Predestination and responsibility

Matthew 18.7 says this:

[Jesus says,] “Woe
to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that
temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!"

We have here an example of how difficult it can be to understand the Bible.  I don't mean that the meaning of this verse is difficult to understand, I mean that the implications of this verse are difficult to understand.

The Bible affirms two seemingly contradictory things: the predestination of things by God, and our personal responsibility for what we do.  God gives us grace and faith to believe in him (search for 'chose you' in the Bible and see how many times it says 'God chose you'), and we have to respond to him (the prophets continually call the people to follow the Law, in the New Testament people are told 'repent and believe').

These two things are both affirmed by the Bible, and if we believe the Bible is internally consistent then we have to say they are both true.

The danger lies in extrapolating further from these truths, asking the question 'how' it can be that these things are both true.  Almost every time this has been attempted, one has been emphasised to the detriment of the other.

Charles Simeon said:

Truth does not lie at either extreme taken on its own, nor yet midway between them: truth lies in both extremes held together in tension.

See here.

In so much of theology this is true, including this area.  It is why dialectical theology is so important: the Bible usually affirms two seemingly paradoxical positions.  It is our job not to synthesise the two, as Hegel would have us believe, but hold them together in tension, faithfully following the Bible.

If the Holy Spirit wanted it written like that, who are we to disagree?

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