N.T. Wright on Predestination

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Calvinism. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to N.T. Wright on Predestination

  1. Royce says:

    The context of the Romans 8 passage is not the Jews. It is clearly stated, “those who are in Christ Jesus” in verse 1 of the chapter.

    The same thing is present in Ephesians 1. “the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Jesus Christ”. The “us” and “we” pronouns in the whole passage do not refer to the Jews, or Jesus, but to those who are “saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ.

    There is a discussion to be had concerning these passages, that’s for sure. But to create a context that isn’t there is not the way to begin in my view.

  2. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Royce wrote,

    The context of the Romans 8 passage is not the Jews. It is clearly stated, “those who are in Christ Jesus” in verse 1 of the chapter.

    The topic is not the Jews so much as the new Israel. As Paul will spell out in detail in 9 – 11, Israel is redefined as Christ as faithful Israel with the faithful Gentiles grafted in. So “Israel” shifts meanings in Jesus, from the physical descendants of Abraham to the Kingdom of Heaven — which is a continuation of physical Israel. And this is a theme that recurs throughout Romans. Such as —

    (Rom. 4:16-17 ESV) 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring– not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”– in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

    (Rom. 2:25-29 ESV) 25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

    (Rom. 9:6-8 ESV) 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

    Now, with that in mind, take a fresh look at –

    (Rom. 8:14-15 ESV) 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

    Israel is “sons of God” in the Torah. Paul is redefining “sons of God” = Israel as those adopted by God (made sons of God contrary to nature) by the Spirit. He is referring primarily to Gentiles as adopted, as faithful Israel was already part of God’s family.

    “Slavery” always carries echoes of Egypt. You, the newly defined Israel, are not slaves — not anymore. God called your spiritual ancestors out of Egypt so he could adopt Israel and make them sons, and now he is adding Gentiles to his called, adopted people — not for slavery (of course), and therefore for freedom.

    (Rom. 8:16-17 ESV) 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs– heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

    “Heirs” means an inheritor of the Promised Land in Torah. By the Gentiles being adopted, they become children and heirs of God — joining Israel. They will inherit the restored, redeemed creation, not just the Promised Land. The meek will inherit the earth.

    (Rom. 8:19-21 ESV) 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

    Who will obtain this glory? The children of God. Who are they? Well, faithful Israel plus, by adoption, the faithful Gentiles. The true nature of the children of God will be revealed when Jesus returns, at the general resurrection.

    (Rom. 8:28 ESV) 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

    “Called” is another Israel term. Abraham was called by God (Isa 51:2), as was Israel (Hos 11:1). “Those are who are called” is therefore Israel as redefined in Jesus.

    (Rom. 8:29 ESV) 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

    Whom did God foreknow? Well, in Paul’s eyes, this is faithful Israel + faithful Gentiles. When Paul speaks of foreknowledge and destiny, he is speaking of what has been prophesied, because prophecy is destiny. And what was prophesied is the Messiah, the Spirit, and the blessing of the Gentiles at the very time Paul is writing.

    “Those he foreknew” is thus the church/Kingdom as continuation of Israel. Because of the prophecies, it was destined that God would bless the nations so that the kingdom of God would include the Gentiles, thereby providing many brothers for Jesus, sons of God. God knew it before it happened, which is why it could be prophesied.

    (Rom. 8:30 ESV) 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    So God called has “called” (a term applied to Israel in the OT) both Jews and Gentiles.

    (Rom. 9:22-24 ESV) 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

    So God predestined a time when, through Jesus, he would call both Jews and Gentiles as the redefined Israel.

    “Glorified” is a reference back to the glory that will be revealed in the “sons of God” — Israel redefined — at the general resurrection. It’s an allusion to —

    (Dan. 12:2-3 ESV) 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

    So whether we call it “Israel,” “the church,” “the kingdom,” or even “called” or “justified,” it’s the same people. The point is that Paul is not speaking of personal predestination in Calvinist terms (neither pro nor con) but about the fact that all this is happening according to God’s plan — the preaching of the gospel to the Jews, the failure of the Jews to respond, the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles coming in — all as explained by Paul in great detail in chapters 9 – 11. This language is an anticipation of the story to be told of how God called Israel and then called the Gentiles — all in accordance with prophecy and hence foreknown and predestined.

