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Does the Bible Teach Predestination?
An Exegetical Debate


Dr. James White vs Darryl Barksdale

Predestination vs. Foreordination in the Preexistence

Darryl L. Barksdale

 "By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation. And accordingly, as each has been created for one of other of these ends, we say that he as been predestinated to life or to death."

John Calvin

What Does 'Predestination' Mean?

Before any critical examination of the Biblical support (or lack thereof) for Predestination can occur, it is important to have a clear idea of just what that concept entails. Simply put, it is the belief that God chose those whom He wanted to save before the foundations of the Earth were laid, and the rest He simply "threw away," for no other reason than that He felt like it.

The concept of Predestination, or "election," can be traced back to the teachings of Augustine, who said, "The fact is that God gives this gift to those to whom He wishes to give it."1 Augustine defined who the elect were in this way: "Those who by the divine grace are singled out of that original body of the lost."2

Richard Grant, in his insightful work Understanding These Other Christians, cites a number of protestant scholars' views on Predestination. For example, Dr. R. C. Sproul, President of Ligonier Ministries, says:

"When we say that election is unconditional we mean that the original decree of God by which he chooses some people to be saved is not dependent upon some future condition in us that God foresees. There is nothing in us that God could foresee that would induce him to choose us. The only thing he would foresee in the lives of fallen creatures left to themselves would be sin. God chooses us simply according to the good pleasure of his will."3

Duane Edward Spencer explained that "Christ died to save particular persons who were given Him by the Father in eternity past. His death was, therefore, a one hundred percent success, in that all for whom He died will be saved, and all for whom He did not die will receive "justice" from God when they are cast into Hell."4

It is not an understatement to say that the doctrine of Predestination forms the backbone of TULIP, which stands for the following reformed doctrines:

Total Depravity: "Unregenerated man is in absolute bondage to Satan, and wholly incapable of exercising his own will freely to trust in Christ. Salvation, therefore, is dependent upon the work of God who must will to give man life before he can believe in Christ."5

Unconditional Election: Foreknowledge is "based upon the purpose or plan of God, so that election had no basis in some fancied 'condition' on the part of man, but was the result of the free will of the Creator apart from any foreseen 'work of faith' in spiritually-dead man."6

Limited Atonement: "Christ died to save particular persons who were given Him by the Father in eternity past. His death was, therefore, a one hundred percent success, in that all for whom He died will be saved, and all for whom He did not die will receive 'justice' from God when they are cast into Hell."7

Irresistible Grace: "The grace of God cannot be obstructed…the Lord possesses 'irresistible grace'….Since all dead human spirits are drawn irresistibly to Satan, the god of the dead, and all living human spirits are drawn irresistibly to Jehovah, the God of the living, our Lord simply gives His chosen ones the Spirit of Life! The moment He does so their spiritual polarity is changed. Where they were once 'dead in trespasses and sins' and oriented to the devil, now they are made 'alive in Christ Jesus' and oriented to God."8

Perseverance of the Saints: "Since salvation is entirely the work of the Lord, and man has absolutely nothing to do with 'getting saved' in the first place, it is obvious that 'keeping saved' is also the work of God, apart from any good or bad on the part of His elect. The saints will 'persevere' for the simple reason that God promises this, assuring us that He will finish the work He has begun in us!"9

The doctrines of TULIP, most commonly found as part of Calvinism, are countered in the Protestant community by Arminianism, which espouses that man has been endowed with Free Will, or the ability to choose whether to accept Christ or not. It also includes the belief that, contrary to Calvinism's "once-saved, always saved," man can fall from grace. Arminianism arose in the late sixteenth century through a Dutch theologian named Jacob Hermann, who expressed serious doubts about the validity of Calvin's position on Irresistible Grace. Hermann's followers formed a statement of belief called the Five Points of Arminianism, after the Latin Arminius (Hermann's last name).

Biblical Teachings Opposed to Predestination

One of the most precious gifts given to man by God is the gift of Free Agency. Even though God foreordained groups of people throughout history for different purposes, as can be seen by His dealings with the ancient Israelites, the restriction of the Levitical Priesthood to a certain tribe, and His later prohibition against the gospel going to the gentiles until after the Ascension, God never took away the free agency of man to accept or reject Him as their God.

