The question of election (God’s sovereign choice to save some), and especially reprobation (the corresponding consequential responsibility for effectively choosing to damn others) is a difficult position. Especially as some would argue that you cannot hold this position and believe that God honestly desires all men to repent and be saved. (As 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:23 and a few others indicate).
And yet I do hold this position. Rather than attempting an article explaining how I can hold this, I will use the words of John Piper and Robert L. Dabney, who are vastly superior authors. I realize that this will have the immediate effect of loss of credibility of the argument for some (which is unfortunate). Let me assure you that this is the conclusion I have come to, prior to reading these men, and they simply state things more eloquently than I could.
> If, as Calvinists say, God deems it wise and good to elect unconditionally some to salvation and not others, one may legitimately ask whether the offer of salvation to all is genuine. Is it made with heart? Does it come from real compassion? Is the willing that none perish a bona fide willing of love?
> The way I would give an account of this is explained by Robert L. Dabney in an essay written over a hundred years ago. His treatment is very detailed and answers many objections that go beyond the limits of this chapter. I will simply give the essence of his solution which seems to me to be on the right track,
though he, as well as I, would admit we do not “furnish an exhaustive explanation of this mystery of the divine will.”
> Dabney uses an analogy from the life of George Washington taken from Chief-Justice Marshall’s Life of Washington. A certain Major AndrÃ© had jeopardized the safety of the young nation through “rash and unfortunate” treasonous acts. Marshall says of the death warrant, signed by Washington, “Perhaps on no
occasion of his life did the commander-in-chief obey with more reluctance the stern mandates of duty and of policy.” Dabney observes that Washington’s compassion for AndrÃ© was “real and profound”. He also had “plenary power to kill or to save alive.” Why then did he sign the death warrant? Dabney explains,
“Washington’s volition to sign the death-warrant of AndrÃ© did not arise from the fact that his compassion was slight or feigned, but from the fact that it was rationally counterpoised by a complex of superior judgments . . . of wisdom, duty, patriotism, and moral indignation.”
> Dabney imagines a defender of AndrÃ©, hearing Washington say, “I do this with the deepest reluctance and pity.” Then the defender says, “Since you are supreme in this matter, and have full bodily ability to throw down that pen, we shall know by your signing this warrant that your pity is hypocritical.” Dabney responds to this by saying, “The petulance of this charge would have been equal to its folly. The pity was real, but was restrained by superior elements of motive…”
Ironically, the Arminian also holds this position. That God is restrained by “superior elements of motive” is held by both camps. The question is simply “what is that superior element of motive? In the Arminian position, preservation of human self-determination (free will) and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than the salvation of all people. In the Calvinist position, the greater value is the God’s revelation of the full range of His glory in wrath, justice, mercy, compassion, love, grace, patience and kindness.
The question is, which of these (if any, or is there another?) does the scripture teach? Most of us in the West, affected by current contemporary enlightenment-based thinking assume free will, to say that our will is not free seems simply *wrong*. But this was not always assumed, and in some cultures, still is not assumed. I posit that we (thankfully!) lack an accurate understanding of slavery, and this affects our thinking on the freedom of the will.