Loose Screw #3: Predestination of…Everything?


This is what happened when a young woman told her pastor that she was raped by a fellow church member:

“He said, “[My name], isn’t it such a comfort to know that whatever happened to you…WAS SOVEREIGNLY ORDAINED BY GOD AND WAS STILL BETTER THAN YOU DESERVED?””

http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/the-stories/, SGM Casualty’s Story

Yes, a pastor said that to a rape victim.

I wish it surprised me, but it doesn’t.  I remember, after losing a baby, I was 33 weeks pregnant, and terrified of losing the baby I was carrying.  A friend looked at me with pity and said, “Taylor Joy, you know if the baby dies, that it was God’s will.”

It was also “God’s will” that I be born to an abusive mother.  It was also “God’s will” that I stumble into Christian Patriarchy.  Apparently, all bad things that happen in life are God’s fault.

Or are they?

We’ve been exploring the reasons why so many victims of abuse have been told by their churches to remain in an abusive relationship.  (If you haven’t read the first two installments in the series, you can find them here and here.  Please read them before you continue on, to know my heart and motivation for exploring this issue.)

Regardless of where we as believers stand on predestination verses free-will, we need to examine how our beliefs are informing our daily lives.  What fruit are these doctrines bearing?

To begin with, do some Christians believe that God’s will includes:

-allowing rapists to rape?

-allowing murderers to murder?

-allowing widows and orphans to be robbed?

The answer is, unfortunately, yes.

Ignorantly, I once believed that “Predestination” was only a doctrine concerning salvation: “God chooses some people to be saved before their creation, and chooses others to be condemned to hell.”

(Honestly, that didn’t sound like the God who would come in the flesh, confine Himself to time and space, and willingly give His life on a cross for people who were content in their sin.  But whatever. I mean, smarter people than myself have struggled through Calvinism/Armenianism/Free Will/Predestination–and we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m a musician, not a seminarian. In the words of Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?” )

No.  Predestination, for some believers, means that every.single.act. was predestined by God, to show His glory to the elect.

For example:

“For what seems more attributable to chance than the branch which falls from a tree, and kills the passing traveler? But the Lord sees very differently, and declares that he delivered him into the hand of the slayer .”
“I concede more – that thieves and murderers, and other evil-doers, are instruments of divine providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute the judgments which he has resolved to inflict.”
And even better:
“As I have hitherto stated only what is plainly and unambiguously taught in Scripture, those who hesitate not to stigmatise what is thus taught by the sacred oracles, had better beware what kind of censure they employ…
In all ages there have been wicked and profane men, who rabidly assailed this branch of doctrine.”
Not only does God predestine ALL evil things that happen, believing otherwise means you’re a wicked, profane, anti-scripture heretic who rabidly assails the truth!
Talk about stopping discussion.
(By the way, I was quoting John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”  You can read  the whole thing for yourself here , and you can read a nifty “Dear John” letter that summarizes one man’s position against it.)
I’m not here to discuss anything for or against Calvinism.  However, if a pastor (or heck, any Christian) believes that murder, rape, infanticide, genocide, totalitarianism, abuse–and me stubbing my toe on the dresser this morning–are all caused by God, how would he react to an abuse victim sitting in front of him at 1am?
Even worse, if any Christian believed (like Calvin) that these things were either a) brought about as God’s judgment for sin, or b) acts that God intended to eventually work together FOR THE GOOD OF THE VICTIM, what would he counsel that victim to do next?
Go home. Pray. Find a way to forgive the abuser.  Submit to your husband/parents/spiritual authority. It’s the Biblical thing to do.  Show Christ’s love in the face of abuse. After all, Hebrews 11 clearly states that not all believers will be blessed in this life–and I can clearly see that you haven’t been sawed in two–so trust that God is going to bring some good out of this.
I. Could. Scream.
And of course, if you combine this “loose screw” with “Abuse of Authority” and a Van Tillian”Presuppositionalist” view of unbelievers, you will go home thinking that 1) God, in His authority and sovereignty, ordained your abuse–either for your good, for the good of others, or as judgment for your sin, and 2) No one outside of the church can offer you anything *better* than God’s perfect will for life.
Calvinists point out that Romans 9 clearly states that God predestines some and not others to salvation.  However, the “abuse apologists” that I’ve encountered seem to forget that Jeremiah 19:5 also clearly states: They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.
At the Linger conference, Matt Chandler said with a smile that “predestination” in Greek still means….predestination! He got some laughs from the audience with that one. I’m willing to bet that “nor did it enter my mind” in Hebrew still means…”nor did it enter my mind.”
Throughout Scripture, God shows his heart for those who are oppressed, who are hungry, who are beaten down, who are wandering around like sheep without a shepherd. Yet, like Pharisees of old, we as a church have theologically worked ourselves into a pretzel.
We have  become a stronghold that silences victims in the name of “forgiveness” and “God’s sovereignty” and allows abusers to continue to abuse.  (After all, we’re all just a bunch of sinners carrying around our own body of death. How are you any better than he is?)
Then, after being fed the “sovereignty” line for however many years, when we finally do start to speak up, people tell us it was our choice to be in the abusive relationship, or abusive church, and why the heck didn’t we get out sooner?
Which brings us to loose screw #4….
As all contingencies whatsoever depend on it, therefore, neither thefts, nor adulteries, nor murders, are perpetrated without an interposition of the divine will. (1.17.1) – See more at: http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=12190#sthash.v4OLj8Mc.dpuf

12 thoughts on “Loose Screw #3: Predestination of…Everything?

