What love is this?

“[Arminians] … say that the Augustinian tradition subordinates the love of God to the will of God … But this is not what distinguishes the Augustinian tradition from the Arminian tradition. The distinction is between intensive and extensive love, between an intensive love that saves its loved ones, and an extensive love that loves everyone in general and saves no one in particular. Or if you really wish to cast this in terms of willpower, it’s the distinction between divine willpower and human willpower. Or, to put the two together, does God will the salvation of everyone with a weak-willed, ineffectual love, or does God love his loved ones with a resolute will that gets the job done? The God of Calvin is the good shepherd, who names and numbers his sheep, who saves the lost sheep and fends off the wolf. The God of Wesley is the hireling, who knows not the flock by name and number, who lets the sheep go astray and be eaten by the wolf. Which is more loving, I ask? – Steve Hays

An illustration that may further shed light on this is as follows:

Two parents see their child run out in the street. A car is coming. The first parent calls out to the child hoping he will get out of the way in time. In other words, he gives him a choice. The second parent on the other hand, due to his love for the child runs out at the risk of His own life, scoops up the child and MAKES CERTAIN his child is not run over.

Even on an earthly level we see that true parental love acts and gets the job done. This kind of intensive love does not stand on the sidelines worried about whether their child’s will was violated or not. He cares too much for the child to make his will the deciding factor. Yes the child will believe and trust in his parent, but the parent loves the child first, not because of what he does (conditional acceptance) but because the parent loves the child. Therefore the Arminian tradition has a view of God whose love is conditional while those in the Augustinian tradition see HIs love for His people as unconditional.

HT: John Hendryx



Filed under calvinism, Christian

4 responses to “What love is this?

  1. NWProdigal

    Unfortunately, your example falls in on itself because you equate what the Arminian view of salvation is with what the perseverance of the saints purports. Once a person is justified by grace through obedience to the faith (Romans 1:5, 16:26) God promises He will protect those that are His (1 Peter 1:5, 1 John 5:18).

    As long as a person holds fast the faith, trusting in God, he is and will be protected just as in the intervention model you cite for a Calvinist.

    In short, the disagreement isn’t what happens to the believer, but how a believer comes to faith. God cannot tell a lie, is not evil, and desires that all men be saved. Calvinists feel that man is so dead that he cannot help himself, that only if God has preordained that he should be saved will he be. Why, then, does God tell Israel, who were hardened because of unbelief (Romans 11) that He would make them jealous of “those who are not a nation”? Why did Jesus weep over the fact that Israel had rejected Him and “did not know the hour of their visitation” if it were all predestined to be that way?

    As Servetus said “Calvin would make us all rocks and sticks” with no will or ability to do the very thing God commands “that all men everywhere should repent”. Not that Servetus was the ideal, but he was absolutely correct in his estimation of Calvin’s theories.

  2. Interesting. Steve Hays, in the quote above, seems to be denying that there is a sense in which God loves all mankind and wills the salvation of all mankind. That’s quite different from saying that God especially loves the elect and especially wills their salvation, as historic Calvinism actually affirms.

  3. Tony I was under the impression that he was speaking of the specific love of God toward the elect not the general love of God toward all mankind.

  4. Hi P. D. Nelson,

    Looking at the Hays quote above leaves me with the impression that he’s merely making a dichotomy between an “intensive love” toward the elect alone (which saves) and an “extensive love” toward all (and does not save). That strikes me as a false either/or dilemma but, admittedly, it’s a brief quote. I do not see, as you seem to, any admission of a general love of God. Nor do I see any admission of a universal saving will of God.

    The problem with the Arminian is not that what they believe in these matters is altogether untrue. The problem is that they are speaking half-truths. God does love all mankind, but that does not negate his special love for some whereby he has determined to bring them efficaciously to eternal life and glory. Moreover, God does will all to be saved on condition of faith, but that does not negate his efficacious determination to save the elect alone. It seems to me that the better strategy would be to capture the half-truths for the case of Calvinism as we dismiss their distortions and falsehoods, instead of dismissing Arminian concerns altogether. The Arminian legitimately thinks that God wills all to be saved, but they erroneously think that this negates a special/efficacious will to save the elect alone. They same thing happens on the subject of the love of God. The Arminian legitimately thinks that God loves all, but they erroneously think that God loves all equally.

    It’s actually hyper-Calvinism that jumps to the opposite extreme and concludes that God only loves the elect and only wills their salvation alone. They same rationalism that guides the Arminian guides the hyper.

    I think the Hays quote (even if it was not his intention to do so) speaks in false either/or dilemmas. It’s not a careful depiction of the differences.


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