Category Archives: Predestination

Elected to salvation and/or damnation?

Green Salvation Button  Man falling

(images courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D. Gear

What is the biblical teaching on election?

Does it matter whether you or I differ in our beliefs on how ‘election’ or ‘predestination’ to salvation works? You might think this has no relevance to the people in the pew or on the street. However, what your view is on election / predestination will have a practical impact on your approach to evangelism.

I used to preach for a Calvinistic church that was not growing, but was diminishing in the number of people who attended. I asked the pastor about his view on evangelism. His response was: ‘God will bring them in’. This had a very practical impact on the lack of evangelism in that church. His view of unconditional election caused that church and him to go silent on evangelism in their community. Why? To use the pastor’s words, ‘God will bring them in’. How was it that God was not bringing them in to that church?

Let’s check into the two most prominent views of election.

What’s the difference between election and predestination? Not much! Kevin DeYoung (a Calvinistic Reformed pastor) explained:

The terms election and predestination are often used interchangeably, both referring to God’s gracious decree whereby he chooses some for eternal life. In Romans 8:30 Paul speaks of those whom God has predestined, called, justified, and (in the end) glorified. In 8:33 Paul references “the elect,” apparently a synonym for the predestined ones described a few verses earlier.

A sharp distinction between the two words is not warranted from Scripture, but if there is a distinction to be made, predestination is the general term for God’s sovereign ordaining, while election is the specific term for God choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world. That is, predestination is the broader category of which election is the smaller subset (DeYoung 2010).

In this brief article, I’ll be treating election and predestination as interchangeable terms.

Why bother about the differences between Arminians and Calvinists in their theological understandings of how salvation happens? Here’s how they differ:


John Calvin by Holbein.png

John Calvin (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Calvinism: Matthew Slick explains,

Unconditional Election:
God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21) (Slick 2012).

James Arminius 2.jpg

Jacob Arminius (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Arminianism: The Society of Evangelical Arminians states:

The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election

Desiring the salvation of all, providing atonement for all people, and taking the initiative to bring all people to salvation by issuing forth the gospel and enabling those who hear the gospel to respond to it positively in faith (see “Atonement for All” and “Freed to Believe” above), God chooses to save those who believe in the gospel/Jesus Christ (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 40; 6:47, 50-58; 20:31; Rom 3:21-30; 4:3-5, 9, 11, 13, 16, 20-24; 5:1-2; 9:30-33; 10:4, 9-13; 1 Cor 1:21; 15:1-2; Gal 2:15-16; 3:2-9, 11, 14, 22, 24, 26-28; Eph 1:13; 2:8; Phil 3:9; Heb 3:6, 14, 18-19; 4:2-3; 6:12; 1 John 2:23-25; 5:10-13, 20). This clear and basic biblical truth is tantamount to saying that election unto salvation is conditional on faith. Just as salvation is by faith (e.g., Eph 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith”), so election for salvation is by faith, a point brought out explicitly in 2 Thes 2:13 – “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (NASB; note: “God has chosen you . . . through . . . faith in the truth”; on the grammar of this verse, see here) (Society of Evangelical Arminians 2013).

So there is quite a difference in these two views of election. They could be summarised as: God picks people for salvation and they cannot refuse; his election is unconditional (Calvinism) versus God picks people for salvation and they can accept or reject the offer of salvation because they are freed to believe or refuse God’s offer, based on God’s grace (Arminianism). In election God determined what would happen before the foundation of the world (Calvinism), while in Arminianism God has foreknowledge of what will happen but human beings’ free will is not removed.

