- Predestination is the belief that God has chosen or elected some for the gift of salvation, sometimes extended to include the idea that God chooses the rest of humankind for damnation. The most relevant biblical quote on the subject is Romans 28-30: "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn of many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called, them he also justified."The doctrine was first developed by St. Augustine (354-430), who wrote against Pelagius. Pela-gianism suggests that salvation comes from human endeavor. Augustine asserted that God had chosen, from the mass of humanity, some for salvation as a demonstration of his grace, leaving the rest as an illustration of his justice. Martin LUTHER, an Augustinian monk prior to the Reformation, affirmed Augustine's concept though it was not stressed by later Lutheran theologians.Predestination was an important element in John Calvin's doctrine of salvation. He proposed the notion of double predestination, that God chose the elect for salvation and those not elected for damnation. The aim was to assert that human salvation is solely a product of God's loving action to Christians.Augustine, Luther, and Calvin did not find predestination incompatible with human free will, but later Protestants would. Among the most important critics of predestination was Dutch Reformed theologian Jacob Arminius, who reacted to the heightened emphasis on predestination in Calvinist thought as the 16th century progressed. At that time supralapsarianism was popular; it claimed that God's decrees of election were logically prior to his foreknowledge of the elect. Arminius picked up another line of Reformed thought and argued that God's foreknowledge preceded his decree; in other words, God predestined individuals based upon his foreknowledge of their faith.Arminianism was hotly debated in Holland and became the subject of the Synod of Dort in 1618-19. Predestination was a key to the five points it voted in condemning Arminius's position. Unconditional election, it said, was essential to the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. The synod's findings would in effect divide Protestants of the Reformed camp into two communities, the Calvinists who affirmed Dort and the Arminians who rejected it.The decisions at Dort were in effect ratified by the Westminster Confession, the most influential statement of belief by English-speaking Calvinists. on the other hand, Arminians found their greatest champion in Methodism's founder, John Wesley. Wesley argued that Christ had died for all, that "prevenient" grace had been shed abroad in the hearts of all humans, making them open to respond to the Gospel. Revivalism, especially as it was manifested in 19th-century America, was Arminian at heart.As Moravians and Methodists pioneered the world missionary movement, Calvinists were slow to respond. Many had concluded that evangelism or missionary activity was pointless, in light of their understanding of salvation. However, by the end of the 18th century, even strictly Calvinist churches found themselves in contact with parts of the world where the Christian message was unknown. They found it necessary to develop a modified Calvinism that not only allowed but supported and encouraged the global missionary enterprise. Leading the way in this effort was Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller (1754-1806), who, drawing on some themes from the Wesleyan movement, is credited with restating Calvinism, and stressing the responsibility of the individual believer to witness to the Gospel message.Through the 19th and 20th centuries, Protestant theologians developed a spectrum of new theologies from the liberalism of Freidrich Schleiermacher to the Neo-Orthodoxy of Karl Barth and Emil Brunner to the Fundamentalism of Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987). Each one tried to restate the doctrine of predestination/election, retaining its central role in Protestant Christian thought.Further reading:■ David Basinger and Randall Basinger, eds., Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986)■ Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (1968. rpt.: Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992)■ Harry Buis, Historic Protestantism and Predestination (Phillipsburg, Pa.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1958)■ Mark John Farrelly, Predestination, Grace, and Free-will (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1964)■ Clark H. Pinnock, ed., The Grace of God, The Will of Man: A Case for Arminianism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1989).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.