Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine

Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine

Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine

Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine


Predestination--the idea that God foreordains one's eternal destiny--is one of the most fascinating and controversial doctrines in Christianity. In this groundbreaking history, the first of its kind, Peter Thuesen shows that far from being only about the age-old riddle of divine sovereignty versus human free will, the debate over predestination is inseparable from other central Christian beliefs and practices--the efficacy of the sacraments, the existence of purgatory and hell, the extent of God's providential involvement in human affairs--and has fueled theological conflicts across denominations for centuries. Thuesen reexamines not only familiar predestinarians such as the New England Puritans and many later Baptists and Presbyterians, but also non-Calvinists such as Catholics and Lutherans, and shows how even contemporary megachurches preach a "purpose-driven" outlook that owes much to the doctrine of predestination. For anyone wanting a fuller understanding of religion in America, Predestination offers both historical context on a doctrine that reaches back 1,600 years and a fresh perspective on today's denominational landscape.


This I know, that no one has been able, without falling into error, to argue against this
predestination, which we defend according to the holy Scriptures

—Augustine, On the Gift of Perseverance (429)

That afternoon I came to understand that one of the deepest purposes of intellectual
sophistication is to provide distance between us and our most disturbing personal truths
and gnawing fears

—Richard Russo, Straight Man (1997)

DESPITE THE CLOUDY and unseasonably chilly weather, I was in good spirits as I drove down Interstate 74 from Indianapolis toward Cincinnati in the early spring of 2006. My three young children and I were on our annual “give-Mom-a-break” trip to see my parents in North Carolina. The early morning had been the usual last-minute frenzy as I packed the Toyota minivan to the hilt and we said goodbye to my wife. Now I was savoring a calm moment in the car as my seven-year-old son sat absorbed in a book and my five-year-old and two-year-old daughters scribbled on notepads with new markers whose novelty had not yet worn off in the 45 minutes we had been on the road.

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