A blaze of disagreements

If you want to enter a firestorm of theological controversy, start talking about election and predestination in a church group or in an online Christian forum. The sparks are likely to fly both ways. Here are a few prominent proponents who are coming from different sides of the theological fences to demonstrate how conflicting the views can be:

Roger E Olson is an avid and convinced Arminian. He wrote of

the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism. While both are forms of Protestantism (even if some Calvinists deny that Arminianism is authentically Protestant), they take very different approaches to the doctrines of salvation (soteriology). Both believe in salvation by grace through faith alone (sola gratia et fides) as opposed to salvation by grace through faith and good works. Both deny that any part of salvation can be based on human merit. Both affirm the sole supreme authority of Scripture (sola sciptura) and the priesthood of all believers. Arminius and all of his followers were and are Protestants to the core. However, Arminians have always opposed belief in unconditional reprobation – God’s selection of some persons to spend eternity in hell. Because they oppose that, they also oppose unconditional election – the selection of some persons out of the mass of sinners to be saved apart from anything God sees in them. According to Arminians the two are inextricably linked; it is impossible to affirm unconditional selection of some to salvation without at the same time affirming unconditional selection of some to reprobation, which, Arminians believe, impugns the character of God (Olson 2006:14-15; also HERE).

Dr. Olson

Roger E. Olson (photo courtesy George W. Truett Theological Seminary)

In another context, Olson stated:

All that is required for full salvation is a relaxation of the resistant will under the influence of God’s grace so that the person lets go of sin and self-righteousness and allows Christ’s death to become the only foundation for spiritual life. Was Arminius’s soteriology then synergistic? Yes, but not in the way that is often understood. Calvinists tend to regard synergism as equal cooperation between God and a human in salvation; thus the human is contributing something crucial and efficacious to salvation. But this is not Arminius’s synergism. Rather, his is an evangelical synergism that reserves all the power, ability and efficacy in salvation to grace, but allows humans the God-granted ability to resist or not resist it. The only ‘contribution’ humans make is non-resistance to grace. This is the same as accepting a gift.  Arminius could not fathom why a gift that must be freely received is no longer a gift, as Calvinists contend (Olson 2006:165; also HERE).

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).


Henry C Thiessen (photo courtesy Wheaton College)

Henry C Thiessen does not identify himself as an Arminian, but his views are sympathetic with those of Arminianism. I used his text when in a Bible college in the early 1970s in Australia where the teacher of theology was an Arminian. Thiessen provided this definition:

  1. The Definition of Election. By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace whereby he chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those he foreknew would accept him. This is election in its redemptive aspect. The Scriptures also speak of an election to outward privileges (Luke 6:13, Judas; Acts 13:17; Rom. 9:4; 11:28, Israel) to sonship (Eph. 1;4, 5; Rom. 8:29, 33), and to a particular office (Moses and Aaron, Ps. 105:26; David, 1 Sam. 16:12; 20:30; Solomon, 1 Chron. 28:5; and the Apostles, Luke 6:13 – 16; John 6:70; Acts 1:2, 24; 9:15; 22:14). But we are here concerned with election as related to salvation, and so we analyze the above definition more fully.

(1) Election and Foreknowledge. Election is a sovereign act of God; He was under no obligation to elect anyone, since all had lost their standing before God. Even after Christ had died, God was not obliged to apply that salvation, except as He owed it to Christ to keep the agreement with him as to man’s salvation. Election is a sovereign act, because it was not due to any constraint laid upon God. It was an act in grace, in that He chose those who were utterly unworthy of salvation. Man deserved the exact opposite; but in His grace God chose to save some. He chose them ‘in Christ.’ He could not choose them in themselves because of their ill-desert; so He chose them in the merits of another. Furthermore, He chose those who He foreknew would accept Christ. The Scriptures definitely base God’s election on His foreknowledge: ‘Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained,… and whom He foreordained, them He also called’ (Rom. 8:29, 30); ‘to the elect… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’ (1 Pet. 1: 1, 2). Although we are nowhere told what it is in the foreknowledge of God that determines His choice, the repeated teaching of Scripture that man is responsible for accepting or rejecting salvation necessitates our postulating that it is man’s reaction to the revelation that God has made of himself that is the basis of His election. May we repeat: Since mankind is hopelessly dead in trespasses and sins and can do nothing to obtain salvation, God graciously restores to all men sufficient ability to make a choice in the matter of submission to Him. This is the salvation-bringing grace of God that has appeared to all men. In His foreknowledge He perceives what each one will do with this restored ability, and elects men to salvation in harmony with His knowledge of their choice of Him. There is no merit in this transaction, as Buswell has clearly shown in his allegory of the captain who is beaten into unconsciousness by the crew on the deck of his vessel, if that captain is revived by restoratives and then accepts the proffered leadership of a captain from another vessel who has come to his rescue[1] (Thiessen 1949:344; also HERE).

