Objections to Reprobation: Isn't God Merciful?
In a previous article, we dealt with the Arminian objection to the doctrine of Reprobation on the grounds that it is unfair. The second objection Arminians make against the doctrine of Reprobation regards the mercy of God. How can God be merciful if He either actively wills the damnation of certain of His creatures without a view to anything in them or if He passes them over as sinners and chooses someone else equally deserving of eternal damnation?
Mercy can be thought of in two ways: as a Divine attribute or as it is exercised toward man. As an attribute of God, it is infinite. All God’s attributes are infinite because they are identical with His Essence. To say that God is just is not that same as saying Todd is just. Todd can cease to be just and still be himself. God’s attributes are at one with His Essence, so that if He were not just, He would not be God. Hence, we repeat that as a divine attribute, God’s mercy is infinite.
But mercy, as it exercised toward man, is neither necessarily infinite nor actually infinite. The fact that God did not create more worlds than He has is no indictment of His omnipotence. Likewise, that not all men are saved is no indictment of His mercy. Jerome Zanchius writes, “Goodness, considered as it is in God, would have been just the same infinite and glorious attribute, supposing no rational creatures had been created at all, or saved when created. To which may be added, that the goodness of the Deity does not cease to be infinite in itself, only because it is more extended to some objects than it is to others. The infinity of this perfection, as residing in God and coinciding with His Essence, is sufficiently secured, without supposing it to reach indiscriminately, to all creatures He has made. For, was that way of reason to be admitted, it would lead us too far, and prove too much: since, if the infinity of His goodness is to be estimated by the number of objects upon which it terminates; there must be an absolute, proper infinity of reasonable beings to terminate that goodness upon. Consequently, it would follow from such premises, either, that the creation, is as truly infinite as the Creator; or, if otherwise, that the Creator’s goodness could not be infinite, because it has not an infinity of object to make happy.” (Absolute Predestination, trans. Augustus Toplady, 1769)
If the decree of Reprobation is disproved by the imaginary incompatibility with divine mercy, then we must also charge God with a lack of goodness in almost every other part of His conduct. We spent quite some time proving that assertion in the previous post.
Arminians should therefore think carefully of the logical consequences of their doctrine. There is no way of asserting eternal providence or justifying God’s actions towards humanity except by saying that the exercise of His infinite mercy is regulated by the voluntary determining of His sovereign pleasure. Once this scriptural proposition is established, every objection against Reprobation that is grounded on its being unmerciful ceases to exist.
Note, I said, “established as scriptural.” Here goes.
In Matthew 11:20-24, Christ reproves the cities that did not believe Him. He goes on to say that had Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom seen the mighty deeds they had witnessed, these cities would’ve repented. The logical inference it this: God saw fit to NOT show these cities the very mighty deeds that would have resulted in their repentance. If this does not demonstrate Reprobation, nothing does. “Unfair,” you say. Yet in verses 25 and 26, Christ thanks the Father for doing the very thing Arminians exclaim against as unjust and unmerciful. “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.”
“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Matt 13:11
“it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” Matt 20:23
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:14
“for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.” Matt 24:22
“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” Matt 25:34
“Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” Mark 4:11-12
“rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
“one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.” Luke 17:34
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” John 6:37
“ye are not of God.” John 8:47
“ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep” John 10:26
“But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” John 12:37 - 40
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” John 15:16
“Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.” Acts 1:16-20
“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” Acts 2:23
“Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” Acts 4:27-28
“as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48
“God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace” Gal 1:15
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” 2 Tim 1:9
“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation” Jude 1:4
Every single one of the above passages contains at least one side of the Election/Reprobation equation. Mention is made of those who are shown special, undeserved favor; hence, demonstrating the passing over of the non-elect. Or mention is made of the decree regarding the reprobation of certain individuals. Here we have multiple Scriptures asserting Election, and by logical consequence, its corollary, Reprobation. And not a single one of these passages even remotely hints at questioning God’s justice or mercy.