Double Predestination: Election and Reprobation and the Christian Reformed Church

John Kanis is a graduate of Pella (Iowa) Christian High School. He is now a junior pre-medical student at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. His article won 6rst prize in an essay contest open to the young people of the First Christian Reformed Church of Pella. Generous monetary awards from a member of that congregation encourages participation by the young people. The topic of this essay is relevant and should be of interest especially at this time for readers of THE OUTLOOK and for all members of the CRC.

The doctrine of double Predestination; that is, election and reprobation, is a somewhat mystifying doctrine. It is a doctrine which is contained in the creeds of most evangelical churches and has had remarkable influence in both church and state, although receiving comparatively little attention in our day. Predestination is very imperfectly understood even by many who are supposed to hold to it loyally.

The purpose of this essay will be to examine some of the historical roots of this doctrine; to define double predestination as stated in our creeds; to evaluate the stand of the church in relation to the doctrine; to study the issues involved at present; to give Scriptural proof and Biblical insights as related to predestination.


Some of the world’s greatest and wisest men are found among the past and present advocates of this doctrine. The great theologians of history, Augustine, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Zanchius, Owen, Whitefield, Toplady, and in more recent times, Hodge, Dabney, Cunningham, Smith, Shedd, Warfield, and Kuyper held this doctrine and taught it with force. Anyone making even a cursory study of the subject will find that the majority of creeds of historic Christendom have set forth the doctrines of election, predestination, and final perseverance.

From the time of the Reformation up until about a hundred years ago these doctrines were boldly set forth by most of the ministers and teachers in the Protestant churches; but today we find the majority holding and teaching other systems. “Calvinists without reserve” are hard to come by nowadays. In our modern age there is the tendency to look upon Calvinism as a worn out and obsolete creed.

It was John Calvin who brought out this system of theological thought which has ever since borne his name. He did not originate the system, but only set forth with logical clearness and emphasis what appeared to him to shine forth so clearly out of the Scriptures. Augustine had taught the essentials of the system a thousand years before Calvin was born and the whole body of the leaders of the Reformation movement thought the same. Calvin, however, was the one with his deep knowledge of Scripture, keen intellect and systemizing genius to set forth and defend the truths more clearly and ably than had ever been done before. The forceful quality of Calvin‘s teaching was his close adherence to the Bible as an inspired and authoritative book. “Where the Bible led, there he went; where it failed him, there he stopped short.”1 Calvin‘s active and powerful intellect led him to sound the depths of every subject he touched. The doctrine of predestination has perhaps raised a greater storm of opposition, and has doubtless been more misrepresented and caricatured than any other doctrine in the Scriptures.

The Reformation was scarcely established before the purity of its confession of predestination began to give way. The first serious blow to it was caused by the defection of Melanchthon to a synergistic conception of the saving act. As a result, the Lutheran churches were misled into seeking to define predestination as having sole reference to salvation, denying its obverse reprobation. The first real dangerous assault to what had now become distinctly the Reformed doctrine of predestination was delayed until the seventeenth century. Many individual Reformers in the meantime had been more or less affected by the Lutheran environment. The Reformed churches on the other hand had compacted their faith in numerous creeds in which the Reformed consciousness had expressed itself with remarkable purity. These creeds now served as a barrier to new attacks, and supplied strongholds in which the Reformed consciousness could entrench itself against further influence, such as the Arminians. The Arminian doctrine of predestination held that God alone elects to eternal life those whom He foresees responding by faith to the gospel. Thus, man‘s election becomes dependent on faith.

The National Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church assembled at Dordrecht on November 13, 1618. to confront this major crisis in the churches. Actually this national synod was in a real sense an international synod. The Dutch invited theologians from the Reformed churches of Great Britain. France, and various areas of Germany and Switzerland. The international delegates sat as full voting members of the Synod. The Canons of Dordt therefore are not a Dutch production, but they represent an ecumenical consensus of the best minds in the whole Reformed community.

