Predestination vs Foreordination
Martin Luther’s Bible, 1534
Where Science Meets Religion by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD, for the Come Follow Me lesson October 2–8: Ephesians
According to the King James Version of the Bible, Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4-5, 7, 9, and 11, “According as 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 predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace…Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself…In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will…”
According to Strong’s Concordance, as cited at Bible Hub, the Greek word translated as “predestinated” in the King James Bible is προορίσας (proorisas), which means “to foreordain, predetermine, mark out beforehand.”1 According to the Oxford Dictionary, “predestinated” originated in late Middle English: from ecclesiastical Latin praedestinat- ‘made firm beforehand’, from the verb praedestinare, from prae ‘in advance’ + destinare ‘establish’.”
In the Online Etymology Dictionary we are told: “The Latin word was first used in the theological sense by Augustine; given prominence by Calvin.” However, according to one website: Ancient Wisdom That Works Today; Quotes on Predestination; both Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200) and Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215) used the word “predestinated” – if they are translated correctly. However, Clement apparently stated, “…those already ordained, whom God predestinated, knowing before the foundation of the world that they would be righteous.”2 But that website, although citing one quote by Augustine, did not include the term “predestined” in the quote.3 So I’m not sure where the Online Etymology Dictionary came up with the idea that Augustine used the Latin term for “predestinate.”
The Latin Vulgate for Ephesians 1:5 states, “Qui prædestinavit nos in adoptionem filiorum per Jesum Christum in ipsum: secundum propositum voluntatis suæ,” where “prædestinavit” clearly is “predestinated.” But the Vulgate was written mostly by Jerome beginning in 382 AD. According to the website augnet.org, “When Augustine [354 – 430 AD] quoted the Holy Scripture…Christians of Augustine’s era never saw what is called a single book that would today be described as ‘the Bible.’ Augustine would have had a stack of manuscripts that contained separate books of the Bible. He may not always have had access to every book of the Bible simultaneously, nor even to every section within every book. Augustine knew only a little Greek, and did not spontaneously refer to the Greek Bible. He mostly used what is termed the Vetus Latina, the ‘Old Latin’ version of Biblical texts.”4 This was the version of the Bible used before the Vulgate translation slowly replaced it. Augustine admitted several times in his Retractions that he had made incorrect interpretations on the basis of reading imperfect or even false translations.5In his Letter 71, Augustine lamented, “…the variations found in the different codices of the Latin text are intolerably numerous; and it is so justly open to suspicion as possibly different from what is to be found in the Greek, that one has no confidence in either quoting it or proving anything by its help.”6
Furthermore, Tom Nash, in an op-ed in Catholic Answers, entitled, “Augustine Had It Right; Calvin Did Not,” said that Augustine did not teach predestination. Nash stated, “To be clear, John Calvin taught this erroneous doctrine…Among other problems, there is no free will of any consequence for those who are divinely reprobated. In other words, they will ultimately be damned and can’t do a thing about it. Augustine would have strongly disagreed with this heresy, as he affirmed man’s God-given free will and thus our ability to accept or reject God’s free gift of eternal salvation.” Nash proposed, as do we, that an omniscient God “…knows from all eternity who will accept his gift of salvation and who will reject it. [Because] …to God, everything is present. He doesn’t have to wait for history to unfold as we mere humans do to find out what is going to happen. [However], …God’s knowing how we will choose does not entail his willfully predetermining how we will choose…man is not saved by God’s grace through faith alone, contrary to what Martin Luther taught, but through both faith and good works (see also James 2:14-26).”7
The most critical verses in that passage in James are James 2:14, 24, and 26, which state, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?...Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only…For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
So how did Martin Luther, who clearly taught that we are saved by faith alone, circumvent this passage in James, which obviously contradicted Luther’s belief in salvation only by grace? Luther declared the books of Hebrews, James, Jude, and the Revelation to be “disputed books,” which he included in his German translation of the Bible but placed separately at the end of his New Testament, published in 1522. He claimed Scripture as having sole authority to determine theological issues, but he removed the books that disagreed with his theology. He said of the Epistle of James, “It is flatly against St. Paul.”8
Luther didn’t make his doctrines fit the Scriptures, rather, he attempted to make Scripture fit his doctrine. He considered himself to be his own divine authority — and vehemently opposed anyone with an opinion that differed from his. Luther stated, “In a word, St. John’s Gospel and his first Epistle, St. Paul’s Epistles, especially Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, and St. Peter’s first Epistle are the books that show you Christ and teach you all that it is necessary and good for you to know, even though you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine. Therefore St. James’ Epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to them; for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.”9
Again, according to Strong’s Concordance, as cited at Bible Hub, the Greek word translated as according to his “good pleasure” in the King James Bible, is εὐδοκίαν (eudokian), which means according to his satisfaction, delight, kindness, wish, or purpose. If “kindness” or “purpose” were used as the translation in Ephesians, the meaning would be quite different.
