Justice Over Love–Why I’m not a Calvinist

What did God the Father feel when Christ was on the Cross? Some of the answers I’ve heard:

*ANGER–God the Father was filled with wrath, so mad about sin He had to kill someone. Jesus stepped in and took the wrath even though He never sinned. This shows just how out of control angry the Father was.

*PLEASURE–The Father was happy about Christ’s death and it satisfied an inner longing to avenge sin. Isaiah 53:10 says so–God was happy about all this.

*IGNORE–The Father turned away, couldn’t even look at what was happening and ignored the pain of His Son.

There may be truth to these ideas, but I think, when stressed out-of-place, they give the wrong idea. He may have felt all these things, there is a biblical case for each perhaps, but I think there is one word that sums it up, that if we make sure to include in our explanation of what went on, it clarifies a lot.

“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life.” If love is not the center of what we see going on at the cross then we’ve missed the boat.

Many boil it all down to justice, which makes God cold and hard, uncaring and outrageously consumed with anger, an abusive father who enjoys beating his kid. The chart below is borrowed from a Calvinist reader of the blog and demonstrates my disagreement.

Many make love an element and justice the main thing, it’s the foundation of Calvinism, in fact, and is why Calvin burned people at the stake–justice trumps love. There are a few verses that say Christ died for justice, but many more that link Christ’s death with love.

We must be careful of these things. Our beliefs shape who we are. Emphasizing justice over love is one of the main reasons I’m not a Calvinist. The Calvinist God is not loving. Calvinists’ attempt to convince me he is, but their doctrine disagrees with their sentiment.

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9 comments

  1. paul walton

    The most loving thing that God could do, is to give Life to rebellious spiritually dead souls, an Eternal Life, and this requires that sin be paid for (justice). The reason it pleased the Father to sacrifice His only Son, was because it would lead to many being brought into His family. We can’t separate God’s love from His justice, and say one is of more value than the other, they are bound up together. God’s grace is the display of His love and justice working together for His glory.

  2. paul walton

    One more thing, I don’t agree with that graph completely, I think justice should be on the left side with all of God’s other attributes pointing to Holy. Did Calvin comprise that graph?

  3. Dustin

    Once again I will have to agree with Paul, “No man can come to the Son unless the Father draws him”. I am not a “Calvinist” I am a Christian that believes in the doctrine of grace which is what Calvin, Luther,Augustine and many other Reformers believed in. Why does Calvin get all this glory by Armenians?I don’t know, he didn’t come up with this thing called grace, God did.
    I used to believe the freewill theology because everyone said the same things you do, “God would be a monster if He chose who would be saved and pass over the others”. I was even part of a church that fired a preacher that taught Reformed theology. I thought he was Satan himself for teaching such lies, that was until I asked God to prove him wrong.
    My pride was broken and Christ humbled me! He opened my eyes and showed me my true sinfulness. I started reading the Bible and studying the Scriptures for myself. The Bible came alive! I stopped just believing something and started seeking the truth. I stopped getting angry at people for believing something and started going to scripture to see who was the closest to Scripture and the Reformed theology was the one.
    I saw that I was dead in my sins until the Lord, out of His love, saved me. How could I come to Christ when no one seeks after God? How could I come to Christ when a dead man can do nothing? I can’t, only by His grace am I saved. He would be a just and righteous God if he destroyed me along with everyone else but He didn’t. Out of His love He saved some, that is love! Saving someone that deserves eternal damnation to become His child, now that is love!
    I write this to all who follow this blog, we will all be held accountable for the things we teach others, make sure you are teaching all of scripture and not just what you like. We are not to teach only justice, grace, love or any other singe attributes of God but all of them.Make sure your emotions are not leading you but the Word of God is guiding your thoughts. I am the first to say I don’t know it all but I am searching the scriptures every day to grow closer to the all knowing God that does! If you want to call me anything you can call me a SINNER saved by the grace of God!

  4. paul walton

    Dustin,
    So true we all are saved by grace, through faith, there are so many folks that I love who have up to now have rejected God’s grace. And if their salvation was left up entirely to them humbling themselves, they would certainly suffer eternal judgement. But thanks be to God that He is able to free even the most stubborn heart for His glory, for that is my only hope for their salvation, and why I continue to pray for them. God will get all the glory when their eyes are opened, and they will freely choose to come to Him!

  5. Spherical

    I come from a strongly armenian church. So when God started tugging at my heart about another way to think theologically, I resisted. But I also started questioning our theology, especially in the midst of of a Purpose Driven off-shoot we were studying at the time. I heard all about my SHAPE, and how God was glorified through my strengths and abilities. But I could not help but think of Paul, and how he says that God is glorified in my weakness and inabilities. These are the things that bring me to my knees.

    I have left that church. Not because of their theology, but because of their lack of it. When I brought up questions, no one had answers, and eventually, they just did not want to discuss it. I was told, “We wouldn’t use that curriculum again,” but no one went so far as to say it was right or wrong. They just didn’t think it served their purpose (which I believe was to be the next mega-church).

    God works in mysterious ways. I love our church’s doctrine, but find it weak on theology. I have attended other churches where I would agree with their theology, but still found them cold, stiff, or unaffected by the beauty of that theology. I think it is a strong misunderstanding of Calvinism to say that it makese justice triumph over love. Perhaps you just hang with the wrong Calvinists.

  6. Frank Z.

    >Many make love an element and justice
    >the main thing, it’s the foundation of Calvinism,
    >in fact, and is why Calvin burned people
    >at the stake–justice trumps love.

    I’m not sure that is Calvin’s view…do you have some references?

    Furthermore, if the burning of sinners means that “justice trumps love”, then how do you deal with [the supposed doctrine of] God burning the wicked forever and ever? It seems to me that Calvin was just following that example.

    After all, if God can do it, and we are to be like Him, then given the right circumstances, we can all burn people at the stake, if we are convinced that God’s justice requires it.

  7. jeff

    Calvin never ranked his favorite parts of God, but many a Calvinist I’ve heard do. View the chart above. That’s the logical outflow of reading Calvinist thinking. I did not make this chart, Calvinists did and it has made the rounds with them and they don’t seem to be bugged by it until I poked it.

    “We can all burn people at the stake” makes me wonder about you even further Frank.

  8. paul walton

    Guys,
    Come on it’s Christmas, can’t we discuss these issues with brotherly love? Of coarse we are going to have theological differences, but let us not argue in a way that dishonors our Lord.

    Jeff,
    I can see your point about some, maybe even most Calvinists they focus on the God’s justice, and forget about His grace which is our foundation for our theology in the first place, that irony doesn’t escape me. I appreciate your questions about reformed theology, I really do, but not everyone of us is cut the same way. As I said I don’t agree with that graph, I don’t know if that makes me a bad Calvinist, and if it does so be it. I’m a Christian first with a doctrine of reformed theology as my foundation for viewing scripture. I may or my not line up completely with Calvin on every jot and tittle, but I think reformed theology is for me personally, the one that best captures how to view Scripture.

    Peace.

  9. Frank Z.

    Jeff,
    >“We can all burn people at the stake” makes me
    >wonder about you even further Frank.

    I’m just a Jesuit in disguise…didn’t you guess it already?!