5 Point Molinists & Pervasive Confusion

I have been convinced for well over a decade not only that many professing Calvinists are latent Molinists but that most are.

Here we find what I believe to be a representative sample of how Calvinists relate free will to the decree of God. The author of the piece earned a Masters in Divinity (minor in Systematic Theology) and his Doctorate at a renowned Baptist theological seminary.

I’ll interact below with pertinent excerpts from the piece, though it brings me no pleasure to do so. It’s actually rather discouraging for me, which might explain why I’ve procrastinated for nearly a month on offering this brief interaction after having recently read the five year old piece.

Sadly, the post can be found on the Founders Ministries website, an organization “committed to encouraging the recovery of the gospel and the biblical reformation of local churches.”

With respect to the human will, the confession states, “nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established” (2LCF 3.1). To understand what this means, it is critical to understand the meaning of the word “contingency.” J.V. Fesko explains:

Contingency does not mean that something does not have a cause, as Jonathan Edwards argued. Rather, it means that something could be otherwise. God’s decree, for example, is contingent in the sense that he was under no external or internal necessity to decree anything – He was free to decree and free not to decree

When Edwards spoke of contingency in this respect, he was correct. Contra-Edwards the metaphysical contingency of Arminian freedom implies a pure spontaneity that renders choices causeless (thereby morally irrelevant). Yet this Arminian notion of human freedom is now pervasive among Calvinists, that a choice might / could be otherwise than what it would be.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, I do maintain that a choice could possibly be different, but that pertains to contingent truths and possible worlds, not causal necessity within any possible world. What is rejected is necessitarianism. In other words, there are possible worlds in which identical states of affairs result in different volitional dispositions, but in any particular world how things are secures how things will be by virtue of God’s pre-interpretation of the particulars, whereby God decrees the intelligible mapping of cause (how things are) to effect (how things will be).

(A common error among Calvinists is the failure to grasp the compatibility of contingent truths with decretive causal necessity.)

In the immediate context of God having been free to decree and free not to decree, the author claims that the same is true of free human choices.

The same is true of free human choices. When human beings choose freely, the confession says they have the ability to choose other than what they chose.

The Confession says no such thing; nor does it imply the Arminian notion of “the ability to choose other than what they chose.” That’s libertarian freedom of the non-Frankfurt variety!^

In the chapter on divine providence, the confession says that God orders all things “to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently” (2LCF 5.2). God decrees contingent things without imposing any necessity upon them. His decree renders contingent things certain but not necessary.

(I ache in the depths of my soul.) God doesn’t impose any necessity? Then how does God ensure certainty? Reformed scholastics and contemporary compatibilists appreciate that certainty presupposes a particular kind of necessity, causal necessity.#.

In the case of sin, human beings can always choose otherwise, but God’s decree makes their choice certain.

That sentiment is straight out of the Molinist play book. Molinism affirms both the certainty of the fruition of the divine decree and the ultimate sourcehood essential to choosing otherwise.+ (Given the Edward’s remark, I doubt we can salvage the “can always choose otherwise” with the conditional analysis of (Edwardsian) classical compatibilism. Surely there’s no basis to read into the statement an Edwardsian use of hypothetical ability. It’s nowhere in view. No, we must take the author at face value, that given the same state of affairs a free moral agent might choose contrary to divine foreknowledge, though he never would.)

Surely something must ensure the certainty of choices if they’re to be certain at all. What ensures their certainty is not some vague notion of “God’s decree” but rather the causal necessity that God’s decree contemplates; yet that is precisely what the author denies by denying causal necessity and positing ability to choose contrary to how one would. Certainty presupposes not ability but inability to choose otherwise. Certainty presupposes causality.

Whatever the Confession is looking to teach by “necessarily, freely or contingently”* we may not separate those concepts from the explicit statement that immediately precedes those adverbs. Those things that fall out in such a way that make them certain do so according to the nature of “second causes”. Now surely where there is cause, there is effect. And where there is cause and effect, there is causal necessity!

