YOU WERE PREDESTINED TO READ THIS ARTICLE…
(THIS IS NOT A THEOLOGICAL POSITION PIECE)
By merely reading these words you are proving that you had no choice and could not resist the deterministic forces that control every nuance of your life. It’s not that you are weak, but simply not in control. Even the decisions you think you are consciously choosing are simply a cognitive illusion. If your buddy unexpectedly jumps out from behind a bush to scare you as a prank, your brain will involuntarily cause your body to react in a certain way. Your sensory cortex will interpret the incoming data, forwarding it to amygdala by way of the thalamus, where it will decode the threat, and tell the hypothalamus to make you jump up and yell. When asked, “Why did you decide to shriek like a little girl?” You would say, ”I didn’t decide, it just happened.”
I realize that may be a relatively simple biological reflex, but why would an even more complicated neural pathway that may include the prefrontal cortex be any different? There was a set input conditions, a biological reaction in the brain, and a specific outcome as a result. That’s what we typically refer to as a “decision.” In the above scenario, no one holds the frightened person responsible for his “choice.” It might be slightly more complicated, but it really isn’t different when people like you or me “choose” to sin or to serve God.
What is obvious to me is that humans have a pretty serious bias towards believing that we have more of a choice than we actually do. No one wants to be a robot. It just feels weird, and it also contradicts our experience as well as our common sense. So naturally, my contrarian brain lands me in the camp that says we must have LESS control than we think.
The way you think about what choices are your own versus those that are inevitable byproducts of nature and nurture is very important. It will guide your thinking on economics, social welfare, suffering, abusers/victims, the penal system, addiction and rehabilitation and more. This all becomes ridiculously intensified for the Christian who believes in Hell. Potential implications being, “Some people choose Hell” or “God purposed certain people to go to Hell.” We Christians take this thing to a whole other level.
Predestination makes some of us extremely uncomfortable, or even angry. Why do we think God isn’t controlling it all? Everything? No one complains that we don’t get a say in gravity or breathing oxygen. But tell them when faced with the realization of God one cannot choose “not God,” and they get really uneasy and start saying “But we’re not robots!” Do we really need, or have, the ability to say “I’ll do this on my own?”
Some of us love predestination so much that we build whole tribes and hard dividing lines around the idea. I’ll give you 3 reasons why I think people HATE the idea/doctrine of predestination, and 3 reasons why people LOVE it.
WE HATE IT BECAUSE:
1. We feel panicked by the idea that we are not in control.
This is pretty obvious, human behavior seems to always seek control. Choice=freedom=happiness. I’m not sure this equation is actually true, but it seems to be the consensus in western civilization.
2. We ultimately want credit for the good decisions that we make.
“When I saw the need at the soup kitchen, I just wanted to help those poor folks.” “I worked hard every day, it’s no wonder my business is so successful. It is because of all the extra hours I put in.” Ironically, when there is blame to go around people are quick to point out A B and C occurred and there is nothing different they could have done. “My wife said this or did that, I had no choice, what else could I have done?” “The guy cut me off in traffic. I HAD to flip him the bird. He deserved it”
3. We so badly want an excuse not to empathize with those who make bad decisions and suffer as a result.
It has always struck me as odd that we are so forgiving of children, but at some point we start to write people off because “They should’ve known better and made the right decision.” Given our limited scope of understanding in relation to God, I don’t see the folly of a 27 year old to be that different from a 7 year old’s. I think this is more a coping mechanism we develop to absolve ourselves from feeling sympathy for those who choose poorly.
WE LOVE IT BECAUSE:
1. We feel special and superior to be chosen by God OVER other people.
This is basic human selfishness reinforced by our individualistic culture. It is in opposition to God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. You’ve seen this in action as the basic “holier than thou” Christian condescension.
2. We don’t have to take our sin seriously because we didn’t choose it.
BadChristian is often accused, and perhaps can be guilty, of this. Do we just sit back and accept our sin, not striving for holiness because we KNOW we are forgiven and our salvation is secure? I hope not. I genuinely feel remorse for my sin and am not proud of anything that I have done for which Jesus had to die.
3. We get to relax on evangelism because it is God’s job and he will handle it.
Again, this is BadChristian territory. One of Toby’s most popular lyrics is “It’s not our job to make anyone believe.” This does not mean that we are not used by God, nor did Toby intend it that way. God calls us, he uses us, and we know and feel the Holy Spirit directing us to act. We have no excuse to use this as complacency. We do not have a choice between becoming more like Jesus and evangelism. Instead, one inseparably leads to the other.
In whichever camp you belong on this issue, I hope you can see some of the tendencies and biases inherent on either side. I have intentionally left scripture out of this article because of all topics, this one is paramount for people having predetermined conclusions (pardon the pun), and searching for scripture to back up their point. I do not think that is the way we ought to use scripture. Additionally this matter has been extensively debated and illustrated by people much smarter and well informed than me. I simply intend to point out, as usual, how weak minded, sinful, biased, and insecure we all are. I imagine you all (y’all) will further prove that in commenting about this post here as well as the Emery Facebook page.