Predestination or Individual Choice—Which?
“God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35, NW.
1. How do justice and love operate together, and how not?
JEHOVAH is a God of justice and of love. But in exercising his quality of love he never ignores the demands of justice. Both operate in perfect balance together, neither being stifled by the other. Through sinfulness inherited from Adam all men are justly condemned to die, but by the sacrifice of Christ all men are lovingly offered opportunity to live. “The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23, NW) Opportunity for receiving the loving gift of life is not limited to a select few, leaving the justifiable condemnation of death to be unalterably forced upon the remaining many. God does not single out some for life regardless of their personal conduct just to display his love, nor does he arbitrarily doom others to destruction merely to exalt his justice. To do so would be showing partiality. And Jehovah “is never partial”, does not show “respect of persons”. (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7, AT) His love and justice are wisely directed, and “the wisdom from above” is “not making partial distinctions”. Emphatically, “there is no partiality with God.”—Rom. 2:11; Jas. 3:17, NW.
2. How is astrology akin to predestination?
2 But many religionists say God is partial, when they preach predestination, when they declare the individual’s destiny is divinely fixed before birth. Rather than being based on the Bible, the doctrine was sired by paganism and nourished by tradition. Predestination is shown in a sense at Deuteronomy 4:19 (AT), when Jehovah warned his covenant people: “Beware, when you look up into the heavens and see all the host of the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars, that you do not let yourselves be allured into paying homage to them, and serving them.” It was common practice for the ancient heathen religions to make gods of the heavenly bodies and worship them, and to claim that the destinies of men were guided by these gods or heavenly bodies. This is strikingly shown by Jehovah’s words to the stargazing Babylonians: “You have wearied yourself with your many counselors, now let them stand up and save you—those who map out the heavens, and gaze at the stars, and tell you month by month what fortune will come to you.” (Isa. 47:13, AT) They mapped out or divided off the heavens into twelve sections, one for each month, and according to the month or position of the stars at the time of birth a man’s life course was determined. They believed that their star gods more or less predestinated their lives. The pagan religions of both Greeks and Romans made gods of the heavenly bodies, and the present names of the planets are from Roman mythology.
3. What did the Pharisees believe, and into what thorny problem did this plunge them?
3 Before their captivity in Babylon the Jews frequently fell victims to such idolatries. (2 Ki. 17:16; Jer. 44:17; Ezek. 8:16) After their return to Jerusalem they avoided the more obvious idolatries, falling instead into more subtle snares. They began to build up a great mass of tradition, and religious sects arose among them. One of these was the Pharisees. They did not believe in predestination by the star gods of the heathen, but they did believe Jehovah so determined human lives. By their tradition they transferred a pagan doctrine to Jehovah, and voided his word that “time and chance happen to all of them”, rather than events being predestinated. (Eccl. 9:11, AT) The outstanding Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us: “The Pharisees . . . ascribe all to fate [or, providence], and to God, and yet allow, that to act what is right, or the contrary, is principally in the power of men, although fate does co-operate in every action.” “When they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit; since their notion is, that it hath pleased God to make a temperament, whereby what he wills is done, but so that the will of man can act virtuously or viciously.” (Wars of the Jews, Book II, Chapter VIII, ¶14; Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter I, ¶3) To believe in predestination and at the same time retain the view that man is a free moral agent has always been a thorny problem to the devotees of the doctrine, ancient and modern. None logically harmonizes the two factors. Many today adopt the Pharisees’ supposed solution, for want of something sensible. To say a creature possesses true free will that is deliberately created with a temperament that will go in the way God predestinated is like saying a machine has free will, but moves only in the way it was made to move by its maker.
4. What Catholic position developed concerning predestination?
4 Following in the footsteps of the Pharisees, the prominent Roman Catholic saint, Augustine, “maintained that grace is an internal operation of God upon those whom he designs to save, imparting not only the power, but also the will to do good. The fact that some are saved and others lost he attributed to the will of God. Hence his doctrines of unconditional predestination, of particular redemption, and of special and irresistible grace. Reprobation, he granted, was based upon foreseen guilt, but apparently unconscious of the inconsistency, he denied the applicability of the same principle to election. In 529 the system of Augustine was established as Church doctrine by the Council of Arausio (Orange), but the reaction against the strictly logical yet essentially immoral nature of his dogma has been perpetually manifested.” “Four hundred years more passed away before a man could be found bold enough to complete Augustine’s theory by declaring that, as God has sovereignly and immutably elected whomsoever he has pleased unto life, without any foresight of faith and obedience, so he has of his own good pleasure freely and unchangeably predestinated whomsoever he has pleased unto everlasting misery, without any reference to foreknown sin and guilt on their part. This anticipator of Calvin was a Saxon monk named Gottschalk (Godeschalcus). His novel view brought down upon him not merely ecclesiastical censure, but even persecution.” Church councils in 848 and 849 condemned him, and he was flogged and imprisoned in a monastery until his death some twenty years later.—M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume VIII, page 499.
