Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Hell Makes Sense If Conditional Election Is True

Hell is a hotly debated subject (sorry for the pun).  Is hell eternal conscious torment?  Is hell just a figure of speech for death for the ungodly?  Are people really burning forever in hell or is hell just where people are thrown and then destroyed forever?  These are all debated.

Yet hell is a biblical reality.  Even those who hold to conditionalism believe in hell.  They deny that hell is eternal conscious torment but they do believe in hell.  They can even warn people of hell and the need to repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus alone to save them or they will go to hell.

But hell doesn’t make sense unless one holds to conditional election.  Otherwise, one is faced with the idea that God has arbitrarily chosen to save a few while damning most human beings in hell not because of their sins but also because of His sovereign choice.  Hell, for those who hold to unconditional election, is simply the glory of God being manifested as He casts the lost into hell.  Calvinists such as John Piper teach that hell for the non-elect glorifies God by showing His goodness toward the elect.  Calvinists often will say that the fact that God chooses to save sinners from among the sinful lump shows His goodness.

John Calvin went further.  Calvin taught from Romans 9:22 that the vessels of wrath are people whom God has not just passed over but He hardens.  Calvin wrote:

But if we wish fully to understand Paul, almost every word must be examined. He then argues thus, — There are vessels prepared for destruction, that is, given up and appointed to destruction: they are also vessels of wrath, that is, made and formed for this end, that they may be examples of God’s vengeance and displeasure. If the Lord bears patiently for a time with these, not destroying them at the first moment, but deferring the judgment prepared for them, and this in order to set forth the decisions of his severity, that others may be terrified by so dreadful examples, and also to make known his power, to exhibit which he makes them in various ways to serve; and, further, that the amplitude of his mercy towards the elect may hence be more fully known and more brightly shine forth; — what is there worthy of being reprehended in this dispensation? But that he is silent as to the reason, why they are vessels appointed to destruction, is no matter of wonder. He indeed takes it as granted, according to what has been already said, that the reason is hid in the secret and inexplorable counsel of God; whose justice it behoves us rather to adore than to scrutinize.

Romans 9:21, according to the unconditional view of election, is clear that God has made both His elect and the non-elect for His own purposes.  God, from the foundation of the world, has chosen whom He will save and whom He will damn.  This is not merely God passing by the non-elect but His active choice to prepare them for the purpose of hell.

R.C. Sproul admits that he struggles with Romans 9:20-24.  He admits that the idea of double predestination seems very strong here and that hyper-Calvinism finds its heart in these texts.  Yet Sproul is not a hyper-Calvinist and so the best he can do is to teach that there is one batch of sinful creatures and that God endures the vessels of wrath which are reprobate (Chosen by God, p. 153).

Calvin’s successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza, taught that Romans 9:21 is mankind not yet made and much less corrupted.  In other words, Beza taught that God sovereignly chose to elect before even creating mankind while also choosing to reject those whom He had not chosen.  God then made humans and even before the Fall, He chose to elect and harden.  Beza taught that this view alone protects God of His sovereignty and glorifies Him since everything (including the Fall) was for the glory of God.

For the Arminian, Adam Clarke taught that Romans 9:22 were the unbelieving Jews.  Clarke taught that Romans 9 has the Jews and Gentiles in mind and not individual unconditional election.  Romans 9:24-29 point to Clarke’s view.  God has in mind Israel as the vessel of wrath since they rejected His grace.  Thomas Oden states that people harden themselves by the rejection of the grace of God.  2 Timothy 2:21 states the people can turn from vessels of wrath to vessels of honor by the grace of God.  This is conditioned upon faith in the Lord Jesus (1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Timothy 2:10).

Why then would God, in the Calvinist viewpoint, create mankind for destruction?  There is no clear teaching on this.  Most simply will quote Deuteronomy 29:29 as the end all of the debate.  Calvin warned that this is indeed a mystery that one need not ponder too deeply.

For the Arminian, hell makes sense since God has been reaching out to the world since the Fall.  Mankind was created in the image of God and by their own willful choice, brought sin into the world (Genesis 3:1-7).  Even in the Garden of Eden, Yahweh reached out to mankind in His grace by calling them (Genesis 3:9), giving them a promise even in the midst of the curse (Genesis 3:15) and then clothing them (Genesis 3:21).  From Genesis onward, God is preparing the world for His Messiah.  The Messiah would come and would bear the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:4-6; John 1:29).

In Matthew 7 Jesus speaks much of two’s.  He says there are two gates (Matthew 7:13-14), two types of fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), two confessions (Matthew 7:21-23), and two types of people who either obey or disobey (Matthew 7:24-27).  Even now there are two types of people: lost or saved.  The saved become the elect.  The lost remain outside of His elect but do so by their own free choice.

If this is the case, if the lost are still in rebellion because of their own hardness, their own refusal to submit to the Lordship of Christ, their own rejection of God’s grace and mercy, etc. then hell makes sense.  Hell is fitting for those who would reject the Lord God.  No sinner will be able to stand before a holy God and said, “You made me a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction” but will simply acknowledge the justice of God and condemning them in their sins.  It is sin that sends a person to hell and not God’s unconditional election (Romans 6:23).  It is willful rebellion against God that leads to mankind’s utter destruction.

If I were a Calvinist, I would then reject unending conscious torment in hell since I would hold that people go to hell because God has not chosen them to be elect.  The thought that a loving and good God would send people to hell not because of their sins but because He simply did not choose them to be His elect would be grievous to me.  God is pictured in the Bible as loving and good.  John 3:16 is probably the most known verse in the Bible yet how does it fit into the idea that God loved the world so much that He created vessels of wrath whom He fitted for everlasting destruction and misery in hell?  The only comfort I would be able to find is that people are destroyed in hell (or annihilated) because God simply did not choose them.

Jesus said that hell was created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).  Revelation 20:10 says that the devil will be tormented there day and night forever and ever.  Hell was not created for the glory of God in condemning the non-elect but in destroying Satan.  Those who are not found in Christ will also go there (Revelation 20:11-15).  I believe that this is based on either salvation in Christ or rejection of Christ but is not based on the unconditional election of people.  Hell makes sense to me because I see hell as the final destruction for those who have hated God and rebelled against Him while on earth.  Hell makes sense because of the cross (John 3:17-18, 36).

Advertisements

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] “Hell Makes Sense if Conditional Election is True” by Arminian Today […]


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: