Frequently, Calvinists contend that if God really wanted for someone to be saved but who ultimately died in unbelief and perished, then God would have proven to be a failure, and therefore only an effectual calling (i.e. Irresistible Grace) of God’s elect (i.e. Unconditional Election) guarantees the success of God’s purposes.
What do Calvinists believe?
James White: “The text does not say that ‘He will try, but often fail, to save’ but that He will save His people from their sins. Redemptive love in Jesus Christ fulfills to the uttermost the saying, ‘Love never fails.’ This is powerful and effective love, powerful and effective grace, and why anyone would wish to diminish that power is truly beyond my comprehension.”127
In other words, the Calvinist objection to non-Calvinists is that God often desperately “tries but fails” to save the people that He sincerely desires to save. The error with this objection is that non-Calvinists do not believe that God is trying to save someone but ultimately cannot. NonCalvinists do not believe that God is trying to effectually save anyone, at all. Instead, what non-Calvinists believe is that God calls people to be saved through faith, and therefore, if God makes such an appeal to a free moral creature, the response of the free moral creature does not negate God’s sovereignty but rather establishes it, by virtue of fulfilling God’s design to provide salvation as a good-faith, well-meant offer of the gospel—with the advantage that God would then gain a kingdom of willing creatures who freely loved Him and desired a relationship with Him and welcomed an eternity spent together with Him.
God never promised unbelievers an unconditional salvation, but instead a conditional salvation, namely on the condition of turning to Christ, which is the essence of the gospel message at John 3:16: “‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.’” The verse does not state: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever shall not perish, but have eternal life.” That would be Universalism, and if God had promised Universalism and did not deliver on that promise, then one could make the argument that God had failed to keep His promise. However, God cannot rightly be deemed a failure on account of something that He never promised. So, while Calvinists contend that God is not a failure because He irresistibly saves His elect by effectual means, non-Calvinists contend that God is not a failure because He makes good on His promise to save believers in Christ. Interwoven with divine sovereignty, God determined that man would be free to both have and make choices concerning his eternal destiny, and so when man does make his choice, even when it is against God’s will for them, this does not negate divine sovereignty but rather demonstrates it.
So, Jesus overcame the world undefiled, and Jesus endured the Cross—not to mention all of the scorn He received along the way for telling the truth during His earthly ministry—and Jesus purchased our redemption on the Cross, but if someone doesn’t respect or want what He accomplished at Calvary, then somehow He is the One who is a “failure”?
I just can’t relate to that. I think the Calvinist accusation of “failure” is just an emotional ploy to try to make “Irresistible Grace” more palatable.
127 Debating Calvinism (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2004), 270, emphasis mine.