5. (a) From what other source did the doctrine find support? (b) How is astrology further tied in with it?
5 During this same general time period another religion was teaching fatalism and predestination, and had scriptures to support them: “No one can die except by God’s permission, according to the Book that fixeth the term of life.” “Some of them there were whom God guided, and there were others decreed to err . . . God will not guide him whom He would lead astray.” “No mischance chanceth either on earth or in your persons, but ere “we” created them, it was in the Book;—for easy is this to God.” “This is truly a warning: And whoso willeth, taketh the way to his Lord: but will it ye shall not, unless God will it, for God is knowing, wise. He causeth whom He will to enter into his mercy.” (Sura 3:139; 16:38, 39; 57:22; 76:29-31, Rodwell) Of course, these are not inspired scriptures from God’s Word, the Bible, but are from the holy book of the Mohammedans, the Koran. M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume I, page 499, links predestination and astrology and shows Mohammedanism’s interest in both, saying: “By the latter [judicial astrology], it was pretended, could be predicted events which were dependent upon the human will, as particular actions, peace, war, etc. Astrology accords well with the predestinarian doctrines of Mohammedanism, and was accordingly cultivated with great ardor by the Arabs from the seventh to the thirteenth century. Some of the early Christian fathers argued against the doctrines of astrology; others received them in a modified form. In its public capacity the Roman Church several times condemned the system, but many zealous churchmen cultivated it. Cardinal D’Ailly, ‘the eagle of the doctors of France’ (died 1420), is said to have calculated the horoscope of Jesus Christ, and maintained that the Deluge might have been predicted by astrology.”
6. To what extent was Calvin’s influence felt, and how was the doctrine spread?
6 In the midst of the ferment of the Reformation the subject of predestination was revived, and during the 1530’s and the two decades that followed John Calvin dominated the stage as the champion of unconditional predestination of not only those to be saved but also those to be lost. Again the Roman Church condemned these views, just as it had seven centuries earlier when the Saxon monk Gottschalk had argued for them. However, a century later, from the synod known as the Westminster Assembly of Divines, came forth the largely Calvinistic Confession of Faith, which was adopted in 1646 by the British Parliament, to become the creed of the English Church and the doctrinal basis of almost all the present Presbyterian churches. Through the Puritans predestination teaching was spread all over New England, and by the Reformed Dutch and other Presbyterian bodies it was carried through most of the Middle and Western states of America. Today the foremost advocates of the doctrine are Presbyterians, though many of the modern church bodies of this particular faith have modified their views and watered down the harsh doctrine.
7. What discloses the Catholic view on predestination now?
7 The foregoing has shown how extensively the doctrine was and is believed, that it was or still is adhered to in varying degrees by ancient astrologers, pagan religionists, Pharisees, Mohammedans, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics. Inclusion of the last-named ones may come as a surprise to many and be denied by some; hence we quote the following from the July 1951 issue of the pamphlet Why, edited by “Father” Richard Felix, O.S.B., and published with ecclesiastical approbation by the Benedictine Fathers, Benet Lake, Wisconsin: “God predestines certain souls for Heaven. He does not predestine any soul for Hell. The Council of Trent officially condemned the heresy of Calvin who held that by an absolute decree of God part of mankind was predestined to Hell. The predestination of the elect to Heaven is a positive act of God; the reprobation of the wicked is not.” This reaffirms the predestinarian teachings of Augustine concerning those to be saved, and automatically leaves all others hopelessly lost, whether specifically predestinated to destruction or not. Recently Catholicism’s predestinarian views cropped out in the public press, when it reported on the funeral held for a ten-year-old girl who had fallen from a fire escape. On that occasion a Catholic priest in a Brooklyn church reportedly said: “God wanted another angel and He took Dorothy. Dorothy had been picked by God to remain with her parents just this length of time. Then He called her to serve Him at this Christmas time.”—New York Daily News, December 19, 1952.
