William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Predestination of the Elect of God

by Francis Turretin

Ought predestination to be publicly taught and preached? We affirm.
Some of the brethren of France in the time of Augustine started this
question. Since, in his books against the Pelagians, he had inserted
and inculcated many things concerning predestination, so as in this
way to defend the truth against their impious doctrines, many were
disturbed by it (as appears from the two letters of Prosper, a
disciple of Augustine, and of Hilary, the presbyter*; cf. "Letters
225 and 226 to Augustine" [FC 32:119-29 and 129-391). The reason was
not that they judged it to be at all false, but because they thought
the preaching of it was dangerous and invidious, better to be
suppressed than brought into prominence.

There are some of the same opinion at the present day. Wearied with
the contentions arising from this doctrine in almost every age, they
think that it is best for the peace of the church and the
tranquility of conscience to let these questions alone (since by
them scruples are suggested and doubts generated which are
calculated to weaken the faith of the weak and to drive men to
desperation or into carnal security). But this opinion is more
honest than true and cannot be readily received by those who have
known the richest fruits of consolation and sanctification to
redound to believers from this doctrine properly understood. Hence
we think that this doctrine should be neither wholly suppressed from
a preposterous modesty nor curiously pried into by a rash

Rather it should be taught soberly and prudently from the word of
God so that two dangerous rocks may be avoided: on the one hand,
that of "affected ignorance" which wishes to see nothing and blinds
itslef purposely in things revealed; on the other hand, that of
"unwarrantable curiosity" which busies itself to see and understand
everything even in mysteries. They strike upon the first who
(sinning in defect) think that we should abstain from the
proposition of this doctrine; and upon the latter who (sinning in
excess) wish to make everything in this mystery scrupulously
accurate (exonychizein) and hold that nothing should be left
undiscovered (anexereunifton) in it. Against both, we maintain (with
the orthodox) that predestination can be taught with profit,
provided this is done soberly from the word of God.

The reasons are (1) Christ and the apostles frequently taught it (as
appears from the Gospel, Matthew 11:20, 25; 13:11; 25:34; Luke
10:20; 12:32; John 8:47; 15:16 and in other places; and from the
epistles of Paul (the whole of Rom. 9 and Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:4,
5; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Thess. 2:13). Nor otherwise do Peter,
James and John express themselves who speak repeatedly of this
mystery whenever occasion offered. Now if it was proper for them to
teach it, why is it not proper for us to learn it? Why should God
teach what would have been better (arrifton) unspoken (ameinon)? Why
did he wish to proclaim those things which it would be better not to
know? Do we wish to be more prudent than God or to prescribe rules
to him?

(2)It is one of the primary gospel doctrines a foundations of our
faith. It cannot be ignored without great injury to the church and
to believers. For it is the fountain of our gratitude to God, the
root of humility, the foundation and most firm anchor of confidence
in all temptations, the fulcrum of the sweetest consolation and the
most powerful spur (incitamentum) to piety and holiness.
(3) The importunity of the adversaries (who have corrupted this
primary head of faith by deadly errors and infamous calumnies which
they are accustomed to heap upon our doctrine) imposes upon us the
necessity of handling it so that the truth may be fairly exhibited
and freed from the most false and iniquitous criminations of evilly
disposed men. As if we introduced a fatal and Stoical necessity; as
if we would extinguish all religion in the minds of men by it, to
soothe them on the bed of security and profanity or hurl them into
the abyss of despair; as if we made God cruel, hypocritical and the
author of sin-I shudder to relate it. Now as all these things are
perfectly false, they ought unquestionably to be refuted by a sober
and healthy exhibition doctrine from the word of God.

Although wicked men often abuse this doctrine (improperly
understood), its lawful use towards the pious ought not therefore to
be denied (unless we wish to have more regard for wicked men than
believers). (2) If, on account of the abuse of some persons, we
should abstain from the proposition of this mystery, we must equally
abstain from most of the mysteries of the Christian religion which
the wicked abuse or laugh at and satirize (such as the mystery of
the Trinity, the incarnation, the resurrection and the like). (3)
The calumnies launched against the doctrine of Paul by the false
apostles could not cause him to suppress it; yea, he thoroughly
discussed it in his inspired way so that he might shut the mouths of
adversaries. Why then should we refrain from its presentation? Let
us only follow in the footsteps of Paul and, with him, speak and be

If some abuse this doctrine either to licentiousness or to
desperation, this happens not perse from the doctrine itself, but
accidentally, from the vice of men who most wickedly wrest it to
their own destruction. Indeed there is no doctrine from which more
powerful incitements to piety can be drawn and richer streams of
confidence and consolation flow (as will be seen in the proper

The mystery of predestination is too sublime to be comprehended by
us as to the why (to diod) (as he is rash who would attempt to find
out or to assign the reasons and the causes of it). But this does
not hinder it from being taught in Scripture as to the fact (to
hoti) and from being firmly held by us. To things therefore must be
distinguished here: the one, what God has revealed in his word; the
other, what he has concealed. The former we cannot despise (unless
rashly). "The secret things,' says Scripture, 'belong unto God: but
those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children'
(Dr. 29:29). To neglect things revealed argues ingratitude, but to
search into I things concealed argues pride. "We must not therefore
deny what is plain because we cannot comprehend what is hidden," as
Augustine expresses it (On the Gift of Perseverance 37 [NPNF1,
5:540; PL 45.10161).