  3. Royce Ogle says:

    I don’t disagree with most of what you said. When you come to a text that doesn’t fit the template of your presupposition you have three choices. You can believe it, ignore it (the most common response), or you can attempt to explain it away the way a defense attorney tries to create a new reality with words when the evidence tells a different story.

    It’s easy to dismiss “Calvinism” with a few words. When you do you are also dismissing hundreds of years of study by some of the best scholars the world has known, and more importantly the scriptural foundation that teaching is built on.

    I strongly disagree with some of what Reformed men teach but I can’t simply say I disagree with Calvinism . Jay, I don’t put you in this category, but many of the most adament critics don’t know what Reformed people believe. A person should at a minimum know some facts about what he dismisses as false teaching.

    The immediate context of the passages I cited is clear. Most commentaries agree.

  4. Monty says:

    Royce said,” When you come to a text that doesn’t fit the template of your presupposition you have three choices. You can believe it, ignore it (the most common response), or you can attempt to explain it away the way a defense attorney tries to create a new reality with words when the evidence tells a different story. ”

    I would say there is a 4th thing you can do, you can strive to understand it in it’s context. (as most Calvinist, I have read, seem to fail to do- Calvinism IMO falls apart when you take away the individual aspect of it, as Jay has shown, Wright, and also a brother named Bob Hendron has shown in a small paper back called, “Chosen For Riches” put out back in the 1980’s) If you just “believe it” you could just be believing your preconceived notion of it. Then it’s like the old saying we mock, “The Bible, says what it means(so I just believe it) and it means what it says.” ( I don’t argue with it, and neither should you). No, but you try your best to understand the true meaning, even though, it rubs against dearly held(often supplied) beliefs.

    The idea that God picks and chooses winners and losers(saved or lost) based on nothing in the individual(their choosing God of their own volition), other than His own whims is horrid IMPO. Welcome to Zombie world. We could argue it’s his right to do so and that would be true, but it if he exercised that “right” then it would diminish greatly His love for all HIs creation, not to mention the appeal of the passion of the Christ, in humbling himself and making himself vulnerable to either being loved or rejected. Calvinism simply takes away that freedom of choice. In Calvinism Jesus didn’t die for everyone ,but only for those predetermined few. In Calvinism(though they wouldn’t say this) the argument could be made that God is so “unlovable” that he has to, in a sense, force himself on us. But all throughout scripture we see a God who makes himself vulnerable by allowing his creation the choice to accept and follow Him, or to refuse HIs love and grace and deny him. It’s vulnerable, risky, but extremely beautiful, romantic and Godlike, IMO. He forces no one to love Him against their individual will. I won’t my wife to love me with her own will, not because I slipped her a love potion that made her fall in love with me and not based of her own accord. I wooed her to me for sure, and still do, but I didn’t take away her freedom to choose me and to love me, rejection was always possible and still is. But I feel much more loved for her “choosing” to love me than because I made it happen without her having a say so. God woos us through the greatest story ever told, the most romantic ever told. Calvinism strips away(though perhaps genuinely not meaning to do so) much, if not most, of that awesome love story and makes it a lot more clinical and scientific.

  5. Dwight says:

    This would mean that God chose or predestined Adam and Eve to sin. They had two choices and they chose the wrong one, not because God moved them to, but because they moved themselves to. Calvinism supposes that because God’s will is supreme, that God’s will doesn’t include allowing man to exercise His will towards or against God. Often we in the coC make this same mistake in regards to things like worship without knowing it, supposing that God strictly regulates worship, instead of allowing man to freely worship God within the context of God’s stated commands, which really aren’t many and restricting. God doesn’t force us to act or react, but wants us to act and react to His will.

