Predestination (With Active Table of Contents)
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If God had not foreordained the course of events but waited until some undetermined condition was or was not fulfilled, His decrees could be neither eternal nor immutable. We know, however, that He is incapable of mistake, and that He cannot be surprised by any unforeseen inconveniences.
His kingdom is in the heavens and He rules over all. His plan must, therefore, include every event in the entire sweep of history. That even the small events have their place in this plan. All of us know of certain "chance happenings" which have actually changed the course of our lives. The effects of these extend throughout all succeeding history in ever-widening influences, causing other "chance happenings. Whether historically true or not it will serve as a good illustration. Had not the geese awakened the guards who gave the alarm and aroused the defending army, Rome would have fallen and the course of history from that time on would have been radically different.
Had those geese remained silent who can imagine what empires might have been in existence today, or where the centers of culture might have been? During a battle a bullet misses the general by only an inch.
His life is spared, he goes on commanding his troops, wins a decisive victory, and is made the chief ruler of his country for many years,—as was the case with George Washington. Yet what a different course history would have taken had the soldier on the other side aimed the slightest trifle higher or lower! The great Chicago fire of , which destroyed more than I half of the city, was started, we are told, when a cow kicked over a lantern. How different would have been the history of Chicago if that one motion had been slightly different!
The control of the greatest must include the control of the less, for not only are great things made up of little things, but history shows how the veriest trifles are continually proving the pivots on which momentous events revolve. The persistence of a spider nerved a despairing man to fresh exertions which shaped a nation's future.
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The God who predestinated the course of Scotch history must have planned and presided over the movements of that tiny insect that saved Robert Bruce from despair. The Pelagian denies that God has a plan; the Arminian says that God has a general but not a specific plan; but the Calvinist says that God has a specific plan which embraces all events in all ages.
In recognizing that the eternal God has an eternal plan in which is predetermined every event that comes to pass, the Calvinist simply recognizes that God is God, and frees Him from all human limitations. The Scriptures represent God as a person, like other persons in that His acts are purposeful, but unlike other persons in that He is all-wise in His planning and all-powerful in His performing.
They see the universe as the product of His creative power, and as the theater in which are displayed His glorious perfections, and which must in all its form and all its history, down to the least detail, correspond with His purpose in making it. In a very illuminating article on "Predestination," Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield, who in the opinion of the present writer has emerged as the outstanding theologian since John Calvin, tells us that the writers of Scripture saw the divine plan as "broad enough to embrace the whole universe of things, and minute enough to concern itself with the smallest details, and actualizing itself with inevitable certainty in every event that comes to pass.
In the infinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls with exact precision into its proper place in this unfolding of His eternal plan; nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without His ordering, or without its peculiar fitness for its place in the working out of His purposes; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and accumulation of His praise. This is the Old Testament as well as the New Testament philosophy of the universe—a world-view which attains concrete unity in an absolute decree, or purpose, or plan of which all that comes to pass is the development in time.
The very essence of consistent theism is that God would have an exact plan for the world, would foreknow the actions of all the creatures He proposed to create, and through His all-inclusive providence would control the whole system. If He fore-ordained only certain isolated events, confusion both in the natural-world and in human affairs would be introduced into the system and He would need to be constantly developing new plans to accomplish what be desired.
His government of the world then would be a capricious patch work of new expedients He would at best govern only in a general way, and would be ignorant of much of the future. But no one with proper ideas of God believes that He has to change His mind every few days to make room for unexpected happenings which were not included in His original plan. If the perfection of the divine plan be denied, no consistent stopping place will be found short of atheism.
In the first place there was no necessity that God should create at all. He acted with perfect freedom when He brought this world into existence. When He did choose to create there was before Him an infinite number of possible plans. But as a matter of fact we find that He chose this particular one in which we now are.
And since He knew perfectly every event of every kind which would be involved in this particular world-order, He very obviously predetermined every event which would happen when He chose this plan. His choice of the plan, or His making certain that the creation should be on this order, we call His foreordination or His predestination. Even the sinful acts of men are included in this plan.
They are foreseen, permitted, and have their exact place. They are controlled and overruled for the divine glory. The crucifixion of Christ, which is admittedly the worst crime in all human history, had, we are expressly told, its exact and necessary place in the plan Acts ; This particular manner of redemption is not an expedient to which God was driven after being defeated and disappointed by the fall of man.
Rather it is "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord," Ephesians Peter tells us that Christ as a sacrifice for sin was "foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world," 1 Peter Believers were "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" or from eternity , Ephesians We are saved not by our own temporary works, "but according to His purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal," 2 Timothy And if the crucifixion of Christ, or His offering up Himself as a sacrifice for sin, was in the eternal plan, then plainly the fall of Adam and all other sins which made that sacrifice necessary were in the plan, no matter how undesirable a part of that plan they may have been.
History in all its details, even the most minute, is but the unfolding of the eternal purposes of God.
His decrees are not successively formed as the emergency arises, but are all parts of one all-comprehending plan, and we should never think of Him suddenly evolving a plan or doing something which He had not thought of before. The fact that the Scriptures often speak of one purpose of God as dependent on the outcome of another or on the actions of men, is no objection against this doctrine.
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The Scriptures are written in the every-day language of men, and they often describe an act or a thing as it appears to be, rather than as it really is. The Bible speaks of "the four corners of the earth," Isaiah , and of "the foundations of the earth," Psalm ; yet no one understands this to mean that the earth is square, or that it actually rests upon a foundation.
We speak of the sun rising and setting, yet we know that it is not the motion of the sun but that of the earth as it turns over on its axis which causes this phenomenon. Likewise, when the Scriptures speak of God repenting, for instance, no one with proper ideas of God understands it to mean that He sees He has pursued a wrong course and changes His mind. It simply means that His action as seen from the human view-point appears to be like that of a man who repents. In other places the Scriptures speak of the hands, or arms, or eyes of God. These are what are known as "anthropomorphisms," instances in which God is referred to as if He were a man.
When the word "repent," for instance, is used in its strict sense God is said never to repent: "God is not a man, that He should lie, Neither the son of man, that lie should repent. The contemplation of this great plan must redound to the praise of the unsearchable wisdom and illimitable power of Him who devised and executes it. And what can give the Christian more satisfaction and joy than to know that the whole course of the world is ordered with reference to the establishment of the Kingdom of heaven and the manifestation of the Divine glory; and that he is one of the objects upon which infinite love and mercy is to be lavished?
Psalm The counsel of Jehovah standeth fast for ever, The thoughts of His heart to all generations. Isaiah , I am God and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done. Matthew Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Jeremiah Jehovah appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love. Psalm Thine eves did see mine unformed substance; And in thy book they were all written, Even the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was none of them.
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James Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning. Isaiah Jehovah of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely, as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.go site
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Daniel But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and He hath made known to the King Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. John For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who it was that should betray Him. Matthew , Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him unto the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify ; and the third day He shall be raised up.
All the Scripture prophecies which are predictions of future events come under this heading. See especially: Micah ; Cp. John ; Psalm , Cp. John ; Zechariah , Cp. John ; Mark ; Zechariah , 13 , Cp. Matthew , 10; Psalm , 20, Cp. John , Job He covereth His hands with the lightning, And giveth it a charge that it strike the mark.
Mark And Jesus said unto him Peter , Verily I say unto thee, that thou, today, even this night.
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Luke For the Son of man indeed goeth, as it hath been determined; but woe unto that man through whom He is betrayed. John These words spake He in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no man took Him; because His hour was not yet come.