With respect to human freedom, the Reformed tradition on the matter of volition entails a metaphysic of causal necessity. Accordingly, to say that God’s “decree renders contingent things certain but not necessary” is not only confused – it bespeaks incompatibilism. What is being offered as a Reformed understanding of the mechanics of choosing is that freedom is incompatible with causal necessity, which is an outright denial of a Reformed view of compatibilism – a view that human freedom is compatible with the causal necessity of Causal Divine Determinism.

This means that “certainty” and “contingency” are not mutually exclusive.

Not so. In the sense that contingency is being employed by the author – as the ability to choose contrary to how one would – it most surely is incompatible with certainty and consequently exhaustive omniscience. (Enter Open Theism)


After private interaction with one Augustinian thinker, it has become clear to me that it is believed by some that by virtue of God decreeing a counterfactual true it, therefore, becomes a necessary truth, which in turn makes it an object of natural knowledge. That is simply wrong by definition and entails dualistic implications, not unlike Molinism. Perhaps the renown Reformed philosopher doesn’t recognize that non-necessary contingent truths can be decreed as causally necessary. Other Augustinian thinkers more steeped in contemporary taxonomy, analytic philosophy and philosophical theology grasp the error and its implications immediately.

^ The ability to do otherwise is not a necessary condition for libertarian freedom as long as the agent performing the choice is not caused to do it other than by herself. There are Frankfurt libertarians who subscribe to agent causation.

# What’s commonly missed is that contingent truths can be causally necessary. In other words, a counterfactual can be causally necessary without being necessarily true. That distinction is surprisingly missed by many Reformed compatibilists who have a seat at the Free Will discussion table.

+ God can, by decreeing to place just those persons in just those circumstances, bring about His ultimate purposes through free creaturely decisions. William Lane Craig, Molinist

* In passing we might note that a consistently Reformed rendering of caused effects falling out “necessarily, freely or contingently” is to apply those descriptors to (a) physical laws of nature, (b) human intentions and (c) apparent chance, respectively: Genesis 8:22; Proverbs 4:23; Deuteronomy 19:5

A Robust Depravity – A Return To Calvinism

Total Depravity, as often depicted:

In the Reformed tradition, total depravity does not mean utter depravity. We often use the term total as a synonym for utter or for completely, so the notion of total depravity conjures up the idea that every human being is as bad as that person could possibly be… As wicked as Hitler was, we can still conceive of ways in which he could have been even more wicked than he actually was. So the idea of total in total depravity doesn’t mean that all human beings are as wicked as they can possibly be. It means that the fall was so serious that it affects the whole person…The will of man is no longer in its pristine state of moral power. The will, according to the New Testament, is now in bondage. We are enslaved to the evil impulses and desires of our hearts. The body, the mind, the will, the spirit—indeed, the whole person—have been infected by the power of sin.

R.C. Sproul

To change the metaphor, God’s reflection in us has become distorted like a face in a carnival mirror. Such is our depravity that every part of every person is warped by sin. Sin corrupts our hearts so that we set our affections on unholy desires. It corrupts our feelings so that we are in emotional turmoil. It corrupts our wills so that we will not choose the good. Our whole nature is corrupted by sin. This is what theologians mean when they speak of “total depravity”—not that we are as sinful as we could possibly be, but that we are sinners through and through.”

Phillip Ryken

These accounts of Total Depravity are somewhat typical. And although they might be technically correct and even mildly offensive to the world, there is considerably more to the story.

If Total Depravity is true, the rest of the Five Points is a mere footnote. Therefore, we do well to get the “T” of TULIP exhaustively correct. After all, our understanding of the glory of God’s grace is directly proportional to our understanding of man’s fallen condition.

Let’s look at this doctrine a bit more closely by considering whether that which we read in most contemporary explications of Total Depravity overlooks a profound insight that does not escape traditional Augustinians and those who haven’t adopted a Thomistic understanding of the extent of the fall, if not a form of libertarian Calvinism.

