Trigger Warning: the subject of this article concerns predestination, predetermination, and election. These are theological topics that are triggering to me, as a survivor of ongoing child abuse, ritual abuse, as well as trauma-based mind-control programming, so they might be triggering to you, too, if you are a survivor of such.
Furthermore, there’s a lot of questioning of religious beliefs and theologies in this article, particularly in light of having a dissociative disorder and alters. If this is upsetting to you, or if you feel it to be your job to judge or condemn those who question their faith (or to judge and condemn those who have mental/emotional disorders), then for your own mental and emotional health, please navigate your way off of this blog.
My (lack of) Credentials
I’m not a theologian of any sort, and certainly not like most of the ones I have had unfortunate interactions with at various points throughout my life.
I haven’t gone to to seminary, nor do I have a desire to do so.
I don’t have a degree in theology, nor do I want one.
I’m not an ordained minister, nor do I wish to be.
I don’t consider myself so “well-versed” in this doctrine of man or that doctrine of man that may present itself within the larger framework of self-proclaimed Christianity.
I don’t claim to have an extensive knowledge of the history of this church or the other church.
I do not know what the differences of theology are between every single Christian denomination, and I do not particularly care at this point in my life.
And up until several months ago, I had never heard of this whole “Calvinist” vs. “Non-Calvinist” debate (apparently, it’s a huge thing — go figure).
I’m simply a woman who studies the Bible and tries, by the grace of God, to live according to the standards therein.
(I fall short of this a lot, by the way, in case you are wondering…)
So, I really hope I don’t stir up a theological debate by this post. I’m simply not equipped to debate the topic one way or the other.
First, I’m usually a horrible debater. Given the right circumstances, I love to have conversations and discussions and an honest exchange of ideas, which is what a debate should actually be. But since all too many people I’ve come across (especially “Christian theologians”) seem, by their continuous displays of aggression, to confuse “debating” with “arguing and bickering,” I’ve rarely experienced this type of positive interaction with other people.
So I don’t like to debate.
Furthermore, I was not raised to be able to freely and without fear or anxiety verbalize my opinion or ideas about any given topic, and so the very act of giving voice to my private thoughts has a tendency to trigger the “fight/flight/freeze” response, causing me to dissociate to one extent or the other, sometimes “switching” to another part of me in order to handle a situation that is fraught with anxiety and fear, and none of this makes for a very productive debate. This is especially true when I do not know the person well at all; or when that person is in a position of authority or power (perceived or actual), such as with doctors or municipal authorities, etc… or with clergy or ministers… or with those theologian-wanna-be’s who may not actually be an authority on the subject, but who act as if they are.
In the end, regardless of whether that part of me took care of the situation in an admirable way or not, the whole process causes me a lot of anxiety, stress, and can eventually spiral into depression.
This isn’t the fault of the other person, of course, unless my response is precipitated by the other person having been aggressive, abusive, uncompassionate, rude, etc…. But even then, I am trying to learn to not let other people’s outbursts affect me in such a negative way. I’m trying to learn that sometimes it’s a “their problem, not mine” thing — to learn that I don’t have to respond to other people’s actions/reactions — and to just let it go.
So I realize that part of my inability to usually properly debate without dissociating to whatever degree is my issue that I have because of the lingering effects of abuse. I’m working on getting better at this, and I have gotten better by the grace of God, but dealing with confrontation of any sort is still something that I really struggle with. So, I won’t usually engage in public “debate” unless I feel pressured and cornered into such a confrontation. Therefore, I usually try to avoid such confrontations. I absolutely abhor confrontation.
(Which is incredibly ironic, I know, considering the types of controversial and confrontational topics that Carolyn and I address on our joint website, and perhaps this makes me a walking paradox… but if you only knew how much anxiety I deal with when writing those articles… ugh!!)
Second, even if I were a debater, I don’t really care to debate theologians anyway, whether clergy, ministers, or those who are well-versed in theology.
As of to date, I may have come across at least one exception to this rule, as one particular theologian I have met through Carolyn seems to not be this way, but by and large, most theologians I have come across in my lifetime, whether they are licensed ministers or not, are some of the most pompous, self-righteous individuals I have ever come across. Some hide it better than others, but my experience has been that if one spends enough time around them, the religious spirits controlling them eventually rear their ugly heads.
Furthermore, I have experienced abuse either directly at their hands, or the abuse I suffered was ignored and covered up by them, and the injuries this has caused has been bad enough to, at the very least, negatively color my view of anyone who considers themselves to be a theologian, whether licensed clergy or not. I just usually prefer to not engage them in conversation any longer.
