17 September 2008

God So Loved the World

by Phil Johnson



'm at a regional FIRE conference in Jacksonville this week, Dan is out of town, and Frank is being father in the midst of a tonsillectomy, so things are hectic around here, but the e-mail continues to roll in.

Here's an excerpt from one I answered between conference sessions this morning. I actually typed it with my thumbs on my cell phone, so if it sounds terse or rushed, that's why. A person wrote:

I'm writing to you because from what I've read of you, it seems you take a little different view of God's love toward the unregenerate. . . . I'm wrestling with something in my mind and I wondered if you could offer some insight. . . . How does one reconcile that God loves the whole world and yet God's wrath is on those who don't believe (Jn. 3:36)? Is there a sense that God loves the whole world and yet He is angry with those who don't believe?


My thumbs replied:

Yes, I believe Scripture plainly teaches that there is a true and significant sense in which God loves even those whom He hates. Scripture says His mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:9). He cannot hate His own creatures with a pure and undiluted hatred, because they are the works of His hands. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-45 that the way to be like God is to love even our enemies.

God's eternal love for his elect is unique, and reserved for them alone. But we understand that there is more than one kind of love, even in the realm of human relationships. My love for my wife is vastly greater—and a different kind of love—from my love for my neighbor. But my love for my neighbor is no less love, and not a mere pretense.

In a similar way, God loves the reprobate differently—a love of compassion; not a redemptive love. But He does love them and His plea for them to be reconciled with Him (2 Corinthians 5:20) is well-meant.

Read the little book by John Murray and Ned Stonehouse titled The Free Offer of the Gospel (the full text is online). And if you're up for a more challenging read, try R. L. Dabney's article titled "God's Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy." Dabney answers your question in detail.


People invariably struggle with the question of how an overture of reconciliation and mercy from God toward the reprobate can be sincere if He didn't elect them to salvation in the first place. Many Calvinists, swayed by Arthur Pink's assertions in the unabridged edition of The Sovereignty of God, falsely imagine that real Calvinism must assert that God's hatred for the reprobate is an absolute loathing of their very beings, unmitigated by any compassion, tenderness, or benevolence that could reasonably be called love. They would flatly deny that God in any sense loves those who are perishing in their sins, and they refuse to preach the gospel as a plea or as an offer of mercy. Instead, they insist the gospel is a bare demand for immediate repentance—or in the worst cases, they insist that the gospel has no relevance whatsoever to the reprobate.

It's common nowadays to hear Calvinists explain John 3:16 by saying "world" means "the elect" in that context, in order to sidestep this issue of whether God has any measure of authentic love toward the reprobate.

That is not historic mainstream Calvinism, and it certainly isn't the spirit of Calvin himself, who wrote concerning John 3:16: "He has used a general term ["whosoever"], both to invite indiscriminately all to share in life and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such also is the significance of the term 'world' which he had used before. For although there is nothing in the world deserving of God's favour, He nevertheless shows He is favorable to the whole world when he calls all without exception to the faith of Christ, which is indeed an entry into life."

See also B. B. Warfield, The Saviour of the World.




Phil's signature

68 comments:

Caleb Kolstad said...

Thanks for these links and the insight.

divinesatisfaction.com said...

ditto to Caleb's comment.

How many times do people attempt to force us into one definition of a word, or one aspect of a doctrine neglecting the whole counsel of Scripture!

SKO said...

Greetings from down in St. Augustine: I hope your visit to the First Coast has been hospitable, Mr. Johnson. Thanks for this brief but edifying post.

Jerry Wragg said...

On the universal love of God vs His special electing love

God can manifest His perfections in any way He chooses, being always consistent with Himself. If He reveals in one part of scripture that He loves all men as a manifestation of the superlative nature of divine love, what is that to us? If in other texts He reveals the divine glory of His hatred of all rebels, what is that to us?

You say, "But how can he love and hate a sinner simultaneously?"

The same way He can love the elect from eternity, yet call them children of wrath by nature prior to conversion (Eph.2:3)!

If God can set His eternal electing love upon a child of wrath, and wait to manifest His electing love until the effectual call of the gospel during the sinner's lifetime, then surely He can manifest His glory through a purposeful hatred for Christ-rejecters who spurn His sincere offerings of divine love during their lifetime!

The reason we have a problem with this is because we tend to view His love for the elect exclusively against the backdrop of the eternal decrees. Once we are convinced of the doctrine of eternal election, we assume (or logically deduce) that God has only and eternally viewed us as objects of His love. Conversely therefore, we conclude that the non-elect, being sovereignly excluded from grace, can never be the objects of any kind of divine favor. What we must do is accept that just as God has eternally loved the elect unto salvation while children of wrath by nature, so he does manifest (in some sense) divine love toward objects of His wrath whom He will leave in sin.

By holding the view that God cannot love the non-elect in any sense, I believe we depreciate some key theological implications:

1. God is storing up wrath upon those whom He purposes to leave in their sin. Offering sincere love to the sinner ushers in a greater magnification of God's glorious love and wrath at the judgment.
2. God's universal love for all mankind makes the revelation of divine love comparatively superlative in every aspect! The fact that He loves enemies whom He knows will continue to offend His holiness demonstrates an inexplicable kind of love that finds its fullest expression in the genuine offer of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. God’s perfections, being a complex of co-essential attributes, cannot be so easily bifurcated as to their interrelatedness. In other words, God can both love (in some sense) and simultaneously hate (in some sense) much like He can desire one thing (in some sense) while desiring the seemingly opposite thing (in some sense) at the same time. Scripture does not solve all these apparent antinomies, but God does reveal Himself “in tension” at times and we are obligated to embrace them with submissive humility.
4. Let's be consistent. If God doesn't love the non-elect in any sense at all, yet He purposed that men would come to faith through the universal preaching of the gospel, then we dare not preach repentance and faith to anyone until we know God purposes to save them.

Rick Frueh said...

The love expressed in Jn.3:16 is unequivocally tethered to "gave His only begotten Son, etc.". So this verse cannot mean both the elect and the non-elect since God, in the Calvinist view, did not give His Son to the non-elect.

If indeed God expressed His love to one very small few by giving His Son, and did not express His love to the rest in that way, He would be a respector of persons, and the substantive and active part of His love toward some would be different in quality and substance to the other.

Love is active and James illustrates this clearly. If a person says "be fed" and doesn't feed it is hollow. If a person says "be saved" and doesn't provide the means to accomplish those words, it too is hollow. God's love is not active toward a few and passive toward the rest, and God doesn't have to prove everyone is depraved, He has already counted them as such.

There are only a few predicate nominatives that are used in the same fashion as "God is love". This reveals God doesn't just love, He IS love and that love is an active revelation of Who He is. God cannot parse out Who He is in different degrees of potency, meaning He loves some enough to offer redemption and others He doesn't.

