God and the Miners

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As reported by CNN International, all 33 of the Chilean miners were rescued from their desperate plight. Most of the survivors were released from the hospital yesterday afternoon, 14 October 2010. This event reminded me of something Jesus once said: “Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them — do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did” (Luke 13:4-5 NRSV). As these miners were rescued from certain death, I am also reminded of God’s desire that all people be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).

The 18 people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them (Luke 13:4-5), or the 33 miners who were trapped, demonstrates to us all that the inevitable is always looming: one way or another we will all die. What happens after death? That is a crucial question with which all mortals must wrestle. Scripture teaches that “it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment” (Heb. 9:27 NRSV). R. Alan Culpepper, Dean of the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, writes:

    Jesus adroitly [skillfully] seizes the teachable moment and uses the interruption to drive home his warning that the coming judgment is inescapable. . . . Jesus’ questions assume the popular notion that sin is the cause of calamity (Job 4:7; John 9:2). If God is responsible for everything that happens, and God is a just God, then calamities must be the result of human sinfulness. The fallacy in such logic is the notion that God is the immediate cause of all events, which leaves no room for human freedom or freedom in the created order, and therefore for events that God does not [causally] control.1

For the benefit of this post, I want to ask why fallen human beings, with regard to the 33 miners, sought every means possible to secure their rescue, but God does not do the same in the Calvinistic system? Granted, the analogy will only carry so far, because Arminianism rejects the heresy of Universalism (cf. Matt. 7:21-23; Rev. 20:11-15) — all 33 miners were rescued. In spite of the Calvinist’s best efforts at explaining how God could in any genuine sense desire the salvation of all people (as Scripture explicitly teaches at 1 Timothy 2:4 et al.), since He has from eternity past, allegedly, already unconditionally selected to save only some (by bringing them to faith through regeneration), they pale in comparison to the words of Christ Jesus: “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:37 NRSV)

The Chilean president stated that, whatever it takes, all miners would be rescued. His confident assertion and enthusiasm was inspiring. He and everyone else recognized that those men were in need, so they did what they could to secure their freedom. In a similar manner, out of His great love for fallen humanity — human beings whom He created in His image — God has done what He could to secure the freedom from sin and hell for each person on earth in the giving of His one and only Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16). God did not have to accomplish this feat. We ran into the pit of despair ourselves. But because He pitied and loved us so, He was willing to sacrifice His Son in order to save us.

Why are not all saved then? you ask. The fault is laid at the feet of those who reject Christ Jesus. God’s design was not to irresistibly drag the whole world to the feet of Jesus as would a despot. God has the ability to do so, but has not chosen to act in that manner. The reason why is because salvation is also a relational issue. Salvation is not a mere rescue from a pit; it is a relationship with the Creator God. Human beings are not objects, in spite of the sometimes careless language of the Calvinist. Human beings are relational creatures formed after the image of God (Gen. 1:26). When God saves an individual, He does so through relational means (i.e., reason, emotion, logic). The Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:8-11); God and Christ draw (John 6:44; 12:32) and lead (Rom. 2:4).

These biblical issues, however, are undermined by Calvinism’s doctrines. God, in Calvinism, has the ability to save all people (via unconditional election and bringing them to faith in Christ through regeneration). If He did so, this would bring Him no less glory than if He saved only ten persons. Moreover, if God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, as stated by John Piper (though he means something different from its prima facie reading), then, for the sake of consistency within Calvinism, God would be most glorified if He irresistibly saved every single individual. As Calvinism has it, however, God is not interested in irresistibly saving every individual, nor does He genuinely love the world, contra Scripture (Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). We are left wondering why human beings, in an effort to rescue all 33 miners, retain more genuine love in their breast for other human beings than does the God of Calvinism?

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1 R. Alan Culpepper, Luke, in The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 270.