Anyway… all that babbling to say this: I don’t want to start a debate with this article, particularly a “theological debate,” because I’m not equipped enough for it. Besides, I’d probably lose such a debate, anyway. 😂
It doesn’t mean I’d be incorrect. I’m just admitting that I’m not smart enough or well-spoken enough to win a debate between myself and a theologian.
However, I have a few thoughts about an article I read yesterday.
Self-Determination or Predetermination?
I came across this article on my Twitter feed: “Are Calvinist’s Rebukes Rational?” by Leighton Flowers. In order to understand this article, you’ll probably have to read Flowers’ article first. Here’s the direct link to his article:
— Soteriology101 🎤 (@Soteriology101) November 16, 2019
(And by saying “my” Twitter, I mean the “CarolynandLoren” Twitter account that I keep track of. Carolyn has complete access to the account, of course, but any Twittering she does is usually on her personal account. I don’t have a personal Twitter account, nor do I want one, so I just use our joint account to follow a few people, Leighton Flowers’ “Soteriology101” page being one of four. I was following another clergy account, Justin Peters (a Calvinist, as opposed to Flowers, who is an ex-Calvinist), but there was so much bickering back and forth on Peters’ Tweets between self-proclaimed “theologians,” and so I unfollowed.
Personally, I think both men make great points on certain theological matters, and since I’m not yet clear on whether “Calvinism” is the proper theological view or not (I’m strongly leaning towards “No”), I’m open to listening to both sides. It’s just the bickering I can’t handle. Some people call the bickering “debate.” But I just see it as bickering.)
UPDATE: we deleted the joint “CarolynandLoren” Twitter account because being tagged in tweets and dealing with other people’s lies and arguments was too stressful.
Anyhoo… back to my point. 😅
I’m not intending for this article to be a critique of Flowers’ article (again… not smart enough for that), but his article struck me in very personal way, and it got me to thinking again about a topic I’ve been pondering much on lately, specifically the assertion that Calvinists believe “God ‘sovereignly plans and controls every meticulous detail,’ including every evil intention of every creature, in order to glorify Himself.”
I go back and forth about what I believe about this particular line of thinking.
On one hand, I do believe God is sovereign. In other words, that He exercises supreme and complete jurisdiction; that He wields unrestricted power; that He has no limitations or restraints.
So then, since I believe this, what am I to believe concerning the injustice in this world in light of Calvinistic beliefs? Is it really true, as staunch Calvinists believe (as far as I’m able to tell, anyway), that God “plans and controls evil intentions,” causing certain ones of mankind to carry out those evil plans, just for the sake of bringing glory to Himself?
Bringing this back to a personal level, does this mean that God Himself was the author of the evil abuses that I had to endure as a child?
Perhaps. This certainly seems to be what Calvinists teach. And if this is true, I have to make the decision to either serve this God or to not serve Him.
I’ve chosen to serve Him regardless, but this line of thinking makes it very difficult for some parts of me to be convinced that this is such a good idea, particularly since Calvinism also adheres to the belief of predetermination (as opposed to self-determination). In other words, that some people are preordained and predestined by God to be “vessels of destruction,” damned for destruction (Hell); and that others, “the elect,” have been predestined by God for salvation and eternal life (Heaven); and that neither group has a choice in the matter.
Note: Different groups of people believe slightly different things about predestination/predetermination, and apparently even Calvinists disagree upon what degree of predetermination they adhere to.
A thorough paper to begin the study on this subject is from Paul Fahy. He is a man whom I believe generally holds to Biblically-sound teachings, and someone who Carolyn and I have quoted in our book. Yet, after much reflection, I am prone to disagree with him concerning the Calvinistic doctrine of election/predetermination/predestination to which he holds. Although, as stated previously, I’m not yet entirely sure where I stand on the matter.
But here’s a link to his paper anyway, in case you want to study it for yourself: Denial of the Doctrines of Grace.
The entire subject can be triggering for survivors, as I stated at the beginning of this article (it’s certainly triggering to me, which is why I have not yet fully read through the above paper), so if you are a survivor, be aware of your emotional/mental state if you decide to read.
The problem for me with this line of thinking is that there are still lingering parts of me who are convinced that God created them (which, in actuality, is me) to work for Satan. “Predestined,” if you will. Therefore, by their “logic,” not working for Satan means that we are going against God’s will for our lives.
