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Why Doesn’t God Save Everyone? (Sam Storms)

If election were solely based on what God wanted and not anything in us that might differentiate the chosen from the un-chosen and thus account for why this one and not another, why didn’t God choose all? If he could have, why didn’t he? With this question we run headlong into the theological brick wall called “the secret things of God” (Deut. 29:29), on the other wide of which are mysteries inaccessible to the human mind.

Many mistakenly assume that, if God is by nature loving, he must choose all, as if to say it would be a contradiction of the divine character were he not to love everyone equally. But this fails to note that the saving love of God is also sovereign. John Murray explains it this way:

“Truly God is love. Love is not something adventitious; it is not something that God may choose to be or choose not to be. He is love, and that necessarily, inherently, and eternally. As God is spirit, as he is light, so he is love. Yet it belongs to the very essence of electing love to recognize that it is not inherently necessary to that love which God necessarily and eternally is that he should set such love as issues in redemption and adoption upon utterly undesirable and hell-deserving objects. It was of the free and sovereign good pleasure of his will, a good pleasure that emanated from the depths of his own goodness, that he chose a people to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The reason resides wholly in himself and proceeds from determinations that are peculiarly his as the ‘I am that I am.'”[1]

Thus, to say that love is sovereign is to say it is distinguishing. It is, by definition as saving love, bestowed upon and experienced only by those who are in fact saved (i.e., the elect). Although there is surely a sense in which God loves the non-elect, he does not love them redemptively. If he did, they would certainly be redeemed. God loves them, but not savingly, else they would certainly be saved. All this is to say that God’s eternal, electing love is not universal but particular. Of this we may be certain: God was under no obligation to choose any. Were he to have chosen none, he would have remained perfectly just in doing so. That he chose some is a reflection of sovereign mercy.

“OK,” responds the inquiring soul, “I’ll concede that God doesn’t have to love everyone with the love of election, but that doesn’t tell me why he didn’t. It’s one thing to say God was under no obligation or necessity to elect all unto life. It’s another thing entirely to account for why he chose not to elect all unto life. Or again, it’s one thing to say he didn’t need to choose all. It’s something else entirely to say he didn’t want to choose all.”

But why would God not “want” to choose all? It can’t be because some are less worthy than others of being the objects of electing love, for all are equally deserving of wrath and condemnation. It can only be because there is something God “wants” more than whatever benefits might otherwise be gained by choosing all. But what could possibly be more important to God than delivering all hell-deserving sinners from their plight? The Arminian would say: the preservation of human free will. According to Arminianism, God won’t save all because to do so would require that he intrude upon and override the rebellious will of many unbelievers. God so values the purported dignity of libertarian freedom that he chooses only to save those who believe, although it would be possible to save those who don’t as well.

The Calvinist answers the question in a different way. Again, what could possibly be more important to God than delivering all hell-deserving sinners from their plight? The answer is: the display of the glory of all his attributes for his delight and that of those whom he has chosen to share it. Piper explains that although God is willing to save all he chooses not to do so,

“because there is something else that he wills more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all. . . . Both [Calvinists and Arminians] can say that God wills for all to be saved. But then when queried why all are not saved both Calvinist and Arminian answer that God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all. . . . What does God will more than saving all? The answer given by Arminians is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace. The answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God’s glory in wrath and mercy (Rom. 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Cor. 1:29).”[2]

In no other area of theology do I feel so urgent a need to be cautious and humble in how I address this problem. What Piper has affirmed and what I am about to say invariably touches a raw nerve in the souls of many, if not all, Christians. I want to avoid sounding flippant or casual in my explanation, lest I give the slightest impression that this is anything less than an incalculably sensitive and explosive matter. How one answers this question, or attempts to answer it while acknowledging that it may well surpass our capacity to fathom, turns on one’s concept of God and the motivation for his having created the human race and sent his Son for the redemption of sinners. With that in mind, and with the unashamed acknowledgment that I may be wrong in the conclusion to which I’ve come, here is what I believe is most consistent with Scripture.

I begin by asking, “Is it truly the case to say God could have elected all unto life?” If by “could” you mean did he have the authority and right and power to choose all, yes. There was no power external to God that would have hindered him in making his electing love universal in scope. There was no deficiency in God’s inherent ability to choose all for life. On the other hand, if God’s choosing was governed by his determination to glorify himself in the highest and most effective way possible by displaying all his divine attributes (including his righteous wrath and justice), I would reverently and humbly say No, he couldn’t have chosen all. That is to say, once divine wisdom determined that the choice of some but not all hell-deserving sinners would most effectively serve to magnify the plenitude of his glory (and of course that is very much the point in dispute), this was a path from which God “could not” deviate (so long, of course, as he retains his determination to achieve this end). Those who take issue with my conclusion will undoubtedly question whether this was in fact the divine motive in creation and redemption. They will contend, in some way, that God’s pre-eminent goal was something other than the display of his own glory. I have attempted to defend this understanding of the ultimate aim of creation and redemption in my books Pleasures Evermore and One Thing and I will simply refer you to the relevant section in those volumes.[3]

Permit me to once again cite Jonathan Edwards’ explanation of this matter together with a few of my own observations, and then leave it with you to wrestle with the implications. Here is what he said:[4]

“It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all, for then the effulgence would not answer the reality.”