  1. It’s a horrible conflation of sovereignty and causation. Just because God is sovereign over all doesn’t mean he approves of all nor that he causes it all. Sometimes sovereigns have to deal with people doing things the sovereign most certainly did not want people to do in the first place.

  2. God as micromanager, meticulously in control, is by far the most repulsive, psychotic, blasphemous, destructive and painful lie I have ever been taught. Love it when people call out this mindless nonsense. Great post.

  3. Taylor Joy

    Yes – Definitly a loose screw -”Predestination of…Everything.”

    I’ve had a challenge over the years with both – “Predestination” and “Free Will.”

    Did God, “Predestinate” me to make my own choices, to have “Free Will?”
    Or, did God, give me “Free Will” to choose to believe in “Predestination?”

    • Did God, “Predestinate” me to make my own choices, to have “Free Will?”
      Or, did God, give me “Free Will” to choose to believe in “Predestination?”

      Amos, that is one of the best ways to present the tension between those positions I’ve ever read. Nicely done and well said.

      • Hi Tim

        I’m-a-thinkin – Jesus is able… To make them both work… Somehow???
        To do these things anyway he wants to, whenever He wants to…

        I mean, Jesus takes two highly flammable gases, puts them together in the right amount…

        Seems, Jesus has me on a need to know basis…
        And, this ain’t one of those things I need to know… 😉

        I mean, Jesus takes two highly flammable gases, Hydrogen and Oxygen…
        He puts them together in the proper amounts…

        And, we get some H2O, a liquid – that puts out the flames…

        Yeah – I think I’d rather follow Jesus – Then some dead guys… 😉

  4. Taylor Joy

    Today, when I come across this debate on a blog – Often, I’ll Post this…

    In my experience – “Calvinists and Armenians” do NOT really believe what they teach.
    Because, it seems that those who believe it’s “either – or,” and only see one option,
    have some questions to overcome.

    1 – If “Predestination” is the only correct option?
    And a believer/adversary, believes in, defends, and teaches “Free Will?”
    Then – Wasn’t it God who “Predestined” them to believe in “Free Will?”

    For how could they believe in “Free Will” unless
    God “Predestined” them to believe in “Free Will?”

    2 – If “Free Will” is the only correct option?
    And a believer/adversary, believes in, defends, and teaches “Predestination?”
    Then – Wasn’t it God who gave them a “Free Will” to choose “Predestination?”

    For how could they believe in “Predestination”unless
    God gave them a “Free Will” to choose “Predestination?”

    So where is the argument? Debate?
    Now I try to agree with my adversary quickly. And have some fun… 😉

    When I repeat scriptures that talk about “Free Will” and choosing, (there are a few)
    and I get corrected by a Calvinist, I just agree an say…
    “Gee, I must have been “predestined” to believe in “Free Will.””

    And – when I repeat scriptures that talk about “Predestination” (there are a few)
    and I get corrected by an Armenian, I just agree an say…
    “Gee, I must be using my “Free Will” to believe in “Predestination.”“

    When Arminius preached, and God was calling someone, that person believed…
    They could choose to follow Christ.

    When Calvin preached, and someone was calling out to God, that person believed…
    They were chosen to follow Christ.

    Why would anyone follow”Mere Fallible Humans?” – Arminius or Calvin?
    When they can follow Jesus? MY Sheep – Hear MY voice – and Follow Me. John 10:27.

    As far as I’m concerened – Calvinists and Armenians – Are trouble makers… 🙂
    And should go away… Please, just go away… You make my brain hurt…

    Please, someone, anyone, – Just give me Jesus.

  5. Pingback: The Advice My Church Gave to an Abused Woman, Part 2 | Explorations in Egalitarianism

  6. Hi, Taylor Joy! I e just discovered your blog, & it’s resonating with me & several friends! Did you ever finish writing about the loose screws?!

    • No, I really didn’t, but honestly I let people who were Neo-Calvinist Complementarians intimidate me into thinking I didn’t know what I was talking about. 😦 Plus, I moved my blog to Iprefercaptain.com, where you’ll be able to read about a HUGE family crisis my daughter went through. 😛 Fun times. But now she’s medically stable, and maybe I should go back & revisit this. 🙂 Thank you for connecting here.

  7. I love the “loose screws” image!! Makes me think back to when everyone was so worried that I was “back sliding” as I questioned things that were not clear or simply sounded like nonsense….I started to wonder if I was crazy. Now I see that the screws were loosening so that I could let go of the garbage and make space for that which was born of love and truth. So glad I have stumbled upon your blog 🙂

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