  6. Royce Ogle says:

    Monte, did God choose Abraham Moses Joseph and Noah all the disciples the Apostle Paul where did they to him?

  7. Royce Ogle says:

    Spell check!!! Did they choose him?

  8. Monty says:

    Royce,

    That’s a good question. Certainly one cannot argue that God didn’t hand pick certain individuals for tasks and to even one in particular to become the father of many nations. The question though is it an apples to apples comparison to how God saves man? I don’t think that it is. God chose these people you mentioned but the question is why did he choose them and was there anything in the individual that God saw and said something like,” I can work with that person versus someone else?” I think we get a rather good illustration in the choosing of David to be king of Israel. “God looks at the heart”, the prophet was told. Man looks at the outward appearance. Noah, it says, was a “just” man perfect in his generations. Genesis 18:19 God said of Abraham “for I know that he will command his family after him.” And so, it is God’s prerogative to choose who pleases him for the administration of his plan to bring redemption to man, even then, God is there examining the heart of the person. Mary was certainly hand picked to have God’s Son, but not in my wildest dreams do I believe He didn’t choose someone who fit HIs criteria in the kind of young woman he was looking for. Isn’t it amazing how virtually all who he hand picked were faithful in following him(save for Judas). God knowing a mans’ heart doesn’t mean they earned the right to be used by God. They were certainly “favored” by God, “highly favored” in Mary’s case. Esau was a godless man we’re told. Isn’t funny how God didn’t use him, but Jacob, even though Jacob wasn’t perfect. But certainly the speed at which Esau was willing to forfeit his birthright showed us something God already new. Knowing God picks and chooses who pleases him to carry on the work he planned doesn’t take away the human element, and it doesn’t necessarily even say that much about a person’s individual salvation IMO.

  9. Royce Ogle says:

    Paul (Saul) was a 1st century version of an ISIS guy. But, he was chosen to be saved and to take the good news to the Gentiles.

    When God sent Peter to the Gentile Cornelius he not only chose Peter to go preach, he also chose that they would believe.

    This is not to you, but the absolute weakest argument is that predestination only applies to a large group, all who will finally be saved. The obvious flaw with that teaching is glaring! Every large group of people is made up of individuals.

    God does bring people to himself without regard for who they are or how good they are. You described this as “horrid” if I remember correctly.

  10. Dwight says:

    Royce, I think the people that were picked were those that were open to an extent. While Paul was a zealot, he was a zealot for God, all that he needed was the truth presented to him, but God didn’t force Paul or any of the others to follow him. I think Cornelius was already of the mind set to believe in that they had heard of God and Jesus, so they were primed. They weren’t chosen to believe, but chosen because they did believe. Paul believed in God, but was twisted in his thinking.

  11. Monty says:

    Royce,

    You seem to leave out a portion of the Cornelius story on how he was already a God worshiper and his alms and prayers(I believe) had come up to God. This wasn’t eenie, meanie, miney, moe, pic Cornelius out of a hat. I don’t want to argue. Not interested in trying to change your mind. The old saying among Calvinists is God didn’t have to save anyone, everyone was lost , but he was gracious in saving a few(or something along that line). I would argue against that in two ways. # 1. IF Calvinism is actually true and God predetermined individual lost and saved before creation of the world (I believe they teach) then no one who was chosen was ever really lost, because it happened before they were ever born, So how could they be lost? 2. That if God didn’t have to save anyone but he sent his son to save a few(already chosen ones) then he was certainly capable and wouldn’t have been any sweat off of his back to save everyone. If I go into an orphanage in China where I recently heard that 1 elderly woman will take care of the needs of 40 infants with a dozen to a crib and I have the resources to adopt one child then I certainly saved that one from a terrible existence perhaps, I would even call that doing a lovely thing, but if I had the time and resources to adopt all of the kids there but only chose one, I become something not quite as appealing in my limited selection of those in need. Sort of like having the keys to unlock the jail cells in a huge jail full of POW’s but only choosing to open one cell and allow one to escape. Any logical person is going to question why?

