Naked Calvinism: why the difference between single and double predestination does not matter

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According to the doctrine of double predestination, God actively works to save some people but also to damn others. The first ones will enjoy everlasting bliss in His presence while the others will suffer the eternal flames of hell.

Most Calvinists insist they just believe in single predestination, that is that God just works for saving His elects while abandoning all other people to their well-deserved fate.

In what follows, I will show through an analogy that, given Calvinist presuppositions, the difference between the two kinds of predestination is insignificant.

Let us consider a group of twenty children who are playing football besides the ocean. One girl (I can be very sexist at times)  shot the ball in the wrong direction. The children are so eager to pursue the game that they disobey the order of adults not to swim in this dangerous zone and soon all are in the water. Very quickly they are carried away by a formidable tide.


Jerry Gooddeer happened to be there in his boat. He has the possibility to save all kids. Let us now consider two possibilities:

1) Jerry decides to save Mary, Lucy, John and Peter while pushing away all other children so that they cannot escape death.

2) Jerry decides to save Mary, Lucy, John and Peter while not helping the other kids reach his boat, thereby letting them drown.

Why 1) may be worse than 2), there is little doubt that no sensible person would call Jerry a loving man in the last case.

But let us now consider

2′) Jerry decides to save Mary, Lucy, John and Peter while not helping the other kids reach his boat, thereby letting them drown.
Before everything began, Jerry made it certain that the ball would escape to the children and that they would feel the irrestible desire to run and swim after it.

The injustice of being predetermined to hell

Morally and practically speaking, I fail to see any significant difference between 1) and 2′)


Evangelist Kerrigan Skelly gives us a complementary perspective on that question whereby he quotes John Calvin.

20 thoughts on “Naked Calvinism: why the difference between single and double predestination does not matter

  1. One thing: in the article, he’s called “Jerry Gooddeer” and in the tags he’s called “Jerry Goodman”. If Jerry’s going to be a “recurring character” then you might want to fix this.

    Lovely greetings from Tasmania!

    • Thanks!
      Actually I invented “Jerry Goodman” but then realized it is a real man, so that I changed this since his role is not particularly flattering :=)

      At the moment, I don’t know if I predestined him to show up again. I am an open-theistic god :=)

  2. Problem is, in Calvinism man freely chooses to rebel and drown himself in the water, does not want Jerry’s help and actually wants to kill Jerry. The “children” collectively pull Jerry’s beloved only son down into the water and maliciously drown him while also attempting to capsize the boat and kill Jerry. But Jerry brings the son back to life and, amazingly, chooses to save some of the murderous children at the same time. The fact that Jerry pre-selected which of the murderers he would redeem is no mark against him. It is pure, undeserved grace for which they can be quite thankful. Is Jerry free to let those other murderers have exactly what they want (and deserve)? Must he attempt to save them, and fail, in order for him to be an acceptable Savior in your eyes?

    • The problem is that Jerry predetermined the children to drown his son, making it CERTAIN they would do it. They could not have done otherwise.

      It is like a fireman spawning a fire and just saving a few of its victims.

    • If God chose not to save them before they did bad, then them being murders is after the fact. They where damned before they did, or even where, murderers. God determined before – who was going to be damned. As personal as you make it for the elect, you make it for the damned. It stands to reason.

    • “Problem is, in Calvinism man freely chooses to rebel and drown himself ”

      How can a sovereign God let Man initially have self determination? If man freely determined his drowning, how is that not determining his own destiny? Are you saying Adam “freely chose” to drown? Are you saying that Adam had the ability to not go in the water?

      Just saying Adam was permitted to freely choose what God beforehand decided – does not rescue the situation, for this has God’s allowance the determining factor; Adam could not have done otherwise. God pre-scripted Adam to fall. There was no free choice.

      • Thanks for your insightful comment. I am going to write soon an humoristic post about a Calvinist preacher in heaven and hell and I think you might be interested to take a look at it.

