Pastor Duane writes about how he came to embrace the doctrine of predestination
I grew up in a home where we were in church every Sunday as a family. We had a plaque with the ten commandments hanging on our wall, prayed before every meal and were taught the Bible as the Word of God.
In my teenage years I rebelled against God and tried to one up the prodigal son the best I could. After nearly four years of eating the pigstie food of the world my restless heart came to rest in the gracious arms of the Savior.
It was my freshman year of college. I had never read the Bible before, didn't know anything about God other than what I had heard growing up and I literally cut out cussing, smoking, drinking, and drugs over night. It was as if Holden Caulfield got saved.
I'll never forget that first year as a new Christian. Everything about Jesus seemed easy back then. The Bible was new and exciting to me, filled with a ton of stories and every one of them seem full of life and immediately relevant to me. I found deep and close friendships with other Christians, many of whom I'm still close with today.
The next year wasn't quite the spiritual joy ride, though the college years are nevertheless still the easy ride in comparison to the responsibilities of ""real life."" As my new found faith began to mature I soon discovered there were a lot of different types of Christians out there and not every one of them believed the same thing.
In regards to the topic of this blog I remember one pointed conversation I had with a surfing buddy of mine. It was after a Bible study from a ministry called ""surf 'n' serve"" I was a part of. I don't remember how we got talking about it but he brought up the doctrine of predestination and was showing me some verses in the Bible about it. I had never heard of predestination before in my entire life and the mere idea of it just made me angry.
My buddy and I ended up in a shouting match and I remember yelling at him and saying, ""I don't care what you say or what you think the Bible says, but I know that I CHOSE TO PUT FAITH IN CHRIST!"" And then I went back to my dorm room, got a hold of a concordance and looked up every verse I could that talked about making choices to live for God. Verses like Joshua 24:15, "Choose this day whom you will serve" and Deuteronomy 30:19. "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life!"
From that point on whenever predestination came up my answer was that I didn't know how it could be true, that I knew that it was in the Bible, and that the most important thing was that we had to choose Christ.
Nearly three years went by for me and it wasn't until I ended up at a Foursquare Bible college working on a graduate degree and taking a class on the book of Romans that things changed for me. They taught predestination was God looking into the future to see who would choose him, which fit well with my emphasis on us choosing.
Those who know the book of Romans are probably guessing it was Romans 9 that did it for me but it wasn't (which by the way is one of the best chapters in the Bible to read on predestination). Funny enough the Bible college I was at only covered chapters 1-8 in their Romans class and there was no part II that covered the rest of the book (chapters 9-16).
We had worked through Romans 1-3, chapter three stating with daunting clarity, ""None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Rom 3:10-12)."" I didn't know quite what to do with that I knew I had turned aside in those rebellious years but somehow I had thought I had turned around myself.
Then we came to Romans 4. The chapter starts out addressing the insufficiency of ""works"" or one's own effort in trying to save themselves and then it drops this blow, ""Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness."" Hearing that all of my righteousness was the pure gift of God not due to any of my own efforts took my legs out from under me.
I walked out of class that day, went outside and stood at the upstairs railing and looked out toward the mountains and tears began to roll down my cheeks and I said to God, ""I didn't have anything to do with this did I? It was all You and has been all You all along hasn't it?"" And from that point on I've wholeheartedly accepted the doctrine of predestination.
I'd never read any Reformed theology much less the Reformers, since most the circles I ran in compared Calvin with the devil. But I began to read them for the first time and was astounded at what I found. Not only were their Scriptural assertions rigorous and thorough but they wrote with a passion for God and compassion for the lost I didn't know existed.
What's funny is it wasn't really wrestling with the doctrine of predestination that brought me to the place where I embraced it. It was realizing that my sinful heart would never and never did choose Christ, it was God drawing me in, changing me, giving me faith and giving me Christ's righteousness. When I looked back on my life I realized I could no longer take an ounce of credit for anything good I had ever done. It was all God. For the first time I understood the full meaning of Jesus' words, "You did not choose me, but I chose you (Jn 15:16)."
It's been years and years since I experienced that huge theological paradigm shift. Since then I've studied the Bible and learned more than I ever thought possible. I've experienced immense pain and suffering in my own life and in those I love. I heard more arguments and rebuttals against predestination than I've ever wanted. Yet I am firmly convinced, more than ever, that the God of the Bible does in fact declare ""the end from the beginning"" and accomplishes it all according to his purpose (Is 46:9-10). I believe this is the only kind of God whom we can truly count on and who is truly sufficient to save us.
I recognize there is great need to have grace and patience with those who have trouble with the doctrine of predestination. Rorty's pragmatism has ruled the day in the school systems which teach us to value our ""free will"" and what we can accomplish as the highest of virtues. Yet the old educators used to teach a more sound logic, one which recognized the limits of human ability, demanded definitions of terms and was humbled rather than enraged at the notion of an entirely and intentionally caused universe.
Perhaps my story will help enable a fresh look at Scripture and a fresh look at one's own heart. The truth is we need Christ and apart from his predestining power we will be lost without him. What joy and what hope there is in knowing God chose some before the foundation of the world whom he predestined according to the purpose of his will (Eph 1:4-5)! To him be the glory, now and forevermore.