This position is actually quite complicated and has many faces. Augustine first developed an understanding of predestination in the 5th century AD in response to Pelagius (see above). Some of the most prominent theologians in the history of Christianity have promoted some understanding of predestination in their theology, including Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Karl Barth.

The most common understanding of predestination comes from the theology of John Calvin, the "founding" theologian of the Reformed tradition. Calvin*s understanding of predestination is popularly labeled "double predestination." According to Calvin, God extends grace, forgiveness, and salvation freely to some human beings, not based on their merit, and not based on the strength of their faith, but based on God*s own free will. They do not have to turn to God and ask for grace or salvation before they receive it. It is a free gift from God. These people are God*s elect or chosen ones. On the other hand, those people in the world who are not chosen by God do not receive the gift of grace, forgiveness, or salvation. They are the damned. Why God has chosen not to choose or elect these people is truly a mystery, but from Calvin*s perspective, we are in no place to command. Calvin believes that since we were all sinners and all undeserving of God*s grace, we all deserve to be damned for all eternity. The fact that God chooses some at all is truly good news for which we should be thankful.

Though many Christians criticize this understanding of salvation, it is important to understand Calvin*s motives for developing this doctrine. Calvin is attempting to argue in his doctrine of double predestination that there is absolutely nothing that we humans can do to earn God*s love, grace, mercy, and salvation. If we receive these at all, they are free gifts. In this light, Calvin (and double predestination) differs dramatically from Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism, both of which maintain that humans must do something first in order to earn or receive grace, forgiveness, and salvation. Calvin turns this around -- God takes the initiative in giving these things to us (or at least some of us).

Many historians and Christians consider double predestination to be the trademark of the Reformed tradition, including the Presbyterian tradition. Indeed, this has been the case historically. Today, few Presbyterians uphold Calvin*s strict understanding of double predestination, though some Presbyterians (and other Christians) seek to support the doctrine of single predestination, which focuses on those whom God chooses to "save" and avoids speculation on what happens to those who are not chosen. Still others lift up predestination simply as a reminder that salvation does not depend on human merit, setting aside all speculation as to whether or not God elects some and not others. However, the majority of Christians today, including Presbyterians, abandon all talk of predestination.

Key Texts:

Matthew 11:25-27

25 At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Matthew 16:13-17

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

Acts 13:46-48

46 Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ " 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.

Romans 8:26-30

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Ephesians l:3-14

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

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