The Right Coast

January 06, 2004
Yes, David, Jesus does have it in for you
By Tom Smith

David Bernstein, probably inadvertently, has walked into one of the great theological debates started by St. Augustine. David rightly complains that winners often attribute their success to God or Jesus, but losers rarely blame God for their failure. This is almost exactly what the debate over "double predestination" was about. St. Augustine (I am told in my Teaching Company course on same) believed God chose eternally to save certain individuals. They were predestined to be saved. But what about those who were not so predestined? Did God choose to predestine them to damnation? It would seem so, because by choosing only 1 through n, everybody greater than n has been chosen for damnation. It doesn't make sense for God to say, "I'm not choosing you to be damned, I'm just not choosing to save you!" Apparently, theologians before Calvin were unwilling to bite this bullet, but Calvin said, "that's right--Some unfortunates are predestined to be damned from eternity!" This causes much consternation among Christian thinkers, because it allows the possibility that say, Bill Clinton would receive a bolus of grace on his death bed and spend the rest of eternity singing praise in his Arkansas accent. I know, an ugly thought, when he belongs in that big open pit barbecue referred to in the Good Book. Or so it would seem to me. But then judge not, etc.