I am not intentionally eliciting an aggressive response toward me, I am only attempting to reveal what are some other perspectives on the same topic in the midst of brothers and sisters who I acknowledge may see it differently. :)

hpbc staff said...

May I also suggest Carson's "The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God." A small, insightful book on the various loves of God.

CharlieontheT said...

Terrific post that's really helping my nubile Calvinism along nicely.

Thanks, I needed that.

Charlie

Terry Lange said...

Jacksonville, my old haunts from 1988-2002... hope you are enjoying the First Coast... Do you plan on visiting Trinity or do you think they would stop you at the entrance?

hpbc staff said...

PS - D.A. Carson agrees with Phil...
"I know that some try to take kosmos here to refer to the elect. But that really will not do. All the evidence of the usage of the word in John's Gospel is against this suggestion."

donsands said...

Very good teaching on God's love. Thanks for taking the time to thumb this to us.

"God cannot parse out Who He is in different degrees of potency, meaning He loves some enough to offer redemption and others He doesn't." -rick

What about where the Lord Jesus says, "The Father loves Me, BECAUSE I lay down My life."

Isn't this a degree of love, since we know the Father loved the Son before time, and throughout eternity?

Or I may have missed your meaning here.

Stefan said...

Thank you. It seems that by and large, some of the greatest preachers in history have been (a) those Calvinists who (b) preach the free offer of the Gospel. They have a pastoral love for the lost that shows through in their sermons, and testifies to the glory of God. (Spurgeon, of course, jumps immediately to mind.)

The more I study the Gospel, the more everything else in this world seems like so much dross compared to the refined silver of the pure Gospel, and the more I want to read and hear only the Gospel. So thanks for delivering!

DJP said...

CharlieontheT - "Nubile Calvinism"

Isn't that a series by Driscoll?

Sorry.

MarieP said...

Phil,

Great post! I have not read Carson's book, but John MacArthur's was very good and sounds very similar.

I actually posted a blog post yesterday on "God is sovereign, yet man is responsible and not to be passive." And I was talking with a brother at church Sunday and mentioned how I only recently came to believe that the offers of the Gospel are well-meant. And he replied "Whoa...that's calling God a liar and is blasphemous"

I would not be so blunt, since this is something believers disagree on, but he kinda has a point...

Stefan said:

"The more I study the Gospel, the more everything else in this world seems like so much dross compared to the refined silver of the pure Gospel, and the more I want to read and hear only the Gospel."

AMEN! Or hear the whole counsel of God and tether it all on the Gospel.

reformeddoctrine said...

This "Does God love everybody?" issue raised in this post is also called the "common grace issue".

Interested readers should read how important this common grace issue was to the Protestant Reformed Churches denomination (PRC) which split away from the Christian Reformed Churches (CRC) in the 1920's over this one specific issue.

My great-grandfather, William Heyns, was then Professor at Calvin Theological School (Calvin College Seminary) and a key figure in this dispute, but I think that he and the rest of the CRC were wrong on this common grace issue and that the PRC were correct. Here is the link to some articles by the PRC on this issue -http://www.prca.org/pamphlets_and_articles.html#CommonGrace (In case the margin obliterates the letters at the end of the link, they are "CommonGrace" after ".html#" as in ...articles.html#CommonGrace )

Readers may think that they and a few others are the only ones who have considered this issue. But, why reinvent the wheel by picking and choosing Scripture to support a preference when a thorough study and conclusions has already been done by some of the best Reformed minds? Isn't that the value of sound doctrine and creeds? However, I do recognize that there are sharp differences over this common grace issue in Reformed circles.

In conclusion, at the very least, a reader who wishes to be well-informed should at least consider the other side of this common grace issue which is herein presented at the link above by the PRC. Thank you.

Yours truly,
Bill Hornbeck

MarieP said...

I trust that those who do not believe the offer is "well-meant" do not intentionally set out to make God a liar or believe He is one. Just wanted to be clear.

Rick Frueh said...

Don - I would suggest the love within the Trinity is both unique and without measure. The Words of Christ are a reflection of one aspect of inter-Trinitarian love but does not suggest any greater or less love in other circumstances.

David Milton said...

Too bad your meeting in Jacksonville didn't coincide later in the year:
http://www.jerryvines.com/Page.bok?template=conference

Stefan said...

Mariep:

"Or hear the whole counsel of God and tether it all on the Gospel."

Absolutely! In one sense, the whole counsel of God is the Gospel—in extended form.

Phil Johnson said...

reformeddoctrine: "why reinvent the wheel by picking and choosing Scripture to support a preference when a thorough study and conclusions has already been done by some of the best Reformed minds? Isn't that the value of sound doctrine and creeds? However, I do recognize that there are sharp differences over this common grace issue in Reformed circles."

Indeed. And all the major Reformed confessions either imply the doctrine of common grace or expressly affirm it. Not one of them denies it. Your grandfather was right.

Phil Johnson said...

Incidentally, the question under discussion here is not "Does God love everyone just the same?"

Nor does the issue we're discussing hinge on how someone answers the extent-of-the-atonement question.

The point raised by this post is much simpler than that: Does the gospel make a proposal of mercy and reconciliation to all who hear, and if so, is that overture well-meant?

And, MarieP, I think you hit the nail square on the head This whole issue goes very much to the question of whether God is a liar.

donsands said...

Rick,

The Father loves the Son, because He lays His life down. And he loved Jesus from everlasting to everlasting.

Jesus says the Father loves us, His elect, with the same love He has for Christ, His Beloved Son.

Could the love of the father swell for us as we lay down our lives for Christ?
So many have giving themselves for Christ: Tortured and killed for Christ.
Might not the same love be bestowed here as well.

And the non-elect will never know this kind of love. that's what makes the Gospel so incredible to me. I never understand why God would love me so. He surely does for Jesus' sake, but I don't know why.

Rick Frueh said...

"Could the love of the father swell for us as we lay down our lives for Christ?"

Would that be loved based upon works? I still contend that God's love is an offering of Himself which cannot be measured by quality, quantity, or purity.

Susan said...

Go Phil!!!

(That's all I have to say for now.)

tck said...

I just want to give a sincere thanks to all of "team pyro" and the kind-spirited people here at the blog. You have given me a good introduction to Calvinism and it has been most interesting.

Looking forward to read more in the time to come.

Andreas
Rosenian-Lutheran theology student
Oslo, Norway

Phil Johnson said...

God's love doesn't come and go (or rise and fall) like an involuntary human passion.

That, however, has nothing to do with the issues raised in this post. To say that God's compassionate love for the reprobate is a different kind and different degree of affection than His love for the elect is not to suggest that He has mutable passions. I have elsewhere strongly affirmed both the immutability and impassibility of God, and I stand by that 100 percent.

So lets not derail this discussion with a useless debate.

donsands said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Frueh said...

