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Why Doesn’t God Save Everyone? (Sam Storms)

If election were solely based on what God wanted and not anything in us that might differentiate the chosen from the un-chosen and thus account for why this one and not another, why didn’t God choose all? If he could have, why didn’t he? With this question we run headlong into the theological brick wall called “the secret things of God” (Deut. 29:29), on the other wide of which are mysteries inaccessible to the human mind.

Many mistakenly assume that, if God is by nature loving, he must choose all, as if to say it would be a contradiction of the divine character were he not to love everyone equally. But this fails to note that the saving love of God is also sovereign. John Murray explains it this way:

“Truly God is love. Love is not something adventitious; it is not something that God may choose to be or choose not to be. He is love, and that necessarily, inherently, and eternally. As God is spirit, as he is light, so he is love. Yet it belongs to the very essence of electing love to recognize that it is not inherently necessary to that love which God necessarily and eternally is that he should set such love as issues in redemption and adoption upon utterly undesirable and hell-deserving objects. It was of the free and sovereign good pleasure of his will, a good pleasure that emanated from the depths of his own goodness, that he chose a people to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The reason resides wholly in himself and proceeds from determinations that are peculiarly his as the ‘I am that I am.'”[1]

Thus, to say that love is sovereign is to say it is distinguishing. It is, by definition as saving love, bestowed upon and experienced only by those who are in fact saved (i.e., the elect). Although there is surely a sense in which God loves the non-elect, he does not love them redemptively. If he did, they would certainly be redeemed. God loves them, but not savingly, else they would certainly be saved. All this is to say that God’s eternal, electing love is not universal but particular. Of this we may be certain: God was under no obligation to choose any. Were he to have chosen none, he would have remained perfectly just in doing so. That he chose some is a reflection of sovereign mercy.

“OK,” responds the inquiring soul, “I’ll concede that God doesn’t have to love everyone with the love of election, but that doesn’t tell me why he didn’t. It’s one thing to say God was under no obligation or necessity to elect all unto life. It’s another thing entirely to account for why he chose not to elect all unto life. Or again, it’s one thing to say he didn’t need to choose all. It’s something else entirely to say he didn’t want to choose all.”

But why would God not “want” to choose all? It can’t be because some are less worthy than others of being the objects of electing love, for all are equally deserving of wrath and condemnation. It can only be because there is something God “wants” more than whatever benefits might otherwise be gained by choosing all. But what could possibly be more important to God than delivering all hell-deserving sinners from their plight? The Arminian would say: the preservation of human free will. According to Arminianism, God won’t save all because to do so would require that he intrude upon and override the rebellious will of many unbelievers. God so values the purported dignity of libertarian freedom that he chooses only to save those who believe, although it would be possible to save those who don’t as well.

The Calvinist answers the question in a different way. Again, what could possibly be more important to God than delivering all hell-deserving sinners from their plight? The answer is: the display of the glory of all his attributes for his delight and that of those whom he has chosen to share it. Piper explains that although God is willing to save all he chooses not to do so,

“because there is something else that he wills more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all. . . . Both [Calvinists and Arminians] can say that God wills for all to be saved. But then when queried why all are not saved both Calvinist and Arminian answer that God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all. . . . What does God will more than saving all? The answer given by Arminians is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace. The answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God’s glory in wrath and mercy (Rom. 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Cor. 1:29).”[2]

In no other area of theology do I feel so urgent a need to be cautious and humble in how I address this problem. What Piper has affirmed and what I am about to say invariably touches a raw nerve in the souls of many, if not all, Christians. I want to avoid sounding flippant or casual in my explanation, lest I give the slightest impression that this is anything less than an incalculably sensitive and explosive matter. How one answers this question, or attempts to answer it while acknowledging that it may well surpass our capacity to fathom, turns on one’s concept of God and the motivation for his having created the human race and sent his Son for the redemption of sinners. With that in mind, and with the unashamed acknowledgment that I may be wrong in the conclusion to which I’ve come, here is what I believe is most consistent with Scripture.

I begin by asking, “Is it truly the case to say God could have elected all unto life?” If by “could” you mean did he have the authority and right and power to choose all, yes. There was no power external to God that would have hindered him in making his electing love universal in scope. There was no deficiency in God’s inherent ability to choose all for life. On the other hand, if God’s choosing was governed by his determination to glorify himself in the highest and most effective way possible by displaying all his divine attributes (including his righteous wrath and justice), I would reverently and humbly say No, he couldn’t have chosen all. That is to say, once divine wisdom determined that the choice of some but not all hell-deserving sinners would most effectively serve to magnify the plenitude of his glory (and of course that is very much the point in dispute), this was a path from which God “could not” deviate (so long, of course, as he retains his determination to achieve this end). Those who take issue with my conclusion will undoubtedly question whether this was in fact the divine motive in creation and redemption. They will contend, in some way, that God’s pre-eminent goal was something other than the display of his own glory. I have attempted to defend this understanding of the ultimate aim of creation and redemption in my books Pleasures Evermore and One Thing and I will simply refer you to the relevant section in those volumes.[3]

Permit me to once again cite Jonathan Edwards’ explanation of this matter together with a few of my own observations, and then leave it with you to wrestle with the implications. Here is what he said:[4]

“It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all, for then the effulgence would not answer the reality.”

Edwards argues elsewhere that it is more than “proper” and “excellent” that God’s glory shine forth in its fullness, it is essential. This isn’t because something other than and outside God requires it of him. Rather, it is the very nature of divine glory that it tends toward self-expression and expansion, not in the sense of growth or quantitative increase, but manifestation and display for the sake of the joy of God’s creatures in it. Not only that, but it is “proper” that all of God’s glory be seen that we may know God as he truly is and not simply in part. If one or several divine attributes were disproportionately dominant in their display (and others barely noted at all), an imbalanced and inaccurate view of God would emerge (this is what Edwards meant when he said that otherwise “the effulgence would not answer the reality”). He continues:

“Thus it is necessary that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.”

In using the word “necessary” he is not suggesting that sin, considered in and of itself, has a right or inherent claim on existence. Rather, sin was “necessary” in the sense that in its absence there would be no occasion for the display of his righteous wrath, justice, and holiness as that in God which requires punishment (or at least no display sufficient for a “complete” or true knowledge of what God is like and why he is glorious). And without a revelation (or “shining forth”) of the wrath that sin deserves there would scarcely be a revelation of the true and majestic depths of goodness, love, and grace that deliver us from it.

“If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s justice in hatred of sin or in punishing it, . . . or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. No matter how much happiness he might bestow, his goodness would not be nearly as highly prized and admired. . . . and the sense of his goodness heightened.

So evil is necessary if the glory of God is to be perfectly and completely displayed. It is also necessary for the highest happiness of humanity, because our happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of God is imperfect (because of a disproportionate display of his attributes), the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.”

This point is related to what we see in Romans 9:22-23. God desired to show his wrath and make known his power in order that his mercy and grace might be seen in unmistakable clarity and his glory displayed to his everlasting praise. Were he to have elected all, rather than some, to eternal life this goal would not have been attained nor would the plenitude of God’s glory been sufficiently seen.


[1] John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), p. 10.

[2] John Piper, “Are There Two Wills in God?” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge & Grace, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 123-24.

[3] Sam Storms, Pleasures Evermore: The Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2000), pp. 81-101; One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2004), pp. 9-44.

[4] I have taken the liberty of smoothing out Edwards’ prose in order to bring greater clarity to his theological argument. The full entry in his Miscellanies from which this has been taken can be found in Jonathan Edwards, The “Miscellanies,” edited by Thomas A. Schafer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), no.348, pp. 419-20.

122 Responses to “Why Doesn’t God Save Everyone? (Sam Storms)”

  1. If this understanding of Scripture is the accurate one, all I can say is I pity tremendously the great masses of humanity–the vast majoritiy of people of all times–that were born with a sin nature that they didn’t ask for so that they have no hope of not sinning and have been given no way whatsoever to escape from it. The end result of that being their eternal torment in hell. And for what, so God can be seen in all of His glory and to make the elect happier. Pity them indeed. To me that is unthinkable. The only way I can deal with that is to shut my mind to it and to the plight of all of those folks as it is too horrible to comprehend.

    And so help me and God forgive me if I am looking at this all wrong, but as someone else that is a self proclaimed Calvinist said on another thread on the subject recently, this appears to make God nothing less then a moral monster.

    I can not begin to imagine accepting an “invitation to Calvinism” to accept a theology that says sin and evil must be decreed by God (and so I assume has to come to pass) that will very deliberately consign most of the souls born on this earth to eternal torment in hell so the rest of the people can be happier and all of His attributes can be shown.

    And by the way, if I understand what you are saying Edwards spoke of above–that His attributes can not be shown disproportionately–it seems to me that is exactly what is being done if the greatest share of humanity is consigned to hell to show His anger, wrath, and judgement and only the smallest part are elect. It doesn’t seem love and mercy receive equal billing here at all.

    This theology flys in the face of everything I have ever known and believed about God and His love and goodness. I just can’t do it.

  2. Cheryl,

    I would submit to you that God subjugates His love for the non-elect to His love for the elect in any system, including yours. He makes the world knowing that Group A will go to hell and Group B will go to heaven. He could have just made the elect and not the non-elect then, since as Jesus Himself says, it’s better to not be born (i.e., or exist) than to undergo punishment by God. Even if you want to say they have a choice, that has nothing to do with whether God, as loving, does what is best for them (and Christ says what is best is that they had never been born). So God makes the world for those who would be saved rather than for those who will not be. How do you explain God’s love as equally for everyone in view of that?

  3. Hodge,

    Giving people a choice and unlimited atonement is a WHOLE lot different then decreeing that sin and evil must exist and choosing to leave a whole lot of people in it and giving them no choice.

    And Hodge, you and I have been around and around this bush umpteen times on other threads. At the moment I have neither the time nor the inclination to go there again because I am sure we would just cover the same ground repeatedly.

    But this is the most hyper-Calvinistic post I have ever seen on this site. (Hope that is the right term). I had to say something.

