; luck; chance. 6. Archaic. a woman of fortune; heiress. [< Old French fortune, learned borrowing from Latin fortuna < fors, fortis chance]

--Syn. 3. destiny, lot.

 

Fortune: the personification of chance, usually regarded as a goddess who distributes good and bad luck to people without plan.

 

fortunate: 1. having good luck; lucky. 2. bringing good luck; having favorable results. [< Latin fortunatus, past participle of fortunare give (good) fortune to < fortuna fortune]

 

Fortuna: Roman Mythology. the goddess of chance, fortune, or luck.

 

Based on the information above, I am persuaded that destiny, and the like, are foreign to the Mighty One of the Bible, the Mighty One of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Consequently, I am convinced that the English translators chose a poor term for their translation of the Greek word proorizo (Strong’s G4309).

 

In light of the above, I attempt to avoid the term “predestination.” However, as “predestination” is a familiar term in the King James Version (and other translations) of the Bible, and because it is a term commonly used by others relative to this topic, I chose to reference it in the title of this study, and at certain times within the body of this study. I also include it in quotations from the Bible.

 

Other terms which I believe more accurately reflect the intended Biblical meaning include:

 

  • “Pre-Ordination”

 

  • “Fore-Ordination”

 

  • “Pre-Appointment”

 

But this still does not solve the issue altogether. The question remains, “Are we pre-ordained or pre-appointed to live one way or another?”

 

 

 

The words “predestinate” or “predestinated,” appear 4 times in the KJV:

 

1)      Rom 8:29 (KJV)

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

 

2)      Rom 8:30 (KJV)

Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

 

3)      Eph 1:5 (KJV)

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Yeshua Messiah to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.

 

4)      Eph 1:11 (KJV)

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

 

Each of these occurrences is revisited in the course of this study.

 

 

 

The “Doctrine of Election” teaches along the lines of the concept of destiny. Essentially, according to Electionism, if you are “destined” to be good or evil, there is nothing you can do about it because that is the lot you were appointed in life. If we were to describe this in one word, it would be “pre-programmed.”

 

This raises an important question: Are we pre-programmed or do we have free moral agency? If we are pre-programmed, we are basically robots. Is this in keeping with the plan revealed through the Almighty’s word?

 

 

 

Eph 2:10

For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which Yahweh prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

 

This Scripture reveals that Yahweh indeed had a plan prepared beforehand, in which we are intended to participate through Messiah Yeshua. As this study progresses, please keep this thought in mind and notice this theme:

 

We are intended to participate in Yahweh’s plan through the Messiah Yeshua.

 

2 Timothy 1:9 further describes this:

 

2 Tim 1:9

Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Messiah Yeshua before time began.

 

Notice:

 

  • Yahweh had a purpose and plan “before time began.”

 

  • Included in this plan is a calling through Messiah Yeshua, to which we are intended to respond.

 

The Apostle Peter explains:

 

Acts 2:23

Him [the Messiah], being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of Yahweh, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.

 

1 Pet 1:2

Elect according to the foreknowledge of Yahweh the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Yeshua Messiah: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

 

Peter also stated:

 

1 Pet 1:20

He [Yeshua] indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.

 

“Predestination,” as it is commonly called, is really a fore-ordained plan, according to the foreknowledge of Yahweh the Father, in which we are meant to participate. According to Yahweh’s plan, we should be a participant. We are pre-appointed and pre-ordained to walk in His foreordained plan, and to do His will through Yeshua Messiah, but we do have a choice in the matter. Let us compare this thought with other Scriptures to see if it will pass the test of Scriptural scrutiny.

 

Deu 30:19-20

19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;

20 that you may love Yahweh your Mighty One, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.

 

According to the Bible, there is a choice. We are commanded, “choose life,” but not forced to.

 

If we are pre-programmed, consider these problematic points:

 

  • There is no need for instruction on how to live, for we are pre-programmed!

 

  • Love is voluntary, it is not forced.

 

In addition to verses 19-20 of Deuteronomy 30, also notice the preceding verses in the context—

 

Deu 30:17-18

17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other mighty ones and serve them,

18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.

