I’ve been working slowly and deliberately through 1 Peter in the mornings over the past week or two, and have noticed that Peter holds to some pretty unpopular doctrines.
In fact, over the course of 1 Peter alone I’ve seen him provide some of the strongest biblical evidence anywhere for some of the most unpopular doctrines in contemporary Christianity. It’s worth being reminded, I think, that the popularity of a doctrine has no bearing whatsoever on whether it is true or false. We could list dozens of specific historical example in which a “popular” (i.e. widely held) doctrine was patently false (e.g. the so-called prosperity gospel in Dallas and elsewhere), as well as those in which a very “unpopular” doctrine was undoubtedly true (e.g. Athanasius’s orthodox understanding of the nature of Christ against the popularly held Arianism).
And that’s exactly my point. Many times we adopt beliefs because they’re popular or reject them because they’re unpopular. Let’s be honest. We all do it. Even Peter has done it (cf. Gal. 2). But God is no respecter of popularity. Every belief must be tested by Scripture. No one should believe something because it’s popular or not believe it because it’s unpopular. Moreover, no one should believe something merely because it’s easy to believe it, nor disbelieve it because it’s difficult to believe.
Peter wouldn’t have been a very popular speaker among many Christians (evangelical or otherwise) in the West today. He would’ve been mocked on the blogosphere and in hot-selling books authored by ultra-trendy pundits. He would’ve been an easy target.
Let me show you a few of the reasons why.
Unpopular Doctrine #1 from 1 Peter: Double Predestination
In any Top Ten list of unpopular doctrines, double predestination will inevitably find its way into the top 3 (at least). Double predestination, in brief, is the belief that God not only predetermined who will come to embrace the gospel and be saved (before they’ve done anything good or evil), but that he also predetermined who will reject the gospel and be damned.
I mean, can you imagine something more unpopular and abhorrent in our cultural context, with its massive emphasis on personal choice and self-determinism? Doesn’t Peter know that this isn’t going to fly?! Isn’t he aware that no one is going to be attracted to a God that makes choices for people—without their approval?! Can’t he see that this is going to get him excoriated in the blogosphere?
He writes in 1 Peter 2:6-8: “For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
This last phrase is, perhaps, the single strongest pillar supporting the doctrine of double predestination in all of Scripture (though, of course, no doctrine should be built on one text alone). Verse 8 (οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες, εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν) may literally be rendered, “They stumble in that they disobey the word—a state of affairs to which they were appointed.” In its context, it is without question that “the word” refers to the gospel (cf. v. 25). The passive verb ἐτέθησαν makes it clear that those who were “appointed” to disbelieve the gospel were …well, passive in the matter.
In other words, it isn’t that God foresaw that they would not believe the gospel and therefore found it agreeable that they should stumble. That won’t do given the language of verse 8. On the contrary, it was God’s appointment of them to “stumble” that caused their rejection of the gospel, in contrast to those that he has “chosen” (ἐκλεκτόν, eklekton = “elected”) to believe (cf. v. 9).
Now of course the question, “What sort of God chooses to do it this way?” is a valid one. It’s a serious question and an emotional one, given the fact that we all have friends and family who do not believe, and Peter is saying this is the case because God appointed them for that—unless (may it be!) they come to Christ! But it is a separate question. In other words, you don’t reject a doctrine because you don’t like its implications. You allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves. And then you deal with the implications.
God hasn’t apologized for what He’s said. Neither should we. There is a reason—a good, acceptable and perfect reason—that God has chosen to rule his world in this way.