  4. Cheryl,

    Actually, we’ve never pursued this. You just always claim that somehow because God gives a choice this makes Him more loving in your system. It actually doesn’t. God Himself declares that what is better for Him to have done is to not allow these people to come into existence, or at least to be born at all. He doesn’t do it. Instead, He brings them into the world knowing that they will go to hell. Which is more loving: To keep your kids in the house (exercising your will over theirs) and not allow them to run in the street to be killed, or having some warped understanding of love and free will and letting them run headlong into oncoming traffic? The more loving parent does what is best for the child in the end. Your system does not answer the problem with the typical default to free will. It only tells us that God let people commit suicide because He honors free will over what is better for the humans He made. Essentially, then, in your system, He just loves free will, not people.

  5. Hodge,

    And in your system he loves all of those people that he sends to hell because he has decreed that there has to be evil and they get the privielge of doing it and paying the price. Right.

    At least in my system He isn’t the active cause of the evil which I don’t see how He can be anything else in yours since in it He has decreed it must happen so He can punish people for it.

    I’m sorry, but this whole thing upsets me way too much to talk about this anymore civilly. If I don’t leave this convo for now, I will say something I am likely to seriously regret.

  6. Cheryl,

    I don’t want you to be upset, but I don’t want you to blaspheme God as a moral monster for love He gives to His people simply because He uses the non-elect as instruments to love them as well, especially so since He does this in every system no matter what.

    “At least in my system He isn’t the active cause of the evil which I don’t see how He can be anything else in yours since in it He has decreed it must happen so He can punish people for it.”

    This doesn’t address the objection at all. You still have God creating people He knows will do evil and will be punished when He also declares that it would be better for them if He hadn’t made them.
    We, of course, had this conversation before, and I deny that God actively makes people do evil or that God should be blamed for deciding to both use the non-elect here on earth and in the age to come for the sake of His elect, knowing what they will do.
    I’ll leave this conversation alone, but did want to address this, since I think charging God with crimes and calling Him evil is a pretty serious blasphemy that needs to stop.

  7. Hi Hodge,

    I see you have some time again to converse.

    Hodge wrote:

    I don’t want you to be upset, but I don’t want you to blaspheme God as a moral monster for love He gives to His people simply because He uses the non-elect as instruments to love them as well, especially so since He does this in every system no matter what.

    Cheryl isn’t blaspheming the Biblical God, she is showing how the God of Calvinism is at best one who hasn’t revealed to us how we can be saved and at worst is a ‘moral monster’ as you put it.

    The fact that God still creates people that he knows will reject Him given that they have genuine freedom to acknowledge their error and accept Him is not unloving. If it is required that God first flips the switch before they can repent, then we have a problem. This is a serious problem with Calvinism and the only explanation is “we don’t know why God chooses one over the other” with the hope that there is a good reason. But this is a case of trying to have one’s cake and eat it too as the theology says that there is nothing in them that God sees and they are stone cold dead and so they cannot repent nor even want to without first being regenerated. So the “we don’t know why” response is actually disingenuous.

  8. Hodge,

    Here is a quote from Roger Olsen’s site that I found after I made my last comment last night. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with everyhing he says in this article, but my point is that I am not the only non Calivinist that feels the way I do about the “moral monster” issue. And remember, one of your own, a fellow Calvinist, also said the same thing a couple of days ago on another thread.

    The quote: One reason I cannot be a Calvinist is because being one would require me to jettison all the biblical material about hell, because I would find no point in even being a Christian if the God of Christianity were a moral monster.

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/birch.Calvinism-Leads-to-Universalism

    (I certainly hope this site will stay back up now. Sometimes technology isn’t so wonderful after all!)

  9. Look how far off someone can get when you base your theology on an incorrect assumption. The assumption is that the Bible teaches that all of humanity is “dead in sin” and therefore can not, nor does not want to repent. He apparently has free will but is constrained by nature to exercise it only in the wrong direction. Herein is where the whole house of cards stands, and I think that if we can debate this one point, we will either vindicate Calvinism or watch as the whole house of cards falls.

    So, for you Calvinists out there, please prove to me that all unregenerate humanity is “dead in sin.”

    Let’s start with Eph 2:1-2 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world…”

    The English in this passage seems to be mistranslated, probably because of a doctrinal bias preventing the translators from seeing what the writer was intending.

    It actually reads, “And you are dead to tresspasses and sins, in which you formerly walked…” The current state of the reader (who is a believer) is that he is dead TO sin. Which sin? The sins in which he formerly walked.

  10. Ryan,

    I don’t have time for conversations with you because apparently you are unable to listen to others who know more than you do. You keep on going and going like the energizer bunny about how the Greek is mistranslated, not knowing Greek yourself, assuming that you have a simple dative because you misunderstand the nature of Greek tenses, ignore the context, ignore the same phrase in v. 5 which clearly is not “dead to sin,” and ignore the larger theology of Scripture (e.g., Romans 3-8 that tells us that people are slaves to sin, do not seek God, and that none are preferable in His eyes, since all are murderers, or John 6, where Christ says flat out that “no one has the ability to come to Me”). I have too much to do than go round and round with someone who is unteachable.
    Your appeal to free will, as with Cheryl, is just a red herring that apparently even you don’t seem to get. It DOESN”T MATTER if someone has free will or not. We are talking about God loving someone in order to do what is better for them. What is better is not to have made them at all. God makes them anyway. If you want to say that it’s more loving to make them because of free will, then 1. You’re arguing against Christ who said otherwise; and 2. You’re essentially arguing that God is the most unloving Being in the universe because He didn’t make an infinite more amount of people He could have and given them free will too. Your arguments are absurd and they do not address the objection. See how holding to an unbiblical tradition gets you in trouble. Now, you’ve called the real God (of Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism, Open Theism) a monster. I say again, stop the blasphemy. You won’t hear me talk about the Arminian concept of God this way unless it’s warranted from a direct statement in a passage. If not, I simply would retain humility and say, “I think it’s clear that God does X, but if He wanted to do (and maybe He did do) Y, He has every right to do so, and remains as awesome and filled with mercy and love than He is in my system. Who am I to answer back…

  11. to God.” Any other response is childish arrogance and such hubris makes me shutter at the thought of the person having to answer for it on Judgment Day.

    Cheryl,
    What I said above to Ryan, I say to you. Disagree and object all you want, but have some humility when approaching (One who is still possibly) God with charges and name calling.

  12. Cherylu,

    When you say there are people who have “no hope of not sinning and have been given no way whatsoever to escape from it”, do yo realize even an Arminian belief system does not escape this?

    There are many in the history of the world who have died without hearing the gospel. Are they in heaven? If yes, how did they get there considering John 14:6? If no, then they indeed were punished for their inability to not sin, and never heard the hope to escape from it.

    So in light of the fact everyone is a born sinner (none are righteous not one) AND the fact that people like the Amorites, Moabites, Incas, etc. died before hearing the gospel, we must either be a Universalist or admit that God indeed passes over some and elects others.

  13. Well Hodge,

    It seems to me that it is only since you are 200% convinced, (yes I said 200% convinced,) that you are right that you can respond as you do. I am sorry, but I have only said it the way I see it. And since that is the only logical conclusion I can possibly come to, I see no other way to look at it. That is a part of the reason that I simply can not think that the Calvinist way of looking at things can be correct–precisely because I do not believe God is a moral monster and never have, BUT that is how it appears to me that Calvinist doctrine makes Him.

    You know, I have wanted to say this same thing in discussions on this site for years. It is something that I can discuss in person with friends that are also non Calvinists and see the same thing I do. Why do you suppose I have waited this long to speak out in this way? Three reasons: this article was, as I said, way more hyper Calvinistic then anything else I have seen here before, one of your fellow Calvinists had the courage to say the same thing himself a few days ago, and I have always known that if I said what was on my mind I would by royally lambasted by you and probably others too. So be it.

  14. Cheryl,

    I’m 200% convinced, and still don’t trash the God of Arminian theology because God has every right to do things that way if He chooses. It’s not that you’re discussing a hypothetical God. You are discussing what God can and cannot do because Cheryl doesn’t think He is loving if He does it. Yet, as I argued above, you are essentially saying the same thing about God in ANY of the views, and an appeal to free will does nothing to get away from it. I’m not lambasting you. I’m asking for greater humility on the part of Arminians who constantly say this. This is the one statement that makes me think that perhaps we are worshiping two different gods and that I should react to Arminians as Dort did. I’m more comfortable considering that we worship the same God when Arminians have humility to say, “From what I can understand, and in my limited perception, I think the Scriptures say that God did it this way”; but when God is essentially brought up on charges of being evil because one does not understand how He could do X instead of Y, it really does make me shutter and second guess if we shouldn’t require unity here (at least in our attitudes toward God if not in our specific systems).

  15. I am largely a silent reader here at Parchment and Pen, but I have to say at least a bit of something as this is a topic I personally wrestle with on a near-constant basis.

    Part of my difficulty with this is less related to the topic and more to the commentary. I rarely go through all the comments on an entry, but when the topic is of particular interest I’m curious to see how people in the body respond. What I find is that there is so much nit-picking and arrogance that goes on it’s astounding. Don’t get me wrong, searching for truth and the “correct” interpretation of the Word is certainly admirable, but the “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude I often see is what is tearing our church body apart. I would go so far as to say that seeing it in commentary on this site has steered me away from formal theological study, as it has led me to believe that theological study is more about “being right” than “knowing God”.

    But I digress.

    I have to agree with Cheryl on this one, though I’d be willing to wager my view on it is even more liberal than hers. I won’t go into that here, as I don’t really think it would lead to anything productive and I, like you Cheryl, get so heart-sick about this issue that I can barely discuss it.

    I think that those who claim to approach the question “humbly” and still stick to this elect-vs-nonelect view point have never really considered that they themselves might not be on the elect side. It’s considerably easier to say “God can send the majority of humanity to hell and I’ll still worship Him and think Him righteous” when one believes that one is not going to hell. Consider for a moment how you would feel about God if you were, in fact, one of the people He’s just making an example of. Or if your favorite grandmother was. Or your child. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, none of us would like God very much, not would we think Him just, or loving, or good if we believed that we were the ones who…

  16. Dr. Michael,

    I will freely admit that I don’t fully understand the aspect of things you are talking about. There is the belief that somehow God does draw all men unto Himself. I am sure it comes from John 12:32 at least primarily.

