Don't Fear Predestination
Want to start a church controversy? Try using the word “predestination” at church. Debates regarding the meaning of this term have existed in the church for two millennia. The debate will never cease. Every generation of Christians must wrestle with this concept. Until Christ returns, there will always be different interpretations of predestination. God, in his infinite wisdom, has seen fit to allow the disagreement to persist. In some mysterious way, this debate glorifies his name.
This concession is not a concession that the debate is always properly framed. Both sides tend towards misunderstanding. One example of this is the myth that one side (Calvinism) accept predestination, while the other side (Arminianism) doesn’t. Roger Olson, himself an Arminian, argues this point when he writes, “Popular Christian opinion has become firmly convinced that the difference between Calvinists and Arminians is that the former [Calvinists] believe in predestination and the latter [Arminians] believe in free will” (Arminian Theology,
We cannot frame the debate like this because “predestination” is a biblical concept. The Bible itself, specifically the NT, uses the word προορίζω, which is translated into English as “predestination.” The term is used in Acts 4:28, Rom 8:29, 1 Cor 2:7, Eph 1:5, and Eph 1:11.
What Calvinists and Arminians can disagree on is the meaning of the term, not its use. The meaning of the term is the crux of the debate. The term can be used to refer to different ideas. As Olson explains, “In general, theologians use predestination to designate God’s foreordination (Calvinism) or foreknowledge (Arminianism) of both the saved and the damned” (Arminian Theology, 180).
On some level, all Christians must affirm predestination. To reject it would be to reject Scripture. We must never do that. Scripture is God’s word. We must always accept what God says. Predestination is a term (and concept!) that all Christians should use because it is a biblical idea. That is an idea that all sides can agree on.