Predestination is a teaching to which some Christians have adhered, including the Reformed theologian John Calvin. While the doctrine of predestination has sometimes been hotly disputed, it belongs within the larger context of John Calvin’s teachings about God’s grace.
Calvin argued from Scripture that God has “predestined” or “elected” some people to be saved in Jesus Christ and others not to be. He insisted, nonetheless, that we could be sure only of our own salvation; we were never in a position to judge whether or not another person was saved. As the Second Helvetic Confession says,
We must hope well of all, and not rashly judge any man to be a reprobate. (5.055)
For Calvin, the point of the doctrine of predestination was to remind us that God is free and gracious. There is nothing that we can do to earn God’s favor. Rather, our salvation comes from God alone. We are able to choose God because God first chose us.
Properly understood, the doctrine of predestination frees us from speculating about who is saved and who is not. God has already taken care of these matters in the mystery of God’s own being. We are called to hear God’s good news in Jesus Christ and to trust in God through Jesus Christ.
For the preaching of the Gospel is to be heard, and it is to be believed; and it is to be held as beyond doubt that if you believe and are in Christ, you are elected. (Second Helvetic Confession, 5.059)
The doctrine of predestination is to be
held in harmony with the doctrine of [God’s] love to all mankind ... [and] with the doctrine that God desires not the death of any sinner, but has provided in Christ a salvation sufficient for all. (amendment to the Westminster Confession of Faith, 6.192)