Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pointless Predestination

In considering Arminianism, there is much that I find that just doesn’t make any sense about it. In fact, if I had any Arminian leanings left, I think I would just carry on over to Open Theism because I don’t find much about Arminianism as a whole to be consistent. I’m going to address just one such area here: the utter pointlessness of predestination in Arminianism.

Now, to their credit, most Arminians do acknowledge that predestination is a thing. It’s difficult to deny given passages like Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:5, 11 that actually use the word “predestined.” But I’ve found that the internet Arminians that I’ve had discourse with tend to break down into two camps when it comes to predestination. The first camp believes that predestination is what God does when He examines what the future will be and then decides to make it so. The second camp believes that predestination is when God selects for groups (not individuals) to be appointed unto salvation.

But in neither case is predestination actually needed or useful. Why would God need to look through the passages of time to declare, “What is going to happen is what is going to happen” when what is going to happen is going to happen even if He does not look through time? Those who have presented this view to me are adamant that God is not effecting any change by His predestining what will happen. After all, the whole point of such a neutered concept of predestination is to avoid God being the determining factor of who is saved and who is damned. But in effect, this view renders predestination as equivalent to bare foreknowledge (by which I mean the foreknowledge that Arminians typically speak of, not the Reformed view which carries along with the “knowledge” aspect the idea of God’s love). In short, the Arminian is saying that God foreknows what will happen and then predestines what He foreknows, but His predestination is simply a restatement of His foreknowledge. It’s completely and utterly pointless here.

But what of the second camp who hold that what God predestines are groups or classes of people? Once again, this renders predestination unnecessary. Firstly, there is no advantage to predestining a class of people if you are not also predestining the members of that class. For one thing, without predestining the members you don’t even know if there will be any members until after time unfolds (so to populate the class with members, the Arminian version of God is going to have to resort to the unnecessary procedures discussed in the previous paragraph regarding foreknowledge). For another thing, the content of the decree does not impact the choices of anyone (this is critical in Arminianism, for God absolutely cannot violate freedom without destroying responsibility, etc.) and therefore this decree can just as easily come at the end of time rather than beforehand. Finally, if all that predestination is boils down to God saying, “I’m going to treat people who meet this specific condition in this specific manner” then what is the difference between predestination and the plain old law? The Laws of God specifically say things like “Every animal that parts the hoof but is not cloven-footed or does not chew the cud is unclean to you. Everyone who touches them shall be unclean.” (Leviticus 11:26, ESV). Is that predestination? And yet what is the difference between saying, “If someone touches an unclean animal he will be unclean” and “If someone believes in Christ he will be saved” in terms of class structures and groups of people?

So it appears to me that there is no purpose for predestination in Arminianism. Yet there are verses using that term. Why would God do something utterly pointless and irrelevant? Why wouldn’t He instead have a reason for predestination, just as the Calvinist sees?


  1. In times past I've said that it's not only pointless, but detrimental given Arminianism. There are many people who have rejected Christianity (either by leaving it or dismissing it) precisely because it seemed (to them) to teach unconditional election. Anthony Flew is just one of many examples of people who rejected Christianity because of the Bible's teaching on predestination (and this is after he left atheism and became a deist/theist). So we have here an example of the Arminian God who, despite His alleged universal love, is lacking enough wisdom to realize that it's in His and man's best interest not to mention predestination in His written revelation. Even if it's conditional rather than unconditional. But if it is conditional, why not inspire Scripture to CLEARLY teach it's conditional rather than making it vague or seem (as Calvinists believe) to clearly teach it's UNconditional?

    In another sense, given the Arminian view of human free will, accidents in inspiration shouldn't be unexpected. There's a kind of consistency in saying that the Arminian God couldn't prevent human error from entering the Bible (i.e. not sovereign or powerful enough). On that view, the Biblical writer's erroneous views of unconditional election unfortunately seeped into Scripture. Presumably Paul and the other NT writers unconsciously drank too much of the milk of the Stoicism that pervaded the Hellenistic culture in which they lived. While the OT writers accepted by osmosis the tyrannical conception of deity that was common in the surrounding Semitic cultures of their day.

    It is any wonder that many modern Arminians are rejecting doctrines like inerrancy, penal substitutionary atonement, the historicity of the OT, the justice of OT law etc. etc. et cetera?

    1. Those are some good points too. If God is the way the Arminian thinks, then He definitely is working at cross-purposes with Himself. (E.g., wanting to save all people everywhere, but then not even doing the basics tasks that you and I would do without even having omnipotence--including things that wouldn't even be close to violating someone's free will!)