Preface Note: Again, Preface from the previous post applies. Also, all Biblical Scripture is taken from the New Revised Standard. This, in partly because I like this version, and lastly because it is considered the most scholarly version by the majority of Academia.
Populist Christianity, part 2
Genesis 1:27: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
John 3:14-18: And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe in him are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Romans 5:18: Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
St. Paul, in his latter to the Romans said, “…all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” This simple statement, for early Christians, and modern Christians alike, resounds the essence of our faith. Christ was sent to the world by the Father to live, die, and be rose again, as a Sacrifice and as a King, to redeem the world.
The idea of predestination begins with St. Augustine of Hippo. For him, his sinfulness was so great, he believed, due to original sin, he was pre-destined to live a life of sin. This agrees with the Scripture. Paul makes it clear, because of the sin of one man, Adam, the entire world was lost to sin, but, he goes one step further, because of the righteousness of one man, Christ, the entire world may be justified and saved.
Not until the Protestant Reformation, with people such as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, etc, did the idea of pre-destination take a hard right. For Luther, who struggled with his own sinful nature, he felt that there must be some outside force that tempts him to sin, and that force for him was a sense of pre-election. He believed that, in the little things, mankind had a free will of sorts, but when it came to moral decisions, mankind was pre-destined to make the choices that he did. Here, the seeds of the modern doctrine of predestination are formed.
Continued by other reformers, this idea hits it pinnacle with Calvin. Like Augustine, who began as a Manichean, and then later converted to Christianity, Calvin began as a French Humanist. Both of these are “philosophical religions,” and for both, left them a little short on answers. So both eventually converted to Christianity. Calvin converts to Protestantism, and immediately sets out to Switzerland, were he happens upon Zürich, where Zwingli had been the minister. Upon his arrival, he was commissioned to be there new pastor, but he refused. However, the city elders came to him, and said that it was the will of God that he be there minister, and in the end, he accepted. It should be mentioned, Calvin had no formal training concerning the Bible, Theology, or anything concerning Christianity. Of course, to the people of the day, this was all the better, since most early Protestants rejected the idea of “man-made theology.” Upon his becoming the town pastor, he went to work creating rigid laws and so forth, got himself kicked out, and then was later asked to return, and he did. It was during this time that Calvin wrote his works and formulated his ideas concerning predestination.
John Calvin is what is called a “double predestinationalist.” This means simply that, God, before the creation of the world, choose some to be saved, and choose the rest to be condemned. This of course, is the logical conclusion for Classical Theist, which, unknown to many, is the basis of modern Protestant theology. This means that, God, is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, all-good, etc. Of course, logically, for God to be all-knowing, then He must know he will be saved, and who wont, and yet, this seems to run contrary to both the Old and New Testaments. For, if this is the case, Adam and Eve were pre-destined to sin, but again, this makes no sense whatsoever. As mentioned in the Scriptures posted before this article, God created mankind in His image. For God, it is impossible to sin, however, included in His image is free will. Knowing this, God gave instructions to man, and in doing so, God made it available to listen and obey, or to rebel. However, until man actually sinned, he was not predestined to sin, but predestined to live in the Garden with God. Once man sinned, as Paul wrote in Romans, he brought condemnation to the world. Not before, but after, but also as Paul writes in the same passage, one man also brought the opportunity for the world world to be justified and saved.
First, if all of mankind is predestined to either salvation or damnation, then the world would not need to be saved. Even more, if mankind is predestined either way, there is no need for Christ, for then, He is not truly saving anyone. Also, John’s passage claims that “God loved the whole world,” and that He sent “His Son so that the world might be saved.” Lastly, in Matthew, Christ commands the newly appointed Apostles to “go out through out the world teaching and baptizing.” Again, if mankind is predestined to either Heaven or Hell, there is no point in any of this.
One cannot make the argument that it is necessary, for it it is, then those predestined to be saved, if they do not hear the Gospel of Christ, will still be saved. Nor can the argument be made that those who are predestined will hear the message of the Gospel. Israel, according to both the Old Testament, and Paul in the New Testament, were the chosen people of God, the “Elect.” Yet, even being “predestined” as Paul calls them in Romans 8:30, they still rejected the message of Christ, and therefore not saved. However, he does say that Israel may still find salvation.
In a modern since, all predestination is, is an excuse for the sinful behavior of man, as well as the ability for man to reject the Gospel of Christ. It is also an excuse for ministers to sit back and comfort themselves when they could not reach out and help someone. For Calvin, it was an excuse for his own struggles with his own salvation – one minute (and writing) he would be totally convinced, the next minute (writing) he would be unsure. Also, it was a way to counter the Roman Catholic use of guilt to control the people into there own way to use guilt to control the people. Ironic, Luther hated the ways that the Roman Catholic Church was using guilt to raise money and maintain control, and not too long after his Reformation, the Protestant Church and her leaders began doing the same thing.
Predestination is not an excuse, its just bad theology. As a Religion professor once said, “its just a little bit dumb.” It is just another tool available to enact condemnation on others. Today, as mentioned in the last article, there are so many churches spewing condemnation. Whether it is against other Christian bodies, other Christians, sinners, politicians, world leader, celebrities, and the list goes on. Then again, maybe predestination is true. For without Christ we are all predestined for Hell, but with Christ, our destiny in God can be fulfilled. Instead of using the seeds of sin and guilt to control, I call on the Church to use the message of Christ’s Love to save.