Excerpts from What Love Is This?
The Bible uses the term “elect” in a variety of ways: for Israel, Christ, a lady, a church, and angels. Never, however, is this word used to indicate that there is a select group who alone have been predestined to be saved. Never….
Calvinists often cite 2 Thessalonians:2:13 as proof of their position: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Being “chosen to salvation,” however, does not mean that one has been predestined for heaven. Numerous scriptures force us to conclude that all of mankind has been “chosen to salvation” by the God who would “have all men to be saved...” (1 Tm 2:4), who is “the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe” (4:10), and whose Son “gave himself a ransom for all” (2:6).
If all have been chosen to salvation, why are all not saved? Christ said to His disciples, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas...that should betray him...” (Jn:6:70-71). Judas was one of those chosen to be a disciple, but through his own choice he did not fulfill that calling and is now in hell.
God said to Israel, “The LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself...” (Dt 7:6). That “choosing” did not automatically assure that all Israel would live the part. Unfortunately, Israel as a whole did not fulfill that calling but went into sin, and God had to cast her out of the land.
From these and other scriptures, it is clear that being “chosen” to salvation does not bring salvation: one must still believe the gospel in order to be saved. That fact is further made clear by the rest of the verse: “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Although “chosen to salvation,” the means of salvation is not the choosing by God but the individual’s “belief of the truth.”
Calvinism defines the elect as that select group whom, alone, God has from eternity past appointed to salvation. All others are predestined by God to eternal damnation. The gospel can be preached day and night to the latter, yet to no avail, because they are totally incapable of believing it. God…gives the faith to believe to the elect alone, though He could do so for all. Yet never is this repugnant doctrine taught in Scripture!
“Moderate” Calvinists would [call this] hyper-Calvinism…. They would say that God merely left the non-elect to the just consequences of their sin. Whether He left to their doom those whom He could have rescued, or predestined them to that fate—what is the difference? The so-called “hyper-Calvinist” simply admits the truth about Calvinism.
What “moderates” try to distance themselves from as “hyper” was taught by Calvin and has been part of mainstream Calvinism from the beginning. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His own glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.” Yet having taught this belief, Calvin admitted:
…many…deem it most incongruous that of the great body of mankind some should be predestinated to salvation and others to destruction. The decree, I admit, is dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree.
Calvin is forced to maintain what he admits is a “dreadful” decree. Why? Not by Scripture but by his unbiblical insistence that God can only foreknow what He decrees. [Then it follows that] He must have decreed everything that would ever happen—from Adam’s fall to the final doom of billions. Thank God that the Bible says the opposite: that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn:3:16). Both “world” and “whosoever” must be changed to “elect” for Calvinism to be sustained.
Calvinism’s “elect,” without any faith, understanding, or choice on their part, are elected to salvation simply because, in the mystery of His sovereign will, God decided, for no reason at all, to save them and only them. The Calvinist objects when we say, “for no reason at all.” It is claimed that God needs no reason, that it simply pleased Him so to do, or that the reason is hidden in the mystery of His will. Even God, however, must have a reason for saving some and damning others. Otherwise He would be acting unreasonably and thus contrary to His Being. In fact, election/predestination is always said in the Bible to result from God’s foreknowledge. Those whom He foreknew would believe were predestined to special blessings, which He decided would accompany salvation from sin’s penalty (1 Cor:2:9).
God continually offers to reason with man about this matter: “Come now, and let us reason together” (Is 1:18). He reasons with Israel, sends His prophets to warn His chosen people, and explains repeatedly why, though reluctantly, He punishes them: for their wickedness (Dt 28:20); for forsaking His covenant (Dt 29:25); for forsaking His law (Jer:9:13), etc. God explains that He gave His Son to die for the sins of the world because of His great love for all mankind: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (Jn:3:17); “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 Jn:4:14).
Yet God never declares in Scripture a reason for saving a select group and damning all others. Surely such an important doctrine would be clearly explained, in defense of God’s character, yet it isn’t even mentioned.
There is no escaping the haunting question: Why did Calvin’s God choose to save so few when He could have saved all? Without apology, James White informs us, “It is ‘according to the kind intention of His will.’” So it is God’s kindness that causes Him to save so few and to damn so many! We are aghast and offended on behalf of our God.
Biblically, there is no question that God has the right to save whom He will and no one could complain. We are all deserving of the eternal punishment required by God’s holiness against sin. But we are repeatedly told that God is love and that He is merciful to all, exactly what we would expect of Him in view of His command to us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do good to all. We surely would not expect the “Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor:1:3) to withhold mercy from any who so desperately need it—much less that He would take pleasure in doing so. Calvin hides behind Augustine’s authority to justify this contradiction, but the effort falls short. For example:
Now...he [God] arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction.... If your mind is troubled, decline not to embrace the counsel of Augustine....
[W]e say, that God in mercy succours some. Let him (they say) succour all. We object, that it is right for him to show by punishing that he is a just judge....
I will not hesitate...to confess with Augustine that the will of God is necessity...[and] that the destruction consequent upon predestination is also most just.... The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should…because he saw that his own glory would thereby be displayed....