 

A very popular verse from the book of Joshua states—

 

Jos 24:15

And if it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the mighty ones which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the mighty ones of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh.

 

These verses show that there is a decision to be made.

 

More confirming Scriptures:

 

  • Whoever Believes:
    Joh 3:16
    For Yahweh so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

 

  • Whoever Calls:
    Acts 2:21
    And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of Yahweh Shall be saved.

 

  • Whoever Desires:
    Rev 22:17
    Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

 

 

 

Eph 1:5, 11

5 [Yahweh] having predestined us to adoption as sons by Yeshua Messiah to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

11 In Him [Yeshua] also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him [Yahweh] who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

 

These verses detail Yahweh’s pre-appointed plan. Yahweh has a purpose, for which He pre-planned, and that purpose is for us to be adopted as sons and to obtain an inheritance. A central element in this purpose is the role of Yeshua Messiah, whom Yahweh knew He would send in the course of time, as verse 10 explains:

 

Eph 1:10

That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He [Yahweh] might gather together in one all things in Messiah, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; in Him.

 

Compare:

Gal 4:4

But when the fullness of the time had come, Yahweh sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.

 

Yahweh indeed had a plan beforehand in which we are meant to participate through the Messiah Yeshua. When the time came to carry out this plan, He sent forth His Son.

 

 

 

Rom 8:28-30

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love Yahweh, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

 

Again, here is an explanation of Yahweh’s plan, according to His timetable. He foreknew both those alive at the coming of His Son and those who have been born since. His plan is for them to be conformed to the image of His Son. Will all do so? It would be a grand thing if all would, but sadly, not all will. Not many verses prior, Paul stated:

 

Rom 8:13

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 

This indicates that one can live either according to the flesh or by the Spirit. If this verse taught the doctrine of Election, it would have to be stated something like this:

 

“For those of you predestined to live according to the flesh, you are headed for death; but for those of you predestined to live by the Spirit and to put to death the deeds of the body, you are going to live.”

 

 

 

As seen in the review of Romans 8, above, Paul indicated there is a choice whether or not to serve Yahweh.

 

Paul stated:

 

Rom 8:13

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 

In considering information from Romans 9, let us keep in mind that this is still Paul’s same letter to the Romans.

 

If Paul tells the Romans in chapter 8 that there are two different outcomes possible, based on whether they live according to the flesh or according to the Spirit, but then proceeds to tell them in Romans 9 that they are either elected or not elected, and nothing that they do will affect that outcome, we have a hopeless contradiction.

 

In the beginning of Romans 9, Paul explains that he has “great sorrow and continual grief” (v. 2) on account of his fellow Israelite countrymen. Those he spoke of, of course, rejected the Messiah, as Paul indicates in verse 3:

 

Rom 9:3

For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Messiah for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh.

 

As this chapter progresses, Paul draws upon various examples from Scripture, all leading up to the culminating point that Yahweh has called not only the Jews, but also the Gentiles. Within context, please consider that Paul is not dealing with the subject of individual salvation in Romans 9, but with events that would change the course of history and show that Yahweh reigns supreme, even to the point that if He wants to call the Gentiles as a people, He can certainly do so (and has so done!).

 

Verse 11 states:

 

Rom 9:11

(for the children [Jacob and Esau] not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of Yahweh according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls).

 

Yahweh’s decision regarding Jacob and Esau is further explained in the next verse:

 

Rom 9:12

It was said to her [Rebecca], The older shall serve the younger.

 

Neither Jacob nor Esau had anything to do with Yahweh’s decision as to who would have supremacy. As we know, it turned out to be Jacob.

 

This is something that changed the course of history. Yahweh certainly has the power to make this type of decision, and in His infinite wisdom and knowledge of the grand scheme of things, it is simply something that we have to be willing to accept. As the prophet Daniel wrote, “… the Most High rules in the kingdom of men …” (Dan 4:17, 25, 32; 5:21).

 

Continuing in Romans 9:15, Paul refers to a statement Yahweh made to Moses:

 

Rom 9:15

For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.

