What Calvinists say God loves the reprobate?

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Trinity Apologetics, Sep 18, 2015.

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  1. Trinity Apologetics

    Trinity Apologetics Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi brethren. Since I frequently hear Arminians claim that Calvinists believe God has no love for the non-elect, I was just wondering if you can help me with quotes from Calvinist scholars/authors freely admitting that God has love for the non-elect/reprobate (and maybe even desires their salvation in some sense). I believe John Piper holds this view. Perhaps RC Sproul too. I assume the good majority of Calvinists agree with them.

    Blessings and thanks!
  2. BGF

    BGF Puritan Board Sophomore

    I can't tell you what all Calvinists say but here is what the Word of God says.

    The reprobate are those who will finally and fully receive the just judgment of God. I don't see how one could say that God loves the reprobate without qualifying the word love.

    He certainly loves sinners, but that love, in the fullest sense of the word, extends only to his elect.
  3. PaulMc

    PaulMc Puritan Board Freshman

    If God was to love the reprobate, then as Brett intimated above, it would have to be a different love than that to the elect. The love to the elect is unchanging (whereas love to the reprobate would presumably cease at the judgment?) and it is that which causes us to be brought into the family of God - "Behold, what manner of love the father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" 1 John 3:1.

    At least for myself (and perhaps I am in the minority), I see the common blessings to mankind as God showing goodness to his creation which is considered as that - his creation. There is obviously a long-suffering and mercy in some sense, but passages such as Psalm 73 and elsewhere seem to imply that even these common blessings from God are, to some, a means to their own hardening or falling.

    In regards to whether God desires the salvation of all men in some sense, it is agreeable with His revealed/preceptive will, but beyond that not. John Owen is helpful on this, and there have been plenty of discussions here on the PB you may want to check out.

    The following is a quote from Matthew Henry from his commentary on John 3:16:
    'Though many of the world of mankind perish, yet God’s giving his only-begotten Son was an instance of his love to the whole world, because through him there is a general offer of life and salvation made to all. It is love to the revolted rebellious province to issue out a proclamation of pardon and indemnity to all that will come in, plead it upon their knees, and return to their allegiance. So far God loved the apostate lapsed world that he sent his Son with this fair proposal, that whosoever believes in him, one or other, shall not perish.'

    Henry doesn't speak directly of God loving individual sinners (even if reprobate) but of a general love to the fallen world - whether those are to be separated or not I'm not sure!
  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


  5. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This is a good quote though the last paragraph has some major problems in that is posts a desire that is unfulfilled in The Lord. "a sincere heart of genuine love"

    There is a remedy for this. http://www.fpcr.org/blue_banner_articles/murray-free-offer-review.htm
  6. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Here's the problem - those who object in the fashion described in the OP are typically not interested in any "proof" that doesn't comport with their understanding of the manner that God must love all or it is no love at all. I don't know how many times I've literally heard some Christians say that: "If God is like that then I would not worship Him..." or something of that sort. Wesley once said something to the effect that "...whatever Romans 9 says, it can't be saying that...."

    If you want to call it Armninianism or Semi-Pelagianism then that's fine but what they have in common is that they build from a philosophical notion of what is good or loving and then make the God of the Scriptures to look like that. They begin with a notion of the free will of man and human responsibility and reason back into the Scriptures. How many times have you heard the idea that "love requires the ability for rejection" or that "God wanted people who would choose to love Him" or "God couldn't hold people responsible unless they are free to choose otherwise". None of these are premises that can be grounded in a single clear exposition of the Scripture but are philosophically imported into the text and control the Word of God.

    Thus, we can show them all the quotes we want about how God's love of benevolence to creatures in allowing the rain to fall on the just and unjust demonstrates love. We can show them how God delaying wrath from the time of the Fall until now demonstrates a love for His creatures that He has not yet judged them and they enjoy good things in this life for now.

    Yet, the person philosophically committed to what he has determined love is (and by extension because God thinks just like him then this is the love that God Himself is bound to), he doesn't believe this is love. No, for God to love then He has to love the way they think He needs to. He can play no favorites. He must love all humanity indiscriminately and choose to adopt only those children who have first come to Him and agreed to be His children. If all humanity deserves the wrath and curse of God (some are even denying that now) then their philosophical love demands that God must extend an equivalent amount of grace to all men to overcome their "all deadness" and leave them "mostly dead" so they can choose God to be their "true love". If God passes over some and shows specific love by giving them life then God is not loving. No matter what the Scriptures teach, God can't be that way because they've already determined, philsophically, that this is not loving and God is love.
  7. Paul1976

    Paul1976 Puritan Board Freshman

    John Piper certainly holds the view that God loves the reprobate in some way. He is careful to differentiate that it is not at all the same love he holds for the elect. The example he uses is that he loves all the women in his congregation, but not the same way he loves his wife.

    In Piper's defense, his view is founded on a number of passages that are difficult to interpret without seeing some form of love of God towards the reprobate. There are some of the classic ones Arminians love to point to, but others I personally find difficult to dismiss (much less to reconcile with passages such as those Brett mentioned. Jesus wept over Jerusalem - it's hard not to see a love for the unregenerate in his words. Perhaps the clearest I can think of off the top of my head is Jesus interaction with the rich young ruler, who was clearly unregenerate. Mark 10:21 is very clear that Jesus loved him.

    Ethan, if you're interested in specific quotes from Piper regarding God's love for the unregenerate, I would suggest searching his sermons on passages that imply a universal love towards the unregenerate. He often deals with that issue when speaking on such a passage. Hope that helps.
  8. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    I think Rich and Paul hit the nail on the head. There is real danger in trying to understand God through how we would deal with things since we were made in His image, not He in ours.

    I believe that Owen tried to make the case that God, although benevolent to mankind, would only say that God loves the elect in any way. I think this is unnatural and unbiblical.

    Concerning the sincere offer, this is a bit of a controversial one on this site, but the link below should give you some good resources for study on both sides.

  9. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Calvin himself appears to have taken a view not dissimilar from Piper's.

    "Proofs of the love of God towards the whole human race exist innumerable, all which demonstrate the ingratitude of those who perish or come 'to perdition.' This fact, however, forms no reason whatever why God should not confine His especial or peculiar love to a few, whom He has, in infinite condescension, been pleased to choose out of the rest." (Reply of John Calvin to Article 1 and to the Caluminators Observations Thereon)
  10. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    "No fair!" comes the cry from the crowd. But by what standards of "fair" are these denouncements birthed? Certainly not from God's standards. The Scriptures no nothing of the "fairness" that man would claim. The Scriptures are replete with God choosing the lesser over the greater deserving or the worst of sinners over the least of sinners: “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad... [Rebekah, their mother] was told, 'The older will serve the younger'” (Romans 9:11-12)—Abel over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, and Judah over Joseph. In virtually every example of God's sovereignty in the scriptures we see Him choosing the unmerited over whom not a few misinformed folk would assume the more meritorious.

    God has continually shown throughout the history of His recorded revelation, that His ways are not our ways, and He will do as He judges rightly, not making Himself subject to our own notions of how or why He should act in relationship to us. God sets the standard for fairness, not man. Sadly, the crowd calling for fair play would reason away God's very kingship were it not for the clear Scriptural basis to the contrary.
  11. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree with the care and distinctions my brothers take with regard to any declarations that God loves the reprobate and appreciate Piper and Calvin emphasis if one does say "God loves the reprobate" that it be clear that he does not do so in the same way as the elect.

    I personally do NOT like to speak in such terms because it has been my experience that usually those who speak broadly, "God loves all people" are making such a statement out of a very flawed Arminian theology. And they will often do damage to God's sovereignty by saying He wanted everyone saved but couldn't accomplish this. It also runs into the problem of making it sound like God is eternally punishing those he loves and I struggle with such an idea against all the "hate" passages. If God hates evil, doesn't he really have to hate the reprobate in order to be just? Christ does not pay for them in any way. Thus they (not just their sins) are abhorrent to God. His temporary mercy UPON them during this lifetime shouldn't be confused with love FOR them, for He punishes them in hell for eternity. Ultimately and eternally, God's relationship to the reprobate is one of everlasting wrath. I think we should be ultra careful with our language not to speak like this, as if God loved all the same.
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Piper, MacArthur, Joel Beeke, Matthew Henry, and Calvin all seem to believe in the free offer of the Gospel and a love of God towards all mankind.


  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    and this: http://www.loughbrickland.org/articles/freeoffer.shtml

  14. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Whatever the nature of the love, or even whether He loves them at all, all the Reformed agree that it is not a saving love, but that it falls short of that.
  15. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I certainly don't disagree with this point about the free offer of the Gospel in the conditional promise made to all men. The conditional promise in the proclamation of God's Word is that Christ is a ready and able Savior. There is no excuse for men to wonder whether the conditional promise is true.

    That said, Beeke and Jones go on to point out that the Puritans also believed there was an unconditional promise made to the elect that the conditional promises would be fulfilled in us by the Spirit of Christ.

    I point this out not to dispute that the conditional promise is a form of real benevelonce from God but only to note that there are some who will dispute that it is any kind of love because God is particular in the unconditional promise. They will have nothing of any kind of love (no matter how much we insist) because they'll say it's no love and no sincerity at all because God leaves men unable (by their own rebellion) to fulfill the conditional promise. The answer is that there is no fault in the conditional promise. The fault lies in the sinner for rejecting it but men will still insist that it's somehow God's fault because He must not only make a conditional promise to be loving but must make the unconditional promise (and fulfill the conditional promise) or He is not at all loving.
  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I can't speak to the views of the other men, but having read Calvin extensively I think he would make a distinction between "all mankind" and "reprobates." It is one thing to say God has a love for all mankind irrespective of election and reprobation and quite another to say that God loves reprobates. The word "reprobate," in Calvin's theology, meant that God bears a distinct relation towards men whom He has decreed to be the objects of His justice and who are therefore denied the love and mercy which He freely showers on the elect.

    If one desires to regard the "spits of rain" which deflect off the elect as an expression of "love," then sure, there is a certain analogy which can be drawn between them. But in effect it is a different kind of thing to the "showers of rain" which the elect immediately and undeservedly enjoy, and it tends to distort the nature of love to use the same language to describe both.
  17. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    What about this?

    Also, Calvin did not seem to use "love" and "hate" as mutual exclusives (approvingly quoting Augustine in relation to the elect):

  18. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    This illustrates the point. As soon as the reprobate are mentioned, Calvin thought of them as objects of justice.
  19. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    What Calvinists say God loves the reprobate?

    Answer: the confused kind. It is not as reprobate that God loves someone. It is precisely as reprobate that God does not love them. One can speak of love being given to a person who is reprobate, but it is as God's creature.
  20. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I think at least some of these Calvinists are simply trying to meet people where they are at without needlessly offending them with the doctrine of predestination.

    People must be brought around to see God's undeserved love for themselves before the doctrine of reprobation will 'afford matter of praise'.
  21. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It's precisely this distinction that is lost in some of these conversations.

    The quote from Calvin illustrates how the Gospel, in it's historical proclamation, is regarded as "love toward men". As far as man is concerned, in the Gospel, he is not permitted to wonder about the inscrutable ways of God and determine whether God has elected him from all eternity. The Gospel goes out to men as sinners and it is enough to know that I'm a sinner and I need to respond. We get far too wrapped up in trying to bring election into these distinctions. That's what Calvin is saying here. When teaching on John 3:16, it is not the time and place to begin asking questions like: "Well, if I'm reprobate does God really love me?" These are questions that can never be asked. These are speculative points that violate the Word of God. It is sufficient for us to trust the Word of God proclaimed that announces salvation.

    If we are then to go to a Scripture that explains God's reprobation we may learn something about God's election and reprobation (as far as we can understand it as creatures) and conclude that there is something in the divine act that the Scriptures call "love" and "hate" but that is revealed to us that we might know God's intention to show mercy to objects of His affection primarily. It's intended to demonstrate God's steadfastness toward us. It is not given that we might then wonder - "Well, that's fine that you have loved me from the foundation of the world but what's really important for me to know is this: In what sense have you loved those you passed over when you elected me to be in Christ? If you can't answer that question appropriately then I don't think you're really that loving no matter how much you've lavished me with undeserved favor."
  22. Toasty

    Toasty Puritan Board Sophomore

    Some Arminians believe that if God gives material blessings to people, but does not elect them to salvation then God does not really love them. The assumption is that if God does not give you the greatest blessing, then God does not really love you. Getting material blessings does no one good if you don't get elected for salvation.
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Here is John Calvin affirming degrees of love...both a general love for all and an electing love of some:

    (Calvin’s Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospel. Vol. 2. p.297).

    Here is also Calvin in a sermon on Deuteronomy:

    John Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, Sermon No. 28 (on Deut. 4.36-38), p. 167:

  24. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Wow, the web design on that page is so bad that it almost seems like a parody of bad web design.

    I'm curious why you quoted it. I don't think anyone is disputing that Calvin taught (as do the Confessions) that the Gospel is to be preached to all and that a conditional promise of salvation is proclaimed in the Gospel proclamation.
  25. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Bad web design is a particular ailment of fundamental baptists, it is true. Bad web design is not always proof of heresy, however.


    This link to the Google-book version of the book, "James Durham (1622–1658): And the Gospel Offer in Its Seventeenth-Century Context" shows that Calvin held to a "paternal love" of God towards all people. Those other quotes I provided do the same.

    It is not merely that there is a conditional promise given. It is a "well-meaning offer of salvation." God desires the salvation of all mankind even though He only elects some.

    The OP concerns God's love towards the non-elect. Yes, it appears that God does, indeed, love all of his Creation, and his disposition is to bless that creation. Many respectable Reformed authors have contended as such. The Arminian errs in that he does not recognize degrees of that love, but others among the Reformed err in that they do not recognize common grace and God's fatherly love to all of his creation, nor His desire to bless all, nor the genuine-ness of the Gospel offer.

    Also, on pages 34-35, Turretin's view is laid out, where he expounds Matthew 22 and the parable of the King's wedding feast, which would seem to indicate that the acceptance of this invitation would be pleasing to God:

    : https://books.google.com/books?id=NhRoBwAAQBAJ&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=free+offer+of+the+gospel+john+calvin&source=bl&ots=bggBf5432A&sig=1tlnvks7g-XMIjDbRffdnUx8Daw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBmoVChMI2PO3l-uIyAIVgowNCh17rQ9R#v=onepage&q=free%20offer%20of%20the%20gospel%20john%20calvin&f=false

    Turretin, expounding the Canons of Dort, even states that God "wishes" the salvation of all, though He does not decree the election of all - Turretin, Institutes, 1:354 (4.17.8).
  26. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    In the case of Arminians they will dispute that God can have the degrees of love necessary.

    I think the debate among some Reformed is often one of distinctions. What I often notice is that the Reformed distinction about the offer of the Gospel is often lost when advocating for a certain view.

    As we have already seen, people will move from a degree of love that God shows all men in sending His son or another degree of love He manifests in the proclamation of the Gospel and then move to a question of God as He is in Himself. This is where it gets dicey. They'll move from a historical, revealed theology and begin to ascribe conditions where God has unrealized "desires", in Himself, that He has decreed will never be fulfilled. They'll say: "See Calvin says that God loves the reprobate" where the issue of reprobation is not so much a category of men we can lay our hands on but are men that God passed over before the foundation of the world.

    Thus, I found it interesting that portion of A Puritan's Mind that you quoted earlier (or linked to). The person's blog extracted from that Chapter on Coming to Christ what he wanted. I think it would be hard to find anyone who knows the Puritans who is going to argue that the Conditional Promise of coming to Christ as a ready Savior is not to be preached prolifically to all men. It is proclaimed indiscriminately because the conditional promise is made to sinners. We are never to place any barrier in preaching about Christ's willingness and ability to save all who come to Him.

    The real debate comes in when some want to move beyond this conditional promise and peer into things not relevant to the conditional promise and claim that it cannot be "sincere" unless there's some reference to an electing or decretal act and we can discern God's true emotional state toward that individual. It's not enough that the conditional promise to be true - that Christ is able and willing to save sinners. Some will debate that we need to know more. How does God really feel about that particular sinner if He refuses salvation? It peers into things hidden and irrelevant to the proclamation. It is enough for the hearer to hear what the Word says in the conditional promise.
  27. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    Do you affirm that God is said to desire some things in Scripture that He chooses not to bring to pass? Are we to believe that, if God states that He desires a thing, that He is not truly sincere when He states that He desires a thing?

    I don't know what is happening inside of the mind or will of God except by what He has revealed. And what He has revealed includes, (1) His general offer of salvation to all who believe, (2) the indications through the parables that he really means it when he says that he wants us to attend the feast and when the father rejoices over the returned prodigal and heaven rejoices over every sinner saved, (3) 2 Cor. 5, that we are ambassadors for Christ and it is as if God is beseeching and pleading through us when we in Christ's stead tell people to be reconciled to God. This does not appear to be a charade. (4) Ezekial 33, that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked in general (though it appears to satisfy his justice in a sense) (5) That God has a general love and disposition to bless all.

    As the Minutes of the Fifteenth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1948, says:

    Yes, I agree with you that the Arminian errs in not recognizing these degrees of God's love. Some of the Reformed err in not recognizing this two-fold aspect of the will of God and the general love of God towards all, even the non-elect. The OP asked for quotes about God's love towards the non-elect, and I have provided some.

    If someone proclaims the love of God for the whole world or for all mankind, and, instead of affirming this general truth, you spend 20 minutes countering this supposed "Arminian heresy" - then you've got the wrong kind of Calvinism.

    If the majority of your next sermon on John 3:16 is why "world" does not really mean world, instead of using the bulk of your time to emphasize the huge-ness of the love of God, then you've got the wrong kind of Calvinism.
  28. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    I am buried in a footnote somewhere in that tome, though do not read too much into it. I only mentioned a reference to something when having lunch at the author's house one Sabbath afternoon. :)
  29. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I am looking for a PDF or an affordable version of that book. The only copy I can read right now is the Google-book version. Do you have any leads?
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