    But even as troubling to me as is the idea of Him deliberately passing over some without giving them a chance in the way you spoke of, that doesn’t begin to compare to the idea that He deliberately decreed that evil had to be so that He could have a group of people that He could punish with no hope at all of redemption. That is an idea I can in no way reconcile with any concept of God I have ever been taught or believed.

    Is our concept of justice as humans so far skewed that we just can’t conceive of that being just? If someone had several children, some of which were conceived with the idea of pouring out all of the best on and protecting them from every harm, and the rest were conceived with the sole idea of punishing them for their whole lives, wouldn’t we consider those parents to be monsters?

    And how can we be commanded by God to love our neighbor as ourself and do good to our enemies when God deliberately creates His own enemies for the very purpose of torturing them forever? Are we as Christians not to be conformed to the image of Christ? Yet we are told to love and do good and He creates men for the purpose of punishing in hell forever? There is no correspondence, sense, or logic in any of that as far as I can tell.

  17. …were perishing.

    sorry for the cut-off. Guess I was too wordy :0)

  18. Also, as to your last comment Cheryl – WORD.

  19. Sorry Lizard, but I am of the older generation here and I need clarification! What does–WORD–mean?

    (I apologize if this ends up here twice. I posted it once and it seemed to disappear.)

  20. haha – it means “preach it” and “yeah” and “that’s right”….you know, that sort of thing :0)

  21. Stella Budrikis 2011-01-25 at 6:41 pm

    If God’s glory can only be revealed to it’s full extent when it includes his justice and punishment of sin as well as his mercy, isn’t the cross of Christ itself the full revelation of God’s glory in every respect? What more is needed?

  22. Thanks Lizard! That is my, “you learn somethng new every day,” for today.

  23. By the way Hodge, speaking of humililty. (Ahem!) You are by your own confession 200% convinced you are right yet you expect Arminians to say with humility, “From what I can understand, and in my limited perception, I think the Scriptures say that God did it this way”;

    Sorry, but “from my limited perception,” there does seem to be a double standard here. How about if Calvinists, (Hodge in particular at this point,) speak with some humility from his limited perception?

    Why do you think I hesitated to get back into this conversation? I knew the sparks would be likely to fly.

  24. Cheryl, you’re welcome :0) And I agree with your last statement, that we all should be equally humble regarding our certainty on these matters. Personally I think that being even close to 100% certain about anything regarding an infinite God requires a certain amount of arrogance but…I already elaborated about that in my first lengthy note, so I will resist :0)

  25. cherylu, I agree that these things are hard doctrines and often time difficult to understand. Yet we must try and make sense of what is in God’s Word, and not pass over the tough verses.

    I’m not sure how many Calvinists say “God decreed evil”, as much as “He allowed it to happen”. Of course there are different types of decrees, which I will not get into here.

    The question for you is where did evil come from? Some Arminians say man or Satan, but if God is Sovereign over all, He still had to allow it into His creation. So even in the Arminian belief system, people could attack you by saying “How can your good God allow evil to come into a world by man or Satan?” The point is that Aminianism still has to answer for the “problem of evil”, and their answer is not any stronger than the Calvinists. So introducing the “problem of evil” as a weakness in Calvinism doesn’t really prove it wrong any more than it does the same for Arminianism.

  26. You’re asking the wrong question (again), Michael. The question is not why won’t God save anyone, but rather why does God not even want to save anyone in the first place?

    THAT is THE question! (that Calvinists should be asking)

  27. Dr. Michael,

    You are missing the point of my argument. It is quite one thing to allow evil, it is another altogether to decree it for the express purpose of having people to cast into hell to show his wrath on. And that is what this article we are commenting on here said, is it not?

  28. Dr. Michael,

    Both Calvinism and Arminianism give logically coherent answers as to why evil exists.

    Arminians assert that evil exists as a necessary by product of libertarian free will among both humans and heavenly beings. The very concept of libertarian free will implies the possibility (and I would argue certainty – i.e. there is no logically possible universe in which LFW exists and evil does not) that humans will use that liberty for evil. Thus evil exists because God desired to create a universe with LFW greater then He desired to create a universe that was absent of evil.

    Calvinism in my understanding asserts that God has not only allowed, but actively decreed evil in order to glorify Himself.

    The question becomes, as far as the problem of evil is concerned, whether or not these are adequate justifications for the existence of evil in the universe. I would submit that it is at least plausible the free will defense is adequate justification. On the other hand I’m not sure how creating billions of sentient beings for the sole purpose of torturing them for eternity in order to bring glory to oneself can provide adequate justification for the existence of evil. Imagine if you tried to convince someone that you could do whatever you wanted and still be good so long as you were glorified in someway by your actions??

  29. So WHY does evil exist and who created it?

    It would seem to me that if Calvinists believe that God is sovereign, and man has no free choice at all in the matter, they would have to own up at some point that either God created it, or evil came into existence on its own. That would then disprove the very argument they are standing upon.

  30. “I would submit that it is at least plausible the free will defense is adequate justification.”

    Michael,
    Would you admit, however, that God’s love for the unbeliever is in subjection to His love for the believer, and that the multitude of unbelievers are being created so that God can make and save the believers? That’s what I’m trying to get at. The free will defense is not something that is a plausible justification for anyone who denies that God can use the unbeliever’s life and damnation for the love of the believer, since this is true in everyone’s system.

  31. lizard and Cheryl,

    I suggest doing a study on humility when it comes to biblical truth claims. It has nothing to do with confidence in the person and everything to do with confidence in God and His Word. Humility is in relation to God’s ability to communicate and believing what He has said, even if we do not agree or understand. Humility in relation to other human beings has nothing to do with divine truth claims. It has to do with just viewing others as more important than yourself, not viewing truth as subjective. Hence, I deny that is arrogant to have absolute confidence in what an infinite God has said since that infinite God has infinite ability to communicate it to us. What I am calling for is humility in relation to God, therefore, and asking that one refrain from cursing Him as evil because of the precise lack of humility I just spoke of above. Please don’t confuse your cultural definitions with those of the Scripture, since our culture tends to elevate human subjectivity in apprehending truth over the divine ability to communicate it.

  32. Lizard, thanks for coming out of the woodwork (pun intended) to make your feelings known, but I would suggest you actually get to know some Calvinists before you start saying that they don’t ever think they might be one who perishes. Calvinists have such a high view of God and low view of rebellious man that even if God damned them, they would still see Him as good and righteous for doing so, and greatly honor Him as One who uses them to love His people. In fact, this seems to be the response that unbelievers, again in any system, will have toward God. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess His vindication as Lord and the right He has to exercise this judgment upon them.

    Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him; and though He damn me, yet will I proclaim His greatness in all the earth.

  33. Hodge – I personally would suggest that it would be….illogical / self-defeating for God to “use the unbeliever’s life and damnation for the love of the believer” because of two reasons.

    First, I personally, and most believers I know, would have a very hard if not impossible time loving such a God.

    Secondly, I would even claim that a lot of what the Bible teaches about virtue and righteousness would stand against that sort of theology. Meaning, I would not be able to love a God who would use unbeliever’s lives and damnation for self-glorifying purposes because Christianity has taught me that it is wrong to hurt / condemn / use torture for self-glorification purposes. Christian morals stand against this sort of God.

  34. “First, I personally, and most believers I know, would have a very hard if not impossible time loving such a God.

    Secondly, Meaning, I would not be able to love a God who would use unbeliever’s lives and damnation for self-glorifying purposes because Christianity has taught me that it is wrong to hurt / condemn / use torture for self-glorification purposes. Christian morals stand against this sort of God.”

    Isn’t this really one reason? I think you’ve stated well the evil of man and his view of God. I want a God who gives everyone lollipops because I have no understanding of evil or divine love to save a group of people.
    I can’t go into now, but if your understanding of salvation does not include the damnation of others, then you do not fully comprehend the nature of what it is to “know God” and have eternal life/salvation.

    But I digress, because logically, you do have a God who subjects His love for the unbeliever to the believer. Here’s why: He created a universe, knowing that the unbeliever will be damned and that it would be better to not make them at all, in order to make and save the believers. He put aside what was best for the unbeliever in order to love the believer by making and saving them. That’s not just in my system. It’s in every system. I’m not sure why this is so difficult to grasp, even though I know many don’t want to grasp it for reasons you stated (i.e., I can’t love a God who would do that). In essence, you are saying that you cannot love a God who made all things, including the unbeliever, for you, a God who loves you. Wow. I find that to be utterly ungrateful for this awesome work that He has done on your behalf.

  35. Again, I just want to plea that we leave this discussion of what God would be if He does X instead of Y, and go back to whether or not He did it. I cringe at this conversation, knowing that many are digging themselves in deeper with statements that they will sincerely regret in the long run.

  36. As for humility, I’m not talking about one’s certainty in God, but in one’s certainty in one’s own interpretation of God/ scripture. When one so adamantly adopts a doctrine upon which there is no consensus in the Christian world, one is essentially suggesting that they somehow have a superior knowledge of God and what His word actually means. For example, as a Calvinist, you claim certainty in the doctrine of election. However, there are millions of other Christians, who also have the Holy Spirit, who also read the same Bible you do, yet come to different conclusions. I believe that past a certain point, your certainty in this doctrine supposes that somehow you and others who feel the same way have the most accurate interpretation of the Bible. That, I believe, is a matter of arrogance as it suggests that your knowledge of scripture and God is somehow superior and more accurate than that of those that disagree with you.

    As for your claim that Cheryl was blaspheming when she called your interpretation of God a moral monster, I would argue that she was not calling God Himself a moral monster, but merely YOUR or the Calvinist version of Him a moral monster. You are so certain in your interpretation of scripture that you can no longer make a distinction between “God” and “God as I see Him”. While for Cheryl, perhaps, “God” and “God as Hodge sees Him” are in fact two different entities. She can easily call your interpretation of God a moral monster, while not in any way attacking God Himself. I trust that God would see the distinction there.

