Predestination - A False Doctrine

religions squarePredestination is a bit of a thorny thicket for theologians.  Today, strict predestinarianism (to include double predestination) is a minority view.  Among the broad theological community, predestination is widely understood to be heresy.


As this paper will illustrate, that free will does not exist (the premise of strict predestination) is simply not supported in scripture and in many places directly contradicts scripture.  Then there is the notion of paradox.

The doctrine reduces the eternal salvation of the elect as well as the eternal damnation of the reprobate to one cause alone -- namely to the sovereign will of a Higher Power, Being, or God.  It thereby denies and excludes the free co-operation of man as a secondary factor in bringing about a happy or unhappy future in the life to come.


A False Doctrine

By Richard Wermske1



Understanding the Terms

What is predestination?

What is Heresy?

The Case Against Predestination


Calvin’s False Doctrine of Predestination

The First Refutation

The Second Refutation



Predestination2is a bit of a thorny thicket for theologians.  Today, strict predestinarianism (to include double predestination) is a minority view3.  Among the broad Christian community, it is widely understood to be heresy4.

  • Eastern Orthodoxy teaches that “God foresees how a man will freely act and makes dispositions accordingly. Divine determination depends on the life of a man, and not his life upon the determination.”5
  • Roman Catholicism teaches, “God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those that directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man's free will.”6
  • Lutheranism do not believe that there are certain people that are predestined to salvation, but salvation is predestined for those who seek God.7
  • Arminianism hold that God does not predetermine, but instead infallibly knows who will believe and perseveringly be saved.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) rejects the doctrine of predestination, but does believe in foreordination.  The LDS teach the doctrine of agency, the ability to choose and act for ourselves, and decide whether to accept atonement.9
  • Islam teaches a concept of divine destiny called Qadar – this is where human will is predetermined by Allah’s will (as stated in the Quran): " to whoever among you wills to go straight, but ye shall not will except as God wills; the Cherisher of the Worlds."10
  • Judaism hold to mixed views.  There is much discussion as to the “paradox beyond our understanding” in Rabbinic literature regarding omniscience and free will.  The representative view is that “Everything is foreseen; yet free will is given.”11
  • Zoroastrianism flatly rejects predestination.  Humans bear responsibility for all situations they are in, and in the way they act toward one another.  Reward, punishment, happiness, and grief all depend on how individuals live their lives.12

Why?  As this paper will illustrate, that free will does not exist (the premise of strict predestination) is simply not supported in scripture and in many places directly contradicts scripture.

The doctrine reduces the eternal salvation of the elect as well as the eternal damnation of the reprobate to one cause alone -- namely to the sovereign will of God. It thereby denies and excludes the free co-operation of man as a secondary factor in bringing about a happy or unhappy future in the life to come.

Understanding the Terms

What is predestination?

Predestination, in theology, is the doctrine that [Higher Power(s)] will and/or control all events, usually with reference to the eventual fate of the individual soul.  Two fundamental propositions express the essence of predestination which bear to each other the relation of cause and effect.

  • the absolute will of God as the sole cause of the salvation or damnation of the individual, without regard to his merits or demerits;
  • as to the elect, it denies the freedom of the will under the influence of efficacious grace while it puts the reprobate under the necessity of committing sin in consequence of the absence of grace.

The system in its general outlines may thus be described:

the question why some are saved while others are damned can only be answered by assuming an eternal, absolute, and unchangeable decree of God. The salvation of the elect and the damnation of the reprobate are simply the effect of an unconditional Divine decree

The origin of predestinationism is revealed in the history of the dogma.  It stems from a misunderstanding of St. Augustine’s views and the misinterpretation of St. Augustine's writings relating to eternal election and reprobation.

Toward the middle of the fifth century, predestinarianism in its harshest form was defended by Lucidus, a priest of Gaul, about whose life in all other respects history is silent.

Predestinarianism received a new and vigorous impulse at the outbreak of the Reformation. Martin Luther, having denied the freedom of the will in sinful man as also freedom in the use of grace, logically placed the eternal destiny of the individual solely and entirely in the hands of God, who without any regard to merit or demerit metes out heaven or hell just as He pleases.

Strongly religious by nature and with an instinct for systematizing, but also with a harsh unyielding character, John Calvin was the first to weave the scattered threads which he thought he had found in St. Paul, St. Augustine, Wyclif, Luther, and Bucer, into a strong network which enveloped his entire system of practical and theoretical Christianity. Thus he became in fact the systematizer of the dread doctrine of predestination.