The fathers before Augustine spoke more sparingly concerning this
mystery not because they judged it best to ignore it, but because
there was no occasion presented for discussing it more largely (the
Pelagian heresy not having as yet sprung up). Indeed it is true that
they sometimes expressed themselves without sufficient caution.
Nevertheless Augustine (On the Gift of Perseverance) proves that
they did not pass over this truth in utter silence (for who could be
ignorant of that which is so clearly set forth in sacred
Scriptures?) the testimony of Abrose, Cyprian and Gregory Nazianzus
being adduced for this purpose.

While we think that predestination should be taught, we do not
further suppose that human curiosity should be enlarged, but believe
there is need here of be taught, but believe there is a need here
for great sobriety and prudence; both that we may remain within the
bounds prescribed by Scripture, not endeavoring to be wise beyond
what is written (par'ho geg-raptai), and that we may prudently have
a regard for the persons, places and times to regulate the
proposition of it. For it ought not to be delivered immediately and
in the first instance, but gradually and slowly. Nor ought it to be
delivered equally as to all its parts, for some ought to be more
frequently inculcated as more useful and better suited to the
consolation of the pious (as the doctrine of election), but others
ought to be handled more sparingly (as reprobation). Nor ought it to
be set forth so much to the people in the church as to the initiated
(tois mystais) in the school. Again, predestination must be
considered not so much a priori as a posteriori. Not that we may
descend from causes to effects, but ascend from effects to causes.
Not that we should curiously unroll "the book of life" in order to
see if our names are written therein (which is forbidden to us), but
that we should diligently consult "the book of conscience" which we
are not only permitted, but also commanded to do, that we may know
whether the seal of God is stamped upon our hearts and whether the
fruits of election (viz., faith and repentance) may be found in us
(which is the safest way of proceeding to the saving knowledge of
that doctrine). In one word, all curious and fruitless questions
must be avoided here, and what Paul calls 'foolish and unlearned
questions' (apaideutous zetesis kai aperantous, 2 Tim. 2:23)-which
usually engender strifes and contentions. Our only object should be
to increase our faith, not to feed curiosity; to labor for
edification, not to strive for our glory.

Question: In what sense are the words 'predestination,' prognseos,
ekloges and protheseos used in this mystery?

Since the Scriptures (whose genuine signification throws great light
upon the knowledge of the thing itself) use various words in
explaining this mystery, we must premise certain things concerning

First the word "predestination' occurs here, and it must not be
passed over lightly. For although the word proorismou does not exist
in the Scriptures, yet the verb
from which it comes is often read (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29, 30
Ephesians 1:5) Moreover to predestinate (or proorizein from the
force of the verb) signifies to determine something concerning
things before they take place and to direct them to a certain end.
However, it is understood by authors in three ways. (1) More widely
for every decree of God about creatures and most especially about
intelligent creatures in order to their ultimate end. Thus it is
frequently employed by the fathers for providence itself. (2) More
specially for the counsel of God concerning men as fallen either to
be saved by grace or to be damned by justice (which is commonly
called "election' and "reprobation'). (3) Most specially for the
decree of election, which is called "the predestination of the
saints.' Again according to the latter, it can be taken in two
senses (schesin): not only for the destination to the end, but
particularly for the "destination to the means" (in which sense it
is used by Paul when he says that God predestinated those whom he
foreknew to be "conformed to the image of his Son,' Rom. 8:29, 30).
Here it is plain that predestination is distinguished from
foreknowledge and refers most especially to the end. Thus after
saying that God hath chosen us in Christ, the having predestinated
us unto the adoption of children' (proorisas ian, Eph. 1:5) to mark
the destination of means ordained for obtaining the salvation
destined by election.

