At Acts 10:34-35, the apostle Peter treated divine impartiality as a virtue, implying that it is something good and noble about God, perhaps which we should all emulate in our own interactions with our neighbors: “Opening his mouth, Peter said: ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.’” However, if those who “fear Him” and “does what is right” are those who are hand-picked from eternity to be irresistibly caused to want to do that, then how would that be a demonstration of impartiality? In a biblical context, the notion of Favoritism is that God only accepts people who are into the right race. For Peter, that race was being born a Jew, whereas for Calvinists of our modern era, that race is Calvinism’s caste of “the elect.” The biblical reality, however, rebukes both! God does not show Favoritism (i.e. God is not a Calvinist), but is willing to accept anyone, regardless of what race they were born into or what alleged caste they were created into, so long as they fear Him and do what is right.
What do Calvinists believe?
Favoritism means that there is something about the person that is the favorite that would cause them to be favored. That’s not at all what Unconditional Election is like.
Assuming Calvinism for a moment, why would God choose one person over another? The very moment that ignorance is confessed, then nothing can be ruled out. In fact, arbitrary favoritism is more favorable to the Calvinistic paradigm, in which God’s choice has literally nothing to do with the individual, but instead has everything to do with God’s sovereign right to act in arbitrary fashion. Ultimately, if God were to act in truly arbitrary fashion, then He would not be showing Favoritism, since the individuals involved would make no difference to Him. In fact, a truly random draw would highlight divine privilege. In Determinism, God controls all of the variables, and hence whatever choice God makes for any individual, God (according to Calvinism) causes the uniqueness of that individual when making His choice. Hence, for a consistent determinist, God (according to Calvinism) must be acting in arbitrary fashion. In Calvinism, it is about arbitrary favoritism—one is chosen over another to be favored, not because of anything derived from the individual but applied to the individual.
What do Calvinists believe?
Sam Storms: “So, does the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional divine election and monergistic regeneration make God ‘a respecter of persons, arbitrary, and morally ambiguous’? Or again, God is not impartial, say many Arminians, if he favors some with life but not all. He is guilty of showing partiality toward the elect. Of course he is! That is what unconditional election is all about. But we should refrain from saying that God is ‘guilty’ of being partial toward the elect because this kind of partiality is a virtue, not a vice. It is a divine prerogative for which God should be praised, not vilified.”139
This seems more like “damage control” than a fair treatment of the text since Peter seems to be praising divine impartiality as a virtue. He is not saying that God should be praised for His partiality, in making only certain people want Him.
Does God show favoritism? As an illustration, suppose a High School Principal selected 12 of his Seniors to spread a message to the student body about a special treat being given out in the cafeteria. Would the Principal’s choice of these 12 messengers demonstrate that he has favorites or has unfairly shown partiality to some individuals over others? The answer is No. He has chosen these messengers to bring a blessing to the entire student body and his selection of one messenger over another is not in any way to the detriment or neglect of another student.
We believe this is what God has done with the gospel. He has selected from Israel (like the Senior class) messengers to bless all the world (the entire student body). (Bible verses which indicate this are Genesis 12:2-3; Mark 16:15; John 15:16; Acts 10:40-42 and Acts 13:47.)
Now let’s revise our illustration to depict the partiality and favoritism shown in the Calvinist doctrine of Unconditional Election. Suppose the High School in the aforementioned analogy was bilingual and most of the students only spoke and understood Spanish. And what if this Principal only selected English speaking messengers to take the message to the entire student body, knowing full well that only the English speaking students would hear and understand the news about the blessing he made available in the cafeteria. Suppose that the Principal only bought enough treats for his English speaking students and so his intention was for only them to hear and understand the message. He didn’t want to appear bias so he told the messengers to invite the entire student body but secretly he knew only the English speaking students would understand the message and respond.
So does that indicate an unfair bias or partiality? Of course it does! Now, did the Principal owe any of the students these treats? No, and no one is saying that he did. But for him to outwardly pretend as if he wished for the entire student body to be blessed while secretly only purchasing treats for some and sending a message that was intended only for some to understand it is clearly showing favoritism and an unjust bias. (Bible verses which indicate this are Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21; Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:8-11; Galatians 2:6; Ephesians 6:9; James 2:9 and 1st Peter 1:17. So if your soteriological systematic paints God as partial, then it’s not a biblical soteriology.)
139 Sam Storms, Does Unconditional Election Make God A ‘Respecter of persons’?, emphasis mine. https://www.samstorms.org/enjoying-god-blog/post/doesunconditional-election-make-god-a-respecter-of-persons