 

This is a quote from Exodus 33:19 —

 

Exo 33:19

Then He [Yahweh] said, I will make all My goodness pass before you [Moses], and I will proclaim the name of Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

 

Interestingly, in the same book of Exodus, there is more information about who Yahweh says He will have mercy on:

 

Exo 20:6

But showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

 

Moving ahead in Romans 9, there is a famous passage having to do with Pharaoh:

 

Rom 9:16-19

16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of Yahweh who shows mercy.

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.

18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

19 You will say to me then, Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?

 

Again, consider that Yahweh used Pharaoh to shape the course of history.

 

Electionists will point to this example of Pharaoh in attempt to prove their doctrine. After all, Pharaoh was an individual person, and if Pharaoh had no say in whether his heart was hard or soft, doesn’t this prove that Yahweh deals with each individual in this manner?

 

The words “not so fast,” come to mind. In Pharaoh, Yahweh found a willing participant, that is, someone whose heart was already hard and who therefore made a perfect instrument for Yahweh to further harden. A similar situation is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, where Paul describes a people who do not love the truth, and who will therefore be sent a strong delusion:

 

2 Thes 2:9-12

9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,

10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

11 And for this reason Yahweh will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,

12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

 

“Because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” – implies that they once had an opportunity to do so.

 

A counterpart to this is that Yahweh strengthens the heart of the righteous to do right—

 

2 Thes 3:3

But the Master is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

 

1 Pet 5:10

But may the Mighty One of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Messiah Yeshua, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

 

Returning to Romans 9, from about verse 21 through the end of the chapter is what I would call the culminating section of Paul’s message within this chapter.

 

Rom 9:21-24

21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

22 What if Yahweh, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,

24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

 

See especially verse 30:

 

Rom 9:30

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith.

 

Paul’s culminating question, “What shall we say then?” makes the point for which he has argued; namely, that Yahweh, in His sovereignty, can call the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

 

Although there are several verses in Romans 9 that, at first glance, might seem to support Electionism, I am persuaded that this requires an out-of-context use of Romans 9 which does not balance with the overall picture presented in an overwhelming amount of Scripture references. Again, Paul’s overall point is that Yahweh, in His sovereignty, has called the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

 

In a point related to Electionism, many verses in Romans 9 may be isolated and used out of context to allegedly support the idea that none of our works matter at all. Should works accompany our faith?

 

The Bible says “faith without works is dead”:

 

Jam 2:20

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

 

The Bible also says we will be judged according to our work:

 

1 Pet 1:17

And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.

 

Rev 22:12

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.

 

When balancing the message in Romans 9 with the rest of Scripture as a whole, I once again submit that Paul is not dealing with the subject of individual salvation in this chapter, but with events that would change the course of history and show that Yahweh reigns supreme, even to the point that if He wants to call the Gentiles as a people, He can certainly do so (and has done so!).

 

 

 

9.1. Gal 6:7-8

 

Gal 6:7-8

7 Do not be deceived, Yahweh is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

 

Contrary to the idea that Yahweh “destines” you for either the Kingdom or the Lake of Fire, Paul counseled the Galatians not to be deceived, for you will reap what you sow. Thus, there are two possible paths: one leads to death, the other to everlasting life.

 

9.2. Phi 2:12-13

 

Phi 2:12-13

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

13 for it is Yahweh who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

 

Contrary to the idea that Yahweh “destines” you for either the Kingdom or for the Lake of Fire, Paul counseled the Philippians, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” What “working out” is there to be done if a person is “destined” for the Kingdom?

 

9.3. 2 Thes 2:1-14 (esp. vv. 10, 13)

 

2 Thes 2:10

And with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

 

--“Because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” – implies they once had an opportunity to do so.

 

2 Thes 2:13

But we are bound to give thanks to Yahweh always for you, brethren beloved by the Master, because Yahweh from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

 

--“Chose you for salvation through…”:

 

1)      Sanctification by the Spirit

and

2)      Belief in the truth

 

Please notice that these people believed in the truth.

