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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Thursday, June 18, 2009
Why doesn't God save everyone?
Have you ever heard anyone ask that? If God can save one person from hell, why doesn't He save everyone?

The Universalist believes that God has saved everyone regardless of what they believe.

At the core of this conviction is the idea that life is something we all deserve, and God is obligated to respond to a moral truism that is bigger than Himself. He saves everyone because everyone deserves to live. Theological Universalism does not have scripture as its foundation, but secular humanistic opinions about the value of life.

The Arminian believes that God wants to save everyone, but only gets to save those who are fortunate enough to hear the right gospel, and who, having heard it, were personally wise enough to respond to it properly.

Arminianism is similar to Universalism in that it presupposes that God wants to save everyone and is obligated to do so by His "goodness" but Arminianism differs from Universalism in that Jesus doesn't actually cause anyone to be saved, He just facilitates the means of salvation through His own death, and only for those who freely choose to receive it. God therefore wants to save everyone, and provides the means to save everyone, but ultimately only saves those who hear and believe the gospel.

In Arminianism, it is a tragedy when someone goes to hell because God is trying to save everyone.

The Calvinist believes that sin's penalty (eternal damnation, the wrath of God, etc.) is just, and that God is not obligated by the "sanctity of life" to preserve the lives of guilty sinners. If God chooses to preserve even one life, that in no way obligates God to preserve another. Therefore the Calvinist believes that God is not trying to save everyone, but will certainly save every soul that He intended to save beforehand.

In Calvinism, it is not a tragedy when someone goes to hell - it is justice, plain and simple.

Thus the question, "Why doesn't God save everyone?" is going to be answered differently depending on who you ask. The Universalist will say, "God does save everyone!". The Arminian will say, "God wants to save everyone, but not everyone wants to be saved" and the Calvinist will say that God, "...saves as many as He chooses to save, no more, no less."

I use these labels (Universalist, Arminian, Calvinist) as a matter of convenience. When I say that someone is a universalist, I am not suggesting that they are disciples of someone named "Bob Universal"; likewise, when I say "Arminian", I don't mean these people study and believe all that Jacubus Arminius believed and taught, I merely mean they think God has provided a means to save everyone, with the purpose of trying to save as many as possible, and that God is by no means sovereign in the process. Likewise with the label Calvinist - I don't intend to say that the person studies and adheres to every nuance of Calvin's theological thought, I mean only that they ascribe to the doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God.

My answer to the question then, is decidedly "Calvinist" in that it presumes man to be guilty and deserving of damnation, and does not impose the humanistic notion that there is a moral rule that is above God: that life must be preserved at all costs, so that God is bound to some moral "truism" that exists apart from Himself.

Let's start with the facts: Hell is a judgment. If God really is just, He isn't, and cannot be, in the business of helping men avoid justice. That must be the foundation we begin with, because God does not and will not set justice aside for anything. Every sin will be punished fully - bar none.

God is just, but God is also merciful, and full of glory, yet God's mercy is never exercised at the expense of His justice.

If I buy my child an ice cream, even if my child didn't deserve it, does that obligate me to buy an ice cream for every other person on earth? Said another way, does this act of grace to my child obligate me to give the same grace to everyone else?

Unless you're quite confused, you will see that my giving my own child an ice cream does not obligate me to give ice cream to anyone else. In fact, if I give the first reader to read this post an ice cream, that doesn't obligate me to give the next reader an ice cream, because an act of grace is not, and cannot be made, obligatory. You don't suddenly deserve an ice cream just because someone else got one.

I know, I know - the world has a moral "truism" called fairness that teaches that if everyone is equally undeserving, and I give something to one, that obligates me to give to everyone else or I am being unfair.

Let's use scripture to show that this is bunk.
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. "When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And so they went. "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day long?' "They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.' "When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. "When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. "When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.' "But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 'Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' - Matthew 20:1-15 [NASB]
I confess, when I first read this in scripture, I sided with the workers who had worked all day. I believed that even though they agreed beforehand to work for a days wage, and were paid (as promised) a days wage, I honestly felt that unless the owners generosity was proportionately unilateral (i.e. if he paid one man a days wages for half day's work, he should be obligated to double everyone else's wages too).

It took me a while to see through my the blinders of my default, humanistic opinon, but eventually I saw that the owners generosity really didn't obligate him to be generous to the others - that the others received the wages of their work, and that the ownder's generosity shown to those who came late to the party, by no means obligated him to be generous to anyone else. I was imposing an obligation upon the owner that was not justified based on a concept of fairness that I presumed (without challenge) to be accurate and true. It was only as my eyes were opened to my error that I learned how false my default opinion was. Generosity cannot be obligatory, or it becomes a wage: something owed. I don't "owe" my other children ice cream because I have given a cone to one of them.

The heart is a wicked, deceived, insane thing and remains so until we die, but in Christ, relying on God's wisdom, the light can push out the darkness, and so it was for me when I began to see it. I used to get miffed if someone I knew inherited money. Why them? Why don't I ever inherit money? They paid off their house, and look at me, I am still saddled with a mortgage! I am pretty sure I stopped short of actually believing that I "deserved" to inherit money, but the truth is, it was not a sense of violated fairness that I was feeling - it was greed and desire being stirred up by someone else's sudden prosperity. There was nothing good about my greed, but it is the same emotion that drives the illusion of fairness.

When I was finally able to see things as they truly are, I began to see that God's mercy and grace shown to one sinner, does not, and cannot obligate Him to show the same mercy and grace to some other sinner. It was the same lesson. Grace is not grace if it is owed, and God does not owe salvation to anyone.

Thus, God is not obliged to provide salvation to me or to you, or to your neighbor down the street, and He is not wicked or evil even if He decides to allow all of humanity to receive (in full) the wages of their sin; yet in contrast, God -is- obliged by His own righteousness to pay the wages of sin in full (i.e. to condemn all of us to hell).

If showing mercy to one person, does not oblige God to show mercy to anyone else, then we answer the original question (why doesn't God save everyone?) with a sober truth: God is not obligated to do so.

You see, we need to rid ourselves of the image that God is saving people from hell. What God is doing is administering justice unilaterally, then extending generosity to some.

All of us will receive the wages of sin; some will receive the wages of their sin in hell, and some will receive the wages of their sin in Christ. Those who are in Christ will be raised to life in Christ after the judgment, those who are not in Christ will not. God will pour out His wrath on every sin: no sin shall go unpunished; but God where God's righteousness demands that He deal with all sin equalaterally, mercy and grace (by their nature) make no demand. We wouldn't even be aware of mercy and grace if everyone received it unilaterally - for we would regard the status quo as neutral, and not full of mercy and grace.

What Universalists and Arminians seem to miss is the fact that sending people to hell is an act of justice. When these insist that God is trying to save people from hell, they are unwittingly teaching that God is trying to save people from His own judgment, and therefore unwittingly proclaiming that God's judgment is unjust.

These rail against the idea that God could be satisfied in letting even one sinner receive the just penalty for his sin. God (to them) is working overtime to spare men -- from His own justice -- and when they fail to comprehend the irrationality of their position, they also fail to understand election and the scope of atonement, because this is just the kind of misunderstanding that can blind a person.

Here's the scoop: God isn't trying to save everyone. When God gave Noah the design for the ark, it wasn't designed to accommodate every living person that was on the earth, nor every living animal. It was designed to house those whom God chose beforehand to be on the ark --and no more! Was Noah instructed to build the ark to provide a possible salvation for every man woman and child on the earth at the time? No. Noah, was told to build an ark just large enough to provide salvation for those few whom God chose beforehand.

Did God change? Was He mean and cold hearted in the OT. Why didn't God tell Noah to build the ark big enough to hold everyone? Shouldn't God have done that? I mean, if God were really trying to save the world from His own wrath, shouldn't he have instructed Noah to build an ark big enough to save "whosoever would come?". Yet don't some Christians believe that God suddenly became "nicer" when He sent Jesus to be an "ark" for those of us whom God chose beforehand to pass through eternal judgment. They believe that even if God was sort of particular about who was saved from His wrath the first time, that all changed with Jesus. God is now new and improved - having grown out of His Old Testament fickleness, and into a New Testament humanitarian. Now God is trying to save everyone, and is a very nice guy, but a miserable failure.

