By Spencer D Gear
How would you respond to these kinds of claims?
God ‘chooses to have mercy on some, and chooses to let the others go down their own rebellious path and get the justice that is owed them’.
‘God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell’.
‘Nobody receives injustice at God’s hands’.
‘Why does God decree through TULIP that a large section of humanity will be forced into hell because they cannot believe? Would you treat anyone that way?’
‘If God had not chosen to save some, nobody would be saved’.
‘Why does God choose to save some and damn the rest, according to Calvinism?’
‘Reformed Calvinistic theology does not teach that anyone is forced to do anything. But rather, it teaches that people always do what they desire to do’.
‘It’s not the injustice of the God revealed in Scripture, it’s the injustice (as I see it) in the ULI of TULIP’.
For a summary of the Reformed Calvinistic view of TULIP, see R C Sproul’s explanation:
On a Christian forum, a Calvinist asked: ‘Perhaps you’d like to answer why God throws anyone in Hell for eternity simply because they don’t believe in Him? Would you treat anyone that way?’
My response was: ‘Or would it be better to ask as a Calvinist: ‘Why does God decree through TULIP that a large section of humanity will be forced into hell because they cannot believe? Would you treat anyone that way?’
His reply was: ‘I guess that’s a good question if you like building straw men [fallacies]’. It was no logical fallacy and it seemed to be his way of backing off from the consequences of the TULIP theology, and I told him.
He continued his straw man allegation:
Since your question doesn’t reflect anything about what I, or any Calvinist I know, believes, it’s a straw man. So, it’s not the consequence of my position. But if you think that’s what Calvinism teaches, then I think I know why you dislike it so much.
If you’d like, I can link you to some resources.
He proceeded to make the allegation to others of my creating a straw man fallacy in my question re TULIP implications, so I book him up on it after he stated, ‘If you want to know what Calvinism teaches, read the Canons of Dort. If you do so, you will know that Oz’s question was a straw man’. I replied:
Since you are quoting my statement to others, it seems as though I need to make a clarification or further explanation. This was my interaction at #179:
Perhaps you’d like to answer why God throws anyone in Hell for eternity simply because they don’t believe in Him? Would you treat anyone that way?
Or would it be better to ask as a Calvinist: ‘Why does God decree through TULIP that a large section of humanity will be forced into hell because they cannot believe? Would you treat anyone that way?’
You are claiming my response is a straw man. It is NOT, for the following reasons:
- Unconditional election means that SOME people are forced (decreed) into the kingdom of God by God’s immutable choice.
- Limited atonement (LA) means that Jesus died for SOME people, but not for the rest. They have no possibility of entering eternal life because of God’s unchanging determination of limited atonement (others call it particular redemption).
- Irresistible grace means that SOME people are forced (decreed) into the kingdom because there is no possibility of saying ‘No’ to salvation.
But what about the rest of humanity? They are forced (decreed) to endure damnation by God, not for a lifetime, but for eternity. Double predestination is a logical conclusion of such theology.
Would you or I treat anyone that way? I wouldn’t. It seems to be a theology of injustice and I would never choose to treat people that way.
Therefore, I am not creating a straw man logical fallacy. I am providing an example of the meaning and implications for eternal damnation for a large section of humanity by Calvinistic theology.
Starting point: All humanity deserves hell
Another person, not the person to whom I responded, replied:
Reformed theology does not believe God pre-damns innocent people. It believes that God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell, and from that starting point, chooses to have mercy on some, and chooses to let the others go down their own rebellious path and get the justice that is owed them.
Thus, the first group gets mercy, unto the praise of God’s glorious grace.
The second group gets justice, for the display of God’s power and wrath (Rom 9).
As you can see, nobody receives injustice at God’s hands.
We believe that because of fallen man’s sinful nature and hostile attitude towards God, if God had not chosen to save some, nobody would be saved.
Thus, I hope you can see why we (the reformed) feel that God’s choosing of people for salvation is necessary if anyone at all is going to be saved.
Further, reformed theology does not teach that anyone is forced to do anything. But rather, it teaches that people always do what they desire to do. But because of the fall, nobody desires God, thus chooses accordingly. Thus, out of grace, God enters the scene and takes off our blindfold and changes our hearts, so that we are now willing to do what previously we were unwilling to do (submit to the gospel). This is why the Bible describes salvation as being “by grace”.
One of the difficulties with responding to posts on Internet forums is that many do not deal with the exact points raised and that was the case here. I tried to pick up some of his issues in this reply:
The injustice promoted by Calvinism
I asked him: Why do you choose not to deal with the matters as I raised? You did not choose to deal with my objections to TULIP. You gave me another round of your Calvinism, instead of interacting with me on the issues I raised.