PREDESTINATED AS A CLASS
8. Just what is the Presbyterian teaching?
8 However, the Presbyterian churches are the foremost advocates of the doctrine of predestination, and we therefore center attention upon their position. According to their own words, they teach: “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace. The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.”*
9. Can they trace the doctrine to Paul, and how do they try?
9 Presbyterians claim that they can trace this doctrine to Paul. They may be able to trace it to Paul the Pharisee, but not to Paul the apostle. When a Pharisee and known as Saul of Tarsus and a violent persecutor of Christians, Paul may have believed predestination. But when he abandoned that sect he did not seek to salvage any of its traditional teachings, about which Jesus remarked to those religionists: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.” (Matt. 15:6, NW) Paul did not contaminate Christian teaching with the Pharisee doctrine of predestination of individuals. Nevertheless, predestinationists today will try to support their claim that Paul did teach predestination by quoting his words at Romans 8:29, 30: “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. 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.”
10. Why a class instead of individuals does Romans 8:29, 30 foreordain?
10 From this can it be correctly argued that certain individuals were predestinated to be called and justified and glorified as spirit creatures to reign with Christ in heaven for a thousand years? Notice in this text that the ones called and justified are first predestinated, and since the divine predestinating could not fail, no individuals once called and justified could fail to be eventually glorified with Christ. That is the view that must be taken if this text is applied to individuals. However, other scriptures, to be considered later, show persons once called and justified or declared righteous can fall away and be destroyed. So what is unfailingly predestinated at Romans 8:29, 30 must be a class, and not the individuals making up the class. Jehovah has predestinated or foreordained the requirements this class must meet, its standards of conduct, its work while on earth, its service with Christ in heaven, its place in the divine arrangement of things, and even the number of individuals that will comprise it.—Rev. 14:1-4.
11. Does the use of personal pronouns make the text mean individuals instead of a class?
11 Some may say that if a class were meant the pronoun “it” and not the personal pronoun “them” would have been used in the text. Not necessarily so. We often use personal pronouns to refer to a class, rather than to the individuals making up the group. For instance, two schools meet in an athletic contest, and a girl from the winning school says: “We defeated them.” The “we” refers to the winning school as a group, and not to all the students individually, for as individuals they did not defeat the other school. Certainly the girl did not. She did not even play. Only those on the team defeated them. And the “them” does not refer to all the students of the losing school either, for not all of them individually played and suffered defeat on the athletic field. “Them” refers to the losing school as a group, not as individuals. Similarly, the “them” at Romans 8:30 refers to a class, not individuals. Only thus can the text be harmonized with other scriptures.
12. How does Matthew 22:14 rule out predestination?
12 If Jehovah God predestinated individuals to salvation in advance, would he call or invite to such salvation those not predestinated for it, those who could not possibly attain it? Would not such an invitation be hypocritical in the extreme, a heartless mocking and cruel taunting of those whom he has foreordained to fail? It would be sadistic torture of weak and helpless creatures at the hands of an all-powerful Creator. It would deny the divine attributes of both justice and love. Jehovah God is not guilty of such unloving, unjust, hypocritical misconduct. By pouring out his holy spirit or active force upon persons he calls or invites them to membership in the heavenly class, and that without predestinating in advance their success or failure in attaining it. Some of the individuals called become unfaithful and drop out. More are called to take their place. Enough are called so that eventually the predestinated number are finally chosen, regardless of the many who fell away after being called. It was because of this circumstance that Jesus said: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” If predestination were true, the number called would be the same as the number finally chosen.—Matt. 22:14.
13. What questions are raised by Ephesians 1:4, 5, and how do Presbyterians answer them, confusingly so?
13 Believers in this doctrine call attention to Ephesians 1:4, 5: “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself.” But again the reference is to a class, and the use of the personal pronouns “we” and “us” does not affect this fact, as previously pointed out. However, this text does say that this class was predestinated or foreordained “before the foundation of the world”. Would that not indicate that Jehovah knew before he created Adam and Eve that they would fall into sin, and bring forth imperfect, sinful offspring, thereby making necessary Christ the Redeemer and the foreordained Kingdom class to reign with him for a thousand years to restore fallen mankind to perfection? Presbyterians answer yes, saying: “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends.”* Also, “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”* Yet they contend that, though God unchangeably ordains and orders and governs everything that comes to pass, the human creature has complete liberty and freedom of will, and God may not be blamed for what he irresistibly ordains. Very confusing.