I would suggest that God's love is authenticated, revealed, and in fact IS the atonement. Separate from the atonement we make God's love a divine emotion and nothing more than an anthropomorphic projection upon the Theos. All expressions of God's love are tributaries that run from and to the atonement which was established before creation itself.

I contend that God's love is intertwined and founded upon redemption, and that anyone not included in the atonement cannot be loved. I have heard some suggest that God hates those outside the elect, and to me that is a consistant view because the atonement, the Atoner, is God's love in open display and the marks of that love are on display throughout eternity.

So whoever was not included in the atonement cannot be loved by God.

Phil Johnson said...

Here's another quote from Calvin:

{quote}

On 2 Peter 3:9: Not wishing that any should perish. This is His wondrous love towards the human race, that he desires all men to be saved, and is prepared to bring even the perishing to safety. We must notice the order, that God is prepared to receive all men into repentance, so that none may perish. These words indicate the means of obtaining salvation, and whoever of us seeks salvation must learn to follow in this way.

It could be asked here, if God does not want any to perish, why do so many in fact perish? My reply is that no mention is made here of the secret decree of God by which the wicked are doomed to their own ruin, but only of His loving-kindness as it is made known to us in the Gospel. There God stretches out His hand to all alike, but He only grasps those (in such a way as to lead them to Himself) whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.

{endquote}

Phil Johnson said...

Rick: "whoever was not included in the atonement cannot be loved by God."

You're making a distinction Scripture doesn't make. Scripture sas there is no greater love than laying down one's life for another. But it's an unwarranted leap to infer that if Christ did not make full substitutionary atonement for everyone, then He can't possibly love them at all, or in any sense.

God Himself declared his love for apostate Israel, even as he pronounced their doom (cf. Ezekiel 16:8; 38).

Rick Frueh said...

Maybe. But many have concluded just that. But I contend that "whom God loves He corrects" and "God commended His love toward us" etc. illustrate that the atonement itself is not only God's love on display, the Incarnate sacrifice WAS and IS God's love fully revealed. And by fully I don't mean more of it in one place, I mean all of it in one place from which all other expressions emanate.

You know my theology and I respect yours and I am not attempting to derail anything, but I humbly submit that the cross is the well from which all of God's love was deposited and is drawn from. And if a sinner, God's enemy, was not considered in that cross than he cannot be loved by God because he is not in the Beloved.

God loves us because we are in the Son, not because He created us. And God saw us in His Son before He made us so in that we were loved throughout eternity. Without redemption being proffered we are in the same category as satan, and I am not sure whether God actually loves those in hell as well. That is a mystery since the offer of redemption is no longer offered and they are the non-elect regardless of our atonement theology.

Just some thoughts...

David Rudd said...

They would flatly deny that God in any sense loves those who are perishing in their sins, and they refuse to preach the gospel as a plea or as an offer of mercy...That is not historic mainstream Calvinism...For although there is nothing in the world deserving of God's favour, He nevertheless shows He is favorable to the whole world when he calls all without exception to the faith of Christ, which is indeed an entry into life.

imagine that, phil, two agreements in one week!

thanks for pointing out the all-to-common false conclusion often drawn by those who get carried away with their "calvinism" and give the rest of us a bad name...

reformeddoctrine said...

Thank you. Although I do appreciate your hope that my grandfather was right, it is far too simplistic, without citing one express affirmation or even implied one, to state: "And all the major Reformed confessions either imply the doctrine of common grace or expressly affirm it."

Professor Engelsma in his debate with Professor Mouw in a "Debate on Common Grace" comes to exactly the opposite conclusion and does support his conclusion: "First of all the Reformed Faith is defined by the Reformed Confessions, and common grace is not taught in the Reformed Confessions. The reformed creeds mention common grace one time, and this mention attributes the doctrine of common grace to the Arminians, whose teaching the creed, the Canons of Dort, condemns as heresy. The Arminians used the doctrine of common grace in the service of their teaching that God on His part is, quote, “ready to reveal Christ unto all men” end of quote. In view of the great things that are ascribed to common grace by its defenders, it forms nothing less than a world view, the silence of the confessions is deafening. The complete absence of the doctrine of common grace in the creeds may not be decisive for the question: is the doctrine of common grace reformed? But the silence of the creeds certainly should give pause to those who want to proclaim the doctrine as important, even fundamental, reformed truth. The matters are worse for the doctrine of common grace as far as the creeds are concerned than that the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort, and, I may add, the Westminster Standards as well, know absolutely nothing of this doctrine." as stated by Professor Engelsma in his debate with Professor Mouw in a "Debate on Common Grace". See the following linked for the full article of the debate- http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_80.html#1.4.V
(In case, the margin obliterates some of the link, the link ends as .html#1.4.V )

John said...

Good post, Mr. Phil.

Iain Murray's biography of Pink said that Pink regretted the Sovereignty of God later in life. It was against his wishes that it was reprinted.

Christopher said...

If I'm not mistaken (and I may be), I have heard that most grammarians agree that John 3:16 is better translated "For God loved the world in this way: that he gave his only begotten Son..." (The "houtos" is better translated to indicate the manner in which God loved, rather than the degree--see the discussion in the NET Bible on this verse.) If that is the case, then Rick's point that "the love expressed in Jn.3:16 is unequivocally tethered to 'gave His only begotten Son, etc.'" is accurate (although I do not agree with everything Rick says).

In other words, it's not that God "so" loved the world as it is God showed his love for the world by offering His son.

Agreed it is a nuance, but nonetheless I believe it is significant.

reformeddoctrine said...

The quote of Calvin's Commentary on John 3:16 is substantially the same, but not identical as I read it in the following link -
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom34.ix.iii.html

Most importantly, it fails to include surrounding statements. Immediately after the statement that that is quoted. Calvin writes: "Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith."

Previously in his commentary to John 3:16, in regards to whether Calvin interpreted John 3:16 to mean that God loves everyone. Calvin refutes such thought by directly stating: "And, indeed, where sin reigns, we shall find nothing but the wrath of God, which draws death along with it."

Calvin further states: "...when the question relates to the origin of our salvation, we quickly form diabolical imaginations about our own merits. Accordingly, we imagine that God is reconciled to us, because he has reckoned us worthy that he should look upon us. But Scripture everywhere extols his pure and unmingled mercy, which sets aside all merits." In other words (Bill's words), there is nothing loveable about us. As stated in Romans 8:13-16: "Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." God loves those on whom He elects to have mercy according to his choice and purpose. See also Romans 9:11.

In conclusion, if the reader really want to understand what Calvin thought of John 3:16, then he or she can read his whole commentary linked above. The reader will at least conclude that Calvin himself did not think God loves everyone.

Stephen Garrett said...

Brother Phil:

Just as God is the Savior of all men, specially of those who believe (elect), so is he the Lover of all men, specially of those who believe.

Also, God loving the "world" means the world "without distinction," not the world "without exception." Also, God may have had the salvation of the "race," as a "race," in mind when he said this. His intention is to save humanity. This is accomplished even though some are excluded.

God loves those he chastens. Some are bastards and not sons, not loved. God loves the church in a way he does not love all men.

As far as the offer of the gospel being "well-meant" or "sincere," I go back to the passage cited above (I Tim. 4: 10) and say - he is sincere with all men but especially sincere with the elect.

God bless

Stephen

LC said...

Refomed Doctrine:

Cannons of Dort, Rejection of Errors paragraph 5:

"Paragraph 5
Error: The corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (which for the Arminians is the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, that is, the evangelical or saving grace, and salvation itself."

Note it delineates between "common grace" and what the arminians call "light of nature". This is rejecting that one can use common grace or prevenient grace to come to salvation but not excluding the principle.

Great post Phil. I know a high calvinist here who makes this same logic: love opposite hate, therefore God loves only elect. This is the essence of non-exegetical calvinism and causes funny interpretations of matt 5:43.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Reformed Doctrine,

Hey there,

If you are interested, I have collected all of Calvin's relevant statents on John 3:16 here: John Calvin on John 3:16

And if you are interested, see this: The Historicity of the Reformed Doctrine of Electing and non-Electing love

You will have to scroll down. That is the index page. You will not agree with everything, but the resources there are solid.

One last link. I challenge Engelsma's use of Turretin here: David Engelsma and “Hypercalvinism and the Call of the Gospel”
Engelsma misuses Calvin and Turretin.

If you want to talk further feel free. Use the index at will. Scroll down and scope out all the various topics. It is all primary source driven with little to no comment from me.

Cheers,
David

Daryl said...

Great post Phil, it's making me thing.

A couple of illustrations that come to mind:

Firstly - I love kids, but I only invite 5 particular kids to my table at dinner time.

Secondly - Ravi Zacharias tells a story of how his father prayed when the type and scope of Ravi's calling was becoming clear. It was something along the lines of "Father, thank you that, when appointing someone to this task, you thought of our family, and chose Ravi."

Both faulty examples I realize, but I really like how Ravi's father recognized the love God expressed to the family in chosing Ravi (but not all of the family) for the job. In the same way could not John 3:16 be expressing God's love for the world by chosing some out of that world?

Also, in appointing blame to God, we look at his decision to not call some. Are we not better served in seeing fallen humanities willingness to sin, thereby demonstrating God's love in the calling of the wicked?

That "God is not a liar" buit is so huge. He tells us both, that he loves all and that he choses some.
We all apportion love out differently to different people according to our own will, why should we not afford God the same latitude?

Daryl said...

Ah...mmm...making me THINK...

Natrimony said...

While in agreement with the meat of your post I find it odd that you would recommend R.L. Dabney as one who provides analysis of God's love.

"Dabney is a well
known theologian in Presbyterian circles, yet hear his racist views:
“While we believe that ‘God made of one blood all nations of men to dwell under
the whole heavens,’ ... “we know that the African has become . . . a different,
fixed species of the race, separated from the white man by traits bodily, mental
and moral, almost as rigid and permanent as those of genus.”2
He argued that blacks have “parasitical servility and dependence of nature, which
characterizes the race everywhere, and in all ages.”
http://www.cityreformed.org/snoke/racism.pdf

As a southern Presbyterian myself and am ashamed of some of the aspects of my heritage. Furthermore, I see Dabney's pro-slavery position acting to discredit him as an authentic promoter of anything like a balanced view of universal love.

Mike Riccardi said...

Rick,

I agree with you that the manner in which God "loved" the world was the atonement itself. But that doesn't necessarily lead to Arminian conclusions.

The cross had an affect on everyone who ever lived, but it affected the elect and the non-elect differently. For the elect, it purchased their salvation. For the non-elect, it purchased common grace, mercy, the lack of an immediate banishment to hell.

Let me reproduce a portion of a transcript of one of Phil's seminars that helped me tremendously in understanding what the Scriptures teach about this issue.

Now meanwhile, there are certain benefits of the atonement that accrue directly to the non-elect, the reprobate. Spurgeon said it well in a sermon entitled “Good Cheer for Many that Fear”, Spurgeon said this: “We believe that by His atoning sacrifice, Christ bought some good things for all men and all good things for some men. And that when He died He had a definite purpose in dying and that His purpose will certainly be effected.”

Now what specifically did Spurgeon have in mind when He said that “Christ bought some good things for all men?” Well clearly, he was speaking of common grace, the goodness of God that is shown to all men. The common blessings of life. This is the grace that keeps the evil in the world from being as bad as it can possibly be. Common grace is the grace that permits all sinners to live and enjoy life under a temporary reprieve from just judgment and justice even though they’re worthy of instant damnation. Common grace delays that. Common grace is also the grace that pleads tenderly and earnestly with sinners to repent and to be reconciled to God, even though they’re hearts are set against Him. And according to Matthew 5:44-45, these common grace blessings are tokens of God’s genuine love. Scripture does not hesitate to apply the expression “love” here. For those of you who may be my Calvinist brethren out there who balk at saying that, “God loves the whole world.” Scripture doesn’t balk at that. This goodness that He shows even to the reprobate is a sincere compassionate love even though it’s not the same eternal redemptive love that God has set on the elect from all eternity. It’s love of a different sort but it’s true love. It’s genuine love. It’s heartfelt compassion. It’s real goodness. And if you think about it you’ll realize that all of the good things God gives us, all the blessings of common grace, all of them are made possible by the atonement. Because if God had no intention to save anyone, ever, He would have instantly damned the whole human race the minute Adam sinned. That’s what He did with the angels that fell. They were cast out of heaven at once and no atonement will ever be made for the sins of any angel. They were immediately judged and deposed without any grace period. But by contrast, the human race, fallen though we are, for the most part, lives and enjoys life in a world where even though we are under the curse of sin we’re blessed to an amazing degree with a providential good God gives us. We see beauty. We enjoy the taste of our food. John MacArthur always says, “God could’ve, if He wanted to, made all our food taste like sand.” But He was good to us. He gave us things we would enjoy. He gave us all things richly to enjoy. We laugh and experience joy and appreciate love and we relish the good things of life and all of those things are ultimately made possible by the atoning work of Christ. None of them would have been possible, at all, if Christ had not intended to die to save sinners. God would have damned us instead. And even the reprobate, even the non-elect benefit from Christ’s death in that way. The crumbs that fall from the table, God spreads for His elect, are a veritable feast for the reprobate who experience all of the blessings of common grace. That is a side benefit of the cross. And it’s an expression of God’s goodness towards them.


So you see, the same act of love is wrought differently in manner and degree. All good things for some men, some good things for all men.

yankeerev said...

