The following is a part of an email exchange with a real student. He asks the question everybody is thinking of when we think about predestination….
Here is the Question:
Here’s a question for you. I have heard it said that predestination is like a man falling in love with his bride-to-be or a man going into an orphanage and falling in love with the children he will later adopt. I get this imagery and it is a great way of explaining predestination. However, what struck me is what about everyone else? What about those other kids in the orphanage or those lonely single people out there? As I think this through, I wonder if people learning about who God is, might view God not as the “all-loving” God because he didn’t fall in love with the other orphans? I’m just wondering your thoughts on this. I hope what I’m saying makes sense.
Here is my answer:
That is a great question, and to be honest with you there is no really satisfying answer. It strikes us as unloving or cruel that God would choose to rescue some and choose not to rescue others. If it were up to us we think that we would choose all… at least that is what we would like to tell ourselves.
Having said that, I can give you an “intellectual” answer but I can’t give you an answer that will satisfy the emotions we feel around this question. So let me take a shot at giving you an “intellectual” answer….
Grace is at the core of what Paul is explaining when it comes to predestination. His understanding of grace is intimately linked to his understanding of sin and our condition as being dead. So if we are every going to “come to life” something from outside of us has to “bring us to life.” This is what we call regeneration. It seems, according to our own experiences, that God doesn’t do this for everybody. So it seems as though God chooses, ahead of time, whom he will regenerate. That is, he chooses whom he will have mercy on. I think so far that is pretty clear, however you asked if this understanding of predestination actually makes God not “all loving.” Here is what I think we need to remember: God owes us nothing. God has no obligation whatsoever to rescue any of us. If God chooses to rescue some, that doesn’t mean that he has caused their condemnation. They have caused their own condemnation: we are responsible for our own sin and dead condition. If we suffer the consequences of our sin, that doesn’t make God any less loving.
Now regarding the question of why God would choose some and not choose to choose others, we must remember that God is fully sovereign in his own decisions. He is free and not bound to do anything, even if “love” (or better yet our understanding of “love”) requires it. So any reason somebody will give as to why God chooses some and does not choose others is pure speculation.