The Canons were written not in a “scholastic” manner. but rather are basically simple and straightforward in fonnat. Following the Biblical model, the Canons begin with mans historic need for salvation, move on to God’s provision of Christ in history, and then relate Cod‘s effective provision of salvation to His eternal, sovereign, and free will whereby some are elect and some are left in their sins. The Arminian assault was therefore successfully met. The evil seed sown then, however, has ever since produced a continuous harvest of doubt and dispute in the Reformed churches; until today—in a new age of syncretism or fusion of different beliefs—it threatens again all that is distinctive in our Reformed confessions. But the Reformed sense of absolute dependence on the God of grace for salvation remains till today the dominant element in the thought of the Reformed churches. Today the theological expression of this element as the complete doctrine of “predestinatio duplex” retains its place in the hearts, as well as the creeds, of many Reformed Christians throughout the world. However, it is also true, sad to say, that in our so called enlightened age many look upon such beliefs as old fashioned. Professor F. E. Hamilton in “The Reformed Faith in the Modern World” says, “It seems to be tacitly assumed by a large number of people in the Presbyterian Church today that Calvinism has been outgrown in religious circles. In fact, the average church member, or even minister of the gospel, is inclined to look upon a person who declares that he believes in Predestination, with a glance of amused tolerance. It seems incredible to them that there should exist such an intellectual curiosity as a real Calvinist, in an age of enlightenment like the present. As for seriously examining the arguments for Calvinism, the idea never enters their heads. It is deemed as out of date as the Inquisition, or the idea of a flat world, and is looked upon as one of the fantastic schemes of thought that men held before the age of modern society.” This is what is infiltrating the church today.

God’s providence is not to be confused with predestination, although they seem to be complements of one another. The counsel of God concerns Christ and His people, angels and men, elect and reprobate, the animals and earth‘s seasons, the history of earth and the lot of all, as well as their destination–all this is fixed by God’s counsel. Hence the distinction was made in that decree of God between the counsel of providence and the counsel of predestination. By predestination we mean God‘s decree concerning the eternal destiny of His rational moral creatures. This distinction between the decree of providence and the decree of predestination may be maintained in a certain sense; but it is nevertheless defective. “For the counsel of God is one, and in that counsel all things according to Scripture serve the glory of God in Christ and His Church.”2

Predestination hears on men both good and evil and not merely as groups but as individuals. “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4, 5). Predestination also includes angels, both holy and wicked. Christ as Mediator was also the object of divine predestination; the special object of God’s good pleasure.


Predestination includes two parts, namely, election and reprobation. Election may be defined as God‘s eternal purpose to save some of the human race in and by Jesus Christ. The doctrine of election naturally implies that some were not elected. Reprobation is the decree of God whereby God has determined to pass some men by with the operation of His special grace and to punish them for their sin as the manifestation of His justice. For although God purposed to save some, He also purposed to not save others. “Therefore He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy” (Rom. 9:18). Hath not the potter power over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonor?” (Rom. 9:21). God has decided to not only pass by some in the bestowal of regenerating and saving grace, but also to assign them to dishonour and to His wrath for their sins.

There is a statement of the doctrine in the Westminster Confession. In this confession, which sets forth the beliefs of the Presbyterian and Reformed Church and is a wonderful expression of the Reformed Church and is a wonderful expression of the Reformed faith, we read:

“God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own free will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is Cod the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”3

This doctrine of Predestination represents the purpose of God as absolute and unconditional, independent of the whole finite creation, and as originating solely in the eternal counsel of His will.


The Christian Reformed Church’s position on predestination is found in the Canons of Dort, the first head of doctrine—“Divine Election and Reprobation.” The Church believes in both aspects of predestination—both election and reprobation.

Article Six under the first head states that the beliefs “that some receive the gift of faith from God and others do not receive it, proceeds from God’s eternal decree. ‘For known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world’ (Acts 15:18). ‘Who worketh all things after the counsel of His will’” (Eph. 1:11).4

Quoting from Article Fifteen under the same head of doctrine, we read:

What particularly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election is the express testimony of sacred Scripture that not all, but some only, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in His just judgement to follow their own ways, at last, for the declaration of His justice, to condemn and punish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares Him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous Judge and Avenger thereof.”5

The Canons also state (Article 8): “There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same decree respecting all those who should be saved, both under the Old and New Testament.”6

Article 9 explains “that this election was nol founded upon foreseen faith and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of man, as the prerequisite, cause, or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to obedience of faith, holiness, etc.”7 “He hath chosen us (not because we were, but) that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4).

I have presented a few quotes from the first head of doctrine of the Canons of Dort. But in order to more clearly understand the church‘s position the total statement should be read.

Our belief is also stated in Article XVI of the Belgic Confession, entitled Eternal Election. “We believe that all the posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ruin by the sin of our first parents, God then did manifest Himself such as He is; that is to say, merciful and just: merciful, since He delivers and preserves from this perdition all whom He in His eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness has elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works; just, in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.”8


Recently, double predestination has been the center of some discussion in the Church—particularly with regard to reprobation. As can be expected, this doctrine has never been very popular, even in many church circles. It surely emphasizes the sovereignty of God on one hand. Those who are against it claim that it makes God the cause of people being lost, and denies the responsibility of man. Calvin, himself called it a “decretum horribile” although he firmly believed in it.