Here is what I believe: God is not obligated to save anyone, and doesn't become obligated to save anyone by saving someone else just because neither of them deserve to be saved. I think that people who have been influenced by secular moralism and humanistic reasoning will find it hard to see what I am talking about, because their world view is partially being formed by philosophies that run contrary to scripture and contrary to truth.

God doesn't have to save anyone, and certainly doesn't have to save everyone. He saves whomever He wills, and no one whom He determines to save fails to be saved. Jesus didn't come to provide a means for everyone to be saved, but came to save those whom God chose beforehand, and only those whom God chose beforehand. Jesus doesn't merely provide everyone with a possibility of salvation, but saves every last soul whom He chose beforehand to save, and was sent here to save, dying only for them, and for no others. Period.

If hell is just, then God cannot be trying to save everyone (or anyone) from it. God must therefore be saving some, and only some (and these for some reason other than trying to preserve life at all cost).

Why does God do it that way?

I suspect the reason is, as the Westminster divines might have said it, to put God's grace, mercy, and glory on display - a thing which cannot be done unless there is some arena in which these things can be seen. In order to see mercy, we need there to be something that requires mercy. In order to show grace, we need to see something that requires grace - these attributes of God only be seen in contrast, and so we need sin (and the fall) to frame God's glory and grace otherwise they could not be comprehended.

The problem people have with that is that if a man were to put his glory on display it would be a boastful act of pride, an egoism. Why? Because that man is a creature and everything He has, He has received from God. He has nothing to boast about. Is he smart? Talented? Healthy? Born into a good family? Is there anything we can do that we can honestly and soberly say we do apart from God's enabling? Who then can boast? All such boasting is sin - scripture tells us (just in case we are too blind to reason that much out for ourselves). God is not being boastful if He puts His glory on display. If God puts His glory on display it is because His glory ought to be on display. The heart that insists that God's grace and glory are not worhty of display, is sick and confused at best.

Our lives are not something we have a right to. our lives are a privilege. God is not obligated to sustain our lives just because He graced us with them. We have been given life to put God's glory on display, and we will put God's glory on display - one way or another. Those who imagine that God exists to provide mankind with life are missing a very big boat. Life is granted by God according to God's grace, and serves a noble purpose - God's glory. We are not owed life, and when we forfeit our lives by sinning, God is not obligated to save us from the consequences of our sin. That God chooses to put His glory on display in a way that is merciful and gracious only magnifies His glory, and anyone who misses this turns God into a servant of "life" - making life itself greater than the God who is its Author and Lord. When we do that, we put ourselves in a place where we will not be able to see past the blind and we set ourselves up to remain there until that notion is corrected.

My hope of course, is that this post is corrective.

Labels: ,

posted by Daniel @ 12:21 PM  
7 Comments:
  • At 4:11 PM, June 18, 2009, Anonymous greg said…

    amen and amen!

     
  • At 4:58 PM, June 18, 2009, Blogger David Kjos said…

    You are a wicked, evil Calvinist. And long-winded, too.

    Love you, brother!

     
  • At 6:04 PM, June 18, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    @David - you are redundant, sir. :)

    Daniel,

    I am in agreement with you. The most difficult argument to uphold is how the Scripture that states "God wants all men to be saved" fits into a Calvinistic world-view. It has been used against me so many times, and I have used the strategy of defining all men as all those whom God has foreordained, and that it is referring to people over time, not all people. I just don't seem to ever convince anyone (and yes, I know it is the Holy Spirit, not me doing the convincing. But still . . .).

    Any tips on a pithy, yet theologically sound response to this objection?

    Thanks!
    Jennifer

     
  • At 7:41 PM, June 18, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jenny - pithy? How about, "I guess that means no women then?"

     
  • At 5:14 PM, June 22, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    lol :)

    Thanks, Daniel. I knew I could count on you!

    -Jen

     
  • At 3:01 PM, September 28, 2010, Anonymous Hal said…

    This may help. The scriptures are written to the saved and are for the purpose of helping the saved to endure. The Bible is not a how to be a Christian manual, it is written to Christians.

    Hal

     
  • At 8:56 AM, February 12, 2014, Blogger Rusty Freeman said…

    Beautiful article. You have nailed the chief end of creation ;God's glory. People who love Christ would do well to study the attributes of God.

     
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