But the Calvinist takes a very different view of election to salvation:

R. C. Sproul (cropped).jpg

R. C. Sproul (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

R C Sproul stated his view clearly:

What predestination means, in its most elementary form, is that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God not only before we get there, but before we are even born. It teaches that our ultimate destiny is in the hands of God. Another way of saying it is this: From all eternity, before we even existed, God decided to save some members of the human race and to let the rest of the human race perish. God made a choice – He chose some individuals to be saved into everlasting blessedness in heaven and others He chose to pass over, to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell….

The Reformed view holds that, left to himself, no fallen person would ever choose God. Fallen people still have a free will and are able to choose what they desire. But the problem is that we have no desire for God and will not choose Christ unless first regenerated. Faith is a gift that comes out of rebirth. Only those who are elect will ever respond to the gospel in faith.

The elect do choose Christ, but only because they were first chosen by God (Sproul 1992:161-162: also HERE).

At least Sproul admitted that most Christians do not accept his view. He stated that ‘the non-Reformed view, held by the vast majority of Christians, is that God makes that choice on the basis of His foreknowledge. God chooses for eternal life those whom he knows will choose Him. This is called the prescient view of predestination because it rests on God’s foreknowledge of human decisions or acts’ (Sproul 1992:161, emphasis in original).


J. I. Packer (photo courtesy Regent College, Vancouver)

J I Packer, another Calvinistic Reformed stalwart, put it in terms of election:

The verb elect means “to select, or choose out.” The biblical doctrine of election is that before Creation God selected out of the human race, foreseen as fallen, those whom he would redeem, bring to faith, justify, and glorify in and through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-39; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). This divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace, for it is unconstrained and unconditional, not merited by anything in those who are its subjects. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it is a wonder, and matter for endless praise, that he should choose to save any of us; and doubly so when his choice involved the giving of his own Son to suffer as sin-bearer for the elect (Rom. 8:32).

The doctrine of election, like every truth about God, involves mystery and sometimes stirs controversy. But in Scripture it is a pastoral doctrine, brought in to help Christians see how great is the grace that saves them, and to move them to humility, confidence, joy, praise, faithfulness, and holiness in response (Packer 1993:149; also HERE).

What about those who are damned to hell (the reprobate)? Packer explained:

Reprobation is the name given to God’s eternal decision regarding those sinners whom he has not chosen for life. His decision is in essence a decision not to change them, as the elect are destined to be changed, but to leave them to sin as in their hearts they already want to do, and finally to judge them as they deserve for what they have done. When in particular instances God gives them over to their sins (i.e., removes restraints on their doing the disobedient things they desire), this is itself the beginning of judgment. It is called “hardening” (Rom. 9:18; 11:25; cf. Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:24, 26, 28), and it inevitably leads to greater guilt.

Reprobation is a biblical reality (Rom. 9:14-24; 1 Pet. 2:8), but not one that bears directly on Christian behavior. The reprobates are faceless so far as Christians are concerned, and it is not for us to try to identify them. Rather, we should live in light of the certainty that anyone may be saved if he or she will but repent and put faith in Christ.

We should view all persons that we meet as possibly being numbered among the elect (Packer 1993:150-151; also HERE).

Disagreement on a Christian forum

This article will touch down on only a few issues. This response was provoked by an initial comment I received from an advocate of ‘free grace’ theology[2] on a large Christian forum. Here is our interchange:

He stated,

‘There are NO verses that specifically and clearly state that God elects anyone to salvation. None at all. Which is why the Calvinist doctrine of election is in error.

To be elected is to be chosen for special privilege and service, not chosen for salvation. Those who equate the 2 are in error.

The Bible gives at least 6 categories of election that have nothing to do with being chosen for salvation, including Judas, one of the 12 chosen (Jn 6:70)’.[3]

Evidence for election to salvation or not?

Therefore, a logical question for me to ask was, ‘So do you believe that there is biblical evidence for people being predestined to salvation/justification?’[4]

His anticipated response was:

No, I believe that there is NO Biblical evidence for people being predestined to salvation unconditionally.

