Election and the Subset Remnant: Thoughts on Predestination

Posted By on January 21, 2011

Finally got this video made. The audio isn’t great, so turn up your speakers. I hope this helps you see how I’m thinking about predestination with respect to election and the subset of the saved remnant, per earlier posts on those topics.

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48 Responses to “Election and the Subset Remnant: Thoughts on Predestination”

  1. Janina says:

    The best proposal I’ve seen-thank you. Isa 46:10 confirms – God decides the end from the beginning. And in this case the end justifies the means, since God has absolute control over all.
    You’re right, predestination does not mean deciding who is to be saved (on the individual level) but who will be called to salvation and at what time in human history. God also forknew who will answer His call and who will “stick” with it to the end.
    I hope that in mentioning “quickening”, you refer to being enabled by the Spirit to grasp God’s calling, understanding God’s word, overcoming and most of all being begotten by the Spirit.
    Our hope is to be “quickened” like Christ was (1Pe 3:18), resurrected, being truly born of God one day

  2. Nobunaga says:

    Thanks for making the video

    I agree with your view in the main. I would like to chew on the last two bullet points on your proposal in the video. Would you agree that God has ordered the creation with laws natural and moral and violation of the laws bring consequences (evil). So the choice and command is given by God to obey and choose good, time and time again Deuteronomy 30:19 but to take the option of disobedience in whatever form will result in adverse consequences (evil), I dont agree completely with Augustine but i do see the validity in not designating evil as an entity in and of itself, but as a “lack” as i tried to explain. As it has been said our ultimate good in this life is to love God with all our hearts, minds and strength and we could not do that if we didn’t have the option not to.

    The predestination of evil is the biggest issue for me with this topic, just wanted to run that past you to see if you agree or can expand on it or disagree completely ?

    • MSH says:

      I’d say violation of natural laws probably brings death (gravity comes to mind). Violation of the moral laws may produce more evil, but it *shows* evil in itself. The stuff in Deuteronomy was part of the suzerain-vassal covenant structure followed in that covenant, and so pertained to the people with whom the covenant was entered (Israel). They did indeed suffer the curses (cf. the exile). I don’t see that happening, though, without a preponderance of the population going astray, and I don’t see it as having *direct* relevance to anyone now (since the punishment was exacted already). But indirectly, it makes for a good object lesson to all believers of the fact that God did and will judge the elect (and the saved) as He deems appropriate.

      • chris delany says:

        i was hoping that you Micheal would help me with this, i think that god being all knowing would imply he could not know the unknowable and free will would not be knowable. i do not see how it can be, if will was created then freedom of it would require no knowledge of what that will would chose.

        • chris delany says:

          sorry for spelling mistakes.

        • MSH says:

          I need to know how you’re thinking here. How would the existence of a being who is all knowing produce the necessity of an unknowable thing that such a being could not know?

  3. Ilia Panayotov says:

    Great! There are some who say man’s free will impairs God’s sovereignity and glory. But if you really think about it, isn’t God greater when He creates beings like Himself (in some aspects), gives them free will and so providentially orders the world that even through their free choices (right or wrong) He still accomplishes His ends. In contrast, on the all-deterministic view God creates toy robots.

  4. haibane13 says:

    I have often heard that God predestinating every event makes him sovereign and any objection would be to deny his rule , but with this I can see how God we can have a free will without God to turning the other way .

  5. haibane13 says:

    I have often heard that God predestinating every event makes him sovereign and any objection would be to deny his rule , but with this I can see how we can have a free will without God turning the other way .

