Preach Reprobation and Preach it Hard!

As I noted in my previous post, according to Jesus, far more will be lost than saved (Matt. 7:13, 14).  In Calvinism this can only mean that God has reprobated from eternity far more than He has elected to save.  According to Calvinism, God’s reprobation of most of humanity is “for His glory”.  From this it seems safe to conclude that God’s action in reprobation brings Him far more glory than His action in electing to salvation.  The fact that far more will end up in hell than in heaven in accordance with God’s irresistible eternal decree brings God ultimate glory [1].  If that is the case, it seems to me that Calvinists should focus much more on reprobation and God’s act of reprobating the majority of mankind, consigning them to an eternity of unimaginable suffering for the sins and unbelief that God irresistibly decreed for them from eternity, than on God’s electing the few to salvation [2].

But when Arminians focus on the “horrible decree”, Calvinists typically want to quickly divert our attention to the few who get saved instead of dwelling on the many who have been reprobated to eternal suffering by way of God’s irresistible eternal decree.  Why not glory in the reprobation of many, especially since it seems that reprobation must bring God far more glory than election unto salvation?

For all their talk about Arminians supposedly robbing God of His glory, it seems that Arminians are the ones who are trying to give God more glory by focusing on God’s irresistible decree of reprobation in discussing Calvinism.

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[1] This note is an update after receiving feedback on the post from a fellow Arminian.  He pointed out that this post could be seen as misrepresenting the Calvinist position since in Calvinism reprobation can be seen to give God more glory “in conjunction” with election so that “the misery of the reprobate serves to highlight and exalt the blessedness of the elect”.  I agree that this is the Calvinist view, but I would argue that my post doesn’t misrepresent this position (though I could have made my point clearer), since in Calvinism this really doesn’t explain why God needs to reprobate the vast majority of humanity.  If the argument is that the more that are reprobated, the more election looks good, then God would have ultimately glorified Himself by reprobating all but one person, or something like that.  So the question remains: Why would God need to reprobate so many?  If it is to enhance His glory in election then reprobation of more than are elected gives God more glory, and Calvinists should at least focus on reprobation more, especially on the fact that God gets more glory in election by reprobating far more than he elects.  That is something that Calvinists typically want to downplay, even denying the obvious (as some, like James White, seem to almost deny the charge, immediately focusing on the Revelation text of a multitude in heaven to draw attention away from the fact that there are far, far more that are reprobated) in order to take attention away from the disproportion between election and reprobation.  If the disproportion brings God greater glory, then it should be a focus of Calvinist preaching, rather than largely ignored, downplayed, or swept under the rug altogether.

[2] As I mentioned in my last post, I agree with Wesley that whether we view reprobation as passive or active, it amounts to the same thing (see his two sermons, Predestination Calmly Considered and On Predestination).  It is also unclear how reprobation can be considered passive in any way that would relieve the difficulty that Calvinists seem to hope to relieve when considered against the backdrop of God’s exhaustive deterministic control (what Calvinists wrongly term “Sovereignty”).

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10 Responses

  1. Even Calvinists out on a speed boat for laughs know better than to run aground of this rock:
    ‘ As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.’ Ezekiel 33:11

  2. Ben, I have some infralapsarian Calvinist friends who are adamant that God’s decree of election is unconditional but that his decree of reprobation is conditional, that is, based upon the foreknowledge of sin. But isn’t this inconsistent? It just seems to me like slippery salmon; a bit too ad hoc given the logic of unconditional election.

  3. slw,

    Don’t confuse us with the Biblical facts.

  4. B.P.,

    That would be a rather strange breed of Calvinism and it would represent a minority view that is not in harmony with classical Calvinism, even infralapsarian Calvinism. It cuts against the fundamental Calvinist tenet of exhaustive determinism (both infras and supras hold to ED, only disagreeing with the logical order of the decrees). If God only foreknows sin but doesn’t cause it then that destroys exhaustive determinism and the classical accounting of Calvinist “sovereignty.” It also concedes the Arminian position that God can foreknow things (like free will choices) that He doesn’t cause. It really is at odds with the Calvinist accounting of foreknowledge, since in Calvinism God’s foreknowledge is based on the decree so that God can only foreknow what will happen because He decreed it to happen and will infallibly cause it to happen. So it is great that they want to distance themselves from the idea that God irresistibly decreed the fall and sin, but in doing so they are also distancing themselves from classical Calvinism and conceding a great deal to Arminianism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. Hi Ben, I agree with the gist of your post, but would take it a step further. Why should we be resigned to the necessity that “far more will be lost than saved”? Perhaps Jesus was describing the way things were before prior to his arrival (law rather than grace). Revelation 7:9 suggests something more optimistic.