I can remember feeling this way since I was a very young child, which was one reason why I would run to the alter after every service, begging God to forgive me and to save me, even though by the standards of the church (cult) I was born into, the fact that I “spoke in tongues” meant I was going to Heaven anyway. But I didn’t feel that way. I felt the stench and the stain and the horrible weight of sin on my back, although at that time, because of dissociation, I didn’t know where the awful feeling of being doomed to hell was coming from, nor did I consciously understand the theological concept of self-determination vs. predetermination. I just felt that I was inherently evil and that God had created me to be doomed for destruction.
Fast-forward to today, and I still struggle with this sometimes, as is probably evident in this article.
I emailed Paul Fahy with questions about this some time back, but I didn’t receive a response that adequately and satisfactorily answered my questions about this. His response was basically along the lines of, “If you are saved now, then that proves that you are the elect and are therefore predestined to be saved.”
So, okay…. Maybe. Maybe I should just be content with that little pat answer, and leave it at that.
But this “logic” doesn’t seem very logical to me, and it brings up a whole other slew of questions that I can’t seem to find satisfactory answers to.
I subsequently reached out to Leighton Flowers, hoping he could shed a bit more light on some specific questions I had about this topic, because thoroughly researching the topic has the tendency to be very triggering to me, but he didn’t respond.
So… at this point, I don’t really know.
Here is what I do believe, however (most of the time, anyway), concerning the sovereignty/goodness of God.
I do not believe that God preordained and predetermined for evil people to do what they do, and that those people have no choice in the matter. People make a choice to do what they do.
Note: There could be an argument made for mind-control programming — that because of programming, some people have no choice but to follow that programming, as if they were robots.
(This is, ironically enough, a view that staunch supports of predestination seem to have: that people are without free will and with no choice in any matter, as if they are merely robots that are controlled by a supreme being who is capricious and random with both his grace and with his wrath. Likely they would strongly protest this imagery, but it’s how I perceive their views, and they are the ones with the responsibility to change the public’s perception, not mine.)
However, in my opinion and experience, this gives too much power to programmers and too much power to programming scripts. There is still an element of free will involved in regards to mind-control programming. That free will may be squashed down for specific periods of time, but our free will is not completely destroyed by mind-control programming. This is my (probably controversial, but what’s new…?) opinion. Regardless of opinion, however, I do know that God can still heal people and destroy the programming, freeing any element of the human will that may have been suppressed or overridden by mind-control programming.
Anyway… to “blame God” for the evil works of mankind does the following:
1. To blame God for the evil that people do, takes the responsibility off of the shoulders of those who did wrong and places it upon God.
So why ever get upset at anyone for harming other people? For harming us? For harming our children? Why are we angry at child molesters? Spouse abusers? Rapists? Liars? Thieves? Murders? Heretics (as Leighton Flowers proposes in his well-written article)? What is the purpose for such people to be judged and condemned by mankind (or by Churchianity) if they are only carrying out God’s will?
Bringing it down to a personal level, if God is to be blamed for the evil works of the people who brought me harm as a child (because God caused them to do it and they had no choice but to comply), then it means I have no reason to be upset or anxious or angry about the evil that they did — to have, in fact, no real reason to have lingering mental/emotional/spiritual effects because of such horrific abuses (which would mean that such problems I do have are my fault, and not the fault of my abusers…) — because to feel in such a way would be tantamount to feeling such a way at God. And that would be an unacceptable reaction.
(And speaking of anger, I have worked through a lot of anger at God about those things, and I believe this is something every survivor has to deal with… but such Calvinistic thinking piles grief upon grief upon grief on the backs of survivors with no appropriate outlet for that soul-crushing grief.)
Although, if I were “the elect” and were going to Heaven regardless, what would it matter how I felt or thought about God?
(On the flip side, however… if I were the elect, would this mean that I wouldn’t be questioning these things now, because the very act of questioning is proof that I am not elect…?)
2. Related to the above point, if people have no choice but to do wrong, then they couldn’t have been wrong, because there is no longer any measure of what is wrongful behavior versus right behavior, because if people are only carrying out God’s will, who are we to say that is wrong?
3. Also related to these thoughts: if God does wrong, is it wrong? If God does evil, is it evil?
Or, put another way, if God sovereignly plans and controls every evil intention (which could be interpreted that God actually creates evil, an idea that could be supported by Isaiah 45:7, assuming one interprets Scripture through this particular lens), and causes a certain portion of mankind to implement His will for that evil to be carried out in various ways, then is that wrong? Or is it right?
So then, what is wrong and what is right? What is evil and what is good? If both come from God, is God both evil and good? Or is there no such thing as evil or good, but only God’s will to carry out both? If God causes evil to be carried out, then what does Satan do? Is Satan merely carrying out God’s will, too? So why does it matter what is done, whether good or evil, if it is all to simply carry out God’s will?