Edwards argues elsewhere that it is more than “proper” and “excellent” that God’s glory shine forth in its fullness, it is essential. This isn’t because something other than and outside God requires it of him. Rather, it is the very nature of divine glory that it tends toward self-expression and expansion, not in the sense of growth or quantitative increase, but manifestation and display for the sake of the joy of God’s creatures in it. Not only that, but it is “proper” that all of God’s glory be seen that we may know God as he truly is and not simply in part. If one or several divine attributes were disproportionately dominant in their display (and others barely noted at all), an imbalanced and inaccurate view of God would emerge (this is what Edwards meant when he said that otherwise “the effulgence would not answer the reality”). He continues:

“Thus it is necessary that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.”

In using the word “necessary” he is not suggesting that sin, considered in and of itself, has a right or inherent claim on existence. Rather, sin was “necessary” in the sense that in its absence there would be no occasion for the display of his righteous wrath, justice, and holiness as that in God which requires punishment (or at least no display sufficient for a “complete” or true knowledge of what God is like and why he is glorious). And without a revelation (or “shining forth”) of the wrath that sin deserves there would scarcely be a revelation of the true and majestic depths of goodness, love, and grace that deliver us from it.

“If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s justice in hatred of sin or in punishing it, . . . or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. No matter how much happiness he might bestow, his goodness would not be nearly as highly prized and admired. . . . and the sense of his goodness heightened.

So evil is necessary if the glory of God is to be perfectly and completely displayed. It is also necessary for the highest happiness of humanity, because our happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of God is imperfect (because of a disproportionate display of his attributes), the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.”

This point is related to what we see in Romans 9:22-23. God desired to show his wrath and make known his power in order that his mercy and grace might be seen in unmistakable clarity and his glory displayed to his everlasting praise. Were he to have elected all, rather than some, to eternal life this goal would not have been attained nor would the plenitude of God’s glory been sufficiently seen.


[1] John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), p. 10.

[2] John Piper, “Are There Two Wills in God?” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge & Grace, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 123-24.

[3] Sam Storms, Pleasures Evermore: The Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2000), pp. 81-101; One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2004), pp. 9-44.

[4] I have taken the liberty of smoothing out Edwards’ prose in order to bring greater clarity to his theological argument. The full entry in his Miscellanies from which this has been taken can be found in Jonathan Edwards, The “Miscellanies,” edited by Thomas A. Schafer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), no.348, pp. 419-20.

122 Responses to “Why Doesn’t God Save Everyone? (Sam Storms)”

  1. If this understanding of Scripture is the accurate one, all I can say is I pity tremendously the great masses of humanity–the vast majoritiy of people of all times–that were born with a sin nature that they didn’t ask for so that they have no hope of not sinning and have been given no way whatsoever to escape from it. The end result of that being their eternal torment in hell. And for what, so God can be seen in all of His glory and to make the elect happier. Pity them indeed. To me that is unthinkable. The only way I can deal with that is to shut my mind to it and to the plight of all of those folks as it is too horrible to comprehend.

    And so help me and God forgive me if I am looking at this all wrong, but as someone else that is a self proclaimed Calvinist said on another thread on the subject recently, this appears to make God nothing less then a moral monster.

    I can not begin to imagine accepting an “invitation to Calvinism” to accept a theology that says sin and evil must be decreed by God (and so I assume has to come to pass) that will very deliberately consign most of the souls born on this earth to eternal torment in hell so the rest of the people can be happier and all of His attributes can be shown.

    And by the way, if I understand what you are saying Edwards spoke of above–that His attributes can not be shown disproportionately–it seems to me that is exactly what is being done if the greatest share of humanity is consigned to hell to show His anger, wrath, and judgement and only the smallest part are elect. It doesn’t seem love and mercy receive equal billing here at all.

    This theology flys in the face of everything I have ever known and believed about God and His love and goodness. I just can’t do it.

  2. Cheryl,

    I would submit to you that God subjugates His love for the non-elect to His love for the elect in any system, including yours. He makes the world knowing that Group A will go to hell and Group B will go to heaven. He could have just made the elect and not the non-elect then, since as Jesus Himself says, it’s better to not be born (i.e., or exist) than to undergo punishment by God. Even if you want to say they have a choice, that has nothing to do with whether God, as loving, does what is best for them (and Christ says what is best is that they had never been born). So God makes the world for those who would be saved rather than for those who will not be. How do you explain God’s love as equally for everyone in view of that?