In more recent times the decree of reprobation has been brought into question—in the Netherlands, but also in America and in the Christian Reformed Church as well. There are even some that feel reprobation should be eliminated from the creeds.

The Synod of 1975 received a letter from Dr. Harry Boer regarding the teaching of reprobation. Dr. Boer requests information. He asks Synod to provide “the express testimony of sacred Scripture” that Article 15 under divine election and reprobation of the Canons asserts is available to establish the doctrine of reprobation. The context as presented by Dr. Boer is summarized in Report 45 of the 1976 Agenda for Synod as such:

“I. The doctrine of election, which Dr. Boer heartily endorses, is, he alleges, rapidly going into eclipse in the Christian Reformed Church, because of the existence alongside of it, and inextricably bound up with it, of the companion doctrine of reprobation.

“He holds that the latter doctrine is not denied by anyone, but a general disbelief prevails regarding it, resulting in an ominous silence which is an unhealthy and serious condition in the church.

“2. Further evidence of this ambiguity, regarding the teaching of reprobation in the church, is the complete neglect of it in the socalled ‘Love of God’ controversy in 1963–67 in which, Dr. Boer maintains, the doctrine of reprobation should have had significant and determinant involvement in the dispute.

“3. As a missionary of theology engaged in writing textbooks for English speaking African theological students, Dr. Boer needs the Scriptural verification for reprobation and has not been able to discover express testimony of Scripture of which the Canons speak. Nor is he satisfied with the Scriptural support adduced by Reformed theologians.

“4. Dr. Boer has appealed to both his consistory and classis for such Scriptural support, but they have declined to provide such support from the Bible.

In light of these considerations Dr. Boer has addressed Synod, believing that his concern for the whole denomination and his own needs as a missionary-commissioned teacher of theology give legitimacy to his request.”9

The Synod had a few problems with Dr. Boer’s request. The status of Dr. Boer’s letter presented a problem in that he did not bring it as an appeal from previous consistorial and classical decisions, nor did he wish it to be construed as a gravamen concerning the doctrine of reprobation. Without going into this further we will be satisfied to say that Synod recognized Dr. Boer’s letter as a legitimate concern and the study committee recommended “that Synod declare that the communication of Dr. Harry Boer to the Synod of 1974 (No. 4) is essentially a gravamen and must be received by Synod as such.”10 The Study committee also recommended (among other things) “that Synod declare that the request of Dr. Boer be open for public discussion and study in the churches,”11 which is no doubt responsible for this essay.

Dr. Boer is also reported to have written, “As a teaching of the church it (reprobation) has become a creedal appendix that appears to have no function in the body of ecclesiastic, a diseased appendix can, however, playa most destructive role in the body. That is precisely what reprobation is doing to the Christian Reformed Church. The diseased appendix arises from the fact that the general disbelief in the doctrine has not resulted in its rejection as a central doctrine of the church.”

Reverend John Piersma in a recent article cites “that Boer is not alone in his low estimate of the reprobation doctrine. He has with him no other than the greatest of all theologians—reputation-wise, at least—Professor C. C. Berkouwer. Berkouwer wrote recently, ‘To me it has become increasingly clear that the Scriptural proof of reprobation from eternity does not hold . . .”

So we see the main question in these instances is, is there Biblical proof for this kind of creed? That the Bible teaches election most objectors do not deny, but they do question or even deny that the Scriptures teach the doctrine or decree of reprobation.


In all matters of controversy between Christians the Scriptures are accepted as the highest court of appeal. The Scriptures have historically been the common authority of Christendom. We believe they contain one harmonious and sufficiently complete system of doctrine. Our church also believes that all the parts of Scripture are consistent with each other and it is our duty to trace out this consistency by careful investigation of the meaning of passages.

There are many Scriptural proofs for election. Turning to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read: “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4, 5).

In Romans 8:29, 30, we read of that golden chain of redemption which stretches from the eternity that is past to the eternity that is to come. “For whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren, moreover whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”

Chapter 9 of Romans contains a lot in connection with predestination. “For the children being not yet born neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth; It was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:11, 12, 13). Although to many of us this may seem adequate endorsement, others have questioned this as legitimate proof. Some see Jacob and Esau not as individuals but as the two nations which came from these men. Also it has been said that the word hate can be said to mean “love less.” Reverend John Blankespoor disproves both these allegations in a recent article in THE OUTLOOK magazine. Reverend Blankespoor notes that earlier in the chapter Paul is grieved that the Israelites as a nation are not being saved. Paul asks the question, what is failing, Gods Word or His promise? “If the election of which Paul speaks in verses 11 and 12 refers to Israel as a nation, so that Israel is an elected nation, how can that in any way, shape, or manner be the answer to the original question about Israel as a nation being lost. Neither would or could that satisfy the grieved soul of Paul. Gods election is the answer and His reprobation.”12