Unless you understand that God chooses ALL (unconditionally) believers for salvation. Even the stinky ones.

The problem is that the logical conclusion from Calvinism is that per their view of election, God has chosen who will believe, completely removing the free response of man, which is unbiblical.

Yes, God chooses who He will save. And that is believers ONLY. No doubt about it. But Calvinism’s view results in God choosing who will believe, which is rejected as truth.[5]

Hence my reply:

In essence I agree with what you said because I believe in conditional salvation (i.e. human beings make a response) and not the Calvinistic unconditional salvation.
However, my question to you was: ‘So do you believe that there is biblical evidence for people being predestined to salvation / justification?’

I was asking about predestination / election and not unconditional predestination / election. By your response you have indicated that you do not believe in the unconditional election of Calvinism – neither do I as I don’t find it taught in Scripture.

For a better understanding of predestination/election, I recommend, ‘The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election‘ (Society of Evangelical Arminians).[6]

His comeback was: ‘Correct. Calvinism’s election is foreign to Scripture. Election isn’t even about salvation. It’s about being chosen or elected to special privilege and service, as all 6 categories illustrate, even including ol’ Judas (Jn 6:70)’.[7]

There is no concept of election in salvation, he said

He then chose to reply to my statement: ‘For a better understanding of predestination/election, I recommend, ‘The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election‘ (Society of Evangelical Arminians)’.

I just looked over the site you cited. The opening statement was this:

There are two main views of what the Bible teaches concerning the concept of election unto salvation: that it is either conditional or unconditional.

I disagree that there is any concept of election unto salvation. The reason is that of the 3 related Greek words translated “elect/election”; ekloge (noun), eklektos (adjective), and eklegomai (verb), none of these words are used in conjunction with salvation.

In Rom 9:11, Paul notes there is a “purpose in election (ekloge)”.

Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand:

So we know there is a purpose in God’s election. But is it choosing who will be saved? No, for there are no verses that use any of the 3 Greek words in relation to salvation.

The ISBE [The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia] defines election as being selected for special privilege and service. While some may argue that being chosen for salvation IS being chosen for special privilege and service, they have no point or defense, since even Judas was elected (Jn 6:70) and Jesus even described him as a devil.

However, we clearly see that Judas’ election was about special privilege and service, even though he was not saved. To be with Jesus easily qualifies to be a special privilege. And as for “service”, he was the one who betrayed Jesus. Not the kind of service we generally think of, but he did fulfill the plan of God by doing so.

So, when one encounters any of the 3 Greek words, the question needs to be asked, “chosen for what special privilege and service?”.
Also, since the nation of Israel was a chosen nation, and it is quite obvious that many were not believers, this election had nothing to do with salvation.[8]

Election: It’s Greek to me!

I asked:[9]

Can you read NT Greek and the tools or not? If you read and understood NT Greek, you would not come to such a conclusion. Going to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) is not the place to go to learn how to exegete the Greek NT. I suggest that you use these tools:

  • Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.
  • Colin Brown (ed), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (3 vols).[10]
  • Kittel & Friedrich (eds), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 vols).[11]

I’m not going to do the exegesis for you from these Greek tools that I use. But if you went to Arndt & Gingrich, you would find that the definition of ‘election’ on the site of the Society of Evangelical Arminians is correct and that the view you are promoting on this forum is incorrect.

Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives only two meanings for the noun he ekloge (the elect). They are,

1. Active use, which means selection, election as choosing. Examples are a chosen instrument (Acts 9:16), especially of God’s selection of Christians (2 Peter 1:10; 1 Thess 1:4); with the accusative verb, ‘to selection by grace = selected by grace (Rom 11:5); the purpose of God which operates by selection (Rom 9:11); ‘as far as (their) selection or election (by God) is concerned beloved’ (Rom 11:28); there is an outside source from the NT that means, ‘make a selection from among some people’ (MPol 20:1).