Indeed, many unbelievers lead impeccable lives, even engage in philanthropic work – even work that benefits the kingdom of God. Yet has that ever been a bone of contention or a misunderstanding of the doctrine of Total Depravity? What I find striking is that we rarely read what was understood by Augustine and echoed by Calvin, that all the “good” unregenerate man does is the result of one lust restraining another. In other words, what is absent from much of contemporary Calvinism is the idea that man’s so-called good, not wrought in regeneration, suits him for totally depraved and sinful reasons. So, the miserly man does not spend his money on licentious living, but the reason for such respectable refrain is attributable not to man not being as bad as he can possibly be, but to man’s sinful lust for money (if not also an insatiable desire for self-respect and the respect of others). But is that what we typically hear when this doctrine is explained? Or do we hear that we are in “emotional turmoil” and not as bad as we could possibly be (in this world)? Emotional turmoil? That the will is no longer pristine and even in bondage does not begin to address the profound moral and noetic affects of the fall or God’s use of sinful intentions to bring about “good” behavior. My hope is that a largely overlooked theological insight will become unearthed below, that we might recognize how watered down this doctrine has become.

God’s restraining power, a thing to behold:

God’s common goodness restrains fallen man through the providential employment of man’s sinful passions unto external good in conjunction with man being created with a conscience and in God’s likeness. What restrains the unregenerate isn’t the love of Christ or an internal work or grace but rather self-serving motives. Accordingly, I for one may not say that Hitler’s judgement will be more severe than any of the popes or many of Rome’s sacrificial nuns. How could I possibly know? Such speculation is beyond my pay grade. What I do know, however, is that Hitler was obviously evil; yet it was the popes, not Hitler, who for centuries promulgated doctrines of demons that paved the road from self-righteous indulgences to eternal torment. Some bad guys wear white hats, even a mitre at times. God judges righteous judgement taking all into account. I am finite and my judgement worthless, but what I do know is “all have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:12

When we say that “man isn’t as bad as he can possibly be,” or that “man can always do worse” or that “Hitler had some affection for his mother,” have we adequately reflected on the sinful restraining-motives that keep men and women respectable? We’ve internalized what fallen man does, but have we come to grips with why he doesn’t do much worse? (Pause)

When it’s said that man isn’t as bad as he can possibly be, do we appreciate that man is unable to do other than what God has decreed? Are we aware that in this world, contrary to common depictions of Total Depravity, that man is as bad as he can be both in a metaphysical sense as it relates to the intentions of the will but also in a decretive sense, which secures metaphysical intentions? By affirming without remainder that man isn’t as bad as he can possibly be, how do we avoid eclipsing that it is for sinful motives, decreed by God, that depraved men and women cannot desire to behave even more sinfully?

I’m afraid we’ve become sufficiently satisfied with the what with little theological inquiry into the why. A contributing factor to such complacency could be that the inroads of humanistic libertarian-Calvinism have been smoothly paved from classroom to pulpit, even unwittingly. Apropos, an adequate answer to why fallen men aren’t as bad as they “could possibly be” is absent among too many of the Reformed, at least it’s not understood in a way that reflects Old Princeton’s view of divine causal determinism, (which is compatible with free will, whereby God possesses free knowledge of counterfactual creaturely freedom.) Rather, the supposed answer to why is more recently indexed to man’s autonomous will that supposedly retains some heart for truth, beauty and goodness, consigning God to surmise free choices through a species of Middle Knowledge, or through the divine advantage of seeing the future by virtue of God’s atemporality through which all contingent free will possibilities are eternally present to the divine eye.

So, why is it that we so often hear that man is not as bad as he might possibly be? What is hoped to be communicated by the mantra? (Surely the aim is not to stake out philosophical ground through possible world semantics, for that would lead to the Reformed conclusion that man is as bad as he could possibly be in this actual world, just as God has determined!)

