What are the so-called doctrines of grace? And what bearing do they have on our lives? Jeff Medders joins me to talk about Calvinism and the practical ways it ought to manifest in those who believe it.
This sermon was delivered during COVID, outside of our regular facilities. So please excuse the poor audio quality.
Our Righteous, Wrath-Satisfying Intercessor (1 John 2:1-2)
CrossWay Community Church
July 5th, 2020
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:
- John Piper – https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-god-love-the-non-elect
- John MacArthur – https://www.gty.org/library/questions/QA184/does-god-love-the-elect-and-hate-the-nonelect
- R.C. Sproul – https://www.ligonier.org/blog/biblical-say-god-loves-everyone/
(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.
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.