  6. Ed Roberts says:

    Is there not an assumption in all this that God gets what he wants?…. so lets say that God predestines people… do we know that in fact those people carry through with that predestination?… I ask this because let suppose God predestines all men the same… that he predestines all men for salvation… that is after all his desire from scripture (I Tim. 2)… but suppose that does not happen… he does not get what he predestines… why could that not be?… then the Calvinistic argument goes away… we do not have the whim (or some would argue, the wisdom) of God working such that some men are saved and others are not… based on God’s predestination…

    • MSH says:

      I take language of this sort in a way akin to God “repenting” of things he did in the OT. God can genuinely express regret, but that fact, and the fact that he foreknows what would lead up to that, didn’t move him to do things differently. God extends the offer of salvation. He might want everyone to be saved (I actually don’t think the statement is comprehensive, say, it didn’t apply to the Amalekites of the OT, e.g.), but he isn’t going to force everyone to (that would be removing freedom, which would undo our being imagers of Him). That he wants something doesn’t obligate Him to influence all people equally, either. I’m also willing to consider that, while all the saved are not necessarily predestinated. Only a remnant is guaranteed. Salvation may be open as well for people to believe whose belief was not predestinated. I’m thinking here of instances like the 144,000 in Revelation (which need not be taken literally). Yes, *they* are sealed, which appears to mean elect AND saved — but they are therefore then witnesses to people who are by definition not sealed, but who CAN believe (and if they believe and we call them predestinated, we’d have predestinated people who were not sealed for salvation, which seems to defeat the characterization). The description isn’t really clear, though, but it might mean we have such a category as “not predestinated to believe, but who can nonetheless believe.” Again, given a severing of foreknowledge and predestination as *necessarily* connected, this seems possible.

      • Ilia Panayotov says:

        What do you mean – that God doesn’t want some people to be saved? I think it’d be better to say that God wants all men to be saved but it is not possible for Him to save everyone (some would choose against Him, with or without regeneration). Also, aren’t all men drawn to God but some of them resist till God leaves them to their own iniquities? Or perhaps God does not draw only the ones He knows will choice against Him in every set of circumstances?

        (side question: Do you think the Nephilim had the ability to walk in the right path, so to speak? It’s obvious that they were genetically different from normal people but what about their souls? Were the Nephilim inherently evil or they were like us, but with different bodies?)

        • MSH says:

          Let’s use the Amalekites as a starting point – did God want them saved? Why annihilate them then? Further, why put some people groups under the kherem-ban. It’s raer in the OT, but it is there. I can’t think of a coherent argument that would demonstrate God really wanted them saved.

          The nephilim question to me is irrelevant. There are no nephilim today, and in the OT they were targeted for destruction (and their descendants are those people groups targeted by kherem).

          • Ilia Panayotov says:

            Well, I take it as something similar to the following situation: We’re in Ancient Israel. An Isrealite man has just killed a fellow Israelite. The murderer is arrested and is about to be executed. Now the judge may not want to have the criminal executed, because he loves him as his fellow man. Nevertheless, the judge must do what is just and according to the Law.
            So, in a similar way, I think God loves all men and wants them to be saved, but He, as the Great Judge, must execute justice. (you could even say justice IS part of love).

            My inquiry about the Nephilim wasn’t an argument, it was just a question. I really don’t know exactly what they were like. They obviously had different bodies but, regarding their souls, were they like us (or maybe they were inherently evil)? Can you explain?


            • MSH says:

              This doesn’t address the Amalekite issue or the kherem issue.

              • Ilia Panayotov says:

                I don’t see how it doesn’t – if they are humans, they must have gone very wrong in order to get destroyed like that (or if they haven’t gone wrong – well, they will not “lose their reward”). On the other hand, if we are talking about Nephilim and if they are inherently evil, then they just have to be destroyed. But I don’t know if the Nephilim are inherently evil – that’s what I asked.

                Anyway, why do you think the Amalekites were destroyed and why were the Nephilim descendants put under kherem?

                • MSH says:

                  This would take chapters to answer (I know since I’ve done that in a book draft). Short answer: if you overlay the places on a map that are put under kherem with the people groups associated with nephilim bloodlines and unusual height (the OT gives descriptions of their geographical clustering), they line up. The problem (one anyway) with the “non-human” idea is that some of the passages that describe their destruction refer to these bloodlines in human terms: e.g., Deut 3:6. I am moving loser to a “mytho-historic” view of the nephilim bloodlines, and that option will be in the book. I’m using “myth” there in genre terms, and I of course do not have a problem with the supernatural. “Myth” as I use it (and many other scholars) does not mean “not real”.

