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Question and Answer

Double Predestination


What is the OPC stance on double predestination?


The Orthodox Presbyterian Church states, in its official Confession and Catechisms, that God has chosen some out of the human race to be saved through the finished work of Christ, thus inheriting eternal life. It also acknowledges that others of the same human race are not chosen to eternal life and therefore foreordained to everlasting punishment. This teaching is clearly stated, for example, in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter III, section 3 which says this:

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto eternal life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.

In other words, God sovereignly ordains the eternal destiny of every human being—the lost as well as the saved. This has sometimes been called "double predestination."

However, a careful study of the Westminster Standards will show that this is never to be understood to say—or even imply—that these are parallel to each other in some symmetrical way (as if every aspect in the one case has a corresponding aspect in the other). In the case of the elect there is a divine intervention called regeneration. This is a sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit whereby a sinner who is spiritually dead is made alive. It is this that enables a sinner to see and enter the Kingdom of God (as Jesus teaches in John 3). In other words, God works in those whom he has chosen to enable them to repent and believe. It follows that all the praise, credit and glory belongs to him alone. It does not belong to the elect sinner who repents and believes. In the case of those who are not elect, however, there is no internal work of God. It is not God who makes them evil. They already are evil. In their case the Word of God only hardens them in their sin. And it is to them alone—and not to God—that the blame therefore must belong for their final reprobation.

There is a God-decreed finality in both the predestination of the elect to eternal life and the foreordination of reprobate to condemnation. But there is no symmetry between them. It was for this very reason that the Westminster Assembly never used the Scriptural term predestination in speaking of the lost, but instead the term foreordination.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to say something again about this awesome subject.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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