Yes, I had this conversation yesterday with a person in my flock. It is too bad that sometimes what keeps people away from Calvinism is Calvinism (or, at least what people perceive it to be based on their experiences).

Rick Frueh said...

Mike - I do not desire a discussion on the expanse of the atonement, but I do contend that the atonement is the only expression of God's love which is always redemptive. Therefore either God loves all sinners while still alive, or he cannot love those He did not show and express His love for through the offer of atonement.

The common grace issue is a man made term. It rains of the just and the unjust, so creation was made for those whom God loved and those, if any, outside His love are allowed to experience the creation but it was not given to them and therefore cannot be considered an act of grace toward them. They are enemies hiding in God's field and soon to be uncovered.

David Dittmer said...

I am a youth pastor at a Southern Baptist church. I am a Calvinist and my pastor is Arminian. He has an earned doctorate, I haven't even graduated from Bible college yet. We have discussed the issues surrounding the theological differences that we have. Essentially his argument is that it would insincere on the part of God to command universal repentance yet only enable a few to actually do so. What would be the best way to respond to this?

reformeddoctrine said...

One cannot prove God's love to everyone by pointing out the good things that they receive.

There is no doubt that the nonelect wicked receive good things. Does this necessitate that God loves those nonelect wicked or have any favor toward them? Of course not. "Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction." Psalm 73:18.

There is also no doubt that the elect righteous are afflicted. Think of Job. Does this necessitate that God hates or does not favor those afflicted elect righteous? Of course not.

"Confusion of grace and providence is inexcusable for Reformed theologians and churches. The Reformed creeds plainly and sharply distinguish these two powers and works of God. The consequences of this confusion are destructive of the biblical, Reformed faith and life.

Providence, which follows upon the work of creation in the beginning, is divine power that keeps all things in existence and governs them (Heid. Cat., Lord's Day 10; West. Conf., 5). Grace, which carries out the work of redemption, is divine power that blesses and saves guilty, depraved sinners (Heid. Cat., Lord's Days 11-33; West. Conf., 7-18)." Professor David J. Engelsma, in his article "He shines in all that is fair". Here is the link -
http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_89.html

Consider also Ephesians 5:25-28:
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies."

This is a peculiar love, a special love just for His church. Just as a husband should not love and give himself up for all women, but only his own wife, Christ loved only the church and gave Himself up only for the church, not for all the world. What would we think of our spouse, if we asked our spouse if he or she loves us, and the spouse answered: "Yes, I love everyone!"

In conclusion, Psalm 5:5 simply states: "The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity." I have read through the Bible many times and have also done a Gateway word search for love and hate. I have not found any Scripture showing God's love or even favor to the nonelect.

donsands said...

"Essentially his argument is that it would insincere on the part of God to command universal repentance yet only enable a few to actually do so. What would be the best way to respond to this?"

Or it would be unfair is what he is saying.

Would it be fair for God to judge all of us? And to not show mercy to any?

Stefan said...

David:

I cannot give you the deep theological arguments you would need—which you probably know already anyhow, and others can provide as well—but one thing that bothers me about the Arminian position is this:

How cruel would it be if God left fallen humans to their own devices, and left their salvation up to themselves? What a hopeless world we would live in. Thank God for His grace and mercy, that He takes the initiative to save us! That He would condescend to save even one soul makes Him infinitely more compassionate than if He left every person without exception to bring themselves to Him.

Stefan said...

David:

Also, the article The Free Offer of the Gospel that Phil linked to may help you—since it addresses your senior pastor's objection head on—although the challenge would be to boil down that long, dense essay into something that you can easily convey to your senior pastor.

Flynn said...

Hey Reformed Doctrine,

I see about three basic arguments in your post.

1) There can be no inference from the giving of the good gift to the motive of the giver. We cannot infer a disposition of kindness from the giving of good things.

However, the Reformed, right across the board has said we can. The basic texts for this are 1)

Matthew 5:44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Calvin, Owen and many others can see the parallelism here between the doing good to, and the love that motivates that kind action.

Luke 6:35 "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Again, the connection between doing good and the motivate of kindness, and how this is an imitation of God. Cf John Owen on this: John Owen on General Love

2) Your second critical argument is this that grace (and love and mercy?) are never said to be expressed to the non-elect. I think that can be deal with by verses like these: Isaiah 26:10 Though the wicked is shown favor, He does not learn righteousness; He deals unjustly in the land of uprightness, And does not perceive the majesty of the LORD.

You might want to consult Calvin on that.

Hosea 9:15 All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.

2 Samuel 7:15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.

It is clear that something was turned aside, ie taken away, from Saul, and that was the lovingkindness of God.

3) Ps 5:5 does not say, nor should it be taken to say that God only hates the reprobate. The term refers to all sinners.

For example, we are all liars. Proverbs 6:16 There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood,

This is said to the then covenanted community. Unless one says the elect are never guilty of lying, I don’t know how the implication that God does, indeed, has to, hate them, in some sense, does not follow.

And conversely, you may want to read: Jeremiah 12:7 "I have forsaken My house, I have abandoned My inheritance; I have given the beloved of My soul Into the hand of her enemies. 8 "My inheritance has become to Me Like a lion in the forest; She has roared against Me; Therefore I have come to hate her.

The object of love becomes an object of abomination.

I would still encourage you to scope out the actual history of Reformed theology on these various points: Meta-Links (Indexes)

take care,
David

Stefan said...

And Leviticus 19:33-34, extending God's common grace to those who were not among His chosen people:

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

philness said...

I think God does make a proposal of mercy and reconciliation to all who hear. But God is the only one to turn the hearing on through our faithful and prepared preaching of the Word.

Flynn said...

hey Stefan,

I think this is even better:

Deuteronomy 10:18 "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.


David

Stefan said...

Re my last comment: "His covenant people" is probably the more precise term, but y'all know what I mean.

Stefan said...

Flynn:

Yeah, that verse was in the back of my mind, but I couldn't recall it offhand. Thanks.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Phil:

A difficulty for some Calvinists, on this point, is the fact that Jesus, as a man at least, loved every man, loved his neighbor. Did this include desiring their eternal salvation? Did Christ, as a man, hate the non-elect?

God bless,

Stephen

The Seeking Disciple said...

This post will no doubt bother many hyper-Calvinist! That God loves the world is simply unfathomable to hyper-Calvinist.

Polycarp said...

Probably the best discussion I've seen here thus far, and I've arrived late in the game. Even if I had arrived early, I think I'd just prefer to sit back and absorb the fine theological discussion on tap here today by so many voices with strong ethos! Some heavy stuff to wrestle with, and Phil naturally keeps slamming doctrinal home run hits out of the park! Too many others to list are also doing a superb job at providing such clear and concise explanations supported by scripture! Bravo!

reformeddoctrine said...

I will answer three points.

