Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

By Spencer D Gear

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What do I mean by double predestination? I mean predestination either to eternal salvation in Christ or eternal damnation for the remainder of humanity. If God predestines the elect, then the automatic inference is that he leaves the rest to damnation, so he predestines the damned to hell.

I’m jumping ahead of myself. What is meant by predestination? My understanding is that the teaching on foreknowledge, election and predestination are closely related. Henry Thiessen explained it:

God foreknew what men [human beings male and female] would do in response to His common grace; and He elected those whom He foresaw would respond positively. Election is followed by foreordination (also called predestination). This is the act of God whereby He pre-registers, as it were, those whom He has chosen. It implies that He has determined to save them: to give them life (Acts 13:48), place them into the position of sons (Eph. 1:5, 11), and conform them to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29, 30)….

[As applied to redemption], in election God has decided to save those who accept His Son and the proffered salvation, and in foreordination He has determined effectively to accomplish that purpose [Thiessen 1949:157, 345].

The biblical sequence is articulated in Romans 8:29-30 is, ‘For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…. Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (ESV).

Charles Hodge (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Calvinistic theologian, Charles Hodge, explained that there is one meaning of predestination where

it is used in theology generally to express the purpose of God in relation to the salvation of individual men. It includes the selection of one portion of the race to be saved, and leaving the rest to perish in sin. It is in this sense used by supralapsarians, who teach that God selected a certain number of individual men to be created in order to salvation, and a certain number to be created to be vessels of wrath. It is in this way they subordinate creation to predestination as a means to an end (Hodge 1979:321).

Norman Geisler calls himself a moderate Calvinist, although his views in Chosen but Free (Geisler 1999:129) indicate to me that he is closer to Arminianism in his understanding of predestination and free will. His view is that

all Calvinists must believe in some form of double-predestination – the logic of their position demands it. Augustine said of God, ‘As the Supreme Good, he made good use of evil deeds, for the damnation of those whom he had justly predestined to punishment and for the salvation of those whom he had mercifully predestined to grace’ [Augustine n d:100].[1] R. C. Sproul confirms, ‘If there is such a thing as predestination at all, and if that predestination does not include all people, then we must not shrink from the necessary inference that there are two sides to predestination’ [Sproul 1986:141]….

Moderate Calvinists [such as Geisler] call the active predestination of both the elect and the reprobate ‘double-predestination’. Those who maintain it are called hyper-Calvinists (Geisler 2004:564, emphasis in original).

Was John Calvin a double predestination advocate?

John Calvin (image courtesy: Wikipedia)

At the level of the laity, this is sometimes stated this way: ‘Heck even Calvin did not believe in double predestination’.[2]

With this kind of statement, I went looking for John Calvin’s view on double predestination. Did he follow Hentenza’s view or not. This led to the following post by me:[3]

Why did this person misrepresent John Calvin’s teaching like this? This demonstrates that the person did not know what Calvin taught about predestination.

The facts are: Calvin most definitely did believe in double predestination. This is what he wrote and taught:

The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny….By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death (Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.21.5).

From where did this person get the idea that Calvin did not teach double predestination? Did he get it from another Calvinist?

This quote from the Institutes of the Christian Religion refutes this person’s statement about Calvin. He most definitely did believe in double predestination.

Black and white denial

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(image courtesy openclipart)

I provided the exact quote from Calvin to demonstrate that this theologian did believe in double predestination. So what did this person do? He stated:

lol This is a typical Arminian quote mine. You need to keep reading. The term double predestination is actually a pejorative and use to fully twist Calvin’s views of the “election” of the reprobate. It has been used as a synonym for a “symmetrical” view of predestination which sees election and reprobation being worked out in an equally parallel mode of divine operation.

This twisting of double predestination suggests a parallelism of foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry, which results in a positive-positive view of predestination, i.e., God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation and in the same way God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the reprobate to bring him to sin.

The classic position of Reformed theology views predestination as double in that it involves both election and reprobation but not symmetrical with respect to the mode of divine activity. A strict parallelism of operation is denied. Rather predestination is viewed in terms of a positive-negative relationship based on God’s knowledge.[4]

This sounded too academically sophisticated for the kind of posts that this person has been making, so I searched online and found that it had been plagiarised. This was my reply:

Why have you engaged in plagiarism here – stealing somebody else’s ideas without giving him credit?

Some of your material here is from R C Sproul on ‘Double” predestination‘.

For the sake of integrity in your posts, I urge you to give credit to your sources when you use another person’s views.[5]

His response was: ‘The majority of my post came from an article given to me by one of my students of my bible class and is not copyrighted. I thought it was well written but did not realize that some of the material came from Sproul. My apologies’.[6] My reply was,

That confirms that you got the information from somebody else and did not give them credit. That also is plagiarism. I am not attacking you, the poster. That is the farthest thing from my mind.

