Do Calvinists worship a monster?

Recently I had an online exchange with a gentleman who was offering protests against the doctrines of Reformed theology. Many of these contentions are based on simple misconceptions that are fairly commonplace, but I thought it would be worth going over for the benefit of those who perhaps have never seen this arguments addressed or perhaps have never experienced them used. I’m going to post the entire thing just to give the full context, and then respond to it piecemeal:

And I still feel that the only conclusion, based on Reformed thinking, is that God is not only unfair but somewhat monstrous. He creates a massive planet of millions of people concocting a pre-determined list of people he wants to save and others he plans on casting to the fires of hell making it so some CANNOT receive His love, and some who CANNOT HELP it!? Can you fathom doing that to someone? It flies in the face of common sense.

I’m a sixth grade teacher, as you know. In about 3 weeks, 30 kids are going to enter my room. Imagine if, before meeting all 30, I look at their pictures on their pink and blue cards, read their names, and think, “I’m going to make sure, double sure, that 22 of them fail my class. I’ll pick on them, make them hate learning, ignore their questions, make things unclear to them, pair them up with the worst students, and generally not teach them well. I’ll make sure this other 8 kids are treated with royalty, given the full treatment, paired right, given extra help, favored and adored. They WILL pass!”

the truth is, they have free will. All 30 I plan for 100% success. I plan for every single kid to pass and thrive. The kids make the decision to care, work hard, and excel. Realistically about 6 of them won’t give a damn, about 15 of them will be part-timers with caring and up and down in the middle, and about 9 will kick total butt and perform like champs. But my plan is all thirty being winners!

Same with my own kids. I have 3 kids. Imagine me planning on loving one and screwing the other 2? Weird.

If I’m this caring and loving toward my home and school children, what MORE care and love has Almighty God for us as his children!

God does indeed “know” who will be saved and who will perish. If He didn’t, then He wouldn’t be sovereign and almighty and omnipotent. But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t desire and give us every lifeline to be saved. Jesus died for the sins of the world, not just a chosen little clan. But will the whole world accept His love? Will the whole world react positively to the Gospel? Will the whole world embrace the cross? No way. Just because Jesus died for us all doesn’t mean all will take up His offer. To not offer it to all his children would make God a monster. That is not a God I can worship. I don’t believe in that God. Our God is a God of second chances, a fisher of men who goes after lost sheep. Jesus talks a lot about lost sheep and the stray and “other sheep not of this fold,” and I’m not talking Mormon thinking here!

Now let’s answer this in individual parts:

And I still feel that the only conclusion, based on Reformed thinking, is that God is not only unfair but somewhat monstrous. He creates a massive planet of millions of people concocting a pre-determined list of people he wants to save and others he plans on casting to the fires of hell making it so some CANNOT receive His love, and some who CANNOT HELP it!? Can you fathom doing that to someone? It flies in the face of common sense.

This contention contains a few presuppositions we should quickly identify and address:

1) God created a planet to send people to hell. The goal of God in creation was not to send people to hell, and no Reformed church believes this, as everything from the Reformers to the 1689 London Baptist Confession will demonstrate. Likewise, God does not send anyone to hell for an arbitrary reason. What we should establish early on is this: men are sent to hell for no other reason but their sins. Hell is judgment upon them. There is no one in hell who does not deserve to be there…and there is only one person in heaven who deserves to be there.

2) God will make it so some cannot receive His love. This forgets that man, by his nature, does not desire God’s love. Paul, quoting from the psalms, said: “There is none who seeks after God” (Rom 3:11). Our Lord, in one of the greatest expositions of salvation, said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). God has not “made it” so that man cannot receive His love…it already is that way. This biblical fact is something that most synergists recognize as well, and so Calvinists are not alone in their belief of this.

The gentleman who sent me this message had earlier made the question: “Is humanity so depraved that it cannot with free will accept God and change?” The idea that man is able, by his individual nature, to freely choose salvation or damnation – and then change on his own accord – breaks away from the opinions of most monergists or orthodox synergists, as well as the general teachings of scripture. In fact, it draws closer to Pelagianism (man is able to save himself) and semi-Pelagianism (man is able to save himself with a little help from God), both of which are considered heresies. When Christ says “no one can come to Me…”, the original Greek literally translates into: “no one has the power” or “no one is able.” Man cannot, by any power of his own with no help from God, come to know and believe in God.

3) God will make some who cannot help whether or not they receive His love. Again, this forgets that man by his nature does not want to have God’s love. Likewise, logically speaking, this situation is not exclusive to monergism. In a synergistic world, you still have people (isolated tribes in the Amazon, etc.) who are in a situation where they cannot help whether or not they receive God’s love. This is why inclusivists have to come up with the extra-biblical beliefs they do regarding how one is saved by circumventing the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

So when it’s said that this scenario that “flies in the face of common sense,” I fully agree. The problem is, no Reformed church believes in such a scenario.

I’m a sixth grade teacher, as you know. In about 3 weeks, 30 kids are going to enter my room. Imagine if, before meeting all 30, I look at their pictures on their pink and blue cards, read their names, and think, “I’m going to make sure, double sure, that 22 of them fail my class. I’ll pick on them, make them hate learning, ignore their questions, make things unclear to them, pair them up with the worst students, and generally not teach them well. I’ll make sure this other 8 kids are treated with royalty, given the full treatment, paired right, given extra help, favored and adored. They WILL pass!” 

This isn’t the scenario in Reformed theology. Permit me to present an alternative:

You, a teacher, have thirty children. They all hate education. They all hate learning. Most of all, they all hate you. They want nothing to do with their lessons. You don’t need to “ignore their questions, make things unclear to them, pair them up with the worst students,” etc. – left on their own, they will fail on their own accord. Some of them might be kinda funny, and some of them might be kinda cute, but when it comes to education, they’d sooner tear up their textbooks and throw them at you. You could try to be nice and offer them education, but they would just laugh at you, and encourage those who laugh with them. They deserve to fail, and you would have every right to fail them. If you failed the entire class, you would be acting rightly and the fault for failure would be on them. All of this which I have described is the situation of the world seen in Romans 1:18-32.

Now imagine if, by some power on your part, you could change the hearts of an unknown number of students so that instead of hating learning…they will love it. They will love learning and love you. In the end, they will pass and all glory will go to you, and those whom you fail will have failed for proper reasons. You have no reason to help any of them pass, and indeed anyone should be shocked you helped any pass. This scenario is far closer to the Reformed (and biblical) interpretation of the situation between God and man, and how by grace we are saved.

Same with my own kids. I have 3 kids. Imagine me planning on loving one and screwing the other 2? Weird.

Again, this is a misunderstanding of the real scenario. God’s choice and purpose is not based on some arbitrary cruelness. God does not line up a bunch of photographs and throw darts, and whichever dart lands on whichever picture, that person gets saved. It also again presupposes that God causes the destruction of some when they are already on their own path to destruction.

If I’m this caring and loving toward my home and school children, what MORE care and love has Almighty God for us as his children!

What is the definition of “God’s children”? It’s popular in our modern world to say “We are all God’s children!”, but what does scripture teach? As Luke 20:36, John 1:12, Romans 8:14, Galatians 3:26 and many other verses demonstrate, God’s children are those who are in Christ. They are believers. God indeed has love for His children, but it is those in Christ for whom God will truly care and nurture.

God does indeed “know” who will be saved and who will perish. If He didn’t, then He wouldn’t be sovereign and almighty and omnipotent. But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t desire and give us every lifeline to be saved. 

If God knows who will be saved and who will perish, why would He bother to “give us every lifeline to be saved”? That is, if God knows that Person A will accept the gospel and Person B will not, why bother giving Person B “every lifeline”? Evangelists – Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike – do not know who will be saved and who will not, and so can give their 110% and not worry about the results, knowing it is in God’s will. However, the line of reasoning presented in this section turns God into an evangelist who gives 110% for an effort that He knows ahead of time will end in failure.

Many might say that the rejection of God’s “lifeline” is given to all in that part of a person’s judgment will be the fact they rejected it. Here we must make two points, however:

1) The danger in this argument. Many might interpret that this argument says this is the only reason someone will be sent to hell. Hence many inclusivists will say that if a person hasn’t rejected the “lifeline” because it has not been offered to them, then they will get a free pass and be allowed into the company of the Lord.

2) Reformed Christians believe this as well. Reformed Christians believe that God gives a general call through evangelism, but gives an effectual call for His sheep. This is the key behind “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14) – the “called” used here (κλητός) is not the same Greek word used for “called” in Romans 8:30 (καλέω). κλητός is simply an invitation, whereas the word translated in the same verse as “chosen” (ἐκλεκτός) means a much more effectual calling, and is translated by some to mean “the called of the called.”

Jesus died for the sins of the world, not just a chosen little clan. But will the whole world accept His love? Will the whole world react positively to the Gospel? Will the whole world embrace the cross? No way. Just because Jesus died for us all doesn’t mean all will take up His offer.

Did Jesus die for literally everyone? Reformed theology of course disagrees, pointing instead from general atonement to limited atonement. Scripture says that He saves His people from their sins (Matt 1:21), that He laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11), that His blood purchased the church (Acts 20:28), that He was delivered for His elect and justifies them (Rom 8:32-33), and that He gave Himself up for the church (Eph 5:25). This is just a sampling of examples that many go to in regards to limited atonement.

I might ask the person who posed these contentions a question in regards to their statement that “just because Jesus died for us all doesn’t mean all will take up His offer.” What, then, did Christ’s death do? Was it just an example? Was it just a beginning phase of salvation? Was it just a minor thing in God’s plan? When Christ, bleeding profusely on the cross, said to the Father “It is finished” and gave up His spirit, what did that mean?

To not offer it to all his children would make God a monster. That is not a God I can worship. I don’t believe in that God. Our God is a God of second chances, a fisher of men who goes after lost sheep. Jesus talks a lot about lost sheep and the stray and “other sheep not of this fold,” and I’m not talking Mormon thinking here!

Here we have the reason that Calvinists worship a God who is a monster: because He does not “offer” His love to “all His children.” Yet we’ve already established that God’s “children” are believers. We’ve also established that if God simply threw out an “offer” to mankind with no grace involved, mankind in toto would reject it. We are calling God a monster based on faulty definitions and expecting God to do something that would ensure absolute failure.

It’s common for people to believe Reformed Christians “worship a monster” when they have false presuppositions that are based on misunderstandings or a poor knowledge of the topic. This is not a fault on themselves, as many who teach comparative theology fail in accurately defining or representing another side, and so misunderstandings multiply. That is why these discussions are good – for the edification of all parties involved: one party understanding where the other side is coming from, and the other learning what their brothers really believe. The important thing from this is that the brethren are edified and lessons are learned. If we continue to teach error after that error has been addressed, and do not even attempt to give an address to this error, then we are simply committing willful ignorance. Men cannot be held guilty for ignorance – they can be held guilty for willful ignorance.

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