      • Exactly. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, then while we might feel that we have free will and are making our own decisions, this is an illusion from God’s point of view: He knows exactly what we will decide (omniscience) and has created us in exactly such a way that we “decide” exactly as He predicts. We are in the same position as a computer program is to a programmer who has perfect knowledge of the program, or a film that’s in the can: God has absolute control and thus absolute responsibility. Everything that happens happens exactly as God wills.

        I really don’t get why this is not clear to many theists. They often merely assert that we have “free will” because God, being omnipotent, can give it to us. But this simply doesn’t make sense. It’s like saying that the number two can be held “responsible” for being half of four- and punished for it.

        • Hello lovely Scot.

          I hold a view called emergent dualism, that is to say that the mind emerges from the brain but cannot be reduced to brain processes.

          On the one hand, I believe that we have strong philosophical grounds for thinking that the subjective feelings of a creature cannot be identical with processes going on in its head.
          On the other hand, these immaterial feelings cannot be a mere epiphenomenon for otherwise evolution could not have selected for right and appropriate ones.

          Therefore the feelings of a person or an animal are non-material things having some kind of causal powers.

          I think this is a view which is quite compatible with the conceptions of ancient hebrews and the first Christians.

          Of course like the great atheistic philosopher McGinn, I believe there is a strong element of mystery here, our mind will never be able to understand our mind.

          Cheers from Lancashire.

      • Hallo lieber Marc! I agree that we will probably never be able to understand exactly how our own brains function- it’s simply too complex for our minds to encompass. In fact, that’s the source of our free will, imho: our necessarily incomplete knowledge about ourselves. Our decision making is not a mathematical or philosophical monad or point; it is a process, and one where we cannot accurately predict the outcome. Regardless of whether God exists or not, we have free will, from our point of view. At least as long as no one is holding a gun to our head.

        As Laurie Anderson says:

        You were born.
        And so you’re free.
        So happy birthday.

      • @ lotharson

        “Therefore the feelings of a person or an animal are non-material things having some kind of causal powers.”

        even if we accept your somewhat dubious premises, how do we get to “non-material,” and “causal powers”?

        what does non-material mean?

        “I believe there is a strong element of mystery here, our mind will never be able to understand our mind.”

        1) never is a very, very, very long, long time: are you able to will for such a long time?
        2) how did you arrive at the understanding that we will never understand our mind?


      • I’m looking forward to it, Marc. Like xon-xoff, I’m curious about these “non-material things” that have “causal powers”. Perhaps it’s just a matter of definition: I can see calling information, say my impressions of this blog, as a “non-material thing”. But I don’t see any such “non-material things” existing in isolation from material things: they are all descriptions or models (more or less accurate or inaccurate) of the material world, and they all depend on having some sort of material substrate.

        I also wonder exactly where you would differentiate between “material” and “non-material”. You say that qualia are non-material. Okay, how about a description of crystal formation existing in a brain? Or on a computer? Or in the crystal itself? What about a description of where its feeding bowl is in a cat’s brain? Or where the food is in a planaria’s ganglion?

        Am I doing non-material stuff when I play music? When I breathe? When my heart beats? When I convert ATP to ADP to power my cells? I don’t see any point where you can draw a line. It’s all just material as far as I can see.

        cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

        • Do not have too high expectations, it is obvious I cannot provide a solution to such a huge problem 🙂

          In a future post I will argue that materailists ought to be eliminativists with respect to subjective mental states.
          Please don’t object now but wait to read mu argument 🙂

          If mental states are real and not reducible to brain processes, they MUST have a causal power, otherwise natural selection could not select for their truth.
          So, once we accept the difference between the mental and the physical, we have compelling ĝrounds for believing in mental causation, EVEN IF we cannot (yet) comprehend it.

          But this will be the topic of a second post 🙂

        • I view the information processed by a computer as being immaterial, while the hardware is physical.

          Let us say I make a research with google about “Dawkins is dumb”.

          Many electrical processes will be launched if I press the “search button” but they are not identical with the meaning of the expression I am searching.

          Okay I feel a bit guilty to have chosen this example, even though this man himself encourages his followers to use ridicule towards all religious folks.

          The geometric properties of a crystal are mathematical truths which I view as immaterial.

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