First, if God already chooses who is going to be saved in go to Heaven, does that mean that he chooses who goes to Hell?
In short, Yes
. It does indeed follow that if God chooses to save some then by His very action in that choice He has chosen to not save others. And what is to not save others than to choose who goes to Hell? However
, there is more to consider. In answering your question in the short way, I tried to use the words with the meaning you gave to them. But in using the word "choose" for both who is saved and who goes to Hell, we run into a problem. Why? It's because the choosing is not the exact same in both cases.
Thus, technically speaking, "if God chooses to save some then by His very action in that choice He has chosen to not save others. And what is to not save others than to choose who goes to Hell?" is inaccurate, as we shall see.
For some theological terms to simplify my writing and to understand future theological works on this subject, we use the word "reprobation" to refer to God's "choosing" who goes to Hell. We also use the term "ordination," "ordained," "appointed," "decreed" for what ever God has decided will happen ("foreordination" is a similar term). Because of reprobation's similarities to "predestination", you will often see writers referring to "double predestination" with respect to the question you asked (for obvious reasons). However, "double predestination" is a technically inaccurate term. God's "predestination" of the elect (those God chooses to save) and of the reprobate is asymmetrical
; that is, the choice involved in ordaining the elect to salvation and the choice involved in ordaining the reprobate to Hell is not the exact same (and along with Romans 9, you can see God did indeed ordain some to eternal death by Jude 4, 1 Peter 2:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, and Proverbs 16:4, if you consider the passages carefully).
Well, what is different then? Firstly, note that "God chooses who is going to be saved" implies "Those whom God does not choose will not be saved," which is to say "Those whom God rejects will not be saved." That is all the statement implies. A choice of some implies the rejection of others, but it does not necessarily imply there must be the same kind of choice in the rejection of others. The problem is in the choice of the word "choice," which implies something active, some...something which I lack the words to describe, that "ordain" or "appoint" or "decree" do not imply; regardless, it is clear that to choose some and reject others is different from choosing some and choosing others for some purpose. But I won't quarrel with words provided we mean the same thing by them. Usually though, we use the word "ordain" or "decree" or something similar when describing what God has decided what will happen, not "choose" (unless "choose" is used in the context of election or some other good thing). Hopefully, these subtleties will be a bit clearer as I continue.
Secondly, note that the clay represents fallen humanity, humanity as sinners. Why? Vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath are formed from the same lump of clay. Mercy presupposes that the one to whom mercy is shown is guilty. Wrath presupposes that the one to whom mercy is shown is guilty. Thus, the clay to whom mercy or wrath is shown must be guilty, must be fallen, must be sinful. But if this is true, then the decree of reprobation must be different from election. Why? In the case of election, mercy is shown, grace is given, a new creation is made, and a creature is spiritually raised from the dead. In the case of reprobation, well, the creature is already fallen. This is why the reformed speak of "choosing some and rejecting others" or "choosing some and passing over others" or "choosing some and passing by others." In the case of election, something is done to completely change a human's nature, while in the case of reprobation, the human's nature remains the same. This does not mean God did not decree or ordain some to everlasting death; God did; but it does mean the decree is different; in one He decrees to actively save in the other He decrees to pass by.
Do you see this?
We can be sure that no one is treated un-justly. "Is there unrighteousness in God?" We must submit to God's sovereignty. However, to help us in submitting, we can consider that God was under no obligation to save anyone. Justice means we all should go to Hell. That anyone is saved is because of God's mercy. Another consideration is that those who go to Hell are hardened sinners. "They have become haters of God."(Romans 1) "There is none that seeks God."(Romans 3) They get what they deserve (i.e., punishment for sin), and they get what they want
(i.e., separation from God; they obviously do not want punishment for sin though).
While I'm sure the vast majority of unbelievers will deny that is true of themselves, I'm sure if they thought deeply enough, they would know it to be true. (And to any unbelievers reading this, I am merely deducing truths from what Sripture says. If the biblical God exists, it is perfectly reasonable to believe what He says about unbelievers, as well as believers. Thus, I am not attempting to "read minds" but am merely being consistent with my beliefs.) The real mystery is why God did not choose to save everyone. But we know that, "The Lord is just in all his ways, holy in his works all." (Psalm 145:17) and can and should be content with that, however difficult it may be at times.
Anyway, the Westminster Confession.
"Section III.–By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.
Section IV.–These angels and men, thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
Section V.–Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his free grace and love alone, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.
Section VI.–As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, fore-ordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam
are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
Section VII.–The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin
, to the praise of his glorious justice."