  37. I tend to think it wiser, and more humble, to say

    “God, I have no idea why you created a world in which there are unbelievers and evil. But I trust that you are Good.”

    Instead of saying “I totally get why you created this world! It’s to show your power and save my soul at the expense of countless others!”

    Because in the case of the latter, if you’re wrong, you know, it seems like God would not appreciate being so mis-characterized.

  38. So are you 100% sure that we shouldn’t be 100% sure when other Christians disagree? Because other Christians disagree with you about that statement. Are you being arrogant?

    Again, you have described well the confidence in man’s inability to understand and lack thereof in God’s ability to communicate. If I’m going to wait around until there is a complete consensus among all Christians on every doctrine, then it’s time to become an agnostic.

    Richard Dawkins could just say that he’s not blaspheming God either, he’s just blaspheming your view of God when he slanders the God of the OT. Do you think that will excuse him? But what’s worse is that Cheryl and your God is the same as mine because He does the exact same thing in your systems for which He is now being slandered by you. Hence, I really don’t think the arrogance here is mine; but I’m done discussing this after my next post.

  39. So, for example, if we said something like this, we would be exercising arrogance?

    “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it [does] not [depend] on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And [He did so] in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, [even] us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.”

    I think if I were to say, “God I have no idea why you created the world where there are unbelievers and evil” I would basically be saying, “God, I don’t want to believe what you’ve said here, so I’m just going to pretend that you didn’t want to communicate that to me, and plead ignorance.” I may not know how it all works out, but the revealed things belong to me and my children forever, so I am going to trust in them and proclaim then, even though I may not know and understand them exhaustively, which is something that God never requires of us in order to believe Him absolutely.

  40. mbaker said, “evil came into existence on its own”, which is impossible, not to mention illogical.

    cherylu, I’m not seeing where Sam Storms said God decrees evil above? Am I missing it somewhere?

    Too all Arminians reading this, including Michael T. above, you must also answer how evil was created? And can anything be created that is outside God’s Sovereign Will? Also, why would God allow anything in His creation if it did not ultimately glorify Himself?

    Again, Arminians are no better off on this issue of “where did evil come from.”

  41. Folks, while I don’t mind the “forum” use of this blog on my posts so much, let’s not fill up Sam’s inbox with this. Just use this as a place to ask him questions.

    Please remember to be gracious to one another. This is a secondary issue that good people disagree about. If you get too emotional thinking about and discussing this, please don’t write your thoughts here.

  42. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-25 at 9:59 pm

    Storms: “This point is related to what we see in Romans 9:22-23. God desired to show his wrath and make known his power in order that his mercy and grace might be seen in unmistakable clarity and his glory displayed to his everlasting praise.”

    Romans 9:22-23: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—”

    The Authority and Truth of Scripture trumps hurt feelings and emotionalism.

    P.S. I wrote this without seeing CMP’s prior post.

  43. “mbaker said, “evil came into existence on its own”, which is impossible, not to mention illogical.”

    Dr. Michael,

    If you are going to quote me, please make sure you do it in proper context. I did not declare that evil came into existance on its own.

    I was simply framing that as one of the possibilities of a conclusion one might reach, in context of the question I asked above as I understand Calvinism from all the explanations here. I would prefer to hear the answer from the author of the post itself.

    Thanks.

  44. Hodge, can you please help me understand the meaning of Rom 7:9? In what way was Paul alive without the law?

    What is Paul’s point using the example of marital law in Rom 7:1-4?

  45. Hodge,
    I am not 100% certain about anything. Though I do lean in the direction that being 100% certain about secondary doctrines is…unnecessary and can cause more harm than good. But no, I am not 100% certain about that, either.

    I just don’t see this as a black and white issue. I will agree, that the verses you cited do point in the direction of your theology. There are other things to consider, though. For instance, it does say that God desires everyone to be saved. How does it glorify God if his desires are not met?

    It also says in ecclesiastes: “man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. 20All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” Which leads me to believe that we really have no idea what goes on after death. But perhaps we’re smarter than the writer of ecclesiastes?

    Love is also given the characteristics of being patient, kind, not boasting, not proud, keeping no record of wrongs – if God is love, then He must be all these things? We are given instruction on how to live – loving our neighbor, bearing all things, forgiving all things – does God not hold himself to (at least!) the same standard? We are told to spread His good news of salvation to the ends of the earth…what, even though no one has a choice in the matter? What are we to say “Jesus came to save only the special people he came to save. If this sounds good to you, maybe you’re one of them. Or maybe you’re going to suffer eternal damnation. I really don’t know which it is, and you have no say in the matter.” That doesn’t really sound like good news to me.

    All I’m getting at is that yes, we can pick out verses here and there, some of which support one doctrine, some another. We should always take them in the context of the greater themes of the entire text. How is “Good” defined? what about “Justice”? and “Love”?…

  46. If God is all these things, how can He then also be the guy who creates people just so they can be destroyed and gives them no say in the matter? That seems completely contradictory to me.

    To the extent that if I were to read something and interpret it as supporting this claim of “God creates some people to be evil and to be destroyed and tortured, and they have no free will on the matter whatsoever”, in the context of the rest of the biblical text I would assume that my interpretation was wrong. It just doesn’t fall in line with what we are taught about the nature of God; His goodness, grace, and love.

  47. Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him; and though He damn me, yet will I proclaim His greatness in all the earth.

    Hodge, I was surprised when I read the second half of this statement in your post. Is this like, “I love Him because He first hated me”?

    Seriously, though… In Job 13:15 where you got the first part of this from, Job’s very next statement is to vindicate himself: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before him.” And we know from the text that God vindicated him. Strangely enough, God rebuked his friends who seem like Calvinists to me, and in the end, Job had to intercede for them.

  48. “So evil is necessary if the glory of God is to be perfectly and completely displayed. ”

    Then it seems the persons of the Trinity do not perfectly display their deity to one another, for within their fellowship there is no evil. This makes a fallen creation necessary for God’s self-actualization, which is undermines his aseity and makes him the author of evil.

    “It is also necessary for the highest happiness of humanity, because our happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love.”

    Couldn’t we have sufficient knowledge of God and his attributes through the cross of Christ? It seems that a fallen creation that contains many creatures that end up populating hell is more conducive to revealing the character of God than Jesus dying on the cross. That is just incredible any way you read the Bible (too put in mildly).

  49. Dr. Michael,

    To answer your question adequately one would have to get into a extended philosophical discussion about what exactly evil is (a discussion mind you that has been going on since the earliest Christian writings). I will however refrain from pulling this post that far off topic.

  50. I think the comments implying that Arminians worship freewill (expressed as if that were a negative, or worse, idolatry) mischaracterise the Arminian position.

    We think that God has freewill and he gives us a part of that in the imago Dei. We believe that God loves us and intends us to love him. We think that it is logically impossible to love in any meaningful sense without freewill. We think determinism logically incompatible with love.

    According to Arminianism, God won’t save all because to do so would require that he intrude upon and override the rebellious will of many unbelievers. God so values the purported dignity of libertarian freedom that he chooses only to save those who believe, although it would be possible to save those who don’t as well.

    Some may think this (?), but I am not certain I do. While there is nothing preventing God from doing what he does to redeem us, he does this only to those who love him. God cannot make people love him.

  51. Hodge,

    “Would you admit, however, that God’s love for the unbeliever is in subjection to His love for the believer, and that the multitude of unbelievers are being created so that God can make and save the believers?”

    I’m not quite sure how to answer this because there seems to be a assumption in here somewhere that God can’t save all. I think most Calvinists would say that God is fully capable of saving everyone, but chooses not to. Thus I’m not sure how this proposition answers the question posed by this blog post from the perspective of a Calvinist.

    Now from my perpective I believe that God knows who will freely choose to accept Him and who will choose to reject Him. I believe that God does use those who He knows will reject Him to accomplish His goals. However, I reject the seeming insinuation in your post that He has predestined them to reject Him. God is not actively sending people He has predestined to hell purpose of using those people to save others.

  52. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 1:38 am

    Bethyada: “We think that it is logically impossible to love in any meaningful sense without [libertarian] freewill.”

    (Have you ever talked to a suicidal person who wished they’d never been born?)

    In Libertarian Free Will (LFW) God is Love.

    LFW Sinner in Hell: “I wish I’d never been born. Hell is eternal torment. Why did God create me? Did He know before He created me I would end up in Hell?”

    LFW God: “I knew.”

    LFW Sinner in Hell: “Why, why, why, oh why, did you create me?”

    LFW God: “I created you with libertarian free will and you freely choose to reject me.”

    LFW Sinner in Hell: “Why didn’t you override my will? You’re God.”

    LFW God: “Love is Libertarian Free Will. Love does not override the will of another.”

    LFW Sinner in Hell: “If you loved me, you would have over-rode my will and enabled me or forced me to repent of my sins and to choose Christ as my Lord and Savior.”

    LFW God: “No, no. I am LFW God. I do not force anyone. That wouldn’t be love.”

    LFW Sinner in Hell: “But you foreknew I would choose to reject you and you created me anyways.”

    LFW God: “Yes.”

    LFW Sinner in Hell: “You’re a monster! I hate you.”

    LFW God: “No, no. I am LFW God. I am Love. I am not a monster. Go talk to all the LFW followers. They’ll tell you I’m not a monster.”

    LFW Sinner in Hell: “Those LFW followers are total idiots. It’s eternal torment here in Hell. You foreknew I was going to choose to be in Hell and you created me anyways. I hate you! You’re a monster. I don’t care what those LFW morons say. You’re not Love. You’re a hateful monster.”

    LFW God: “Here’s Roger Olson. Talk to him. How can you call me a monster? Only if I was a Calvinist God, could I be a monster. I’m LFW God. I can’t be a monster.”

    LFW Sinner in Hell: “You’re an LFW monster then.”

  53. “Truth Unites”… What a total mischaracterization of the truth that example is. Your example only proves that you will defend Calvinism at all costs. Nothing can prove Calvinism wrong because you can find a way to make their contrary argument look like it is in your favor, eh?

