Does Erwin Lutzer Offer False Hope to Calvinist Parents?

I hope to do a few posts on Erwin Lutzer’s[1] book, The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians.  One might expect that such a book would look to lessen division and ease tension between Christians, but it seems that Lutzer’s purpose is more to present certain divisive doctrines and explain why his views of the doctrines are correct.  Many of the issues center on the major doctrinal disagreements between Catholics and non-Catholics and as a non-Catholic I agree with Lutzer’s general assessment against Catholic dogma.

However, Lutzer’s book is not limited to the divisions between Catholics and non-Catholics.  Lutzer also examines doctrinal controversies within protestant Christianity and one of these main controversies centers on the debate concerning Calvinism and Arminianism.

Unfortunately, Lutzer does not set himself apart from the many Calvinist authors who misrepresent Arminianism and the history of the controversy in an apparent attempt to paint Calvinism as orthodoxy and Arminianism as a sort of unfortunate heresy left over from the protestant break with Catholicism.  I hope to take a closer look at many of Lutzer’s claims and arguments in a series of posts.  This post, however, will simply examine an important difficulty with Calvinism that Lutzer rightly identifies along with his proposed solution.

In dealing with the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election Lutzer ponders the problem of evangelism in Calvinism.  He concludes that Arminians are really no better off than Calvinists with regards to the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of evangelism in their theological system (more on that in a future post), as well as why one can supposedly have confidence in his or her elect status in Calvinism even though the decree of election is secret (for serious problems regarding salvation assurance in Calvinism see this post).  He then shifts to an interesting question and takes only a paragraph to dispatch the concern with what he seems to think is a sufficient solution.  He writes,

God’s choice of those who will be saved appears to be neither random nor arbitrary.  He planned the context in which they would be converted.  That is why I have never wondered whether my children are among the elect.  Since they were born into a Christian home, we can believe that the means of their salvation will be the faithful teaching of God’s Word.  God’s decision to save us involved planning where we would be born and the circumstances that would lead us to Christ.  Election is part of a total picture. (The Doctrines that Divide, pg. 217, italics his)

The person I borrowed Lutzer’s book from wrote “very comforting” in the margin next to this paragraph.  But does Lutzer’s solution really offer enough certainty to provide a Calvinist with any real comfort concerning the eternal destiny of their children?  I don’t see that it possibly can given fundamental Calvinist assumptions and the way that they have traditionally handled certain passages of Scripture to support unconditional election.

Lutzer seems to be suggesting that if one is born in a Christian home, that person will grow up to hear the gospel and be converted.  Is that really what he thinks?  Surely he is aware of cases where children have grown up in Christian homes under godly Biblical teaching and yet rejected God and lived and died as unbelievers.  It seems to me that there have been many Atheists who grew up as children of ministers[2].  Indeed, in Calvinism the “means” or “context” is never enough.  The reprobate can hear the gospel a thousand times and will never believe it.  In fact, God has made it impossible for him or her to believe.

While the proper means and context may be a necessary ingredient in Calvinism, without an irresistible regenerating act of God no amount of means or context can ever avail.  How can Lutzer assume that because his children are being placed in a context where they can receive the means of conversion that conversion will necessarily follow?  He can’t if Calvinism is true.  Sadly, if one of his children is among the reprobate no amount of context or means can help that child.  Context and means cannot change a decree that was made by God from eternity.  Context and means cannot help a reprobate who will forever be denied the regenerating grace of God in accordance with an unchangeable eternal decree.

To be perfectly frank, what right does Lutzer have to even hope that his children are elect when reprobation supposedly magnifies God’s glory?  What if God wants to magnify His glory by reprobating one of Lutzer’s children?  In such a case Lutzer’s hopes would be in stark contrast to God’s desire to magnify Himself and His glory through the reprobation of one of Lutzer’s children.