For one thing, such a sanguine view of the fall is based solely upon observable external works. Yet God judges internal motives and intentions of the heart, which too are decreed. Surely we would not say that “Satan isn’t as bad as he can be.” Yet why not say the same of man since God has man on the same restraining leash of providence as Satan? Satan doesn’t devour more than he does, but isn’t that because God has determined to restrain him? Is fallen man any different in this regard? Can either Satan or man do more evil than God has determined, or contrary to what either chooses according to evil intentions of which each volitional creature approves? In what sense can either do worse than they do?

Satan and image bearers:

Let’s be critical in our analyses. There are vast differences between man and Satan. Man is created in God’s likeness and when effectually called, recreated in Christ’s image. Another distinction is most men, most of the time, are restrained by conscience whereas Satan is not. Satan is evil personified. Satan might be constrained by his creaturely confusion but unlike man, not by conscience. Satan is confounded and utterly unconscionable. Whereas man can have natural affection, Satan has none. Man, though evil (per Jesus), doesn’t typically pursue that which intrinsically evil; whereas with Satan it is his ultimate delight. (Matthew 7:11; Luke 7:13) Indeed, there is a difference. Humans are not Devils. Notwithstanding, we have it on biblical authority that God’s providence restrains both the serpent and his offspring so that none can commit worse acts than he does, “for who can resist His will?” (Romans 9:19) That human creatures are providentially restrained through being God’s image bearers is certainly a distinction, but this is no relevant difference pertaining to the question of whether man or Satan can commit more heinous acts than God has determined, or whether anyone is as bad as he desires to be. Indeed, a most fascinating difference pertains to the means by which God restrains man, which includes through conscience; whereas with Satan conscience is not a means of restraint. Notwithstanding, man’s conscience is totally depraved. And although depraved consciences often produce good acts born out of personal glory and fear of consequence, never do creatures do so out of reverential fear, God’s glory or in a way that doesn’t earn divine condemnation.

Man’s natural affections are utterly self-serving and when judged by God will be found purely and totally sinful. Again, man desires not to sin more than he does, but only because his desire for self-restraint suits him for sinful motives. Yet to be thoroughgoing we must also maintain that God, through the intentional ordering of secondary causes, could have decreed to effectually move man to become increasingly hardened in heart, but not any more depraved in a fallen sense. Man’s depravity is indeed total. He is as bad as he desires to be and as bad as God will allow him to be. Indeed, man cannot possibly be worse than God has determined.

Jesus is the light that is given to all men who come into the world. (John 1:9) Yet the light in man will accuse him on the last day apart from repentance. Ultimately it is God alone who allows the candle to continue to flicker and not go out. God alone restrains the unregenerate man either directly or through secondary causes. God restrains man through conscience, for a time, but there will be no such restraining goodness in hell.

Lord over motive and sinful good:

When conscience and self-glorification restrains unconverted free moral agents from behaving worse than they otherwise would, such self-control is no less due to sinful motives than when one violates conscience and externally breaks God’s moral law. Even motive not to sin is sinful for the lost. The Reformers and the Divines captured this distinction by noting that outside regeneration in Christ and judicial pardon, man can do no spiritual good. Yet today, few reflect adequately upon that doctrine that even children recite.

The Reformed doctrine of Total Depravity grounded Van Til’s antithesis and unearths the need for a distinctly Reformed apologetic, but that’s for another day. For now we might merely consider that it is too unpleasant to think of our respectable friends and neighbors in this way. What we forgo, however, is standing in awe of God’s meticulous providence as it relates to man’s immoral intentions that often produce conforming choices. (We lose out on praising God in our appreciation of the delicious doctrine of concurrence, man’s dire plight, and our deep need for electing grace).

