Calvinists on Hell and the Fate of Everyone Who Ever Lives

I don’t know how Calvinists do it. Like many bloggers Justin Taylor posted an obituary of Steve Jobs. Unlike many bloggers, he receives comments. Not three comments in, the post got this one:

I am saddened by Jobs’ passing. My prayers are with his family and friends. I don’t mean for this to be insensitive, but why would those who believe in the concept of God’s sovereign saving grace have any “hope” one way or the other that Jobs found rest in it? Wouldn’t they just want God to carry out His salvific desires in whatever way HE sees fit?

“Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?”

if God decided to NOT impart Jobs with His sovereign saving grace (he didn’t appear outwardly a believer), this only magnifies the grace that the elect receive: “that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.”

For the Calvinist struggling to make sense of God’s attitudes towards the non-Christian who passes away, the pastoral response is precisely the one Taylor gives:

Good question. We ultimately submit to God’s sovereign, secret will (God will have mercy on whom he has mercy). But it’s entirely appropriate to pray and labor and hope for the manifestation of God’s revealed will (God desires all to be saved, is not wishing for any to perish, takes no pleasure in death, etc.).

As for me, I have never been able to make sense of this "secret/revealed’ distinction concerning God’s will, because the "secret will" doesn’t seem to be so much of a secret. It seems as though this so-called "secret" will is partly revealed as the (Calvinistic) quotations from Romans 9 make evident. Since it is revealed, it seems to undermine the appropriateness hoping for the attitudes of God in the so-called "revealed will" (everyone being saved, and so forth) to be fully realized. A comment from someone named Bill brings this up:

Justin, your words about our response to the secret and the revealed will of God make some sense of our attitude in this present life, but this is because of our limited perspective and our lack of sanctification. As Reformed theologian John Gerstner says about heaven,” When you go to heaven, you’ll be so sanctified that you’ll be able to look down into hell and see your friend there and rejoice that he’s there.” R.C. Sproul says that in our present unsanctified state our concerns are more in line with those who are in rebellion against God but when we are finally sanctified our desires will be more aligned with the glory of God.

It is no wonder that people like Rob Bell write the kinds of books he writes when Christians seriously entertain ideas that make the eternal torment of friends look like something to take pleasure in. At any rate, I offered my two cents on this sort of thought in the following argument:

[1] If we conform our attitudes to God’s attitudes, then we make progress in sanctification. (premise)

[2] God’s attitude towards the death of the wicked is pleasure and joy. (premise for reductio)

[3] If our attitude towards the death of the wicked is pleasure and joy, then we make progress in sanctification. [1 and 2]

[4] Yet God does not take pleasure or joy at the death of the wicked (Ez. 18:23) (factual premise)

Therefore, if our attitude towards the death of the wicked is pleasure and joy, then we do not make progress in sanctification.

I suppose [4] is where things are going to be disputed, but even most Calvinists I’ve read seem to agree that such is the case. If not, then hyper-Calvinism is not far off. And I am not sure the two-wills of God strategy is strong enough to explain how it is not the case that [2] and [4] stand in contradiction.

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