Watch a short (3 min) video about Martin Luther, John Calvin and the origins of Calvinism.

The Presbyterian Church in the United States continues to support the doctrine of predestination.  It has endeavoured to mitigate the undeniable harshness of Calvinism in its revision of its Confession in May, 1903.

What is Heresy?

The term heresy connotes, etymologically, both a choice and the thing chosen, the meaning being, however, narrowed to the selection of religious or political doctrines, adhesion to parties in Church or State.

Josephus applies the name (airesis) to the three religious sects prevalent in Judea since the Machabean period: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes (Bel. Jud., II, viii, 1; Ant., XIII, v, 9). St. Paul is described to the Roman governor Felix as the leader of the heresy (aireseos) of the Nazarenes(Acts 24:5); the Jews in Rome say to the same Apostle: "Concerning this sect [airesoeos], we know that it is everywhere contradicted" (Acts 28:22). St. Justin (Dialogue with Trypho 18) uses airesis in the same sense. St. Peter (II, ii, 1) applies the term to Christian sects: "There shall be among you lying teachers who shall bring in sects of perdition [aireseis apoleias]". In later Greek, philosophers' schools, as well as religious sects, are "heresies".

St. Thomas (II-II:11:1) defines heresy: "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas". "The right Christian faith consists in giving one's voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His teaching. There are, therefore, two ways of deviating from Christianity: the one by refusing to believe in Christ Himself, which is the way of infidelity, common to Pagans and Jews; the other by restricting belief to certain points of Christ's doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure, which is the way of heretics.

It is not for man, but for Him who searcheth the mind and heart, to sit injudgment on the guilt which attaches to a heretical conscience.

Heresy must not be confused with apostasy. The apostate a fide abandons wholly the faith of Christ either by embracing Judaism, Islamism, Paganism, or simply by falling into naturalism and complete neglect of religion; the heretic always retains faith in Christ.

The Case Against Predestination


Acknowledged as the preeminent Protestant theologian and successor to Martin Luther, John Calvin, made a powerful impact on the fundamental doctrines of Protestantism. Whereas Luther brought passion and populism to his religious cause, Calvin was known for an intellectual, unemotional approach to faith that provided Protestantism's theological underpinnings.

Born on July 10, 1509, in France, John Calvin was a law student at the University of Orléans when he first joined the cause of the Reformation. In 1536, he published the landmark text Institutes of the Christian Religion, an early attempt to standardize the theories of Protestantism. Calvin's religious teachings emphasized the sovereignty of the scriptures and divine predestination—a doctrine holding that God chooses those who will enter Heaven based on foreknowledge of their good deeds.

Calvin’s False Doctrine of Predestination

John Calvin’s doctrine on predestination teaches that there are two classes of people in the world. Those who have been predestined by God before the foundation of the earth to eternal damnation and those that have been predestined to eternal life. Calvin taught that there is nothing one can do to be saved because God has already decided who is going to be saved and who is not going to be saved.

John Calvin twisted the meaning of Ephesians 1:4-5. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”

His interpretation of these two verses caused him to ask, “Does this passage teach that our salvation is strictly a matter of God’s arbitrary election before the world was made, irrespective of any choice that we might exercise in the matter?”  According to John Calvin, this passage teaches exactly that. “The Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith stated: “By decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death” (Article III).

Thus, we have the damnable heresy of predestination and we begin with the first refutation.

The First Refutation

Calvin’s theology is summed up in the acrostic,”TULIP.”

The “T” stands for “Total Depravity”. This doctrine teaches that all men have inherited the sin of Adam and as such, they are fallen to such a degree that they cannot read the Bible and respond in a positive way. So therefore, God has to act directly in order to bring man to His truth. This goes directly against what is written in Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

The “U” stands for “Unconditional Election”. A doctrine teaches that there is nothing one of the elect can do to prevent himself from becoming a Christian – he simply has no choice. If one has been predestined to eternal life, there is nothing a person can do to prevent it.

The “L” stands for “Limited Atonement”, which teaches that not all men can be saved. Some have been predestined to for salvation; the rest have not. Yet, the Bible teaches that God’s grace has been made available to all men. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11)

The “I” stands for “Irresistible Grace.” This takes away man’s free moral agency. Man has no choice but to respond to God’s grace.  This is false because we know that the Holy Spirit can be resisted as indicated by Stephen’s words to the Jewish council, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” (Acts 7:51).

