One of the ramifications of the doctrine of Election is the doctrine of Reprobation. Election is God’s choosing of some men to salvation. If some are chosen, others are not chosen. This being not chosen is what is called the doctrine of Reprobation.
The aim of this article and the next one is not to describe Reprobation in either supralapsarian or infralapsarian terms. (Only those who are already on our side will be interested in that subject anyway.) Nor do I intend to resolve that theological issue; although I am admittedly a supralapsarian. I simply mention this because all Arminian objections to the doctrine of Election arise because of this corollary doctrine of Reprobation. I intend to go a step further and address the objections to Reprobation, all of which boil down to two topics: God’s justice and God’s mercy. This article will deal with the question of justice. The next post will deal with the issue of divine mercy as it relates to Reprobation.
A fair (no pun intended) definition of justice would be: giving every man his due. This definition might stand a bit of tweaking. But at the end of the day, it’ll do. When we come to the supposed problem or injustice of Reprobation, it hangs on whether God is or is not a debtor to man. He obviously is not. If it can be proved that God owes salvation to everyone, only then will it follow that Reprobation is unjust. If we can show that God is not debtor, but rather creditor, then the objection vanishes into thin air.
Moreover, this objection weighs as heavily against limited salvation as it does against the limiting decree. You have to prove that everyone is decreed to be equally happy – even in this life. If God is a debtor to any man, why not all men? If God owes salvation to all men, why does He condemn anyone finally? If the Arminian answers that they disqualify themselves from receiving salvation, I reply that to speak of man not permitting God to be just is assuming a principle that cannot be allowed. God can never be overruled by man. And the Arminian hypothesis of man being God’s creditors rests on the natural claim to happiness with which man is supposed to be invested as a right in virtue of involuntary creatureship. In other words, man didn’t ask to be created, therefore God is obligated to make him happy. Arminianism presupposes that since man derives his existence from God, God is bound and obligated to make that existence happy. The fact is that if God owes happiness to all His creatures, then even those who die in their sins must be saved or else God ceases to be just.
Arminians love to claim that Calvinism leads to antinomiansim, but the exact opposite appears to be the case. It seems unavoidable to me that if you probe Arminianism to its bottom, IT, and not Calvinism opens the floodgates of licentiousness. Arminian principles force us to this conclusion. Every son of Adam is God’s creature; every creature of God is good. We are all endued with independent free-will. He loves all men alike. His justice will not let Him reject any of us. Christ’s death atoned for the sins of all men; hence we are all redeemed. This all leads to but one conclusion: Let us eat, drink and be merry.
Of course, I’m not claiming that all Arminians reason this way. Indeed, few do. Most are blissfully unaware of the logical consequences of their own system. They are too busy slinging mud to notice that it is they who are losing ground.
Now, you may say to me that salvation is only given to men once they meet certain conditions. My cheap reply is this: If salvation is every man’s due whether he fulfills the conditions or not, then you indeed a wide-eyed Antinomian. If you say then that salvation is not man’s due unless he fulfills certain conditions then it either follows that:
1. Man earns his own salvation, and by his works he makes God his debtor. Or,
2. Man, as a creature is not entitled to salvation, and God as Creature is under no obligation to save anyone He has created.
There are no other alternatives. Either God is obligated, in justice, to save everyone or He is not. If He is, then it is man’s works that put Him under obligation. If not, then He is not unjust by passing over some men. In fact, He could’ve passed by the entire human race without electing anyone to salvation and remained perfectly holy and just.
Let’s pursue this line of reasoning a little further. If eternal happiness is due to everyone, then surely temporal happiness is too. Face it. If all men have equal right to the greatest possible happiness, what reason would they have to doubt the lesser? If God is bound, on penalty of being unjust, to do all He can to make every man happy in the next life, He is certainly bound to do the same in this life.
God, in His omnipotence, could banish misery from the universe. Nothing speaks louder than facts. It is obviously not His will to do so. Here’s the burning question: Are all men equally happy? Some men are born blind; some with sight. Some are born with full use of their mental faculties; some are not. Some are born into wealthy homes; some into poor. Some are born into freedom; some into slavery. Some men are born to kings; some to criminals. Some have loving parents; some have abusive ones. Some have faithful spouses; some have adulterous ones. The simple fact is that there is obvious inequality of station in this present, temporal life. Any objection against Reprobation as injustice weighs equally against any inequality of status in this life. If God is not allowed to be sovereign in eternal affairs, He is equally barred from sovereignty in temporal affairs. Yet no Arminian claims that God is unjust because not all men are equally rich, talented, intelligent or attractive.
Face it. Some angels fell and some didn’t. God could’ve prevented this. God could’ve prevented the Fall of Adam. Some men are converted, some are not. The only thing that can account for this is the absolute sovereignty of God. God does according to His will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth (Dan. 4:35; Ps. 135:6).
Someone may reply that just because God acts as sovereign in the disposal of earthly benefits does not prove that He acts on the same principle in the disposal of eternal blessings. This is easily refuted. For:
1. Eternal things are as much at His disposal as temporal things; either He is sovereign over everything or not. If He couldn’t dispose of eternal things with the same sovereignty as He does temporal things, then He could never give to His people the spiritual blessings He promises them.
2. Even granting that time and eternity are not equal, yet if God were unjust in not ordaining one man as well as the next to eternal happiness, then He must be proportionately unjust in not ordaining all men to equal happiness here on earth. If God can, with absolute justice allow one man to be unhappy and miserable temporally, He can with equal justice allow him to be unhappy and miserable for eternity. If God cannot be unjust for a second, He cannot be unjust for eternity. If He can be unjust for a second, He can be so for eternity.
Does anyone deny temporal evil? Are there no wars, no crime? Are these exempt from the providence of God? Affirming this would be atheism. Suggesting that God is unaware of future events or that He is unable to do anything about them is tantamount to denying God’s existence. As an aside, this means that I deem Open Theism to be atheism. A God with any limitations is no God at all.
Our conclusion then is this: There is temporal evil and everyone has some share in it. This does not arise from any deficiency in God’s wisdom, power or justice. Either this is true, or God has been acting unjustly ever since the Fall. If you reply that moral evil is the cause of natural evil, you are saying nothing that we Calvinists haven’t been saying for centuries.
But the older issue remains unaddressed: How did moral evil come to pass. Natural evils are the result of moral evil and if God had not permitted the former, the latter would never have come to pass. The Arminian replies: “He gave man free-will.” So what? Didn’t God, in His infinite knowledge and wisdom, foresee what the consequences would be of granting man this ability? Was He unable to foresee how man would use this will? And couldn’t God have given Him such a will that he would never have used it for evil? The Arminian will reply, “But then he wouldn’t be a free agent.” Yes, he would have been! God is a free agent and yet His will is such that He cannot but be eternally holy, good and righteous. Why would the same will in man make him less free than it makes God?
God is just amidst all the sufferings of fallen men and fallen angels. He will remain just no matter how much more any of them suffer. If so, where is the objection to Reprobation on the grounds of injustice?