14. How is the “world” of Ephesians 1:4, 5 Scripturally identified?
14 Actually, there is not the slightest evidence that Jehovah foreordained the fall of Adam and Eve. Then why would he foreordain “before the foundation of the world” the provision of Christ and the Kingdom class to lift obedient mankind from the effects of Adam’s fall? Because the world that began with the creation of Adam and Eve is not the same as the one before whose foundation this class was predestinated. Peter speaks of three worlds: the “world that then was”, that arose when Adam sinned and was later destroyed by the Noachian flood, the present wicked one that started after the flood and will end in Armageddon’s fiery destruction, and the promised new world wherein righteousness is to dwell. The new world’s foundation was laid at the time of the death of Jesus, for it is his sacrificial death that furnishes the basis for human creatures to be rescued from sin and death, enabling some to reign with him as part of the new heavens and others to live forever on this globe as an obedient new earth. Hence Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb who was slaughtered from the world’s foundation”.—Heb. 9:25, 26; 2 Pet. 3:5-7, 13; Rev. 13:8, NW.
15. Why does foreordaining the class before the world’s foundation not mean God foreknew Adam’s fall?
15 Was Jesus slaughtered, impaled on the torture stake, before Adam’s creation? Certainly not, but more than four thousand years later, A.D. 33! But before the foundation of this righteous new world was laid by the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ with the merit of his shed blood to present before Jehovah, Christ and the Kingdom class had been predestinated. Yet this foreordination was after Adam and Eve’s sinning. It was after their fall that Christ was promised as the Seed that would bring deliverance, and to whom would be joined faithful human creatures to become the new heavens of the new world. (Gen. 3:15; 22:17, 18; Isa. 65:17; Gal. 3:16, 29) So when it is understood that it is the new world before whose foundation (A.D. 33) the Kingdom class was foreordained, the basis for arguing that God predestinated Adam’s fall and his offspring’s plight vanishes. If Jehovah had previously ordained Adam’s fall, the test of obedience in Eden would have been no fair test at all, but a sham, a fake, a farce! Jehovah would stage no such fiasco, with man’s eternal life hanging in the unjust balance!—Lev. 19:36; Deut. 25:13-16; Prov. 20:10.
NAMES IN THE BOOK OF LIFE
16. How do predestinarians argue concerning the book of life, and how does this boomerang?
16 Still another line of argument is pursued by predestinationists. Certain scriptures speak of names in a book of life, and it is argued that the names of these individuals were so recorded before the world began, and this indicates they were predestinated to salvation. As has been shown, however, they cannot correctly use Revelation 13:8 or Re 17:8 to argue that before the original world began with Adam’s creation some names were written in and others left out of the book of life. As for other texts used, such as Luke 10:20 and Philippians 4:3 and Revelation 21:27, by no clever twisting of matters can they be made to say the names were recorded before the individuals’ birth. Actually, for the predestinationists to hurl the book-of-life argument into the controversy is for them to throw a boomerang. How so? Because if one’s being in the book of life means he is predestinated to salvation, then it can be shown that such predestination fails, and if it fails the doctrine’s very foundation crumbles. To those who prove faithful Jesus promises: “I will by no means blot out his name from the book of life.” (Rev. 3:5, NW) Which indicates names could be blotted out. If such a blotting out were impossible, Jesus’ promise would be meaningless. That it is possible Psalm 69:28 (AT) shows: “May they be blotted out from the book of life.” That it is Jehovah’s purpose to blot out those becoming unfaithful was shown when Israel worshiped the golden calf at Sinai. After asking God to forgive Israel Moses said: “But if not, pray blot me out of thy book.” Jehovah’s reply was: “Whoever sins against me, him only I blot out of my book.”—Ex. 32:32, 33, AT.
17. What observations on names are here appropriate?
17 To say these names are literal ones recorded before the individuals were born is to say Jehovah named all these babies, and not the parents. Some names copy those of demon gods. Did Jehovah give such hated names to predestinated servants of his? We must abandon the narrow view and see that names involve far more than mere literal designations of persons. In the Bible names are meaningful, denoting a person’s circumstances or activities or qualities, and frequently being changed during his lifetime to take on more meaning, to be more descriptive of him as he or his circumstances changed. In this broad sense names stand for certain qualities or principles or actions, and on the basis of such things the names may be good or bad, feared or revered, famous or infamous. It is such names that persons make for themselves during life that determine whether they are found recorded in God’s book of life or not, rather than narrowly viewed literal designations given to them at birth.
18. What kind of names are in the book of life?
18 Recorded in the book of life are the righteous requirements for gaining life. Therein are described the approved qualities of meekness and humility, justice and uprightness, love and mercy, zeal and faithfulness, patient endurance and obedient service. If we make names for ourselves as moral personalities, integrity keepers, zealous preachers and neighbor lovers we shall be in God’s book of life, for that is where such things are approvingly named. The book of life contains the names and reputations we must live up to if we are to be included in it, if we find ourselves described in it. If by our conduct we have made names that stand for and measure up to the divine requirements the unchanging Jehovah has established from the beginning and gone on record as approving, then such names of ours conform to and are reflected in God’s book of life. If our names stand for the same things that God’s book of life stands for, then our names are in it. The book of life is not a literal book such as men make and write in, any more so than are the names in it the literal names of men given at their birth. The book of life is Jehovah’s righteous requirements creatures must meet to live, and the names therein are names that stand for and match those requirements.
