Is the concept of double predestination biblical? Does God create some people for the purpose of sending them to hell?
One of the most hotly debated theological topics is the question of whether or not people reject or accept God under compulsion. Are we free to choose or reject God? Or not? Double predestination is the idea that both salvation and damnation are "predestined" or "decided beforehand" and that nothing the individual does during his or her lifetime can change that final destiny. The Bible does not say anything of the kind, but double predestination can be extrapolated from Scripture when interpreted from a certain viewpoint.
The main passage that supports the idea of double predestination is found in Romans 9. Paul is making an argument about God's plan. God's plan always stands, regardless of man's action or intent, because He is God. He appoints certain things, such as the birth of Abraham's son, Isaac, and the survival of the Jewish people throughout history. In accordance with this plan, Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and that hardening was God's plan. He gives no explanation for this other than "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion" (Romans 9:15). Paul argues that some people will respond "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" (Romans 9:19). Paul's only response is "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?" (Romans 9:20–21).
This debate is applied to humanity as a whole, and the result is double predestination. But should this passage be applied to all people, or was Paul simply making an argument about Pharaoh and others, like Esau or Judas, who were "vessels prepared for destruction" and chosen for the purpose of furthering God's plan? Paul does not extrapolate the argument to all people. And elsewhere in Scripture there are verses that support a) God's desire to see all men saved (1 Timothy 2:4; John 3:16) and b) the importance of the choices we make (Luke 13:34; Matthew 11:23).
Double predestination is largely a human extrapolation of these texts in an effort to make sense of the tension that exists between God's will and our choices. The result is often that we come to a conclusion that the Bible does not explicitly give us. This usually creates more problems than it solves. One clear point of Romans 9 is that God's will is paramount, and when His will doesn't make perfect sense to us, we need to trust Him, and assume that He knows what He's doing (Proverbs 3:5–6).
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