  3. Hodge,

    Giving people a choice and unlimited atonement is a WHOLE lot different then decreeing that sin and evil must exist and choosing to leave a whole lot of people in it and giving them no choice.

    And Hodge, you and I have been around and around this bush umpteen times on other threads. At the moment I have neither the time nor the inclination to go there again because I am sure we would just cover the same ground repeatedly.

    But this is the most hyper-Calvinistic post I have ever seen on this site. (Hope that is the right term). I had to say something.

  4. Cheryl,

    Actually, we’ve never pursued this. You just always claim that somehow because God gives a choice this makes Him more loving in your system. It actually doesn’t. God Himself declares that what is better for Him to have done is to not allow these people to come into existence, or at least to be born at all. He doesn’t do it. Instead, He brings them into the world knowing that they will go to hell. Which is more loving: To keep your kids in the house (exercising your will over theirs) and not allow them to run in the street to be killed, or having some warped understanding of love and free will and letting them run headlong into oncoming traffic? The more loving parent does what is best for the child in the end. Your system does not answer the problem with the typical default to free will. It only tells us that God let people commit suicide because He honors free will over what is better for the humans He made. Essentially, then, in your system, He just loves free will, not people.

  5. Hodge,

    And in your system he loves all of those people that he sends to hell because he has decreed that there has to be evil and they get the privielge of doing it and paying the price. Right.

    At least in my system He isn’t the active cause of the evil which I don’t see how He can be anything else in yours since in it He has decreed it must happen so He can punish people for it.

    I’m sorry, but this whole thing upsets me way too much to talk about this anymore civilly. If I don’t leave this convo for now, I will say something I am likely to seriously regret.

  6. Cheryl,

    I don’t want you to be upset, but I don’t want you to blaspheme God as a moral monster for love He gives to His people simply because He uses the non-elect as instruments to love them as well, especially so since He does this in every system no matter what.

    “At least in my system He isn’t the active cause of the evil which I don’t see how He can be anything else in yours since in it He has decreed it must happen so He can punish people for it.”

    This doesn’t address the objection at all. You still have God creating people He knows will do evil and will be punished when He also declares that it would be better for them if He hadn’t made them.
    We, of course, had this conversation before, and I deny that God actively makes people do evil or that God should be blamed for deciding to both use the non-elect here on earth and in the age to come for the sake of His elect, knowing what they will do.
    I’ll leave this conversation alone, but did want to address this, since I think charging God with crimes and calling Him evil is a pretty serious blasphemy that needs to stop.

  7. Hi Hodge,

    I see you have some time again to converse.

    Hodge wrote:

    I don’t want you to be upset, but I don’t want you to blaspheme God as a moral monster for love He gives to His people simply because He uses the non-elect as instruments to love them as well, especially so since He does this in every system no matter what.

    Cheryl isn’t blaspheming the Biblical God, she is showing how the God of Calvinism is at best one who hasn’t revealed to us how we can be saved and at worst is a ‘moral monster’ as you put it.

    The fact that God still creates people that he knows will reject Him given that they have genuine freedom to acknowledge their error and accept Him is not unloving. If it is required that God first flips the switch before they can repent, then we have a problem. This is a serious problem with Calvinism and the only explanation is “we don’t know why God chooses one over the other” with the hope that there is a good reason. But this is a case of trying to have one’s cake and eat it too as the theology says that there is nothing in them that God sees and they are stone cold dead and so they cannot repent nor even want to without first being regenerated. So the “we don’t know why” response is actually disingenuous.

  8. Hodge,

    Here is a quote from Roger Olsen’s site that I found after I made my last comment last night. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with everyhing he says in this article, but my point is that I am not the only non Calivinist that feels the way I do about the “moral monster” issue. And remember, one of your own, a fellow Calvinist, also said the same thing a couple of days ago on another thread.

    The quote: One reason I cannot be a Calvinist is because being one would require me to jettison all the biblical material about hell, because I would find no point in even being a Christian if the God of Christianity were a moral monster.

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/birch.Calvinism-Leads-to-Universalism

    (I certainly hope this site will stay back up now. Sometimes technology isn’t so wonderful after all!)

  9. Look how far off someone can get when you base your theology on an incorrect assumption. The assumption is that the Bible teaches that all of humanity is “dead in sin” and therefore can not, nor does not want to repent. He apparently has free will but is constrained by nature to exercise it only in the wrong direction. Herein is where the whole house of cards stands, and I think that if we can debate this one point, we will either vindicate Calvinism or watch as the whole house of cards falls.

    So, for you Calvinists out there, please prove to me that all unregenerate humanity is “dead in sin.”