God does not resort to judgment in order to demonstrate that He is a just judge. He is perfectly just, and His judgment falls upon those who deserve it and who reject His pardon through Christ—not upon a vast multitude whom He predestines to eternal torment because it pleases and glorifies Him! That belief of Calvin and Augustine libels the God of the Bible….
Surely, as Wesley argues, to punish for failure to do what it is impossible to do, or for having done what one could only do, is the opposite of justice. If that were not bad enough, the idea that God would predestine man to sin so that He would have someone to judge is abhorrent even to the ungodly. It is offensive to the conscience that God has given to all mankind.
Scripture tells us the opposite—that God commands all men to repent, pleads with mankind to do so, is ready to pardon, and promises salvation to all who believe on Christ. The following passages, in which God pleads with mankind to accept the salvation He offers in Christ, are only a few among many similar scriptures that refute Calvinism’s Unconditional Election: Isaiah:55:7; Jeremiah:29:13; Matthew:7:24; Matthew:11:28; John:7:37; Revelation:22:17.
Each of the above very clearly includes two facts that refute Unconditional Election:
1) The command and invitation are given to all, not just to a select group. The words “wicked” and “unrighteous” and “whosoever” and “all” clearly mean what they say and cannot be turned into “elect.”
2) There are conditions that must be met. There is both a command and an invitation to meet certain requirements: to “forsake” one’s sin, to seek God with the whole heart, to “hear and do” what Christ commands, to “come” to Him, and to “take and drink” the water of life that Christ gives.
Not once in the nearly 1,300 pages of his Institutes does Calvin expound upon God’s love for mankind or attempt to explain how God, who is love, could take pleasure in damning billions whom He could save if He so desired…. Biblically, God’s sovereignty is exercised only in perfect unity with His total character. His sovereignty is enforced in harmony with His love, grace, mercy, kindness, justice, and truth—but Calvin has almost nothing to say about these attributes, because they cannot be reconciled with his theory.
It is only reasonable to ask why God, who is love, lacks the love and compassion to save all whom He could save, and instead predestines billions to eternal torment. Calvin repeatedly hides his lack of an answer behind the word “mystery.” But pleading “mystery” cannot cover up the horror of this doctrine. Yet that is the best Calvin can do, along with repeatedly appealing to Augustine’s authority. Pleading “mystery” and exalting ignorance is contrary to God’s Word, which tells us that we must “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason...” (1 Pt 3:15). Yet Calvin said it was wrong to seek a reason.
The only Greek word translated “mystery” is musterion. It is never used as Calvin used it to denote a secret not to be revealed. Rather, it always refers to knowledge that is being revealed. For example: “I would not...that ye should be ignorant of this mystery...” (Rom:11:25); “I shew you a mystery...” (1 Cor:15:51); “made known unto me the mystery...” (Eph:3:3); “Even the mystery which hath been hid...but now is made manifest...” (Col:1:26); “I will tell thee the mystery...” (Rv 17:7), etc. The word is never used as Calvin uses it in relation to salvation, predestination, or sovereignty, and certainly not concerning some being saved and others damned.
Calvinism’s perversion of sovereignty demands that whether one goes to heaven or hell depends solely upon God’s will and decree; a man’s receiving or rejecting Christ is not by his free choice but is irresistibly imposed upon him by God. As a result, the atheist feels justified in rejecting a God who, contrary to basic human compassion, predestines multitudes to eternal torment whom He could just as well have predestined to eternal joy in His presence.
Why wouldn’t the God who is love exercise the absolute control that Calvinism attributes to Him over every thought, word, and deed to eliminate sin, disease, suffering, and death and to bring all mankind into heaven? This contradiction of the basic standards that God has put in every human conscience raises an obvious question—and it is a question in response to which Calvinists themselves cannot agree upon an answer.
Some, like John Calvin, unashamedly say that God doesn’t want everyone saved—indeed, that it is his “good pleasure” to damn so many. Others, realizing the revulsion that idea creates in anyone with a normal sense of mercy and kindness, call this “hyper-Calvinism” and attempt to find other explanations for God’s alleged failure to irresistibly elect everyone. The necessity to overcome non-Calvinists’ objections to God’s apparent callousness (in predestining multitudes to eternal torment before they were even born) has been the mother of invention to a number of attempted rationalizations….
In fact, Calvinism itself creates this “difficulty”! The dilemma dissolves and the unanswerable question is answered by one simple admission: God in His sovereignty has given man the genuine power of choice. Thus God’s sincere and loving desire for all mankind to be saved is not contradicted by His justice but is rejected by the free will of many. No one is predestined either to eternal bliss in God’s presence or to eternal torment in separation from Him. Eternal destiny depends upon one’s acceptance or rejection of Christ through the gospel.
To reiterate, not only is predestination/election never said to be unto salvation, but Paul carefully separates predestination from salvation whether in its call, its justification, or its glorification: “whom he did predestinate, them he also [kai] called...them he also [kai] justified...them he also [kai] glorified” (Romans:8:30). The Greek kai shows that a distinction is being made: predestination is not the same as calling, justification, or glorification. Hobbs comments, “Predestination...simply means that God has predetermined that those who respond affirmatively to His call...will be justified...and furthermore will be glorified. All of this is ‘according to His purpose’....” The plain meaning of the text is clear.