Sunday, July 30, 2017

"We are predestined, yet free"

While this Sunday's Gospel readings contain great parables which will likely be the subjects of most sermons today, I would like to draw your attention to the reading from Romans 8:26-39 which contains a problem that will probably not be discussed today, Predestination (vs 28-30 which I have highlighted below),

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, 
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The problematic verses have challenged philosophers for generations. The idea of the predestination of the elect is difficult enough without getting into the concept of "double predestination", the predestination of the damned. When one considers God's omniscience and omnipresence along with his eternal nature we can get a glimpse of the problem. God knows what is going to happen to each and every one of us. He knows the bad choices we will make. He knows who will choose to follow Christ and who will reject him, and all of that seems terribly unfair to our modern minds that He would not step in and change our course when we stray particularly when, as Paul teaches, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Unfair until you remember that he has stepped in. He came and died for all of us once. Who are we to demand that He do it again.

Back in 2012 an article titled CATHOLICISM, CALVINISM AND THE THIRTY-NINE ARTICLES by Fr. Victor E. Novak (link to his blog), a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), appeared on David Virtue's blog which I hope will help us come to grips with this issue.

Article XVII, "Of Predestination and Election," does not say a word about the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination, and ends by saying: "Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally [meaning universally] set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God." God's promises are general, or universal, not particular and limited to the elect. Anglicanism does not believe that God predestines some men to salvation and others to eternal damnation.
What is the Anglican understanding of Predestination and Election? Anglican theologian Vernon Staley explains it this way: "Predestination does not mean that some souls are fore-ordained to eternal life, and others to eternal death, for there is no purpose of God to bring any man to eternal death. God 'will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.'
"There is a purpose in everything, both in the order of nature and in that of grace. In the order of grace, Predestination corresponds to some extent with Providence in the order of nature. An acorn is naturally predestined to produce an oak, but it may fail to realize that purpose: all acorns do not produce oaks. If it does fail it misses its predestined end. So the soul is predestined to a life of grace and obedience here, leading to a life of glory hereafter; but it may fail, and miss the mark. If the laws which determine the germination and growth of an acorn are observed, the oak will be produced from it. In a like manner if the soul obeys God, and corresponds [cooperates] with his grace, it will come to eternal life. God who calls and elects, also bids us 'to make our calling and election sure'... Everyone is called to, and is capable of salvation, but God alone knows who will 'make their calling and election sure'" (The Catholic Religion, A Manual of Instruction for Members of the Anglican Communion; Vernon Staley, 1893, pp. 317-319).
Calvinists are monergists while Anglicans, like all Catholic Christians, are synergists. Calvinism teaches that grace ravishes the soul and is irresistible, while Anglicanism teaches that grace woos the soul and that man must cooperate freely with God's grace. God always acts first through prevenient grace, but man must cooperate with that grace. We are predestined, yet free.
 Free to choose to follow Him... or not. 


  1. "Anglican theologian Vernon Staley explains it this way: "Predestination does not mean that some souls are fore-ordained to eternal life, and others to eternal death.",

    "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled." John 17:12

    Judas is a puzzle for me. Was he predestined to go to hell?

  2. The discussion by Fr. Novak was very helpful. Thanks for posting this. Predestination has always troubled me. God did not create us as pre-programmed good or bad machines. Novak's approach is the way I look at it.

    Fr. Dale, I have supposed that Jesus knew that someone would betray him, knowing our human weaknesses better than we do. With what profound sorrow he must have received Judas's kiss!