    Let’s start with Eph 2:1-2 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world…”

    The English in this passage seems to be mistranslated, probably because of a doctrinal bias preventing the translators from seeing what the writer was intending.

    It actually reads, “And you are dead to tresspasses and sins, in which you formerly walked…” The current state of the reader (who is a believer) is that he is dead TO sin. Which sin? The sins in which he formerly walked.

  10. Ryan,

    I don’t have time for conversations with you because apparently you are unable to listen to others who know more than you do. You keep on going and going like the energizer bunny about how the Greek is mistranslated, not knowing Greek yourself, assuming that you have a simple dative because you misunderstand the nature of Greek tenses, ignore the context, ignore the same phrase in v. 5 which clearly is not “dead to sin,” and ignore the larger theology of Scripture (e.g., Romans 3-8 that tells us that people are slaves to sin, do not seek God, and that none are preferable in His eyes, since all are murderers, or John 6, where Christ says flat out that “no one has the ability to come to Me”). I have too much to do than go round and round with someone who is unteachable.
    Your appeal to free will, as with Cheryl, is just a red herring that apparently even you don’t seem to get. It DOESN”T MATTER if someone has free will or not. We are talking about God loving someone in order to do what is better for them. What is better is not to have made them at all. God makes them anyway. If you want to say that it’s more loving to make them because of free will, then 1. You’re arguing against Christ who said otherwise; and 2. You’re essentially arguing that God is the most unloving Being in the universe because He didn’t make an infinite more amount of people He could have and given them free will too. Your arguments are absurd and they do not address the objection. See how holding to an unbiblical tradition gets you in trouble. Now, you’ve called the real God (of Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism, Open Theism) a monster. I say again, stop the blasphemy. You won’t hear me talk about the Arminian concept of God this way unless it’s warranted from a direct statement in a passage. If not, I simply would retain humility and say, “I think it’s clear that God does X, but if He wanted to do (and maybe He did do) Y, He has every right to do so, and remains as awesome and filled with mercy and love than He is in my system. Who am I to answer back…

  11. to God.” Any other response is childish arrogance and such hubris makes me shutter at the thought of the person having to answer for it on Judgment Day.

    Cheryl,
    What I said above to Ryan, I say to you. Disagree and object all you want, but have some humility when approaching (One who is still possibly) God with charges and name calling.

  12. Cherylu,

    When you say there are people who have “no hope of not sinning and have been given no way whatsoever to escape from it”, do yo realize even an Arminian belief system does not escape this?

    There are many in the history of the world who have died without hearing the gospel. Are they in heaven? If yes, how did they get there considering John 14:6? If no, then they indeed were punished for their inability to not sin, and never heard the hope to escape from it.

    So in light of the fact everyone is a born sinner (none are righteous not one) AND the fact that people like the Amorites, Moabites, Incas, etc. died before hearing the gospel, we must either be a Universalist or admit that God indeed passes over some and elects others.

  13. Well Hodge,

    It seems to me that it is only since you are 200% convinced, (yes I said 200% convinced,) that you are right that you can respond as you do. I am sorry, but I have only said it the way I see it. And since that is the only logical conclusion I can possibly come to, I see no other way to look at it. That is a part of the reason that I simply can not think that the Calvinist way of looking at things can be correct–precisely because I do not believe God is a moral monster and never have, BUT that is how it appears to me that Calvinist doctrine makes Him.

    You know, I have wanted to say this same thing in discussions on this site for years. It is something that I can discuss in person with friends that are also non Calvinists and see the same thing I do. Why do you suppose I have waited this long to speak out in this way? Three reasons: this article was, as I said, way more hyper Calvinistic then anything else I have seen here before, one of your fellow Calvinists had the courage to say the same thing himself a few days ago, and I have always known that if I said what was on my mind I would by royally lambasted by you and probably others too. So be it.

  14. Cheryl,

    I’m 200% convinced, and still don’t trash the God of Arminian theology because God has every right to do things that way if He chooses. It’s not that you’re discussing a hypothetical God. You are discussing what God can and cannot do because Cheryl doesn’t think He is loving if He does it. Yet, as I argued above, you are essentially saying the same thing about God in ANY of the views, and an appeal to free will does nothing to get away from it. I’m not lambasting you. I’m asking for greater humility on the part of Arminians who constantly say this. This is the one statement that makes me think that perhaps we are worshiping two different gods and that I should react to Arminians as Dort did. I’m more comfortable considering that we worship the same God when Arminians have humility to say, “From what I can understand, and in my limited perception, I think the Scriptures say that God did it this way”; but when God is essentially brought up on charges of being evil because one does not understand how He could do X instead of Y, it really does make me shutter and second guess if we shouldn’t require unity here (at least in our attitudes toward God if not in our specific systems).

