Ans: The Scriptures teach that God has eternally purposed all things without exception for his own glory and the highest good.
Eph. 1:11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
Rom. 8:28–30. 28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
See also: Psa. 115:3; Isa. 46:9–11; Rom. 11:33–36; Eph. 1:3–14; 2:1–10; Rev. 4:11.
God as a person with a distinct personality must be a being with purpose and determination. As God himself is infinite, imminent and eternal, his purpose in relation to his creation is necessarily an eternal, all–inclusive purpose. As an infinitely wise and intelligent personality, his purpose must be the same.
The Scriptures reveal that God “works all things after the counsel of his own will,” i.e., that he has purposed or predetermined all things. This is known as foreordination or predestination. By definition “predestination” means “to determine the destiny beforehand.” The term has a three–fold usage in Scripture, referring, first, to the comprehensive, eternal purpose of God (Eph. 1:11); second, to his soteriological [pertaining to salvation] purpose (Rom. 8:28–31; 9:1–24; Eph. 1:3–14); and third, to the eschatological purpose realized in the believer’s glorification and ultimate conformity to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
The comprehensive use of the term may be described as the eternal (Isa. 46:9–10; Acts 15:18; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 4:11), immutable (Isa. 14:24; 46:11; Prov. 19:21), all–inclusive (Acts 17:25, 28; Eph. 1:11; Rev 4:11), all–wise (Jer. 51:15; Rom. 11:33–35; 16:27; Eph 3:10–11; 1 Tim. 1:17; Jude 25), just (Isa. 45:21; Zeph. 3:5; Rom. 9:14) holy (Ex. 15:11; Isa. 57:15) and loving (Rom. 8:38–39; Eph. 1:3–5) decree or purpose of God (Isa. 14:24; Dan. 4:17, 24; Eph. 1:11), whereby, from eternity, from within himself (Psa. 115:3; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 11:33–36; Eph. 1:5, 9) and for his own glory (1 Chron. 29:11–13; Eph. 1:3–6, 12–14; Rev 4:11), he has determined whatsoever comes to pass (Rom. 11:33–36; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; Neh. 9:6).
Although the terms “predestinate,” “predestination” and “foreordained” occur but seldom in Scripture, there are a wide variety of terms in the original languages [thirty–two in Heb. and Gk.] which connote Divine purpose, determination, will, sovereignty and predestination. To eliminate the idea of Divine predestination from Scripture would completely change the nature and character of God, render relative or null and void his promises and prophecies, and destroy the very essence and fabric of Scripture. It would be, in effect, the complete abandonment of biblical Christianity for an “Open Theism” or “Process Theology” in which God himself would be growing and expanding with the universe, and the future would remain unknown, even to him. To say “God” is to say “purpose,” and to say “purpose” in the context of God as revealed in Scripture, is to say “predestination.”
The biblical doctrine of predestination is a most glorious, mysterious and yet intensely practical truth. As part of Divine revelation, predestination is to be known, studied and believed (Acts 20:20, 26–27). It preserves the Creator–creature relationship that pervades Scripture. Predestination is the fountain of all grace, giving to free and sovereign grace its glorious nature and distinct character (Rom. 11:5–6; Eph. 1:3–11; 2:1–10). It is the expression of God’s sovereign, eternal, immutable love to his own, and is at the very foundation of the believer’s confidence and assurance of salvation (Deut. 7:6–8; Rom. 8:28–39; Eph. 1:13–14; 1 Pet. 1:3–5, 18–20; 1 Jn. 4:9–10, 19). Predestination is the biblical source of all boldness, encouragement and comfort in trial (Rom. 8:28–39; 1 Cor. 15:58; Gal. 6:7–9; Eph. 2:8–10). Rightly understood, it is a proper biblical incentive to holiness and responsible action (Eph. 1:4; 2:8–10; Phil. 1:29; 2:12–13; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:1–2; 1 Jn. 2:28–3:3). It must always be remembered that, scripturally, God has ordained the means as well as the end. See Questions 67 and 68.
The so–called “Problem of Evil” ought to be considered. This can be stated in the following terms: “How can evil exist in a universe created and governed by an all–powerful, benevolent [inherently and completely good] God?” This “problem” is more psychological than logical, theological or philosophical. Man would rather call God and his actions into question than submit himself to God in complete trust, even to a God who is benevolent in the context of his omnipotence and righteousness (Rom. 9:11–24). This question is largely a matter of unbelief in the face of Scriptural testimony to the purpose and patience of God in the fulfillment of his eternal purpose. But it remains a question which is often asked as a rebuttal to believers in general, and to those who hold to biblical Divine sovereignty in particular.
The possible answers, according to human reasoning, are: first, if evil exists [and it does as a sad and awful reality], then there is no omnipotent [all–powerful], benevolent God—the argument of the atheist.
Second, evil exists and therefore, if God exists, he must be either limited in his power or arbitrary in his moral character—the argument of those who espouse a non–biblical [pagan] concept of God.
Third, evil exists, therefore there is more than one God or there are equal dualistic forces [good and evil] in conflict. This is the non–biblical [pagan] argument of those who would posit a dualism (a “good god” and “bad god” or opposing good and evil forces or principles) in conflict for control of the universe.
Fourth, evil does not exist, except as an illusion in our human thinking. This is the non–biblical view of some western cults and Eastern religions (e.g., Christian Science, Buddhism). This would make any ultimate distinction between good and evil arbitrary, and thus deny the moral self– consistency of the Divine character.
Fifth, evil exists as a mystery, independent of God, who remains to a given [limited] degree powerful and benevolent, necessarily operating in a utilitarian sense. This is the inconsistent argument of some (including Pelagians and Arminians) who attempt to deliver God from the charge of being the “author of sin” and so unscripturally limit his power in order to retain his goodness.
Finally, evil exists in the universe of an omnipotent, benevolent God, who is completely sovereign over it and uses it for his own glory and the highest good—the argument of the biblical Christian [consistent Calvinist].
This final assertion is the only view that can be consistently aligned to the teaching of Scripture (e.g., Gen. 50:20; Judg. 2:15; 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14; 2 Kgs. 22:16; Psa. 76:10; Isa. 10:5–15; 45:7; Amos 3:6; Acts 4:27–28; Rom. 8:28; 9:11–21). Every other view, deriving from sinful humanistic reasoning, and so calling God and his actions into question (Rom. 9:19–21), seeks to point out an incoherence [inconsistency] in the Scriptures and the Christian system. These views either deny God and his power over evil, or limit God and seek to bring him down to the finite level (Rom. 1:21–25) and destroy his sovereignty and moral self–consistency—and thus any sufficient or consistent basis for Divine coherence.
The existence of evil in a universe created and governed by an all– powerful and benevolent God is not incoherent if God has a morally sufficient reason for this evil to exist. Such a view does not take all the mystery out of the problem of evil. God is infinite, and so are his wisdom, power and purpose. We are finite, and simply cannot comprehend all that is implied in this profound issue. Why God, who is absolutely morally self–consistent, should ordain evil, must to a given degree remain a mystery to finite beings.
Further, when considering the problem of evil, one must take into account the reality of time. What might be considered as evil in the context of past or present reality may later prove to be great blessing or to result in such (Gen. 42:36; 50:20; Acts 4:27–28; Rom. 8:28–31). Finally, only if God is in absolute control of evil can he ordain it for good, and we can trust the purpose, prophecies and promises of his Word. Do we trust the purpose of God, although we may not understand it? Do we complain against his providence? Can we by faith grasp the truth of Rom. 8:28?
By Dr. W.R. Downing