About this word, moreover, it is asked whether it is to be referred
only to election or whether it embraces reprobation also. This
controversy was formerly vehemently urged in the matter of
Gottschalk in the ninth century, John Erigena Scotus maintaining
that it suited election alone (De Divina Praedestinatione liber* [PL
122.355,4401). On the other hand, Gottschalk, the Lyonians and
Remigius, the bishop (in their name), extended it to reprobation.
The same question now lies between us and the papists. For the
papists (to whom the term reprobation is hateful) contend that it
must be used in the first sense. Hence they are accustomed to call
reprobates not predestinated, but "foreknown"; and do not
subordinate but oppose reprobation to predestination (as Bellarmine,
Gregory de Valentia and Pighius, De libero hominis arbitrio 8.2
[1642], p. 137). With them even some of the orthodox appear to
agree, though not with the same object in view. But we (although
willing to confess that the term predestination is according to
Scripture usage often restricted to election; yet not only from the
proper signification of the word but also from Scripture usage and
received custom) that think it is rightly extended to reprobation so
as to embrace both parts of the divine counsel (election and
reprobation), in which sense it is taken by us here.

The reasons are: (1) the Scripture extends the word proorizein to
the wicked acts of those reprobates who procured the crucifixion of
Christ-"the son of man goeth kata to horismenon" (Luke 22:22; Acts
4:28) Herod and Pontius Pilate did nothing but what the hand of God
proorise to be done." Nor ought the objection to be made that it
does not treat of their reprobation, but of the ordination of the
crucifixion to a good end. These things are not to be opposed, but
composed. The crucifixion of Christ (which is to us the means of
salvation) was to the crucifiers the means of damnation (which
depended on the most just decree of God).

Second, the Scripture uses equivalent phrases when it says that
certain persons are appointed to wrath (1 Thess. 5:9; 1 Peter 2:8),
fitted to destruction (Rom. 9:22), ordained to condemnation (Jude
4), made unto dishonor (Romans 9:21) and for the day of evil
(Proverbs 16:4). If reprobation is described in these phrases, why
can it not be expressed by the word "predestination"? Third, because
the definition of predestination (viz., the ordination of a thing to
its end by means before it comes to pass) is no less suitable to
reprobation than to election. Fourth, the fathers frequently thus
speak: "We confess the elect to life and the predestination of the
wicked to death" (Council of Valence, Mansi, 15:4). "He fulfills
what he wills, properly using even evil things as if the very best
to the damnation of those whom he has justly predestinated to
punishment' (Augustine, Enchiridion 26 [100] [FC 3:454; PL 40.2791;
cf. also his "Treatise on the Merits and the Forgiveness of Sins,'
2.26 [171 [NPNFI, 5:551; CG 21.24 [FC 24:387-941; Fulgentius, Ad
Monimum I [PL 65.153-781). "Predestination is twofold: either of the
elect to rest or of the reprobate to death' (Isidore of Seville,
Sententiarum Libri tres 2.6 [PL 83.6061).

Although in truth predestination is sometimes taken strictly in the
Scriptures for the predestination of saints or the election to life,
it does not follow that it cannot be used more broadly. Nor if the
objects of reprobation and election are opposite are the acts
themselves, therefore (on the part of God), mutually opposed to one
another. Indeed, they can proceed from the same course acting most

The second word which occurs more frequently is prognosis. Paul
speaks of it more than once: "whom he did foreknow" (hous proegno),
Rom. 8:29); "he hath not cast away his people which proegna" (Rom.
11:2); and they are called elect "according to foreknowledge" (kata
prognosin, 1 Peter 1:2). Because the ancient and more modern
Pelagians falsely abuse this word to establish the foresight of
faith and works, we must observe that prognosin can be taken in two
ways: either theoretically or practically. In the former way, it is
taken for Gods simple knowledge of future things, which is called
prescience and belongs to the intellect. In the latter, it is taken
for the practical love and decree which God formed concerning the
salvation of particular persons and pertains to the will. In this
sense, knowledge is often put for delight and approbation (Psalm
1:6); John 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:19). Thus ginoskein signifies not only
to know but also to know and to judge concerning a thing (as the
Plebiscitum is not the knowledge of the people, but the
sentence-from the verb scisco, which means "to decree and
determine"). Therefore when the Scripture uses the word prognoseos
in the doctrine of predestination, it is not in the former sense for
the bare foreknowledge of God by which he foresaw the faith or works
of men. (1) Because by that, He foreknew those also whom he
reprobated, while here it treats of the foreknowledge proper to the
effect. (2) Bare foreknowledge is not the cause of things, nor does
it impose method or order upon them, but finds it out (as happens
here in the chain of salvation). (3) Because nothing could be
foreseen by God but what he himself had granted and which would so
follow predestination as the effect, not indeed precede it as a
cause, as will be proved hereafter. But it is taken in the latter
sense for "practical foreknowledge" (i.e., the love and election of
God) that we may not suppose it to be without reason (alogon),
although the reasons of his wisdom may escape us (in which manner
Christ is said to have been foreknown [proegnsmenos], i.e.,
foreordained by God "before the foundation of the world,' 1 Pet.

