I had a conversation recently in which someone mentioned a person apparently being created for destruction. The person had died without evidence of a relationship with God, and the conclusion was that the person, though by all accounts a fine man, had been created for destruction and therefore never responded to the gospel.
I have heard this before, and have struggled with it every time.
I asked if the person really believed what I thought I had heard, and was informed that she did. She sent me the following verses as support. I have spent some time considering them, and have added my own understanding of these passages below each one. I do not believe they support the assertion, which I think is very bad theology and reflects a very different God than the one presented in the Bible.
John 12:37-40 (I have included verses 36-43)
36 "While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light." These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again,
40 "HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM." 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
This passage seems to indicate that God blinded and hardened a certain group of people, preventing them from recognizing the truth and believing. The central question, however, is two-fold. First, what is the basis for God's action toward these people? Even in this same passage, Jesus exhorted them to "believe in the light." It seems that at some point, they had a choice. In keeping with justice and with God's great love, his actions cannot be arbitrary or random, or out of spite, or any of the other motives that are so common to us.
A similar question might be asked about Pharoah, where the text says that God hardened his heart so that he would not yield.
There is no question that God chooses, and that he has the right to do so. The question is, what is the basis for God's choosing? If he chose these people for destruction on no more basis than a whim, there is a great problem with placing our trust in him. Justice is not random. Further, the fact that God hardened some means neither that they were innocent victims, nor that God created them for destruction.
God hardens hearts, I think, by removing his softening influence and letting their natural inclination take its course. In other words, rather than God actively working in a life to make the person into a rebel, he simply withdraws his hand of grace, and "lets nature take its course."
I am concerned in cases like this to not read certainty into an ambiguous passage. When we read too much, we build our theological house on sand.
I Peter 2:8 (6-10)
...CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,"
8 and, "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
This passage, again, does not explicitly teach that the subjects were created for destruction. The central verse is 8, and the statement is that they "stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this (doom) they were also appointed" (italics mine).
So what were they appointed to? "This doom." And what is that? Apparently the reference is to their stumbling. So, is Peter saying that some people were appointed by God to the doom of stumbling? Doesn't make a lot of sense that way. This passage is at best ambiguous, and should be used very carefully.
I cannot find a way to legitimately read a clear statement of God's intentional creating for destruction in the passage.
Acts 2:23; 4:27-28 (21-24; 27,28)
21 'AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.'
22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
27 "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
In both passages, there is reference to events that God had predestined or predetermined to occur. Plus, in v. 23, there is reference to God's foreknowledge.
So a first question is what did God predestine - predetermine - would happen? The verse is clear, that Jesus was delivered over to godless men, who would hang him on a cross, taking his life. God both knew in advance that it would happen, and planned for it. Jesus came to die. And die he did.
Does that mean, however, that those involved in his killing had no choice in the matter? Were they somehow forced to act as they did? Or were they still able to make moral decisions, and hence remain accountable for their actions?
If God punished or even destroyed any person, anywhere in history, who had no opportunity to accept or reject God, whose path through life was predetermined, then there may be a God, but there is no God of justice.
Justice requires that a person have the chance to act rightly. Justice requires that a person have a choice in rejecting God. If the fate of any person is predetermined, there is no justice, and God is unworthy of our trust.
This chapter is too long to include here, but the issues are the same. Chapters 9-11 of Romans are written about Israel and Paul's belief and attitude concerning the Jews. Everything contained in the chapters must be read and understood in that context. And it requires ignoring a lot to claim that this chapter teaches that anyone was "created for destruction."
Romans 11:7-10 (1-11)
I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
3 "Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE."
4 But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL."
5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.
6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;
8 just as it is written, "GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY."
9 And David says, "LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM.
10 "LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT, AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER."
11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.
The same basic questions are here, as in every other passage purporting to support the position that God creates some for destruction. (And, for that matter, some other teachings in the same vein.)
It is clear that God knew some things - all things? - before they happened. That's easy to understand if we remember that God lives outside of time, and to him, every point in time is equally "now." So what to us would be foreknowledge is to God just another moment in the present.
Foreknowledge is not the big question. The issue is that God clearly did some choosing, and some of that choosing involved people and his acceptance or rejection of them. To that there is no argument. But there's another question, and in my experience it is seldom addressed, but is fundamental. You probably already know what it is, having read this far.
What is the basis of God's choosing?
That is, when God chooses to accept or reject someone, what does he base his choice on? God is sovereign, and it is his right to choose as he wishes. However, he is not free to act contrary to his own nature. And since God defines just behavior, he cannot act in a manner that is arbitrary or unjust.
There are many instances in scripture where God - or his representative prophet - tells people of their accountability for their actions and choices. Israel heard the warnings over and over. The Mosaic Law contained myriad instances where people had to make choices and were accountable for them. In Deuteronomy, Moses told the Israelites that God had put before them a choice, a future of blessing or of cursing. Then, he said, "Choose this day whom you will serve!" Choice. And accountability.
Accountability for choices is a fundamental principle of scripture. And they go together: If someone has no choice, how can there be accountability? Even in our own societies, it's intuitively understood that some people are not accountable for their actions. A small child might act in ways unacceptable to an adult, and there are no consequences. The child is considered unable to make the appropriate choices, and is therefore not held to the standard that will be expected as he grows and matures. That's justice.
So, to put an end to this over-long rant: God does not create people for destruction. There is no case of someone being condemned without the opportunity to accept or reject God. None.
And may it never be.