An email came into the Credo House today containing this question:

I’m wrestling with Calvin right now and as a parent I have hit a wall…What if my kids aren’t elect? The idea sickens me but it has to be possible. I have a hard time just shrugging that off and saying that it is to God’s glory.

What follows is my response for the sake of processing the topic for yourself:

Thanks for contacting the Credo House. I have 3 precious children and I am personally a Calvinist so please know that I’m not responding to you from a purely intellectual standpoint.

Taking a step back from this particular issue, I think we would all agree with the popular saying that, “God has no grandchildren.” God only has children. No one gets into heaven because they were related to people who were Christians. Even the most ardent Calvinist and the most ardent Arminian would agree that each individual must come to Jesus on their own. So there cannot be any absolute guarantee that all children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, etc… of all Christians will go to heaven. If this were true then the entire world would probably be a Christian. The Bible is full of statements where every person must consciously believe in Jesus to have eternal life (John 3:16).

If someone tries to defend the “all children of Christians go to heaven” position there aren’t too many verses along these lines. One verse they could point to is the Proverb of training up a child and they won’t depart. This verse, however, needs to be kept in the Genre of Proverbs. Proverbs are statements to make us wise. Proverbs are generally true but shouldn’t be considered an absolute certainty.

For example, if I put 20% of my paycheck in savings and I’m careful to spend less than I make it is wise to think that I should be financially stable. It is a generally true statement. My car could break down, my house could flood in a way that insurance refuses to pay and I could have someone steal my identity and ruin my credit scores. The Proverb is still true. Although I perfectly followed the accurate Proverb, I can still be in financial shambles. So pointing to a proverb as a magical formula is violating the rules for interpreting the Genre. The Bible is made up of many Genres. Poetry is interpreted very differently from narrative (i.e., a woman’s neck being a mighty tower). We have to keep Proverbs inside it’s Genre.

Getting back to the issue at hand, how does a Calvinist cope with kids who might not love Jesus? First, I pray for them until I am blue in the face. Or at least that is my desire. I pray they would come to love Jesus as authentically and passionately as my wife and I do. My wife started praying for the salvation of our kids before they were even a twinkle in her eye.

For instance, when pastor Matt Chandler thought he was dying from a cancerous brain tumor, he realized the greatest thing he could do for his infant daughter is to devote the remaining energy he has to praying for her salvation and her future walk with Jesus.

Secondly, my wife and I are always trying to tell our kids about Jesus and hopefully build in them an authentic love for and desire for Jesus. Although Calvinists believe that no one comes to the Father unless they are drawn, Calvinists never know who those people are. Calvinists don’t have a copy of the book of Life. As Spurgeon said we pray knowing it depends fully on God, but we share as if it depends fully on us.

Ultimately, however, if a child (or parent, co-worker, etc…) rejects Jesus their entire life and dies in that rejection then we don’t commit suicide thinking that we didn’t share good enough so they are damned because of our failures to convince them of Jesus. We trust the loving heart of God that for whatever reason they would have hated a heaven where Jesus is the center of attention. We think we know better than God as it relates to saving people, it’s a lifetime for all of us to learn that He is more loving, more generous, more caring, more fair than we could ever imagine. I believe Paul clearly teaches people are elect for salvation yet he still pleads with all people, every one, to come to Jesus.

Even when people, like ardent atheist Christopher Hitchens, seemingly die as God haters I still many times hold out hope that in their last breath God opened their eyes and they came to Jesus. I reserve ultimate despair for later when we will truly know. Then God will console us and help us understand things we can’t know now.

In the meantime, however, I am pleading with all to love and be loved by the only One worth the worship.

    211 replies to "What if My Children Are Not Elect?"

    • Chancellor Roberts writes,

      Synergistic (or, perhaps, sinnergistic) salvation has man making the final decision over whether or not he will be saved and, thus, sovereign over God because God is prevented from saving anyone if that person doesn’t cooperate.

      Your comments are riddled with problems. So if someone decides to give me a gift and I freely receive that gift, does that make me “sovereign” over the giver? What if I refuse to receive the gift? Does that make me sovereign over the giver? Not at all. That is a bizarre way to understand sovereignty.

      And of course God is not “prevented” from saving that person, but freely, of His own sovereign will, refuses to save those who will not receive the gift of salvation on His terms. Why is this? Because God Himself has sovereignly decided that His free gift of salvation shall only be received on the condition of faith. That was entirely up to Him. Nobody forced Him to do anything. God has the “sovereign right” to do things the way that He sees fit. Don’t you agree?

    • Chancellor Roberts writes,

      I would suggest that no one can ever choose to be saved on his own, but that God must first regenerate the person, give that person the faith to believe, and then grant repentance.

      I agree that we cannot choose to be saved on our won and that, due to our depravity, we must be graciously enabled by God to put faith in Him. But there is no reason to see that enablement as irresistible, nor is there any reason to see it as regeneration, especially since the Bible everywhere places faith before spiritual life in Scripture.

      Dead people cannot will themselves to life.

