11 August 2020: secular or sacred predestination?

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I was asked to explain predestination a few days ago. I flubbed it, and I was called out. Since then, I have been thinking about this. My suggestion — in this lectionary based post, because one of the main texts the theologians have wrestled with for a long, long time is today — is that the Ultracalvinists have nothing on the modern woke. Because class analysis will damn you thoroughly without any hope of redemption. So I’m going to divide this in the secular, then the sacred.

The defintion is sacred.

(in Christian theology) the doctrine that God has ordained all that will happen, especially with regard to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of St Augustine of Hippo and of Calvin.
‘As we study today’s text, it’s tempting to invest the majority of our time dealing with the theological issue of predestination.’

Lexico: OED

Secular Predestination

I have to thank Jack for this in part, for he reminded me that the Karen will defend their woke, bratty, progeny, because they have to rdeem the sin of being white. If you play virtue signalling and oppression olympics, you need to make up points. Being straight, having kids, a loving husband, and a middle class life are all negative: you better be an activist or ally, or you are damned. The below is considered by those who believe in white fragility, institutionalized racism, and postmodernism to be rank heresy.

Even 20 years ago, I was already being taught in college that racism was a matter of being born white in a historically white culture–one in which social structures were designed by whites for their self-interest. “Privilege” language wasn’t yet in vogue, but that’s essentially what they were talking about. And nowadays, that’s how the younger generations fundamentally understand the word. Even the dictionaries are finally following suit on the academic trend. (And note from the article that it’s being changed specifically because white people had been successfully demonstrating that they weren’t racist and that was simply unacceptable. Ironically, “racist” has effectively become a racial slur.)

But it’s not a sin to be born white in a historically white country. It’s not a sin for a society to build structures that privilege its members–on the contrary, that’s the very purpose of society. It’s not a sin for parents to privilege their children–again, that’s the very purpose of parents. Neither is it a sin to actually benefit from such privilege–rather, we should be grateful for it.

To be sure, this can and has been done in sinful ways.

To a good card carrying member of our local Green Party, if you call yourself a New Zealander, you are guilty. You must let in refugees, you must not mine, or drill, or use modern agricultural techniques. ou must live in town, in an approved small studio, alone, celibate, and accept greatefully the euthanasia they party voted for.

Because you are flawed by your skin. The best you can be is an ally, or an earner, so you can be taxed into poverty, You better be damned grateful for that privelege. They are the sons of Mary, you are of Martha. You are there to serve, and when you are extinct the earth will recover.

As I said, predestination, and a fairly clear pantheistic theology that they do not like being examined.

Sacred Predestination

The issue of free will has been a considerable struggle for all those of faith. Many of us came to faith not because we wanted to, but because we had not choice. The power of God was clear to us, and we were very aware of our failings and faults. I’ve said enough hat most o the people in this little subinternet are repentant. We have committed sins, and we know it was our doing.

The doctrine that we are driven by the sovereign choice of God to him helps. He chose us: we were moved to a place where our will became his. Our struggles then are those of obedience, for the ancient evil in us wants to rule, and lying, calls that free will.

The hard core Calvinists deny any free will, but Calvin himself gives a warning here. Go to far into speculation and you will end up in error. Because we cannot comprehend the miraculous work of God.

The flesh cannot hear of this wisdom of God without being instantly disturbed by numberless questions, and without attempting in a manner to call God to an account. We hence find that the Apostle, whenever he treats of some high mystery, obviates the many absurdities by which he knew the minds of men would be otherwise possessed; for when men hear anything of what Scripture teaches respecting predestination, they are especially entangled with very many impediments.

The predestination of God is indeed in reality a labyrinth, from which the mind of man can by no means extricate itself: but so unreasonable is the curiosity of man, that the more perilous the examination of a subject is, the more boldly he proceeds; so that when predestination is discussed, as he cannot restrain himself within due limits, he immediately, through his rashness, plunges himself, as it were, into the depth of the sea. What remedy then is there for the godly? Must they avoid every thought of predestination? By no means: for as the Holy Spirit has taught us nothing but what it behoves us to know, the knowledge of this would no doubt be useful, provided it be confined to the word of God. Let this then be our sacred rule, to seek to know nothing concerning it, except what Scripture teaches us: when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther. But as we are men, to whom foolish questions naturally occur, let us hear from Paul how they are to be met.

John Calvin, COmmentary on Romans

But note this: there is no damnation of classes of humanity. There is no intersectional classification of oppression. Instead we are to do the will of God, and let true justice flow like a river. And here we need to examine ourselves, for none of us are worthy.

But Christ chose us, Christ redeemed us, and Christ will preserve us. I’ve been around long enough to lose the delusion that I can by a sheer act of will and by a series of choices earn any salvation. It is the complete work of God, and to him be the glory.

If you believe that, you stand with Calvin, Aquinas, Augustine and Paul.

The passage for today

The person who wrote this was a zealot for the Temple and the Pharisaic version of Judaism, which became encoded in the Talmud. He had been present at the first martyrdom, and he was the perpetrator of the deaths of many. He considered himself the deepest of sinners. He was also the man who evangelized the Greeks of Asia Minor and Europe. He hoped to preach in Rome. Instead, he was sent there in chains, and what he said to the Caesar of that season is not written — and he himself gave his life for the gospel.

What he talks about is not how we see things, but how God sees things. God is building a church, and he has a role for us. It may not be noble. It may be quiet. But he chooses us for salvation.

Paul knew that true justice would damn all. To his very marrow. His sin was grevious, and his life a witness to the mercy of God.

Romans 9:14-29

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is moulded say to its moulder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people’,
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved’.”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people’,
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God’.”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel[b] be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”

Our salvation is not justice. Justice is akin to a raging fire: for all have fallen short not merely of the glory of God but the standards that they themselves use to judge. It is only through the work of Christ coming for us while we were fighting against him that we were saved.

And we now proclaim him Lord. Though the spirit of this age rages, it knows its time is short. The churh will be the bride of Christ, and all our flaws will have been blotted out, and all our narrative a witness to his redemption.

One thought on “11 August 2020: secular or sacred predestination?

  1. Came to this site from Peter Grant. Really appreciate your insight here. As an American pastor, your words could just as easily apply here to the modern iteration of the Democratic party & their insistence that the failed ideology of wokeness will lead to social justice for all. Keep fighting the good fight.

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