Perhaps God wants to display His “mercy” and “love” in one child by contrasting His electing love of the one child with His reprobating hatred of the other child.  Perhaps this reprobation will help the elect child to better recognize and revel in God’s mercy and grace and thus magnify God’s grace and mercy in that elect child in such a way that would not have been possible had the other child been elected as well (or perhaps this reprobation will serve to help Lutzer better appreciate His own election as well).  Such thoughts are hard to even write, yet these are the unavoidable implications of what Calvinists regularly teach concerning God’s grace and supposed reasons for reprobating most of humanity.[3]  But even beyond that we have a traditional Calvinist proof text that flatly contradicts Lutzer’s claims,

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac.  Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad- in order that God’s purpose in election would stand: not by works but by him who calls- she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:10-13)

This is the primary Calvinist proof text for unconditional election and this passage completely undermines Lutzer’s claims.  Esau and Jacob were born to quite possibly the godliest family on the planet at that time.  They grew up under godly teaching and instruction.  Yet, despite all of that, according to Calvinism, Esau was hated by God from the womb and this hatred is supposedly to be equated with the eternal decree of reprobation.

If the first born son of Isaac can be a hopeless reprobate (despite his father’s love for him over his supposedly unconditionally “elect” son), then why can’t one of Erwin Lutzer’s children likewise be a hopeless reprobate despite the context and means of being brought up in a godly environment?  In fact, if we can learn anything from this, God might very well reprobate the favorite child of the parent for His good pleasure and for the sake of somehow magnifying His grace and mercy in the elect.  Again, such things are hard to even contemplate, yet these are the fundamental underlying assumptions of Calvinism’s doctrine of unconditional election.

Another example would be the sons of Eli the priest.  Not only had these children been brought up by a godly father (probably one of the most godly men in Israel at the time), but they had also been brought up in the ministry.  Despite this, both of Eli’s sons became so wicked that God put them to death[4].  What better context and means could they hope for than to be the children of a father who was devoted to serving God daily?  One might argue that the fault lied with Eli’s failures as a father, but who among Christian fathers has not fallen short?  If the “means” and “context” includes perfect parenting skills, we are all in trouble, including Erwin Lutzer.

The simple fact is that Calvinism can provide no such comfort to Lutzer or any other Christian parent.  Nor can Lutzer really explain how God’s choice of one over the other is not ultimately “arbitrary” or “random”.  Simply talking about means and context doesn’t explain how God’s choice to elect and save some from the mass of equally depraved humanity is not arbitrary.

Calvinists typically claim that God’s choice is not arbitrary even though there is nothing to differentiate the one who is chosen and the one who is reprobated.  After all, both were depraved God haters prior to God’s choice (according to traditional infralapsarian Calvinism).  That is why the choice is considered unconditional.  Nothing in the person or about the person (like faith) conditions God’s choice.

Calvinists might try to solve this problem by claiming that the reason is hidden in God and we cannot know it.  It seems random and arbitrary to us but we can supposedly be sure that God has a good reason for choosing one and reprobating the other, even if there is absolutely nothing in or about either person to condition the choice[5].  Perhaps this provides the key to the only possible comfort Calvinist parents can have.  While Calvinist parents cannot have comfort that all (or any) of their children will be elect, those parents can at least take comfort in the fact that if God did reprobate any (or all) of their children, He had a very good secret reason for doing so.[6]


[1] Erwin Lutzer is the senior pastor of the historic Moody Church in Chicago

[2] One need only check out a few atheist websites to find several who came from Christian homes.

[3] It has become increasingly popular for Calvinists to claim that God can only be ultimately glorified and His attributes fully displayed by reprobating the greater part of humanity in order to help the elect fully appreciate and understand God’s mercy and grace towards them.  In such a scheme the eternal torment of the reprobate is to a large degree for the sake of the elect that they might somehow see God in a greater light and love Him more.  This concept was popularized by Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards and has been reintroduced with great support by contemporary Calvinists like John Piper.  Such a scheme also seems to make sin and reprobation necessary for Gods’ attributes to be fully displayed, threatening His holiness and quite possibly His aseity as well.

