I participate in a weekly Bible study here in our small Texas Hill Country town. The group is an eclectic one to say the least, spanning a wide range of Christian denominations, traditions, and theology. That said, I am relatively certain from our discussions that I am the only one who fully embraces Reformed theology. As such, I am invariably the one who everyone glances at whenever discussions of such matters as election, predestination, eternal security and the doctrines of Grace come up.
This week was no exception as we were studying Matt. ch. 10 where Jesus instructs his disciples to leave any town that does not welcome them or listen to their words. The fate of that town will be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah according to Jesus. As it prone to do, this caused the conversation to veer off into what I regard as a stock Arminian contention that goes something like this…”I just can’t believe that God would create people just to send them to hell!” I’ve lost track of how many times I have heard this tired argument. What I would like to tell them is “I don’t believe it either, so what’s the problem?” But that is not the answer they want and more importantly, the answer they need.
At any rate, with their statement made, the hook has been baited, thrown into the water and with beaming faces, everyone’s attention turns to me. When this “baiting” seems purely tangential, I usually respond with something along the lines of “Who are we to argue with a sovereign God?”, which is exactly what I did this week, with the hope that we would get back on track.
However, their contention really does deserve a response. And the reason why, is because it contains two presupposition, both of which are erroneous, either of which invalidates the whole.
First error: God creates people. My contention is that God no longer creates people; people create people. Wait! What did he say???? Now, before you declare me a heretic, please be patient and hear me out. Did God create man? YES. I am a six-day creationist, so I am fully on board on that one. Genesis chs. 1 and 2 make it clear that God created the heavens and the earth. He literally spoke them into existence. He separated light from darkness. He separated earth from sky, dry ground from sea. He gave us lights in the sky to define seasons and to govern night and day. He filled the seas and skies and land with living creatures. Then God took dust from the ground and formed it into a man, made in His own image, and breathed life into the man and he became a living being. Finding that nothing else in His creation was suitable to be a helper for the man, God created a woman out of the man. Then God blessed them and instructed them to be fruitful and multiply. In so doing, God ordained that mankind should make more of itself and he gave the man and woman specific instructions to do just that. So, I contend that here in Genesis ch. 2, God ended His creation of people, and here began the process of people creating people.
Hopefully I have not lost you and you are still reading. If so, let me make myself clear.
Do I believe God is “engaged” in the human reproductive processes that He, Himself, ordained? I believe He is. He is “engaged” at the very least by means of knowledge, even foreknowledge (remember, I am a Calvinist).
Do people, even though created by other people, still have supreme value to God? Of course they do. Why send His son to redeem them if this were not the case? Furthermore, a part of our nature is designed with an eternal quality. Our soul is a gift from God and makes us distinct from all other creation and is a remnant of our original design in His image and His likeness.
Does God sometimes intervene miraculously in the physical and gestational reproductive processes between people? I believe he does, according to His will. And scripture proves this with examples of old or barren wombs miraculously becoming fertile.
Do people intervene in God’s ordained plans for the multiplication of human kind? Yes, and sometimes those acts are outright sin.
But what is clear to me is that God, while infinitely able, no longer acts in the role of creator of people. For one thing, if He were still doing so, why is the outcome not more consistent with His perfect nature? Every human being I am familiar with (yes, apart from Jesus) was and/or is seriously flawed. Is it even possible for God to make something less than perfect? I think not. Instead, God uses His originally perfect, now corrupted creation to accomplish the task He gave it…to be fruitful and multiply. People create people, and we do so imperfectly.
While this first error may be an argument over semantics I think it nevertheless, points to an important distinction and error in the first part of this Arminian contention. While we could quibble endlessly over this, the second error is not one of semantics. Rather, it points to the very nature of God and nature of man.
Second error: God selects (elects) some people to go to hell. This is the argument that Arminians use against predestination. And it goes something like this: “If God chooses some to go to heaven, then by default, He is choosing some to go to hell.” On the surface, that seems like a reasonable contention. However, it is a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible teaches us about the nature of man and the righteousness of God. This Arminian contention is really the definition of “double predestination,” which I do not believe exists but is nonetheless an all too common mis-characterization of Reformed theology.
If we pick up where we left off in scripture, Genesis ch. 3 makes it clear that “the fall” of Adam and Eve had dire consequences. Sin entered the world and caused what would eventually be physical death for those who committed it. And apart from grace, this sin also caused a separation from God. The very nature of our parents, Adam and Eve, changed because of their disobedience.
In Genesis ch.5, we see the reproductive processes we discussed above, being played out, as Adam and Eve had other children after Cain and Abel. Seth was the first, “made in his (Adam’s) own likeness, after his (Adam’s) image.” Distinct from the perfect likeness and image of God that Adam bore before the fall, this new human likeness and human image were fallen, disobedient, sinful and separated from God. These character flaws have not departed from mankind, and we pass them on from one generation to another. And as egg and sperm come together and human life begins, sin is present in that new life by imputation from our first parents Adam and Eve, and every succeeding generation. And this imputed sin alone is sufficient to separate us eternally from God. But this inherited inclination for sin also leads us to engage in our own personal sin, which is also sufficient, alone, but especially when combined with our imputed/inherited sin, to separate us eternally from a righteous God.
So, mankind is destined for hell, based on its imputed/inherited sinful nature and its own personal sins. Mankind from birth stands already condemned. God does not have to select (or elect) anyone to go to hell. That is our deserved destiny.
No, God does not create people to send them to hell. People create people who are deserving of hell, and it is only by God’s mercy through grace, that some are spared this fate.