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.
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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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).