Nowhere did I suggest that God pre-damns innocent people.
By the way, your view of ‘Reformed’ is limited. I, as a Reformed Arminian, am Reformed in my theology. To his dying day, Jacob Arminius was a Reformed minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. Why do you continue to use Reformed in a restricted way?
I agree with you that God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell, as you stated. But this is where you miss a dynamic that seems to elude you: Since ALL are deserving of hell, why are not ALL sent to hell by God? That would be justice. Why does God choose to save some and damn the rest, according to Calvinism?
Your language is that God ‘chooses to let the others go down their own rebellious path and get the justice that is owed them’. But that’s not what TULIP teaches.
It teaches that God chooses some unconditionally and leaves the rest to damnation – sounds like injustice to me. Also God chooses to allow Jesus to provide atonement for some and let the rest be damned – sounds like injustice to me. And, God chooses to irresistible draw some reprobates and let the rest be damned – sounds like injustice to me.
However, this is not the injustice of God. He is absolutely just / righteous. The problem is with ULI of TULIP – as I see it.
You say: ‘As you can see, nobody receives injustice at God’s hands’. That’s absolutely true, from God’s perspective. But from ULI theology, the damned who go to hell get injustice because they could NEVER, EVER BE SAVED because of ULI theology.
You want me to believe, ‘Thus, I hope you can see why we (the reformed) feel that God’s choosing of people for salvation is necessary if anyone at all is going to be saved’, and that Reformed refers to Calvinists. I, as a Reformed Arminian, understand that God’s choosing of people for salvation is not according to the ULI of Calvinism.
You want me to believe that ‘reformed theology does not teach that anyone is forced to do anything. But rather, it teaches that people always do what they desire to do’. ULI teaches that people have no say in responding to the offer of salvation; human responsibility in salvation is not part of the equation when God offers salvation and initiates salvation.
That sure sounds like forcing to me.
Maybe I’ve missed something here about ULI theology. Where in ULI theology is there any statement of the need for human responsibility in salvation, i.e. ‘You believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ where the ‘you believe’ really does include ‘you’?
How would a Calvinist reply?
This was his comeback:
I’m having trouble reconciling these two statements, perhaps you can help me [and he gave these 2 quotes allegedly from me]:
‘I agree with you that God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell’
‘God chooses to irresistibly draw some reprobates and let the rest be damned – sounds like injustice to me’ [quoting OzSpen]
As you can see, I am confused, because on the one hand, you agree that all men deserve hell, but on the other hand, you express that if some men are left to perish, that is injustice.
You say: ‘As you can see, nobody receives injustice at God’s hands’. That’s absolutely true, from God’s perspective. But from ULI theology, the damned who go to hell get injustice because they could NEVER, EVER BE SAVED because of ULI theology’ [quoting OzSpen].
Again, here you express that if God lets people go to hell, that is injustice. Even though above, you affirmed that men deserve hell. Are you suggesting that if God saves some people, that somehow means that the rest, suddenly, are not deserving of hell any longer?
‘That sure sounds like forcing to me’ [quoting OzSpen]
Oz if you are unconscious and dying, and I give you CPR and resuscitate you, would you say that I “forced” you survive, as if somehow, I was doing something against your will? A better way of wording this would be, would I be overcoming some kind of resistance on your part, thus doing something “against” your will?
As you can see, an unconscious person is not putting up any resistance. He is simply the recipient of the life-saving technique being applied to him. In the same way, a dead person is not putting up a resistence [sic] against being resurrected. In fact since he is dead, his volition is not involved at all, regarding whether or not he is resurrected. In spiritual matters, the analogy works the same way. This is why the Holy Spirit described regeneration, in John chapter 3, as being His work alone, like the “wind”, it “blows wherever it wishes”.
‘Maybe I’ve missed something here about ULI theology. Where in ULI theology is there any statement of the need for human responsibility in salvation, i.e. “You believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” where the ‘you believe’ really does include ‘you’?’ [Quoting OzSpen]
In the Bible, the only thing a person contributes to his/her salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.
Yes, faith in Christ is mandatory for salvation, but praise God, He provided me what is necessary for salvation. (ie, I didn’t bring it to the table.) Thus, all praise and glory goes to Him. Salvation truly is, “all of grace”.
Over and over again
You are having trouble reconciling the two statements because you are quoting:
My Reformed Arminian view: ‘God views all humanity as sinful and guilty and deserving of hell Calvinistic view: God chooses to irresistible draw some reprobates. I added: ‘and let the rest be damned – sounds like injustice to me’. AND….