First, yes, the giving of good gifts can be motivated by love, but it is not always motivated by love. Sometimes, the giving of good gifts is motivated by providence. See Psalm 73 and my comment above between the difference of grace and providence.

Second, what does God do with such love and favor? Is he only able to give common grace good gifts to those who have free will and reject him? Or, does God save all of those whom He loves?

Third, is God immutable (unchangeable) or does He change His love toward us based on our actions of free will? Does God really love us one day and then hate us the next, or does He maintain His love for the elect and preserve the elect from the foundation of the world?

Let us also look at Luke 6:35 in connection with the point that God saves those whom He loves.

"Defenders of common grace assume that the unthankful and evil who are the objects of God's kindness in Luke 6:35 are all men without exception, thus including those whom He reprobated. Assuming this, they do not bother carefully to explain the last part of Luke 6:35 in the light of its context. It is enough that they cite it. But this begs the question. All agree that God is kind to unthankful and evil people. What needs to be proved is that God is kind to all humans who are unthankful and evil. More specifically, what needs to be proved is that God is kind to unthankful and evil reprobates.

What Manner of Kindness?

Plainly, Luke 6:35 cannot bear the interpretation given it by the defenders of common grace. This interpretation is that God is kind to reprobate unthankful and evil men with a non-saving, common grace kindness. As Dr. Mouw puts it, God's kindness in Luke 6:35 is a "positive, albeit non-salvific, regard for those who are not elect" (p. 82). But the text teaches the saving grace, or kindness, of God toward unthankful and evil people. The word that is translated "kind" is the Greek word chreestos. This word is used of God elsewhere in the New Testament in I Peter 2:3 and in Romans 2:4. In I Peter 2:3, where the King James Version translates the word as "gracious," the word refers to God's kindness in saving His elect. "As newborn babes," regenerated believers are to desire the sincere milk of the Word, "if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious (Greek: chreestos)." In Romans 2:4, the King James Version translates chreestos as "goodness": "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" Inasmuch as this goodness, or kindness, of God leads one to repentance, it is a saving kindness, not a common grace kindness." Professor David J. Engelsma, in his article "He shines in all that is fair". Here is the link -
http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_89.html

Michael said...

Rick,

You mentioned earlier (at least in part) that "...creation was made for those whom God loved..." I'm unfamiliar with the scripture supporting the notion that God brought creation into being for those whom He loved...would you share that?

You also mentioned that "God loves us because we are in the Son, not because He created us." Who is the "us" in your statement?

If the "us" in your statement is humanity at large, that seems to fly in the face of numerous Old Testament passages in which God very clearly states that His love is directed at a chosen people, and away from others.

Flynn said...

Hey there Reformed Doctrine,

You say: First, yes, the giving of good gifts can be motivated by love, but it is not always motivated by love. Sometimes, the giving of good gifts is motivated by providence. See Psalm 73 and my comment above between the difference of grace and providence.

David: Well that's part of the problem here. We have two doctrine of God’s specifically two understandings of his moral attributes. The Reformed say that God is naturally good. He naturally and freely wills to do good. All good things are sincerely given by God to direct men back to himself. Roms 2:4. (Consult Calvin again on this). God never gives a good gift purely to entrap and cause greater affliction. God gives that men look to him in faith. Ps 73 speaks of the wicked whom God has blessed, but refuse to acknowledge him: in this sense, God brings about their own condemnation due to their own follow. Calvin again is very good. God, says Calvin, has cherished these men, but they reject it, and in their final wickedness they stand to be condemned.

Turretin says, on the supposition of the sinners rebellion, the gift lovingly given, serves to increase their condemnation Insitutes, 2:588.

You say: Second, what does God do with such love and favor? Is he only able to give common grace good gifts to those who have free will and reject him? Or, does God save all of those whom He loves?

David: Not sure of the point of that. God gives grace that the man learn righteousness, that the man be directed to repentance (Isa 26:10, Roms 2:4; again scope out Calvin on Romans 2:4).

Does God save all those whom he loves? No, for he does not love all equally. Those whom he loves electingly, he saves.

You say: Third, is God immutable (unchangeable) or does He change His love toward us based on our actions of free will? Does God really love us one day and then hate us the next, or does He maintain His love for the elect and preserve the elect from the foundation of the world?

David: Scripture is clear. God says I shall love them no more. God says he took away his lovingkindness from Saul. There are other verses, but these two, at least, need to be dealt with. God loved and hated the same persons (in different sense of course), in Jer 12.

You say: Let us also look at Luke 6:35 in connection with the point that God saves those whom He loves.

And you cite: "Defenders of common grace assume that the unthankful and evil who are the objects of God's kindness in Luke 6:35 are all men without exception, thus including those whom He reprobated. Assuming this, they do not bother carefully to explain the last part of Luke 6:35 in the light of its context. It is enough that they cite it. But this begs the question. All agree that God is kind to unthankful and evil people. What needs to be proved is that God is kind to all humans who are unthankful and evil. More specifically, what needs to be proved is that God is kind to unthankful and evil reprobates.

David: Again, Calvin, and just about all the Reformed reason that in the basis of the universality and generality of rain and sun, this demonstrates God’s love to all. And in Luke 6:35, the term is general, the ungrateful. Its inclusive.

You quote: Plainly, Luke 6:35 cannot bear the interpretation given it by the defenders of common grace. This interpretation is that God is kind to reprobate unthankful and evil men with a non-saving, common grace kindness. As Dr. Mouw puts it, God's kindness in Luke 6:35 is a "positive, albeit non-salvific, regard for those who are not elect" (p. 82). But the text teaches the saving grace, or kindness, of God toward unthankful and evil people. The word that is translated "kind" is the Greek word chreestos. This word is used of God elsewhere in the New Testament in I Peter 2:3 and in Romans 2:4. In I Peter 2:3, where the King James Version translates the word as "gracious," the word refers to God's kindness in saving His elect.

David: You see, in Roms 2:4 the word references the wicked who store up wrath against themselves.

Quotation continued: "As newborn babes," regenerated believers are to desire the sincere milk of the Word, "if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious (Greek: chreestos)." In Romans 2:4, the King James Version translates chreestos as "goodness": "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" Inasmuch as this goodness, or kindness, of God leads one to repentance, it is a saving kindness, not a common grace kindness." Professor David J. Engelsma, in his article "He shines in all that is fair".

David: I am not sure what the argument was in all that. It seems to amount to this: that the word over here (allegedly) references the elect, the word everywhere must reference to elect. And on top of that is the assumption that the “man” in Roms 2:4 is the elect man. That is not that plausible.

Rom2:3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

David: looks pretty solid to me, the same man is in view in all references. The “you”(v4) refers back to the man in v3.

But apart from all that, you still have the problem of those verses I posted earlier. God himself has no problem telling us that he took away his love, or that he stopped loving or that he once loved what he now hates.

Take care,
David

reformeddoctrine said...

