59. What is “double predestination,” and does the bible teach it?
The term “double predestination” simply means that, just as God predestines some, but not all, to eternal salvation, so he predestines others to eternal punishment; this second part of “double” predestination, God's appointment of all but the elect unto eternal destruction, is sometimes called “reprobation”; and those who are not the elect are thus called the “reprobate”. Logically, the doctrine of reprobation is necessarily true if the following premises can be established: 1) God sovereignly chooses some men for salvation; 2) God does not choose all men for salvation; 3) there is no possibility of obtaining salvation apart from God's sovereign election thereunto. In other words, if God has chosen infallibly to save some, and has cut off any other means of salvation for all others, he has effectively made a choice concerning every person that has lived; he has chosen either to save him or to cut him off from all hope of salvation. Each of these premises may certainly be found in the bible; and so, it is manifest that God's eternal choice involves the salvation of some and the damnation of others.
The doctrine of double predestination is frequently argued against in the most passionate of terms, in large part because of a gross misunderstanding of what the doctrine actually asserts. Opponents of the doctrine often operate under the assumption that the way in which God brings the elect to salvation must be precisely the same as the way in which he brings the reprobate to damnation. Of course, salvation has its beginnings in the sovereign, monergistic work of God in regeneration, so that all credit is due to him. If double predestination is true, some people suppose, then God must also be sovereignly responsible for the beginnings of damnation in the reprobate: he must monergistically produce sin in the hearts of the non-elect, which will ultimately end in eternal judgment. This understanding of double predestination makes God the author of sin, and is utterly unbiblical.
However, even if we must reject the distortion of double predestination that sees God as monergistically producing sin unto condemnation just as he monergistically produces faith untosalvation, we must also reject the denial of double predestination in any sense. God is not the author of sin, but he does harden sinful men for his own righteous purposes of judgment. The bible is clear that
just as God chooses some for mercy and salvation, he chooses others for judicial hardening and reprobation: when he loved Jacob, even before his birth, he also hated Esau at the same time (Rom. 9:10-13); when he chose to save Israel from Egypt for the glory of his grace, he also chose to raise up Pharaoh in hardened rebellion, for the glory of his wrath (Rom. 9:17-18); and in fact, he does this with all men, choosing from the same lump of human clay some to make into vessels of honor and some to make into vessels of dishonor, in order to show by the one class the glory of his mercy and by the other class the glory of his judgment and wrath (Rom. 9:21-23). Nor is it just the apostle Paul who speaks to this issue so clearly: Peter also speaks of those to whom Christ is the precious Cornerstone of salvation and those who stumble against him to their eternal destruction; and of those who are reprobate, he says
clearly that they were “predestined” to disobey the word and so to perish (1 Pet. 2:6-8).
The great reformed confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries deal wisely and biblically with this question, on the one and affirming the doctrine of double predestination, but on the other hand guarding against the error of charging God with culpability for sin. A good example comes from the Westminster Confession of Faith:
“As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected . . . are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His Sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His
glorious justice.” (Chap. III — Art. VI and VII)
For Further Study:
Double Predestination by R.C. Sproul
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