To further help in understanding this, I shall quote from Robert Shaw's Exposition
(which I posted a link to earlier in this club somewhere, along with a link to the Westminster Standards).
"This section describes what is usually called the decree of reprobation. This term is not used in the Confession, and when it occurs in Scripture, bears a different sense from the theological; but for the sake of convenience, it is used to express that act of God's will by which, when he viewed all mankind as involved in guilt and misery, he rejected some, while he chose others. Some who allow of personal and eternal election, deny any such thing as reprobation. But the one unavoidably follows from the other; for the choice of some must necessarily imply the rejection of others. "Election and rejection are co-relative terms; and men impose upon themselves, and imagine that they conceive what it is impossible to conceive, when they admit election and deny reprobation.... There are many passages of Scripture in which this doctrine is taught. We read of some whose names are "not written,' and who, consequently, are opposed to those whose names are written, "in the Book of Life;' who are "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction;'who were "before of old ordained to condemnation;' who "stumble at the Word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed;' of persons whom God is said to hate, while others he loves. Let any man carefully and dispassionately read the 9th and the 11th chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, and he will entertain no more doubt that some are ordained to death, than that others are ordained to life."
Our Confession speaks of God's passing by some, and also ordaining them to wrath; and we apprehend there is an important distinction betwixt the two. If the reason be inquired why God passed by some of mankind's sinners, while he elected others to life, it must be resolved into the counsel of his own will, whereby he extends or withholds mercy as he pleases. No doubt those whom God passed by were considered as fallen and guilty creatures; but if there was sin in them, there was sin also in those who were chosen to salvation; we must, therefore, resolve their opposite allotment into the will of God: "He hath mercy upon whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."–Rom. ix. 18. As it would have been just in God to pass by the whole of our race, and to deal with them as he did with the angels who sinned, it must be manifest that, in electing some to life, he did no injustice to the non-elect, whose case would have been just as bad as it is, even supposing the others had not been chosen at all. But if the reason be inquired why God ordained to dishonour and wrath those whom he passed by, this must be resolved into their own sin. In this act God appears as a judge, fixing beforehand the punishment of the guilty; and his decree is only a purpose of acting towards them according to the natural course of justice. Their own sin is the procuring cause of their final ruin, and therefore God does them no wrong. The salvation of the elect is wholly "to the praise of his glorious grace," and the condemnation of the non-elect is "to the praise of his glorious justice.""
""By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained," &c. The expressions to which we wish to draw the reader's attention are the words predestinated
. A hasty or superficial reader might perceive no difference between these words. But, if so, why are they both used? For there is no instance of mere tautological repetition in the concise language of the Confession. But, further, let it be well remarked that the word "predestinated" is used only in connection with "everlasting life," and the word "foreordained" with "everlasting death." And when the compound form of the proposition is assumed, both terms are used to represent each its respective member in the general affirmation. Why is this the case? Because the Westminster Divines did not understand the meaning of the terms predestination
to be identical, and therefore never used these words as synonymous. By predestination
they meant a positive decree determining to confer everlasting life
; and this they regarded as the basis of the whole doctrines of free grace
, arising from nothing in man, but having for its divisive origin the character and sovereignty of God.
, on the other hand, they meant a decree of order, or arrangement, determining that the guilty should be condemned to everlasting death
; and this they regarded as the basis of judicial procedure
, according to which God "ordains men to dishonour and wrath for their sin," and having respect to man's own character and conduct. Let it be further remarked, that while, according to this view, the term predestination
could never with propriety be applied to the lost
, the term foreordination
might be applied to the saved
, since they also are the subjects, in one sense, of judicial procedure. Accordingly there is no instance in the Confession of Faith where the term predestination
is applied to the lost
, though there are several instances where the term foreordination
, or a kindred term, is applied to the saved
. And let this also be marked, that the term reprobation
, which is so liable to be misunderstood and applied in an offensive sense to the doctrine of predestination, is not even once used in the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Later writers on that doctrine have indeed employed that word, as older writers had done, and had thereby furnished occasion to the opponents of the doctrine to misrepresent it; but the Westminster Divines cautiously avoided the use of an offensive term, carefully selected such words as were best fitted to convey their meaning, and in every instance used them with the most strict and definite precision."
Finally, an article
to read. Please don't get confused by his discussion on "judicial hardening." He is attacking those who say sin is the cause of the decree of reprobation. God's will is the cause of the decree of reprobation. That is something I agree with. However, there appear to be some writers who use the word "judicial hardening" to mean "passive hardening" (i.e., that God hardens by removing restraining grace and so letting a person become hardened in his or her sin). I agree with the idea of "passive hardening." "Passive hardening" deals with how
God hardens someone; "judicial hardening" that the article speaks of deals with the reason
God hardens someone.
