The Critiques of Calvinism, Part III: Oh, the Injustice of It All!

So I’ve shown that Calvinism accords with the human experience and leads to good human fruit. But there’s still the unresolved question of if God is unjust to predestine people to Hell. There’s really no logical way out of the belief that God predestines people to Hell if you’re a Calvinist. If you’re in Heaven because He picked you, what does that mean but that He didn’t pick the other person?

Any Arminian worth his salt finds that positively unjust. John Wesley said that believing that makes God worse than the Devil. Well, whether we like it or not, that is what Scripture says. Jesus explained, “But there are some of you that believe not. Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:64-65). In other words, My people come to Me because My Father does something for them that He doesn’t do for others. Or Paul: “Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardeneth” (Romans 9:18, KJV). What about Peter saying of nonbelievers, that they “stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed” (I Peter 2:8, KJV)?

I think I can lessen the sting a bit. I think what most people have a problem with is supralapsarianism, the branch of Calvinism that maintains that God picks out the people He wants to send to Hell and then ordains the Fall to bring that about. That’s what turned Arminius himself off from Calvinism. I agree that that is unfathomably cruel. I’ll even admit that I think John Wesley was right insofar as supralapsarianism goes.

I subscribe to sublapsarianism, which holds that God decides to permit the Fall and then simply chooses to do justice upon some people rather than show mercy. Justice is about giving people what they deserve for their actions, so I don’t see how logically we can say God decides what is just to do to a person before He decides what they’re going to do.

But is it then unjust to decide not to save some? Clearly Hell is what they deserve, else God wouldn’t send anybody there at all since then He would be unjust. But if we say that grace is undeserved favor, we can’t then complain if He doesn’t show it to some because it was undeserved in the first place. We can’t have it both ways that grace is an amazing gift but that God owes it to everyone. Once something is owed, Paul reminds us, it’s not a gift, but rather wages. I don’t know exactly how many of the great Calvinists were sublapsarian, but I maintain that it is more Scriptural and logical, besides being less offensive to our sensibilities.

Besides, God’s sovereignty in the area of sin is really the only way out of an apparent contradiction in the story of David’s census. II Samuel 24:1 says God “incited” David (ESV) when we know God tempts no one, and then, to add to the confusion, I Chronicles 21:1 says Satan “incited” David (ESV). Then God holds David accountable and punishes him severely for something He incited him to do! So, how can God and Satan both be responsible for something God doesn’t do, something in fact that He was willing to kill 70,000 people over? The only way I can see out of this is to take the Calvinist position. We say that God, in His justice and wisdom, decided that the time had come for David to number the people and let Satan, who was of course more than ready to oblige, tempt David, whose weak human nature caved in to the temptation. That same kind of scenario is described in more explicit detail in I Kings 22 when a lying spirit volunteers to deceive Ahab’s prophets and gets God’s permission to do so. The census was ultimately God’s idea, but the free agents who followed their natures are held fully accountable in His justice.

(In case you think God was overreacting in sending a plague over a census, I have a theory. Samuel explains that He was angry with Israel. My guess is that, after they had conquered their mighty empire, the Israelites were becoming puffed up and feeling self-sufficient, so he let David give that pride a visible manifestation throughout Israel before punishing them.)

By now, I hope you’ll see that our infamous worldview is not a warped and self-serving distortion of Scripture. It accords with Scripture, reason, and the human experience. It doesn’t lead to disobedience of God’s commands to let our light shine before men, and it doesn’t make Him evil (if it’s worked out correctly). And who can really object to a worldview whose rallying cry is, “To God alone be the glory!”