The “P” stands for the Perseverance of the Saints, or simply stated “Once saved, always saved .” This teaches that one who is of God’s elect can do nothing that would cause him to fall from grace. Here again, Calvin directly contradicts the Scriptures.

There are at least 55 passages in the New Testament that teach that a Christian can fall from grace. In this brief article, we will observe two of these passages.

Galatians 5:4 “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians was written to the churches of in the region of Galatia (Galatians 1:2). Paul told those in Galatia who were perverting the gospel (by teaching that one had to be circumcised under the Law of Moses in order to be saved – See Acts 15:1) that in trying to keep to parts of the Old Law they had fallen from grace.

James 5:19-20 “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” The book of James was written to the Christians who were scattered abroad (James 1:1). In these verses, James teaches that a Christian who has “erred from the truth” is a soul that has become a “sinner” and needs to be saved from death. James has to be speaking of Christians here because in order for one to “err from” (out of) the truth, one must have been IN the truth – i.e. a saved Christian. There is perseverance of the saints if a Christian persists in his faith. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9).

Calvin’s doctrine of predestination does not originate with God. It is not supported in the scriptures. It is false to its core.

The predestination of Ephesians 1:4-5 is not on an individual basis. God at the foundation of the earth set forth a class of people who would be saved. This class of people would be those who met God’s foreordained demand of obedience to His will according to His Son. They would be those who obeyed the Gospel of Christ. (Hebrews 5:8-9, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)

The Second Refutation

To even begin to believe that God chose everyone who was going to be saved, as well as everyone who was going to be lost, long before they were ever even born, and that there would be absolutely nothing on earth that they could ever even hope do to influence or change that decision/sentence one iota one way or the other, so completely contradicts so many bible verses as to defy even the most minute and uninformed of imaginations.

Consider for a moment… If such an utter travesty of biblical teaching were even remotely true, then why would we need the bible with all of its instructions telling us how God wants us to live in order to inherit eternal life? More fundamentally:  “Why the very birth, life-long teachings, and death of Christ?”  “Why fellowship?”

After all, those already “ear-marked” for eternal life before they were born could live any defiant and despicable way they wanted to, as they could not possibly lose their salvation anyway (according to Calvin, but once again, certainly not according to Christ – see: Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31; 2 Peter 2:20-22). And as for any of those who might choose to live the most righteous, holy and upright of earthly lives possible out of a love for God and His commandments, what iota of eternal good would it possibly do them if they were already “ear-marked” for eternal destruction?

And additionally; if the bible is true – and it is (Psalm 119:160; John 8:31-32, 17:17), and if God had His way and had not given each and every one of us the free-will-required choice to either love and obey him or to hate and deny Him, then He would have “ear-marked” and sentenced NO ONE to eternal destruction but EVERYONE to eternal life! So He said in His holy word! Note:

“The Lord is… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 – editorial emphasis added).

Under the Calvinistic concept of a pre-birth, irreversible selection/rejection process by Providence, John would have had no reason to write his gospel any more than we would have any need of any biblical instruction to point us to God because our eternal destination would have already been signed, sealed, delivered and decided long before we drew our first breath. Verses like John 20:30-31 would be a waste of time and space:

“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

John told us very clearly and concisely that he wrote his gospel so that those who read it could learn about Jesus, and that those who subsequently chose to believe in Him because of what they read therein, could then have access to eternal life through Him (See: John 3:16, 36; 8:31-32; 11:25-27; 14:1-6; and also I John 5:13).

No, Calvinism’s doctrine of predestination is a completely contradictory version – and even per-version – of Christ’s N.T. teaching through his divinely-inspired apostles, and O.T. teaching through God’s divinely-inspired prophets and patriarchs (2 Peter 1:16-21; 3:1-3), who always taught that we human beings are not endowed with some irreversible earmark for either earthly or eternal salvation or destruction, but that those are options determined solely by our own educated but freewill choices (See: Deuteronomy 28 and Joshua 24 for example).

