One of the obejctions Arminians like to throw against the Reformed teaching regarding election is the fact that one cannot speak of a sovereign God electing without at least implying, if not directly approving, “double predestination”–that is, that God both elects to salvation and to damnation. The Arminian objection is largely emotional: the thought of a good and loving God condemning countless masses of people to eternal torment should grieve your soul and make you wonder how a God of love could ever do anything so heinous. That God would gather millions of people and select only some to be saved is supposed to be seen as equivalent to terrorists rounding up villagers and condemning them all to die, except for some random, fortunate souls that are picked out. Just imagine the poor, depraved non-Christians being dragged into hell against their will, kicking and screaming all the way to the fiery pit shouting “Why me? Why me?” and you get the idea.
Of course, this is quite an unbiblical representation of the Reformed doctrine of election and reprobation. The Reformed view starts with the fact that we are all sinners, every last one of us (Romans 3:23). And not just that we are guilty of getting angry at our kids, or jumping in line at McDonald’s, or saying something mean about a co-worker. No, we are guilty of outright rebellion against our Creator. We are all God haters, actively suppressing the knowledge of God and ignoring Him and His claims upon us (Romans 1:18 ff.) When Romans 3:11 says that there are none who seek after God, we must understand that this is saying that no-one is actively pursuing the things of God. There is no-one who desires from the bottom of his or her heart to be pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6). No-one wants to do God’s will; it takes a work of God’s regenerating Spirit to change the heart so that we are able to believe and desire to please God (John 3:3). This is what happens when God elects to save. Those God does not choose are left in their rebellion; they have no desire to do God’s will, no love for God, and feel absolutely no remorse at not being of the elect.
I am a vegetarian, and I have been for nearly 20 years. Prior to being a vegetarian, I loved chicken and would drool over a juicy steak like the next carnivorous person. Now, such things do nothing for me. I have sat at the dinner table with people sharing stories of the fabulous cuts of meat they have enjoyed, salivating and causing other to salivate as they describe tender pork roasts, or succulent prime ribs, all of which has no effect on me whatsoever. I have no desire for meat, and the thought of a juicy steak does as much for me as the thought of moldy bread. People have tried to entice my taste buds with their favorite dishes of animal flesh, but I simply have no desire to eat meat, so they are left frustrated. When the turkey is being passed around at Thanksgiving, I do not feel in the slightest bit offended when the platter is passed over me. My feelings are not hurt when someone else is offered the turkey leg. Indeed, I am grateful that people are considerate enough not to pour gravy on my plate. I don’t think I’m missing out on anything.
The Reformed position teaches that the reprobate attitude to God is akin to my attitude to meat. They don’t want God. They have no desire for God. The last thing they want is to hear the gospel message and be told of Christ’s sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. It is not glorious to them; it is foolishness and a waste of their time (1 Corinthians 1:18). In fact, you would not be dragging them kicking and screaming into hell; you would be dragging them kicking and screaming into heaven! Unless God changes his heart, taking out the heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), the reprobate would be pleased to know that he has been passed over for election, and grateful that he will not have to tolerate God’s presence for all eternity.
So, in answer to the Arminian who says, “if you believe in election, that means you believe in double predestination.” I say, “yes and amen!” If by “double predestination” you mean that God has elected some (a multitude, if we accept what Revelation 7:9 says) for salvation, and purposefully left the rest to their just and deserved condemnation, I say, “indeed, that’s exactly what I believe.” That’s not to say I don’t grieve over the lost; they truly don’t know what they are missing, and how severe their punishment will be. However, we need to be sure we recognize that God is ultimately just in all His ways, and He does not condemn to eternal death anyone a) who doesn’t want to go there, and b) whom He has not determine will go there, for the greater purpose of His will, to the ultimate glory of His name. I close this article with the words of Loraine Boettner:
The condemnation of the non-elect is designed primarily to furnish an eternal exhibition, before men and angels, of God’s hatred for sin, or, in other words, it is to be an eternal manifestation of the justice of God.. This decree displays one of the divine attributes which apart from it could never have been adequately appreciated. The salvation of some through a redeemer is designed to display the attributes of love, mercy, and holiness. The attributes of wisdom, power, and sovereignty are displayed in the treatment of both groups. Hence the truth of the Scripture statement that, “Jehovah hath made everything for its own end; Yea, even the wicked for the day of evil,” Prov. 16:4… This decree of reprobation also serves subordinate purposes in regard to the elect; for in beholding the rejection and final state of the wicked, (1) they learn what they too would have suffered had not grace stepped in to their relief, and they appreciate more deeply the riches of divine love… (2) It furnishes a most powerful motive for thankfulness that they have received such high blessings. (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, pp. 121-122)