Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Chosen By God...or Not

When you're a missionary, some people take it on themselves to try to convert you to their own religion. Fine, fair enough. Makes for some funny stories. This isn't one of them. Sorry.

Anyway, one person gave me a book titled "Chosen by God," by R. C. Sproul. It's all about predestination; I'm not sure the author's religion, but he's all for it. I remember reading it and not being impressed, so as I was moving books around today and noticed it, I decided to give it another shot, see if it was as bad as I remembered.

It was. It's or eight years since I read it, but on the first page I immediately encountered a paragraph I still remembered.
"Perhaps no American rule is broken more frequently than the one about not discussing politics or religion...And when the topic turns to religion it often gravitates to the issue of predestination."
My question is: How many times has your discussion of religion with your acquaintances turned to the issue of predestination? Answers could range from never (mine) to often, the point being that if the author's conversations frequently turn to the issue of predestination, it's possibly because it's his favorite topic and he forces the conversation that direction. I'm all for talking about things that interest me and I often do, but I try not to make the mistake of believing that my favorite esoteric subject is of interest to everyone I come in contact with.

Moving on to the definition of "predestination," he gets my hopes up when he says that "our definition is often colored by our doctrine." I agree with that! Perhaps he will take a well-rounded approach to the subject, show us several definitions based on various doctrines, be at least a little unbiased.

No such luck. "What predestination means, in its most elementary form, is that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God not only before we get there, but before we are even born." That's it. End of discussion. No alternate definitions. Reading on, apparently he didn't mean the DEFINITION of predestination was colored by our doctrine (because THAT'S set in stone!), but rather the basis that God makes his decision on is open for argument.

Obviously, if you take exception to his definition of predestination, as I do, then the entire rest of the book is pointless since it builds off that.

Two thoughts:
  1. What if "destination" referred to your role, position, or place in life, rather than your physical location after you died?
  2. If, in fact, it refers to our eternal reward, what if God didn't "decide" it, but rather "suggested" it?
Anyway, forced to build from that incorrect foundation stone, the entire book is of necessity full of tortured conclusions and laughable contradictions. The whole time I'm reading it I'm saying to myself, "The answer is so easy! Why do you put yourself through this?"


onelowerlight said...

I've found that the passages on predestination in the Bible take on a different meaning when you consider the worldview of the culture in which the book was written. In semitic cultures, ancient and modern, the group identity is much more important than the individual identity. Therefore, when Paul says "who has foreordained you to salvation," he's talking about the church as a whole, not individual members within the church. Taking this view, the predestination passages simply say that the righteous of the House of Israel, the covenant people of the Lord, will be saved. The question, therefore, is whether you as an individual have chosen to become a part of that group, not whether or not God arbitrarily chose to save you.

The Writer said...

Great insight. It goes against the author's definition so he wouldn't like it, but it makes total sense to me.