Final Thoughts -- By: Jonathan Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 12:2 (Spring 2003)
Article: Final Thoughts
Author: Jonathan Armstrong

Final Thoughts

John H. Armstrong

All Christians agree that predestination is a biblical doctrine. From there the disagreements begin to grow. As is the case with so many difficult truths Christian theologians have tried to exegete the biblical texts as carefully and contextually as possible. Still there is disagreement. Thus, one recent book is titled: Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (InterVarsity Press, 2001). What is the wise Christian to do in the face of such persistent difficulty?

The context for us to look at such a doctrine must be in humility before God and fellow Christians. Presently, none of us sees everything that has been revealed clearly. None of us understands all mysteries, revealed and unrevealed. At the end of his glorious treatise on the supremacy of love Paul concludes: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face-to-face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). So what should we do? Paul answers that faith, hope and love abide (in the present state of things) but “the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13b). The least we can do, indeed the greatest that we can do in the face of such revelation, is to love. We can even love those who do not understand this great truth the way we do. Far too much acrimony has been scattered across the story of Church history when it comes to the doctrine of predestination. It would appear that the nature of this revealed truth will never be fully explicated by any one group of theologians this side of heaven. Let us not give up the pursuit of light but let us, above all else, love one another for by so doing we demonstrate that we are born of God (1 John 2:7–11; 3:11–15).

The Church Fathers were not of one mind regarding predestination. Any attempt to make them agree with theological developments that evolved later in Christian history is not a fair reading of their actual comments and the context in which they occur.

Irenaeus, for example, said:

But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect similar to God, having been made free in his will, and with power over himself, is himself his own cause that sometimes he becomes wheat and sometimes chaff.

So God knows the number of those who will not believe, since he foreknows all things. So he has given them over to unbelief and turned his face away from men of this character, leaving them in the darkness that they have chosen for themselves. So what is baffli...

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