Why is Predestination Missing in Action?

Eclectic Orthodoxy

Something is wrong with traditional formulations of the doctrine of divine predestination. For over fifteen hundred years theologians of the Church—Augustine, John Cassian, John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, John Calvin, Luis de Molina, Robert Bellarmine, Jacobus Arminius, Karl Barth—have wrestled with this issue; but none have been unable to offer a resolution that has fully satisfied the sensus fidelium. Divine sovereignty versus human freedom—with the exception perhaps of Barth, all have circled around and between one of the two poles of the question, each side anathematizing the other. Why this interminable disagreement? Is it a matter of obduracy, with one side simply refusing to see the truth, or is something wrong with the way the question has been classically formulated?
Edward T. Oakes proposes that the problem begins with the move from a posture of gratitude before God to intellectual speculation on the fate of the…

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2 Responses to Why is Predestination Missing in Action?

  1. Predestination is missing where particular election is thought to be to personal salvation apart from incorporation in the Body in the world. Conversely, predestination makes sense where particular election is to service in the Body that, incidentally, bolsters confidence in one’s eventual salvation. In the latter view, the non-elect are unchurched for the time being but not reprobate. Amyrauldian Calvinists and ‘hypothetical universalist’ Anglicans have taught this.

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    • Mike H says:

      I think you’re right – it’s the backdrop of election for personal salvation (any other meanings – like service to the body – being mostly irrelevant) that makes it unpreachable. The problems are set up right from the start. It becomes either horrific (Calvinism) or a tautology without much substance (Arminianism). Side note, I think Brian’s recent thoughts on personhood are very relevant here.

      Interestingly, I’ve found that Calvinists wear the horrific nature of it as a sort of badge of honor and as proof of faithfulness – evidence of their faithfulness to the “plain meaning” of scripture, acceptance of the “full counsel”, not bowing to “modern sensibilities” or human emotion or the “wisdom of men”, etc. It’s becomes an impossible topic to discuss because of the way that the “sovereignty” card is played.

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