  15. I am largely a silent reader here at Parchment and Pen, but I have to say at least a bit of something as this is a topic I personally wrestle with on a near-constant basis.

    Part of my difficulty with this is less related to the topic and more to the commentary. I rarely go through all the comments on an entry, but when the topic is of particular interest I’m curious to see how people in the body respond. What I find is that there is so much nit-picking and arrogance that goes on it’s astounding. Don’t get me wrong, searching for truth and the “correct” interpretation of the Word is certainly admirable, but the “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude I often see is what is tearing our church body apart. I would go so far as to say that seeing it in commentary on this site has steered me away from formal theological study, as it has led me to believe that theological study is more about “being right” than “knowing God”.

    But I digress.

    I have to agree with Cheryl on this one, though I’d be willing to wager my view on it is even more liberal than hers. I won’t go into that here, as I don’t really think it would lead to anything productive and I, like you Cheryl, get so heart-sick about this issue that I can barely discuss it.

    I think that those who claim to approach the question “humbly” and still stick to this elect-vs-nonelect view point have never really considered that they themselves might not be on the elect side. It’s considerably easier to say “God can send the majority of humanity to hell and I’ll still worship Him and think Him righteous” when one believes that one is not going to hell. Consider for a moment how you would feel about God if you were, in fact, one of the people He’s just making an example of. Or if your favorite grandmother was. Or your child. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, none of us would like God very much, not would we think Him just, or loving, or good if we believed that we were the ones who…

  16. Dr. Michael,

    I will freely admit that I don’t fully understand the aspect of things you are talking about. There is the belief that somehow God does draw all men unto Himself. I am sure it comes from John 12:32 at least primarily.

    But even as troubling to me as is the idea of Him deliberately passing over some without giving them a chance in the way you spoke of, that doesn’t begin to compare to the idea that He deliberately decreed that evil had to be so that He could have a group of people that He could punish with no hope at all of redemption. That is an idea I can in no way reconcile with any concept of God I have ever been taught or believed.

    Is our concept of justice as humans so far skewed that we just can’t conceive of that being just? If someone had several children, some of which were conceived with the idea of pouring out all of the best on and protecting them from every harm, and the rest were conceived with the sole idea of punishing them for their whole lives, wouldn’t we consider those parents to be monsters?

    And how can we be commanded by God to love our neighbor as ourself and do good to our enemies when God deliberately creates His own enemies for the very purpose of torturing them forever? Are we as Christians not to be conformed to the image of Christ? Yet we are told to love and do good and He creates men for the purpose of punishing in hell forever? There is no correspondence, sense, or logic in any of that as far as I can tell.

  17. …were perishing.

    sorry for the cut-off. Guess I was too wordy :0)

  18. Also, as to your last comment Cheryl – WORD.

  19. Sorry Lizard, but I am of the older generation here and I need clarification! What does–WORD–mean?

    (I apologize if this ends up here twice. I posted it once and it seemed to disappear.)

  20. haha – it means “preach it” and “yeah” and “that’s right”….you know, that sort of thing :0)

  21. Stella Budrikis January 25, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    If God’s glory can only be revealed to it’s full extent when it includes his justice and punishment of sin as well as his mercy, isn’t the cross of Christ itself the full revelation of God’s glory in every respect? What more is needed?

  22. Thanks Lizard! That is my, “you learn somethng new every day,” for today.

  23. By the way Hodge, speaking of humililty. (Ahem!) You are by your own confession 200% convinced you are right yet you expect Arminians to say with humility, “From what I can understand, and in my limited perception, I think the Scriptures say that God did it this way”;

    Sorry, but “from my limited perception,” there does seem to be a double standard here. How about if Calvinists, (Hodge in particular at this point,) speak with some humility from his limited perception?

    Why do you think I hesitated to get back into this conversation? I knew the sparks would be likely to fly.

  24. Cheryl, you’re welcome :0) And I agree with your last statement, that we all should be equally humble regarding our certainty on these matters. Personally I think that being even close to 100% certain about anything regarding an infinite God requires a certain amount of arrogance but…I already elaborated about that in my first lengthy note, so I will resist :0)

  25. cherylu, I agree that these things are hard doctrines and often time difficult to understand. Yet we must try and make sense of what is in God’s Word, and not pass over the tough verses.

    I’m not sure how many Calvinists say “God decreed evil”, as much as “He allowed it to happen”. Of course there are different types of decrees, which I will not get into here.

    The question for you is where did evil come from? Some Arminians say man or Satan, but if God is Sovereign over all, He still had to allow it into His creation. So even in the Arminian belief system, people could attack you by saying “How can your good God allow evil to come into a world by man or Satan?” The point is that Aminianism still has to answer for the “problem of evil”, and their answer is not any stronger than the Calvinists. So introducing the “problem of evil” as a weakness in Calvinism doesn’t really prove it wrong any more than it does the same for Arminianism.

