What if a Calvinist’s daughter was damned?

Randal Rauser, associate professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, Canada, can’t fathom God’s sovereignty in election:

According to Calvinists this means that the reason God chooses to damn some people is because his glory shines through more fully as a result, and God’s glory is God’s supreme concern. By choosing to send some creatures to the most horrific eternal punishments, God manifests his wrath, justice, and his undying hatred of sin. And by choosing others for grace God manifests his gentleness, mercy and abiding love.

isaac_jacobAs always, Arminians like Rauser base their criticism of the Reformed faith on tired, old misconceptions arising out of rejection of Biblical truths because of human wisdom—wisdom that James calls “earthly, unspiritual, demonic”—as opposed to “wisdom from above” that produces spiritual fruits of purity and peace (Jas 3:15, 17).

First, he assumes that man has a will that can freely choose, outside of God’s sovereignty, whether to accept or reject the gospel. This is contrary to Scripture (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 6:16-22; John 8:44; Jer 13:23).

Second, Rauser assumes that God’s election of some for salvation and some for damnation is unfair. His human wisdom could not rationalize why God is not a universalist, “Calvinism limits God’s grace, and by doing so it limits his love. Within Calvinism God could save all people but he chooses not to.” Rauser’s God is a God of unlimited grace who savingly loves every single human being equally, but is also a pathetic, piteous, pitiful God who is totally, haplessly dependent on the human will to accomplish his loving purpose. And, of course, his mission is a failure because only a few accept his gracious offer. Thus, being founded on Pelagianism, Rauser’s Arminianism is only the starting point down the bottomless pit of Robert Schuller’s universalism.

Was God unfair when he damned the whole world except for eight people in Noah’s day? Was God unfair when he damned all—men, women, children, and animals—in Sodom and Gomorrah? What did those infants and cute little kittens ever do?

God already warned Adam in the Garden of Eden of the consequences of disobedience: death. And because of the Fall, all men are reserved for death (Rom 3:10-11, 23; 6:23). It is only because of God’s grace, mercy and love that he chose some, out of all damned humanity, to be saved by sending his beloved, only-begotten Son to die on the cross for them. No, not even one of us wicked people merits any grace, mercy and love from God. But though he is perfectly just even if he destroyed all mankind after the Fall, he does save some, in spite of their undeserving condition.

Third and last, he assumes that God’s purpose in election—for his glory—is unfair. But if God does not do everything for his own glory, what do we make of  “to the praise of His glorious grace,” and “to the praise of his glory” in election (Eph 1:6, 12, 14)? And what do we make of all the commands in all of Scripture to glorify God? Even the mountains, trees and rivers glorify God for his judgments and redemption! (Psa 98:8-9; Isa 44:23).

Ultimately, man’s rejection of the doctrine of unconditional election goes back to a high view of the human condition and a low view of God and Scripture. This is evidenced when Rauser concludes his criticism by his personal experience:

Then I engaged in some role playing. What if I was chosen and my daughter was damned, damned in part so that I might find a greater delight in God’s glory? At that moment Calvinism lost me. And with all due respect, I have to say good riddance.

In saying this, would Rauser reject God and refuse to give him glory, if ever—God forbid—his daughter turns out to be a reprobate? What if Noah, Abraham and Lot refused to give glory to God for roasting their family and friends as “Christmas turkey”? This is what happens frequently to people whose conception of God is based on human wisdom.

Moreover, Rauser caricatures the Reformed as chosen people who gloat over and are “[satisfied with] the damnation of the lost.” Far from it, we glorify and thank God for choosing wicked people like us out of his mere grace and mercy. To be sure, we rejoice in the destruction of God’s sworn enemies, but we also sorrow over their demise, as we also sorrow when we see our family and friends die in unbelief.

Long ago, after I—a lifetime Arminian—first learned about the Reformed faith, I did some role-playing. What if my children were not elect? At that moment,  with the greatest of difficulty, I said to myself,

Not my will, but yours, be done. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! To him be glory forever. Amen.

And what joy to get rid of bondage to my worthless human pride, misguided human wisdom, and totally depraved human will, and to depend instead on “the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:11-12).

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6 thoughts on “What if a Calvinist’s daughter was damned?”

  1. To Mr. Rauser:

    Instead of engaging in quibble (the “demonic” thing), why don’t you address the main issue? It appears to me like you wish to distract us from the main issue here. Why don’t you do yourself a favor and tell us how such passages like Romans 9 are to be reconciled with you own deficient theology?

    Romans 9:10-13 states:
    “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[emphases mine]”

    Romans 9:21-23:
    “21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— [emphasis mine; Please take special note of the underlined phrase]”

    Mr. Rauser, I implore you, rather than giving way to human sentiment which is prone to corruption, to submit yourself to the authoritative Word of God. We Calvinists believe that we should glorify God especially when facing the fact that He has condemned unrepentant sinners, which may include our loved ones, because this is what Scripture says. We do not hold to such belief out of mere heartless logic or cold human reasoning; we believe in this because we submit ourselves to God’s Word.

  2. James says “demonic”. Right Nollie, so let’s read from James 3:13 ff so we get the context:

    “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”

    So Nollie, either you have ripped a passage out of context or you are suggesting that I harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in my heart. So which is it? Since I don’t even know you, I’m guessing that you sacrificed the context of the passage to score a cheap rhetorical blow. Good for you.

    1. Although James says that wisdom that produces all kinds of pride is not from heaven, but is “demonic,” I certainly am not saying that non-Calvinists are possessed by the devil! But it is also true that all human-based wisdom is not from heaven (1 Cor 3:19), and leads not only to pride (which we all have), but also to error.

      And my reaction to your criticism of “Calvinism”—I confess I overreacted—is not to score a cheap shot. My apologies for such uncharitableness.

  3. Nollie,

    Thanks for engaging what I wrote, even if I don’t particularly like how you engaged it. I want to say “Good for you, you would rejoice in your daughter’s damnation!” but somehow that doesn’t seem to be something to be commended.

    To be frank, I sort of lose any desire to engage another person who states at the outset that my reasoning is “demonic”. But I will say this. You erroneously charge me with “tired, old misconceptions” regarding Calvinism, and then you  come up with this: “Rauser’s God is a God of unlimited grace who savingly loves every single human being equally, but is also a pathetic, piteous, pitiful God who is totally, haplessly dependent on the human will to accomplish his loving purpose.” To be charitable I will assume that you have never read Jacob Arminius.

    1. I wasn’t the one to say “demonic.” It’s the Apostle James. And anti-Calvinist freewillism implies the kind of God I described above.

  4. Great article.  Arminians are so fond of saying that the Calvinist god condemns some people to Hell.  The reality is that all people are condemned to hell justly because of the fall and our sin. This is the default position, not that God condemns some for no reason.  The amazing thing is that through grace alone, some  are saved just because God wants to do so — nothing else.

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