The Bible is replete with teachings that once saved, salvation is not assured no matter what, but in fact, individuals stood in jeopardy of losing their salvation if they did not "endure to the end." Such are the teachings of Paul and John the Revelator, among others. Author Richard Hopkins points out some of the many teachings of the Bible regarding the role of man's will and free agency in the process of salvation. Much of the following was taken from, or the concepts were adapted from, Hopkins' Biblical Mormonism.

Predestination assumes that spiritual justification occurs but once in a person's lifetime. When "saved," justification cleanses a new believer of his or her past sins, but most will commit additional sin. This new sin will adversely affect a believer's relationship with their Lord. They no longer stand spotless or blameless before Him, and hence, are no longer in a state that will allow them to know God.10 God is concerned with man's present status.11

God is patient with repentant believers who are sincerely striving to obey His commandments12 but, like any other past sin, new sins must be forsaken and remitted, or justified. So, although Christ's act of atonement was accomplished once for all men,13 each man's need for justification recurs throughout his lifetime.14 The process in which men are repeatedly justified as they repent of new sins until they learn perfect obedience to God is called sanctification, meaning to consecrate or make holy... to dedicate to the Lord.15

While the Bible speaks of sanctification being by the Lord,16 it also indicates that men have a part in it as they exercise their will and moral agency in an effort to maintain a state of holiness.17 Although the Lord provides the means for sanctification, He expects all men to sanctify themselves to Him.18

Paul explained the elements and process of sanctification in Titus 2:11-14 as follows:

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."

The grace of God brings salvation to men through justification for their past sins. This principle teaches men that they must live righteously, repenting and receiving justification anew each time they fall and commit new sin. Men should look forward to salvation as God purifies and redeems them "from ALL iniquity," until they become "a peculiar people, zealous of good works."

The dual role of God and man in the sanctification process is illustrated in 1 Thess 4:3-8 (NASB), as follows:

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you."

This passage clearly places upon men the responsibility of maintaining the state of moral holiness that comes through justification. That is why men are commanded throughout the Bible to repent and endure to the end, even after they have been justified. They are saved while in obedience to God, a state of holiness which they will learn to maintain for longer and longer periods at a time, until they are ready for eternal obedience in the Kingdom of God.

Paul illustrates the relationship between salvation and the sanctification process in 2 Thess 2:13 as follows:

"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."

Ultimate salvation is obtained only through the process of sanctification. By this process men are prepared to live with God in His Kingdom eternally. Scripture clearly teaches this principle: "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord."19 The expression "see the Lord" refers to the time when men will be ready to enter the actual presence of God.

Paul taught the same truths to King Agrippa in Acts 26:18. There he announced that Christ had sent him to the Gentiles:

"To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me."

Peter teaches this same principle in 1 Peter 1:2. There, addressing believers throughout the world, he describes them as:

"Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied."

This means that men are saved by faith in Christ and numbered among the "elect" (a term that relates to salvation) through sanctification.

These passages also demonstrate that the purpose of sanctification is to learn obedience. To be fully sanctified is to arrive at a state of consistent obedience that, in conjunction with justification for past sins, will allow men to live in perfection with God. Men who have achieved this goal during their life on earth were referred to as "perfect" in the Bible.20 Even though they were not perfect from birth, as Christ was, they learned obedience through the process of sanctification and were justified with respect to their past sins through the grace of Christ.

The scriptures say that men are sanctified by God's truth,21 through Christ,22 by the Spirit of God,23 through the influence of others,24 by obedience to the ordinances of the gospel, notably baptism,25 and by the word of God and prayer.26 It is clear, therefore, that a mutual effort is necessary to bring men into a state of holiness that will allow them to enter God's presence, and that that state of holiness may be lost through sin and turning from righteousness.

Predestination vs. Foreordination

The fact that men lived as spirit children of God before the Earth was created is readily apparent not only from many Bible passages, but also from ancient Jewish Rabbinical tradition, Apocryphal sources, and other ancient historians. One of the prime examples of this in the Bible is given to us by the prophet Jeremiah. God, speaking in Jeremiah 1:5, implies that Jeremiah existed before the creation, and that their relationship extended long before birth:

"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before though camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, AND I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (emphasis mine). Jehovah here clearly tells Jeremiah that he knew him in a premortal existence…that He sanctified Jeremiah, and ordained him a prophet before he came out of the womb.