The Rich Man and Lazarus:

If the account of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us anything it is that unconverted man in his depravity will try to correct God forever – the living will listen and repent if only one is sent from the dead! In hell man’s depravity will be fully manifested. Man won’t become more fallen or spiritually dead, just like the converted don’t become progressively regenerate or increasingly alive in Christ. The blackness of man’s heart finally will be on full display in the life hereafter.

I hope we might see a bit more clearly that in contemporary Calvinism, although some distinguish degrees of depravity (total from utter), the accent is too often placed on “common grace” and how wonderful it is that the “unchurched” do such wonderful external law-works. Little to no reflection is given to God’s wisdom and power as he meticulously restrains the external evil works of the ungodly by their predetermined internal sinful passions for respectability and enlightened self-interest. God doesn’t just work externally evil acts for good (as most Calvinists recognize, citing Joseph and his brothers), but also God ordains sinfulgoodacts from those who are perishing, for his own glory and the benefit of the called according to his purpose. (We mustn’t confuse the two. The former contemplates sinful actions that are sinfully motivated; whereas the latter is more subtle as it relates to non-sinful actions that are also sinfully motivated.)

When we water down Total Depravity, grace doesn’t seem so amazing. In many respects, grace was more amazing 150 years ago among Arminians than it is described by many Calvinists today.

The profound truth of this doctrine is the very backdrop for the glory of God’s saving grace in Christ; yet do we confess the totality of Total Depravity? I believe we are in need of recouping the biblical teaching, that there is no mild antithesis between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The antithesis is a deep-seated enmity inflicted by none other than God Himself. (Genesis 3:15) Man’s hatred of God often manifests itself in indifference, but that shouldn’t fool us. I suppose “splendid pagans“ aren’t really so splendid after all.

The Free Offer Of The Gospel

This class addresses the Free Offer.

This class addresses the same but in the context of God’s three wills of decree, precept and wisdom. I’d probably recommend this one over the other if only one were to be listened to.

WSC Q&A 31:
Q. What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

Canons of Dort 2.5:
Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

The free offer of the gospel (abbreviated “free offer”) has meant different things at different times. From a confessional standpoint, it can only mean that God sincerely offers salvation to all who repent and believe. The meaning is at best narrow. The confessions do not speak in terms of God’s desire for all men to be saved; they merely teach that God promises the gift of everlasting life to all who would turn from self to Christ. This promise of life through faith is sincere. It is a genuine offer. If you believe, you will be saved. This gospel is to go out to all men everywhere.

Arminians are often quick to point out that the free offer is inconsistent with Calvinism. They reason that if the offer of the gospel is sincere and to go out to all people without exception, then God must desire the salvation of all people without exception. Otherwise, they say, the offer isn’t sincere. How can God desire the salvation of all men without exception if God as the ultimate decider of man’s salvation chooses to pass over some? In other words, Arminians reason that unless God desires to save all men, which they observe does not comport with Calvinism, the free offer of life through faith is insincere when given to the reprobate. Their axiom is that a sincere gospel offer implies a sincere desire to see the offer accepted, a well-meant offer. More on that in a moment.

The OPC’s Majority Report

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), representative of possibly most Calvinists today on the matter of the free offer, under the leadership of John Murray and Ned Stonehouse, adopted as a majority position the Arminian view that God desires the salvation of all men. While still holding fast to the Reformed view of predestination, the OPC affirmed the view that that the free offer cannot adequately be disassociated from a divine desire of salvation for all men without exception. In other words, such Calvinists assert that the genuineness of the gospel offer presupposes God’s desire that all embrace Christ.

Subsequently, the free offer has taken on the additional meaning of a well-meant offer, or desire, that the reprobate turn and be saved. Accordingly, a major difference between Arminians and such Calvinists as these is on the question of consistency.

Back to first principles. What makes an offer genuine or sincere?

Can we judge whether an offer is genuine or sincere simply based on whether it is true or not? If God intends to keep his promise, then isn’t the offer genuine? With respect to the gospel, if one meets the condition of faith, he will one day enter the joy of Lord. Isn’t that enough to make the offer of salvation sincere?