  26. You’re asking the wrong question (again), Michael. The question is not why won’t God save anyone, but rather why does God not even want to save anyone in the first place?

    THAT is THE question! (that Calvinists should be asking)

  27. Dr. Michael,

    You are missing the point of my argument. It is quite one thing to allow evil, it is another altogether to decree it for the express purpose of having people to cast into hell to show his wrath on. And that is what this article we are commenting on here said, is it not?

  28. Dr. Michael,

    Both Calvinism and Arminianism give logically coherent answers as to why evil exists.

    Arminians assert that evil exists as a necessary by product of libertarian free will among both humans and heavenly beings. The very concept of libertarian free will implies the possibility (and I would argue certainty – i.e. there is no logically possible universe in which LFW exists and evil does not) that humans will use that liberty for evil. Thus evil exists because God desired to create a universe with LFW greater then He desired to create a universe that was absent of evil.

    Calvinism in my understanding asserts that God has not only allowed, but actively decreed evil in order to glorify Himself.

    The question becomes, as far as the problem of evil is concerned, whether or not these are adequate justifications for the existence of evil in the universe. I would submit that it is at least plausible the free will defense is adequate justification. On the other hand I’m not sure how creating billions of sentient beings for the sole purpose of torturing them for eternity in order to bring glory to oneself can provide adequate justification for the existence of evil. Imagine if you tried to convince someone that you could do whatever you wanted and still be good so long as you were glorified in someway by your actions??

  29. So WHY does evil exist and who created it?

    It would seem to me that if Calvinists believe that God is sovereign, and man has no free choice at all in the matter, they would have to own up at some point that either God created it, or evil came into existence on its own. That would then disprove the very argument they are standing upon.

  30. “I would submit that it is at least plausible the free will defense is adequate justification.”

    Michael,
    Would you admit, however, that God’s love for the unbeliever is in subjection to His love for the believer, and that the multitude of unbelievers are being created so that God can make and save the believers? That’s what I’m trying to get at. The free will defense is not something that is a plausible justification for anyone who denies that God can use the unbeliever’s life and damnation for the love of the believer, since this is true in everyone’s system.

  31. lizard and Cheryl,

    I suggest doing a study on humility when it comes to biblical truth claims. It has nothing to do with confidence in the person and everything to do with confidence in God and His Word. Humility is in relation to God’s ability to communicate and believing what He has said, even if we do not agree or understand. Humility in relation to other human beings has nothing to do with divine truth claims. It has to do with just viewing others as more important than yourself, not viewing truth as subjective. Hence, I deny that is arrogant to have absolute confidence in what an infinite God has said since that infinite God has infinite ability to communicate it to us. What I am calling for is humility in relation to God, therefore, and asking that one refrain from cursing Him as evil because of the precise lack of humility I just spoke of above. Please don’t confuse your cultural definitions with those of the Scripture, since our culture tends to elevate human subjectivity in apprehending truth over the divine ability to communicate it.

  32. Lizard, thanks for coming out of the woodwork (pun intended) to make your feelings known, but I would suggest you actually get to know some Calvinists before you start saying that they don’t ever think they might be one who perishes. Calvinists have such a high view of God and low view of rebellious man that even if God damned them, they would still see Him as good and righteous for doing so, and greatly honor Him as One who uses them to love His people. In fact, this seems to be the response that unbelievers, again in any system, will have toward God. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess His vindication as Lord and the right He has to exercise this judgment upon them.

    Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him; and though He damn me, yet will I proclaim His greatness in all the earth.

  33. Hodge – I personally would suggest that it would be….illogical / self-defeating for God to “use the unbeliever’s life and damnation for the love of the believer” because of two reasons.

    First, I personally, and most believers I know, would have a very hard if not impossible time loving such a God.

    Secondly, I would even claim that a lot of what the Bible teaches about virtue and righteousness would stand against that sort of theology. Meaning, I would not be able to love a God who would use unbeliever’s lives and damnation for self-glorifying purposes because Christianity has taught me that it is wrong to hurt / condemn / use torture for self-glorification purposes. Christian morals stand against this sort of God.

  34. “First, I personally, and most believers I know, would have a very hard if not impossible time loving such a God.

    Secondly, Meaning, I would not be able to love a God who would use unbeliever’s lives and damnation for self-glorifying purposes because Christianity has taught me that it is wrong to hurt / condemn / use torture for self-glorification purposes. Christian morals stand against this sort of God.”

    Isn’t this really one reason? I think you’ve stated well the evil of man and his view of God. I want a God who gives everyone lollipops because I have no understanding of evil or divine love to save a group of people.
    I can’t go into now, but if your understanding of salvation does not include the damnation of others, then you do not fully comprehend the nature of what it is to “know God” and have eternal life/salvation.

