Charles Edward White, “Is There Something that God Values More Highly than Human Salvation?”

, posted by SEA

A common argument of Calvinists is that both they and Arminians think that there is something which God values more highly than universal salvation.  They say that God values his own glory in damning the guilty and that Arminians think he values human freedom more than he desires that all should be saved.  John Piper makes this argument in his blood-curdling book, Does God Desire All to be Saved? and the ESV Study Bible says it as it explains away 1 Tim 4:10 and 2 Peter 3:9 which say that God wants all to be saved.

The mistake the Calvinists make is that they equate a choice that God makes with a logically necessary condition which God endures.  They say that God values his own glory as the righteous judge of the universe enough that he makes the wicked for the purpose of punishing them.  When Arminians object that it is unfitting for a God of love to value anything more than human salvation they reply with a tu quoque saying that Arminians think that God prizes the ability of people to choose more than he values their salvation.

But this response of the Calvinist contains a categorical mistake.  They are right to see God’s concern with his glory as a choice that God makes in a situation that could be different.  But the valuing of human autonomy that the Arminian assigns to God is not a choice among possible alternatives.  It is a logical consequence from the nature of salvation.  Arminians know that God loves people freely and that what he most desires is love in return.  But love in its essence must be free.  The very definition of love includes the freedom of choice and the absence of constraint.  Love without freedom is not love.  So unlike what the Calvinists allege, God does not choose human freedom above human salvation.  What God wants most is human salvation.  But human salvation entails love and love requires freedom.  People cannot be saved against their wills.  Freedom is necessary for love and love is necessary for salvation, so in desiring human salvation God necessarily wills human freedom.

C.S. Lewis makes the point that putting “God can” in front of an absurd sentence does not make that sentence any less absurd.  Saying that God can provide human salvation without also allowing human freedom is absurd.  It is like saying God can provide water without providing H2O.  Freedom is not something that God can value more than salvation.  Freedom is part of that salvation that God desires more than anything—even more than his own glory.