  12. Royce says:

    Dwight, This is Peter’s words to the leaders in Jerusalem in Acts 15

    7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.

    God’s choice was the Peter would preach the good news and that the Gentiles would both HEAR and BELIEVE. God chose both hearing and believing.

    Earlier in Acts, chapter 11, same subject, this is the response to Peter’s telling of the events.

    When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:18

    God sent the messenger, he chose that they would believe, and made it so that they would repent.

    These things shouldn’t be ignored. It is what the Bible says. I will admit, some things are hard to understand but never is a simple dismissal of Scripture an answer.

  13. Royce says:

    Monte, read my reply to Dwight.

  14. Royce says:

    Romans 1: 6 including you who are CALLED to belong to Jesus Christ

    1 Cor 1;1 CALLED to be saints , vs 8 by whom you were CALLED into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord

    Galatians 1:14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart BEFORE I WAS BORN, and who CALLED me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone

    Ephesians 1:3 even as he CHOSE us in him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he PREDESTINED us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ

    Philippians 1:29 For it has been GRANTED TO YOU that for the sake of Christ you should not only BELIEVE in him but also SUFFER for his sake

    Colossians 1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has QUALIFIED you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light

    1 Thess 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has CHOSEN you

    2 Thess 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his CALLING

    1 Timothy 1:16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to THOSE WHO WERE TO BELIEVE in him for eternal life.

    2 Timothy 1:9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus BEFORE THE AGES BEGAN

    Titus 1;1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s ELECT and their knowledge of the truth,which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised BEFORE THE AGES BEGAN 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior

    1 Peter 1:3 )Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, HE HAS CAUSED US to be born again

    2 Peter 1;10 Therefore, brothers be all the more diligent to confirm your CALLING and ELECTION,

    Jude 1:1 To those who are CALLED, beloved in God the Father and KEPT for Jesus Christ

    In these 14 NT books, the first chapters mention God’s calling, election, foreknowledge, etc. What am I to do with these. The pages of the NT is rich with such teaching. Am I to ignore all God’s word says about these things or am I to try to understand them and how they fit with other passages that seem to say to opposite in some cases. I’m not God and not as smart as God so my task is the best of my ability to believe ALL God says, not only the parts that suit me.

  15. Monty says:

    How do we do anything to “confirm” our election, if it is truly out of our hands. Predestined before the world began? Royce, see Price’s comments under Jay’s topic of “An Unsure Salvation.” You must not believe in true Calvinism. Price argues from a more Calvinistic bent that we can’t make “more secure” or “confirm” anything, that would be our works. Just one question : Why all the NT warnings about losing salvation, if it was already predetermined? If scripture plainly states that those who “live this way”(given to Christians) will not inherit eternal life then we know salvation is not predetermined, unless you can unpredetermine it. I don’t think you believe that do you?

    Let’s start with what we clearly know and try to make sense of what is harder to understand. God desires that everyone come to repentance. I hope you would agree with that. But we know that everyone will not come to repentance. Jesus said he longed to gather Jerusalem under his wings like a hen gathers her chicks, but they would not. This shows the heart of God to save all. But all will not be saved. Why? Simple answer: free will. Not predetermined saved or lostness. That much so far, I believe I understand. I would like to know if you disagree or agree with that?

  16. Dwight says:

    I am not against God choosing who hears and believes, but in the end he chose that all would hear and believe, just that the Jews heard first. Peter was chosen an apostle, but then again Peter chose to initially follow Jesus as a disciple. Cornelius knew of God and worshipped God before they were chosen to be the first to hear from Peter.
    What we have is God calling, but not all people answering. Many are called, but few are chosen.
    But then again in Acts 2 many thousands of people responded to God who heard. They weren’t chosen willy-nilly, but were chosen because they responded to God.
    Monty, I agree with your assertion. Free will. God doesn’t force man to come to him, but ask man to come to him.