On the word of hate used in this passage I quote from Professor John Murray’s Commentary on Romans (Vol. II, p. 22). “We must not predicate of this divine hate those unworthy features which belong to hate as it is exercised by us sinful men. In God’s hate there is no malice, malignancy, vindictiveness, unholy rancour, or bitterness. We must recognize that there is in God a holy hate that cannot be defined in terms of not loving or loving less.” So we see that God’s hate is a just condemnation or holy hate. There actually is no human analogy for the hate expressed in this verse.

In Malachi 1:3·5 we read, “I have loved you saith the Lord. Yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob. And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” This hardly sounds like a “loved less” attitude.

Further Scripture proof for predestination is found in John 6:37–40. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me. And this is the Fathers will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. In John 10:26–29 we read a passage alluding to reprobation. “But ye believe not, because ye are not My sheep, as I said unto you My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me: And I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.”

Many passages which refer to election, the wonderful aspect of predestination for us, include the decree of reprobation. “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, who shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). And in Timothy 2:19 we read, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.”

Also, election is final; one cannot become elect and then fall away. No doubt there are those who may seem to us to be God’s children but then fall away—those never were God’s own. Some may argue that according to Scripture there are examples of those who have fallen away from grace and from the faith. This is not hard to contradict as we see with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (I John 2:19).

I have presented a number of passages which to me give strong support to the doctrine of double predestination. What I have presented is only a scratch on the surface of the multitude of passages I have come across in my study of the doctrine. You may ask, haven’t those who oppose the doctrine read these passages? Yes, I am sure they have and I am undoubtedly sure they have pondered them at some length. But you see as Professor Berkouwer himself has said, “Here we enter the field of hermeneutics, the problems concerning the interpretation of Scripture.”

Hermeneutics, as defined in Webster’s, is the study of the methodological principles of interpretation. This means that people read the Bible from a certain previously adopted point of view –people sec what they want to see. This is a serious problem in the church at the present. How much must we know before we read the Scriptures? Can we fead the apostles’ writings if we know nothing of their backgrounds, education, etc., or to put the question at another angle: can we read the Bible intelligently with a former conviction that it is really the Word of God?


In conclusion I would like to quote from a recent article of Reverend John H. Piersma. He says, “Proof in Scripture for reprobation will not be found by anyone whose hermeneutics differ radically from that of, say, John Calvin. And that is why we are predicting that the whole discussion on reprobation which Synod is likely to recommend or even undertake may just end where Berkouwer himself has ended, while many of us, working with the ‘old hermeneutics’ will be as convinced as ever that the Reformed creeds are eminently biblical, even on the doctrine of reprobation.”12

Reverend Piersma sums up the whole issue quite clearly. Those of us who accept the “old hermeneutics” will be satisfied while those who wrestle with new angles may have some trouble. To me the Scripture seems clear enough as proving the doctrine of election and reprobation. For those who can find it in them to accept passages for proof of election it seems obvious that those who are not elect will go to hell and God willfully and justly condemns them. I would like to end this paper with a section of our Heidelberg Catechism. Although predestination is not implicitly stated in the Catechism, it is interwoven throughout all of it and its presence is an important part.

What is your only comfort in life and death?

That I with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all thc power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.

And our joy is further enhanced when we realize that even before we were “knit together in our mother’s womb” God knew us, We must accept God’s judgments as wonderful and not desire to know anything different nor have any sinister suspicions of His incomparable justice. We must content ourselves in that we are His and await the day when we shall see Him face to face and receive the solution of these riddles.

1. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, Lorraine Boettner, Wm. B, Eerdmans Publishing Comp:my, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1957, p. 5.

2. Reformed Dogmatics, Reverend Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973, p. 159.

3. The Confession of Faith, A. A. Hodge, The Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1964, I). 63. 4. Psalter Hymnal – Doctrinal Standards Section, Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1959, p. 45. 5. Ibid., p. 47. 6. Ibid., p 46. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid. p. 9.

9. 1916 Agenda for Synod, Board of Publications of the Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan,1976, p. 480.

10. Ibid., p. 483.

11. Ibid.

12. Reverend John Blankespoor, “Reprobation – How the Bible Teaches It,” THE OUTLOOK, June 1976, pp. 22–23. 13. Reverend John H. Piersma, “Shall the CRC Eliminate Reprobation from the Creeds?” THE OUTLOOK, June 1976, pp. 8–11.