                  • Ilia Panayotov says:

                    Yeah, you’ve said that you use the term “myth” in the sense C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkin used it. But my question is: are these Nephilim and their descendants inherently evil? Do they have different souls than ours (besides the bodies). I’m asking because I’m interested in this subject as a fellow Bible reader and Christian.

                  • MSH says:

                    I’m not sure I want to use this blog to get into this subject. It would be easier for me to send you some stuff by email.

                  • Ilia Panayotov says:

                    Ok (if you’re talking about me). My e-mail is maverick_cool@abv.bg

                  • Ed Roberts says:

                    Can you just post the material for all to see?

                  • MSH says:

                    which material – ?

      • Ed Roberts says:

        God wants all men to be saved… but only in his way… I think back to Jesus’ words that he spoke in parables… so that in seeing they would not see… etc.. lest they repent… I take this to mean the following… if they were not willing to follow him to find the answer… they would not see… kind of a filtering technique… so even if God’s desire is there… there is no getting past His methods…

        • Ilia Panayotov says:

          That’s a very interesting view of why Jesus said that about His parables. I’ve never thought it about it this way. And, yeah, I agree – God wants all men saved but only His way. But if you think about it, God’s way might really be the only possible way. The Gospel is as basic as it gets, it’s the most logical solution of mankind’s problem (sin). Either way, God knows what He’s doing.

  7. Ashley says:

    Thanks for this post – the argument and reasoning was very clear. Your discussion of free will fits with something my father has been arguing for a few years now – he no longer calls it “free will” but “permissive will” to capture the idea that you are advocating: we are free to make choices, but we don’t have the freedom to disrupt God’s ultimate plan, i.e., the ends that you label as “predestinated.” He calls it permissive will because God allows us the freedom to make choices, but that freedom is circumscribed by the fact that the ultimate plan has already been decided and so we are deciding within the confines of God’s predestined ends.

    I’m sure this is a flawed analogy, but I like to think of it as a highway system – you can choose your route, but God has decided your final destination, and He will adjust the roads as needed to get you to right place in the end. I’m not sure how well that relates to unbelievers, but, as a believer, it comforts me to know that I don’t have the power to screw up God’s ultimate plan for my life – and it chastens me to remember that I do have the power to make achieving his plan a lot more complicated for myself. If I go too far off-road, it’s going to be a painful adjustment to get back on to the right highway.

  8. haibane13 says:

    This might be off track but in the video it seemed as though it was making a separation between regeneration and salvation . Are they the same or different ?

    • MSH says:

      Yes; regeneration (in classical calvinistic terms — just using that for reference — is the “making alive” out of spiritual death so that the human can believe). Calvinists would argue, then, that only the saved are regenerated, since they believe in irresistible grace.

  9. Areadymind says:

    I always keep my head off of this particular debates’ chopping block. But for some crazy reason, I do not feel the slightest apprehension here on this blog because of how civil everyone appears to be. Usually I am repulsed at how people discuss this issue (particularly because most people who talk about it, are incapable of maintaining a Christ-like disposition when doing so) but I appreciate everyone’s responses so far for the maturity they bring.

    It is hard for me not to just put a 100% stamp of approval on that video Dr. Heiser (I have yet to mull it over and prove it a bit first.) I have thought for a long time that those who turn their free-agency over to God, will be those who ultimately will be participant with Him to achieve His fullest design. In other words, I agree, God has an end-time scheme. He has an intention to perform, and the fullness of his will and his ultimate intention is like a Vacuum cleaner engineered to pull into it those who are willing to be yielded to His blue-print.

    I have heard it said, for example, that God predestined Pilate, Herod and the particular people at the cross, to kill Jesus, meaning that God had predestined a “sin.” However, I am not convinced that passage can be used that way (Acts 2:23.) Now there may be Greek nuances I do not capture, but it seems to me that it was Gods predestined will for Jesus to “be delivered” into “wicked hands,” but there is nothing there saying that it was particularly the wicked hands who, in fact did it. Again I see this as a “will vacuum.” Pilate and Herod were the nearest fodder (although I think there are prophecies in the old testament that may allude to Herod or at least that family-line that extends all the way back to Esau, and Christ dealing with him ultimately.)