That this passage speaks of an act requiring an interpersonal relationship is beyond dispute. God ordained Jeremiah a prophet! Please keep in mind that Jeremiah was no stranger to the actual process of ordination, or to what that word meant. Ordination to such a calling, as Jeremiah was most certainly clearly aware, was accomplished by the laying on of hands.27 There is no reason within the boundaries of sound hermeneutics that Jer 1:5 should be interpreted figuratively. The prophet Jeremiah, like all of us, lived with his Heavenly Father as a spirit child for an unknown duration before being born on this earth.

The realization that we lived with God as His spirit children before our sojourn on Earth explains many otherwise mysterious and completely incongruous Biblical teachings, such as Predestination.

First, it solves a great mystery about the origin and nature of the spiritual host referred to in scripture as angels. These servants and messengers of God are none other than the spirits of men, God's spirit children. The early saints understood this truth and referred to the spirit of Peter as "his angel"28.

The Bible often refers to messengers and ministering spirits by the term "angel"29. As spirit children of God, the spirits of men often act in this capacity to do His bidding30. Angels are usually spirits, but the term can be used to designate physical messengers of God, such as the three who visited Abraham on their way to oversee the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.31

Job 38:7 speaks of the Earth's cornerstone being laid, "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." The word "sons" in this verse is the Hebrew word ben, which literally means "offspring." Use of this word confirms that "the sons of God" referred to here were men, described by Paul as the "offspring" of God.32 The term "sons of God" is a reference to the spirits of Men in the preexistence, and this verse tells of their joy at the prospect of Earth's creation.33

Hebrews 2:7 (quoting Ps 8:5) says of man, "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels." The word "madest" is not in the Greek text, but is part of the word translated "lower". Thus it does not imply creation at all. The phrase, "madest him a little lower than the angels" could very possibly mean that men were "taken to" or "transported" to a position below all the angels.34

Men could not have been transported from the home of angels if they had never occupied that realm! The NASB indicates that the phrase "a little" in "a little lower than the angels" (KJB) has temporal significance. The translation there is "Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels" (Heb 2:7, NASB, emphasis added). Thus, man's departure from his heavenly home was viewed in God's perspective as one of brief duration.

Christ, too, "was made a little lower than the angels," for the express purpose of "suffering death", so He could fulfill His mission and be crowned with glory and honor.35 From Adam until the meridian of time, Christ was known to men on Earth as Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He acted in that capacity. Thus, His descent from the circumstances He enjoyed in the preexistence to Earthly life was especially pronounced (as described in Phil 2:5-8).

An understanding of the preexistence gives crystal clarity to Ecclesiastes 12:7 (emphasis added), which states: "Then shall the dust return to the Earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Certainly that is the intent of all spirits who leave their heavenly home "for a little while" to be in a place "lower than the angels". The want to return to God, and, if their hope is realized, their end will be greater than their "first estate," or occupancy in that heavenly realm (see Jude 6). This explains the joy expressed when the foundations of the Earth were laid (Job 38:7). Unfortunately, not all the sons of God have "kept their first estate."36

Job 38:7 refers to "the morning stars" singing together. The mention of "stars" in this passage is not a reference to distant suns, as astronomers use the term. It refers to a special group of spirits among the "sons of God". In Numbers 24:17 (NASB), Christ is called a "star", which "shall come forth from Jacob", and in Revelations 22:16, Jesus states that He is "the bright and morning star" (NASB: "the bright morning star"). Thus, "the morning stars" mentioned in Job included Christ in His premortal state.

But Job 38:7 speaks of "morning starS" (plural). Though Christ is uniquely designated "the BRIGHT morning star," there must have been others in that select group. Surprisingly, Isaiah 14:12 (NASB) refers to SATAN as "a star of the morning". That evil one was once among the select group spoken of by Job. Indeed, the name by which he was first known, Lucifer, means "the shining one."

That Satan was a "son of God" is clear from Job 1:6 (NASB): "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them." Since it is the same author and the same wording, the term "sons of God" used in this verse must be taken in the same sense as Job used it in chapter 38. The phrase "Satan also came among them" indicates that Satan was also a son of God. It is incongruous to suppose that he was crashing this meeting, especially in light of the extensive and parental conversation God has with him on seeing his arrival (Job 1:7-12).

