“It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy…Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Romans 9:16 & 18, NIV)
“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” (Westminster Confession of Faith III.III.)
This is the biblical doctrine of “double predestination”: That God, in sovereign mercy, has decreed to redeem and save, through Christ, a vast multitude of sinners from the midst of a mass of fallen humanity, and He has done so sovereignly and unconditionally, without any foresight of their faith or obedience or perseverence therein on the part of these elected ones, and all for the praise of His glorious grace; whereas, on the other hand, He has sovereignly decreed to pass over the remainder of fallen humanity, leaving them in their sinful condition in Adam, and thus to their own freely-chosen sin, and to the punishment that their sin most justly deserves, and all to the praise of His glorious justice.
This doctrine of double predestination has been vigorously resisted and maligned by many, including many who would profess themselves to be evangelical Christians. Worship of the idols of “free will” and human autonomy is deeply entrenched today, especially in our American cultural context which extols the virtue of “rugged individualism” and a pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, self-made man (or woman) mindset. Felt-needs, “seeker-sensitive,” man-centered religion rules the day; while the older, reverent, “churchly” God-centered faith is either ignored or maligned as “irrelevant.” But this doctrine of double predestination is a jolting, powerful reminder that man is not the measure; God is. It teaches that ultimately man is not sovereign; God is. Man’s choice is not ultimate; God’s is (though even us Calvinists recognize, in line with Scripture, that man does indeed make choices in line with his spiritual condition as either a regenerate or unregenerate person). When it comes to salvation, God’s choice of us is primary; our choice of Him is secondary and derivative.
Of course, one of the reasons why this doctrine is so maligned is that it is so frequently misunderstood and/or misrepresented. For example, double predestination does not teach that God drags some sinners kicking and screaming into the kingdom against their wills, while He slams the door of heaven against other sinners who desperately desire the salvation found in Christ. On the contrary, in line with the Scriptures we Calvinists teach that if you truly desire the salvation that is offered in Jesus Christ, then you are one of the elect. The non-elect simply do not desire the salvation offered by Christ (a salvation which includes salvation from the power and dominion of sin, and not merely “fire insurance” – i.e., salvation from hell, which is the penalty for sin). As unregenerate, spiritually-dead sinners, the non-elect do not see the biblical Christ and the things of Christ (such as the gospel) as beautiful and desirable and worth forsaking all else in order to obtain. On the contrary, while the non-elect may desire some of the benefits that come from knowing Christ (such as peace of mind, a sense of meaning and purpose in life, deliverance from eternal punishment, etc.), they have no genuine desire for Christ Himself as He is offered in the gospel. If you are truly repentant for your sins and recognize Christ as your only hope of salvation and are willing to embrace Him by faith as Lord and Savior, the reason for your repentance and faith is because God has sovereignly chosen you from eternity past to that repentance and faith; it is not because you have made some autonomous, “free will” decision for Christ. Double predestination, properly understood, should actually be a great comfort to sinners who grieve for and hate their sins and who hunger and thirst after righteousness. It is a balm of healing for the bruised read and the smoking flax, for it assures the soul of the one who is weary and heavy-laden with sin that she has been loved with an everlasting, unconditional, sovereign, electing, Divine love. On the other hand, it is a sharp rebuke to the proud and self-righteous who boast in their own works or their own wills.