Your Calvinistic view: ‘As you can see, I am confused, because on the one hand, you agree that all men deserve hell, but on the other hand, you express that if some men are left to perish, that is injustice’.
The issue I’m raising is that Irresistible Grace, guaranteeing grace for salvation to some reprobates and no grace for salvation to the rest of the reprobates (as in TULIP), sure sounds like injustice to me. Grace for some and no grace for the rest for salvation. The problem is with TULIP and not with God.
Let’s agree: You and I are not going to agree on this one. You believe in irresistible grace and I don’t. [See my understanding in, ‘Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?’]
Reformed Arminian: ‘You say: “As you can see, nobody receives injustice at God’s hands”. That’s absolutely true, from God’s perspective. But from ULI theology, the damned who go to hell get injustice because they could NEVER, EVER BE SAVED because of ULI theology’.
Calvinistic view: ‘Again, here you express that if God lets people go to hell, that is injustice. Even though above, you affirmed that men deserve hell. Are you suggesting that if God saves some people, that somehow means that the rest, suddenly, are not deserving of hell any longer?’
That is your false understanding of what I stated. My view, as I stated, was that from God’s perspective, NOBODY gets injustice from Him. But ULI promotes injustice – in my view – as it promotes partiality. God is gracious to some but ungracious to the rest – he damns the rest. That’s not a problem with my theology of God; it’s an issue with TULIP theology.
‘Oz if you are unconscious and dying, and I give you CPR and resuscitate you, would you say that I “forced” you survive, as if somehow, I was doing something against your will? A better way of wording this would be, would I be overcoming some kind of resistance on your part, thus doing something “against” your will?’
That’s an invalid illustration as I’m talking of the ULI of Calvinistic theology and its unfairness to a large chunk of humanity as it excludes salvation from them by ULI decree.
You stated: ‘In the Bible, the only thing a person contributes to his/her salvation is the sin that makes it necessary’. That is not what the Bible states. This is biblical: ‘[You] believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household’ (Acts 16:31 ESV). There is no salvation unless there is co-operation by an individual person and he/she believes. That’s Bible.
‘Yes, faith in Christ is mandatory for salvation, but praise God, He provided me what is necessary for salvation. (ie, I didn’t bring it to the table.) Thus, all praise and glory goes to Him. Salvation truly is, “all of grace”’.
But he did not make that faith available to a large chunk of humanity because of the ULI of TULIP theology. That’s the injustice about which I write. It’s not the injustice of the God revealed in Scripture, it’s the injustice (as I see it) in the ULI of TULIP. The problem is not with God but with that brand of theology (Calvinism).
Calvinists on the merry-go-round
(courtesy Google public domain)
When Calvinists don’t want to deal with the consequences of their TULIP theology in relation to God sending some people to heaven and others to hell, what do they do? On this forum, I received these kinds of answers when they wouldn’t respond to my challenges:
- ‘Your explanation was just a bigger straw man’.
- ‘I am still confused, because if all men deserve hell, how is it injustice to save some of them while letting the rest perish into hell? Don’t they deserve hell?’
- ‘The only way that could be a problem is if the damned don’t deserve to be damned’.
- ‘the only way it could be “problematic” or “unjust” is if those that are damned don’t deserve to be damned. But you’ve already admitted that they deserve to be damned, therefore, I do not see how you can call it injustice for God to damn them. Can you clarify this please?’
- ‘But now you’re dodging this issue I raising’.
- ‘There’s no injustice in the ULI [of TULIP]’.
- ‘There’s no injustice in ULI, because in ULI, all men deserve hell, and God saves some, but lets the perish [sic] go to hell. Since they deserve hell in the first place (something you affirm), it cannot be injustice for God to let them go to hell’.
- ‘Partiality is not necessarily unjust…
Ex. 4:11: Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (ESV).
Mankind is guilty or a Saviour was needless cruelty’.
Consequences of Calvinistic theology
When a group does not want to see the consequences of TULIP theology, we are supplied with the excuses or rationalisations of what is summarised in ‘Calvinists on the merry-go-round’.
So is TULIP theology partial? Does it discriminate against the reprobate? It most definitely does when it only promotes salvation by Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, and Irresistible Grace for those who are elected to salvation. The discrimination takes place when a large chunk of humanity does not get an opportunity to respond to Christ because they are excluded by ULI theology of TULIP.
