I am beginning to think that the subject of heaven and hell should first be discussed before engaging in the subject of predestination. The reason I bring the subject of heaven and hell up is that predestination has to do with those two primary destinations.
For now, suffice it to say that hell is not one single level according to Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew “10:14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town”. The phrase “it will be more bearable” is also written in Mark and Luke. More bearable would indicate hell is more or less “bearable” to some versus others. However, I digress.
I’ve had many discussions with friends about predestination and free will over the years. It really boils down to the word “free“. What does free in the term free will mean? Oxford Dictionary begins like this: the power of acting without the constraint…. which is the sense I am using.
If we are burdened by our sinful nature are we free or constrained? If we are influenced by our environment which exerts pressure are we free or constrained? If we are influenced by chemicals that course through our bodies are we free or constrained? If others exert influence on us to do, think, or say something are we free or constrained? The only being that is free is God the Creator. Man has a will but it is not free. It is constrained by many things.
Now for comments on the video:
In the first couple minutes of the video, Dr. Brant Pitre completely mischaracterizes “double predestination“. Brant sets up a “straw man argument” by saying “God foreordains irrespective of human will some people to go to heaven and some people to go to hell….”.
A straw man fallacy occurs when someone takes another person’s argument or point, distorts it or exaggerates it in some kind of extreme way, and then attacks the extreme distortion as if that is really the claim the first person is making. ~ Source
Brant makes the argument that God foreordains irrespective of human will. This is not the case made in any Biblical view of predestination. Rather, all are destined for hell. Apart from God choosing to save some of us our destiny would be hell. Man is by nature wicked, dead in sin, and hellbound. Jer 17:9 | Eph 2:1 – 10 | Rom 3:10 Brant grants this point later in the video.
I am typically tempted to stop listening to any further discussion from people who use the straw man tactic. It is often used by those who know their argument is defeated before they begin. That is why they must start by setting up a straw man. The real position cannot be argued so they must make up an argument that they can destroy.
Brant then quotes from The book of Sirach which is not part of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) but has been found as an ancient book. ~ Source
If you want to read more on Apaocraphyl books like Sirach here is a good link. A single quote from the Jewish scholar Josephus (A.D. 37-95) might suffice:
We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine” (Against Apion 1.8).
My view of the Apocrypha and other ancient writings found in “The Lost Books of the Bible and The Forgotten Books of Eden” is they can be useful for lending insight into how people thought. It would be like reading an article written in a newspaper about a Supreme Court decision. The article has no legal bearing on the court ruling.
Brant also references the Mishna to support the idea of free will. The Mishna was an oral tradition compiled around 200 AD. Source. So, even the Jewish people did not see the book of Sirach as part of scripture. Also, the Mishna is not something a Roman Catholic or Protestant would cite as an authority. If we do, we may as well turn to any philosopher or writer to give us authoritative answers on Christian views.
Starting at 5:20 Brant admits Jewish groups like the Sadducees were more in tune with predestination. Then he seems to gloss over it. I do not expect him to go into detail because he is not trying to give their views any credit. This is not an important criticism however, it is significant that the subject predates the split between Roman Catholics and Protestants.
I find it odd that the only references to the will of man being “free” are found outside universally accepted scripture. As I have previously posted, there are at least 25 references to predestination in the scriptures. Why do none of those passages talk about a man having free will? In Romans 9 (not in the list of 25) we are given a clear understanding. God is the only one with free will.
As Romans 9 clearly asks “who resists his will?” meaning God’s will. Paul does not say “you have free will!” Brant says Jews like Paul understood that we had free will and God predestined us. If so, why does Paul reply “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why did You make me like this?“
If what Brant believes was true wouldn’t this be the perfect place for Paul to clarify? Nearly the entire chapter revolves around the issue of salvation and the choice of God and how man is saved by God’s free will choice! God does sometimes “knock us off our ass” to get our attention to save us. However, He does not have to drag us against our will to hell.
I want to conclude by reminding the reader that I do not think your view of predestination determines your faith in Christ. Thomas wanted more evidence on that subject so it is little wonder if you want more evidence about this subject. I am simply explaining the way I see it. If you see it another way well then I suppose you were predestined to do so. 🙂