“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9 NKJV). Does God love those whom He has allegedly, according to Calvinism, not unconditionally elected unto faith and salvation? Fritz Guy writes: “If the preeminent characteristic of God is love, and if God is the source of all reality, there can be little doubt about the universal scope of God’s love. It is unthinkable that the divine love is restricted to a fortunate part of creation and that another (perhaps even larger) part is excluded [merely by a decree].”1
We believe Fritz is right because 1) God is love (1 John 4:8): Scripture teaches that God’s nature is love, not that He merely possesses love; and 2) God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34). The Calvinists’ theory of unconditional election is partial, particular, and based not on union with Christ (or lack thereof), but on an unconditional decree founded in eternity. While this portrait of (unconditional) election expresses God’s love for some people, it excludes God’s love for others, since electing a person to hell by a mere decree falls far short of any viable definition of “love.”
Again, Fritz comments: “In regard to human reality, the divine love includes absolutely all, intending the ultimate good — that is, the eternal salvation — of every person. Not only is this an inescapable implication of the character of God, but also the biblical revelation emphatically attests the universality of the divine intention in redemption as well as in creation.”2 The character of God is what the Arminian believes he or she is trying to protect. If someone claims that God does not love the supposed “non-elect,” the Arminian protests that the theory is contrary to what Scripture teaches concerning the character of God. Let us take a look at the words of Jesus about rich people and the kingdom of God.
Mark writes: As Jesus started on His way, a man ran up to Him, fell on his knees before him and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17) Jesus tells him what he must do: keep the Law. The man tells Jesus that he has kept the Law all his life; and then Mark writes, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Loved him? Does Jesus love the “non-elect”? Jesus continues: “One thing you lack . . . Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow Me. At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:21-23)
That man “went away” from Jesus sad; he could not follow Jesus. Now, according to Calvinism, this man proved that he was not unconditionally elect by his rejection of Christ’s offer. Yet, Mark confesses that Jesus “loved him” (Mark 10:21). Jesus loved this “non-elect” individual. Is this pure speculation on my part? After all, that man could have changed his mind later and followed Jesus. But that is highly unlikely according to Jesus’ conclusion.
As an aside, some will ask whether Jesus loved Judas Iscariot, or the Pharisees who would betray Him? Even in their rejection of Him, Jesus called the Pharisees to believe in His works so that they would know that the Father was in Him and He in Him (John 10:37-38). This offer from Jesus to trust in Him appears loving, and shows no signs of divine hatred. If He hated them, He would not have offered them salvation through faith in Him. Let us remember that Jesus shed real tears when He cried out: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34 NKJV) Notice how the Savior, with tears, desired to gather the unbelieving and unwilling Jews unto Himself, but He did not nor would not do so irresistibly.
Moreover, Jesus had called His disciples to follow him, which included Judas. Speaking of the disciples, Scripture states: “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1 NKJV). Judas was not present when Jesus washed His disciples feet, for Satan had already entered Judas (John 13:2). Due to his betrayal, Judas could not be among those whom Jesus claimed, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8 NKJV). But this act of betrayal was Judas’ fault, not Christ’s. Judas was not forced to betray the Savior but did so willingly.
Jesus stated at Mark 10:23 how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. What a peculiar statement. Why would it be hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God if Calvinism is true? Surely, God’s unconditionally elect have no trouble whatsoever entering the kingdom of God, because when God so wills it, He regenerates His elect and they exercise faith in Christ Jesus and are saved. What is so hard about that? In Calvinism, God’s grace is granted irresistibly, and it is always efficacious, it always regenerates the unconditionally elect.
The grace of God, says Fritz Guy, is
never, strictly speaking, “irresistible.” Indeed, the term “irresistible grace” looks suspiciously like an oxymoron, like “married bachelor” or “square circle” or “causally determined free action.” For grace is the offer of a gift, not the imposition of another’s will; and it is in the nature of a gift that it can be rejected. It is the nature of love that it can be ignored or spurned.”3
To demonstrate the universality of God’s love, I ask, What kind of love chooses a person for eternal torment based not on that person’s rejection of an offer through grace bestowed on that one, but merely by a decree? The Calvinist, in essence, is admitting that God absolutely must reprobate much of humanity in order to bring Himself glory. Thus God is more concerned about receiving glory than about gracing or enabling the creatures He created in His own image to trust in Christ for salvation. He must reprobate the greater part of humanity to an eternal torment in order to glorify Himself. It is quite a wonder how Calvinism is still gaining converts. Nevermind that people will experience a fiery torment for eternity: God’s alleged “glory in wrath” is at stake!
Not only does that last notion betray an accurate interpretation of Scripture (cf. Rom. 9:22-23), but it also harms the character of God as demonstrated in the life and sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ. While this short post has not attempted to exhaustively address how God does express hatred (cf. Ps. 5:5; 11:5), and even promises His own people to “visit” them in wrath to “those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:5), an attempt has been made to defend God’s universal love with integrity and in light of Scripture. God’s love for all people is genuine and not a benign expression. It does not claim one thing and do another. It does not decree contraries; it is inherently agreeing, unified, constant, consistent (non-contrary).
While God is not obligated to love anyone, Scripture explicitly teaches that God loves this world of sinners (John 3:16). Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Vines asks: “What kind of world does God love? In 1 John 5:19, ‘the whole world lieth in the wickedness.’ This world is like a precious vessel sunk in a putrid stream. . . . How can God love a sinful world like ours? God’s love is not conditioned by the worthiness of its object.”4 I heard Calvinist John MacArthur admit the same sentiment in one of his sermons: God’s love is not object-oriented. If this is the case, then His hatred of some people is not arbitrary, decretal, or object-oriented. This means that when God hates a person, He does so with reason, which is due to the voluntary choices of the wicked and unrepentant sinner.
The Psalmist writes that God “hates all workers of iniquity” and “abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Ps. 5:5-6 NKJV). Also, “the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates” (Ps. 11:5 NKJV). Before his conversion, the apostle Paul (then Saul) “made havoc of the church,” violently persecuting Christians (Acts 8:1-3). Would it be accurate to admit that God hated Paul? Yet Paul confesses that though he was “formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man,” he “obtained mercy because [he] did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13). Paul writes that all sinners exist in “ignorance” and unbelief (Eph. 4:18-19). Would it not stand to reason that if God had mercy on Paul in his ignorance, then He can also have mercy on all sinners in theirs? The one who argues or infers that God only loves savingly those whom He has unconditionally elected unto salvation bears the burden of proof to exegete such from Scripture.
1 Fritz Guy, “The Universality of God’s Love,” in The Grace of God and the Will of Man, ed. Clark Pinnock (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1989), 36.
2 Ibid., 36-37.
3 Ibid., 40.
4 Jerry Vines, “Sermon on John 3:16,” in Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, eds. David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 18.