Let’s do some basic theology…

What does it mean that God desires the salvation of the reprobate? Are we to believe that God desires the reprobate to do something he cannot do, namely regenerate himself and grant himself union with Christ? Or, is that to check our Calvinism at the door? Isn’t it Jesus who saves? Isn’t salvation of God after all? At best, if we are to remain consistent with our Calvinism, then wouldn’t it follow that to argue for a well-meant offer of the gospel we’d have to posit that God desires that he himself would regenerate the reprobate unto existential union with Christ? After all, when God desires the salvation of the elect, his desire is fulfilled through recreating sinners in Christ according to his predestinating decree of salvation.

Aside from the question of whether God desires that unchosen persons act contrary to God’s decree, what does it mean for God to desire that he himself act contrary to how he decreed he would act? Of course, I know no Calvinist who affirms the well-meant offer of the gospel who also would say that God desires that he elected reprobates unto salvation, or anything like that. Yet if man cannot turn himself, as Calvinism clearly affirms, then isn’t the implication of a well-meant offer that God desires to turn those he has determined not to save?

Simply stated, since Calvinism affirms total depravity and compatibilism, wouldn’t it stand to reason from a Calvinistic perspective that if God desires someone’s salvation, God must desire that he save that person? Accordingly, the questions that should be considered in this regard are either (a) “Does God desire the reprobate to turn himself and live?” Or (b), “Does God desire that he himself turn the reprobate so that he can live?”

Given that man is blind and deaf to spiritual things and cannot do anything to to turn himself Godward, how are we not strictly dealing with the theological plausibility of (b), that God desires to turn the reprobate contrary to what he has already decreed? If TULIP is true, then (a) is a non-starter.

Now then, is it reasonable to think that the Holy Spirit desires to turn the reprobate Godward when the Father, in eternity, did not choose the reprobate in Christ? Moreover, if Christ did not die for the reprobate and does not pray that the efficacy of the cross would be applied to the reprobate, then in what sense does God desire the reprobate’s salvation? Does God desire that for which Christ does not pray? Does the Trinity desire that persons of the Godhead work at cross purposes? Does God desire true contradictions after all? Or is this a matter of mystery? Does God have multiple wills, let alone multiple wills that are at cross-purposes? Or is this a matter of two truths that we should accept by faith? Apparent contradiction or true contradiction?

Not only can God not save the reprobate whom he did not elect in Christ; 2000 years ago didn’t God act in time sealing that inability by securing salvation only for the elect? If so, then does it not follow that for God to desire the salvation of the reprobate, we should be willing to say that God, today, desires that Jesus would have died for the reprobate 2000 years ago?

In our refutation of a well meant offer, we may easily develop and apply the principle of accidental necessity as it relates to God desiring as true that which is now past and consequently necessarily false! Can God desire things He has now made impossible to obtain?

Or is there a third way of living looking at this? Does God live with a sense of regret or un-fulfillment? Is God passible or impassible?

The OPC is quick to point out that they are not advocating a position entailing God both desiring and not desiring his decree. Fine, but then what does it mean for God to desire that men act contrary to his decree? Can God desire his decree while also desiring men to act in such a way that would thwart it? No amount of mystery can salvage metaphysical (or broadly logical) contradiction.

Mystery cannot salvage contradiction. Accordingly, any appeal to exegesis should not make God out to be internally incoherent. It’s to put forth a passible and a non-omnipotent God to declare to the loss that God desires their salvation. God desires to save only those chosen in Christ – those who are called according to His purpose – those for whom Christ desired to save! For this is love, that Christ laid His life down for His sheep. Did God desire to lay His life down for those He ordained unto goats?

Let’s go a bit further:

Let x = God’s decree.

Let y = The reprobation of some.