    Why not try your argument on a potential wife? Can’t find any women that desire you? No worries… pour a special potion in their drink and they will be irresistably attracted to you for life!!! (just be careful not to pour the potion in too many drinks!!!!)

  54. Melani Boek 2011-01-26 at 4:09 am

    Professor Storms,
    Since you quoted John Piper I have some quotes of his that I would like your opinion on. But first my reason for making this request in conjunction with today’s blog. I believe that Calvinism rises and falls on one single thing– the definition of “regeneration”. If regeneration is, as the Calvinist purport, a work of God to change a man to enable faith/belief/repentance: (“new spiritual life” and “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” to give a change of spiritual perception and understanding, a “new heart” for new desires, and a “freed will” for new choices), then the TULIP naturally integrates with this concept. However, if regeneration is actually “Christ in You”, the mystery that God kept hidden from ages and generations but revealed to the saints (Col. 1:26, 27): Jesus Christ, God’s Son, coming to dwell in a man’s heart (Eph. 3:17), to give him God’s gift of eternal life “[he who has the Son has the life” (1John 5:11, 12); “Christ is our life” (Col. 3:4)], and God’s gift of salvation [“saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10), “saved by regeneration” (Titus 3:5), “made alive with Jesus Christ by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:5)]…..then Calvinism is totally wrong. For the Bible clearly teaches that faith precedes Jesus dwelling in our hearts (Eph. 3:17); faith precedes a man receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:14); faith precedes eternal life, and faith precedes salvation (Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:13, 1:16). Historically faith preceded regeneration by several thousand years. Biblically there was no regeneration before Jesus Christ rose from the dead (1Pet. 1:3). And if there was no regeneration before the resurrection, then it can be proven that many Reformed tenets and interpretations are erroneous, because passages in the book of John, used to substantiate essential Reformed tenets such as “bondage of the will”, are interpreted as though God was regenerating men before the resurrection.

  55. Melani Boek 2011-01-26 at 4:13 am

    Therefore I ask, do you agree with the following statements by John Piper? (I collected these from a sermon series of his on the “New Birth” before it was turned into the book, Finally Alive. So I do not have page numbers yet. However this book was endorsed by many prominent Reformed Theologians including JI Packer.)

    “The second objective historical event that had to happen for us to be born again with eternal life was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (“Receive With Meekness the Implanted Word” – Message by John Piper (1/6/08).

    “The new birth is something that happens in us when the Holy Spirit takes our dead hearts and unites us to Christ BY FAITH so that His life becomes our life. So it makes sense that Jesus must be raised from the dead if we are to have new life in union with Him.” (“Receive With Meekness the Implanted Word” – Message by John Piper (1/6/08).

    “The new life we get in the new birth is the life of the historical Jesus. Therefore if He does not rise from the dead, there is no new life to have.” (“Receive With Meekness the Implanted Word” – Message by John Piper (1/6/08).

    “The incarnation is necessary for the new birth because the life we have through the new birth is life in union with the incarnate Chrsit…That life that we have in union with Christ is the life that Jesus obtained for us by the life He lived and the death He died in the flesh.” (The Reason the Son of God Appeared was to Destroy the Works of the Devil”—Message by John Piper 12/23/07).

    “No incarnation, No regeneration…if there were no incarnation…there would be no source of new life”. (The Reason the Son of God Appeared was to Destroy the Works of the Devil”—Message by John Piper 12/23/07).

    “If there is no incarnation, there is no union with the Son or with the Father, and no regeneration and no salvation.” (The Reason the Son of God Appeared was to Destroy the Works of the Devil”—Message by John Piper 12/23/07).

  56. “Why doesn’t God save everyone?”

    Isn’t it disrespectful to God to even ask the question?

  57. Melani Boek, good questions.

    Lynn writes:

    “Why doesn’t God save everyone?”

    Isn’t it disrespectful to God to even ask the question?

    I guess if you are a Calvinist, you shouldn’t be asking these sorts of questions. For the rest of us, I think God won’t mind. 😉

  58. Buks van Ellewee 2011-01-26 at 10:08 am

    I often “override” the will of my children. I love them and will not allow them to play cowboys and crooks with our steak knives no matter how much they desire to do it!

    I confess, I don’t know why there is evil and why God doesn’t save everybody. But I do believe that it is taught clearly in Scripture. I have learnt over many years to trust God’s Word – and although my understanding of it is far from complete – I have not seen a convincing argument against this clear teaching.

    Does this make God a monster? No! Scripture also reveals Him as a loving, graceful and mecyful God. He is also perfectly just and holy. He did order the killing of even woman and children in Jericho.

    I am man, He is God. How can I possibly be arrogant enough to think that I – who have a sin warped mind and a limited creaturely perspective – can understand His purposes and His plans?

    I accept election as I see it everywhere in Scripture. I accept free-will that is totally enslaved by sin as taught clearly in Scripture. I believe in a loving and just God as taught in Scripture.

    He made me His child! Why? God only knows! But I am deeply thankful that He did. I will witness and tell of His great love, knowing that He is truly Lord. My salvation is safe in him – thank God it does not depend on my fickle emotion, intellect or ability to be faithful to Him.

    But in humility I will continue to search the Scriptures for answers. I will delight in His Word and perhaps, through others (maybe even in discussions like this blog) and through His Spirit I will learn to get to know Him better.

    Blessings.

  59. let’s argue about this in Heaven

  60. Buks writes:

    I often “override” the will of my children. I love them and will not allow them to play cowboys and crooks with our steak knives no matter how much they desire to do it!

    God does this sort of thing all the time. And those whom God has appointed to police and rule people also overrule the evil intentions of people. But have you ever tried to force a kid to sit down who wants to stand up and have him say to you, “I may be sitting down; but inside, I’m standing up!” Its one thing to enforce external limitations on behaviour; it is another thing altogether to say that God changes a person’s heart without their consent. One is like a policeman; the other is like rape.

    There are many things you write that non-Calvinists would agree with. God allows evil a) to test the sincerity of those who claim to trust Him and b) to demonstrate the extent of His grace towards those who trust Him. But it is not because He decreed evil to be in the hearts of some and not in others.

    God is not a moral monster for allowing evil. Not even for killing every living being in the flood. We know from the interaction with Abraham that God will spare the righteous. We know from the aftermath of King David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah that the baby who died would be in paradise (compare David’s reaction with this child and Absalom at his death).

    I am man, He is God. How can I possibly be arrogant enough to think that I – who have a sin warped mind and a limited creaturely perspective – can understand His purposes and His plans?

    No one, I think, is questioning what God wants to do with those who reject Him and how He chooses to use them for His purposes. But to think that there can be anything just in God being 100% responsible for enabling someone to turn to Him in faith and then not doing this for all – it is justifiable for us who think clearly to balk at this reprehensible behaviour. But I don’t believe this is what God is doing.

  61. …I don’t believe that is what God is doing.

  62. This mistaken presupposition here is that God’s wrath is not displayed in election, which makes it such that, should God want to display His wrath (which is dubious in the first place), he would have to do some reprobating. But God’s wrath is shown equally in election as in reprobation. The difference is that in election God’s wrath is poured out on Jesus whereas in reprobation His wrath is poured out on the individuals reprobated.

  63. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 11:48 am

    Ryan Schatz,

    The example of LFW God and the LFW Sinner in Hell portrays the emotionalism of LFW.

    Perhaps unwittingly, your response to the portrayal further exemplifies the emotionalism of LFW.

    Please understand: Your emoting is not persuasive to those who look to the Authority and Truth of Scripture.

  64. Mr. Storms,

    Yesterday in comments #46 and 47, (on the first page on comments on this thread), Lizard asked these questions:

    All I’m getting at is that yes, we can pick out verses here and there, some of which support one doctrine, some another. We should always take them in the context of the greater themes of the entire text. How is “Good” defined? what about “Justice”? and “Love”?…

    If God is all these things, how can He then also be the guy who creates people just so they can be destroyed and gives them no say in the matter? That seems completely contradictory to me.

    To the extent that if I were to read something and interpret it as supporting this claim of “God creates some people to be evil and to be destroyed and tortured, and they have no free will on the matter whatsoever”, in the context of the rest of the biblical text I would assume that my interpretation was wrong. It just doesn’t fall in line with what we are taught about the nature of God; His goodness, grace, and love.

    (And I would also add, any definition of justice that I know of.)

    These questions pretty well echo some of my own questions. And Lizard’s conclusion is the same one I have come to because of them. How do you deal with these issues? What is your understanding?

  65. From the original post:

    So evil is necessary if the glory of God is to be perfectly and completely displayed. It is also necessary for the highest happiness of humanity, because our happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of God is imperfect (because of a disproportionate display of his attributes), the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.”

    I want to be nice, but this is the most inane thing I have read; albeit, nothing new, coming from Classic Calvinists.

    1) Straightaway, this quote above, and its point, make God’s very life contingent upon His creation; or a predicate of His own creation. This is what Athanasius fought so vigorously against; i.e. that who God is prior to creation is Father/Son by the Holy Spirit vs. God as Creator (by way of ordo). This way we don’t see creation and all of its subsequents as “necessary” for God’s self-Revelation. And this way we don’t start with a negative concept of Godness, but instead ground our discussion of God “positively” by reading who God is from the book of Christ’s self-interpreting life of God (cf. Jn 1.18). If we follow this approach we realize that God is Father/Son before he ever, by His free self-determination chooses to become Creator and then Incarnate (which are all “new” things for God, grounded in who He is in se).

    2) This whole post presupposes that God is basically the sum total of a bunch of “attributes” or “qualities” or “accidents.” That there is a “God behind the back of Jesus.” That there is one “substance” known as God, and his attributes subsist through the persons “underneath” so to speak this substance of Godness; which my first point was speaking to.

