The biggest problem we face in our society is not whether or not we believe God intervenes from time to time in mortal affairs, but rather who does He intervene with and how. This has been the central issue of the theological topic of “double predestination” dating back to the third century. There are those who claim that God does in fact, actively intervene in some people’s lives. The question then becomes: does God completely ignore the others, or does He “inactively” interact with them? Double predestination explores this soteriological issue.
While in a few particular passages it seems to come close to it, the Bible does not technically teach the doctrine of double predestination. “The Bible does teach that all salvation is based on the eternal Election of God in Jesus Christ, and the eternal Election originates from God’s sovereign freedom.”1 Erickson, Millard. “Salvation.” in Christian Theology : one volume edition. Grand Rapids : Baker Publishing Group, 890.
Although the Bible does not technically teach a decree of rejection, it does teach that there are those who are elect, there are those who are not elect, of whom are “reprobate” and that the elect are the minor portion of all individuals. Eternal election is the origins from where salvation is taught. So when the final history of the world is recorded, there will be two types of people: those who experienced salvation or ruin and received Heaven or hell. However, the further conclusion is not drawn that destruction is also based upon an equal decree of doom.
Is predestination double? That is the wrong question. The right question is, “how is predestination double?” There are a variety of views on double predestination. One of them is called “equal ultimacy”, and is based on a symmetrical view of predestination. It sees an active and equal symmetry between the work of God in election and his work in reprobation. Just as God intervenes in the lives of the elect to create faith in their hearts, the doctrine of equal ultimacy says God intervenes in the hearts of the reprobate to work unbelief. The active working of unbelief is inferred from biblical passages that speak of God’s hardening people’s hearts.
Traditional Reformed Theology rejects the doctrine of equal ultimacy. It is often regarded as “hyper-Calvinism”, but by reformed standards it is “sub-Calvinism”. Though Calvinism certainly holds to a kind of double predestination, it does not embrace equal ultimacy. Reformed theology makes a clear distinction between God’s positive and negative decrees. “God positively decrees the election of some and he negatively decrees the reprobation of others.”2 Buttrick, George. 1953. The Interpreter’s Bible in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 9, Acts Romans. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. The difference between positive and negative does not refer to the outcome (though the outcome indeed is either positive or negative), but to the manner by which God brings His decrees to pass in history.
The discrepancy regarding double predestination can be explained this way: There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. By logical conclusion, God operates on the same lever with the elect and the reprobate. That refers to God decreeing some to election and by divine intervention, places faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation.
“The opposite of that is, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum).”3Bruce, F.F.. 2008. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Romans. Donwers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. Regarding the elect, regeneration is the monergistic (singular) work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin is also monergistic.
This establishes a parallelism of both foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry. We can call this a positive-positive view of predestination. God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation. Likewise, God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the sinner to bring him to sin.
That is not the Reformed view of double predestination, but a gross and inexcusable caricature of the doctrine. That is technically described as hyper-Calvinism and involves a radical form of supralapsarianism (the election of some men to salvation in Christ and the reprobation of the others).
Now in the Reformed view of double predestination, God from eternity, decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith. “To those who are not-elect, God does not actively work sin in them, rather He simply passes them by, leaving them to themselves.”4Mohler Jr, Albert. 2017. ”Why We Protest.” Table Talk, October. Even though the hearts are hardened, God does not, as Martin Luther stated, “work evil in us (for hardening is not working evil) by creating fresh evil in us.”
The positive side refers to God’s active intervention in the lives of the elect to work faith in their hearts. The negative refers, not to God’s working unbelief in the hearts of the reprobate, but simply to His passing them by and withholding His regenerating grace from them. When you see evil acts committed on Earth, you are seeing what mankind can do when there is no active presence or restraints on the human mind, soul or spirit. When you see acts of evil on Earth, you are seeing the very heart of man without God. When you see acts of evil on Earth, you are seeing a hardened heart, turned over to its own evil and empowered by Satan himself.
This is why the doctrine of predestination is so profoundly important to the complete perspective to the relationship we have with God. It would be a matter of wicked neglect to denigrate or dismiss, in anyway, the importance of this doctrine. I would also take the stand that Martin Luther took, which is the belief that the doctrine of predestination is the “core ecclesia”, that it is in fact the “heart of the church”!
I don’t know of any other biblical doctrine, that adequately conveys the teaching of scripture regarding our utter dependence on the Mercy and Grace of God and our own inability. This is the promise of scripture, the very promise of God, that you are unable and woefully inadequate to save yourself by any means.
If you were able to save yourself by any means, men would be able to boast. “Ephesians chapter two is adamant, that there are no possibilities of boasting if you have been given the gift of salvation.”5Porter, S. E. 1993. “Holiness.” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, edited by Gerald Hawthorne, 397-402. Downers Grove : Intervarsity Press. “The scriptures are clear: God saves men by His good pleasure”6White, R. E. 2017. “Sanctification.” in Evangelical dictionary of theology. 3rd ed. edited by Daniel Treier, 770-772. Grand Rapids : Baker Publishing Group. and since God is all knowing, He would had to of made the decisions of who to actively save and who to inactively leave alone, before the foundation of the world. Hence: double predestination.