A comment about God's "passing over"…

A comment about God's "passing over"… August 17, 2010

Only occasionally will I take the time to respond in  a post to a specific respondant’s challenge, question or critique.  Normally I won’t be able to as the purpose of this blog is to share my theological musings and let others discuss them as they wish. 

However, a recent poster here claimed that an Arminian should not object to the Calvinist idea of God unconditionally passing over many people whom he could save.  The “passing over,” of course, refers to what is known as “reprobation”–a concept debated even among Reformed theologians.  It is what Calvin himself God’s God’s “horrible decree.”  (Some Calvinists claim the original Latin term is better translated “awesome,” but that would hardly fit the context in which Calvinis admitting this decree of reprobation is offensive to human minds.)

My point in objecting to the doctrine of reprobation is that it determines many people to spend eternity in hell when God could save them from hell because salvation (in the Calvinist scheme) is always absolutely unconditional.  (To be technically correct, election to salvation is unconditional, but to me that amounts to the same thing as salvation being unconditional.  Let’s not get into a debate about this.  Yes, in Calvinism actual salvation itself is conditional, but God provides all the conditions.  Election TO salvation is unconditional and it predetermines that the elect person’s conditions for salvation will be met by God himself–for example in regenerating the person before they exercise faith.)

I’m surprised that anyone fails to see the difference between God “passing over” people for eternal salvation (when he could save them) and God “passing over” certain groups or individuals for service.  Even though the Bible does not always tell us the conditions, Arminians assume that God saw some potential for conditions being met when he chose a person like Abraham (e.g., an implicit faith in the God whose identity he did not yet know) and passed over his relatives or tribal cohorts.

But the main point is these are entirely different “passings over.”  The Calvinist soteriology says God passes over people causing them to go to hell for eternal suffering when he could save them.  Arminians object to that as making God morally ambiguous if not morally monstrous.  We do not object to God choosing certain people and groups for service and passing over others.  This does not call into question God’s goodness as does the doctrine of reprobation.

Classical Arminians do not object to God’s sovereignty; it is a thoroughly biblical doctrine which Arminius upheld.  We object to God’s sovereignty being taken to the extreme of God predestining individuals to hell–even if that is (weakly) explained as their deserving it because he could predestine them to salvation as that predestination is unconditional.

This doctrine of double predestination, of course, raises a question a satisfying answer to which I have never heard: on what grounds or for what reason does God choose one person for salvation and pass over another person when, in Calvinism, that choice is absolutely unconditional?  It portrays God as arbitrary.  Between “conditional” and “unconditional” there is no middle ground.  Appeal to mystery simply won’t work here because there’s no conceivable reason why God would choose one person and reject another person once you have said election is absolutely unconditional.  It simply has to be arbitrary and some Calvinists have admitted it (e.g., Jonathan Edwards).  Why won’t most contemporary Calvinists admit it?  Yet, R. C. Sproul and most I have read reject arbitrariness and appeal to mystery.  They simply say that God has his reasons but has not chosen to reveal them to us.  That won’t work.  There can’t BE any reason once all conditions have been rejected.  It has to be “eenie, meenie, miney, mo.”

But I recognize and admit that few Calvinists believe that.  So I am charging them with inconsistency at this point and asking that IF they are going to accuse Arminianism of inconsistency they admit it in their own belief system.

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