On Predestination

Anglicans, like all biblical Christians, believe in predestination, which doctrine is clearly taught in the Old and New Testaments, and especially by Saint Paul, but we hold the positive doctrine of election to salvation in tension with the rest of the Catholic Faith, in which predestination is considered an aspect of salvation provided by Christ freely to all men in His Word and Sacraments. Like Saint Augustine of Hippo, we must not divorce the Church’s doctrine of grace, salvation and election from the Church’s doctrine of the objective grace communicated by the Church and her Sacramental System. For orthodox Catholics, the promise of election to salvation is conferred in Holy Baptism: we are elected to salvation and remain in such a state of election insofar as we are baptised and persevere in the grace and state of our Baptism. Our election or predestination to life, affirmed in Article of Religion XVII, is inseparably tied and linked to our union with Jesus Christ our Head in His Mystical Body, the Church, through the regenerative grace of Baptism. We are personally elect to salvation because we are incorporated into Christ by Baptism and made living members of the elect, prophetic, priestly, royal Body of Christ, the People of God, the Temple of the Spirit, the Ark of Salvation, the Church.
Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him (I Saint Peter 3.20-22).
This doctrine is clearly taught in the Baptismal Office of the English Book of Common Prayer:
We beseech thee, for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt mercifully look upon this Child; wash him and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost; that he, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into the ark of Christ’s Church; and being stedfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally he may come to the land of everlasting life;
Sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect children;
I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world. Secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind. Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God.
And the American Prayer Book Catechism teaches:
And I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this state of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And I pray unto God to give me his grace, that I may continue in the same unto my life’s end.
Predestination to life, or election, is based on God’s dealing with His chosen people through Covenant, both in the Old Law and in the New Dispensation. In the Epistle to the Romans, Saint Paul describes the election of the Old Covenant people, in which God consecrated to Himself a chosen people, in which body salvation was promised and through which God was glorified and manifested Himself to the world: that reality of communion and corporate life in God, foreshadowed in the Old Law, is fulfilled and completed in the New Testament through the Church, which Body is elect to salvation and through which the proclamation of the Gospel is achieved. Election is covenantal, ecclesial and sacramental. All that God established for and promised to Israel of old is now perfected and fulfilled in the Holy Catholic Church. The Church is Israel complete and accomplished in her fulness; she is the true and spiritual Israel, a holy nation, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6.16). We are elect insofar as we are elect members of Christ is His covenantal, baptismal Body:
But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God(I Corinthians 6.11).
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 did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Romans 8.29-30).
Our common salvation then depends on our continuing in the state of grace conferred upon us by the Church, wherein we are corporately adopted as the sons of God by grace and adoption in the Holy Ghost. In the grace of Baptism and the Sacramental System, we become by grace what God is by nature; we receive divine sonship; we become ‘sons in the Son’ and ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ Such is the basis of the catholic, and biblical, doctrine of predestination. We can refuse and lose our election if we reject the grace of our Baptism and lapse into mortal sin. Called to salvation, even the elect members of Christ, members of the Church, can exercise their free will and repudiate the gift. God saves no one by force, and the mystery of free will is preserved in election. We are called to ‘make our election sure’ (II St Peter 1.10) by ‘walking in the good works prepared beforehand by God’ (Ephesians 2.10)
Conversely and negatively, the Church has always rejected ‘double predestination,’ or the idea that men are reprobated to eternal punishment apart from their exercise of free will, by an eternal decree of God that does not take into account man’s actual use or rejection of divine grace. The Second Council of Orange and the subsequent theological reflection of the Church through the course of centuries have definitely excluded from the Church’s Faith the heretical notion that God would condemn men to Hell without any consideration of their actual moral state. The judgement of the Church in this respect certainly ‘reprobates’ the excesses of the Calvinist theological method and system. ‘God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,’ ( I Timothy 2.4) yet ‘many are called but few chosen’ (Saint Matthew 22.14) because many reject the call and do not accept the free gift of salvation.
As one commentator has described it: ‘through God’s grace of eternal salvation being offered as a gift through His Son, we can choose to select eternal salvation by exercising our free will or we can choose to reject the gift of grace and select eternal damnation through exercise of our free will.’ That is the historic position of all those Communions which comprise the Undivided Church, the Great Church Catholic of the ages. We share this view in all essentials with the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Latin Church. The Lord Christ has a universally salvific will for all men; He desires and wills that all men might be saved, and the objective Atonement was offered by Christ for the remission of sins of all men who have ever lived or ever will live – but only those who subjectively receive the free gift of grace won by Christ’s Incarnation and Atonement will inherit eternal life. Tragically, some men will reject God’s grace, and His holy will and commandments, and choose not to be saved, although the offer is available to all. For the cause, when Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist, he said, ‘For this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many.’ Many will ultimately receive the gift of eternal life in the New Testament of His Blood, but not all – for some will choose not to receive it. So the ancient Faith is neither universalist nor double predestinarian; it recognises that the Image of God in man is freedom, and that man is free to cooperate and correspond with grace, empowered and aided to do so by grace itself, of course, or is free intentionally and persistently to reject grace, which act leads to spiritual death. God’s sovereignty and human free-will co-exist in a paradox, in holy mystery.

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