“Predestination”

Whenever you hear the word “predestined,” it’s essential to ask the user to define the term. Some people understand it concerning a person’s life is predetermined by God. This would remove any personal accountability, or it should, from the person’s actions. After all, God predetermined it, so why should we pay for it? I believe Romans 8:29 gives us a clearer picture of predestination than anything. 

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (NKJV)

Alternate translations are also helpful. 

Because those he knew in advance he then marked out in advance as being in conformity to the image of his Son, so that he might be firstborn among many brothers. (DBH trans.)

Those foreknew, you see, he also marked out in advance to be shaped according to the model of the image of his son, so that he might be the firstborn of a large family (NTW trans.)

Both David Bentley Hart and N. T. Wright substitute “marked out in advance” for “predestined.” The Greek term proorizo is elsewhere translated as “determined before” (Acts 4:28) and “ordained before” (1 Cor. 2:7). “Marked out in advance” is a suitable translation because it leaves out the element of “destiny.” 

Nevertheless, the order of the passage places God’s foreknowledge at the beginning. This speaks to God’s omniscience at the front of what follows (cf. 1 John 3:20; Heb. 4:13; Is. 49:9–10). Just because God knows ahead of time doesn’t mean that He causes the outcome. He can work within it, but He doesn’t drive it. Some may think it a contradiction that God knows everything ahead of time because then we reflect on passages where God is said to have repented, regretted, or even changed His mind. The former two seem as if He was caught off guard by what occurred and, therefore, regretted it (cf. Gen. 6:6–7; 1 Sam. 15:10–11). I believe the biblical authors meant to convey that God can lament a situation despite knowing about it ahead of time. People whose loved ones are dying do all they can to prepare for the inevitable, but they still cry when the loved one passes away. They knew it was coming, but that fact doesn’t halt the emotion they feel upon its actual happening. When we study passages that say that God changed His mind (Exod. 32:14; 2 Sam. 24:15–16), we are forced to grapple with passages that speak of His unchanging nature (Num. 23:19; Mal. 3:6). Once more, the authors aren’t conveying that God didn’t know something but that He knew at what point He would change. These are not contradicting premises. 

Because God foreknows, He “predestines” it to be. For those of us who are Christians, God knew we’d be amenable to the gospel. Because of this foreknowledge, He determined that we would be conformed to the image of His Son. Our volition hasn’t been violated, and God hasn’t determined ahead of time that we would obey. He just knew it would happen, so He set things in motion to accomplish what He knew would occur (Rom. 8:30). I contend that predestination should be understood through the paradigm of God’s foreknowledge. We omit God’s foreknowledge if we don’t read it this way and take Ephesians 1:5, 11 as the paradigm. Paul wrote that God “chose” (v. 4) us and “purposed” (v. 9, cf. 11), which one could understand as Calvinists do. A synthesis of both passages is vital and should be understood together.

Author: Steven

Preaching Minister at Glendale Road Church of Christ (Murray, KY)

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