The belief that God chooses some people for salvation and not others has caused vigorous debate throughout Christian history. The topic involves many theological issues, such as free will and the problem of evil. This debate also led many people to wonder what Christian denominations believe in predestination.
All Christian denominations believe in predestination. Denominations like United Methodists and Assemblies of God believe predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge of who will choose him. The Presbyterian denomination and other Reformed churches believe salvation is based on God’s sovereign will alone.
What exactly do denominations like Presbyterianism, Methodism, and the Baptist tradition believe about predestination? How do these different belief systems compare to one another? Keep reading to learn more.
Do Presbyterians believe in predestination?
Presbyterians believe in predestination. It’s their conviction that God’s election doesn’t stem from his foreknowledge of people choosing him as Arminian traditions believe. Instead, God chooses to save certain people. His election of them is rooted in his sovereign grace, not on the merits of a chosen person. (Also see What Denominations Speak in Tongues?)
What does Presbyterianism think of predestination that is based on God’s foreknowledge? According to Presbyterian theology, predestination that is based on God’s foreknowledge fails to do justice to his sovereignty. According to this view, the Methodist and Assemblies of God’s view of predestination gives people too much credit for their salvation.
Presbyterianism believes their view of predestination takes sin more seriously than other traditions do. According to Presbyterian theology, people aren’t capable of choosing Christ until God regenerates their hearts. At that point, a person can respond in faith. Those that God doesn’t choose are left in their sinful state. (Also see What Denominations Are Arminian?)
Do Presbyterians believe in single predestination or double predestination? Some people refer to the belief that God directly chooses some for salvation while not choosing others as “single predestination.” (Also see What Denominations Are Calvinist?)
Some Presbyterians adhere to this theological view. Others Presbyterians believe in so-called “double predestination,” which states that God directly chooses some people for salvation and directly chooses others for damnation.
|Single Predestination||Double Predestination|
|Does God directly choose who will be saved?||Yes||Yes|
|Does God directly choose who will be damned?||No, he just leaves them as they are, which results in eternal damnation||Yes|
The Westminster Confession of Faith, which is the central theological belief statement for the majority of Presbyterians worldwide, states that God foreordains some people to eternal damnation, which is consistent with double predestination.
“The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His Sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.” (Chapter 3, Section 7)emphasis added
Advocates of double predestination argue that the doctrine takes seriously the sovereignty of God. If nothing is outside God’s control, then this includes those whose souls are destined to hell.
Also see How to Choose a Church Denomination to learn more.
Do Methodists believe in predestination?
Sometimes people assume that Methodists and other Arminian Christians, like the Assemblies of God denomination, don’t believe in predestination. They think the doctrine is just for Presbyterians, Reformed churches, and Calvinists who worship in Baptist and non-denominational churches. This assumption isn’t true.
Every Christian tradition that reads and teaches the Bible has an explanation for predestination because it’s clear that Scripture acknowledges and teaches about the topic:
- Ephesians 1:5, “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (ESV)
- Ephesians 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (ESV)
- Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (ESV)
Is predestination based on God’s foreknowledge? Historically, Methodists have held to predestination, but with an important caveat: God’s foreknowledge determines who he chooses for salvation. God, in his omniscience, knows the future before it happens. This includes knowing who will choose to positively respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, God predestines those who he foresees will eventually choose him.
Who did Christ die for? Unlike Presbyterians and other Reformed and Calvinist thinkers, Methodists don’t believe that Christ only died for the elect. Rather, they believe that Jesus died for all people. According to this view, God has done his part of salvation, and now it’s up to those who hear the gospel to respond in faith if they want to be saved.
What is prevenient grace? Prevenient (from a Latin word meaning “go before”) refers to the grace that God extends to people so they can respond to the gospel. In order for any person to respond in faith to the offer of salvation, God has to reverse the effects of original sin. Otherwise, sin would hold people in bondage, rendering them unable to believe. God accomplishes this through his prevenient grace, which allows each person on earth to respond in faith to him. 
Does God respect the free will of people? Methodists believe their understanding of predestination allows God to be the initiator of salvation as well as a respecter of the free will of people. According to this line of thinking, if all people are not able of their own free will to respond in faith to the gospel, then God is sending people to hell unjustly.
Why is 1 Timothy 2:3-4 important to this view? 1 Timothy 2:3-4 states that God desires all men to be saved. Methodists ask, if Jesus only died for those who will believe, then why would God desire for all people to be saved? If he actually desired this, then he would give them the ability to believe.
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”emphasis added
Presbyterians, and other Reformed and Calvinist thinkers argue that God is just because he has given all people an opportunity to believe. However, because of man’s sinful nature, they are unable to respond to this offer. (Also see Do All Denominations Believe in the 10 Commandments?)
Do Baptists believe in predestination?
Baptists are divided on how to understand the doctrine of predestination. The fact is, a person can hold the Methodist-Arminian view of predestination or the Presbyterian-Calvinist view of predestination and still be Baptist.
In addition to the core doctrines of the Christian faith like the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, and the Second Coming of Christ, the Baptist tradition emphasizes the autonomy of the local church, adult baptism, and separation of Church and state. A person can be an Arminian or Calvinist and be Baptist. (Also see Do All Christians Denominations Baptize?)
What does the Southern Baptist denomination believe? Within the largest Baptist denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, there exists a wide variety of thoughts on predestination.
- Some Southern Baptists have an understanding of predestination that is Calvinistic or Reformed
- Other Southern Baptists have an understanding of the doctrine that is more Arminian or Wesleyan
- A recent study in the Southern Baptist Convention revealed that there are approximately an equal number of Arminians and Calvinists in the denomination
In recent years, the Reformed tradition has gained influence within the Baptist church. The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, but a possible reason may have to do with the prominence of several leaders, such as John Piper, who is both Calvinist and Baptist.
According to his followers, Piper preaches and teaches Calvinist theology in a way that is both empathetic, gracious, and faithful to Scripture. Although not universally popular, many people in both the Baptist tradition look to him for guidance in theological matters. 
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