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William G.T. Shedd, writing about God’s choice regarding the origin of sin and allowing sin to continue, says, “The permissive decree as related to the origin of sin presents a difficulty that does not exist in reference to the continuance of sin…. is an inscrutable mystery”[i] (italics added). Of course, the origin of sin is a “difficulty” and “inscrutable mystery” only because of Calvinism’s compatibilist view of free will.
I would add to this, their limited meaning, understanding, of the nature and operation of foreknowledge with regard to salvation further influences their retreats to “it is a mystery.” Highlighting the connection of compatibilism and man’s sin and salvation is Calvin’s declaration, “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death”[ii] (italics added). Notice that Calvin takes the distinction between those who go to heaven and those who go to hell back to the wish and purpose for which God created them. He goes on to say “that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment.”[iii] (italics added)
Again, the Calvinists’ inability to reconcile satisfactorily their view of free will, the origin of sin, God’s election of the saved, and reprobation of the damned with the scripturally revealed character of God forces them to retreat to an “incomprehensible judgment” i.e. “mystery.” Once more, Calvinism creates Calvinism’s mystery. Calvinist’s desire to make salvation monergistic creates a God that is disharmonious with God as presented in Scripture, and once again their understanding of salvation is seen to be inextricably connected to their view concerning the origin of sin. It goes without saying that I am denying the legitimacy of some Calvinists’ response that Calvinism is true even though it is impossible to understand how God is not, in some sense, implicated in at least desiring the origin of sin and mercilessly predetermining some to spend eternity in hell who could have gone to heaven had God desired that for them.
Calvin is unabashed in his defense of his views and says, “Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated….This they do ignorantly, and childishly, since there could be no election without this opposite reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts for salvation. It were most absurd to say, that he admits others fortuitously, or that they by their industry acquire what election alone confers on a few. Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.”[iv]
I maintain that all Calvinists, arguments to the contrary notwithstanding, inevitably believe in double predestination, but most shy from the forthrightness of Calvin. They either believe that God actively predestined some to hell, as Calvin does, or He did so by choosing not to offer what would have surely delivered them from hell to heaven, i.e. selective regeneration. Calvin refers to this cold inescapable reality as “his incomprehensible counsel,” i.e. mystery.[v] This is a disquieting reality of Calvinism.
All of the euphemizing in the world will not purge Calvinism of the harsh reality that people are saved because God desired for them to be and people are in hell for the same reason. This is true even if some Calvinists continue to resist admitting it because according to Calvinism, if God pleased, not only could everyone have been saved, but they would in fact have been saved, which is disquieting reality. Calvinism asks us to believe that God chose eternal torment for the vast majority of His creation (Matthew 7:13–14). They want us to rejoice in a God who desires and chose for the vast majority of His creation to go to hell when He could have redeemed them.
I concede such understanding to indeed be God according to Calvinism, but utterly reject such a portrait being reflective of the Scripture. Where is the plethora of Scripture where God expresses His desire for the vast majority of His creation to perish in eternal torment and this with equal clarity and abundance of those Scriptures that declare His indefatigable, sacrificial love and desire that all repent and be saved? I suggest that they do not exist and for good reason.
Part Three Coming Soon!
[i] William G.T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed – A Defence of the Westminster Standards (New York: Charles Scribner’s sons, 1893) online at http://www.archive.org/stream/calvinismpuremix00shed#page/n5/mode/2up, 95.
[ii] John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997 reprint), Book 3, Chapter 21, page 206.
[iii] Ibid., 210–211.
[iv] Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, pages 225–226.
[v] Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, page 226.