The view I have explained and defended here is sometimes known as an infralapsarian
position. That is, God made His decrees of predestination and reprobation with humans considered as fallen sinners. This is opposed to other views which some other Calvinists have held. You can read a defense of my position and an explanation of other views here
, if you wish. We do not have to know exactly how it all works, and indeed, it is hard to tell how it all works because God's decrees take place at once in His mind; infralapsarian and the other lapsarian positions are simply us trying to make sense of His decrees. Also, there are also some who affirm double predestination is symmetrical, which is always but not limited to hyper-Calvinists (sometimes called "equal ultimacy"); however, those who hold the view are one step closer to hyper-Calvinism, so it's not a safe doctrine, in my opinion. For what it's worth, the form of Calvinism I have defended and explained in this post is the Calvinism of John Calvin, as far as I can tell.
Also, if God chooses whether or not a person will be saved, doesn't that eliminate the free will that God gave us?
A fair question considering the Confession I quoted in my earlier post said no violence was offered to the will of the creatures. But to answer the question: in short, Yes, we have no free will
, and I would like you to prove from Scripture where it says God gave us free will independent of His will. Free will seems to be a philosophical idea which Scripture isn't concerned with. Scripture is rather concerned with moral responsibility and the actions of humans. In long, it depends on what you mean by free will
. If by free will you mean that humans have an ability to choose or not choose as they please independent of God, then no, we do not have free will. If by free will you mean the actions of humans are voluntarily done, that they choose what they want, that their actions are properly their actions and so they are responsible for them, then yes, we do have free will. The problem of definition is one reason why you will see some of we Calvinists say we don't have free will in our writings while others say we do. It depends on the situation whether we will say we have free will or not. Because many people's idea of free will is not the Scriptural view, we often say we do not have free will in answer to the question.
This is an old question about how to reconcile Divine Sovereignty with man's free actions. I do not think we will ever figure out how
it works. But we do know that man's actions are his own actions for which he is responsible for, that these actions are voluntarily done (i.e., it's not like he goes, "God, why are you making me do this?" but these actions are what a person wants to do), but all these actions were ordained by God to occur, and they only do them because God ordained that they would do them, yet somehow God is also not responsible for sin. God controls the king's heart like a watercourse (some late chapter in Proverbs); no doubt He does the same with others too. For a proof that humans have "free will" of the sort I have described, consider Acts 2:23 and Acts 4:27 Both are two of the proof texts used by the Westminster Confession:
"God from all eternity did by the most and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."
And Shaw's Exposition
on the matter is helpful: "By the decree of God is meant his purpose or determination with respect to future things; or, more fully, his determinate counsel, whereby, from all eternity, he foreordained whatever he should do, or would permit to be done, in time."
"It has been often objected to the doctrine respecting the divine decrees taught in our Confession, that it represents God as the author of sin. But the Confession expressly guards against this inference, by declaring that God has so ordained whatsoever comes to pass as that he is not thereby the author of sin. The decree of God is either effective or permissive. His effective decree respects all the good that comes to pass; his permissive decree respects the evi1 that is in sinful actions. We must also distinguish betwixt an action purely as such
, and the sinfulness of the action. The decree of God is effective with respect to the action abstractly considered; it is permissive with respect to the sinfulness
of the action as a moral evil.
It has also been objected, that if God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, human liberty is taken away. To this it has been commonly replied, that it is sufficient to human liberty, that a man acts without any constraint, and according to his own free choice; that the divine decree is extrinsic to the human mind; and, while it secures the futurition of events, it leaves rational agents to act as freely as if there had been no decree. This answer, it must be acknowledged, merely amounts to an assertion that, notwithstanding the decree of God, man retains his liberty of action. We still wish to know how the divine pre-ordination of the event is consistent with human liberty.
"Upon such a subject," says Dr Dick, "no man should be ashamed to acknowledge his ignorance. We are not required to reconcile the divine decrees and human liberty. It is enough to know that God has decreed all things which come to pass, and that men are answerable for their actions. Of both these truths we are assured by the Scriptures; and the latter is confirmed by the testimony of conscience. We feel that, although not independent upon God, we are free; so that we excuse ourselves when we have done our duty, and accuse ourselves when we have neglected it. Sentiments of approbation and disapprobation, in reference to our own conduct or that of other men, would have no existence in our minds if we believed that men are necessary agents. But the tie which connects the divine decrees and human liberty is invisible. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for us; it is high, we cannot attain unto it.'"–Ps. cxxxix. 6."
Finally, it will be helpful to consider this