Predestination. Or, was Judas a sinner, or a saint?

Predestination. Or, was Judas a sinner, or a saint?

I posted a couple comments recently on a blog I visited off my PneumaBlogs aggregator that I’d like to recapture here for additional commentary from my readers, if you’re game.

There was an interesting post by Maryellen at her “To Everything a Time” blogspot about God’s divine plan and predestination, and the moral and intellectual confusion this causes. In fact, Maryellen herself was asking good questions after reading some sci-fi, so like a good blogger, she shared the angst.

This was what caught my attention (from early morning insanity):

Is this whole mess God’s divine plan? … And one more question, can one believe in God, love God, and still be damned? Like Cane, or Esau? Like Judas?

I commented:

Interesting post. I like your question, “can one believe in God, love God, and still be damned? Like Cane, or Esau? Like Judas?”

I think the key is love. The demons believe in God, and in their fear of him, they tremble. But they do not love him. By my estimation, the evidence is there that Judas truly did not love Christ. He loved profit. He loved self. God was not at the center of his life as evidence of a transformed mind.

We who love him are marked by our obedience. And if not obedience, at the very least, our desire to be obedient—even if we are not successful. And nobody is completely successful. As Wanderer said, God will judge justly. Plus, you have the Holy spirit as your Paraklete (sometimes translated “Advocate” or “Counselor”) here on Earth. And in the End, Christ will also stand by your side as your advocate.

Wanderer, a pagan, then weighed in with a thoughtful probe:

Okay. Here is another thing I never understood. Why is Judas painted in such a negative light? Is it not a tenet of your belief that Christ had to be betrayed and put to death to pay for your sins? That this was the divine plan? Shouldn’t this make Judas one of the most revered of the disciples, having fulfilled the plan rather than trying to fight it as the others did? What would make you think God would condemn the agent that was required to play this role? If someone was destined to do it, doesn’t condemnation of that someone go back to your concerns regarding someone being predestined to be damned? It seems foolish to me. I always thought (even before I saw the movie) that it was most likely something akin to what you find in The Last Temptation of Christ, that in fact Judas did love him, and did what he was asked.

Considering his role in the most significant event in your religious history, I would suspect Judas would be almost certain to enjoy paradise, not to be damned.

And now, my reply. After this, feel free to slog your own ideas around here:

Wanderer, good, thoughtful questions, and they should be asked if only to force the less thoughtful among us to think more deeply about our faith and the language we use to describe it.

Issues about predestination, God’s omniscience, his omnipotence, his omnibenevolence, and so on, are all attempts to harmonize what is known about this fallen world with what we believe or theorize about the eternal world. Usually these issues all get dealt with in various theodicies attempting to explain why evil exists at all. And no theodicy will ever completely satisfy because we have an unbalanced equation here. We have on the one hand, our experiences, which confront us with evil, sin, failure, waste, hunger, death, disease, catastrophe, chaos, and so on. On the other side of the equation we have God’s eternal qualities.

How can a pure and omni-whatever God allow this equation to remain unbalanced? How can we speak of a plan or predestination when the planner and predestinator is thought to be the agent in what ultimately turns out to be evil? Aren’t we then forced to say that the holy and just and loving God therefore causes evil?

But I submit that the equation is unbalanced simply because we cannot see the whole picture–and we fumble the math. You and I and the rest of us here do not have the necessary faculties to comprehend everything.

When we speak of a God who does comprehend everything, who existed before time, who created time, who sees and knows everything that has happened and could happen and will happen as though it already did happen–well, our language fails us. So we speak of a plan.

God doesn’t need to plan the way we do. Seriously, think about it. We experience time as it unfolds, sequentially, event by momentous event. We only remember the past, that imperfectly. We don’t even fully experience the present, and when we do remember the past–even moments ago–we invariably inject our imagination into the memory. And as for the future, fugeddaboutit. Our plans are at best wishes. Dreams. Hopes.

God’s plans are completed action: Fait Accompli.

If time were an object like a yardstick, we would be the creatures crawling along it moment by moment. Never seeing what’s ahead, barely remembering what was behind.

But God created that yardstick and exists, therefore outside it. God is not bound by time. He is not forced to imagine the future as a complex set of “if-then” possibilities. He doesn’t need to experience events sequentially he created it and sees it all–why would he need to limit himself? (Note, we do say that he did limit himself and experience it through Christ, when he lowered himself and became immanent within our narrow slice of reality.)

If you were to look down at a yardstick and decide you wanted to intervene in the way the critters crawling along it experienced the event, and you wanted to modify the shape and contour of the yardstick, you could stick your thumb down here, here, and maybe here. Nudge a critter here, stop one there. Flatten a few up there. It’s his yardstick. We’re his critters. He is all-powerful.

We call it a plan. We call it predestination. God doesn’t have to call it anything. He just is.

As to whether Judas is therefore a hero or a saint … if we return to my (possibly flawed) yardstick analogy, when deciding when and where to intervene in history as we know it, you could easily choose to allow those who are clearly identified as defective to accomplish your will. There’s no reason for a loving God to force a creature that serves him and loves him to do evil. But can God allow and permit one who already has evil in his heart to fulfill God’s purposes?


So, that’s it. I’m sure the discussion will flail on over at Maryellen’s blog, but feel free to start a thread here. Or head on over there to join in. I’m interested in your comments either way.

All the theodicies I’ve read (and I’m not an apologist or philosopher, so my reasoning may indeed be flawed) are centered around a key proof or argument with specially worded planks that have to be carefully defined in order to arrive at the proper conclusion. I don’t think I’ve ever read a single, absolutely compelling argument for or against God based on the problem of evil. But when you look at multiple arguments, and weigh their merit collectively, I think the situation changes. I am in favor if multiple arguments and not resting my case on a single, if well-reasoned, case.

Post away!

[tags]BlogRodent, Pentecostal, Evangelical, philosophy, theology, theodicy, the-problem-of-evil, predestination, God’s-plan, God’s-will, omniscience, debate, apologetics[/tags]

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