Here we see in Ephesians 1:4-5, 7, 9, and 11 another case, as I described in my blog of September 16: Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Calvinism, as well as Lutheranism, strongly influenced the choice of words in the King James Bible. Here people are “…predestinated…according to his good pleasure…” rather than being “…foreordained…according to his kindness and purpose…” which is a more accurate translation of these verses.
We read in Alma 1:1-3, “And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people. And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption. And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.”
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “We are quite well aware that Joseph Smith and Jeremiah and the apostles and prophets, the wise, the great, and the good were foreordained to particular ministries. But that is only a part of the doctrine of foreordination. The great and glorious thing about foreordination is that the whole House of Israel was foreordained, that millions upon millions — comparatively few compared to the total preexistent host — but millions of people were foreordained.”10
President Spencer W. Kimball prepared a talk for the October 1979 General Conference entitled, “The Role of Righteous Women” (the talk was read by his wife, Sister Camilla Kimball). In that talk he stated, “Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to.” In a talk entitled, “Mothers Who Know,” given in the October 2007 General Conference, Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, stated, “In the scriptures we read of Eve (see Moses 4:26), Sarah (see Genesis 17:16), Rebekah (see Genesis 24:60), and Mary (see 1 Nephi 11:13–20), who were foreordained to be mothers before children were born to them.” This point was further advanced by Sheri Dew, at the time Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency in a talk she gave entitled, “We Are Women of God,” at the January 2000 General Relief Society Meeting, “Just as faithful men were foreordained to hold the priesthood, we were foreordained to be women of God.” This I also believe.
I have written about some of these faithful women in my recent book, Latter-day Saint White Ops: The Role of Women and the Relief Society in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Castle Books Publishing — Available at Amazon Books, 2023.
Trent Dee Stephens, PhD
1. biblehub.com/ephesians/1-5.htm; retrieved 24 September 2023
2. Clement, The Stromata, Book VII, Chapter XVII
3. Ancient Wisdom That Works Today; Quotes on Predestination; donpartridge.wordpress.com/quotes-of-ancient-wisdom-some-modern/quotes-on-predestination; retrieved 24 September 2023
4. Friends of Augustine bulletin; augnet.org/en/life-of-augustine/augustine-in-general/1302-augustines-bible; retrieved 27 September 2023
5. c. f. Augustine, Retractions. Chapter XLIII, p. 147
6. Augustine, Letter 71, Chapter 4.6
7. catholic.com/qa/augustine-had-it-right-calvin-did-not; retrieved 24 September 2023
8. c. f. Full text of Works of Martin Luther, Volume 6 p. 339, sabda.org/alkitab-8/LIBRARY/LUT_WRK6.PDF; retrieved 24 September 2023
10. McConkie, Bruce R., Making Our Calling and Election Sure, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [25 Mar. 1969], p. 6