Does God Love the Non-Elect?

The following is a response I put together in regard to a question that came up in a book study I was leading through John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied.


So one of the questions that emerged from our discussion tonight was, does God love the non-elect?

Clearly he loves the elect. And if nothing else, he loves them in a unique way unto salvation. But the question was raised, does he also love everyone in some sense (even if not having chosen to save them), even the non-elect?

Here are some helpful resources:

(All of these men are Calvinists by the way. So they are working from these same assumptions that God has a distinguishing love for the elect.)

At least one example of the Bible actually using the word “love” in reference to God’s disposition to the seemingly non-elect is Matthew 5:43-48. Here Jesus tells us to love our enemies precisely based on the model that God — it is the seemingly necessary implication of the analogy — loves his enemies (if God doesn’t love his enemies, the comparison would seem to break down). Namely, God here shows his love to enemies by causing rain to fall on the just and unjust. So we are likewise to love our enemies by showing good to all as well, even enemies.

Similarly 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 is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” How are we sons of God (i.e., like God here — “like father, like son”)? By loving our enemies like he does. In other words, he loves his enemies. And I think “enemies” here most naturally (at least) includes the non-elect.

As I said during our discussion, God is also said to love Israel (e.g., Deut 7-8), which was a nation composed of both believers and, maybe even more predominantly, non-believers.

An example of this might be Hosea 9:15, where God speaks of no longer loving unbelieving Israel who is about to experience his judgment. This is certainly by and large an unbelieving, non-elect people here; and yet he speaks of having shown them love.

You might also argue there’s a seeming ludicrousness if God were to command us to love all people as something morally right that we must do if it were not something he himself was also doing. It would seem to imply he’d be failing to do something that is morally right for him to do. In other words, he would seem to be sinning, which is an absurdity.

So in conclusion…

Yes, it’s important to clarify the unique expression of the love God has the elect. But I also think it’s appropriate and Biblical to speak of a love God shows even towards the non-elect.

D.A. Carson Illustrating the Difference Between Arminian and Calvinist Conceptions of Grace

In Exegetical Fallacies, D.A. Carson dismantles an analogy by which Donald Lakes seeks to deny alleged differences between the Arminian and Calvinist understandings of grace. Carson then counters with an example of his own that helpfully exemplifies the difference that is truly at play.

Donald M. Lake, for example, in attempting to argue that grace is no weaker in an Arminian system than in a Reformed system, offers us the analogy of a judge who condemns a guilty criminal and then offers him a pardon. Although the man must accept it, such acceptance, argues Lake, cannot be thought of as a meritorious work, a work that in any sense makes the man deserving of salvation. “Calvin and later Calvinists,” he adds, “never seem to be able to see this fundamental distinction unfortunately!”

But to argue that the role of grace in the two systems is not different, Lake would have to change his analogy. He would need to picture a judge rightly condemning ten criminals, and offering each of them pardon. Five of them accept the pardon, the other five reject it (the relative numbers are not important). But in this model, even though those who accept the pardon do not earn it, and certainly enjoy their new freedom because of the judge’s “grace,” nevertheless they are distinguishable from those who reject the offer solely on the basis of their own decision to accept the pardon. The only thing that separates them from those who are carted off to prison is the wisdom of their own choice. That becomes a legitimate boast. By contrast, in the Calvinistic scheme, the sole determining factor is God’s elective grace. Thus, although both systems appeal to grace, the role and place of grace in the two systems are rather different. Lake fails to see this because he has drawn an inadequate analogy; or, more likely, the inadequacy of his chosen analogy demonstrates he has not understood the issue.


D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. (Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster; Baker Books, 1996), 121–122.

Factors Contributing to the Resurgence of Calvinism Among Baptists (Leon McBeth)

65690_w185Mind you, Leon McBeth is publishing this in 1987. Much, much more resurgence of Calvinism among Baptists has occurred since then. …

And overlooking his unfortunately caricaturization (to assume the best: simplifications for ease of understanding) of Calvinism as something like fatalism…

I found McBeth’s comments here, specifically his third and fourth points, rather interesting. And I thought I’d share. These “points” are included in a brief section where McBeth addresses “factors” that have “contributed to the recent resurgence of Calvinism among Baptists. This occurs in famous work The Baptist Heritage (pg. 774-776).

1. “The Calvinists feel they are going back to original Baptists roots.”
2. “The Calvinists react against what they consider shallow evangelism.”
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The Institutes of the Christian Religion (Abridged Version) by John Calvin

The following is a summary of and reflection upon an abridged version of Calvin’s Institutes produced by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne (see it here on Amazon). I should note that I did not read the final book, Book IV: Outward Means by which God Helps Us, in its entirety; and therefore, it was directly not taken into consideration in the writing of this review.

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Summary

Calvin’s understanding of how men know God, know themselves, and the relationship between these two types of knowledge is seemingly foundational to the entirety of his theology (1:1:1). For Calvin, knowledge of self is intrinsically linked to knowledge of God while knowledge of God results in proper assessment of self (1:1:1). Genuine knowledge of self necessarily assumes knowledge of God. One cannot fully grasp the existence of the creature apart from his fundamental relationship to his Creator and Sustainer (1:1:1). Comprehension of man’s falleness assumes an ideal, one that is rooted in God’s creative-design; transgression implies the reality of Judge (1:1:1). On the other hand, without knowledge of God, no one ever truly knows himself (1:1:2). Lacking insight into the purpose for which He was created, ignorance of his original nature and its divine intent flourish. Unaware of God’s standard of righteousness, man consequently assesses his moral condition inaccurately (2:1:1).

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