    But I digress, because logically, you do have a God who subjects His love for the unbeliever to the believer. Here’s why: He created a universe, knowing that the unbeliever will be damned and that it would be better to not make them at all, in order to make and save the believers. He put aside what was best for the unbeliever in order to love the believer by making and saving them. That’s not just in my system. It’s in every system. I’m not sure why this is so difficult to grasp, even though I know many don’t want to grasp it for reasons you stated (i.e., I can’t love a God who would do that). In essence, you are saying that you cannot love a God who made all things, including the unbeliever, for you, a God who loves you. Wow. I find that to be utterly ungrateful for this awesome work that He has done on your behalf.

  35. Again, I just want to plea that we leave this discussion of what God would be if He does X instead of Y, and go back to whether or not He did it. I cringe at this conversation, knowing that many are digging themselves in deeper with statements that they will sincerely regret in the long run.

  36. As for humility, I’m not talking about one’s certainty in God, but in one’s certainty in one’s own interpretation of God/ scripture. When one so adamantly adopts a doctrine upon which there is no consensus in the Christian world, one is essentially suggesting that they somehow have a superior knowledge of God and what His word actually means. For example, as a Calvinist, you claim certainty in the doctrine of election. However, there are millions of other Christians, who also have the Holy Spirit, who also read the same Bible you do, yet come to different conclusions. I believe that past a certain point, your certainty in this doctrine supposes that somehow you and others who feel the same way have the most accurate interpretation of the Bible. That, I believe, is a matter of arrogance as it suggests that your knowledge of scripture and God is somehow superior and more accurate than that of those that disagree with you.

    As for your claim that Cheryl was blaspheming when she called your interpretation of God a moral monster, I would argue that she was not calling God Himself a moral monster, but merely YOUR or the Calvinist version of Him a moral monster. You are so certain in your interpretation of scripture that you can no longer make a distinction between “God” and “God as I see Him”. While for Cheryl, perhaps, “God” and “God as Hodge sees Him” are in fact two different entities. She can easily call your interpretation of God a moral monster, while not in any way attacking God Himself. I trust that God would see the distinction there.

  37. I tend to think it wiser, and more humble, to say

    “God, I have no idea why you created a world in which there are unbelievers and evil. But I trust that you are Good.”

    Instead of saying “I totally get why you created this world! It’s to show your power and save my soul at the expense of countless others!”

    Because in the case of the latter, if you’re wrong, you know, it seems like God would not appreciate being so mis-characterized.

  38. So are you 100% sure that we shouldn’t be 100% sure when other Christians disagree? Because other Christians disagree with you about that statement. Are you being arrogant?

    Again, you have described well the confidence in man’s inability to understand and lack thereof in God’s ability to communicate. If I’m going to wait around until there is a complete consensus among all Christians on every doctrine, then it’s time to become an agnostic.

    Richard Dawkins could just say that he’s not blaspheming God either, he’s just blaspheming your view of God when he slanders the God of the OT. Do you think that will excuse him? But what’s worse is that Cheryl and your God is the same as mine because He does the exact same thing in your systems for which He is now being slandered by you. Hence, I really don’t think the arrogance here is mine; but I’m done discussing this after my next post.

  39. So, for example, if we said something like this, we would be exercising arrogance?

    “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it [does] not [depend] on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And [He did so] in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, [even] us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.”

    I think if I were to say, “God I have no idea why you created the world where there are unbelievers and evil” I would basically be saying, “God, I don’t want to believe what you’ve said here, so I’m just going to pretend that you didn’t want to communicate that to me, and plead ignorance.” I may not know how it all works out, but the revealed things belong to me and my children forever, so I am going to trust in them and proclaim then, even though I may not know and understand them exhaustively, which is something that God never requires of us in order to believe Him absolutely.

  40. mbaker said, “evil came into existence on its own”, which is impossible, not to mention illogical.

    cherylu, I’m not seeing where Sam Storms said God decrees evil above? Am I missing it somewhere?

    Too all Arminians reading this, including Michael T. above, you must also answer how evil was created? And can anything be created that is outside God’s Sovereign Will? Also, why would God allow anything in His creation if it did not ultimately glorify Himself?

    Again, Arminians are no better off on this issue of “where did evil come from.”

  41. Folks, while I don’t mind the “forum” use of this blog on my posts so much, let’s not fill up Sam’s inbox with this. Just use this as a place to ask him questions.

    Please remember to be gracious to one another. This is a secondary issue that good people disagree about. If you get too emotional thinking about and discussing this, please don’t write your thoughts here.

  42. Truth Unites... and Divides January 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Storms: “This point is related to what we see in Romans 9:22-23. God desired to show his wrath and make known his power in order that his mercy and grace might be seen in unmistakable clarity and his glory displayed to his everlasting praise.”