Calvin’s perverted predestination doctrine is – in this writer’s humble opinion – just exactly the type of heresy referred to by Peter in places like 2 Peter 2:1-3, and 3:14-16. And I would conclude this paragraph with Peter’s final recorded words of warning which follow immediately on the heels of those verses cited above (and which also clearly state that one can indeed “fall” and be “led away,” based on their own personal decisions and choices as well):

“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:17-18). 

And so, to the topic at hand. Having discussed what Calvinism teaches in regard to “predestination,” what exactly does the word of God actually say about it? The word “predestined” occurs in four verses in the New Testament, twice in Romans 8, and twice in Ephesians 1. Let us now explore these two texts in-depth…

“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

The first thing we notice in this text is the first word, “For.” Whenever you see the words “for,” or “therefore,” in any bible text, it is absolutely imperative to understand what the “for” or “therefore” is actually, ‘there for!’ It is there because the author wants you to understand without exception, that what he is about to say is invariably linked to, and based upon, what he just said. He is saying, “Because of this, or based on that, then this…” In other words, anything God says relative to “predestination” in this particular passage, must be explained and understood in light of the immediate context of those “whom He foreknew” from the immediately preceding passage! Those whom God “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” are those “whom He foreknew” would what, from verse 28? Those who would “love God” (See verse 28)! Those whom God knew in advance would choose – in and of their own free will – to love Him (and whether or not we love God or anyone else is completely and entirely up to us – it’s our choice. Love is always a choice {John 3:16, 14:15}; otherwise, it’s not love, its oppression and slavery), THESE He “predestined” to be conformed to the image of His Son; THESE He called, justified, and glorified. But it’s not as if they were originally somehow divinely earmarked for eternal salvation and there was absolutely nothing on earth they could do about it one way or the other; in fact, just the exact opposite is true: whether or not they became one of those “predestined” for these blessings began when they made the 100% personal free will choice to either love and obey God, or hate and reject Him to begin with! And to any and all of those who would make that personal, freewill choice based on the evidence of the written word, God has already predestined to receive those blessings – but it all begins with them and their choice!

Simply illustrated, let’s say that one of our members drives the church van. Every Sunday morning and evening as well as Wednesday evening, he drives around and picks up some of our teens whose parents don’t attend, a few of our elderly, and basically anybody who wants and needs a ride to services. Everybody knows where that van is going and why. It is going to the church building. This has been predetermined. This is the purpose of the journey. This is the journey’s culmination and destination. It has been predetermined by the elders of the church that anyone who chooses to get on that van is predestined to be at the church building for services – but it’s still the choice of every single person in town as to whether or not they get on board. It’s completely up to them. Otherwise, if the elders, in their godly love for lost souls, could somehow override every townsperson’s freewill, they would predestine or “earmark’ everyone in town to be at services! But their predestinating in advance, everyone who gets on board that van for bible study and/or worship at the church building, in no way negates the fact that each person’s destination is completely determined originally, by their own personal decision and action to either get on board or not!

The same can be seen in the Ephesians one passages on predestination. Whom did God predestine to adoption as sons (vs. 5)? And whom did He choose He would bless before the foundation of the world with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (vss. 3-4)? Simple: Each and every single one of those who would personally and of their own freewill choice, choose to believe in, be placed in, and be faithful in, Christ Jesus (Vss. 1-14). Any person who would personally choose to get on board and “into” Him (just like with the “church van” illustration above) God predestined for a very blessed journey to an extremely glorious destination! But that initial decision was, is, and always will be, 100% up to them.

Now; some in the past have cited Pharaoh as a case in point for Calvin’s concept of predestination. They would tell us that because “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 7:3, 13; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8), Pharaoh had no choice and was therefore “predestined” for destruction despite anything he might have said and/or done. Some have also sincerely sought to make a similar claim when it comes to Judas Iscariot over the years, based on passages such as Acts 1:16, which states that Peter, after Judas hung himself, said “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.” Those who would seek to defend Judas on the charge that God “predestined” him to betray Jesus based on this and similar passages, I believe, are perhaps confusing the term “predestination” with “foreknowledge” – and there is a huge and telling difference! There is a colossal difference between knowing in advance someone is going to choose to do something, and compelling them to do it. God has the distinct advantage of knowing all things ahead of time – including how we are going to react and respond in any given situation. It’s like us seeing a movie multiple times and knowing the ending. Just because we can tell someone else who hasn’t seen the movie how the characters are going to respond, certainly doesn’t mean that we are the ones who make them respond in such a fashion. God knew how and what Judas was going to do centuries before he was ever born – but that doesn’t mean that God forced him to do it or that Judas had no choice. Remember, Peter said that Jesus was “…delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23); but God still held those people who had done so, accountable for their actions because they had personally chosen to do so (Acts 2:37-38).

