Dr. Elisha Weismann
An interesting conundrum for Calvinists to figure out, in my opinion, is reconciling God’s determinism with specific rewards and punishment. If God determined from eternity past who will be saved, then it would make sense that He would or could have also determined what rewards they will receive. Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians chapter 3 that Christians will receive rewards, but some will receive wood, hay and stubble while others receive gold and silver. John also admonished believers to guard what they worked for so that they receive a full reward. 2 John 8.
This would seem to be a system of rewards based on the believer’s willful obedience. But if the believers actions are determined, does this mean that God caused some believers to be more obedient than others, and caused the rest to be less obedient? (Although as Dr. Jerry Walls points out, it seems Calvinists are compatibilists before the cross, and adopt libertarian freedom after the cross.)
Furthermore, Scripture is also clear that there will be varying degrees of punishment for the lost. Calvinist Apologist Matt Slick of C.A.R.M. writes,
“So, if Jesus speaks of greater condemnation for Chorazin and Bethsaida than Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 11:21-22), one slave received more punishment than another (Luke 12:47-48), the one who delivered Jesus to Pilate has the greater sin (John 19:11), and a more severe punishment is reserved for those who trample underfoot the Son of God, then does not greater sin mean that greater punishment will also happen in hell? Yes it does”
For Calvinists who deny double-predestination this presents quite a quandary. If God simply “passed over” the non-elect, then how did God determine the various degrees of punishment the non-elect would receive without any reflection or consideration of their actions? The Westminster Confession (III, V) states that God did not elect the believers who are irresistibly saved by “any foresight of faith”, meaning God did not choose His elect based upon knowing who would choose Him in the future. In clause II of the Confession, God does not decree anything that He foresees in the future, or as that which should come to pass on such conditions. Thus to be consistent with the Calvinist view of God “passing over” the non-elect, God could not have damned anyone based on any foresight of them rejecting the gospel. God’s “passing over” them, as Calvinists argue, is a completely passive “act”. However, considering that God would have to determine the degrees of suffering for the non-elect, this assumption can not possibly be true, and be logically consistent with Calvinist philosophy.
God would have had to cause certain sinners to sin greater than others in order to punish them more severely. This would necessarily involve reflection and deliberate consideration*. Thus it must naturally follow that God could not have simply “passed over” the non-elect, but actively chose who would be damned, and purposely caused their course of actions resulting in some sinners being more egregious sinners than others. If God merely passed over some without any reflection or deliberate choosing, then all sinners would end up as equally sinful at judgment day.
Likewise, God would have had to also cause the good works of the elect as well as the lack of good works from others who do not perform as well as other believers. This is not to be confused with various gifts that God gives believers for the edification of the body of Christ, but to the level of personal commitment that a believer demonstrates his obedience and loyalty to the Lord. Gifts may be given, but not exercised as Paul warns Timothy. 1 Tim 4:14. But then how could Timothy neglect a gift that was determined for him to exercise?
The tragedy of this argument is that is demonstrates that God does not love even His own elect equally or unconditionally as He causes some to receive greater rewards and causes the rest to be less then submissive and at least less than moderately obedient. Of course, the Calvinist’s only real defense would be to argue the person was not saved or elected in the first place, but this defense opens a can of worms to all Calvinists who do not demonstrate an equal amount of dedication and obedience among themselves. It would also fail to explain how a person could yet receive different rewards if the believer’s obedience and good works were determined (if Calvinists were consistent with their interpretation of the word “ordain” then according to Ephesians 2:10, Calvinists should not have a problem with us claiming that God can and should ordain their works).
Calvinists can not possibly reconcile the explicit contradiction that exists between their view of election and reprobation (regardless of whether the Calvinist is supralapsarian or infralapsarian, this argument applies equally to both), with the rewards and punishment system of Scripture that shows that man is judged by actions he does in time. The Calvinist can not maintain a compatibilistic view of freedom and claim that God does not operate with foresight of faith or conditions at the same time given the conflict shown here between rewards and punishment.
*Calvinist author and theologian, B.B. Warfield writes,
Warfield says, ““The mere putting of the question seems to carry its answer with it. For the actual dealing with men which is in question, is, with respect to both classes alike, those who are elected and those who are passed by, conditioned on sin; we cannot speak of salvation any more than of reprobation without positing sin. Sin is necessarily precedent in thought, not indeed to the abstract idea of discrimination, but to the concrete instance of discrimination which is in question, a discrimination with regard to a destiny which involves either salvation or punishment. There must be sin in contemplation to ground a decree of salvation, as truly as a decree of punishment. We cannot speak of a decree discriminating between men with reference to salvation and punishment, therefore, without positing the contemplation of men as sinners as its logical prius.” Warfield, Plan of Salvation, Part 1.