First, the receipt of good gifts or prosperity do not necessarily meaning that God loves or favors the recipient.

Calvin states in his Commentary on Psalm 73: "At last he concludes that, provided we leave the providence of God to take its own course, in the way which he has determined in his secret purpose, in the end, matters will assume a very different aspect, and it will be seen, that, on the one hand, the righteous are not defrauded of their reward, and that, on the other, the wicked do not escape the hand of the judge."

Thus, although the wicked may prosper, they are not loved by God nor favored. Although the righteous may suffer, God is their strength and portion forever.

Second, Scripture makes it clear how God manifests love. "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him."
1 John 4:9. God manifests His love by saving those whom He loves. There is no different kind of love, no love unable to save, and certainly no love for everybody.

In conclusion, different commentators like to state without any support the Reformed confessions express or imply that God loves everybody as if that empty conclusion should end the debate. So, I will mention all three of the Reformed Confessions: The Belgic Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort, in seeking to determine and state what they say about whether or not God loves everybody.

In Article 15 of The Belgic Confession, the corruption of all nature "is so vile and enormous in God's sight that it is enough to condemn the human race".

In the following Article 16 under the title "The Doctrine of Election", nothing is said about common grace or any love or favor that God has to the nonelect. Rather, it only states about such nonelect: "he is just in leaving the others to their ruin and fall into which they plunged themselves."

In the Heidelberg Catechism:
"Q & A 10
Q. Will God permit
such disobedience and rebellion
to go unpunished?

A. Certainly not.
He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity. He has declared:
"Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."
Nothing is mentioned in the Heidelberg Catechism about God loving everybody or any favor toward the nonelect.

In the Canons of Dort, Article 2 defines God's love as a saving love alone. "Article 2: The Manifestation of God's Love

But this is how God showed his love: he sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

No where else in the Canons of Dort does it refer to any love or favor of God to the nonelect.

Instead it states the following in Article 15: "Reprobation

Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God's eternal election— those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision:

to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice.

And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger."

Rick Frueh said...

The "us" is the redeemed. I believe creation was for man, ansd specifically for the redeemed men and women.

What is love? Is it passive (emotion) or is it active? Love that is not revealed in action is not love, and in God's case redemption is God's love.

Jesus says to the Father "I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved them" (Jn.17:23)

Now if God loves the non-elect, then he loves them not with some "common grace", He loves them just as He loves Jesus. God's redemption IS God's love, and without redemption there is no love regardless how we struggle to define a lesser divine love.

Flynn said...

Hey there Reformed Doctrine,

The discussion is moving to historical theology it seems. I don’t mind, but some critical verses have been adduced as well.

Reformed Doctrine: First, the receipt of good gifts or prosperity do not necessarily meaning that God loves or favors the recipient.

David: The thing is, thats not how it works. When a person does a good deed in my behalf, and yet if his motive is SOLELY to increase my affliction, we say that man is insincere and a hypocritic. It’s the practical equivalent of “they honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.”

You cite Calvin: Calvin states in his Commentary on Psalm 73: "At last he concludes that, provided we leave the providence of God to take its own course, in the way which he has determined in his secret purpose, in the end, matters will assume a very different aspect, and it will be seen, that, on the one hand, the righteous are not defrauded of their reward, and that, on the other, the wicked do not escape the hand of the judge."

David: exactly. In the secret determination of God, and on the supposition of sin, all the good that God gives to the wicked, who reject it, will work to their greater condemnation. But the motive there is not simple, but complex. For Calvin, the direct motive is to call men back to him. But on the supposition of their sin, God’s motive is to use it to increase their condemnation.

So to balance out Calvin:

Calvin: Some here take the Hebrew word, olam, for the world, but improperly. It rather denotes in this passage an age; and what David complains of is, that the prosperity of the wicked is stable and of long duration, and that to see it last so long wears out the patience of the righteous. Upon seeing the wicked so tenderly cherished by God, he descends to the consideration of his own case; and as his conscience bore him testimony that he had walked sincerely and uprightly, he reasons with himself as to what advantage he had derived from studiously devoting himself to the practice of righteousness, since he was afflicted and harassed in a very unusual degree. Calvin, Ps 73: 12. See here: Calvin on General Love. Note he says they were tenderly cherished. Grab a good dictionary and you will see that cherish is a synonym for love.

You say: Thus, although the wicked may prosper, they are not loved by God nor favored. Although the righteous may suffer, God is their strength and portion forever.

David: But Calvin and Scripture affirm otherwise. We have already adduced verses to this. Take Dt 10:18 for example. The alien is not the Jew. The alien was the uncircumcised, the stranger in Isreal. And one cannot say every alien was elect. The Jew was to love the Alien, all of them obvious, because God loves the Alien, and again, all of them obviously.

You say: Second, Scripture makes it clear how God manifests love. "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him."
1 John 4:9. God manifests His love by saving those whom He loves. There is no different kind of love, no love unable to save, and certainly no love for everybody.

David: But now if Scripture speaks of more than one type of love, John cannot be saying what you allege. I have already shown as Saul was loved, and that this love was removed from him. Saul was not elect. I have already shown of a love removed in Hos 9:15.

You might also consider reading Calvin on Jn 12:47 etc. You may be surprised.

You say: In conclusion, different commentators like to state without any support the Reformed confessions express or imply that God loves everybody as if that empty conclusion should end the debate. So, I will mention all three of the Reformed Confessions: The Belgic Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort, in seeking to determine and state what they say about whether or not God loves everybody.

David: Well I am here not asserting that these confessions assert general love and mercy. I would like to see from you tho where they deny it?

But to the HC, I refer you to the author’s [Ursinus] own interpretation of the catechism he co-wrote:

Merciful. God’s mercy appears in this: 1. That he wills the salvation of all men. 2. That he defers punishment, and invites all to repentance. 3. That he accommodates himself to our infirmity. 4. That he redeems those who are called into his service. 5. That he gave and delivered up to death his only begotten Son. 6. That he promises and does all these things most freely out of his mercy. 7. That he confers benefits upon his enemies, and such as are unworthy of his regard. Obj. 1. But God seems to take pleasure in avenging himself upon the ungodly. Ans. Only in as far as it is the execution of his justice. Obj. 2. He refuses mercy to the ungodly. Ans. Only to such as do not repent. Obj. 3. He does not save all when he has the power. Ans. God acts thus that he may exhibit his justice with his mercy. Obj. 4. He does not exercise his mercy without a sufficient satisfaction. Ans. Yet he has most freely given his Son, that he might make satisfaction by his death.