2. Passive use, a NT example being Rom 11:7, which means of persons, ‘those selected’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:242)

Arndt & Gingrich give the meaning of the adjective eklektos (masculine declension) as:

1. Chosen, select

a. Generally of angels (1 Tim 5:21); of the Messiah (Lk 23:35);

b. ‘Especially of those whom God has chosen from the generality of mankind and drawn to himself’ (Mt 20:16; 22:14). ‘Hence of the Christians in particular (as in the OT of Israelites)…. chosen (Mk 13:20, 22, 27; 1 Pt 1:1; 2 Tim 2:10; elect of God (Lk 18:7; Rom 8:33; Col 3;12; Tit 1:1, etc.

2. ‘Since the best is usually chosen, choice, excellent … Rufus ‘chosen in the Lord’, ‘the outstanding Christian‘. ‘Of a stone choice‘ (1 Pt 2:4, 6) [Arndt & Gingrich 1957:242}.

I did not have the time to go through the other Greek resources to demonstrate that this person’s perspective was incorrect when compared with the Greek meanings, gained through exegesis.

Election does refer to salvation!!!

He went to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia to try to gain support for his view of election. However, when I go to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Walter Elwell ed, 1984), this is what I find about the meaning of …

Elect, Election. Scripture employs a rich vocabulary to express several aspects of God’s sovereign election, choice, and predestination. Five types of election call for distinction. (1) There is only one reference to “the elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21; cf. 1 Cor. 6:3; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). (2) Election to service or office is evident in God’s sovereign choice of David as Israel’s king (1 Sam. 16:7–12) and in Jesus’ choosing of the disciples and apostles (Luke 6:13; John 6:70; 15:16; Acts 9:15; 15:7). (3) The election of Abraham’s descendants to form the theocratic nation of Israel is a common biblical theme (Deut. 4:37; 7:6–7; 10:15; 1 Kings 3:8; Isa. 44:1–2; 45:4; 65:9, 15, 22; Amos 3:2; Acts 13:17; Rom. 9:1–5). The election of Israel originated in God’s sovereign choice, expressed his covenantal love, and served the goal of redemptive history culminating in Jesus Christ. (4) The election of the Messiah is a fourth type of election. Isaiah referred to the servant of the Lord as “my chosen one” (42:1; cf. Matt. 12:18). Of the Synoptics only Luke refers to Jesus as the Chosen One (9:35; 23:35). Peter echoes another Isaiah reference (28:16) in 1 Peter 1:20 and 2:4, 6. These references indicate the unique mediatorial office of Christ and the Father’s pleasure in him. It is an election basic to the final type, (5) election to salvation, with which the rest of this article is concerned.

The most common NT reference to election is God’s eternal election of certain persons to salvation in Jesus Christ. The subject is dealt with comprehensively in Ephesians 1:3–11 and Romans 8:28–11:36 (Elwell 1984:348; also HERE).

If you go to the 1996 revised edition of Elwell’s dictionary (online) you will find that ‘elect, election’ has these emphases: ‘The term “elect” means essentially “to choose.” It involves discriminatory evaluation of individuals, means, ends, or objects with a view to selecting one above the others, although not necessarily passing negative judgment on those others’. These are the meanings of ‘elect, election’, based on the exposition of Scripture that is documented in Elwell:

  • God’s Election of Angels;
  • God’s Election of Israel;
  • God’s Election of the Place of Worship;
  • God’s Election of People to an Office;
  • God’s Election of Individuals for Various Reasons;
  • God’s Election of the Messiah;
  • God’s Election of Means to Accomplish Ends;
  • God’s Election to Salvation of Believers and the Believing Community.

This Elwell exposition harmonises with the biblical material and not with the view this person on the Christian forum was promoting that ‘election isn’t even about salvation. It’s about being chosen or elected to special privilege and service’. Yes, there is election to a special privilege and service, but there also is election to salvation. The biblical emphasis is that this election is effected by God’s initiation and the human being’s free will response to that call. I cannot find the Calvinistic determinism in relation to unconditional election and double-predestination in Scripture.

R C Sproul defines the Calvinistic Reformed doctrine of double-predestination: ‘In the Reformed view God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives’ (Sproul, Double’ Predestination, Ligonier Ministries).