When you misrepresent another person’s views, as you did with John Calvin on double predestination, I’ll draw that to your attention because it is the truth. When will you acknowledge that you were wrong when you stated that Calvin did not believe in double predestination – when he did?[7]

What is plagiarism?

Here is a USA definition from US Legal (accessed 19 October 2013):

Plagiarism Law & Legal Definition

Plagiarism is taking the writings or literary ideas of another and selling and/or publishing them as one’s own writing. Brief quotes or use of cited sources do not constitute plagiarism. The original author can bring a lawsuit for appropriation of his/her work against the plagiarist and recover the profits. Although not normally a crime, a person who plagiarizes is subject to being sued for fraud or copyright infringement if prior creation can be proved. Penalties vary depending on jurisdiction, the charges brought, and are determined on a case by case basis.

The Internet has made plagiarism easier than ever before. From elementary schools to the highest levels of academia, the ease of downloading and copying “untraceable” online information has led to an epidemic of digital plagiarism. Plagiarism detection software now exists and is used in schools to monitor student’s work. If you adopt someone else’s language, provide quotation marks and a reference to the source, either in the text or in a footnote, as prescribed by such publications as Format, The MLA Style Sheet, or another manual of style. Students who commit plagiarism may be subject to grade or disciplinary penalties, which vary by institution.

Intentional or unintentional use of another’s words or ideas without acknowledging this use constitutes plagiarism: There are four common forms of plagiarism:

  • The duplication of an author’s words without quotation marks and accurate references or footnotes.
  • The duplication of author’s words or phrases with footnotes or accurate references, but without quotation marks.
  • The use of an author’s ideas in paraphrase without accurate references or footnotes.
  • Submitting a paper in which exact words are merely rearranged even though footnoted.

Even though I provided information in black and white with a quote from Calvin’s Institutes, this person continued to deny Calvin taught and believed double predestination with responses like these:

6pointMetal-small ‘I am not misrepresenting Calvin’s views. That is for you to prove’.[8]

6pointMetal-small ‘The only thing that you have proved is your ignorance of Calvin’s theology but then again, quote mines only show ignorance anyway’.[9]

6pointMetal-small ‘You posted a quote mine that YOU interpret as meaning that Calvin believed in the pejorative double predestination. I have already addressed this’.[10]

This is what happens when a person’s pet doctrine is challenged with contrary evidence. He was immediately into denial of Calvin’s teaching of double predestination or blaming me for misrepresenting him. I did not misinterpret him. I quoted him exactly. He said Calvin didn’t believe in double predestination.

It doesn’t fit with his established and agreed view of Calvinism. The truth can be disturbing when it is provided and it confronts an accepted doctrine. It is not easy to admit, ‘I was wrong. Thanks for providing that correction. I’ll be able to affirm Calvin’s belief in double predestination when it is raised. Thanks for your research to correct me’. That kind of response was far from his mind.

Is double predestination an Arminian twist?

This person also wrote, ‘There is no Calvinistic view of double predestination. Tis (sic) is an Arminian twist. God does not positively act in the lies of the reprobate to keep them reprobate. God knows that they will not turn from their ways and merely passes them over’.[11]

I replied:[12]

Why do you refuse to believe what John Calvin said about his belief in the doctrine of double predestination? It is not an Arminian twist. It is Calvin’s own teaching. When will you get it?

The title page from the 1559 edition of John Calvin’s Institutio Christianae Religionis

(image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Here the quote is again. The facts are: Calvin most definitely did believe in double predestination. This is what he wrote and taught:

The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny….By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death (Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.21.5).

I wrote: You are the one who is misrepresenting John Calvin’s teaching when you refuse to accept his belief in and teaching about double predestination. In this one paragraph, he emphasised it twice:

  1. ‘The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death’;
  2. ‘each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death’

Why do you, a Calvinist, refuse to believe what Calvin believed by affirming that God predestines to life and God predestines to death. God predestines to the hope of life and adjudges (predestines) others to eternal death. To deny this is to deny what Calvin taught.

See:Double-Talk From a Double Predestinarian [John Piper’, by J C Thibodaux. The article begins:

Dr. John Piper recently responded to the question, “What did the death of Jesus on the cross accomplish for the non-elect? Anything?” His reply, oddly, raises more questions than it answers. Despite his views on unconditional election and reprobation, Piper frames his answer in terms of God giving those who aren’t chosen a “chance” at salvation. Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, was identified partially by his unusual, but correct use of an oft-misquoted proverb that’s very applicable here: “You can’t eat your cake and have it too.”

To understand the issue, the reader should know that Piper is a 5-point Calvinist and a supralapsarian (Got Questions 2002-2016).