    3) Also, this post presupposes that God’s glory and sovereignty define who God is; and yet again, this fails to deal with who God has revealed Himself to be, ontologically, as…

  66. TUAD,

    1. Your example is absurd on multiple fronts most notably of which it confuses but for causation with proximate causation. Depite what the person in Hell may like, there are really only two ways God could create human beings. One is having LFW and the other is determinism. In one the individual is in Hell directly as the result of God determining the individual to go to Hell and actively ensuring that this would come about. In the other system God creates an individual with the ability to make a choice to reject Him and go to Hell. One of these impunes God in a direct way (I’m here because God predestined me to be here). In the other the free agent is direct cause of itself being in Hell, while God is only a remote cause (I’m here because I chose to reject God). In LFW God is only a cause in the sense that Hitler’s parents choosing to have a child is a cause of Hitler’s murderous rampage through Europe.

    2. Implying that your opponents don’t recognize the authority of Scripture is not only inaccurate, but condescending and uncalled for. We disagree over how various passage in Scripture should be interpreted and understood, not over whether or not it is authoritative.

    3. Trying to discover whether or not the understanding of God presented by any theological system is compatible with the God of the Bible who is presented as good, loving, just, holy, etc….is not an exercise in emotionalism. These words have definitions and either the God presented by a theological system meets them or He doesn’t.

  67. continued

    . . . Father/Son by the Holy Spirit. So God is “love,” which is what scripture says; and thus I don’t have to pin my theology to a theological construct that asserts that God is Glory (which really makes no sense). And I don’t have to pin my theology to the idea that God is likened to some sort of brute force of Stoic like fateful determinism.

    None of the post above has any explicit “Biblical” support, at least at a fundamental major premise kind of level. NOne of what is communicated appeals to the categories that God’s self-Revelation to us in Christ supplies and thus imposes upon the way we must understand who God is according to Jesus. And none of what is asserted in this post comes even close to reflecting the fact that who God is in His “inner-life” as Trinity, is exactly the same as who He is in His Revelation through the Son (ad extra or “outer life”).

    I have a hard time believing that people who read their Bibles could ever come to the conclusions that Sam Storms does in this post. That’s sad. And what’s even more sad, is that people actually read Sam Storms and say amen 🙁 .

  68. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 1:00 pm

    Michael T,

    The God of Scripture is good, loving, just, holy, etc….

    Calvinism is Scriptural.

    Hence, the God of Calvinism is good, loving, just, holy, etc….

  69. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 1:06 pm

    “Depite what the person in Hell may like, there are really only two ways God could create human beings. One is having LFW and the other is determinism. In one the individual is in Hell directly as the result of God determining the individual to go to Hell and actively ensuring that this would come about. In the other system God creates an individual with the ability to make a choice to reject Him and go to Hell. One of these impunes God in a direct way (I’m here because God predestined me to be here). In the other the free agent is direct cause of itself being in Hell, while God is only a remote cause (I’m here because I chose to reject God).”

    Michael T, you’re missing something rather badly.

    The LFW Sinner in Hell doesn’t care about whether it’s direct or proximate causation. It’s irrelevant to him or her. He or she says that LFW God divinely foreknew their eternal misery and created them anyway, and for that, He is an LFW monster.

  70. I’m a little confused as to the limits we put on God in all of this: “to display His glory evil must have existed” or “there are only two ways God could have created humans, either with LFW or determinism” etc.

    Hold on a sec, aren’t we talking about an all powerful God? Don’t we believe that He very well could show His glory to a people without “needing” evil to exist to do it? Don’t we believe God is capable of creating human beings who don’t need to see wrath and judgment to understand justice, glory and goodness? Couldn’t there be an infinite amount of ways He could have created us? To use the same quote Bobby used above:

    “So evil is necessary if the glory of God is to be perfectly and completely displayed. It is also necessary for the highest happiness of humanity, because our happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love.”

    Seriously? Our good God is so limited that He needs evil to perfectly display His Glory and Love? He created us in such a way that the only way we can know and love Him is through this vehicle of comparison with evil? That is just kind of a bizarre concept, as if to say that God, smart as He is, is just not capable of getting what He aims for (to show His glory) without needing evil to do it. I may be re-stating other folks’ disagreement with this but this just does not sound like an all powerful, all good God.

  71. Michael,

    My question isn’t loaded. I’m discussing with you whether an unbeliever is predestined to be so right now. I’m only discussing whether God A) Knew that the unbelievers who He would make will go to hell; B) that it would be better for them had He not made them; C) that He made them anyway because He wanted to make the believers and save them.

    My point here is only to say, again, that every system has God’s love for the unbelievers subordinate to His love for the believer. In other words, He set aside what was best for the unbeliever (i.e., not making them) in order to make and save the believer. Hence, this shows that God does not love everyone in the same way, and the unbeliever’s damnation and suffering is a secondary concern to the believer’s salvation and relationship with God. I’m not baiting you. I’m just wanting some logical concession displayed in this highly emotional debate, where others are not willing to concede what I think is obvious.

  72. lizard,

    It’s God’s glory in relation to our salvation from damnation. Could He have done it differently? I don’t know. I’m not God and don’t know the options. I do think that God does the best of everything though, and that this is the best possible way He could have done it due to the fact that He did it this way.

    God can be put in a box by saying He shouldn’t be put in a box as well. If God did X and we say that we shouldn’t believe that because God could do Y, then we are barring God from doing X due to His omnipotence. It’s the backdoor to the same assertion, only the one asserting it gets to seem like he’s not limiting God. The question is what did God do, and why, not whether He could possibly have done something else.

  73. TUAD,

    1. You ever hear of the logical fallacy of begging the question? You just gave shocking textbook example of it.

    2. You apparently missed something really badly yourself since you list direct and proximate causation as different things. These are the the same more or less. The difference is between remote causation (sometimes called “but for” causation) and proximate causation (sometimes called “direct” or “legal” causation). In LFW God is only a remote cause. If we were to hold God morally responsible for the outcome of LFW Sinner’s actions we would also have to Hitler’s parent’s morally responsible for Hitler’s actions since but for them choosing to have a child Hitler would not have murdered millions of people. Simple knowledge doesn’t change the causation equation at all. In Calvinism/determinism on the other hand God is the proximate/direct cause of the sinner being in Hell. So thus while the LFW Sinner in Hell would like to blame God for his situation his own choices are the sole and sufficient cause of him being in Hell. On the other hand when the Calvinist Sinner blames God for him being in Hell he is being accurate since there is no independent free agent to get God off the hook.

    Furthermore there is an issue of whether or not it is logically possible for God to have no created LFW Sinner, but that is another issue entirely.

  74. My point here is only to say, again, that every system has God’s love for the unbelievers subordinate to His love for the believer. In other words, He set aside what was best for the unbeliever (i.e., not making them) in order to make and save the believer. Hence, this shows that God does not love everyone in the same way, and the unbeliever’s damnation and suffering is a secondary concern to the believer’s salvation and relationship with God.

    Yes, God’s love for unbelievers is subordinate to His love for the believer. The the reason for them being believers/unbelievers does not rest in God, it rests in them. In Calvinism, the reason unbelievers are still unbelievers rests in God alone. The God described by Calvinism therefore created someone He never intended to flick the switch on for and then damned them for all eternity. That’s an obvious problem that you don’t seem willing to acknowledge, Hodge.

  75. Hodge,
    I was responding specifically to the statements that God NEEDS evil in order to be fully glorified, that God *could not have* done anything other than determinism or LFW. I believe that the assertion that God needs anything outside of Himself to fulfill His purposes is contradictory to our concept of God as Holy, all powerful, and complete within Himself.

    I agree that “The question is what did God do, and why, not whether He could possibly have done something else.” But I believe that we can use the knowledge of Him and His character and attributes that He has revealed to us in His word (including overarching themes, not only picked out sentences) to determine what He did, in fact, do. And why. But to claim “I believe He did X and *could not have* done anything differently else” is limiting God to your comprehension.

    Also, you keep mentioning the whole “it would be better for unbelievers to not have been born” as if that is a fact that applies to all situations everywhere. In the verse you were citing, Jesus was specifically talking about Judas, who was to betray Him. Judas was a follower of Christ, literally, and knew Him, personally. We can argue whether he was a believer or not, but the fact is Jesus here is condemning his actions, not his faith or lackthereof. And He does not expand on this statement to cover “all nonbelievers” or “all evildoers”.

    Perhaps you were referencing a different verse?

  76. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 1:35 pm

    “So thus while the LFW Sinner in Hell would like to blame God for his situation his own choices are the sole and sufficient cause of him being in Hell.”

    Michael T.,

    You do not get it. Please stop and think.

    The LFW Sinner in Hell wishes he or she was never born, never created, given that LFW God divinely foreknew the LFW choices they would make.

    Think, please.

  77. Hodge,

    Since you and TUAD somewhat touch on the same point I will go there briefly. I do not believe it is logically possible for God to simply choose not to create those who he knows will reject him without undermining free will itself. It would be analagous to God stepping in and stopping someone from doing something bad everytime they were about to do so. At some point one would cease to really have free will since free implies the ability to do evil as opposed to good. As a corrollary I find Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense in which he posits that it was logically impossible for God to create a universe in which free creatures exist, but evil does not, to be rather convincing.

  78. TUAD,

    “The LFW Sinner in Hell wishes he or she was never born, never created, given that LFW God divinely foreknew the LFW choices they would make.”

    That is irrelevent. Under every theory of ethics Christian or otherwise God could only be held morally culpable if he was the proximate cause, not some remote cause. You have utterly failed to demonstrate how simple knowledge that a person will suffer these consequences equates to moral responsibility.

  79. “Truth…” writes:

    The LFW Sinner in Hell wishes he or she was never born, never created, given that LFW God divinely foreknew the LFW choices they would make.

    Remember those in the flood banging on the door of the ark once the flood started? I’m sure they were not happy they were about to die. It reminds me of my kids sometimes who say whatever they can just to get around discipline. Often, they don’t actually mean it.

    The person in Hell is not enjoying it… no kidding. And wishes that he would rather have not been born… no kidding. But the reason he is there is because of the decisions he made, not because God didn’t pour the potion in his drink… So there is nothing to blame God for. God knew he would reject him, but it was not because of God; this was truly of his own free will. And as Rom 1 states, God made himself sufficiently known – everyone is therefore without excuse. If God had to flip a switch, they would have an excuse now, wouldn’t they?