    Romans 1 makes it clear that those who are completely reprobate and in their sin are under the wrath of God already. Their own sin is a judgment against them, so as instruments of unrighteousness, it would seem completely fair, and also submitting to the intention of the free-agency of man, for God’s eyes to rove and find the nearest clay-pot. Not just any clay pot, but one that is not sufficient for anything but destruction to use as an instrument of destruction. Especially if they are those whom God has completely turned over to the uncleanness of their hearts.

    The argument that man’s free-agency has the capacity to override the sovereignty of God has, for me, always been a philosophical postulate that has little basis in scripture (in my opinion.) It is a “logical” conclusion drawn from the minds of fallen men. It is like saying that a vial of water shot into the ocean from a cannon has the capacity to change the ocean’s currents. ( Well, at least if that was the case, we could no longer blame El Nino’ for all the worlds problems.) Look at how God dealt with Nimrod and the tower of Babel. Nimrod was doing something God did not like…so, God simply hindered the fullest Babylonian capacity. I cannot fathom why this is so hard to understand. Nimrod, with free agency, started the Babylonian system. God prevented it from becoming too out of control. He even redeemed the broken language system in the book of Acts on the day of Pentecost.

    • MSH says:

      See the posts and comments on the blog about predestination and free will – I address the crucifixion issue there; had to since I don’t believe God needs evil.

  10. Cognus says:

    I appreciate this Michael. Very thorny subject that has, I think, unresolvability built into it, yet I try….

  11. WSGAC says:

    Not sure how you get away from God predestinating everything by simply saying he predestinates only the “end” toward which he is steering everything (your words).

    Contra: Simply pick a point in time…let’s say the time your watch reads at this moment. Has not God brought you and me to this point in time in some way, or is it just at the end of time that we can say this?

    I think we make the mistake of thinking of God as time contingent, where time itself is sovereign. God exists just as much in the past as he does in the present as he does in the future. At every point in time (where you and I exist) God is present, as time is present in him, whereas you and I only exist at one point in time (the present). If He exists at all points then it can be said at any point, “God has steered things to be what they are right now.” And this can be true just as much in Abraham’s day, as it is in our day, as it will be at the end/goal of history.

    • MSH says:

      The answer is that, if there is no necessary link between foreknowledge and predestination, then we cannot say God predestinates everything that he foreknows. That means individual acts of people (or any free agent) may not be predestinated. And God doesn’t care. He would allow free agents to do many things without predestinating them, but has the ability to influence decisions in many layers and to many degrees of “separation” from any given event.

      If you think God is “outside time” you likely have a simplistic view of that issue. Having God outside of time has some prickly theological problems (and philosophical problems). It is typically assumed by Christians without knowing the pitfalls. See the following links by William Lane Craig if you want to investigate the issues:

      Craig Archive on Divine Eternity: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/menus/eternity.html
      I recommend starting with this one: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/eternity.html

      • Nobunaga says:

        There are two competing definitions of time so how can a argument go on if we dont know what the subject is ? WLC is going ahead with b theory (?) after making some arguments for it, but the charge of filtering the data through a presupposition could be valid here (Could) but it all depends once again on what time is and we simply do not know.

        I still hold that God is outside time after reading the material and WLC’s book on it also. I’m exactly back where i started knowing nothing about the subject, and i lost some hair in the process.

  12. Cognus says:

    Especially to this very valuable [to me] discussion, I will reco a short book I would not reco to a less inquisitive group, that of Jewish Physicist/Torah-scholar/debater Gerald Schroeder, entitled “God According To God”. http://www.geraldschroeder.com/AccordingToGod.aspx
    and Amazon and all the usual sources.
    This is an uncomfortable read for those unfamiliar with the arguments. For me it is liberating not because I agree with Schroeder’s assertions but because I agree with his exposition of troublesome Bible passages, and respect his scientific integrity.

    I recommend [strongly] the Introduction and Appendix be read first and thoroughly.