He believes that whether one is saved or not is strictly up to the choice of God, with no input from a human being  or conditions fulfilled by human beings. His view is that God unchangeably chose or rejected each individual before the world was ever made.

He also believes that Christ didn’t die for the ones that weren’t chosen in any sort of way by which they could be saved through free will (this is commonly called “limited atonement”). Whether one accepts the gospel or not is entirely dependent upon whether he or she has been “regenerated” by God beforehand (per Calvinism, one who is regenerated inevitably will believe the gospel, one who isn’t regenerated never can). With that said, let’s examine Piper’s response.

In one sense, as soon as we sin we should be punished eternally. We shouldn’t get another breath. There should be no reprieve. There should be no time given to us. So clearly then, in some sense, the time given to us is grace. And grace for a sinner requires some kind of payment or purchase or warrant from a holy God. And Christ would be the one who provides that.

So I’m inclined to say, “Yes, the fact that the non-elect, the unbelievers all over the world are still breathing and have another chance to believe is a gift, just like the offer of the gospel is a gift. And that offer is provided by the cross”….

Now here’s the catch. Romans 2:4 says, “Don’t you know that the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance? But you, by your hard and unrepentant heart, are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when the righteous judgment of God is revealed.”

So if a non-elect person spurns-which they do-they spurn this grace, the grace itself becomes added judgment. Which makes me wonder, “In what sense was it grace?” In some sense it is. It’s a real offer, it’s a real opportunity. But if you spurn it, if you reject it, it backfires and mounts up with greater judgment….

It’s like the more kindness is shown to a person that they resist, then the more wicked they show themselves to be. And the more wicked they show themselves to be, the more judgment falls upon them.

I think the answer is yes. I think real grace, real common grace, real offer of salvation-right now, just watching this-is grace. And if you’re a non-Christian, grace is being offered you at this very moment in my warning you that, if you spurn this, judgment will be greater….

And that’s a gift to you right now that God may be pleased to then use to awaken you to say, “Whoa. I don’t want to multiply my judgment. I want to respond to this moment of grace.”

That’s what I think the upshot of this conversation should be: respond to the grace. You’re alive! There’s still a chance to believe and be saved.

J C Thibodaux concluded with this assessment:

Again, per 5-point Calvinism, if you’re not among those elected to salvation, tough beans. God hasn’t chosen you, Christ didn’t die for you, and the Holy Spirit most certainly won’t regenerate you. You are lost without remedy, condemned already beyond repair, there isn’t a single ray of hope, and you never had a prayer. The accessibility of salvation to you is absolute zero. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. So how can a person to whom salvation isn’t even remotely applicable have any sort of “opportunity” to be saved?

Put even more simply, if Christ didn’t die for the forgiveness of one’s sins in any sense, then there can never be an “opportunity to be saved” for him, because there is no way to be saved unless Christ died to forgive his sins.

Such doublespeak is strong cause to question Piper’s personal theology. If his determinist views are so repugnant that he has to “balance” them with concepts that flatly contradict his doctrine, then he’s essentially embraced cognitive dissonance. If you reject universalism, but believe that God still genuinely offers salvation to all men, then which is more consistent and less convoluted to believe?

1. Christ died provisionally for the sins of all, such that any who believe in Him will be forgiven.

2. Or Piper’s view, where if you’re not one of the elect, you’re given an “opportunity” that you can’t possibly take, to accept an “offer” of salvation from God that isn’t really His will that you accept, just so you’ll have a “chance” to obtain faith that isn’t even accessible to you, wrought by a Savior who didn’t die to forgive your sins, but whose death fortunately did provide “grace” that will inevitably backfire and condemn you even more.

Makes perfect sense. Where do I sign?

Works consulted

Augustine n d. Enchiridion – The handbook on faith, hope and love (online). The Fathers of the Church, New Advent. Available at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1302.htm (Accessed 19 October 2013).

Geisler, N L 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Hodge, C 1979 (reprint). Systematic theology, vol 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Sproul, R C 1986. Chosen by God. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes:


[1] The New Advent online edition provides this translation, ‘He used the very will of the creature which was working in opposition to the Creator’s will as an instrument for carrying out His will, the supremely Good thus turning to good account even what is evil, to the condemnation of those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace’ (Augustine n d).

[2] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Calvinist Arminian dialog’ (online), Hentenza#152, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-16/ (Accessed 19 October 2013).

[3] OzSpen#158, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-16/.

[4] Hentenza#167, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-17/.

[5] OzSpen#172, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-18/.

[6] Hentenza#173, ibid.

[7] OzSpen#175, ibid.

[8] Hentenza#177, ibid.

[9] Hentenza#181, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-19/.

[10] Hentenza#184, ibid.

[11] Hentenza#201, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-21/.

[12] OzSpen#211, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-22/.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 September 2016.