19. How can we get our names in that book, or have them blotted out?
19 We can get our names into that book, or have them blotted out. All are born under wrath, not in the book. (John 3:36) We may continue in this sinful way for years, and then change to doing good things, things approved as worthy of life, things described in the book of life, and by becoming associated with such things we enter the book of life. It speaks of us in that it names approvingly the good works we now do. Those things were always established there, from the beginning; but we did not conform thereto. Our names, our fame, did not match; but when we change and make a name for those good things then we come into the categories or classes already approvingly named in the book of life. And what if we thereafter become unfaithful, quit living up to the good name, lose our good name, and make a bad name, a name for immorality, or slothfulness, or gossiping, or complaining, or backbiting, or haughtiness? If we make a name for such things we shall no longer be found named in the book of life, for such things are not named there, not described there as requirements, and hence our works no longer identify us as being in that book. The good name we once had is gone and the bad name we might thereafter make is not in the book of life. Such wicked names are blotted from God’s memory so far as any resurrection or salvation to life is concerned, and the former name for righteousness is forgotten when wickedness replaces it with a bad name.—Prov. 10:7; Ezek. 33:12-16.
20. What is involved in confessing one’s name, and how are names lived up to?
20 To confess Jesus’ name before men means much more than just repeating his literal name, as he stated. (Matt. 7:21) To properly confess it or show belief in it we must declare its meaning, its significance, its fame, what it stands for, and live up to it as our model. (Matt. 10:32; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:8) Similarly, when Christ acknowledges the names of his followers to God in heaven it is not a mere mentioning of their literal names, but a testimony to the names of integrity built up by their faithful service. (Rev. 3:5; 14:13) Neither Jehovah nor Christ gives us our personal names at our birth, but they do assign names to certain faithful servant classes. These names must be lived up to. (Isa. 43:10-12; 62:2-4; Rev. 2:17; 3:12) So it is not just the inscribing of literal names in a literal book in heaven, but the building up of a life pattern that conforms to Jehovah’s requirements. By our fruits we are identified. (Matt. 7:20) If our fruits are the same as those identified in the book of life, then the book of life identifies us, acknowledges us, embraces us within its contents. Let our conduct, which makes a name for us, match the conduct described in the book of life. Thus shall we be found there.
21. How is Jesus named in the Hebrew Scriptures, though that personal name of his is not there?
21 This is no arbitrary view to take regarding the names in the book of life, but finds a supporting analogy in the Bible itself. Do the Hebrew Scriptures identify the Messiah? Certainly. By his personal name? No, the name Jesus is not therein linked to Messiah. But just because the personal name is not recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures does not mean they do not name Jesus as Messiah. Many descriptive names of the Messiah are given, names that describe his qualities, his conduct, his service, his position. He is named Immanuel, and it was Jesus who lived up to that name. (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22, 23) He is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace, and Jesus fits them all. (Isa. 9:6) The Messiah was called many other names that Jesus fulfilled, such as Seed of the Woman and, Seed of Abraham (Gen. 3:15; 22:17, 18; Gal. 3:16; Heb. 2:14), Servant and Light to the Nations (Isa. 42:1, 6; Matt. 12:18; Luke 2:32; Acts 26:23), Leader and Witness (Isa. 55:4; Matt. 23:10; Rev. 3:14), Redeemer (Isa. 59:20; Rom. 11:26), Tried Stone, Cornerstone and Sure Foundation (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16; Matt. 21:42; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4, 6-8). Hundreds of other descriptive details about Messiah are in the Hebrew Scriptures, and all of them found their fulfillment in Jesus and identified him as the promised Messiah. Jesus so argued to his disciples. (Luke 24:27, 44, 45) Jesus measured up to all the descriptive names that the Hebrew Scriptures gave to the Messiah. If all these descriptive names apply to Jesus, then how can we sensibly argue that he is not named in the Hebrew Scriptures just because the personal name Jesus is not given in connection with Messiah? We can not!
