Thursday, 30 September 2010

Predestination: Getting the Right Angle of Approach

One of the dubious pleasures about being a student away from home is that I get to use low cost airlines several times a quarter. On the whole it's a convenient and safe way to travel, you can sit back and relax while someone else is concerned with setting you back on dry land.

Indeed the landing is the most nerve wracking part of any flight, the pilot must get the angle of approach just right or risk loosing some regular custom! If he comes in with the nose too low we will crash head first into the tarmac, too high and the back end could hit the ground and rupture the fuel tanks. The correct angel of approach is crucial...

Coming at the complex issue of predestination also requires the right angle of approach. Focus too much/ or wrongly on ourselves and we risk smashing into the theological tarmac. Fortunately James Ussher, while not a frequent flyer, still has some helpful points of orientation.

Article 13. Predestination to life, is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, he hath constantly decreed in his secret counsel to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ unto everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor.

The angle which causes a lot people to crash is the one which approaches the issue saying, "How can a loving God send people to Hell", with the underlying presupposition that decent, upstanding, middle class folks don't deserve Hell.

Unfortunately this drastically misses the point, it is not that people 'miss out' on life because God is irritable and capricious but that we are, in fact, ALL objects of wrath, dead in our transgressions and sins. (Eph 2:1)
It is NOT that some deserve life and some death but that we are all under curse and damnation and God in his goodness chooses to save some in Christ.

Taken from this angle, predestination emphasises both our helplessness because of sin and God's goodness and love to bring dead people to new life in Christ. This makes the doctrine of election a love doctrine, a way of understanding God's fatherly pursuit of his children as Eph 1: 4-5 tells us; "in LOVE, he predestined us for adoption as sons".

This raises another angular question: Why does God choose to save some?
To answer this our angle of approach is should not focus on ourselves but on God and his purposes in salvation. Ephesians 1 repeatedly stresses that God's work in redeeming some is "to the praise of his glorious grace". This is the motivation of God... His Glory.
God is glorified both in his loving election of some and his just judgement of others. Those whom he calls to himself have done nothing/ will do nothing to merit their adoption. This is a source of remarkable assurance because our salvation is based, not on ourselves, but on God's choosing of us "before the foundations of the world" or as Ussher puts it Article 15. [election] is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons.

Therefore when it comes to predestination and election lets get our angle of approach right, working to more fully grasp our standing before this Holy God who, even though we are engaged in treason against his divine majesty, loves us from eternity and makes us his sons.