Bountiful. God is said to be bountiful; I. Because he creates and preserves all thing. 2. Because he confers benefits upon all, even upon the wicked. 3. Because of the free and boundless love which he exercises towards his creatures, especially to man. 4. Because of the love which he cherished towards the church, and in giving eternal life and glory to his people. Obj. 1. But the Scriptures speak of God as cherishing anger. Ans. Be is angry with sin and depravity, but not with his creatures. Obj. 2. God often inflicts punishment upon his creatures. Ans. Only upon such as are impenitent. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 8, Q 25, p., 127.
See here: Ursinus on the General Love of God and other Divine Attributes

God wills and desires the salvation of all:

1) Obj. 3. What God desires us to do, we have the power of doing. God desires us to do that which contributes to our well-being. Therefore, we have the ability, of ourselves, to do that which is good, and consequently do not need the grace and influence of the Holy Spirit. Ans. There is in this syllogism, an incorrect chain of reasoning, arising from the ambiguity of the word desire. In the major, it is used in its ordinary and proper sense. But in the minor, it is used improperly; for God is here said to desire, through a figure of speech, by which he is represented as being affected after the manner of men. Hence, there is a different kind of affirmation in the major from what there is in the minor God desires in two respects. First, in respect to his commandments and invitations. Secondly, in respect to the love which he cherishes towards his creatures, and the torments of those that perish, but not in respect to the execution of his justice. Reply. He who invites others to do that which is good, and rejoice in their well-doing, declares that it is in their power to do this, and not in the power of him who invites. But God invites us to do that which is good, and approves of our conduct when we thus act. Therefore, it is in our power to do the good. Ans. We deny the minor proposition; because it is not sufficient for God to invite. It is also necessary that our wills consent to do the good, which they will not do unless God incline them. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3, Q 7, S 3, pp., 63-64. More can be seen here: Ursinus on the Will of God

You say: In the following Article 16 under the title "The Doctrine of Election", nothing is said about common grace or any love or favor that God has to the nonelect. Rather, it only states about such nonelect: "he is just in leaving the others to their ruin and fall into which they plunged themselves."

You cite the HC:

In the Heidelberg Catechism:
"Q & A 10
Q. Will God permit
such disobedience and rebellion
to go unpunished?

David: Sure, I have no problem with what it says. But don’t fall into the error of reading the Catechism against the very author’s own interpretation and intent.

You say: In the Canons of Dort, Article 2 defines God's love as a saving love alone. "Article 2: The Manifestation of God's Love

You say: But this is how God showed his love: he sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

You say: No where else in the Canons of Dort does it refer to any love or favor of God to the nonelect.

David: Where do they deny it? I am not sure why I would expect Dort to affirm this doctrine. I do know that the mainstream Dutch Community seems to have received and embraced common grace and its connected doctrines. For example, see Johannes VanderKemp on the three points of common grace

You state: Instead it states the following in Article 15: "Reprobation

Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God's eternal election— those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice.

David: But again, in no way does the doctrine of reprobation exclude or deny common grace, general love or the free offer.

So to wrap up,

1) I grant that the confessions are not as explicit as their authors were on this topic. I don’t need to defend that.

2) Scripture clearly speaks of a love and grace given and imparted to the reprobate which does not effect their regeneration, nor which impugns the immutability of God.

3) Reformed history consistently affirmed all the tenets of common grace and general love. History is definitely not on the side of the PRC here.

Have a good evening,
David
Calvin and Calvinism

reformeddoctrine said...

I would like to comment on the verse used in the post to prove that God loves everybody. It was Psalm 145:9: "The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works."

However, what is the context of this verse? Who are "all" and "all His works"? Here are the following verses, and the reader can see and conclude for himself or herself that these "all" are all the righteous elect rather than everybody.

10 All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
12 To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
14 The LORD sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.
16 You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
18 The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
20 The LORD keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.

In conclusion, notice the last phrase of verse 20 that it states: "... But all the wicked He will destroy." Not much love or favor for the wicked there. Notice the contrast within verse 20 of the love and favor for the righteous elect (all who love him) and the destruction for the wicked. Yes, there may be good gifts of providence such as food for the wicked, but there is certainly no lesser love or favor there for the wicked.

Flynn said...

Hey Reformed Doctrine,

You say:

I would like to comment on the verse used in the post to prove that God loves everybody.

David says: I would love to see you comment on the verses and documentation I have adduced already. :)

So before I exit, I will leave the readers with the pleasure of reading Calvin again. It is just about my favorite Calvin comment:

We now see why an oath is interposed, while he pronounces that he will take care that the Jews should not ridicule any longer. Behold, says he, all souls are mine; as the sole of the son so the soul of the father, all souls are mine; the soul, therefore, which has sinned it shall die. Some interpreters explain the beginning of the verse thus: that men vainly and rashly complain when God seems to treat them too severely, since the clay does not rise against the potter. Since God is the maker of the whole world, we are his workmanship: what madness, then, to rise up against him when he does not satisfy us: and we saw this simile used by Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 18:6.) The sentiment, then, is true in itself, that all souls are under God’s sovereignty by the right of creation, and therefore he can arbitrarily determine for each whatever he wishes; and all who clamor against him reap no profit: and this teaching it is advantageous to notice. But this passage ought to be understood otherwise; namely, that nothing is more unworthy than that God should be accused of tyrannizing over men, when he rather defends them, as being his own workmanship. When, therefore, God pronounces that all souls are his own, he does not merely claim sovereignty and power, but he rather shows that he is affected with fatherly love towards the whole human race since he created and formed it; for, if a workman loves his work because he recognizes in it the fruits of his industry, so, when God has manifested his power and goodness in the formation of men, he must certainly embrace them with affection. True, indeed, we are abominable in God’s sight, through being corrupted by original sin, as it is elsewhere said, (Psalm 14:1, 2;) but inasmuch as we are men, we must be dear to God, and our salvation must be precious in his sight. We now see what kind of refutation this is: all souls are mine, says he: I have formed all, and am the creator of all, and so I am affected with fatherly love towards all, and they shall rather feel my clemency, from the least to the greatest, than experience too much rigor and severity. Calvin, Ezekiel 18:1-4.

Have a good night,
David

Phil Johnson said...

Thanks, Flynn. Great quotation, well placed.

That's a good place to close this thread, too. I flew home from Florida today, and I have to catch up on a ton of stuff this weekend, and I feel bad I haven't been able to participate in this thread.

It seems to me, however, that the whole objection against common grace (and God's love of compassion toward the reprobate) boils down to this: If God intends to punish them with eternal destruction for their sin, then He can't possibly have any kind of authentic love them whatsoever--which is a classic circular argument.

The question in the first place is not about whether God will send the reprobate to hell. Everyone engaged in this conversation agrees on that. The question is whether God's pleas for their repentance, His offers of mercy, His acts of kindness toward them, etc. are well-meant, or merely a facade behind which God conceals His hatred in order to increase the damnation of those whom He intends to destroy.

I think Scripture is clear. So I'll tell you what: I'll make another post on this subject in 2 or 3 weeks, and we'll take it up again at that point.

For now, the thread is closed. Thanks to all who commented.