Archive for November, 2021

C.S. Lewis on Pre-Determinism

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

In The Great Divorce, CS Lewis observed: “All may be saved if they so choose.” Is this statement consistent with pre-determinism?

Another question: What of Acts 16:30? How does it fit with the idea of Pre-Determinism? “30 He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ 31 They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.” 

The apostles said one only need believe to be saved. But it seems you are saying they must not only believe, but ALSO be pre-selected, isn’t that right? Hence, it would appear that in Acts 16:30 the apostles have only stated half of the proposition. In other words, if what you say is true about pre-determinism, then why didn’t they say something along the lines of: 

“Try to believe in the Lord Jesus, and IF you have been pre-selected, that is IF the Lord has not hardened you and crippled your ability to choose Him, you and the others in your house who have been pre-selected will be saved!”

Thank you again for your questions and comments. You have done a good job of arguing the position of Arminianism (favoring man’s free will over election) against my position of Calvinism (favoring election over man’s limited free will), and you have made me think. Let me first offer some general observations before I speak to the various specific points that you made.

Throughout your arguments, you repeatedly mentioned God’s (supposed) decision of election in chronological reference to various events of mankind:

“… before man ever arrived in the garden” “… before each exits the womb” “… before man even arrived on earth” “… before the existence of man and sin” “… before man sinned for the first time” “… when God made the election decisions”

However, God exists in eternity, beyond the realm of time and space. To us who are limited by space and time, eternity is a great mystery. In eternity, somehow, events don’t occur in chronological order. We can’t even aptly describe this in words. The best we can do is to say that in eternity events all occur at the same “time,” but even then we’ve interjected our limitation of time into our description. To say that one event occurred before another in eternity probably doesn’t even make sense. I too have been guilty of this by referring to “eternity past” just because this is my best notion of this great mystery, but I know that this is inadequate. So, words like “time,” “before,” “after,” and “when” have no place in a discussion of God in eternity. Likewise, the argument that the doctrine of election was established “before” man sinned is a weak argument; and, probably much more so if we were indeed capable of understanding eternity.

Aside from this, you stated that God stamped (or pre-wired) some men as disapproved, and that He thus discarded them before they were born. This isn’t technically true because He did give them life and grace, and thus He didn’t discard them before they were born. Of course, I do understand your point here, and I will address it further below.

Re. the matter of sin: When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, we were in Adam’s loins, so we too were guilty of his sin. All of us have both imputed sin from Adam, as well as personal sins. Even if a person never committed a personal sin, he would still be guilty of the imputed sin of Adam (his federal headship). (Please see my complete article on Imputation.) So, what all of us really deserve is an eternity separated from God. However, God, in His love, instituted the grace plan of salvation where be sacrificed His Son Jesus, who was the only One who lived a perfect live without sin. As a result, God was free to elect whoever He desired for salvation. God is first a God of justice, but through the sacrifice of Christ, God (who is also a God of Love) was able to satisfy His justice in exercising His love for His elect.

As a result there is no conflict in noting that one’s sin condemns him while God’s grace alone has the power to save him. Election does not nullify the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. However, if left to ourselves, we sinners would never be able find God on our own, if it weren’t for His seeking us through election.

Also, I am definitely not suggesting that the Old Testament saints (such as Abraham, Moses, Job, and Joseph) were not saved. They were indeed saved, looking forward to Christ’s sacrifice, just as we today look back in history to His sacrifice.

Although you have made some good points in your arguments, I believe that the final word and truth about predestination is very clearly articulated for us in Romans 8:28-30: “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

I would have to say that I reject the notion that God deliberately cripples the intellect of some men, and thus denies them the freedom to choose to love him and follow his Laws. This is not a valid description of the doctrine of election. I would argue that sin (not God) crippled all men’s intellect in the Garden of Eden.

Before I respond, first let explain what I meant when I said the doctrine of election seems to suggest God cripples one’s intellect. I meant if the doctrine of election is true, and God really chose to save some and not save others—before man even arrived in the garden and sinned for the first time—then some men are pre-wired to seek and come to know Jesus, and others are not. And by pre-wired I mean at birth some have been granted the “ability” to discern, supplicate, repent, etc. and others have not.

So, if election is true, and thus all men are already stamped approved or disapproved before each exits the womb (and before man even arrived on earth), and thus the approved man has the pre-wired “ability” to seek and come to know God and the disapproved man does not, then clearly the disapproved man has been “crippled” — but NOT by sin as you suggest, but by God.

Furthermore, IF the doctrine of election is true, and God approved and disapproved all men prior to the existence of man and sin, and at the same time God does not observe a man’s sins to determine his ultimate destination (i.e. God doesn’t look down the corridors of time to see how a man will choose), then your assertion that sin has condemned man is, quite frankly, impossible.

To be clear: I think we agree that if election is true, it happened BEFORE man arrived in the garden and thus BEFORE man sinned for the first time. Hence, SIN cannot be the explanation and cause of the disapproved man’s condemnation when 1) Sin did not exist when God made the election decisions; 2) God does not look down the corridors of time to see who chose what.