22. Similarly, how are faithful ones named in the book of life?
22 So it is with those identified in another book, the book of life. Its symbolical pages have descriptions of those who make names for zeal, faithfulness, chastity, integrity, and so on. If we fit those descriptive names we are in the book of life. Just as Jesus is found in the Hebrew Scriptures as the Messiah, though his personal name is not there mentioned, so we may be in the book of life as qualifying ones, though our personal, earthly names are not inscribed in any literal book in heaven. And just as Jesus would have lost his identity as Messiah if he had failed to live up to the descriptive Messianic names recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, so we shall lose our good names as Christians and be blotted out of the book of life if we fail to maintain names that match the divine requirements. We are descriptively named in the book of life only as long as we enduringly conform to the descriptive names therein given concerning saved ones, making those names our own.
REDEEMED, JUSTIFIED, SANCTIFIED, ELECT ONES CAN FAIL
23. What qualifying word do Presbyterians introduce to evade the force of Matthew 22:14, and what do they say about redeemed ones?
23 Forging on to further arguments advanced by believers in predestination, we cope with their contention that those once released or redeemed by Christ cannot thereafter fail. It has been shown previously that called ones may fall, Jesus’ words at Matthew 22:14 having been quoted, to the effect that many are called but few finally chosen. That text is a devastating blow to their doctrine, and they endeavor to dodge it by saying the called ones who fall were not effectually called. No Scriptural authority grants them license to add this qualification, but the survival of their doctrine demands it. The purpose for mentioning this here is to establish the weight they place upon the word “effectually”. When they use it they rule out the possibility of failure. They use it in connection with those redeemed by Christ: “To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.”*
24. How is 2 Peter 2:1-3 a blow against predestination?
24 The foregoing shows that they teach that those for whom redemption was purchased cannot fail, that redemption is effectually applied to them, that they are effectually persuaded and all enemies are overcome. By what means are they redeemed or released? Peter answers: “You know that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, as a ransom that you were released from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.” (1 Pet. 1:18, 19, NW; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12; Rev. 5:9) With his blood Christ buys them and they become his. He is their owner. To them it is written: “You do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 7:23, NW) According to predestinarian teaching, if Christ has redeemed them, released them, purchased them, become their owner, they could never fall away. But the Bible says they can, and some do: “These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will turn out of the way and follow their acts of loose conduct.” “But as for them, the judgment of ancient times is not moving slowly, and the destruction of them is not slumbering.”—2 Pet. 2:1-3, NW.
25. What further shows redeemed ones can fall away?
25 Continuing the discussion of those purchased ones who later disown their owner Christ Jesus, the apostle Peter states: “Certainly if, after having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, the final conditions have become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it accurately to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has turned back to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.’” (2 Pet. 2:20-22, NW) After being cleansed by the water of truth and the blood of Jesus they return to the sins of their former filth. The destruction of such does not slumber, but arrives at God’s scheduled time.
26. How does Paul show redeemed ones can fall, and what rules out any recovery for them?
26 The apostle Paul writes in similar vein: “It is impossible as regards those who have once for all been enlightened and who have tasted the heavenly free gift and who have become partakers of holy spirit and who have tasted the right word of God and powers of the coming system of things, but who have fallen away, to revive them again to repentance, because they impale the Son of God afresh for themselves and expose him to public shame.” (Heb. 6:4-6, NW) These here mentioned who did fall away with no possibility for recovery had had the benefits of the ransom applied to them, had been bought by Jesus’ blood. If not, they could have availed themselves of it for salvation. However, they had already used the benefits of the sacrifice and thereafter fallen away. Now they themselves deliberately impale Christ afresh in personal rejection of him, attaching no more value to his sacrifice than the death of a criminal. Christ died for them once; he will not come to earth to die for them again. “This he did once for all time.” “Neither is it in order that he should offer himself often, as indeed the high priest enters into the holy place from year to year with blood not his own. Otherwise, he would have to suffer often from the world’s foundation. But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the consummation of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself.”—Heb. 7:27; 9:25, 26, NW.
27. What do Presbyterians say about justified ones, but what the Bible?
27 Concerning those justified or declared righteous the Presbyterians teach: “They can never fall from the state of justification.”* By what means are men justified? They are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. Or, “justified by his blood.” (Rom. 3:24; 5:9) But preceding paragraphs have quoted scriptures that show conclusively persons can and do fall away after being redeemed and purchased by Christ’s blood, and that their revival is not possible. And since it is this redemption or releasing that brings justification, when this releasing goes justification goes with it. Presbyterians acknowledge that justified ones can sin and come under divine displeasure, but add that by humble confession and petition for forgiveness they can “renew their faith and repentance”.* Yet a text previously quoted said that it is impossible, “if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.”—Heb. 6:4-6.
