Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Predestination in the Episcopal Tradition

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Predestination in the Episcopal Tradition”
First Published: August 9, 2005

For the last two weeks, we have been looking at the Bible’s teaching on predestination. We said that predestination means God’s eternal and sovereign plan or purpose of salvation. We also said that the Greek word that we render in English as “predestine” or “predestinate” is found in several times in the New Testament (for instance, Acts 2:23, Acts 4:28, Romans 8:29-30, 1Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:5, 11) .

We argued and demonstrated that the Bible unambiguously teaches predestination. But then we also asked, isn’t predestination just a presbyterian thing? Isn’t it just a presbyterian interpretation of Scripture that nobody else agrees with? We answered with an emphatic no! And we showed how, for instance, that Baptists used to believe exactly as do presbyterians on this subject (and many still do).

What about the Episcopal or Anglican Church? What have they traditionally believed regarding predestination? Well, here is a taste from the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, still the most notable doctrinal statement of the whole Anglican communion worldwide. It says:

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchedness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

So there is another example of a non-presbyterian church tradition that affirms the biblical teaching on predestination. But that still leaves us with some questions. Does predestination make us puppets? How is it different from determinism? What about free will? Is this fair? What about evil, did God ordain that too? If so, how could he?

But that’s for next week!

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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