Predestination And Preaching
In his discussion of the 'pre' element in predestination, G. C. Berkouwer insists that "he who speaks of God's counsel in terms of human categories will have to be aware of the inadequacy of his words." He maintains that the inadequacy of our words is particularly felt when we speak of before and after with respect to God. In his attempt to understand the language of predestination, Berkouwer speaks of the "depth-aspect" of salvation. He emphasizes that "the depth-aspect of salvation is not a matter of hiddenness which goes beyond the knowledge of faith ... not something far distant, not a vague threatening reality, but the foundation of salvation." Seeking to understand the idea of "before the foundation of the world", he writes, "These words do not occur in Scripture as threat, but in the decisive depth-aspect of salvation. They are not placed in a context in which they make us dizzy in the face of an unapproachable 'eternity' ... but they are intended to show us the source of our eternal salvation ... 'Before' indicates that this divine act of salvation, preached to us by the gospel, is free from what we know in the world to be arbitrary and precarious ... When we speak of the depth-aspect, we mean that eternity does not stand in contrast to what in time became historical reality, but rather that the salvation accomplished by Christ's death of reconciliation cannot be merely historical, but that it has its eternal foundation in the love of God."
* A proper understanding of theological language is only attainable within the context of the obedience of faith. Here, we are emphasizing the integral relationship between Christian doctrine and Christian experience. We need both the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. The Word of God speaks to us of the Gospel which does not arise from our human experience. The Holy Spirit brings this Word from the Lord, and it becomes real in our human experience, changing us so that we become grateful to God and obedient to Him. The language of predestination may be understood as a form of expression, which the believer, who has willingly submitted himself to the authority of grace, uses to confess his faith in Christ.
* A proper understanding of theological language is only attainable within the context of encounter with God. This does not imply a retreat into subjectivism since faith's subjectivity has meaning only in relation to the God in whom we put our trust. The language of predestination is understood in direct connection to the Gospel through which we come to know God in Christ. Set in this context, predestination need not be regarded as a form of determinism which threatens to strip human experience of decisive significance. Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). When we place His words at the heart of our understanding of the gospel of God's sovereign grace, we can rest assured that, in our encounter with Christ, the revelation of God's love for us is not threatened by a hidden God whose secret will cannot be known.
* A proper understanding of theological language involves the recognition of the inexpressible character of the God whom we come to know in faith. The gift of God's grace, in Christ, is "an inexpressible gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15). When the believer seeks to express his gratitude to God for this inexpressible gift, he finds it quite impossible to give adequate expression to this gratitude which he feels so deeply. He is almost certain to use language which, at best, will contain certain ambiguities and which, at worst, will suggest misleading impressions if his language is not understood as a groping after a form of expression that is worthy of a virtually inexpressible Reality.
Through this approach to the doctrine of predestination, we are able to preach the Gospel as a joyful message, which is filled with true gladness. When 'the mirror of election' (Calvin) is a clearly reflecting mirror, which points us clearly to Jesus Christ, and not away from Him to an unknown God, we will preach the Gospel with both joy and urgency.