Double predestination can be quite troubling. On the surface, it seems to be a doctrine that points to the fact that God predestines some to become the elect, saved, and spend eternity in heaven with Christ, while the rest, He predestines to agony and hell for all of eternity. This makes God sound almost cruel. I say “almost” due to the fact that the one thing God is not, is “cruel.” He is most benevolent, most gracious, most loving, most kind, most long-suffering. In fact, without God’s intervention into the affairs of mankind, with His self revelation, we fail to understand any of those terms in a real way. So let’s be clear about what I’m not sayin: I’m not saying God is cruel. In fact, God is love. Not the Hollywood, leftist love that says “anything goes.” But the reality of what true love is, in that while we were yet sinners, His Son died on the cross for us.
But not for all us. Again, back to predestination, or double predestination as the title implies. Let’s start with just predestination, or election as some know it. God, in His rich and abundant mercy, chose some before the foundations of the world to become holy and blameless in Christ. Just this reality, that He chose some, and not others, shows divine prerogative.
...just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Hopefully we see that predestination is truly a biblical concept. Now we come to “double” predestination. R.C. Sproul helps on this regard.
R.C. Sproul writes:
The use of the qualifying term “double” has been somewhat confusing in discussions concerning predestination. The term apparently means one thing within the circle of Reformed theology and quite another outside that circle and at a popular level of theological discourse. The term “double” has been set in contrast with a notion of “single” predestination. It has also been used as a synonym for a symmetrical view of predestination which sees election and reprobation being worked out in a parallel mode of divine operation. Both usages involve a serious distortion of the Reformed view of double predestination.
Sproul goes on to explain that what really takes place is that God, in electing some out of all the mass of fallen humanity, works to redeem those elect. Those who are not of the elect, He simply passes by, and allows them to continue on in their sinfulness.
But even more so, He gives them over to their natural inclination to sin, and what light they had He removes so that they fall deeper and deeper into sin. I think it quite interesting that the elect in Christ grow in sanctification as they utilize the blessings of grace they have been given, and the reprobate grow in sinfulness toward God because they reject the truth that they do have. They become more and more hardened in this matter.
We read this in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Of Providence:
As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, does blind and harden, from them He not only withholds His grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which they had, and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin;and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God uses for the softening of others. (Emphasis added).
Sproul goes on to say that many view predestination in a positive-positive scheme, whereby God not only works to bring the elect to salvation, but also works to ensure the reprobate remain in their fallen state. He says this is a misrepresentation of the Reformed view of predestination. Given the above paragraph, it would seem the Sproul is out of step with the Westminster Confession. But in a subsequent article, he clarifies the Reformed position for us:
In the Reformed view, God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect, God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives. Even in the case of the “hardening” of the sinners’ already recalcitrant hearts, God does not, as Luther stated, “work evil in us (for hardening is working evil) by creating fresh evil in us.”
The key is that God does not work sin into the heart of the one who is already sinful. The best example of this is Judas Iscariot. God did not work evil in Judas, even though he was predestined before the foundations of the world to be the one who betrayed our LORD. The evil, and evil intentions were already in Judas. This is who he was. He spent three years with Christ, but never believed what Jesus was saying. He followed Jesus for his own evil intentions.
Please don’t think that I believe Judas started following Jesus for the purpose of betraying Him. I’m sure he followed because he was curious, he wanted to be around “the Teacher,” he wanted to be thought well of. He saw all the miracles, and heard all the sermons. But instead of heeding those sermons, and believing in Christ, the words hardened his heart and the evil in him continued to rise up. Jesus was not turning out to be what Judas wanted Him to be.
(Just a side note to this. Realize that when the word of God is faithfully preached, as our LORD did in the presence of Judas, it does work. For those who believed, the preached word brought them to faith. But for those who did not believe, it merely hardened their hearts. This is what happened to Judas).
God did nothing to bring about his sinful desires and intentions. They were already present in him, just as they are present in us, because of the fall of mankind. Yet, God used those evil intentions in the life of Judas, so that he would betray Christ, and Christ would fulfill the prophecy of becoming the Savior. God didn’t have to work sin into Judas’ heart. It was already there.
The Father did harden the sin in the heart of Judas, and turned him over to Satan. But again, this is not God working sin into Judas, but using that sin that is already there for His greater purposes and glory.
(Quoting Luther) ‘He who would understand these matters, however, should think thus: God works evil in us (that is, by means of us) not through God’s own fault, but by reason of our own defect. We being evil by nature, and God being good, when He impels us to act by His own acting upon us according to the nature of His omnipotence, good though He is in Himself, He cannot but do evil by our evil instrumentality; although, according to His wisdom, He makes good use of this evil for His own glory and for our salvation.’
Thus, the mode of operation in the lives of the elect is not parallel with that operation in the lives of the reprobate. God works regeneration monergistically, but never sin. Sin falls within the category of providential concurrence.
What Judas did, and what all the reprobate do, is all according to their own desires. They make the sinful choices they do because they do not come to the light, but are much more pleased and content with darkness (John 3:19). He leaves them to freely choose what they desire the most, sinfulness and depravity.
Given all that, double-predestination is not what some would say, a positive-positive scheme, in that God works both grace in the elect, and evil in the non-elect. It is a positive-negatives scheme. He works grace in the life of the elect, while leaving the non-elect to their own sinful desires. He does use that sin for His glory, but this does not mean He is the author of sin. We are. And it’s only by His grace that He saves some.
The Unfairness of God?
On more point, this is where people get upset because they see the simple fact that God elects some to salvation, works to bring that about, and leaves the rest for a destiny with hell, as unfair. This view always ignores the simple reality that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. If we want fairness, then God would send all of us to hell, and He has every right to. When we sin, we don’t just sin against one another, or our bodies, or some cultural norm. When we sin, we sin against our Creator. It is out of His mercy that He chooses to save some, for His own glory. Those whom are destined to perdition, are done so for His own glory. God is glorified in both the redeemed and the lost. (See Romans 9:14-24 above).
Another significant difference between the activity of God with respect to the elect and the reprobate concerns God’s justice. The decree and fulfillment of election provide mercy for the elect while the efficacy of reprobation provides justice for the reprobate. God shows mercy sovereignly and unconditionally to some and gives justice to those passed over in election. That is to say, God grants the mercy of election to some and justice to others. No one is the victim of injustice. To fail to receive mercy is not to be treated unjustly. God is under no obligation to grant mercy to all—in fact, He is under no obligation to grant mercy to any. He says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy” (Rom. 9). The divine prerogative to grant mercy voluntarily cannot be faulted. If God is required by some cosmic law apart from Himself to be merciful to all men, then we would have to conclude that justice demands mercy. If that is so, then mercy is no longer voluntary, but required. If mercy is required, it is no longer mercy, but justice. What God does not do is sin by visiting injustice upon the reprobate. Only by considering election and reprobation as being asymmetrical in terms of a positive-negative schema can God be exonerated from injustice.