  80. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 2:09 pm

    Michael T,

    You’re missing it again.

    Let’s spin the merry-go-round again and see if you finally get it:

    “The LFW Sinner in Hell doesn’t care about whether it’s direct or proximate causation. It’s irrelevant to him or her. He or she says that LFW God divinely foreknew their eternal misery and created them anyway, and for that, He is an LFW monster.

    The LFW Sinner in Hell wishes he or she was never born, never created, given that LFW God divinely foreknew the LFW choices they would make.”

    Michael T, try to think about this: If never born, if never created, then the pseudo-issue of direct or proximate causation never comes into play.

    Get it now? C’mon, think. Please.

  81. @TUTD:

    He or she says that LFW God divinely foreknew their eternal misery and created them anyway, and for that, He is an LFW monster.

    Michael T, try to think about this: If never born, if never created, then the pseudo-issue of direct or proximate causation never comes into play.

    Get it now? C’mon, think. Please.

    The person in Hell is unhappy, but he doesn’t have a case to defend himself. His objection holds no water. However, if his only chance to have avoided Hell was solely in God and not in him (because he couldn’t unless God flipped the switch), then he’d have a case.

    God is not a monster for creating someone whom He knew would reject Him. This objection ONLY holds weight if the person could not possibly have turned to God unless God flipped a switch in him. Since this is not the case, again, the objection doesn’t hold.

    bang, bang…case dismissed.

  82. Honest question here from a simple mind… What if God is not the principal creator of a person. Adam, yes, and Eve, yes…but holding to a traducian view, man is the direct creator of other man, right?

    Does a traducianist have a way out of the argument — that God is not directly creating people to damn them? Rather he is simply choosing from among all who are damned to save those he wishes out of his mercy.

    I guess since this view holds that only Adam (and Eve) were directly created by God, then they are the only ones to whom he would be a moral monster if he did not save. Now, we have no direct proof, but I think maybe we can assume that Adam and Eve were redeemed?

    Just a thought… Tough topic for sure, but I enjoy reading all the discussion.

  83. TUAD’s condescending tone seems rather uncallled for. And it is ironic that he would call on Michael T. to think, when it seems like he has not thought through his own argument to which there are various answers. One rather simple one from one Arminian view of simple foreknowledge is that TUAD’s argument falls to the Grandfather paradox. “Since the libertarian believes that God foreknows actual future acts, then if God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person, otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong (since the person would not in fact do what God knew he would do; indeed, God’s foreknowledge of the person’s existence would be wrong as well!), and God cannot be wrong. If you want to introduce middle knowledge (or whatever you may call God’s hypothetical knowledge) then I would just point out, as a friend has done, that ‘God can only have middle knowledge…of people who will certainly exist at some point. He cannot know what someone who never exists would do; there is no person there to ever know anything about.'” (http://evangelicalarminians.org/bossmanham.Is-There-Trauma-in-Sovereignty.A-Response-to-James-Swan-by-Brennon-Hartshorn?page=1)

  84. Also, it is naive to assume that the only categories to work from in this debate are those represented by the polar opposites of Classic Calvinism/Arminianism. The reason you guys can’t get anywhere is because you all operate from the same philosophical ground provided by Thomas Aquinas or Thomism. Let me clear it up for all of you: you are all what is called classical theists, and thus it’s not a matter of offering different conceptual schemas about the nature of God or man; instead it’s just an issue of shifting your referent points and emphasizing different syllAblEs with the same words. You both Calv/Arm (classics) believe God works through “decrees” construed through the metaphysics and causality provided by Aristotle; you both suppose that God is a “substance” (who has accidents, so His attributes and persons); you both believe that grace and sin are created qualities ( privatio); you both believe that by Spirit imbued grace you are enabled to cooperate (operative grace or habitus) with God in your salvation (or that you’ll Persevere); you both believe that predestination and election have to do with particular people instead of a Particular person (the God-man); you both believe that eternal life and damnation have to do with quantity vs. Trinitarian relationship; you both believe that the cross represents a transactional moment wherein God buys an “elect” group of people (whether that be based upon his arbitrary choice or His foreknowledge) — so your reductionistic view of a forensics only atonement; and you both are simply dead wrong! Can it be anymore clear than that 😉 ?

  85. Michael,

    I’m not really talking about evil in general or whether it is possible for God to create a universe without the unbeliever. My point is that He has the option of creating the universe or not creating it. If He creates it, it benefits the believers and damns the unbelievers. If He doesn’t, no one exists, but He has loved the unbeliever enough, and more than the believer, to not make him. My point is only that given the option, God has chosen to love the believer more than the unbeliever by making the universe. Hence, He does not love both equally. Do you see the point I’m trying to make and now this is true of everyone’s system, not just Calvinism?

  86. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 2:46 pm

    Ryan Schatz: “However, if his only chance to have avoided Hell was solely in God and not in him (because he couldn’t unless God flipped the switch), then he’d have a case.”

    Just to clearly establish what you’re saying here: Under Arminianism people determine whether they’re ultimately saved or not.

    Is that right, Ryan?

    “God is not a monster for creating someone whom He knew would reject Him.”

    The LFW Sinner in Hell wishes he never had the choice to reject God. The LFW Sinner in Hell did not want the choice. Hence, he or she wishes they were never born, never created.

    “This objection ONLY holds weight if the person could not possibly have turned to God unless God flipped a switch in him. Since this is not the case, again, the objection doesn’t hold.

    bang, bang…case dismissed.”

    Is the LFW Sinner in Hell consoled or persuaded by this? Does it persuade the LFW Sinner in Hell that the LFW God is not an LFW monster for creating them in the first place?

  87. Truth,

    Ryan isn’t an Arminian. He’s been arguing for full blown Pelagianism. I just want to be clear not to confuse him with Arminians who believe in some sort of depravity (usually total depravity, at least as they see it).

  88. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 3:00 pm

    “Truth,

    Ryan isn’t an Arminian. He’s been arguing for full blown Pelagianism.”
    Ai-yi-yi. Sigh. Thanks for the heads-up. It explains quite a bit.

    Him being a full-blown Pelagianist has its own set of issues.

  89. @Hodge:

    Truth,

    Ryan isn’t an Arminian. He’s been arguing for full blown Pelagianism. I just want to be clear not to confuse him with Arminians who believe in some sort of depravity (usually total depravity, at least as they see it).

    Hodge, is a Pelagian someone who believes that salvation is by one’s own faith in God? Faith being opposite of works and actually itself a simple proclamation of one’s weakness and inability to save himself?

    I am not and have never argued for works salvation.

  90. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 3:05 pm

    “Do you see the point I’m trying to make and now this is true of everyone’s system, not just Calvinism?”

    Hodge is making a significant point here folks.

    I’m highlighting to give it even more prominence and emphasis.

  91. @TUAD:

    Ryan Schatz: “However, if his only chance to have avoided Hell was solely in God and not in him (because he couldn’t unless God flipped the switch), then he’d have a case.”

    Just to clearly establish what you’re saying here: Under Arminianism people determine whether they’re ultimately saved or not.

    Is that right, Ryan?

    What I am saying is that God has revealed that salvation is only in Jesus Christ and that the means by which one is saved is by repenting of trust in one’s own works and putting one’s trust in the only one who can save, Jesus Christ. The buck for that faith rests on the individual, not on God.

  92. @Hodge:

    My point is only that given the option, God has chosen to love the believer more than the unbeliever by making the universe. Hence, He does not love both equally. Do you see the point I’m trying to make and now this is true of everyone’s system, not just Calvinism?

    Right, God made the universe knowing that some will have faith and others will not. In one sense, He loves both equally because all of us were in our sin when He died for us. On the other hand, salvific love is not demonstrated to the unbelievers, but only those who exercise faith or believe.

    Calvinism proposes that God didn’t die for anyone except the elect.
    > The Bible teaches that God died for the WHOLE world but only those who exercise faith have the righteousness of Christ credited to their account.

    Calvinism proposes that God unconditionally elects some and not all.
    > The Bible teaches that God elects those who have faith to conform them to the image of Christ, make them sons and daughters and give them an inheritance with Christ.

    Calvinism proposes that there is nothing in a person that determines whether or not he is one of the elect to salvation or not, not even his faith in God (which he cannot have because he is faith-dead).
    > The Bible teaches that salvation is by faith, that faith is a declaration of inability or weakness and dependence on an outside source. This faith is an ability inate to every person. Rom 1 declares him without excuse.

    Therefore, Calvinism proposes a God who creates people He hates, He uses them for a while and then damns them for all eternity. This is not the description of God that we all share.

  93. Ryan,

    Just a small education in Church History and doctrine. Pelagianism was one of the earlier teachings to be declared heresy by the Church less than 400 years after the death of Christ. It taught that original sin did not exist in any sense and that humans were fully capable of believing in God and attaining salvation without any intervention from God whatsoever. Classical Arminian’s such of myself hold that human beings are totally depraved an incapable of attaining salvation without God’s intervention (as Calvinism also teaches). Unlike Calvinism we believe that God gives prevenient or enabling grace to all human beings which enables them to make a free will choice to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation.

    Many of your comments refect someone who has a Pelagian or at least Semi-Pelagian understanding of human nature. This is considered heresy by the vast witness of the historical church as well as pretty much every modern denomination in existence.

  94. Truth Unites... and Divides 2011-01-26 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Ryan, Michael T., et al,

    Thanks for the polemical interaction, but I have other things I gotta do.

    I wish you all the best.

    Pax.

  95. TUAD,

    I think you miss my point. The fact that the LFW Sinner in Hell wishes he had never been created and thinks God is a moral monster for creating him is irrelevant. I can think anything I want to, it doesn’t make it true. The LFW Sinner has provided no cognizable logical or ethical claim upon which to hold God morally accountable for him being in hell. Thus what he thinks is irrelevant.

  96. @Michael T: Thanks for your comments.

    It taught that original sin did not exist in any sense and that humans were fully capable of believing in God and attaining salvation without any intervention from God whatsoever.