If y is a fact of x, then y is essential to x. If God (as God) desires x (and is aware that y is essential to x), then we may infer that God’s desire for y is entailed by His desire for x. (I’m speaking in terms of God as God in order to inform our discussion of God with orthodoxy, that we might avoid strict logical possibility that is not ontologically or broadly logical.)

Can God desire x while not desiring y? If not, then in what sense does God desire the converse of y (salvation of the reprobate) given a desire for x (a plan that includes the reprobation of some)?

Competing desires and unfulfillment

John Piper has posited that God desires the salvation of the reprobate but that he desires their damnation for his own glory even more. There’s something attractive about Piper’s theory. It makes no apology for God positively desiring his decree, which includes his decree of reprobation. The downside is that it implies competing desires within the Godhead, a priority or ordering of pleasures within the same decree. Although perhaps an improvement upon John MacArthur’s view that in some sense God is “unfulfilled“ in his desire for the reprobate’s salvation, it nonetheless leaves God wanting. It’s an affront on God’s impassibility. So much for a well-meant offer.

Abstractions, perhaps a useful tool…

If I desire to go to the doctor but it requires I get soaking wet in the rain, which ordinary I would not desire, then in one sense I do not desire to go out in the rain but in another sense I do. I do not want to go out in the rain if we consider going out in the rain as an abstraction from the overall plan of going to see the doctor. Yet I do desire to go out in the rain given that is what is necessary to get to see the doctor. The notion of abstracting particulars from the whole can be useful in this context. Although God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, God most certainly takes pleasure in his eternal decree coming to pass. He desires all the components of his comprehensive plan because it serves his purposes. As a matter of an isolated instance, God takes no pleasure in punishment. As an abstraction without purpose salvation is pleasurable, judgement is not. Yet in the context of all things – God himself, his plan, his glory etc., God takes the highest pleasure in himself, which includes his just indignation against the impenitent who have been ordained to judgement (Jude verse 4) for his own glory. God answers to no one.

God does not consider isolated instances outside the whole. In isolation we can consider something evil, but God who transcends time and space ordains evil for good. Therefore, as an abstraction, God does not desire reprobation for the mere sake of reprobation. Rather, God desires reprobation for his own glory and the good of the elect in the context of his one plan and purpose for this world. God’s desire for the many serves his desire for the one. The plurality and unity of the decree are equally ultimate, a reflection of Himself.

Although God does not desire the salvation of the reprobate, we may declare without equivocation: “God came to save sinners, like you and like me!”

God’s love and ours…

God hates the reprobate (Psalm 5:5; 11:5) and, therefore, has an active love only for those who love him. We may safely say that a necessary condition1 for God’s love to be presently active in the life of a sinner is for the sinner to love God (Proverbs 8:17) and love the Savior (John 14:21,23; 15:10; 16:27). But for sinners to love God, they must first be loved of God (1 John 4:19), which is the cause of the love relationship. Therefore, for the sinner to love God in order for her to experience God’s love in her life, she must first be the object of God’s predestinating love (Ephesians 1:4). Does God desire to grant predestinating love to those he has ordained to wrath (Jude 4)? If not, then in what sense does God desire to save them?


 

1. Condition in this context is not causal. The converted sinner’s love for God does not cause or produce God’s love for the sinner. Neither is the relationship between the two a quid pro quo. It’s a relationship predicated on pure grace. To say that the believer’s love for God (x) is a necessary condition for God’s active love in the life of the converted sinner (y) is simply to say that it is impossible to have y without x. Which is to say, the absence of x guarantees the absence of y. It’s also to say that the presence of y guarantees x.

God’s active love in the life of the sinner, which is a transforming love, is also biconditional. Not just only if the sinner loves God does the sinner experience God’s Iove but also if the sinner loves God. (The latter being the prima facie rendering of the texts.) The sinner’s love for God are necessary and sufficient conditions for receiving God’s love (and likewise for God’s active love in the sinners’s life as it relates to the believer’s love for God). And again, conditions pertain not to cause but state of affairs.