Psalm 45:7 says of Christ, "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath annointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."37 From this verse it is clear that, as spirits, men were capable of making choices and were given free agency to choose evil, as Satan did, or good, as Christ did, and that rewards followed38.

The word "fellows" could not possibly have included God the Father. Only a knowledge of man's preexistence makes this reference comprehensible. Christ's "fellows" were His brothers and sisters, the other spirit children of God the Father. "Fellows" literally means "partners, holding with others," so it may also have had specific reference to "the morning stars" mentioned in Job 38:7.

When one considers the fact of the preexistence of man in light of Predestination, and when we acknowledge the fact that the Greek used for "predestined" also means "foreordained," we come to a very different conclusion than our Reformed brethren. We learn through this understanding that God knew us before we came to this Earth. He knew what choices we would make, given whatever situation we encountered. With this omniscient foreknowledge, He foreordained us, or called us, to Him and to His Only Begotten Son. Nevertheless, He also respected our free agency, and never took away our ability to reject Him or His Son. He never took away our ability to choose between good and evil.

Origen, one of the early Church Fathers, taught the premortal existence of man, as did the writers of the Apocryphal writings. For example, the Secrets of Enoch states that "all souls are prepared to eternity, before the foundation of the world.39

One could go on and on with ancient Jewish Rabbinical writings and explore Apocryphal literature and find copious examples of the belief in a premortal existence, foreordination, and heavenly councils, but that would be another presentation in and of itself. Suffice it to say, this concept is not a new one, and it was demonstrably lost in the first few centuries after Christ.

Predestination as James White understands it is simply the apostate remnant of a sacred and divine doctrine. The Bible is very clear. God is no respecter of persons. He desires that ALL come unto Him. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive. Not simply a select few.



  1. Augustine, Admonition and Grace, Chapt VIII, as quote by Richard G. Grant, Understanding These Other Christians (Salt Lake City, Sounds of Zion, 1998), pg. 121.

  2. Ibid, Chapt VII

  3. RC Sproul, Chosen By God, p. 156

  4. Duane Edward Spencer, TULIP, the Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture, p.12.

  5. Ibid, p. 11

  6. Ibid, p. 11-12

  7. Ibid, p. 12

  8. Ibid, p. 13

  9. Ibid, p. 14

  10. 1 John 2:3-4

  11. 2 Cor 13:5; Ps. 26:2

  12. Rom 2:4; 9:22; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:1

  13. Heb 9:25-28; 1 Peter 3:18

  14. See, e.g. 1 John 1:9

  15. See, e.g. Gen 2:3; Exod. 13:2; Lev. 20:26; 27:14-15

  16. Jer 1:5; Ezek. 20:12,37:28; John 10:36; 1 Thess 5:23; Jude 1

  17. Exod.19:10; Lev 19:2; Deut. 32:51; and Isa 29:23

  18. Exod. 19:10; Lev 11:44; Num 20:12; Deut 32:51; Ezek 20:41; 36:23; 1 Peter 1:16

  19. Heb 12:14, NASB

  20. Gen 6:9; 1 Kings 15:14; 2 Chron 15:17; 2 Kings 20:3; Job 1:1; 2:3; Ps. 37:37; 1 Cor 2:6; Phil 3:15; 2 Tim 3:17

  21. John 17:17

  22. 1 Cor 1:2; Heb 10:10; 13:12

  23. 1 Cor 6:11

  24. 1 Cor 7:14

  25. Eph 5:25-26

  26. 1 Tim 4:5

  27. Num 27:22-23

  28. Acts 12:15

  29. e.g. Heb 1:13-14

  30. Some act in a similar capacity for Satan - see Rev. 12:7-9

  31. Gen 18:1-8

  32. Acts 17:28-29

  33. Job 38:4-7

  34. The context of Hebrews 2:7-8 recalls the act of God placing Adam in the Garden of Eden and giving him dominion over the earth. Thus, when the spirits of men were sent from their heavenly abode to earth, to inhabit fleshly bodies, they were conveyed to a location that is lower than the place where they lived with the other sons and daughters of God.

  35. Heb 2:9-10

  36. Jude 6

  37. That this passage is addressed to Christ is evident from Heb 1:8-9

  38. For Satan's reward, see Rev. 12:9, see also Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4

  39. 2 Enoch 23:5

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