The Day Hell Reveals God Is Not God of the Scripture: Calvinism

Calvinism’s exclusive doctrines position it in an untenable place when it comes to people spending eternity in hell. To mitigate the indefensible entailments of Calvinism that consign people to hell (the reprobate non-elect class), they offer various responses. First, they say the lost deserve to be there. While that is true, it does not tell us why they are there since the people in heaven equally deserve to be in hell. Second, they say it is so God can show his full glory in both love and wrath. But damning people to hell is unnecessary for God to show his wrath or holiness since no one needed to suffer God’s wrath to demonstrate his holiness because Christ suffering his wrath for our sin is the quintessential display of God’s wrath. [1]

Third, they say the lost chose to reject God. But people are not in hell because they chose to reject God, for the very people in heaven also chose to reject God before he overpowered them with efficacious grace. If God had overpowered the ones in hell, they would have ceased rejecting him; hence the missing element is God’s overpowering grace. We know people are not in hell to highlight God’s compassion, love, and grace by pedestaling his contrasting wrath and holiness; the death of Christ sufficiently displayed that. We also know people are not in hell because of what extra God may have had to do and did not want to do for them to not be in hell since it would not have cost God more to save one additional person or everyone since the death of Christ sufficiently took away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).

Once we dismiss the pleasantries of Calvinism, the only reason some are in heaven and some are in hell is because it pleased God for them to be where they are. Notwithstanding arguments to the contrary, I maintain consistent Calvinists inevitably believe in double predestination. Either they believe God actively predestined some to hell, as Calvin does, or he did so by choosing not to offer what would have surely delivered them from hell to heaven, which is unconditional election and selective regeneration. Calvin refers to this cold inescapable reality as the product of God’s wish, pleasure, and counsel. [2]

Commenting on what Paul says in Romans 9, John Calvin candidly explains, “He [Paul] concludes that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom 9:18). You see how he refers both to the mere pleasure of God. Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will” [3] (italics added)Calvin further says the reprobate are doomed in God’s “hidden purpose” while simultaneously (and quite contradictorily) maintaining “so wonderful is his love towards mankind that he would have them all to be saved.” [4] Calvin classifies God’s good pleasure to doom this innumerable host of people whom he created to such an unalterable fate, which he did not have to so choose, as “incomprehensible judgment.” [5]

Similarly, the Canons of Dort assert, “Moreover, Holy Scripture . . . further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God’s eternal election those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion, but finally to condemn and eternally punish them”[6] (italics added). Fast forward to eternity. Imagine all the redeemed, unconditionally elected according to Calvinism, are standing on the precipice of hell in which untold billions of people suffer unimaginable, unquenchable, and unparalleled agony and torment. While the elect gaze into the cauldron of hell, one of the unconditionally elect exclaims God is holy. And that proclamation is immediately and worshipfully met by thunderous amens and hallelujahs since, whether redeemed or judged, God’s perfect and unlimited perfect righteousness and holiness are evident to all.

Then another one of the unconditionally elect, caught up in the moment, resoundingly declares, God is love. An eerie pause follows this declaration. A hollow cavern of silence. A silence not from or awakening calmness, but a silence invoked by an impossible contradiction. A silence wherein an attribute of God is suppressed by the conquest of evidence, one like never before. It is not one of awe and glorious wonder but one of confusion and demoralization of the elect.

For while God clearly dealt with the elect and the damned in holiness, and the elect in love, it is impossible to truthfully say God dealt with the damned, the reprobate, in perfect love, salvific love. Seeking to explain how God is perfect love and yet withholds his salvific love from those whom he created and predetermined their eternal torment is like trying to explain God being perfect holiness if he did not deal with all people and sin in perfect holiness (both holiness and love are moral attributes of God). Calvinism calls this type of dilemma a mystery. Anywhere else, it is called what it is, a tragic contradiction in Calvinism, which depicts God unlike the God of Scripture.

[1] Even if people in hell were necessary, a point I do not concede, it seems probable that far fewer reprobates are necessary, and maybe only one would sufficiently display God’s wrath.
[2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997), vol. 2, bk. 3, chap. 21, sec. 7, pg. 210.
[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010).
[4] John Calvin, “Commentaries on the Second Epistle of Peter,” Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, John Owen ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), 419. Logos edition.
[5] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997), vol. 2, bk. 3, chap. 21, sec. 7, pg. 211.
[6] Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, article 15.

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Ronnie W. Rogers