    I believe in original sin and my beliefs in this area much more aligned with Arminianism. If you want to call it total depravity and prevenient grace, I think this is likely very close to how it is. But we need to discuss what prevenient grace looks like exactly. In Rom 1, we are told that all are without excuse because creation displays the hidden attributes of God. So is there enough evidence in creation that this would be sufficient prevenient grace to start groping around for God? I think so. Obviously, God must reveal something further, and He does. He teaches all people (aka prevenient grace?) and those who hear and learn (exercise faith) are given to Jesus.

    Many of your comments refect someone who has a Pelagian or at least Semi-Pelagian understanding of human nature. This is considered heresy by the vast witness of the historical church as well as pretty much every modern denomination in existence.

    You must be misreading me then. Given your description, I am not a Pelagian. Does this satisfy you?

  97. Hodge,

    “My point is only that given the option, God has chosen to love the believer more than the unbeliever by making the universe. Hence, He does not love both equally.”

    I would agree to a point. However, the question then becomes whether or not God’s favoritism of the believer is based upon his foreknowledge of the believer’s acceptance and the unbeliever’s rejection of Him, or an arbitrary choice to determine one to accept Him and one to reject Him.

  98. Ryan

    “In Rom 1, we are told that all are without excuse because creation displays the hidden attributes of God. So is there enough evidence in creation that this would be sufficient prevenient grace to start groping around for God?”

    This is Pelagianism. If someone could just see the evidence of God in natural revelation and come to believe in God as a result of this it would not require any intervention of God whatsoever. Arminianism says that God has to actively give grace to us in order for our wills to become unbound and be capable of accepting Him. The passage you quote pertains to whether or not there is enough evidence in nature that people ignore to convict them of rejecting God. It does not pertain to whether or not anyone would actually pay attention and believe apart from God’s intervention.

    Romans 3:10-12 says,

    There is no one righteous, not even one,
    there is no one who understands,
    there is no one who seeks God.
    All have turned away,
    together they have become worthless;

  99. @Michael T:

    This is Pelagianism. If someone could just see the evidence of God in natural revelation and come to believe in God as a result of this it would not require any intervention of God whatsoever.

    No, that’s not what I meant. Belief that God exists is not sufficient for salvation. Even the demons believe this much and tremble.

    One has to have faith in the payment for sin made on his behalf to be saved. That is not provided by natural revelation. So God has to intervene and reveal this to people. I believe that the scripture is clear that God promises to reveal this to those who fear Him.

    Arminianism says that God has to actively give grace to us in order for our wills to become unbound and be capable of accepting Him.

    This is why I don’t call myself an Arminian. The unbinding of the will you describe sounds like the switch flicking of Calvinism. Except that you believe that everyone has their wills sufficiently unbound. So you get around the issue, but you and I end up at the same result (you just had to jump through a hoop because of your understanding of Rom 3).

    The passage you quote pertains to whether or not there is enough evidence in nature that people ignore to convict them of rejecting God.

    Yes.

    It does not pertain to whether or not anyone would actually pay attention and believe apart from God’s intervention.

    Romans 3:10-12 says,
    There is no one righteous, not even one,…

    I believe you are taking Rom 3 out of context. Who is “no one” speaking of? Paul is quoting from Psalms 14 and building an argument he started in Rom chapters 1 and 2. He is speaking of the “fools” who reject God, not every person created.

  100. When I was making my conversion from Arminianism to Reformed, the question that stumped me was…”what makes me so smart, so spiritual, so special that I heard this message and accepted Christ, yet the person next to me, who heard the very same message, at the very same time…didn’t?

    Am I really that much smarter? That much more spiritual? That much more special than the person next to me?

    Knowing <strong.myyself – if left to my own devices…if I had to depend on my own smartness, my own spirituality…would I really seek God, and not sin? REALLY?

    Not by a long shot. If it were up to me, I’d seek pleasure, sin, fun, my own personal gods – way before I chose to seek Christ.

    I was talking to a friend about doubts. I told him…”I can’t NOT believe. If faith is a choice, do I really have it in me to – not – believe? Could I decide today to disbelieve?

    Or is my God working in me, creating my faith in me?

    I (a Calvinist) can pray that God touch and change the hearts of my unsaved family and friends – and know that He can.

  101. @MzEllen: I agree with you, we are not smart enough. But God is willing to teach those who fear Him. The fact is that compared to what this life offers, what Christ is offering is better by far. Can I trust Him and consider His promise worth it all? Paul wrote in Phil 3:7-9:

    “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”

    You also wrote:

    I (a Calvinist) can pray that God touch and change the hearts of my unsaved family and friends – and know that He can.

    But as a Calvinist, hasn’t God already pre-determined this? How can He change His mind now since He only died for those He elected from before the creation? All you know is that He will change the hearts of those He planned on changing, and will do nothing for those He didn’t elect, no matter how much you pray. Good thing this isn’t really true though, eh?

  102. “Hodge, is a Pelagian someone who believes that salvation is by one’s own faith in God?”

    Yes, it is.

    “So is there enough evidence in creation that this would be sufficient prevenient grace to start groping around for God? I think so. Obviously, God must reveal something further, and He does. He teaches all people (aka prevenient grace?) and those who hear and learn (exercise faith) are given to Jesus.”

    LOL. This is a perfect description of Pelagius’ view of grace. Ryan, I would suggest studying up on the subject. What you described to me in our discussion of John 6 can only be described as Pelagianism, not Arminian theology.

  103. “I would agree to a point. However, the question then becomes whether or not God’s favoritism of the believer is based upon his foreknowledge of the believer’s acceptance and the unbeliever’s rejection of Him, or an arbitrary choice to determine one to accept Him and one to reject Him.”

    Sure, and this is where we would disagree, but I’m glad that you, as a thinking Arminian, can acknowledge that God, at the very least, allows the unbeliever to be damned so that He can save the believer, and this subjugates His love for one to His love for the other. Hence, we have God loving both groups differently, one more than the other (e.g., Jacob I loved but Esau I hated).

  104. Ryan,

    “How can He change His mind now since He only died for those He elected from before the creation?”

    Now you’re an Open Theist?

  105. > But as a Calvinist, hasn’t God already pre-determined this? How can He change His mind now since He only died for those He elected from before the creation?

    I believe that just as God has ordained the end, He has also ordained the means (prayer and evangelism)

    . But God is willing to teach those who fear Him.

    Why does one fear Him and another does not? Intelligence? Random Chance?

  106. @Hodge:

    “Hodge, is a Pelagian someone who believes that salvation is by one’s own faith in God?”

    Yes, it is.

    Hodge, please quote me accurately. I said: “Hodge, is a Pelagian someone who believes that salvation is by one’s own faith in God? Faith being opposite of works and actually itself a simple proclamation of one’s weakness and inability to save himself?

    If you feel the need to call me names and not accurately represent my view, so be it. But I do not believe in works-based salvation, I DO believe that God must intervene and reveal Christ to people, but I also believe that the ability to exercise faith, WHICH IS NOT A WORK, and is commanded by God, is something we must do without any switch flicking required.

    Yes, that’s not Calvinism (by a long shot) and its not exactly Arminianism, though at least I and Arminians arrive at pretty much the same conclusions.

  107. Hodge,

    Does disparate treatment require disparate love?? Is it possible that God doesn’t love the unbeliever any less, but because of their unwillingness to repent will use them to accomplish his goals??

  108. Ryan,

    I don’t think Hodge is calling you names. I think he is applying a theological label to you which accurately represents some of the statements you have made. If humans can exercise or come to faith without God’s prior intervention then you are a Pelagian plain and simple.

  109. @Hodge:

    Ryan,

    “How can He change His mind now since He only died for those He elected from before the creation?”

    Now you’re an Open Theist?

    No, that’s not what I meant. It seemed like MzEllen was suggesting that she could pray and God would effectively influence those she prays for. But that’s not true in Calvinism.

    As I understand it, God has foreknowledge of each person’s future decisions. If you pray and ask God to make someone a Christian, He won’t do this because this is not how He operates. If I understand Open Theism correctly, it states that God may have decided to damn someone, but by praying for them, now He has chosen to save them. That is not what I believe to be the case.

    @MzEllen:

    Why does one fear Him and another does not? Intelligence? Random Chance?

    Have you had children? Have you examined your body and how incredibly it is made? Have you gazed at the starry host and wondered at the vastness of what God has created? Have you considered the amount of energy within a single atom and how it holds itself together? How about the energy present within the fabric we call space and often thing of as a vast expanse of nothing? I have watched the BBC Earth series and my jaw literally drops to the floor when I consider the incredible creation of God.

    We have more information today than we have in the past, but all the big stuff is easily within reach. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to recognize the obvious about God.

  110. @Michael T:

    If humans can exercise or come to faith without God’s prior intervention then you are a Pelagian plain and simple.

    But I said that humans can recognize God without further intervention, but they cannot come to saving faith without trusting in the saviour. This requires further revelation. Who does He give this to? Those who fear Him.

  111. “…without God’s prior intervention…” – If what is meant by this statement is that God must intervene in the heart and flick a switch, then I don’t believe God must intervene in this way. But God is active all the time and is not silent. He has intervened even in His acts of creation to make Himself obvious, but He is intervening by convicting the world of sin all the time. I never once stated that He does not intervene; just that He doesn’t flick the switch in some and not others.

    So does this make me a Pelagian??

  112. “Does disparate treatment require disparate love?? Is it possible that God doesn’t love the unbeliever any less, but because of their unwillingness to repent will use them to accomplish his goals??”

    That really depends upon how we define love. If love is a feeling, then maybe not; but if love is a commitment to a relationship expressed in its actions, favor, etc. then we definitely would have to say that God does not love the believer in the same way as the unbeliever.

  113. “So does this make me a Pelagian??”

    Yes, Pelagius couldn’t have summed it up better himself.

  114. @Hodge:

    “So does this make me a Pelagian??”

    Yes, Pelagius couldn’t have summed it up better himself.

    Since I don’t believe in works-based salvation, nor that God doesn’t have to intervene, I don’t understand how this accusation stands true?

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