  6. Kevin,

    I wish that were true, but I don’t see how we can properly draw those conclusions from those texts. It seems to me that Jesus is simply speaking of the present reality of the situation, that there are far more who take the wide road to destruction than find the narrow door to life. I see no reason to think that Jesus is speaking of how things were prior to his coming and that things will now be different. Also, Rev. 7:9 doesn’t necessarily seem more optimistic to me. Jesus is making a deliberate contrast between those who will be lost and those who will be saved in Matthew. Revelation isn’t doing that. It is simply reporting the vast multitude of those who are saved. Keep in mind I am not suggesting that there are not many who will be saved as Rev. reports, only that when we compare the number of saved to the number of lost, there will be far more lost than saved. So as vast as the multitude of saved will be as reported in Revelation 7:9; according to Matt. 7:13, 14, we know that there is a far greater multitude that will not be saved. Revelation 7:9 does not suggest that more will be saved than lost and it would need to do that in order for us to take a different approach to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7.

    Not only that, but Matthew 7 seems to comport better with reality. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that throughout history and even in the present time, true believers have been a minority.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. Kevin,

    I should add that in context Matt. 7 is a direct response to the rich man not being willing to sell his possessions and “follow” Jesus. So that makes it even less likely to me that Jesus is speaking of how things were prior to His coming. He is addressing the need for following Him.

  8. Hi Ben, There may well be more who are lost than who are saved. The point is that is not God’s decree or preference – he’d rather that no one perishes. Nor is it something that we should rejoice about (as the Calvinist apparently does). The lost are like a sheep without a shepherd, the harvest is huge, but the workers are few. We should all be about pointing people to Jesus so that more find him.

    I also don’t see a link in Matt 7 to the rich man. In Matt 5-7 Jesus is on the mountain addressing the large crowds that are following him. But that’s not to say that his conversation with the rich man isn’t relevant, he does cover some of the same ground. It just takes place at a different time.

  9. I can understand how God’s justice must be satisfied and therefore there can be no blanket salvation for everyone regardless of faith. But what kind of grace, and what kind of love, has the capacity to OFFER salvation for every sinner but is convinced He can get more glory by only offering/forcing it to a miniscule few?

    And I will never understand these Calvinist discernment sites that are obsessed with false teachers and false doctrines and even false professions of faith. Hey, if a guy cannot ever get saved because jesus did not die for him, then let him have some deceived fun on his way to hell. What twisted sense of duty expends energy trying to convince the non-elect they are non-elect and with that you feel some fallen sense of spiritual accomplishment.

    Calvinists accuse us of misrepresenting the character of God. Well I ask you, what kind of Wizard of Oz God are they presenting? “Silence, whippersnapper!”

    “Pay no attention to that Scriptural man behind the curtain!”

    The Father says to the Word before His incarnation, “Jesus, do you want to die for everyone when you go to the cross? You are God and You can do anything.”

    Jesus answers, “Nah, I just sense that redeeming only a few will much better represent our eteral love. A handful will be much better than every sinner don’t cha think?”

    The Father, “Yea, I guess You’re right. You go die, I’ll prepare the irresistable ray gun!”

  10. Kevin,

    You wrote,

    Hi Ben, There may well be more who are lost than who are saved. The point is that is not God’s decree or preference – he’d rather that no one perishes. Nor is it something that we should rejoice about (as the Calvinist apparently does). The lost are like a sheep without a shepherd, the harvest is huge, but the workers are few. We should all be about pointing people to Jesus so that more find him.

    I agree completely.

    I also don’t see a link in Matt 7 to the rich man. In Matt 5-7 Jesus is on the mountain addressing the large crowds that are following him. But that’s not to say that his conversation with the rich man isn’t relevant, he does cover some of the same ground. It just takes place at a different time.

    That’s my bad. I didn’t have the reference handy when I responded and was going by memory, apparently mixing up this passage with Jesus making the similar point about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven after speaking to the rich man. Still, I think verses 24-27 reinforce the point that Jesus was not teaching on something that changed at his coming.

    God Bless,
    Ben

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