My claim is that in regard to eternal salvation, TULIP promotes partiality, i.e. injustice. It promotes a view that, even though all people deserve damnation because of their sin, God only elects a certain group to eternal salvation and the rest to eternal damnation. Double predestination (some elected / predestined to salvation and the rest predestined to damnation) does not sit well with some Calvinists, as this interaction demonstrated.
1. Scriptures: God is not partial
Acts 10:34-35 states, ‘So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him’ (ESV).
Romans 2:11, ‘For God shows no partiality’.
2. Scriptures: Salvation available for all
This topic is NOT promoting universalism – that all people will be saved – but that God has made salvation AVAILABLE to everyone. There is no partiality with the elect.
One Calvinist made this accusation: ‘I accept that God chooses to show mercy to some. You seem to have an issue with that’. My response is basic and fundamental. I DO NOT have an issue with God showing mercy to some. You have misinterpreted me. The issue is with HOW God shows mercy to some.
It’s the EDICT of ULI of TULIP vs the Scriptures which state that
‘The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance‘ (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).
ULI of TULIP shows favourites to SOME (the elect) while 2 Peter 3:9 demonstrates that God is not willing that any should perish. There is no partiality with God, but there are favourites / there is partiality with ULI in Calvinistic theology.
Even in the Old Testament, indicates that God does not show partiality against the wicked: ‘Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?’ (Ezek 18:23). And this theme continues in Ezekiel 18:32, ‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live’, and Ezekiel 33:11, ‘ Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?’
I know that this applied to Israel, but the OT is clear that God does not want any of Israel to die in their sins (‘the death of the wicked’).
The New Testament continues with this theme in 1 Timothy 2:3-4, ‘This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’.
God desires ALL to be saved. There is no partiality with God and special treatment of the elect of God. The truth is that God desires salvation for all people. He does not provide unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace for some and let the rest – either actively or passively – go to eternal damnation. God does not send people to hell because of ULI Calvinistic theology. Some Calvinists don’t like the implications of double predestination, but John Piper is not afraid to state such – as indicated below.
So I’ve stated on this Forum that TULIP Calvinism:
- ‘promotes injustice through partiality’. A Calvinistic reply was:
- ‘That would only be true if God’s choice of election caused someone to be punished in hell’.
My response was:
And that is exactly what John Piper, a Calvinist, believes.
Matt Perman, of Desiring God Ministries (John Piper), explains: ‘What does Piper mean when he says he’s a seven-point Calvinist?‘. As to double predestination, Perman explains what this means for the Calvinist, John Piper:
The “sixth” point, double predestination, is simply the flip side of unconditional election. Just as God chooses whom He will save without regard to any distinctives in the person (Ephesians 1:5-6; Acts 13:48; Revelation 17:8), so also he decides whom He will not save without regard to any distinctives in the individual (John 10:26; 12:37-40; Romans 9:11-18; 1 Peter 2:7-8). By definition, the decision to elect some individuals to salvation necessarily implies the decision not to save those that were not chosen. God ordains not only that some will be rescued from his judgment, but that others will undergo that judgment.
So I’m creating no straw man. This is what a leading Calvinist, John Piper, teaches in his support of double predestination. God ordains judgment for the non-elect. In other words, God sends people to hell with no possibility of access to salvation. That is the teaching of Calvinism by statement (John Piper and other double predestination supporters) or implication.
But another leading Calvinist and double predestination supporter, R C Sproul, does not like this John Piper kind of emphasis that ‘God ordains not only that some will be rescued from his judgment, but that others will undergo that judgment’. So Sproul tries to get around it this way by use of the label of ‘distortion’:
The distortion of double predestination looks like this: There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. God WORKS in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate. That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative. In the case of the elect, regeneration is the monergistic work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin and degeneration are the monergistic work of God.
So Sproul calls it a ‘distortion’ to state that ‘God WORKS in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate’. So what does he believe is the Reformed Calvinistic emphasis of double predestination? He claims that this is
the classic position of Reformed theology on predestination. In this view predestination is double in that it involves both election and reprobation but is not symmetrical with respect to the mode of divine activity. A strict parallelism of operation is denied. Rather we view predestination in terms of a positive-negative relationship.
In the Reformed view God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives….
Thus, the mode of operation in the lives of the elect is not parallel with that operation in the lives of the reprobate. God works regeneration monergistically but never sin. Sin falls within the category of providential concurrence.