      Spiritual death in Scripture has reference to separation from God and the source of spiritual life. It doesn’t have anything to do with the inability of a physical corpse.

      May God Bless you as you continue to seek Him.


    • Btw, Ben share with us, your idea of an Arminian “ordo”, if you please?

      Indeed a spiritually dead man or person cannot choose anything! And in Common grace man is responsible (John 1:9), but without God’s election of grace, man will not come, even as the Jewish people who were God’s own so-called possession, as a so-called people (John 1: 11 / Rom. 9: 6-13), but only those Jews who were chosen to be His people in the “election of grace” (By the Gospel)…”who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1: 12-13).

    • Nelson Banuchi

      I’m disappointed that this conversation continues wide of the mark of the specific point that the question addresses. Here’s a blog that addresses the specific issue with, from my perspective, greater relevancy than either Kimerly’s reponse or everyone’s comments thus far. I would ask the Calvinist to please take time (it is not long at all) to read it:

    • TIMA

      I respond with a different perspective than anyone else in this post. I believe that God has different ways of protecting elect-parents from the anguish of having non-elect children. I believe at this point that I am non-elect and this was recently revealed to me through scripture. My parents at this point are near the ends of their life and will never think I was non-elect. I have been in Church all my life and until recently considered myself elect and I’m sure that my parents did also. I believe God only recently revealed this to me in order to protect my parents. I believe my siblings to all be elect due to their perseverance in the faith and the fruits they have produced. In saying this I still torment myself daily with “why am I not elect” and “how does it glorify God for me not to be elect”. I worked with a Pastor who out of his 3 children, he believes none to be elect (they all rejected the faith). But he still worships and serves with as much joy as any elect Christian that I have witnessed. I think each situation is different and God will protect and comfort his elect in his own way. Do I wish it were different? More than you can know. What I would like to ask each of you is that you pray for my son that he be of the elect and that his faith is genuine.

    • Surely Arminianism always hates an Unconditional Election and Predestination of a Sovereign God! But as Luther said, ‘Let God be God’! This is simply always the issue!

    • Nelson Banuchi

      Respectfully, the phrase, “Let God be God,” really says nothing. The Arminian can say the same thing. It is really devoid of any meaning and does not help further any conversation or lend any understanding to whom is God.

      Nor does such a phrase adequately in any way address the question posed by the Calvinist parent.

    • Of course it means “nothing” to you! As does the doctrine of God’s most Unconditional Election! But your statements betray your loss of the doctrine God’s most total otherness! A God you cannot control, nor indeed it appears fear! (James 1: 16-18)

    • Chancellor Roberts

      Fr. Robert, you wrote, “Indeed most all Arminian’s (so-called) today are Semi-Pelagian! And actually in the Reformed ordo salutis, regeneration follows calling. God ‘calls’ the elect sinner, then he is regenerated!”

      And it’s those “Semi-Pelagians” that I’ve been referring to, not the rare person who is an actual Arminian (of the Jacobus Arminius and the Remonstrants variety). I don’t think I’ve ever even encountered a real Arminian outside of the person here who goes by Arminianperspectives.

      As for the Ordo Salutis, the orthodox version is the Reformed version and it mirrors Romans 8:29-30.

      Arminianperspectives, you wrote: “Spiritual death in Scripture has reference to separation from God and the source of spiritual life. It doesn’t have anything to do with the inability of a physical corpse.”

      I didn’t say it had anything to do with a physical corpse. It has to do with being “dead in trespasses and sins” – being spiritually dead. And, again, (spiritually) dead people cannot will themselves to life.

      Arminianperspectives, you are the only actual Arminian (of the Jacobus Arminius and the Remonstrants variety) I’ve encountered. What is often called “Arminian” today is, as I said earlier, Semi-Pelagian. That is what I’m addressing (today’s so-called “Arminianism” does have its roots in Arminius, however). Your version of Arminianism was answered by the Synod of Dort and I will defer to that Synod.

      Freedom is ALWAYS about rights, not ability. You might have the ability to lie, cheat and steal, but you aren’t FREE to lie, cheat and steal.

      You wrote: “the concept of ‘punishment’ is wholly incompatible with exhaustive determinism.”

      That you would say this makes it clear you don’t understand the co-existence of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

    • Chancellor Roberts

      Nelson Banuchi,

      We’re well aware of the issue in the original article. However, discussions do tend to go naturally in one direction or another. In this case, some things were said about Calvinism having nothing to offer the parent in the article (as if to suggest today’s so-called “Arminianism,” which is actually Semi-Pelagianism, does). That’s the direction the discussion went.

      Unbelievers are without “hope and without God in the world” (according to the Apostle Paul). What is the response to the parent who asks “What if my children aren’t elect?” The question itself goes deeper than that and is really asking for some way of getting God to make an exception and “elect” their children.

      Truth isn’t always comforting and, in this case, it definitely is not. Again unbelievers are without hope, without God. Parents can only surrender their children to the sovereignty of God and accept that whatever He has chosen to do with those children is right and glorifies Him – to do anything less is idolatry because it is putting those children ahead of God.

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