The Doctrine That Must Not be Named

In the Harry Potter series, there is the running rule that characters should not call – (clears throat) – Voldemort by name. Say Tom Riddle. Say “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” Just don’t say…Voldemort. It’s so dark, so twisted – so evil – that to even mention his name causes them to look over their shoulders. You just don’t do it. It’s taboo.*

Evangelicals deal with the same situation regarding predestination (and some would be taken aback that I used a Harry Potter illustration). It’s the doctrine that we must not talk about. If you dare bring it up, you will get kicked out of church or people will look at you white-faced as though you just said bomb in an airport.

However, let me point something out: something is wrong if we’re that terrified of predestination. Why? For one reason being because it’s in the Bible. We should not be scared nor embarrassed by anything in the Bible. Nothing. Not even God wiping out all but eight people via the flood.

So, with that said: let’s talk about predestination. I want to discuss two popular views, why we should stop fighting about it within the body of Christ, and how it even applies to us.

Looking Down the Corridor of Time

The most popular view of predestination is where God, before the world was created, peered down through the corridor of time to see all the people who would believe in Jesus. Based on that foresight, He predestined them to salvation.

This is what most Christians understand predestination to mean. The problem with this line of thinking is, when we understand that God is omnipresent, we realize God doesn’t look down the corridor of time and learn anything.

God knows everything. He never learns, only knows. All knowledge stems from Him. So it doesn’t add up that that’s how people were predestined. There are more issues surrounding this view but for time’s sake I will stop it right there. I encourage you to do more digging on this topic.

Choosing in Spite of You

The other view–the view I hold–is what is known as unconditional election, if you really want to put a name on it. This view says God did not look into the future and see your decision. He, by His own sovereign good will toward sinners, chose to save you before the world began. Not because of how popular you might be. Not because you might be a good preacher one day. He chose you out of love (Ephesians 1:4). He chose you despite you.

This view scares many and angers more. It shouldn’t. We should be able to have differing opinion on secondary issues. But to me, this is the most faithful to the text. Look at Ephesians 1, Romans 9:9-13, and other areas of the Bible. It is strikingly clear that God chose to save some before the world began based on His will, not ours. Do we believe God can do whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3)? What right does the clay have to say anything to the Potter (Romans 9:20-21)?

This doesn’t take away free will, either. We all have free will, just not in the way people think. We don’t have free will in the sense that you can literally do whatever you want. For example, you can’t just decide to fly. If you try, you’ll probably die.

The free will that I’m talking about is the real, human decision to follow Jesus. Everybody makes that decision themselves. This view of predestination merely says this: the only reason anybody ever believes in Christ is because God chose them first (John 15:16).

Stop Trading Punches

With that said, we must stop making this issue bigger than it needs to be. It’s an important topic–absolutely–but it’s not what we’d call a gospel issue. The gospel isn’t at stake, so drop your arm. Stop clutching your fist. Breathe for a bit. There’s no need to yell at each other about having a different view on this subject. We should treat others with the grace and love that we’ve received in Christ.

So much division in the body of Christ is caused over these opposing views and that shouldn’t be. That’s not to say we can’t cordially debate it but when we make somebody else feel inferior is when things go bad.

How Does it Apply?

You might be asking yourself, “Okay, but how does predestination even apply to me?” Wonderful question.

Predestination is the most amazing example of God’s grace to sinners imaginable. For God to choose some people–even with the knowledge of their future sin and rebellion against Him–to save is an extraordinary example of amazing grace. All Christians are recipients of God’s sovereign grace when we least deserved it. We can now go through our daily lives with a massive amount of security because of God’s electing love.

His love for us is not based on us. He chose to save us despite our sin, despite our wickedness, despite our fickle hearts. Why? Because He loves us. It’s all based on Him, so drop your performance attitude. You can’t perform for God.

No Need to be Scared

So, Christian, in light of what we’ve covered and in light of how practical it is for us, don’t be fearful of it. There’s nothing to fear. If we continue to be fearful, we might should check our preconceived notions of who we believe God is and how He operates.

Electing grace is unfathomable grace. Predestination is beautiful.

*Apparently, there’s an official reason why characters in the Harry Potter series aren’t supposed to call Voldemort by name. You can read about that here.

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