    Romans 9:22-23: “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—”

    The Authority and Truth of Scripture trumps hurt feelings and emotionalism.

    P.S. I wrote this without seeing CMP’s prior post.

  43. “mbaker said, “evil came into existence on its own”, which is impossible, not to mention illogical.”

    Dr. Michael,

    If you are going to quote me, please make sure you do it in proper context. I did not declare that evil came into existance on its own.

    I was simply framing that as one of the possibilities of a conclusion one might reach, in context of the question I asked above as I understand Calvinism from all the explanations here. I would prefer to hear the answer from the author of the post itself.

    Thanks.

  44. Hodge, can you please help me understand the meaning of Rom 7:9? In what way was Paul alive without the law?

    What is Paul’s point using the example of marital law in Rom 7:1-4?

  45. Hodge,
    I am not 100% certain about anything. Though I do lean in the direction that being 100% certain about secondary doctrines is…unnecessary and can cause more harm than good. But no, I am not 100% certain about that, either.

    I just don’t see this as a black and white issue. I will agree, that the verses you cited do point in the direction of your theology. There are other things to consider, though. For instance, it does say that God desires everyone to be saved. How does it glorify God if his desires are not met?

    It also says in ecclesiastes: “man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. 20All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” Which leads me to believe that we really have no idea what goes on after death. But perhaps we’re smarter than the writer of ecclesiastes?

    Love is also given the characteristics of being patient, kind, not boasting, not proud, keeping no record of wrongs – if God is love, then He must be all these things? We are given instruction on how to live – loving our neighbor, bearing all things, forgiving all things – does God not hold himself to (at least!) the same standard? We are told to spread His good news of salvation to the ends of the earth…what, even though no one has a choice in the matter? What are we to say “Jesus came to save only the special people he came to save. If this sounds good to you, maybe you’re one of them. Or maybe you’re going to suffer eternal damnation. I really don’t know which it is, and you have no say in the matter.” That doesn’t really sound like good news to me.

    All I’m getting at is that yes, we can pick out verses here and there, some of which support one doctrine, some another. We should always take them in the context of the greater themes of the entire text. How is “Good” defined? what about “Justice”? and “Love”?…

  46. If God is all these things, how can He then also be the guy who creates people just so they can be destroyed and gives them no say in the matter? That seems completely contradictory to me.

    To the extent that if I were to read something and interpret it as supporting this claim of “God creates some people to be evil and to be destroyed and tortured, and they have no free will on the matter whatsoever”, in the context of the rest of the biblical text I would assume that my interpretation was wrong. It just doesn’t fall in line with what we are taught about the nature of God; His goodness, grace, and love.

  47. Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him; and though He damn me, yet will I proclaim His greatness in all the earth.

    Hodge, I was surprised when I read the second half of this statement in your post. Is this like, “I love Him because He first hated me”?

    Seriously, though… In Job 13:15 where you got the first part of this from, Job’s very next statement is to vindicate himself: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before him.” And we know from the text that God vindicated him. Strangely enough, God rebuked his friends who seem like Calvinists to me, and in the end, Job had to intercede for them.

  48. “So evil is necessary if the glory of God is to be perfectly and completely displayed. ”

    Then it seems the persons of the Trinity do not perfectly display their deity to one another, for within their fellowship there is no evil. This makes a fallen creation necessary for God’s self-actualization, which is undermines his aseity and makes him the author of evil.

    “It is also necessary for the highest happiness of humanity, because our happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love.”

    Couldn’t we have sufficient knowledge of God and his attributes through the cross of Christ? It seems that a fallen creation that contains many creatures that end up populating hell is more conducive to revealing the character of God than Jesus dying on the cross. That is just incredible any way you read the Bible (too put in mildly).

  49. Dr. Michael,

    To answer your question adequately one would have to get into a extended philosophical discussion about what exactly evil is (a discussion mind you that has been going on since the earliest Christian writings). I will however refrain from pulling this post that far off topic.

  50. I think the comments implying that Arminians worship freewill (expressed as if that were a negative, or worse, idolatry) mischaracterise the Arminian position.

    We think that God has freewill and he gives us a part of that in the imago Dei. We believe that God loves us and intends us to love him. We think that it is logically impossible to love in any meaningful sense without freewill. We think determinism logically incompatible with love.

    According to Arminianism, God won’t save all because to do so would require that he intrude upon and override the rebellious will of many unbelievers. God so values the purported dignity of libertarian freedom that he chooses only to save those who believe, although it would be possible to save those who don’t as well.

    Some may think this (?), but I am not certain I do. While there is nothing preventing God from doing what he does to redeem us, he does this only to those who love him. God cannot make people love him.

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