Friday, October 18, 2002

God is unjust. God is unfair.

I belatedly ran across this post from my friend Kevin Holtsberry of multiple-blog fame, in this particular instance writing for the Theology Department. Kevin was commenting on this post of mine, in which I looked at 1 Tim 2:4 as a "problem" for the Calvinistic view of predestination.

Kevin wrote:
I am not going to get into a big theological discussion of TULIP, predestination, etc. I do want to say that I feel that predestination runs contrary to one clear cut idea, in my mind at least, God's justice.

One of the key characteristics of God is that he is just. One of the aspects of justice is treating like situations equally. This characteristic leads me away from predestination.
and a bit later:
If God offers redemption only to the elect then those few chosen people are being treated differently from the rest of mankind. This is not justice. If all are fallen and all need redemption then all must be offered the same rescue, the same opportunity to reconcile with God.

Kevin, I politely submit you are confusing justice with fairness.

To receive justice is (according to Aristotle), to receive one's due.

Fairness, on the other hand, generally means that all are treated equally.

Regardless, God sometimes acts in an unjust manner. God sometimes acts in an unfair manner.

What are we due? We all are born in rebellion to a Holy God. If we get what we are due, we all go to hell. That would be justice. It would also be fair.

There are two ways to be unjust. One is to punish someone who does not deserve it. That is injustice. God never sends a person to hell that doesn’t deserve it. God never practices injustice.

The other way to be unjust is to reward someone who doesn't deserve it. That is mercy or grace. God is merciful, otherwise nobody would be saved, which we all, not just Calvinists, agree requires grace.

So never pray for God's justice. You don’t want it. Pray for His mercy.

As for fairness, the Biblical evidence is overwhelming that God does not treat people equally. Jacob He loved, Esau He hated, before they were born and had done anything good or bad.

Paul, on the Damascus road, got what every Christian dreams of: A Damascus Road Experience (what a coincidence). God revealed Himself to Paul in a way that He has not revealed Himself to me. If I had Paul's experience, I would certainly have no annoying vestigial doubts. Quite unfair.

Kevin argues against predestination because "All must be offered the same rescue." If there is no predestination, and we must accept the offer of the gospel in order to be saved, does anyone really believe that equates to fairness? Surely millions die without ever hearing about Jesus. Is it fair that they are lost? Or if God saves them because they never had a chance, is that fair? Surely in the Arminian view it is acknowledged that your environment, family, and health all play a part in whether you will accept. Are wealthy people more or less likely to accept? Children of believers or unbelievers? Educated or uneducated? Western or Third World? If any of these can have an effect on your deciding to choose to accept the gospel, then it is not fair, since many if not most of these factors are out your control.

If it really is harder for a rich man to get to heaven, how unfair to be born rich.

Choose to believe or not believe in predestination because either it is taught in scripture or it isn't. Don’t decide on the basis of "fairness". First of all, God is not fair. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. Secondly, the alternative to predestination is also unfair.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Is it fair that I was given life and then forced to make a decision of love me or go to hell? Seems neither fair nor just nor loving. Life is forced upon us and the only real decision in life is also forced upon us.