[4] 1 Samuel 2:12-34

[5] Likewise, Peterson and Williams assert that unconditional election should not be considered arbitrary while failing to explain why this should be so, preferring instead to punt to mystery: “But why must God’s sovereign decision to love some be considered arbitrary?  All deserve wrath; none deserve his grace [which is precisely why it seems arbitrary].  He freely chooses to bestow saving grace on billions of undeserving sinners.  That is not arbitrary; the Bible itself teaches that election is the result of God’s love and will [but this only begs the question that God’s love and will is not arbitrary in election, the very issue in dispute].  His gracious choosing ultimately transcends our reason, but it is not arbitrary.” (Why I am Not an Arminian, pp. 65, 66- bold emphasis and brackets mine)

[6] The typical Calvinist retort to such things is to claim that the Arminian system creates the same difficulties.  Even if this were the case it wouldn’t change the fact that Calvinists like Erwin Lutzer are offering hope and certainty that the fundamental tenets of Calvinism cannot provide (and flatly contradict).  Still, Arminianism does fare better as parents can be assured that God indeed loves all of their children and truly desires their salvation, hearing prayers and continually revealing Himself in accordance with those prayers and His desire for them to be saved.  While Arminians do not believe that God does such things in a way that guarantees results (i.e., God works resistibly and not irresistibly), Arminians are in a far better position to reveal God’s love to their children since there is no doubt that God truly desires their salvation and Christ certainly died as a provision of atonement for them.  In contrast, consistent Calvinists cannot even truthfully tell their children that Jesus loves them in any meaningful way or that Christ showed His great love by dying for them.  Indeed, God may hate them just as He hated Esau and have no desire to save them.  Likewise, Christ may not have died for them at all.

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21 Responses

  1. Nice post, Ben. Lutzer shows that pastoral-minded preachers, gifted at keeping the flock together and thinking the same thing, often sell unity-at-the-expense-of-truth to unsuspecting persons, like the one who wrote “very comforting” in the margin of the book loaned you.

    Also, especially pathetic is Peterson’s and Williamsons’s statement that “His gracious choosing ultimately transcends our reason, but it is not arbitrary.” For if it transcendes human reason, including the Calvinist’s, how can anyone conclude God is gracious and not arbitrary? Answer: through arbitrary interpretation gracious to Calvinist special pleading.

  2. I just proof-read and approved your post for SEA. I am impressed, really. This was outstanding. I found myself shaking my head in agreement throughout!

    Incidentally, there are two spelling errors, in case you want to go back in and correct them — both are in the first paragraph: 1) “lesson” should be “lessen;” and 2) Arminianism is spelled incorrectly.

    God bless.

  3. Billy,

    Thanks. I made the corrections here as well.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  4. That last line was absolutely chilling. I think I now know what Wesley meant when he said that the UE doctrine “makes the blood run cold.”

  5. B. P. Burnett,

    I agree.

  6. The Calvinist approaches the scriptures with a pre-theology in which he must fit the Scriptures. Even if you were a Calvinist, the Scriptures give absolutely no hint of how God chooses, but the fervent Calvinist reads the five tea leaves and adds to his own theology. Tipical.

  7. Fantastic critique! As a Calvinist (5 point) I’ve never cared for the soft/lite “Calvinism” of Lutzer/MacArthur types. They so water down the doctrines of sovereign grace that one wouldn’t even know they were Calvinists until they get to the book of Romans Chapters 8 and 9 (and you’ll note that in GOD’s sequence of salvation their is no human element [not even free will choosing ] contributing to their salvation. God acts alone to save). In fact, if pressed you’ll see that they are more likely Amyraldian (4-point “Calvinists” really no Calvinists at all.)

    Dispensationalism also further separates them (assuming Lutzer is a classical Dispensationalist. MacArthur is still a mystery to me on the subject; it makes my head spin.) from Calvinism for there were not several ways of salvation but ever and only 1; by grace alone through faith and faith always loves and obeys God’s law and tries to keep it. Dispensationalism is and has always been diametrically opposed to grace alone THROUGH faith alone (not BECAUSE of faith alone) which is displayed in obedience to the law of God. Most churches of the western world reject the law of God and yet wonder why their countries are so turned over to evil.

  8. Dee,

    It looks like you have children, is that correct? Are you saying that you would be quite pleased if God reprobated one or all of your children?

  9. I accept that God’s will is good even with regard to my children. See, I love God in His grace and justice. Who He chooses to save is His own business.

  10. Dee,

    I appreciate your candor and your willingness to be consistent. I still wonder if you knew that God reprobated one of your children from eternity, you would really feel that way. But maybe you really do have no problem with God hating one or all of your children from eternity and consigning them to eternal punishment, for His good pleasure, of course. I appreciate that you realize that your theology demands that you at least say such things.

    If I could trouble you further, how do you express God’s love to your children?

  11. What I think you, and many Arminians fail to realize is the depth of human depravity and their unloveliness. Men by nature HATE their GOD (as He is the only God). This is an active hatred, a daily moment by moment hatred. Man receives and thanks not God. Man takes and thinks nothing of God as they go about their daily lives though there is evidence of Him all around them. Do you agree? Is it wrong for God to choose who to rescue and who to leave in their sins? MUST God TRY to save EVERYONE? God is obligated to no one and owes no one. I have accepted that He has chosen to condemn most of my family leaving them in the cults (Mormonism, Christian Science, Roman Catholicism etc.).

    You, as Arminians, would have to say, ‘they’ve made the wrong choice and chosen a false Christ,’ right? Interesting, in a world full of false gospels calling themselves “christian” they must not have been smart enough to discern truth from error. Maybe they just weren’t “lucky” enough to have been exposed to the truth before the heresy came knocking at their doors. Maybe they were just more wicked than the average believer and wanted to believe a lie. Need I go on? As I’ve said to my Calvinistic brethren of Arminianism, who mistaken believe Arminianism is but a harmless error, you are saved more by yourself and luck then by God. You’re lucky to be born in a “Christian” nation/community and lucky to hear the “true” gospel and lucky to have made the right choice. You’re lucky to be saved because God was no more FOR YOU than anyone else! I ask, Christ died 2000 years and yet only in the last 400 years did the Indians hear the gospel. Did God truly desire to save them? The same could be said said for those of Asia and various islanders and old Europe. Need I go on? Did God love these people and desire their salvation? Was He helpless to save them? God chose Abraham and Israel not because of anything wonderful about them, but because He determined to be gracious to them and not to the rest of mankind. This does not make God evil, but gracious and grace is not earned or deserved!

  12. Interesting how Dee seems to have sidestepped the question you asked Ben, unless that last reply (November 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm) is how he expresses God’s love to his children, which would be to say he doesn’t really. But at least that would be consistent Calvinism, which only showcases how unbiblical it is.

  13. I teach my children that God loves His people and is ever with and for them and their good in ALL things all their lives. As to the reprobate, yes they will die in their sins, but we share the gospel with ALL people because we don’t know who the elect or reprobate are until they die in unbelief.

    What do you teach your children, that God loves and wants to save them the 80 or so years they live, but if they reject or ignore Him ’til they die they burn in hell for an eternity. 80 years is nothing compared to eternity.

    Do you tell them that God loved and wanted to save Hitler, Judas and Nero all their lives until they died? Didn’t God already know who would be His and who wouldn’t be? Is God saddened by the execution of His justice for so many people whom He sincerely loves go to Hell. Arminianism teaches a very confusing ‘god’.

  14. Dee,

    Thanks for commenting. While you contend that Arminianism teaches a very confusing God, I contend that Calvinism teaches an irrational and contradictory God, which is certainly confusing to me. Furthermore, your undertsanding of Arminianism seems very confused as well. I want to address your comments in detail, but will not likely get the opportunity until next week sometime. Thanks agains for your honesty.

    One more point: please refrain from speaking of the Arminian conception of God with a little “g”. That does not help with the dialogue and is against the commenting rules. The reasons for this are explained here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/important-blog-rules/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  15. Well, I thank you too for your kind attitude. With regard to my “confusion” about Arminianism; true I’m used to discussing these matters with the modern “Arminians.” I do know that there are some differences between classical and modern Arminians. You don’t find many old-school Arminians anymore. I look forward to our discussions. Btw, regarding Calvinism’s God as being “contradictory” and “irrational.” I’d say you are right if you speak to the modern, modified Calvinist. This confusion I lay at the feet of Common Grace teachings/the sincere offer. I don’t believe in these teachings because they are contradictory. Though I’m a Presbyterian, I’m more in line with the Protestant Reformed Churches of America on these teachings. I don’t like inconsistency.

    You could answer a couple questions for me though:

    1. Do you hold to prevenient-grace?
    2. Do you believe that a person can fall away after being saved?
    3. Is election based of forseen faith?

    With regard to you the “rules of engagement” not calling each other heretics and believing we are all saved by our faith in Jesus Christ, the issue becomes just what christ and salvation is one believing… but I’ll leave that alone.

  16. Dee,

    Let me respond quickly to your questions and give you some links to explore as you wait for my response to your other posts.

    @1. Do you hold to prevenient-grace?

    Yes, God’s enabling grace is what makes faith possible. Without that enabling, no one could believe.

    @2. Do you believe that a person can fall away after being saved?

    Absolutely. I have written a 13 part series on the subject:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/perseverance-series/

    @3. Is election based of forseen faith?

    Not so much in my view, since I hold to corporate election. Here is a link to some good resources on corporate election (especially check out the links at the bottom which are much more detailed and scholarly that the summary from the study Bible):

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/A-Concise-Summary-of-the-Corporate-View-of-Election-and-Predestination

    God Bless,
    Ben

  17. Thanks. I always like to know where a person is coming from. I used to be an Arminian Baptist (SBC). I came to it as an adult. I had no idea there was really any important differences in the protestant churches until I heard R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur teaching. At first I just ignored them, then they talked about total depravity. I started my own study at that point (of course it was God working in me) and in the end came away a Calvinist. I was quite surprised to see how inconsistent other Calvinists were. Made my head spin; yes and no to limited atonement. Amyraldianism really. Best wishes.

  18. Dee,

    Sorry, but I have been very busy and have not had access to the internet, till today (and I don’t have time enough to respond today). I should respond tomorrow sometime. I also see that you have gotten into a discussion in another thread as well. I haven’t looked through it, but will likely comment there as well, though I can’t be sure how soon.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  19. I would worry too much about it.

  20. Dee,

    You wrote,

    What I think you, and many Arminians fail to realize is the depth of human depravity and their unloveliness.

    Actually, Arminians fully affirm our depravity.

    Men by nature HATE their GOD (as He is the only God). This is an active hatred, a daily moment by moment hatred. Man receives and thanks not God. Man takes and thinks nothing of God as they go about their daily lives though there is evidence of Him all around them. Do you agree?

    I agree that we are all corrupt, and outside of a faith relationship with God we cannot please Him. Our lives are lives of rebellion and rejection until God works in our heart. However, since you are happy to call yourself a consistent Calvinist in contrast to those inconsistent types, I am certain that you fully embrace divine decretal determinism (and most likely reject compatibilism, another of the irrational claims of those inconsistent Calvinist types). If that is the case, then God is the sole reason for our hatred of Him. He decreed it from eternity and we are powerless to resist that decree. We can no more resist His decree to hate Him than we can create a universe.

    So why should God be angry with the sin He causes us to commit and the hatred He causes us to have towards Him? Indeed, when we hate Him, rebel against Him, reject Him and sin against Him, we are perfectly fulfilling His will for us. Why should God be upset about us perfectly fulfilling His will for our lives? Why should God be upset with those who are thinking and acting exactly as God controls them to think and act? And why should God punish His creatures (with unimaginable eternal torment) for thinking and acting exactly as He irresistibly controls them to think and act? How is it that you can view those who are completely controlled by God as wholly unlovely, and still see the God who irresistibly controls them as lovely? See, for me, it doesn’t matter if you are a consistent Calvinist; it still makes for a confusing and irrational view of God.

    Is it wrong for God to choose who to rescue and who to leave in their sins?

    It is strange that you appeal to my sense of right and wrong, when according to your doctrine it is perfectly just and right for God to control us completely and then punish us for being controlled by Him. If you don’t think that is wrong, then why bother making any appeals concerning what we might think is right or wrong. When you embrace such things, you make right and wrong completely arbitrary. You make vacuous any sense of moral justice that we might have. And yet, you still appeal to our sense of morality in defending your doctrines. Truly bizarre, in my opinion.

    MUST God TRY to save EVERYONE? God is obligated to no one and owes no one.

    Again, statements like this have little meaning when you hold to the belief that God decreed our corrupt nature, our every thought, desire and action in such a way that we have absolutely no control over what we are, what we think, or what we do. In such a scheme God essentially punishes His creatures for no other reason than they are His creatures. The only way you can even make sense of questions like the one you pose here is if we temporally forget all that Calvinism teaches. But I intend to keep it before us in this discussion, since you do not like inconsistencies, or watered down Calvinism.

    I have accepted that He has chosen to condemn most of my family leaving them in the cults (Mormonism, Christian Science, Roman Catholicism etc.).

    If you have accepted it, it is only because He has decreed for you to accept it (in your view). He might just as well have decreed that you not accept it, just as He decreed that most of your family be and act just as they do and yet condemns them for being and acting just as He irresistibly decreed for them to be and act.

    You, as Arminians, would have to say, ‘they’ve made the wrong choice and chosen a false Christ,’ right?

    Yes. You, as a Calvinist, would have to say they had absolutely no choice, no control whatsoever over what they think, desire, or believe. No more control than a puppet has when pulled about by his strings. And yet, God punishes them for being just as He made them to be. How can you possibly see any sense of moral justice in that? Again, God’s actions, in your view, empty words like morality and justice of all meaning. And yet, you still try to appeal to our sense of morality and justice. That seems “inconsistent” and “irrational” to me, not the least “confusing.”

    Interesting, in a world full of false gospels calling themselves “christian” they must not have been smart enough to discern truth from error.

    Interesting that God would decree a world full of false gospels and decree that so many embrace these false gospels, and then hold them accountable for what He irresistibly caused them to do.

    Maybe they just weren’t “lucky” enough to have been exposed to the truth before the heresy came knocking at their doors. Maybe they were just more wicked than the average believer and wanted to believe a lie. Need I go on?

    No need. There can be all kinds of reasons for people believing lies, but that doesn’t mean they had no choice. But in your view there is only one possible reason: God made them believe lies, and then punishes them for believing what He irresistibly caused them to believe.

    As I’ve said to my Calvinistic brethren of Arminianism, who mistaken believe Arminianism is but a harmless error, you are saved more by yourself and luck then by God.

    Well, that is a gross mischaracterization of Arminianism and betrays that you have not spent much time getting to know what Arminians really believe.

    You’re lucky to be born in a “Christian” nation/community and lucky to hear the “true” gospel and lucky to have made the right choice.

    Rather, I would say that I am blessed and remind you that “to whom much is given, much is required.”

    You’re lucky to be saved because God was no more FOR YOU than anyone else! I ask, Christ died 2000 years and yet only in the last 400 years did the Indians hear the gospel. Did God truly desire to save them? The same could be said said for those of Asia and various islanders and old Europe. Need I go on?

    Is this your argument for Calvinism and against Arminianism? Do you know for sure that God did not reach out to these people in any way? I have my own views on this, but since the Bible doesn’t really address it as specifically as you seem to want, it is mostly speculation, and we should not build doctrines on things the Bible does not say. For now, I will just quote Paul,

    “…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”

    But according to your doctrine, God is as far from the reprobate as He can possibly be (since they have absolutely no power or ability to grope for God and “find him”), making Paul’s words into nonsense. Of course, I can just quote 1 Tim. 2:1-6; 4:10; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16, and the like; but you have your supposed answers for these passages, I am sure. However, they are enough for me since I prefer to allow Scripture to dictate my view of the world, rather than the other way around. But I will make mention of John 12:46, 47,

    “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”

    Notice that the same “world” that includes those who do not keep His sayings is the same world He came to “save.” So Jesus came to save even those who will ultimately reject Him. That is death to Calvinism and your arguments as far as I am concerned.

    Was He helpless to save them? God chose Abraham and Israel not because of anything wonderful about them, but because He determined to be gracious to them and not to the rest of mankind.

    Actually, God was gracious to Abraham so that the world might believe through the witness and testimony of Israel (Gen.12:3; 18:18; 22:18; cf. 26:4; Isa. 49:6; cf. 42:6). And while God’s choosing of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel was not because they deserved it, it is an oft repeated Calvinist mistake to say such a choosing and covenant was unconditional (cf. Gen 15:6;17:1;22:18; 26:3-5; 31:13; 35:1-13; Gen 17:8, 14 cf. Isa. 24:5; Jer. 31:32).

    This does not make God evil, but gracious and grace is not earned or deserved!

    But how can you even appeal to our sense of grace or evil when you believe that God punishes His creatures for eternity for simply being what He created them to be? However, Arminians in no way believe that salvation is deserved or earned. Rather, we believe that salvation is neither deserved nor earned, but a gift freely received by faith (Rom. 4).

    We can no more take credit for salvation than one who receives a free and undeserved gift can take credit for the gift simply because he or she received it. Receiving a free and undeserved gift in no way means that the person who received the gift gave the gift to himself, or can take any credit for the gift simply because he did not reject the gift. This seems so obvious that it is a wonder that Calvinists can claim such nonsense that if one receives a free and undeserved gift, that person has therefore earned the gift or “contributed” to it. How can the one who receives the gift take any credit for the gift, or claim that he somehow gave the gift to himself? That violates the very nature of the words “giver” and “receiver.” Thankfully, you reject such inconsistent and irrational arguments, correct?

    I teach my children that God loves His people and is ever with and for them and their good in ALL things all their lives.

    But how does this offer any comfort to your children as they may not be God’s people and would therefore be hated by God from all eternity? Do you likewise tell them that Jesus likely did not die for them (since He did not die for the majority of His creation)?

    As to the reprobate, yes they will die in their sins,

    The sins that God caused them to commit by way of an irresistible and unchangeable decree, don’t forget.

    but we share the gospel with ALL people because we don’t know who the elect or reprobate are until they die in unbelief.

    But what gospel (good news) can you possibly share with those who are irresistibly reprobated from all eternity?

    What do you teach your children, that God loves and wants to save them the 80 or so years they live, but if they reject or ignore Him ’til they die they burn in hell for an eternity. 80 years is nothing compared to eternity.

    No need. I can simply teach her that Jesus died for her and God desires to save her and empowers her to trust in Him for 80 years and beyond, even to her death; that God will always desire to have a relationship with her and she can always come to Him, knowing that He will never turn her away. That is quite different than telling her that God may not want her at all; that God may actually hate her; that Jesus may not love her and, chances are, has not died for her. If I was a “consistent” Calvinist, that is exactly what I should tell her. Is that what you tell your children? If not, why not? Please don’t tell me you water such things down.

    Do you tell them that God loved and wanted to save Hitler, Judas and Nero all their lives until they died?

    I haven’t thought to say such things, but I have no problem with that.

    Didn’t God already know who would be His and who wouldn’t be?

    Yes, but that knowledge is based on all of His efforts to reach them and them still rejecting Him. Your doctrine denies that Jesus even died for them and that God ever desired their salvation or worked to bring them to Him, despite their ultimate rejection.

    Is God saddened by the execution of His justice for so many people whom He sincerely loves go to Hell.

    God is not saddened by justice (and again, justice is really devoid of meaning in your theology), but would prefer that all receive Him rather than reject Him. God does not desire that anyone perish and takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:31-32; 33:11). My theology can fully embrace these Biblical truths, while your theology must contradict and make nonsense of them.

    Arminianism teaches a very confusing ‘god’.

    Surely, you can now see why I think that Calvinism (yes, even your “consistent” Calvinism) is what teaches a confusing, contradictory, and morally bankrupt view of God. The good news is that the Bible knows nothing of such a conception of God and you do not need to keep on believing such confusion. My prayer is that you will come to reject such confusion and embrace the fact that God truly loves your children and desires for them to be saved, just as He wants all people to be saved, including your family members.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  21. […] For more on this thorny problem for Calvinism, see my post: Does Erwin Lutzer Offer False Hope to Calvinist Parents?  […]

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