Do Not Pass Me By

Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry.
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.1
What some refer to as "soft Calvinism," a theory is proffered that, with regard to the so-called "non-elect," God merely "passed over" them for consideration of His unconditional election unto salvation. Why? No Calvinist knows. Such, they confess, belongs to the secret counsels of God, conveniently citing Deuteronomy 29:29 for support, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."

A response -- which is not a proper answer -- as to the purpose of God "passing over" the "non-elect" is offered: the "non-elect" will bring glory to God as they represent objects of God's justice and wrath against sin. As noted clearly in the previous post, "On the Implausibility of Unconditional Election," the cross of Jesus secures already the proper display of God's righteous judgment and wrath against sin. God, then, does not need to secure by eternal decree the sure and eternal condemnation of anyone.

Dr. Kenneth D. Keathley explains that Calvinists argue "that though God has not revealed why he chose one person and not another or how he arrived at his choices, he does have the sovereign right to make this judgment, and the purpose for his decision is to bring glory to himself."2 So deciding to "pass over" for consideration of unconditional election unto salvation the vast majority of human beings ever to exist is one method of God bringing Himself glory. Is God so concerned about His glory?

Ponder for a moment the self-sacrificial nature of God, especially demonstrated in the giving up of His one and only unique and eternal Son, Jesus Christ, to be betrayed, beaten, mocked, spat upon, whipped within a few breaths of His life, and then tormented for six hours upon a cross before He gave up His life for the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29; 6:51). Jesus even defines love as self-sacrificial (John 15:13; cf. 1 John 3:16). Does this corroborate with a Calvinist notion of God glory-seeking?

I argue that the tenets of "soft Calvinism" of "moderate" Calvinists is, like unconditional election theory, implausible. Why? Because God in no wise, not even in accordance with Calvinist statements, adopted a passive stance with regard to those whom He allegedly "passed over" for salvation. If God, as Calvinists insist, strictly decreed all events, then He also proactively decreed the damnation of the so-called non-elect. What is our conclusion? That double predestination theory alone is orthodox.

We must not tolerate a Calvinist suggesting that God, in some sense, wishes all could be saved; or that God, in some sense, loves all of His creatures; for both statements contradict a God who, from eternity past and irrespective of the life-circumstances of each individual, unconditionally elected to save only some of them, by mere decree, and proactively elected and eternally decreed to condemn the rest. The Calvinist God decreed to save some and decreed to damn the rest -- the majority.

"NON-ELECT" REPRESENTATIVE

We will continually refuse to be convinced that God can be suggested to love (contextualized and defined by Jesus as self-sacrificial in nature) those upon whom He decreed to demonstrate His justice and His wrath against sin, the same justice and wrath against sin that He poured out on Christ on the cross, by being eternally tormented in hell. That, friends, is not love. That is not justice. That is any semblance other than a wishing that such could, somehow, be saved. Calvinist speech is found beguiling.

No, God, from eternity past, did not passively neglect to unconditionally elect unto salvation the alleged "non-elect," but proactively decreed, foreordained, and rendered certain by bringing to pass in time the eternal destination of  the "non-elect" in hell. He refused to show them grace; He kept their minds and hearts from even wanting to understand and receive the Gospel of Christ; and He allegedly did so to bring Him glory. How? By showing just how righteous He is and how angry He is at sinners.

"But," you counter, "He already showed the world how righteous He is and how angry He is at sinners by pouring out His wrath on Jesus on the cross." Right! So, was the cross insufficient? Was the blood of Jesus not enough to appease the wrath of God? What Calvinism infers is this and more: the sacrifice of Jesus only appeased the wrath of God for those whom God unconditionally elected unto salvation. The rest (the majority of humanity) must experience personally and eternally the same in hell.

Most throughout Church history have found such notions not merely unbiblical but utterly repulsive; and rightly so, for such betrays the character and justice of a self-sacrificial God, and such morphs a sovereign being into a despot. Whatever appropriate epithet we reserve for such a heinous theological system, what is necessary is an intolerance of appeal to God inactively "passing by" those sinners, equal all, whom He personally decreed not to unconditionally elect unto salvation. He did not merely "pass them by" but He, quite actively, decreed their eternity in hell.

__________

1 Lyrics from the hymn, "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior," written by Frances J. Crosby, 1868, public domain.

2 Kenneth D. Keathley, "The Work of God: Salvation," in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 708.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

My photo

My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.