Question: Calvinists complain that in What Love Is This? and also in your newsletter you make no distinction, but quote hyper-Calvinists as though they represent all Calvinists. Is that really fair?
Answer: Those claiming to be moderate Calvinists and who accuse others of being hyper-Calvinists actually believe the same thing but often cover up that fact by contradicting themselves and Scripture. It is like the controversy between Gordon H. Clark and Cornelius Van Til. Clark accurately said it was irrational to teach that God sincerely desired the salvation of those whom He had from a past eternity predestined to eternal torment. Clark was accused of making logic rule over Scripture. On the contrary, to pretend that Scripture says that God loves all mankind but has predestined multitudes whom He could have saved to eternal torment is twisting the Bible to further an unbiblical theory.
“Moderates” call it extreme Calvinism to say that John:3:16 means that God only loved the elect. They acknowledge, with Calvin himself, that “world” there really means “all mankind.” Yet they insist (with Calvin) that Christ died only for the elect. But it is both irrational and unscriptural to say that God loves all but gave Christ to die only for some. Paul declares that the supreme proof of God’s love is the substitutionary death of Christ (Rom:5:8). How then can it be said that God loves those for whom Christ didn’t die, whom He never intended to save, but whom He predestined (reprobated) eternally to the lake of fire?
The “moderate” claims to reject “double predestination” as hyper-Calvinism, i.e., he only believes in predestination to heaven, not to hell. But if God predestined only some to heaven, has He not thereby consigned all others to hell? Semantics aside, the truth is that Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism work out the same in the end.
Arguments fly between the supralap-sarians (who believe that the decree of election and reprobation predates man and sin) and the infralapsarians (who believe that the decree only came after man and sin). But James said, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning...” (Acts:15:18). God inhabits eternity. There is no before and after in His decrees, for they are as eternal as He is.
Spurgeon was guilty of similar contradictions. He scolded what he called “our older Calvinistic friends” (hyper-Calvinists) for changing Paul’s clear declara-tion that God wants “all men to be saved” (1 Tm 2:4)into “all sorts of men”1 —as do James White and other Calvinists today. Spurgeon accused the so-called hyper-Calvinists of turning “who will have all men to be saved” into “who will not have all men to be saved....”
Spurgeon went on to declare, “As it is my wish...so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are.” 2 Yet Spurgeon at times taught particular redemption, i.e., that “Christ had not died for all.” God sincerely desires all men to be saved, yet didn’t give His Son to die for all? This is unbiblical and irrational.
John MacArthur attempts to solve this embarrassing contradiction by claiming that there is a difference between “God’s will of decree (His eternal purpose) [and] God’s will of desire. There is a distinction between God’s desire and His eternal saving purpose, which must transcend His desires.” Where does the Bible make such a distinction—and how could it be? Calvinism denies that a man's choice has anything to do with his eternal destiny, but that God sovereignly regenerates whom He will. Commenting on “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tm 2:4), MacArthur writes, “In His eternal purpose, He chose only the elect out of the world (John:17:6) and passed over the rest [whom He desired to save], leaving them to the consequences of their sin....” 3
Here again we have an attempt by a “moderate” Calvinist to distance himself from “hyper-Calvinism.” But in doing so, he entraps himself in the absurdity that God (who in Calvinism can save anyone He desires to save) predestined to eternal doom some whom He desired to save.
John Piper vainly attempts to recover sanity in the discussion by claiming that God has “two wills,” and that it is not “divine schizophrenia” for God to will that “all persons be saved (1 Tm 2:4) and...to elect [only] those who will actually be saved....”4 Incredibly, he says, “Every time the gospel is preached to unbelievers, it is a mercy of God that gives this opportunity for salvation.”5 Then preaching the gospel gives “opportunity for salvation” to those for whom Christdidn’t die, whom God never had any intention of saving, and whom He, in fact, has already predestined to eternity in the lake of fire? This is one more oxymoron into which moderates fall in trying to distance themselves from “hyper-Calvinists”!
Sproul, also a “moderate,”admits that “If some people are not elected unto salvation then it would seem that God is not at all that loving toward them...it would have been more loving of God not to have allowed them to be born.”6 The phrases “not at all that loving” and “more loving” are meaningless regarding either love or God. Love is love. To escape this fact, J.I. Packer claims that God acts with different kinds of love toward different people.7 Calvinists point to the difference between a man’s love for his wife or child and the love he has for a close friend. A similar difference is suggested between the love Christ has for the elect and His love for others.
We admit to different kinds of love—but it is no kind of love at all to predestine to eternal torment anyone who could just as well have been predestined to eternal bliss. Calvinists say God could have everyone in heaven if He so desired. That my love for a neighbor differs from my love for my wife is true. But if I murder my neighbor, such distinctions become meaningless: I have proved that I don’t love my neighbor at all! The hyper-Calvinist is simply being consistent, refusing to resort to contradictions in order to cover up the truth about what Calvinists really believe.