The third rail

I’ve always though of predestination as the doctrinal third rail of Christianity. Touch on it, and you’ll be shocked at the response.

After touching on it in public, a good friend of mine had this to say on the matter:

The Bible consistently affirms BOTH free will AND God’s election. This is a bit of a paradox, but there is a difference between The Doctrine of Election (where we do have free will) and the philosophical position known as Determinism (where we DO NOT have free will).

That seems to me like a bit of a dodge. I’m not one for calling things paradoxes. Paradox is the Mysterious Third Door where we throw all the junk we can’t make make sense. I mean, if you apply the straightjacket of systematic theology to scripture and there are a bunch of extra limbs sticking out, you get the cognitive dissonance whether you call it a paradox or a mystery or whatever.

In any case. You can resolve these apparent contradictions…

Let’s say you consider scripture to be authoritative and truthful and accurate in the way it describes God’s interaction with humanity. Scripture talks about this interaction in a variety of different ways which can (roughly) be summarized as “free will” vs “predestination”.

Both these views have problems.

Free will means God isn’t very powerful. And it turns the biblical idea of foreknowledge into a bit of heavenly smoke and mirrors.

Predestination means God has both created automatons and that he’s responsible for a lot of really bad stuff that’s happened in the world.

There is a way out of this contradiction, of course. But you won’t like it. I don’t like it. All you have to do is change how you look at the Bible. It’s either that, or try accepting two mutually opposing propositions.