Objection 2

The universal, impartial, and equal love of God for all people demonstrates that unconditional election cannot be true. Since God is love, and since God’s love is the same for all people whom he has made, it cannot be the case that the reason some are not saved is owing to God’s choice, ultimately. Rather, some are not saved because they choose not to be saved, yet God would gladly (in love) have saved them, too, had they but come. Therefore, the election spoken of in Scripture simply cannot be unconditional election.

Reply. While Scripture clearly teaches God’s universal, impartial, and equal love for all people, this is certainly not the only, or the most central, meaning of the love of God. As D. A. Carson has explained so helpfully, the Bible actually speaks of the love of God in five different senses.38 One of those five senses is God’s universal love for all (e.g., as seen in John 3:16). But another sense, one more prominent in Scripture, is God’s particular, selective, and discriminate love for his own people. Consider two representative passages, both of which reflect God’s special love for his own people, a love that moves him to save them and benefit them in a manner that distinguishes them from all others.

First, Isaiah 43 begins in a manner that believers have often found greatly comforting. “Do not fear,” God tells his people, “for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine” (lsa. 43:1 HCSB). Further, God promises, “I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you” (lsa. 43:2 HCSB). So God establishes the fact that he is the God of his people, and he will be with them to provide for them and to protect them, for as he says to them, “you are Mine.”

The true significance of God’s special claim upon this people, his people, is about to be seen more clearly, however. We read on: “For I the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love [from aheb, “to love”] you, I will give human beings in your place, and peoples in place of your life” (Isa. 43:3-4 HCSB). Here, then, is the particular, selective, and discriminate love of God for his own. He loves his people Israel by saving them at the expense of (“in the place of”) many lives of Egyptians. Clearly this is a reference to the favor shown the Jews at the time of their exodus from Egypt. For, although God could have given the same warning and instruction in Egypt regarding the upcoming angel of death as he did among the Israelites prior to the exodus, he did not. Nor did he intend to do So.39

Instead, God warned and instructed only the Jews (Exod. 12:1-13), and since the Jews did as God said and put the blood of a slaughtered lamb over the doorposts of their houses, the angel of death “passed over” their homes. But since the Egyptians knew nothing of this means of being spared, the angel went on into Egypt and killed the firstborn in every Egyptian home and stable (Exod. 12:29-30). Accordingly, Isaiah 43 demonstrates the love of God for his people Israel, a love which is only meaningful in this passage and context by virtue of its selectivity and particularity, with God saving Israel only through the judgment and death brought to Egypt.

Second, consider the significance of this well-known and instructive passage: “Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25-27 HCSB). Often what is pointed out from this passage, and rightly so, is the sacrificial nature of Christ’s love for the church, an amazing and costly love that is the model for all husbands to endeavor to emulate. But another principle arises when one considers this text: because Christ’s love here is likened to a husband’s love for his wife, Christ’s love, then, is a particular, selective, and discriminate love. That is, Paul tells us that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Without question, a husband’s love for his own wife is a selective and particular love; it is a love that seeks the nurture, well-being, protection, provision, joy, and blessing of this one woman over all others. And so it must be!

Just imagine the response a husband would receive from his wife were he to say to her, “Honey, I love you, but I want you to know that the love I have for you is the same love in every respect that I have for all the women I meet, indeed, for all the women of the world!” If the wife responded by saying, “Well then, you don’t really love me!” she would be right. If a husband’s love for his wife is not particular, selective, and discriminate, then it is not really husbandly love. And the parallel truth is made clear and explicit in this passage: Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.

This love, by definition and necessity, then, is a love for his own bride that is different in kind and content from the general love God (or Christ) has for the world. This love, as we see from verses 26-27, leads Christ to save and purify the church. This love impels Christ to make the church “holy and blameless,” fulfilling what the Father had in election chosen for the church to become in his Son (note: Eph. 1:4 and 5:27 use the same phrase, “holy and blameless”). In short, this richest of all the demonstrations of God’s love among human beings is, by necessity, a selective, particular, and discriminate love for just some.

Two main problems surface, then, in this Arminian objection. First, it misunderstands the Bible’s teaching on the love of God. It “flattens” God’s love and so reduces it to only one of the biblical senses of God’s love. Theological reductionism is dangerous simply because it errs by telling only partial truths. Arminianism, then, tells a partial truth about the love of God, but because it presents it as the whole, it distorts what Scripture actually says. Second, due to the reductionism just mentioned, the richest and most incredible sense of the love of God for human beings is lost, viz., God’s committed, sacrificial, faithful, loyal love for his own people. Just as “husbandly” love is destroyed altogether if a man were only capable of loving all women (including his wife!) equally and exactly in the same way, so here God’s love for his own people is lost when the distinctiveness of this greatest of God’s loves is denied. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1, we should bless and praise God the Father because “in love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself” (Eph. 1:4b-5 HCSB; italics added). His electing love (Eph. 1:4-5), his saving love (Eph. 5:25-27) is, by necessity, a gracious, selective, and particular love for which God is worthy of the highest praise and honor.

Bruce Ware, “Divine Election to Salvation,” in Perspectives on Election: 5 Views, ed. Chad Owen Brand, (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman and Holman, 2006), 29-31. [Footnotes and values original; and underlining mine.]

[Note: One could easily substitute “hypercalvinism” for “Arminianism” and the predications following would still hold good. For example, Hypercalvinism flattens out God’s love, by a reductionism whereby God’s love to humanity is lost.]


38D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway. 2000).

39As early as Exodus 4:21-23, God told Moses that he planned to perform signs in order to demonstrate his power but that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart “so that he won’t let the people go” (4:21). But, because Pharaoh will refuse to let Israel, God’s firstborn, go, Moses is to tell him that God says, “Now I will kill your firstborn son!” (4:23). Clearly God intended from the outset to show his favor on Israel through the means of bringing judgment on Egypt while saving his people.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 14th, 2010 at 6:50 am and is filed under God is Love: Electing and Non-Electing Love. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far

michael cummings

i copied “‘Just imagine the response a husband would receive from his wife…” as an arguement to a young lady who insists she freely loves God and keeps His Commandments…thanks
P.S.-i’ve never given this email out to anyone ever! i talk in real-time on mirc on the undernet under everIast (an I instead of an L)…i am a Calvinist…i don’t know any others personally

August 21st, 2010 at 1:44 am

Hey Michael,

Youve lost me.

Care to explain?


August 25th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

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