(If this is beginning to sound like Luciferian philosophy, that’s because it is.)
3. If God causes people to do evil outside of their free will in order to fulfill His predetermined and preordained will, this also means that if I do evil it is because I have no choice but to do evil; therefore, I can’t be wrong, either. So what difference does it make who I serve, if, according to Calvinists, I actually have no choice in the matter? If I’m predestined to Hell (or Heaven), then what does it matter what I do or whom I serve?
On the other hand, if I were “the elect,” then nothing that I did would be wrong, whether or not it actually was moral or Godly or not, because nothing I could do or not do would prevent me from going to Heaven because of …. predetermination and predestination.
(And to remind you: if this sounds like Luciferian philosophy, that’s because it is.)
In my limited exposure to this ongoing debate, I’ve noticed that many Calvinists like to oppose this line of reasoning by saying that it’s “hyper Calvinism,” going so far to sometimes outright ridicule people such as myself who dare call into question their theology, calling this line of reasoning to be “fatalistic.” Yet… they fail to offer sound reasoning (in my opinion) that counters the “fatalistic thinking” or “hyper Calvinism” that their line of theological reasoning engenders!
But, okay. Fine. If that’s how they worm their way out of trying to explain what seems to me to be a logical digression of this theology, then we’ll call it “hyper Calvinism” or “fatalism.” Fine. For the sake of argument, I can accept the “fatalist” part or the “hyper Calvinist” part. I’ve been called worse, and being called such doesn’t actually make it true.
But this is the road that this type of theological reasoning takes me down, and by my thinking, if it were such a Biblically-sound theology, it wouldn’t have so many holes in it, nor would it lead down so many unbiblical trails and lines of thinking. Nor would it follow right along the lines of what I was taught about the Luciferian philosophies of “good” versus “evil.”
Just a thought. I’m not trying to start a debate with Calvinists. I will readily concede that you are smarter than me and you would win the debate.
I’m just offering my thoughts, that’s all.
So what do I believe?
Well… I’m not saying I’m 100% correct in my belief, and I’m always open to learning more and to continuously aligning my thoughts and belief system with Scripture, but here is what I believe.
1. I believe that everything that has happened to me was known by the Father. He did not cause it to happen, but it did happen with Him being fully aware of what was going on. I can even concede that God was fully aware beforehand of what was going to happen.
Were the abuses, then, God’s will?
Well, I guess it depends upon how we are defining “God’s will.”
On one hand, since God did not stop the abuses, yet in His sovereignty, He could have stopped it, then it could be said that what happened was within “God’s will” for my life.
And I don’t have a problem accepting this.
But is this thought (that God knew what was going to happen, yet did not stop it) similar to the idea of predetermination? Perhaps. I can concede that point for now, but please continue reading, because I’m trying to make a point here.
2. I do not believe that the people who worked evil in my life did so because they had no choice. Evil people made evil choices, and I suffered the consequences of their evil choices.
So then, if my suffering as a child was because of the bad choices that people made (in other words, not because of God’s choices), then on the other hand, it was not God’s will for me to suffer those things.
Yet point one remains: it happened, therefore, since I believe that God is sovereign, I must concede that it was within God’s will.
This begins to lead to a circular line of reasoning that makes no sense whatsoever (not to me, anyway), unless we bring in another huge part of the equation that cannot and must not be overlooked: the Cross.
3. God’s salvation plan through Jesus Christ — His redemption plan — absolutely has caused all things — past, present, as well as future things — to work together for my good.
This is part of the miracle of salvation!
And in spite of the evil that was done to me (and in spite of my own bad choices I have made in life because of my own sinful nature and rebellion against God), it absolutely is God’s ultimate will that I am brought to salvation.
This holds true for everyone!
This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, and there’s tons that would make for a great theological discussion, but here are a few verses to consider: Matthew 9:13, Luke 19:10, John 1:12, John 3:14-18, John 6:40, Romans 5:6-8, Ephesians 2:4-10, 1 Timothy 1:15-17, 1 John 4:9-10, etc.
So then, when I — of my own free will — chose to submit to the will of God, Who desires (“wills,” so to speak) that every single human being would come to repentance (although Calvinist teachings do not hold to this), and accept His salvation that He pours out through Jesus Christ, then every single thing that has happened in my life has been redeemed for the glory of God and for my good. This means that all the bad things that have happened in my life now have a purpose. My suffering hasn’t been meaningless.
The same holds true for you, too!
