Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

A Sincere Question For My Calvinist Friends

 

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?

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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  • Firstly, your question is an appeal to emotion. Simply because we don’t like something or it doesn’t make us feel happy in terms of the consequences, doesn’t make it untrue. This raises the real question at hand: does the Bible teach predestination?

    Ephesians 1 clearly teaches that God has chosen the Christian ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world’ and ‘predestined us for adoption as Sons through Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of His will’ (Ephesians 1: 1–14). As Paul also argues in Romans, there is a golden chain of redemption from God’s eternal foreknowledge and purpose in predestination to glorification (Romans 8:29–20). This is linked to the very idea of salvation by grace, not works. It is God who saves, not we ourselves. As the Psalmist says, ‘Salvation belongs to the Lord’ (Psalm 3:8).

    Secondly, your question assumes that human beings somehow deserve salvation from God, when in reality the Bible consistently teaches that we all deserve condemnation for our sins. The very fact that God has chosen to save anyone at all is testimony to His grace and mercy. He would be perfectly justified in condemning all human posterity should He so desire. In fact, as God, He is free do whatever He pleases – either in creating vessels of mercy or of wrath, just as Paul says to the Romans (Romans 9:22–23). The idea of questioning God’s sovereign choice is as absurd as army of pots gathering together to complain to potter about how He has chosen to make them and put them to use (Romans 9:21). The potter does as He sees fit. Similarly, ‘the Lord does whatever pleases Him’ (Psalm 115:3).

    Ultimately, all of this ties in with God’s sovereignty over all things. As the Lord says, ‘I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’ (Isaiah 46:10). There can ultimately be no ‘moral problem’ with God’s eternal purpose. ‘For God’s will is so much the highest rule of righteousness that whatever He wills, by the very fact that He wills it, it must be considered as righteous’ (Calvin). There can be no higher moral standard than the absolute righteousness of God.

  • Regardless of what the teaching from the ‘Calvinist’ understanding may be, the Scriptural truth is that we are all born with the nature of ‘sin’ in us. We prove that to be true as we grow and start to think and do things or our own ‘nature’ or ‘will’ versus that of God how is Love.

    So the question shouldn’t be so much a matter of who is picked to go to the eternal grave which has no hope of resurrection. It should be who is ‘picked’ to have the hope of life again after the death ‘in the flesh’ here on the earth. The answer to this is ‘everyone who exercises true faith in the name of Jesus’ is picked to be given life
    ***
    (John 6:40) For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who recognizes the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day.”

    (John 6:44) No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, and I will resurrect him on the last day.
    *Note:This is not saying God stops anyoe from willfuly coming ot Jesus. It has to do with the ‘heart’ of individuals willing ot hear the truth and obey it. Contrast this passage, John 6:44, with John 3:16-20

    (John 6:54) Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day; -[RNWT
    Note: Many ‘disciples’ that were following Jesus heard this language and stumbled over i. As a result they stopped following him rather than asking hi questions about what he meant by what he was saying.

  • It is a very sincere question of mine: doesn’t it conflict with Pb 16:4 “The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.”? I would really like to know what is your understanding on this verse (and the whole chapter).

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