views updated May 21 2018

Predestination. The theological view that God foreknows and predetermines the outcome of all things, including an individual's life and eternal destiny; predestination is sometimes used of foreknowledge alone; and in Christianity it may apply to salvation alone or to condemnation as well (single and double predestination). Predestination is usually discussed in relation to the fierce and unending controversies in Christianity, but the term is also applied to similar doctrines in other religions, especially to qadar in Islam, but also to kāla, karma, daiva, and astrology in Hinduism, and to the (heavenly) mandate (ming) in China. The Christian doctrine became associated particularly with Augustine, who held that humans are so subverted by sin that they do not have the capacity even to seek for salvation, let alone find it: he thus doubted the ability of humans to produce works of worth in the sight of God. If any are saved, it can only be because the sovereign will of God so decrees it—although even so, it remains the case that all are still justly condemned. Pelagius, in contrast, held that humans had the freedom to choose or deny God (semi-Pelagians held that God's grace was a necessary initiative, but that works had status thereafter), but Augustine maintained that the will is enslaved to sin, that grace is needed to make the choice for God, and that this grace is given to those whom God has predestined to receive it. To say less than this is to limit the omniscience and omnipotence of God. However, the Augustinian position, while it gave adequate emphasis to the grace of God, raised problems about the responsibility of humans in their decisions, and about the justice and severity of God in predestining so many to damnation—the doctrine of reprobation. The Reformers led to a renewed stress on the Augustinian position, that since the will is wholly enslaved (as Luther held against Erasmus), even the assent of faith which admits to the community of the elect must be enabled by the grace of God, wholly and completely unearned and unmerited. But if the gift is entirely gracious, it can of course lie within God's predestined intention. Melanchthon attempted to rescue a place for the worth and validity of the human will, in the so-called ‘Synergistic’ (‘working together with’) controversy; and in Calvinism, which held strongly to predestination, comparable controversies broke out (and continue) over the scope of what God willed (and foresaw) in relation to the Fall. The argument was between those who were later called sublapsarians (or infralapsarians) and supralapsarians: did God always know, when he created, that some would be saved and some not, so that he allowed the Fall (lapsus) in order to bring this about (as the supralapsarians held); or (since, as the sublapsarians held, this seemed to make God the author of sin), did he create with a foreknowledge of the possibility of the fall, and, when it happened, then elect some to salvation, leaving the rest in a condition of enmity (but that seemed to suggest a lack of control on the part of God, and also that Christ's atonement had reference only to a few)? The Synod of Dort (1618–19) upheld the sublapsarians, whose position is expressed in the Westminster Confession (1647). Various attempts (see e.g. ARMINIUS; SUAREZ for Congruism) were made to ameliorate the most severe forms of the doctrine, attributing, as it seems to do, a character to God which would be prosecuted if exhibited by a human father to his children. More recently, therefore, Barth shifted the emphasis by taking Paul's argument to be pointing to the absolute centrality of Christ as the one who experienced in himself both election and reprobation for the sake of all humanity.


views updated May 09 2018

predestination Christian doctrine that a person's ultimate spiritual salvation or condemnation by God has been ordained in advance. According to this doctrine, people are at birth committed to the events of life, and their fate at death is already mapped out for them. As possible solutions to the problem of how this doctrine affects free will, three propositions have been put forward: the first is to refute the doctrine altogether (Pelagianism); the second is to state that God never intended to save everybody (Predestinarianism); and the third is to qualify the premise by seeing God's prevision as conditional and subject to possible revision depending on the will and spirituality of the individual. This last position is the solution to which most Christians adhere. The concept of predestination is also found in Islam. See also Pelagius


views updated May 18 2018

predestination XIV. — ecclL. prædestinātiō, -ōn-, f. prædestināre appoint beforehand, f. præ- PRE- + destināre DESTINE. The L. vb. is also the ult. source of predestine vb. XIV and predestinate pp. (XIV) and pt. (XV), the latter form being used as present tense from XVI; see -ATE2.


views updated May 23 2018

pre·des·ti·na·tion / prēˌdestəˈnāshən/ • n. (as a doctrine in Christian theology) the divine foreordaining of all that will happen, esp. with regard to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo and of Calvin.


views updated May 14 2018

predestination (as a doctrine in Christian theology) the divine foreordaining of all that will happen, especially with regard to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of St Augustine of Hippo and of Calvin.