Another significant difference between the activity of God with respect to the elect and the reprobate concerns God’s justice. The decree and fulfillment of election provide mercy for the elect while the efficacy of reprobation provides justice for the reprobate. God shows mercy sovereignly and unconditionally to some, and gives justice to those passed over in election. That is to say, God grants the mercy of election to some and justice to others. No one is the victim of injustice. To fail to receive mercy is not to be treated unjustly. God is under no obligation to grant mercy to all — in fact He is under no obligation to grant mercy to any. He says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy” (Rom. 9).
This sounds awfully like rationalisation to try to cover the charge against Calvinism of injustice in its view of election. Sproul explains:
If God foreordains reprobation does this not mean that God forces, compels, or coerces the reprobate to sin? Again the answer must be negative.
If God, when He is decreeing reprobation, does so in consideration of the reprobate’s being already fallen, then He does not coerce him to sin. To be reprobate is to be left in sin, not pushed or forced to sin. If the decree of reprobation were made without a view to the fall, then the objection to double predestination would be valid and God would be properly charged with being the author of sin.
But it still does not avoid the promotion of God showing partiality to the elect and not offering the same treatment to the non-elect. Thus, Calvinism demonstrates that it promotes something that is contrary to Scripture – God’s partiality (see Acts 10:34-35; Rom 2:11). God’s mercy and justice will never be in conflict with God’s actions that are alleged to show partiality or favouritism. I find TULIP Calvinism, while promoting God’s mercy and justice (according to Sproul), to be promoting a view of salvation that is in conflict with God stating that God acts in an impartial way.
For a Calvinistic Reformed view of God sending the damned to hell, see Edwin Palmer, ‘Twelve theses on reprobation’. He stated here:
Romans 9 is clear in asserting that both election and preterition [reprobation, damnation] are unconditional. Their ultimate foundation is in God: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Reprobation as condemnation is conditional in the sense that once someone is passed by, then he is condemned by God for his sins and unbelief. Although all things, unbelief and sin included, proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins. He is guilty. It is his fault and not God’s.
So, according to Palmer, God condemns unbelievers to damnation, but it is the sinner’s fault and not God’s. What gobbledygook! God does it but human beings are responsible.
‘According to Calvinism, Preterition is the act by which a person is left out of the will of God, or more specifically, left out of the saving will of God, and has been passed by’ (‘Preterition’, Examining Calvinism).
A better alternative to TULIP
Since there are holes in the TULIP argument that are so large one could drive a theological truck through them, I have found the Arminian alternative to represent a more consistent understanding of the biblical data. I refer you to the FACTS (acronym) of salvation (an Arminian response to Calvinism):
I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Society of Evangelical Arminians).
Some further reading
- ‘PLUCKING THE TULIP: An Eastern Orthodox Critique of the Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’ by Robert K. Arakaki © 2012.
- See my articles (Spencer D Gear): The injustice of the God of Calvinism;
- Blatant misrepresentation of Arminians by Calvinists;
- Is a Calvinistic God a contradiction when compared with the God revealed in Scripture?
- Calvinistic excuses for rejecting Jesus’ universal atonement;
- Conversations with a Calvinist on apostasy.
 Ibid., Hammster#180.
 Ibid., Hammster#180.
 Ibid., OzSpen#208.
 This link is to an article by Stephen Ashby, ‘A Reformed Arminian View’, available at: http://www.onthewing.org/user/Arm_Reformed%20Arminianism%20-%20Ashby.pdf (Accessed 23 January 2014).
 Ibid., Skala#209. All Hammster could say to my post of explanation was to give me another round of his spin – a false allegation, ‘Skala has give an excellent reply to your straw man logical fallacy’ (Hammster#213,
 Ibid., Skala#219.
 Ibid., Hammster#224.
 Ibid., Skala#225.
 Ibid., Hammster#228.
 drsteveJ#255, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-26/#post64885524 (Accessed 22 January 2014). My response to this comment was: ‘I’m discussing partiality regarding eternal salvation or eternal damnation. Why are you changing the topic?’ (OzSpen#258).
 Hammster#283, http://www.christianforums.com/t7792201-29/#post64888221 (Accessed 23 January 2014).
 Some of this response is at ibid., OzSpen#284.
 Ibid., OzSpen#251.
 Ibid., Hammster#253.
 Ibid., OzSpen#256.
 This is from the R C Sproul article, ‘Double predestination’, available at: http://www.the-highway.com/DoublePredestination_Sproul.html (Accessed 23 January 2014).
 ‘An outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. the TULIP of Calvinism’, Brian Abasciano and Martin Glynn, February 28, 2013, Society of Evangelical Arminians, available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/an-outline-of-the-facts-of-arminianism-vs-the-tulip-of-calvinism/ (Accessed 22 January 2014).
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.