    Though this view is not a centerpiece in Schroeder’s brief book, the concept that recurs to me over and over, ceaselessly is this: Was YHWH bluffing when He made His Man to be a “God” in the physical U ??? The rhetorical answer is NO. I accept that and move on: Did YHWH endow Man with “Godlike” properties. The easy counsel of scripture is YES…. He did [if you take the scriptures seriously].
    If Man had Godlike authority in this temporal realm, and had the ability to truly CREATE, and if CREATion means to conceive and animate that which has not previously been, then YHWH does not know the unknowable – He truly delegated to his Man [his under-ruler] the authority to create within the confines of the U. That which is not, can not be known because there is nothing to know.

  13. Aaron says:

    I thought the video was very well done. The problem I had with Calvinism was that it seemed so fatalistic (a concept that was attacked very early in the Church). However, they did make a few valid points about God’s will always being fulfilled and not the will of man (God had the right to save whom He wished). Eastern Orthodoxy, which is what I am part of, really has no set doctrine for predestination. However, our concept of theosis promotes belief in Christ and co-operating with Him to the end (it is only natural if you truly believe in Christ, then your actions will be reflective of that belief). I like your points because your model does allow for the fact that some are called by God to the elect. My own priest became a Christian when he had a vision similar to St. Paul’s vision. So, I still believe God calls some, but your model also allows some to choose Christ freely. In the end, I love your model because it confirmed a sneaking suspicion I always had. The predestination vs. free will argument isn’t one or the other; it is actually both.

  14. Charlie Simpson says:

    Dr. Heiser, Is your model on the video similar to Greg Boyd’s partly open theodicy articulated in “SATAN and thre Problem of EVIL” book? Does it differ any from John Wesley’s idea that God’s plan of salvation was predetermined but the man was not? What is your opinion on man as a three part being (body, soul, & spirit) 1Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12? It seems most calvinists view man as only body and soul. My understanding is that salvation and regeneration of the human spirit happens when Christ through the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the spirit of man at the “New Birth”. Therefore salvation and regeneration seem the same to me. I guess I don’t fully understand the calvanist concept of regeneration. If man is a spirit being who posses a soul and dwells in a body then were does man’s spirit come from ,God or man? I don’t mean these questions to be contentious in any way. I genuinely want to here your answers and opinions.

    Charlie Simpson

    • MSH says:

      Greg and I disagree in that I don’t see allowance for genuine free will necessitating God not knowing choices (real and possible) – since I disconnect foreknowledge and predestination. On the body, soul, spirit thing, please read my archived posts on biblical anthropology.

  15. Ollie says:

    Hi everyone. It seems I’m a little late to the party.

    While your proposal sounds reasonable and attractive I am afraid I don’t see how it grapples with passages such John 6.

    v. 37, 38, 40 “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me….And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day”.

    v. 44. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day”.

    These passages appear to say:

    1. The Father initiates the salvation of the elect by his drawing;

    2. Those drawn by the Father always respond by coming to the Son resulting in their salvation;

    3. The salvation of those drawn by the Father is certain;

    4. Those who are not drawn by the Father have no capacity to come to the Son and be saved.

    5. The will of the Father is to save those whom he draws.

    • MSH says:

      this isn’t contradictory – either way you have “elect” who are not saved (because not drawn or some other line of argument).

  16. Robert Sparks says:

    I’ve been thinking about this subject(s) all year and just stumbled on your site. I read the Bible for the first time 4 years ago at age 49. I did not seek any help in understanding it and just searched the Bible to explain the Bible. I intentionally stayed away from churches and religious web sites for a year. Since then I have searched for a church to belong to and I can’t find one that teaches the Bible. There is always some weird non biblical belief that distinguishes them. I did find a church for fellowship and just ignore the times when they get into it’s non biblical teachings. One thing of interest to this subject was when I first read the Bible I noticed scripture that pointed toward man having free will and other scripture that pointed mans lack of free will. That was a problem till I realised that when the Bible is talking about man having free will it was always in reference to unsaved man and when talking about man not having free will it was always about saved man. I was wondering if you (Michael) have ever addressed this in any of your writings.

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