Pharaoh’s situation is very similar. God said He would harden Pharaoh’s heart – but He said this BECAUSE he knew Pharaoh himself would make the freewill choice to harden his own heart early on. In fact, Pharaoh is reported as having chosen to do so by his own, God-given free will (Please see: Exodus 8:15, 32; and 9:34. And as you read Exodus 9:34, please keep in mind the definition of sin from James 4:17). God knew the future, and therefore knew he would. God simply helped Pharaoh along after the fact, to do what He knew Pharaoh would decide to do at the first, in his own heart anyway.

And here’s the all-important bottom line lesson in that for us. Although God does not take away our own, personal, individual free will, but allows us to believe and choose whatever it is that we decide we want to, once we have made that decision, God will – not because He has chosen for us, but because He loves us enough to respect our decisions and wants us to have whatever it is we have decided we want, even if it is against His best efforts and intentions for us – help us to have that which we have chosen…

“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

He goes on to say in the next two verses that those who are “chosen,” became part of the chosen, when they chose to believe the truth of the gospel.


In conclusion then, keep in mind: “The price was paid, the blood was shed, the gift is free, but the choice is yours.” God did not ever predestine any person, at any time, before they were ever born, for either salvation or destruction. God leaves that choice completely up to us. He provided His Son for our sins and His word for our instruction. Whether or not we choose to believe, and accept, and obey what God has provided both for and to us, by believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27) and then abiding in Christ where all the blessings are (Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:3-14), is solely and completely up to us.

All of those who will choose His way, He has predestined for many great and wonderful blessings. Conversely, all of those who will choose to reject His way, He has predestined for deception and destruction – because that is exactly what they have indicated they want by their own chosen course of action. It’s all up to you – despite Calvinism.


1 Extensively “plagiarized” from various doctrinal and scholarly sources (Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Islamic, Mormon, Judaic, and Zoroastrianism).  No attempt is made to assert ownership or originality of the ideas presented herein.  The reader is encouraged to independently verify all assertions.  The author makes no claims of belief or non-belief for any theological assertions presented.

2 References to (single) predestination can be found in the Bible.  Nuanced understanding persists in official Church teaching.  However, teachings are most often filtered through commonly employed techniques utilizing contextual, referential, nature/character, and contradictory tests.

3 Double predestination is the belief that God (in addition to salvation) actively foreordains people for damnation.

4 Double predestination (Latin: gemina praedestinatio), or the double decree is widely condemned as heresy.

5 St. Theophan the Recluse, An Explanation of Certain Texts of Holy Scripture, as quoted in Johanna Manley's The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox: Daily Scripture Readings and Commentary for Orthodox Christians, pg. 609.

6 Herbermann, Charles George, Edward A. Pace, Condé Bénoist Pallen, Thomas J. Shahan, and Andrew Alphonsus MacErlean. The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church. New York: Robert Appleton, 1907. Print.

7 King James Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible, 1973. Print. Acts 13:48, Eph. 1:4–11; Epitome of the Formula of Concord, Article 11; Election, Mueller, J.T., Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 585–9, section "The Doctrine of Eternal Election: 1. The Definition of the Term"; and Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 124–8, Part XXXI. "The Election of Grace", paragraph 176.

8 Arminius, Jacobus, and W. Stephen Gunter. Arminius and His Declaration of Sentiments: An Annotated Translation with Introduction and Theological Commentary. Waco, TX: Baylor UP, 2012. Print.

9 "Agency". Retrieved 29 November 2014.

10 The Holy Koran; Section 81, Verses 27-29

11 Rabbi Akiva, Pirkei Avoth 3:15

12 Iyer, Meena. Faith & Philosophy of Zoroastrianism. Delhi, India: Kalpaz Publications, 2009. Print.


Pragmatic Journey is Richard (rich) Wermske's life of recovery; a spiritual journey inspired by Buddhism, a career in technology and management with linux, digital security, bpm, and paralegal stuff; augmented with gaming, literature, philosophy, art and music; and compassionate kinship with all things living -- especially cats; and people with whom I share no common language.