28. How do Presbyterians clash with the Bible regarding sanctified ones?
28 Sanctified ones are safe, Presbyterians say: “They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”* The same class discussed at Hebrews 6:4-6 and; 2 Peter 2:20-22 are again commented upon at Hebrews 10:26-29 (NW): “If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition. Any man that has disregarded the law of Moses dies without compassion, upon the testimony of two or three. Of how much more severe a punishment, do you think, will the man be counted worthy who has trampled upon the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt?” Such despise Jesus’ blood that validated the new covenant, into which they had been brought. Hence they are consumed, but with an everlasting destruction carrying far more severe disgrace and contempt with it than that suffered by those put to death under the covenant of the law of Moses. But the vital point to note here is that these opposers had at one time been sanctified. Nevertheless, they fell away.
29. What shows elect ones can fall, in contradiction of predestination?
29 Those in line to reign with Christ are called the “elect” or the “election” in the King James Version Bible; some modern versions use the expression “chosen ones” instead. Believers in predestination say such ones cannot fail. Mark 13:22 states: “False Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” The italicized words are not in the original Greek, and their addition makes it sound as though seduction of the elect is impossible. Modern versions are more accurate: “To lead astray, if possible, the chosen ones.” (NW) “To mislead God’s chosen people if they can.” (AT) Some they can, some they cannot. Paul endured certain things for the elect’s sake, to aid them in gaining salvation. (2 Tim. 2:10) This would have been unnecessary if the elect could not fall. If God had ordained the election sure, there would be no need for the chosen ones to be admonished to make it so. Yet Peter said: “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” (2 Pet. 1:10) Obviously, Peter is telling them that they will fall unless they make their choosing sure by their own diligent efforts. And if they cannot be lost, why did days of tribulation have to be cut short to save them?—Matt. 24:22.
30. What further proves falling out of the faithful foreordained class is possible?
30 The doctrine of predestination teaches that those who have been redeemed, justified, sanctified and chosen can never fall away; yet the scriptures considered plainly prove the opposite. Once saved does not mean always saved. Conquerors with Christ must be not only called and chosen, but “called and chosen and faithful”. Faithful for how long? “Prove yourself faithful even with the danger of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” It must be not only had but held: “Keep on holding fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” To remain in union with Christ the anointed cannot grow lukewarm, for to such chilled ones he says: “I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 2:10; 3:11, 16; 17:14, NW) For them to partake of the heavenly kingdom with Christ they must endure to the end: “We actually become partakers of the Christ only if we make fast our hold on the confidence we had at the beginning firm to the end.” (Heb. 3:14, NW) To win, the race must be run to the finish, the fight fought to the end. (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; 2 Tim. 4:7, 8) Certainly the apostle Paul was of the predestinated class, elect, called, redeemed, justified and sanctified, when he wrote his first inspired letter to the Corinthians; yet it was possible for him to become disapproved and cast out: “I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (1 Cor. 9:27, NW) He certainly did not feel individually predestinated, beyond the possibility of falling out. It was only when death was near and the fight finished that he spoke with confidence concerning the crown.—2 Tim. 4:6-8.
INDIVIDUALS CHOOSE THEIR OWN DESTINY
31. What texts deny predestination and show individual choice?
31 The predestinarian position is that God fixed the destiny of all persons before their birth, some predestinated to salvation and some ordained to divine wrath, and this without any foreknowledge of how the individuals would act. (¶8) If Jehovah has thus chosen man’s destiny before birth, rendering any future choice by man an empty mockery, Moses would never have been inspired to say to Israel: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that you as well as your descendants may live, by loving the LORD your God, by heeding his injunctions, and by holding fast to him; for that will mean life to you.” (Deut. 30:19, 20, AT) Nor would Joshua have said: “If you find it obnoxious to serve the LORD, choose today whom you will serve, either the gods whom your fathers served who are beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15, AT) Again, “Anyone that calls upon the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13, NW) Unblocked by predestination, any who wish can gain life: “The spirit and the bride keep on saying, ‘Come!’ And let anyone hearing say, ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” (Isa. 55:1; Rev. 22:17, NW) Jehovah says: ‘Warn them from me. Let him hear who will, and let him decline to hear who will. Have I any pleasure at all in the death of the wicked, and not rather in this, that he turn from his way and live? Why should you die? I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies. Turn, then, and live!’—Ezek. 3:27; 18:23, 31, 32; 33:7, 11-15, AT.