And this also holds true for everyone else, even for my past abusers (and yours): if they, of their own free will, choose to submit to the will of God, Who wants all of us to come to repentance, and accept His salvation that He pours out through Jesus Christ, then every single thing that has happened in their lives will be redeemed for the glory of God and for their good.
Even the evil they wrought upon me and many others.
So then, can God’s sovereignty and His goodness — His mercy, His benevolence, His grace — coexist? Can God not stop every evil thing from occurring, yet still have total authority… and still be good?
I believe the answer is “Yes.”
The answer lies, I believe, between our human will and God’s plan of salvation. In our self-determination, so to speak, and in our decision to accept and receive God’s plan of salvation or to not.
Consider for a moment:
1. It is God’s will that all be saved because He sent His Son to save all (see the above list of Scriptures, plus you can research tons more that aren’t listed here).
2. However, not all will be saved because not all will accept and receive His gift of salvation.
Therefore, if we choose to not submit to His authority and to receive His gift of salvation, we will suffer the consequences of our actions, and eventually reap eternal death. God is still glorified in the end, however, because of His inherent justice (which is good) in bringing destruction to those who have worked against Him, who have been in rebellion against Him, and who have brought harm upon His children.
But if we choose to submit to His authority and to receive His gift of salvation, then He, in His gracious loving kindness, works all things to our good, ultimately bringing glory to Himself for His goodness and mercy and grace in redeeming us from not only the consequences of our sin and our sinful state, but also from the harm brought to us by others who refused to submit to His will.
Is this accurate? Or am I wrong?
Some days I’m not sure.
Although I’m leaning more towards a non-Calvinistic viewpoint, there are still days when I have my doubts. And at the risk of making myself a target of religious fools who would unfairly judge and condemn me, these doubts, ironically enough, are spurred on by parts of me who are still trying to hold onto Luciferian philosophies. They have no problem with the traditional Calvinist views on predestination/election/predetermination, because those views are perfectly in line with what they believe and have always embraced as being true (and what I, as a child, was fearful of being true).
I have more good days than not in this regard lately when it comes to those parts of me, but some days it’s a real struggle between them and I, and the debate on Calvinism vs. non-Calvinism only makes this struggle worse on those bad days.
If I believe Calvinism to be true (which it may be), then perhaps what I’ve always feared is true: that, according to John Calvin, “I was born to be doomed from the womb to certain death, and am to glorify God by my destruction.” (a paraphrase of Calvin’s quote from “Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6”)
Is this fair? If this is true, then what am I doing and why?
But then again, who am I to question God’s fairness? His Righteous Judgement? The Goodness that He may give to some but not to others? Who am I to question His Sovereignty?
The absurdity of it all is one reason why I don’t condemn or unfairly judge atheists. If I weren’t so sure that there were a God (whether or not He follows Calvin’s theology… lol 😂), I could see where it might feel more peaceful to just throw every bit of this religiosity down the toilet and flush it down.
And some days, that is a tempting thought.
But I know too much to try to fool myself into believe there is no God. So the question is not “Is there a God?” but the questions are, “Does He actually care for me… or is that care only reserved for His special group of people (His elect) that He created before the foundation of the world for that special purpose? And if He created His elect for His special purpose, how can I be assured that I am part of that special group? And, considering how unfair this system is, do I even want to be in that “special group” anyway?”
And now that I’m writing this whole thing down, this “special elect group before the foundation of the world” stuff sounds exactly like the Luciferian theology of “Shining Ones” crap (a.k.a., “little gods” or “Manifest Sons of God”); therefore, I cannot accept it as being sound, Biblical theology.
In other words, both Calvinistic teachings as well as the “Shining Ones” teachings, which come straight out of the various teachings on “little gods,” hold the position that we are saved because we are the elect. However, I do not believe the Bible teaches this. I believe a proper exegesis of Scripture tells us that we are the elect because we are saved. There’s a HUGE difference between the two theologies! The former reasons our salvation to be a product of our special-ness (given by God, of course, which is how they try to make it sound “biblical”); the latter contends that our salvation is a product of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.
Put another way, the questions could be asked: is God’s grace available only to a select group of people because He created those people to be special? Or is God’s grace available to everyone because of Jesus Christ?
But I’m not a theologian, so I’m open to hearing your thoughts on the matter.
What say you?
Can God be both Sovereign and Good?
Are we predestined either for Heaven or for Hell without a choice in the matter? Or do we, by our own choices, choose either the path of salvation or the path of destruction?
Perhaps, I’ll do a follow up to this subject if there is enough interest and if I have enough mental/emotional energy for it. For now, all this theological thinking has me worn out.
Good night. 🙂
Loren Grace ❤