Why God Doesn’t Save Everyone

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.

7 thoughts on “Why God Doesn’t Save Everyone

  1. Louis Post author

    Yeah, I like Driscoll, even though I take issue with a lot of his the­ol­ogy. Poor guy takes a lot of flak from other Calvin­ists for his view on the atone­ment though. But it’s not like he doesn’t dish it out, too.

    It’s impor­tant to note that the nature and extent of the atone­ment is only one part of the Calvin­ist frame­work. And actu­ally, for me, the Calvin­ist view of the atone­ment is prob­a­bly one of the more accu­rate views out there. My beef with Calvin­ism pri­mar­ily lies elsewhere.

  2. Kruck

    What par­tic­u­lar aspect(s) of Calvin­ism do you have issues with?

    I’m not cer­tain where exactly I fall between Calvin­ism and Arminianism.

  3. Louis Post author

    While I have much to praise and much to crit­i­cize Calvin­ism for, the bot­tom line for me is that it under­mines the good­ness and love of God. Specif­i­cally, it makes Him the ulti­mate cause of all evil, and asserts that He isn’t as lov­ing as He could be toward every­body. The for­mer is the result of its Com­pat­i­bal­ist meta­physic and the later the result of the doc­trine of Uncon­di­tional Elec­tion (and its corol­lary, Irre­sistible Grace).

  4. Brother Stumblefoot

    OH My!! You just tripped the fire alarm. To sup­pose that our God would pas­sively allow, or actively cause peo­ple to suf­fer eter­nally in Hell, FOR HIS GLORY–What would that say about Him? Would it not make Him appear as an ego-​​centric mon­ster, dif­fi­cult to love and wor­ship if one really thinks about it. (That’s the prob­lem, few peo­ple are really think­ing about it.) 

    This con­cept cre­ated by Calvin­ists, along with the Armin­ian solu­tion that “Free will to go to Hell is more impor­tant than an eter­nal soul,” these are sim­ply “inven­tions,” the pur­pose of which is to some­how answer the ques­tion­ing in people’s mind, and still retain a belief in an ETERNAL hell. 

    An Evan­gel­i­cal, gospel cen­tered, God glo­ri­fy­ing con­cept of an ulti­mate rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of all men (per­haps “gen­er­ally” all men) best solves the prob­lems, and there is an amaz­ing amount of Bib­li­cal evi­dence for this that you’ve prob­a­bly been bounc­ing over when you read your Bible. If any­one is inter­ested in hear­ing some of the Bib­li­cal evi­dences, just get back to me on this com­ment page. Brother Stumblefoot

  5. Ashwin Sasidharan

    Dear All,

    I am nei­ther calvin­ist nor Armen­ian in theology.Frankly, i dont know enough to be either.Though i have to acknowl­edge from the Bible that only God can save peo­ple and we can­not be saved by our own effort​.As Jesus taught, no one comes to Him unless the Father draws him.I am from a Hindu fam­ily and all my rel­a­tives are Hindus.i have been a chris­t­ian for around 10 years now and have been pray­ing con­tin­u­ously for my fam­ily while wit­ness­ing to them also.I am yet to make any headway.the doubt i have is that, if God elects those he saves, then what is the point of inter­ces­sory prayer?If he does not plan to save, would he lis­ten? And if He plans to save,what dif­fer­ence does prayer make? This is a ques­tion that has been haunt­ing me or some time now and i would like to hear any pos­si­ble answers.

  6. Brother Stumblefoot

    Ash­win: So glad to hear that you are a Chris­t­ian. And I think it is best that you
    are not label­ing your­self as either Calvin­ist or Armin­ian, though there are truths (and some mis­takes) in both camps. God is big­ger than either theological
    position.

    It is not unusual for Chris­tians to have doubts, since none of us have a com­plete and cor­rect under­stand­ing of the things of God. I think as we bet­ter under­stand His word, the doubts tend to fade away,
    though some­times in the process of learn­ing, doubts may even inten­sify, because we have some of the facts, but not all of them. Don’t panic, God is big enough to hanlde all this, you’re in good and faith­ful hands. Brother Stumblefoot

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