I intermittently follow a blog called Parchment and Pen, but haven’t ever commented on any of the posts until today. The author of the post, Sam Storms, considers why God doesn’t just save everybody, weighs the Calvinist and Arminian answers, and finds the Arminian position wanting. He quotes John Piper, who says,
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…
And he’s more or less correct in his summary of the two positions. Without speaking for anybody else, my position (which, on this issue, is more congruent with the Arminian one) is that it is a contradiction in terms to talk about forced love, even if you call it “sovereign, efficacious grace”. And God wants our love. This can be expressed in philosophically technical language, but I don’t think it needs to be.
But Mr. Storms raises some great points. He made me identify a bit of irony in my position: If love cannot be forced, then how can I demand of God that He must love everybody in a saving fashion? Put another way, if true love is freely given, then the distribution of God’s love must not be made under any coercion. And surely God doesn’t owe sinners anything — they deserve hell for their actions, fair and square.
How is the non-Calvinist to respond to that? Well for starters I agree that it is God’s prerogative to save whomever He wills, and I grant that justice alone doesn’t demand that God save everybody (or anybody at all, for that matter).
But the Bible clearly teaches that God is maximally loving. And it is less loving to save less people.
This is not a character trait foisted upon Him, but one that He sovereignly and continuously chooses to exhibit, just like His justice. It is the character of God to love everybody, and that’s why He desires everybody to be saved.
So what about the Calvinist argument, then? Doesn’t God want to exhibit saving grace as well as damning wrath, such that He needs to do some electing and some reprobating? This is the presumption to which I felt compelled to respond.
First of all, I don’t think wrath is an attribute of God. Justice is. Wrath is the result of when a just person witnesses injustice. But justice doesn’t necessarily result in wrath. It only demands that wrongs get righted. If you ain’t got no wrongs, ain’t no wrongs need to be righted.
In that way, justice can exist in a vacuum.
This directly contrasts love, which must be actively present within the relationship of two or more people in order to have any existence.
Love cannot exist in a vacuum.
But aside from the contention that God is not by nature wrathful, I have this complaint against the Calvinist answer to why God doesn’t save everybody:
To say that the display of wrath requires reprobation is false.
It presumes that wrath is not displayed in election. But God’s wrath is equally displayed in election! The difference is that in election God’s wrath is poured out on Jesus instead of the elect, whereas in reprobation His wrath is poured out on the sinners who deserve it. That’s what it means for the atonement to serve as a “propitiation” for our sins. God’s wrath isn’t diluted in any fashion whatsoever. Jesus’ death satisfied it all. Entirely.
If you hold the Calvinist position on this issue after reading this post, that’s entirely up to you, but I hope you’re convinced that it shouldn’t be on the basis of this idea that God has to reprobate people in order to display his wrath.