I spent my teenage years discovering God in a Reformed Baptist church, and I met many wonderful people there. During those years I also discovered a lot about God and solidified my decision to follow him, for which I’ll always be grateful. However, I also stumbled upon some stuff which was immediately problematic for me– most memorably, the doctrine of predestination.
I still remember that first sermon on predestination, the general idea that God himself predestines some people for heaven (called the “elect”), but not others. I’ve heard various Calvinists describe this differently. Calvin himself taught that God predestines some people for heaven and predestines other people for hell, but not everyone in my church explained it the way Calvin did. Some told me that God picks some and leaves options open for others, while some held true to Calvin and told me that God does in fact predestine some for hell. (Which, years later, I now believe is the only intellectually honest position to hold regarding predestination; if God picks some, he either directly or by default destines others to hell.) When I objected to such a notion I was told that we had no right to complain about the purpose God created us for (Romans 9:19-20), even if that was the purpose of being an object of his wrath for all of eternity (Romans 9:21-22).
I’ll be honest: not a single explanation of predestination ever sat right with me. When I expressed moral objections to God picking some people for heaven and some people for hell– before they were ever born– the go-to response I heard then (and a common one I hear now) is that God is God and I have no right to question how he runs things.
Regardless of which way one describes the concept of predestination, it all leads to some problematic questions and conclusions. In the end, no matter which way you cut it, God picks some people but doesn’t pick others. At worst (what John Calvin taught), he actually creates people for the sole purpose of sending them to hell.
20 years later, and even after spending four years at a Reformed-heavy seminary, I still don’t buy into predestination as taught by Calvin because of the questions it raises about God’s character (which I believe to be everything that is good and beautiful).
There are plenty of Christians who are also Calvinists– sincere, kind, and loving people. Yet, I just don’t understand how my Calvinist friends can side-step the moral problems with predestination. And this is what brings me to my sincere question for my Calvinist friends:
What if it’s the person you love most in the world?
What if you get to heaven and find out that your beautiful daughter, who you loved more than life itself, isn’t coming to join you?
What if you discover the spouse who was your best friend for 60 years wasn’t picked?
Or the parents who lovingly poured out their lives for you, who you looked forward to seeing. What if they’re not there?
And what if you find out the reason they aren’t there is simply because they didn’t get elected?
What if that beautiful child you raised and would have jumped in front of a bus for, was actually predestined by God to burn in hell for all of eternity, simply to demonstrate his holiness?
How would you feel about God in that moment? What would run through your mind when you came to the realization that you spent your whole life loving someone who was beautiful, wonderful, and who brought years of joy and laughter to your earthly life, was simply created as an object of God’s wrath and is now being tortured in hell?
How would you feel with the realization that they never had a choice and that they were predestined for hell before they were even born?
Does that really sit in your spirit well?
Would that change your view of God?
Would you think God was altogether beautiful, wonderful, and loving?
Would realizing your loved one was simply created to showcase the holiness of his wrath make you love God more?
Would your heart truly be free to worship him and love God completely?
Would you be able to honestly and truly gather around the throne and sing, Our God is an Awesome God? What about predestining your child to hell is an awesome character trait?
How could you worship God if this were true? I mean, I understand it would be possible to worship out of fear– but how could you worship this God out of sincere love for what he did?
I know how I answer those questions. If God created my beautiful children and predestined them to hell before they were ever born, I cannot in good conscience worship him or love him. Such a God would be nothing short of a monster.
Thankfully, I don’t believe that is true and don’t believe I’ll ever be confronted with that reality.
But I recognize that my Calvinist friends do. So my sincere question to those of you who believe in predestination is: what if it’s the person you love most in all the world who God picked for hell? Presupposing your theology is correct, do you really think you could worship that God?