Previously, I discussed my reading of Romans 8.29-30, which I read as separating God’s foreknowledge from his sovereign choice (predestination) to preserve those who will respond to him in faith.
As I read it, this rules out double predestination, which is the idea that God chooses, predestines, renders certain BOTH the individuals who are the elect (which is often reduced to “who will be in heaven”) and the individuals who are not elect (which is often reduced to “who will be in hell.”)
My second reason for not being a Calvinist is that I reject the picture of God that double predestination requires. Follow this through with me.
First, the Bible tells us that God IS love (1 John 4.8). Love is not an attribute of God, it is his essence. Sovereignty is an attribute of God. Majesty, holiness, etc., are attributes of God. They are adjectives that we find applied to God in scripture and rightly attribute to God ourselves. But God IS love, it is his substance, his essence.
This point is explicitly stated in 1 John 4, but every page of the Bible speaks of God’s faithfulness, graciousness, patience; these are his essence in action.
Second, John in that passage is telling the people in his church to love like God does, to love one another so as to be like God who IS love.
As I read the passage, this rules out the idea that God’s love is different in character from the love we are to aspire to. Different in magnitude, different in purity, different in execution, absolutely. He is God.
But his love is the same in character as the love we are to have for one another. John clearly wants his people to love one another the same way that God loves them.
Third, double predestination dictates that God–who IS love, remember–knowingly and intentionally created people for the purpose of sending them to hell. As this particular doctrine goes, God COULD save them, but he does not. To hear Sproul and Piper tell it, those who are burning in hell are doing so because God sent them there for his glory.
(I believe it was Sproul who said, “At least they’ll have the consolation of knowing that God is glorified by them being in torment.” That doesn’t sound like much consolation to me.)
If 1 and 2 are true, then point 3 is a complete non-sequitur. Points 1 and 2 contradict point 3.
Those who affirm double predestination will talk here about mystery; God’s ways are higher than our ways, God’s purposes are higher than our purposes, beyond our comprehension. Of course. But the picture of God that double predestination draws for us is not of love. It’s not even mysterious. It is the picture of a moral monster. It’s a god as capricious and bloodthirsty as any of the Canaanite deities the Israelites were supposed to displace.
It seems to me that those who support double predestination must choose one of four options:
- Either God is a moral monster, who knowingly and intentionally creates people whom he could save but instead assigns by fiat to conscious eternal torment. If this is true, then God is not love in any meaningful way recognizable to us.
- Or those who are not chosen to be with God in heaven are annihilated rather than made to suffer eternal conscious torment. This mitigates the problem but does not remove it.
- Or the non-elect are not really, truly human; this is actually a variation of #2. They are “philosophical zombies“, simulacra who look like normal human beings, indistinguishable by human means from the elect. They look like real, true human beings, but are not. Perhaps they have no soul. Because they have no soul, no eternal conscious torment? At any rate, they are not “real” like the elect are.
- Or God will universally save EVERYONE, somehow, perhaps through purgatory (C.S. Lewis’s view, although he was not a Calvinist) or some kind of universalism (Rob Bell, etc.)
Arminians are not faced with this choice. In Arminianism, God renders certain the salvation of those who will respond to him in faith; “whosoever will.” God is sovereign, and we do not save ourselves or merit or maintain our salvation.
In Arminianism, the offer of salvation to all is real and not a sham. And every person is our neighbor, beloved by God.
1 Tim 2.3-4: “… God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
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