32. What exposes the folly of predestination?
32 What a hypocritical appeal that would be if the ones addressed were powerless to choose! Would Jehovah predestinate some to death, then say that it would be his pleasure for them to turn from that divine predestination and live? What folly to think so! And would Christ have said it was his anxious desire to gather Jerusalem’s children if they had been divinely predestinated to abandonment? Of course not, and the record shows those persons wanted it that way, contrary to Jesus’ desire: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! your house is abandoned to you.”—Matt. 23:37, 38, NW.
33. Who may gain salvation, and how?
33 Not by some humanly uncontrollable predestination does everlasting life come, but by taking in knowledge of Jehovah and Christ, by striving to be an approved workman handling properly the truth, by working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, by preaching to save others as well as ourselves, by being doers of the word and not hearers only, by doing God’s will and not lip-serving only. (Matt. 7:21; John 17:3; Phil. 2:12; 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; Jas. 1:22, NW) Not for a restricted few predestinated to salvation did Jesus provide the ransom, but “he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him”. (Heb. 5:9, NW) Men are free to choose to serve whom they will and to act as they wish, and thereby fix their own destiny as either life or death.—Rom. 6:16.
34. In what ways is predestination inconsistent with Jehovah’s procedures, and on the basis of what does man reap?
34 If predestination were true, why would Jehovah give his law to Israel or have the good news of the Kingdom preached to the nations? Why would he have judgment periods for determining the destiny of men on the basis of their conduct, judging them “individually according to their deeds”, rendering “to each one according to his works”, and saying “in accordance with their ways will I treat them, and in accordance with their practices will I judge them”? (Ezek. 7:27, AT; Rom. 2:6; Rev. 20:13, NW) Why separate sheep and goats on the basis of their reaction to the message and messengers of Christ? (Matt. 25:40, 45) Why all this, if the destiny of men is fixed before birth? Not God, but man, is responsible for man’s destiny. Not as God predestinates, but as man sows, does man reap. To reap life man must never give out in sowing good: “Each one will carry his own load of responsibility. Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit. So let us not give up in doing what is right, for in due season we shall reap by not giving out.” (Gal. 6:5, 7-9, NW) God does not show partiality to some, predestinating them to life, and discrimination against others, predestinating them to death or torment. The evidence forces the conclusion: “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35, NW.
35. Yet what must we remember concerning works?
35 From the foregoing none should conclude we can save ourselves by our works. If we could we would earn salvation as our right, but we cannot. It comes through God’s undeserved kindness. (Rom. 11:6; Eph. 2:8, 9; 2 Tim. 1:9) However, by study we gain faith and by works in harmony with our knowledge we prove our faith and obedience. (Rom. 10:14, 17; Jas. 2:18-26) We must do these works to show obedience, for it is to obedient ones that the ransom does or will apply. Without such works salvation is impossible.
36. How did Presbyterians try to extricate themselves from difficulties, and with what results?
36 It should also be noted that in 1902-1903 the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America added two chapters to the Confession of Faith, along with a Declaratory Statement. These additions were apparently made to soften the harshness of predestinationism, and harmonize with scriptures showing individual choice and necessity of good works. But in attempting to do this the additions really contradict the preceding material. If they add these chapters they should delete previous ones to avoid clashes. Yet if they made the necessary deletions they would eliminate predestinarian precepts altogether. So in their quandary they keep both and contradict both themselves and the Bible. They are on the horns of a dilemma of their own making. The new material does not harmonize predestination with Scripture, yet in attempting to line up with Scripture it contradicts predestination. It waters down the doctrine till it is completely washed away. Moreover, they compromise it to death. For instance, Chapter X, Section 3, page 45, states: “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit.” But the Declaratory Statement, page 125, says this is “not to be regarded as teaching that any who die in infancy are lost. We believe that all dying in infancy are included in the election”. The Bible does not back them up in this.—Ezek. 9:6.
37. What challenging questions remain, but to what may we look forward?
37 The subject cannot be closed at this point, for important questions remain unanswered. Do not predestination believers harmonize their doctrine with man’s free will? And what about Esau and Jacob, and Pharaoh, Samson, Jeremiah, Judas, and even Jesus? Does not the Bible show they and still others were predestinated? Challenging questions these, but space permits no more than the raising of them here. We must defer their answering to our next issue.
The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, published 1952. Quoting from Confession of Faith, Chapter III, Sections 5, 7, pages 15-17.
Id., Chapter V, Section 4, page 22.
Id., Chapter III. Section 1, page 13.
Id., Chapter VIII, Section 8, page 40.
Id., Chapter XI, Section 5, page 50.
Id., Chapter XI, Section 5, page 50.
Id., Chapter XVII, Section 1, page 65.
[Picture on page 309]
Prince of Peace
Seed of the Woman
Seed of Abraham