The good God and creation of evil

If God is doing everything in the world according to his sovereignty, then God is responsible for all its evil. That would be a horrifying thought. However, I see a different picture in Scripture:[13]

We know from Jesus that,

  • Many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matt 22:14 ESV).
  • Acts 13:48 (ESV) confirms that ‘as many as were appointed to eternal life believed’. So, from God’s point of view, only the elect will believe.
  • However, the Lord is ‘not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Pet 3:9 NIV). We obtain a similar message from 1 Tim 2:4 (NIV) that God our Saviour ‘wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’.
  • Therefore, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’ (John 3:16 NIV).
  • Why was this? That Jesus would be ‘the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2 ESV).
  • So God has provided salvation for all, but how do people receive it? ‘Now he commands all people everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30 ESV) and believe (Acts 16:31 (ESV).

It would be outrageous for God to command all people to be saved and not make salvation available for all people.

We know that God is not the creator of evil (sending the damned to hell) because God is the good God and not the evil God:

  • Psalm 25:8 (ESV), ‘Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way’.
  • Psalm 136:1 (ESV), ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good’.
  • Psalm 100:5 (ESV), ‘For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations’.
  • Mark 10:18 (NIV), ‘“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone”‘.

Richard Bargas (2006) has written an article that does not support double predestination, ‘Double trouble: Is double predestination biblical?

I, the author of this article, accept the Arminian understanding of election. See my articles on this subject:

clip_image003 God’s foreknowledge and predestination/election to salvation

clip_image003 Jesus died for those who will be damned

clip_image003 Sent to hell by God: Calvinism in action?

clip_image003 Conflict over salvation

clip_image003 Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

clip_image003 The injustice of the God of Calvinism

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[12] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Brown, C (ed) 1975-1978. The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, 3 vols. Exeter: The Paternoster Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Corporation.

Buswell, J O 1937. Sin and atonement. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

DeYoung, K 2010. What is the difference between election and predestination? The Gospel Coalition (online). Available at: (Accessed 1 May 2013).

Elwell, W A (ed) 1984. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Kittel, G & Friedrich, G 1964-1977. Tr & ed by G W Bromiley. Theological dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Packer, J I 1993. Concise theology: A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Slick, M 2012. The five points of Calvinism, Calvinist Corner (online). Available at: (Accessed 2 May 2014).

Society of Evangelical Arminians 2013. The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election (online). Available at: (Accessed 2 May 2014).

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential truths of the Christian faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.


[1] Here he acknowledged Buswell’s publication on sin and atonement (Buswell 1937:112-114).

[2] Another free grace theology proponent defined it this way: ‘Free Grace is the view that “salvation is by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ”. 1 Cor 15:3-4. Good works and discipleship ought to follow salvation but are separate and distinct from salvation itself. This is contrasted with Lordship Salvation which views good works as essential to “final salvation”. John MacArthur [is] arguably Lordship Salvation’s best known modern proponent’ (Free Grace Theology, Frequently Asked Questions, ‘What is free grace?’ available at:, accessed 1 May 2014).

[3] FreeGrace2#54, 28 April 2014, Christian Forums, Soteriology DEBATE, ‘I believe that arminianism and calvinism are both true at the same time’, available at: (Accessed 1 May 2014).

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#55.

[5] Ibid., FreeGrace2#56.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#57.

[7] Ibid., FreeGrace2#58.

[8] Ibid., FreeGrace2#60.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#61.

[10] Bibliographical details in ‘Works consulted’ at the bottom of this article.

[11] Bibliographical details in ‘Works consulted’ at the bottom of this article.

[12] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev and augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

[13] I made this post to Christian, Apologetics & Theology, ‘Predestination and Calvinism’, OzSpen#541, 26 May 2016. Available at: (Accessed 26 May 2016).

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.

Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

By Spencer D Gear

Green Salvation Button

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


(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: (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.


[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: (Accessed 19 October 2013).

[3] OzSpen#158,

[4] Hentenza#167,

[5] OzSpen#172,

[6] Hentenza#173, ibid.

[7] OzSpen#175, ibid.

[8] Hentenza#177, ibid.

[9] Hentenza#181,

[10] Hentenza#184, ibid.

[11] Hentenza#201,

[12] OzSpen#211,


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