  17. Monty says:

    We are wooed by God through the gospel are we not? That is where the power is, Paul states. The power to save man is in the story of Jesus’ life, death,and resurrection. Paul never says the power for a man to be saved comes from God pre-choosing us. If that were so then the preaching of the gospel is only a triggering mechanism to flip a switch in man’s soul. Sort of like the sleeper cell individuals who were brain washed that at a certain audible cue that person goes into some mindless assassin drone mode.

    God poured out his love to us in the sending of his son to die for our sins. He showered us with undeserved love and affection. That is romantic. That is inspiring. It is beautiful. Basically IMO Calvinism’s underlying message(though they probably fail to see it) is that man simply cannot be affected by the Good News, he has to have his will overridden. For them the Good News is that middle of the night phone call that activates the sleeper cell. All the programing has already been done previously. The sleeper cell was already programmed. The outcome in the future already determined. Everything now just waits on that triggering audible cue. Really romantic stuff.

  18. Dwight says:

    Monty, And what is worse is that we have people that have been programmed the other way to reject Jesus, who are waiting for the cue or even worse is that they cannot help but reject Jesus even when they respond to Him or want to. Adam and Eve had no clue and had no choice in what they chose. Can it really be sin when you are destined to sin whether you want to or not? Can anyone be sure of the promise, if the promise is not theirs, because they have been chosen to not get in despite what they do for God?

  19. Royce Ogle says:

    Monte said, “Basically IMO Calvinism’s underlying message(though they probably fail to see it) is that man simply cannot be affected by the Good News, he has to have his will overridden”

    What does the Bible say?

    Romans 8:7
    For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

    Not one person would come to God of his own accord. God must do the work of enlightening, convicting, convincing, pricking the heart, granting repentance, and giving faith. The natural man can do none of this for himself.

  20. Monty says:

    Royce,

    We can play the “what does the Bible say” game all day. What does the Bible say about how many people God wants to come to repentance? You know the answer, “ALL”. But all won’t come. So is God inferior in “causing” all those things you mentioned? Is God really at conflict with his own will? Is it God’s will that all come to repentance? If all won’t come then where is the hang-up? With God or with man? And by the way, in case you haven’t noticed, my name is spelled Monty, not Monte. I do try to get yours right.

  21. Royce says:

    Monty,

    Sorry I spelled your name wrong. I meant no disrespect.

    This article I believe is a fair treatment of the subject we are discussing. I don’t expect anyone to agree but it is a clear presentation of the doctrine of election. Sometimes I disagree with someone on a topic when I really don’t know precisely what their position is. Maybe others do that too.

    Hope you are having a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones. Blessings to you and yours.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/persuading-pleading-and-predestination-human-means-in-the-miracle-of-conversion

  22. Dwight says:

    Rom.8 begins “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” so it indicates walking either to Christ or the flesh. This is the context of Romans 8:7 “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” in which if we have our mind set on the flesh, we will not submit to God, but the opposite is true that if we have our mind set on the spirit we will submit to God.
    All those in Acts 2 who asked “what must we do to be saved?” came to God willingly.

  23. Royce says:

    True Dwight. But, it isn’t quite that simple. Why did they ask that question? Those men cried out “What must we do” because God had acted.

    Did they just happen to be in hearing distance of Peter’s telling of the good news? Or, did God arrange that the be there? It is very obvious that God had done a work as they heard the message. Their hearts were “pricked”, they became conscience of their sinfulness, they were drawn to God.

    Not one of those 3,000 got up that morning and said “Today I will go to God…”. No, the story is always that God goes to the sinner.

  24. Dwight says:

    Royce, it is true that God goes to the sinner, which is why Jesus came to earth, but in light of that God wants man to reciprocate by coming to Him. In the gospels Jesus did many miracles and then had many followers but also many of the followers turned away. In Acts 2 this happened on the Day of Pentecost so there were many people there to influence.

Leave a Reply