Changing Your Perspective on Predestination
We are spending the month of May looking at the doctrine of God’s sovereign election. In the first lecture I talked about the ways our context and culture makes it particularly difficult to believe in predestination. Several people have told me that this portion was very helpful for them and asked me to summarize my thoughts in writing. So here goes…
Our fallen condition has turned us all inward so that we naturally view things through the lens of our own selfish entitlement, as though we are at the center of existence and our wants are the highest concern of existence. And this fallen tendency is only compounded by western culture. I naturally think all things revolve around me, and as a westerner, all things seemingly do revolve around me. Western culture runs the world. That’s rapidly changing, but it’s still true. And so there is a cultural snobbery to the West. We are enlightened; everyone else is in the dark. We are right; everyone else is wrong. We adapt to no one; everyone else adapts to us.
So the desire of every fallen man is to be god, and for those of us in the West, the patterns of our world indulge and reinforce that desire. In other words, we are doubly man-centered in our perspective. And that is why doctrines like predestination are so offensive to westerners in particular.
What we need to understand is that the starting point of all theology must begin with a God-centered view of all things. If we view the Scriptures through a man-centered lens, then the Scriptures will at best confuse us and at worst infuriate us. But if there is a perspective shift to a God-centered view of reality, then we will start wrestling with different questions.
Instead of asking why God does all things for His own glory, we will start asking why God is so loving toward those who defame His glory.
Instead of asking why God doesn’t give us what we want, we will start asking why God doesn’t give us what we deserve.
Instead of asking why bad things happen to good people, we will start asking why good things happen to bad people.
Instead of asking why God get’s angry, we will start asking why God is slow to anger.
Instead of asking why God would allow people to go to hell, we will start asking why God would allow people to go to heaven.
Instead of asking why God doesn’t choose everyone, we will start asking why God has chosen one.
If we don’t approach a doctrine like predestination through the lens of a God who does all things for His own glory, who stands supreme at the center of all existence with all existence revolving around the purposes of His will, then we will never accept the doctrine and certainly won’t appreciate it.
But I find it curious that nobody ever has a problem with the dilemma of human election and choice. The same questions and accusations that we throw at God seem ridiculous when we are the ones choosing. Take adoption, for example.
Many in our church have adopted internationally, and every time this happens there is a joyful gathering at the airport to welcome home the parents and child. But suppose the family was greeted, not by an excited community, but by an angry mob. They are screaming, “How dare you only choose one?! You have the resources for more, you could have adopted more, you are so cruel and unjust for only choosing one! And what about that child’s free will?! How dare you not respect the orphan’s freedom to choose a family for himself!”
From this perspective, words like that seem silly and cruel.
Now I suppose you could say the illustration falls short because we didn’t create those orphans. If I was the creator then I would owe them my adoption. Why? Just because God created us doesn’t make Him beholden to us. Again, try to see it from your perspective. Are you not allowed to do what you want with what you create? Or as Paul puts it, “Has not the potter the right over the clay?”
Besides, the illustration falls short in other ways as well. If you really want to understand God’s election, imagine the orphanage is filled with orphans who hate you, don’t want your adoption, and want to be left alone. They would rather live in an orphanage without parents than to live in your home under your authority. And imagine that justice demands you not adopt them. Instead of adoption being the right thing to do, adoption is the wrong thing to do. And imagine that the cost of adoption was not money but the very life of your only child.
It’s a perspective thing.
From the God-centered perspective of Scripture, predestination still confounds us. But in a different way. We stand utterly amazed that our God has chosen even one.