Again, in that benevolence and practical foreknowledge of God we
distinguish: (1) the love and benevolence with which he pursues us;
(2) the decree itself by which he determined to unfold his love to
us by the communication of salvation. Hence it happens that
prognosis is at one time taken broader for both (viz., love and
election, as in Rom. 8:29 and Rom. 11:2); at another, more strictly
for love and favor which is the fountain and foundation of election.
Thus Peter speaks of it when he says that believers are "elect
according to the foreknowledge" (kata prognosin), i.e. the love of
God (1 Peter 1:2).

Third, we must explain the word ekloges ("election") which ow and
then occurs, but not always with the same signification. Sometimes
it denotes a call to some political or sacred office (as Saul is
"elected" [1 Samuel 10:24]; Judas "elected", viz., to the
Apostleship, John 6:70). Sometimes it designates an external
election and separation of a certain people to the covenant of God
(in which sense the people of Israel are said to be elected of God,
Deut. 4:37). But here it is taken objectively for the elect
themselves (as ekloge epetychen- "the election" [i.e., the elect]
"hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded," Romans 11:7); or
formally for the act of God electing (which is called ekloge
charitos, Romans 9:11). Again the latter may be considered either in
the antecedent decree (as it were from eternity) or in the
subsequent execution (as it takes place only in time by calling).
Christ refers to this in John 15:16: "Ye have not chosen me, but I
have chosen you"; and "Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen
you out of the world' (v. 19). Augustine joins both forms (schesin):
"We are elected before the foundation of the world by that
predestination in which God foresaw his future things would take
place; we are chosen out of the world however by that calling by
which God fulfills what he has predestinated" (On the Predestination
of the Saints).

Election then by the force of the word is stricter than
predestination. For all can predestined, but all cannot be elected
because he who elects does not take all, but chooses some out of
many. The election of some necessarily implies the passing and
rejecting of others: "Many are called," said Christ, "but few
chosen" (Matthew 20:16); and Paul, "The election hath obtained, and
the rest were blinded" (Romans 11:7). Hence Paul uses the verb
heilto to designate election, which implies the separation of some
from others: "God from the beginning heilto, i.e., hath taken out
and separated you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit
and belief in the truth: (2 Thess. 2:13).

Fourth, prothesis is often used by Paul in the matter of election to
denote that this counsel of God is not an empty and inefficacious
act of willing, but the constant, determined and immutable purpose
of God (Romans 8:28; 9:11; Ephesians 1:11). For the word is of the
highest efficacy (as the old grammarians tell us) and is called
distinctly by Paul prothesis tou ta energountos"the purpose of him
who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Ephesians
1:11). Sometimes it is applied to election as prothesis kat
eklogen"the purpose of God according to election" (Romans 9:11);
and we are said "to be predestinated" (kata prothesin, Ephesians
1:11). Sometimes it is joined with calling"who are the called
according to his purpose" (tois kata prosthesin kletois, Romans
8:28). For both election and calling depend and are built upon this
purpose of God.

Now although these words are often employed promiscuously, yet they
are frequently distinguished; not without reason are they used by
the Holy Spirit to denote the various conditions (scheseis) of that
decree which could not so fitly be explained by a single word. For
the decree can be conceived in relation to the principle from which
it arises, or to the object about which it is concerned, or to the
means by which it is fulfilled. With regard to the former,
protheseos or eudokias (which denotes the counsel and good pleasure
of God) is mentioned as the first cause of that work. With regard to
the next, it is called prognosis or ekloge (which is occupied with
the separation of certain persons from others unto salvation). With
regard to the last, the word proorismou is used according to which
God prepared the means necessary to the obtainment of salvation.
Prothesis refers to the end; progn5sis refers to the objects;
proorismos to the means; prodiesis to the certainty of the event;
prognosis and ekloge to the singleness and distinction of persons;
proorismos to the order of means. Thus election is certain and
immutable by prothesin; determinate and definite by prognosin; and
ordinate by proorismon.

These three degrees (if we may so speak to answer to three acts in
the temporal execution: for as we will be glorified with the Father,
redeemed by the Son and called through the Holy Spirit, so the
Father determined from eternity to glorify us with himself. This is
prothesis. He elected us in his Son. This is prognosis. He
predestinated us to grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (who
seals the image of the Son in us through his holiness and the
suffering on the cross). This is proorismos. For as the Father sends
the Son, the Son with the Father sends the Holy Spirit. And vice
versa, the Holy Spirit leads us to the Son, and the Son at length
conducts us to the Father.

The words by which the predestination of the members is described
are employed also to express the predestination of the head. For
concerning him equally prothesis is predicated when Paul says hon
proetheto hilastion (Rom. 3:25); prognosis where we have
proegnesmenos (1 Pet. 1:20); and proorismos, not only when he is
said to be horistheis to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:4), but also when
his death is said to have happened by the determinate counsel of God
and by his predestination, who proorise to be done whatever was done
by Herod and Pontius Pilate (Acts 2:23).


Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas