How Important Is It for Me to Affirm the Doctrine of Predestination?

Different Ways to Respond

There’s a right way and a wrong way to respond to predestination. The right way is to praise God, and the wrong way is to be sinfully divisive. The right way is to feel comfort, and the wrong way is to feel anxiety. The right way is with humility, and the wrong way is with a sinful pride.

So to talk about predestination in a humble way means that we place ourselves under Scripture’s authority and unreservedly affirm and cherish whatever God has revealed. So when we talk about predestination, we should do so carefully, reasonably, convictionally, straightforwardly, soberly, joyfully.


Andrew David Naselli

In this addition to the Short Studies in Systematic Theology series, Andrew David Naselli carefully examines the doctrine of predestination and encourages believers to respond in worship.

We don’t want to overemphasize predestination or to underemphasize it. So how important is predestination? Well, answering that question will help us keep it in perspective. Some Bible teachings are more important than other Bible teachings. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, “I deliver to you as a first importance what I also received.” And those words “first importance” imply that although everything in the Bible is important, not everything is equally important. Some teachings are more important.

We can distinguish at least three levels of importance. Al Mohler and others call this “theological triage.” There are several ways to describe these three levels. You can call it first-level, second-level, third-level issues. You could say it’s essential for the Christian faith—crucial for church health, but not essential for the Christian faith—or important, but not essential for the Christian faith or crucial for church health.

You can call it dogma, doctrine, disputable matters, fundamental teachings, denominational distinctives, matters of conscience. So the gist is first-level issues are essential and most essential to Christianity. You can’t deny these teachings and still be a Christian in any meaningful sense. For example, there’s one God and three persons. Jesus is fully God and fully human. Jesus sacrificially died for sinners.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to respond to predestination. The right way is to praise God, and the wrong way is to be sinfully divisive.

Second-level issues are crucial for church health and create boundaries between Christians, such as different churches and denominations. These issues have a bearing on what sort of church you’re a part of. For example, you don’t have to hold one particular view on baptism or church government to be a Christian, but it’s challenging for a church to have a healthy unity when its leaders disagree on these matters.

And then third-level issues are matters of conscience. Disputable matters aren’t unimportant, but members of the same church should be able to disagree on these issues and still have close fellowship with each other. These issues might involve how you interpret particular passages of the Bible and reach theological conclusions, like if angels are made in the image of God or if only humans are made in the image of God. And third-level issues also include many practical questions, like how we should we think about video games.

So where does predestination fit here? Predestination is not a first-level issue. You don’t have to affirm the Calvinist view of predestination in order to be a Christian. Some of the kindest Christians I know are Arminians.

Nor is predestination a third-level issue. It’s not merely a matter of conscience that’s relatively unimportant for proclaiming the gospel and living in light of the gospel. I think predestination is a second-level issue. I think it’s crucial for a church to be robustly healthy. It’s crucial for our serious joy in God, and it directly affects how we make disciples. It affects what and how we preach and teach and sing and pray and counsel. It’s crucial for faithfully glorifying the sovereign God.

Andrew David Naselli is the author of Predestination: An Introduction.

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