Double predestination has been roundly criticized, even within Reformed circles. But many people do subscribe to the doctrine. Double predestination is deemed to be a crude bastardization of Reformed theology, but crude bastardizations tend to be pretty popular.
Reformed believers tend to reject double predestination in one of two ways. The first way is to suggest that God actually doesn't predestine anyone to be lost. Humans damn themselves. So that's on us. God's actions in the face of this situation are wholly positive, an act of electing and calling out a subset of the lost. So there's no double predestination here, God doesn't elect to damn you. That's something you've done to yourself. God has only predestined the saved. So it's not a double predestination, just the predestination of the elect. A single predestination as it were.
The rebuttal from Arminians in this regard is that while God isn't positively electing to damn the lost in choosing the elect this really is just a distinction without a difference. To not elect Mary Smith is to say no to Mary Smith. A no that existed for all eternity. So while this might not be a sin of commission, it looks like a sin of omission. That is, while this might not look like the classic form of double predestination it's still an eschatological game of Duck-Duck-Goose. Damned ... damned ... damned ... elect!
In light of this, the second and better way the Reformed rebut double predestination is to say that election has nothing to do with individuals. People--human beings like you and I--aren't elected by God. God elects Christ. Christ--and Christ alone--is the elect.
To be one of the elect, then, is to be found "in Christ." We are God's elect "in Christ." And a theological bell and whistle you can add here is that this election is communal. God calls out a people, a people found to be "in Christ." The elect are the church, the called out people who are "in Christ." This communal bit is important, but the most important piece is the "in Christ" part.
The idea here is sort of like this. Christ is a container. God predestines and elects this container. This container will be the vehicle of God's salvation. So the critical issue is being "in" the container. If you are in the container you are elect "in Christ."
This move helps as it shifts election away from individuals to focus on God's actions in Christ. God isn't electing (or damning) Mary, Bob and Joe as individuals, playing eschatological Duck-Duck-Goose with them. God just taps Jesus on the head and says once, "elect." God just elects Christ. So the key for Mary, Bob and Joe is to get on the Jesus-train, to be found "in Christ" and, thus, among the elect.
All this is fine and it does fix a bit of the problem with the doctrine of election. Election is just about God's actions in Christ, about God choosing Jesus to be the Savior.
I've got no problem with this, but I do have question. Yes, I'm the kid at the back of the Reformed classroom with my hand in the air.
Yes, God elects Jesus and not Mary, Bob, or Joe. But for Mary, Bob and Joe to be among the elect they have to be found "in Christ." Right? So here's my question: How do Mary, Bob and Joe get to be "in Christ"? How do they go from not being in Christ to being in Christ? Concretely, specifically, and plainly what has to happen?
If Jesus is the container how do Mary, Bob and Joe get inside?
As I see it, two answers present themselves.
First, God picks Mary up and puts her in the container and doesn't pick up Bob and Joe. That is, God elects Mary but not Bob and Joe.
The problem with this vision is that it completely destroys the argument that God just elects Jesus and that God's election is communal and not individual. All we've done with this "in Christ" mumbo jumbo is to create a two-stage election. God first elects Jesus and then elects certain individuals to be in Christ, picking out persons and putting them into the Jesus-container.
This blows up the argument in that it's this Stage Two election activity that's being disputed. We are back to a situation of eschatological Duck-Duck-Goose, the notion of double predestination (active or passive).
Okay, the second way Mary might be found "in Christ" is that she climbs into the container by herself. That is, Mary might hear the Good News that God elected Jesus. And hearing that Good News about Jesus Mary might decide to climb into the container, she might choose to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
Now, this second vision of Mary climbing into the container does keep the "in Christ" notion intact. That is, God really just elects Jesus and only elects Jesus so it's up to Mary to climb into the container. If Mary does so she'll become elect, she will be found "in Christ." And if Mary doesn't climb into the container she'll be lost.
But here's the deal: it's up to Mary. She's got to decide. God isn't going to pick her up and put her into the container. There is no Stage Two election. God just elects Jesus and only Jesus.
So Mary's got to make a decision about her relationship to the container. She's got to decide to climb in or not. Because God isn't playing Duck-Duck-Goose with Mary. Or with me or you. So if we want in, we have to climb in. We've got to decide.
But if that's the case, if it's up to us to decide to get into the container or not, then guess what?
And yet, that's what the Reformed say they don't believe.
So count me confused.
As I see it, it really just boils down to this. You're either an Arminian or you believe in double predestination, either the classic variety or the Duck-Duck-Goose variety. Because the election "in Christ" argument is either just more Duck-Duck-Goose or it's the equivalent of Arminiansim.
So either way, it boils down to a choice: Arminianism or double predestination.
Arminianism or Duck-Duck-Goose.