 

9.4. 2 Pet 1:10

 

2 Pet 1:10

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.

 

Contrary to the idea that Yahweh “destines” you for either the Kingdom or for the Lake of Fire, Peter’s counsel is to “make your call and election sure,” and by so doing, you won’t stumble. This implies that if you are not diligent to make your call and election sure, you might stumble. If Peter were teaching the “Doctrine of Election,” the verse would have to be worded something like this:

 

“Therefore, brethren, do not worry about making your calling and election sure, for you will never stumble.”

 

9.5. Rev 22:17

 

Rev 22:17

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come! And let him who hears say, Come! And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

 

 

 

10.1. Pro 16:4 (the wicked for the day of doom)

 

Pro 16:4

Yahweh has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.

 

Compare this with the Septuagint translation:

 

Pro 16:4 (LXX – Brenton)

All the works of the humble man are manifest with [Yahweh]; but the un[righteous] shall perish in an evil day.

 

10.2. Pro 27:22 (A fool’s foolishness will not depart from him)

 

Pro 27:22

Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.

 

Electionists may argue that if someone is a fool, there is nothing that can be done to change them – it is what they are appointed unto.

 

Isolating this one verse from the rest of the Bible would tend to prove that point. However, in light of the full scope of Scripture, this is simply speaking of a man who is adamant in his folly, not that he couldn’t have an opportunity to repent and live for Yahweh.

 

10.3. Jude 1:4 (who long ago were marked out for this condemnation)

 

Jude 1:4

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation [KJV: “who were before of old ordained to this condemnation”], unrighteous men, who turn the grace of our Mighty One into lewdness and deny the only Master Yahweh and our Master Yeshua Messiah.

 

Compare Jude 1:4 (NIV)—

 

Jude 1:4 (NIV)

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are unrighteous men, who change the grace of our Mighty One into a license for immorality and deny Yeshua Messiah our only Sovereign and Master.

 

 

 

If the Electionists are correct, each of us has a “destiny,” and there is no such thing as free moral agency. However, this stands in contrast to an overwhelming amount of Scriptures bearing on the subject.

 

In addition, many (if not all) Electionists also believe in eternal torment. When taken together, this means that the Almighty created human beings with no choice in the matter, yet He is going to punish those who are “lost” by tormenting and forever roasting them in the lake of fire through the ceaseless ages of eternity. Yet Romans 6:23 is clear, “…the wages of sin is death …”

 

Are we pre-programmed or do we have free moral agency? As mentioned previously, if we are pre-programmed, we are basically robots.

 

In reality, the Bible plan (which has been obscured by the misnomer “predestination”) is a simple concept: we were fore-ordained to walk in the ways of Yahweh through the Messiah Yeshua. That is what we are meant to do. Scripture clearly states that Yahweh is “not willing that any should perish” and “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9):

 

2 Pet 3:9

Yahweh is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

 

1 Tim 2:4

Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

 

If Yahweh does not will anyone to perish, then according to the “Doctrine of Election,” nobody will perish; yet, the Electionists themselves do not believe this – they believe certain ones are appointed to destruction! This is an unsolvable contradiction.

 

To be certain, Scripture speaks of election, but presents a different concept of election as compared to the “Doctrine of Election” going around these days. Once again, the Apostle Peter stated—

 

2 Pet 1:10

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.

 

It’s worth repeating that, contrary to the idea that Yahweh “destines” you for either the Kingdom or the Lake of Fire, Peter’s counsel is to “make your call and election sure,” and by so doing, you won’t stumble. This implies that if you are not diligent to make your call and election sure, you may indeed stumble.

 

It is Yahweh’s will that we should repent and not perish. We are pre-appointed or pre-ordained to do the will of our Creator, but we do have a choice in the matter.

 

Yahweh has done His part. Now, it is up to you.

 

  • Will you repent and accept the atonement provided through His Son?

 

  • Will you choose life (Deu 30:19-20)?

 

  • Will you reap life everlasting from what you have sown (Gal 6:7-8)?

 

 

“… Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17).

 

 

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