Often when people think of Calvinism and the reformed tradition they seem to latch on to predestination, and if they have a little more knowledge, double predestination, conditional predestination, and so on. The term “predestination” itself is daunting and for some even scary! I remember a debate I had with a friend once who asked how I could believe that God had predestined my life, as if I had no choice in things.
This is common to people’s interpretation of the understanding of predestination, but it is not really what predestination is about. Actually, the understanding that everything in life has been predetermined is really fatalism not predestination. In the most simple of descriptions predestination is the understanding that God has pre-ordained, or elected his people to salvation. In fact, in much of the church writings we have veered away from using the word predestination because the colloquialism has taken over the theological understanding. Today we use the term “election.”
Calvin arrives at the understanding, but contrary to what many see as a foundational cornerstone of the reformed tradition, Calvin adopts the theology more by means of logic than a deep understanding. Like Paul’s pericope I call, “if God is with us, who can be against us” found in Romans 8:31-39. For both Calvin and Paul, salvation occurs because God is intimate in our lives.
However, we also have free will. This is where the understanding of fatalism falls apart. While God has brought us into this world and has elected us to go to heaven, he has given us free will to make choices; sometimes they are choices that reject God.
We see this played out in the passage we have this week. In the parable a king throws a wedding and sends out the invitations. But those who were invited rejected their invitation. At this point the wedding is heaven and those invited were the Jews. So the king opens the wedding up to people in the busiest part of town inviting all of them to come. This is the call to those outside the faith, to the gentiles. So they came, but there was one person who came not dressed appropriately and he was summarily rebuked by the king and thrown out. This man represents those who accept the call to be Christian, but do not live the life.
The final verse Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen” is an interesting conclusion. But it makes sense, if we accept that our election or predestination into heaven we are accepting an invitation to be made part of a greater whole. Secondarily, if we reject the invitation like someone who rejects an invitation to a banquet, we also reject the benefits. Moreover, if we accept the invitation, but do not take it seriously, we are really no better then the people who chose to reject the invitation all together.
So if we embark on the fishing metaphor that is found in the Bible, so often there is a big net that is thrown out to collect all people with the promise of life eternal. But we are left with the free will of how we chose to live, whether we live to ourselves or live to God.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen