Daniel 4:34-35 – His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing [compared to Him]. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (NIV 1984)
If there is anything (as small as one maverick molecule) that happens outside the foreordination of God, it therefore happens outside the sovereignty of God. Nothing can happen apart from the sovereignty of God. This includes the efficacious (having the power to produce a desired effect) and permissive (having the power to prevent an undesirable effect) will of God. Permitting something to happen does not necessarily mean He approves of or sanctions it. If anything were to happen outside that sovereignty of God, then God would not be sovereign and thus would not be God.
The question is: if God is sovereign, and if man is fallen, how can He allow people to perish? Does this mean that God is not sovereign (cannot prevent people from perishing) or He is not good (chooses to allow people to perish)? This “dilemma” ignores that fact that God is also totally righteous and just.
• No Opportunity For Anyone – God could decide to not give anyone who has fallen an opportunity for salvation. The only objection would be that God is just. God is not obligated to be merciful, because mercy is not an obligation. Justice can be owed but mercy is not obligatory. But God did not choose this.
• Just An Opportunity For Some or All – God could provide an opportunity for some or everyone to be saved. But there would be no guarantee anyone would be saved.
• Ensures Some or All – God could exercise His sovereignty and ensure the salvation of some or everybody. God did not choose to ensure the salvation of everyone (universalism). This is not Biblical, because we know many will indeed perish. Some will be lost (particularism).
So, we are left with either God provides the opportunity for some or all the fallen to be saved (Arminianism) or He intervenes to ensure the salvation of some of the fallen (Calvinism).
The question is: Does God provide an opportunity for some or all, or does He ensure the salvation of only some?
The primary objection to Calvinism is that it would not be fair for God to ensure the salvation of some but not all. But this is also a problem for Arminianism, because all God does is provide an opportunity (when it is within His power to ensure). Thus, the argument goes, that there is more of God’s mercy being demonstrated in Calvinism than there is in Arminianism, because there is no assurance that any would take the opportunity.
• Arminianism – The opportunity for salvation is given to all, but not all will take it.
- Calvinism – The salvation of some (but not all) are ensured
The questions are: Is it an injustice if God ensures the salvation of some but not all the fallen? Or, is God being more merciful by ensuring the salvation of some rather than just an opportunity for all?
All are fallen and in rebellion against God. Some are saved, and some are lost. The saved get mercy, the lost get justice. No one gets injustice. Mercy is not justice and it is not injustice. It is non-justice.
Getting back to the so-called dilemma. If God gave some mercy and some injustice, His goodness could be called into question. But God gives some mercy and He gives others justice. So, His goodness cannot be called into question. No one has been or ever will be the object of injustice at the hands of God.
Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul