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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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(from Late Lat. praedestinare, to determine beforehand; from the root sta, as in stare, stand), a theological term used in three senses: (I) God's unchangeable decision from eternity of all that is to be; (2) God's destination of men to everlasting happiness or misery; (3) God's appointment unto life or "election" (the appointment unto death being called "reprobation," and the term "foreordination" being preferred to "predestination" in regard to it). In the first sense the conception is similar to that of fate; this assumes a moral character as nemesis, or the inevitable penalty of transgression.

Sophocles represents man's life as woven with a "shuttle of adamant" (Antigone, 622-624). Stoicism formulated a doctrine of providence or necessity. Epicurus denies a divine superintendence of human affairs. A powerful influence in Scandinavian religion was exercised by the belief in "the nornir, or Fates, usually thought of as three sisters." In Brahminic thought Karma, the consequences of action, necessitates rebirth in a lower or higher mode of existence, according to guilt or merit. With some modifications this conception is taken over by Buddhism. The Chinese tao, the order of heaven, which should be the order for earth as well, may also be compared. According to Josephus (Antiq. xviii. I, 3, 4; xiii. 5, 9) the Sadducees denied fate altogether, and placed good and evil wholly in man's choice; the Pharisees, while recognizing man's freedom, laid emphasis on fate; the Essenes insisted on an absolute fate. This statement is exposed to the suspicion of attempting to assimilate the Jewish sects to the Greek schools. In Islam the orthodox theology teaches an absolute predestination, and yet some teachers hold men responsible for the moral character of their acts. The freethinking school of the Mo'tazilites insisted that the righteousness of God in rewarding or punishing men for their actions could be vindicated only by the recognition of human freedom.

The question of the relation of divine and human will has been the subject of two controversies in the Christian church, the Augustinian-Pelagian and the Calvinistic-Arminian. Pelagius maintained the free-will of man, and held that man's conduct, character, destiny are in his own hand. Grace, by enlightening, forgiving sin and strengthening his moral powers, helps man to fulfil this purpose. While grace is meant for all, men make themselves worthy of it by striving after virtue. This doctrine as minimizing grace was repugnant to Augustine. He regarded mankind as sinful, guilty, ruined, incapable of any good. God alone can save. His grace is effectual and irresistible. As what God has done He has eternally willed to do, grace involves predestination. God has from eternity chosen those whom He wills to save ("election"), and consequently He has also passed over those whom He leaves to perish ("praeterition").' As all deserve damnation, there is no injustice in leaving them to their deserts. The "reprobation" of the wicked is not the cause of their sin; God's foreknowledge does not make the sin necessary; how reprobation and foreknowledge are related is not made plain.

The doctrine of Augustine was revived in the 9th century by Gottschalk, who taught that God's passing over the lost meant their predestination to punishment. Hincmar of Reims persecuted him for not distinguishing the two positions. This dispute would have little interest now, had not Hincmar appealed to John Scotus Erigena, who attempted to solve the theological problem by philosophical conceptions. He denied that foreknowledge or predestination as temporal relations could be properly predicated of God as eternal; he described sin and its consequences as negations, neither caused by nor known to God; he maintained that as evil is only a stage in the development of good, there will ultimately be a universal return to God. Thus the doctrine of reprobation was emptied of meaning. This defence of orthodoxy was condemned as heretical. The controversy was kept up during the scholastic period. Thomas Aquinas followed Augustine. Duns Scotus leaned toward Semi-Pelagianism, which rejected the doctrine of predestination, and maintained a co-operation of freedom and grace. While Aquinas affirmed the positions of Augustine, he deduced them from his Aristotelian conception of God as "first mover, itself unmoved." His original contribution to the subject was his theory of divine concurrence. He distinguishes secondary causes as natural and necessary, and as voluntary and contingent; though both are set in motion by God, yet as the natural remain natural, so do the voluntary remain voluntary. But this is clearly only a verbal solution.

At the Reformation the Augustinian position was accepted by both Luther and Calvin. Melanchthon modified his earlier view in the direction of synergism, the theory of a co-operation of divine grace and human freedom. The later Lutheran doctrine is "that man, unable as he is to will any good thing, can yet use the means of grace, and that these means of grace, carrying in themselves a divine power, produce a saving effect on all who do not voluntarily oppose their influence. Baptism, e.g. confers grace, which if not resisted is saving. And God, foreseeing who will and who will not, resist the grace offered, predestinates to life all who are foreseen as believers." Calvin's view is the same as Augustine's. He held the sublapsarian view that the fall was decreed, but not the supralapsarian view that it "was decreed as a means towards carrying out a previous decree to save some and leave others to perish." The latter view was held by Beza and other Calvinists, and, it is said, repelled Arminius from Calvinism, and led him to formulate the doctrine that as repentance and faith are the divinely decreed conditions of eternal life, God has determined to give that life to all whom He foresees as fulfilling these conditions. According to Calvinism God's election unto salvation is absolute, determined by His olyn inscrutable will according to Arminianism it is conditional, dependent on man's use of grace. The Synod of Dort (1618-1619) which affirmed the sublapsarian without excluding the supralapsarian form of Calvinism, condemned the views of Arminius and his followers, who were known as Remonstrants from the remonstrance "which in four articles repudiates supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism (which regarded the Fall as foreseen, but not decreed), and the doctrines of irresistibility of grace, and of the impossibility of the elect finally falling away from it, and boldly asserts the universality of grace." In the Church of Rome the Dominicans favoured Augustinianism, the Jesuits Semi-Pelagianism; the work of Molina on the agreement of free-will with the gifts of grace provoked a controversy, which the pope silenced without deciding; but which broke out again a generation later when Jansen tried to revive the decaying Augustinianism. The church of England has passed through several disputes regarding the question whether the Thirty-Nine Articles are Calvinistic or not; while there is some ambiguity in the language, it seems to favour Calvinism. At the Evangelical Revival the old questions came up, as Wesley favoured Arminianism and George Whitefield Calvinism. In Scotland Calvinism was repudiated by James Morison, the founder of the Evangelical Union, who declared the three universalities, God's love for all, Christ's death for all, the Holy Spirit's working for all.

While retained in the creeds of several denominations, in the public teaching of the churches the doctrine of predestination has lost its place and power. While the doctrine of election magnified God's grace, and so encouraged humility in man, it minimized man's freedom, and so produced either an over-confidence in those who believed themselves elect, or despair in those who could not reach the assurance. Now it is recognized that God's sovereignty must be conceived as consistent with man's liberty. While God fulfils His all-embracing purpose, that fulfilment leaves room for the exercise of individual freedom; the freedom God has bestowed on man He can so restrain and direct as to overrule even its abuse for His own gracious ends. That God desires that all should be saved, and that the salvation of each depends on his own choice - these are the general convictions of modern theology. The problem now is the reconciliation of human freedom with divine foreknowledge. Martineau accepts Dugald Stewart's solution. "There is no absurdity in supposing that the deity may, for wise purposes, have chosen to open a source of contingency in the voluntary actions of his creatures, to which no prescience can possibly extend." Others hold the problem to be insoluble, and not needing to be solved.

(A. E. G.*)

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Predestination'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​p/predestination.html. 1910.
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