Been a long while since I’ve posted here–five months, to be exact–and this post isn’t a post full of statements, but rather an honest question to which I’d like feedback from my Calvinist friends (the more TULIP points, the better!). I have asked this on several occasions, most recently this week of a new friend, and I have yet to get an answer that satisfies me. Here goes:
How do you reconcile “unconditional election” with the goodness of God?
Allow me to explain. Calvinist theology postulates (and I agree) that man is totally depraved, unable to save himself, dependent solely upon the grace of God–so far, so good. It then says that God has unconditionally elected some to salvation (and the only way one comes to God, of course, is by being one of the elect). The corollary doctrine is the doctrine of reprobation, if I understand it correctly (and not running too much in those circles, please correct me if I’m wrong). This means that God, in His sovereignty and with exhaustive foreknowledge, chose some to be saved, and others to suffer damnation. The question, then, is how we see God as “good” in this scenario.
Now, as I told my friend, it’s fair enough to say that I don’t understand God’s goodness fully, just like I don’t fully understand any of God’s attributes, ’cause I’m a very fallen (totally depraved!) dude. I don’t fully grasp His love, for instance…but that being said, though my understanding of God’s love is very incomplete and faulty, my understanding of love looks a decent bit like what I see demonstrated as love on God’s part in His Word. My understanding of God’s justice is faulty and incomplete, but I have some grasp of it. But then when it comes to God’s goodness, and I consider what that seems to look like in an airtight, five-point Calvinist system, it looks a lot more like “badness” than goodness to me.
Here’s an answer that is a non-starter: “it’s only by God’s grace that any of us are saved”. True. No argument. But that dodges the issue, because it doesn’t go deep enough or far enough back. If you need more on why that answer doesn’t work (for this question, I mean), I can elaborate.
My friend’s response this week was effectively, if I understood him correctly, to consign this conundrum to the “mysteries of God”. OK, I really appreciate his thoughts, but that isn’t enough for me. I am committed to God through His only Son Jesus Christ. I am committed to His Word. I am committed to the things that Scripture says clearly about our God; this morning in church, we sang about the goodness of God in all circumstances. I am also, by the way, committed to what the Scripture says when it speaks of God’s “elect”, but I am not committed to John Calvin or to a particular way of understanding what that means. That said, I am sincerely open to a convincing argument on the subject.