[Editor’s note: An “Arminian” is one who accepts the proposal of Jacob Arminius who taught free will in the face of the accepted double predestination of John Calvin and most Protestants in the 16th century.  Calvinism has all humans predestined by God–some pre-selected by God for salvation and others predestined for hell.]


A verse such as 1 Peter 2:8b is very troubling to an Arminian such as myself. What did Peter exactly mean in the above verse? And what should the general rule be with similar passages?


Arminians believe in biblical predestination.  It is just that they do not believe in the double predestination as taught in Calvinism.   Calvinism teaches that all are predestined at birth by an all-sovereign God to either heaven or hell and that we, as human beings have absolutely no  role to play—no choice whatsoever in whether we are saved or lost.  Arminianism teaches that God has used his sovereign choice to gives us a limited sovereignty over our choice of whether or not to respond to God’s love.  We are not double predestinationists.  In fact, we are not even single predestinationists.  We believe that free will is real—not just an artifact.

However, Arminians still believe in predestination.  For sure!!  Predestination is certainly taught in Romans 8-9.  That is for sure.  What Arminians (and I would include myself) believe is that God predestined that Jesus would die for our sins.  He predestined many historical events surrounding that end. For example, he predestined that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened.  He predestined that Jesus would come into Jerusalem on a donkey.  He predestined that Judas would betray Jesus.  He predestined that there would be twelve apostles and that Jesus would rise on the third day after being executed on the eve of the Passover.  God predestined every single detail which surrounds Jesus saving us on the cross, including many different things that happened to Israel, such as the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, the crossing of the Jordan, the choice of David and many more details that led to our salvation.  The OPPORTUNITY for our salvation was predestined.  It is those he foreknew (Romans 8:29) that he predestined to be called, justified and glorified (Romans 8:30).

With this in mind, 1 Peter 2:8b makes perfect sense.  As he predestined so many events surrounding our salvation by Jesus Christ, he predestined that “A stone that causes men to stumble” and “a rock that makes them fall.”  For those who through free will accept the salvation offered by God, his predestined salvation awaits.   But for those who refuse his salvation, then his predestined damnation awaits them as well.  This does not in any way whatsoever negate our freedom.  The fact that he predestined Jesus to die on the cross no more predestines the salvation of those who are saved than it predestines those who are lost because they do not accept the offer.  Free will applies in any case.  The fact that God foreknew that many would stumble over that rock does not mean that he predestined those individuals to stumble.  The explanation of 1 Peter 2:8b is really the same as the explanation of Arminianism itself.  Bottom line, we are free to choose whether or not we will accept God’s offer of salvation.  The fact that God prepared a rock over which some will stumble but others will be saved does not change this fact.

Let me go back to the verse in question.  Right here in the context, the Arminian interpretation is confirmed and the Calvinist interpretation is disproved.  Who stumbles over this predestined rock?  Let us look at 2:8a.  Those who stumble are those who disobey the message.  It is not those predestined to stumble.  It is those who choose to disobey the message.  Clearly, this involves free choice, otherwise this passage would make no sense.  Who is “destined” to stumble?  Those who choose to disobey.  The thing that is predestined is the existence of the stumbling block, not the choice of whether we will obey or not.   This is consistent with Romans 9.  What did God predestine?  He predestined the choice of Jacob.  He predestined the hardening of Pharaoh.  In both cases, what God was doing was predestining the historical path that led to the saving death of Jesus.  He was NOT predestining any particular individual’s eternal destiny.  In fact, Pharaoh could have repented, and many of Jacob’s descendants will not be saved.  The point of Romans 9 is not particular predestination of individuals but the group offer of salvation (or for those who reject it of damnation).

I hope this helps.

John Oakes

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