In January of 1997, Gene Breed, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, a Calvinistic Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia, published a pamphlet entitled "Past Finding Out." In it, he attempts to make the case that God in some way loves the reprobate.
Breed starts out his article by quoting Romans 11:33-36, a passage that has been twisted numerous times in defense of the theology of paradox and contradiction, from the conservative to the neo-orthodox. After quoting this passage, Breed explains what he thinks one of the implications of this passage is:
"As the heaven of heavens cannot contain our great and marvelous Lord, how can we ever be able to fit every piece of scriptural truth together, so that we have no contradictions?"
This is an astounding statement from someone who believes in the God-breathed Word, the Supreme Logos. He is here stating that God, in giving us His written Word, has so organized the Bible as to have it contain contradictions if we attempt to fit the truths of Scripture together! Breed uses some examples of "contradictions" to try to bolster his position: God's sovereignty vs. man's responsibility, the mystery of the Trinity, and God's "universal love" vs. His special electing love.
How can we be sure we know any truth from the Bible if it might be part of a contradiction? How can Breed preach a sermon this coming Lord's Day while holding to the belief that what he is preaching might be part of a contradiction? Would you want to sit under the preaching of someone who believes that if he attempts to put Biblical truth together in his sermons, he might end up with contradictions? How confident can we be in the Scriptures if we believe that, when we read a particular passage, there might be another "truth" that contradicts what we just read? When we read in Genesis 1:1 that God created the universe, how can we be sure that there is not another contradictory "truth" out there that says that God did not create the universe, or that Satan created the universe?
It is within this framework of irrationality that Breed then attempts to show that God has a love for the reprobate, one that he admits is contradictory to God's love for the elect.
Of all the passages he could use to attempt this, he uses John 3:16: "In the much disputed 16th verse we are shown that God holds a benevolence for all creatures." Oh, really? And what is the manifestation of "For God so loved the world"? It is that "He gave His only begotten Son"! You either have particular love and particular atonement or universal love and universal atonement! There is no such thing as universal love and particular atonement. The Bible speaks of no such thing.
Breed makes another astounding statement: "How then, does this benevolence to all creatures become wrath at the last day, for all but the elect?" Note that he is asserting that God currently has benevolence, and this benevolence turns into wrath on Judgment Day. This is frighteningly similar to Thomas Chalmers' "Fury Not In God" (see the Heterodoxy Hall of Shame in this issue). Yet we see in the same chapter, verse 36, that "the wrath of God abideth on him" who does not believe! Not will abide but presently abides! How does Breed defend his position in light of that verse? Like this: "But how do we understand the love of God in verse 16 of John three, turning into the wrath of God in verse 36?" He sees God's love in verse 16 turning into God's wrath in verse 36. The competent exegete would see that these verses are talking about an antithesis, contrasting two different classes of people, not manifesting the mutability of God! "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry [with the wicked] every day." (Psalm 7:11) Every day! The view that God is currently benevolent and only later is wrathful betrays an ignorance of active reprobation, where God is said to laugh at, scoff at, terrify, hate, destroy, abhor, mock, and harden.
Breed then gives examples of how God shows love toward the reprobate:
"Think about it! God provided for both Ishmael's and Isaac's natural needs! He did so for both Judas and Peter! Even though Ishmael and Judas can be seen to be 'enemies' of his will concerning election, yet he gave them water to drink! ... Therefore God loved them! ... Then, after providing as equally for Ishmael's and Judas' physical needs, as he did for Isaac's and Peter's, he separated the former from the household of faith! He granted them not faith and repentance! He 'cast out' both the bondwoman and her son! - But he provided water for their natural thirst!"
From this, Breed wants us to believe that the providing of physical, natural needs equals love. Of course, he never quotes any Scripture passages stating that God loved Ishmael and Judas, because there are no such monstrosities. He, with his own logic, makes this unscriptural inference. Thus, by extrapolation, God loves everyone in the whole world, including the reprobate, because He gives them food and drink. (And how far do you want to go with regard to "natural needs" -- would this include sex? Believe it or not, a CRC pamphlet includes the "attraction" [i.e., lust] between the sexes as a manifestation of God's common grace! Look for this in a future issue.) Others have said that the fact that the reprobate enjoy the pleasures of life is an indication of God's love toward the reprobate.
But what does the Word say? As we saw in the last issue, God's love is inextricably linked to His giving His Son to redeem the objects of His love. There are not two kinds of love that stand opposed to each other, one for all mankind without exception and one for the elect only. You cannot find that in the Bible. What you will find throughout Scripture when it talks of God's love is that it is manifested in Jesus Christ and His atonement.
The Word also has something to say about God's attitude toward the reprobate to whom He gives necessities and pleasurable things. He gives things to the reprobate to make fools of them and for the good of the elect and for His glory. In Luke 12:16-20, Jesus speaks of a rich man whose land produced much fruit, and he was able to rest and have fun. Did this show God's love for this man? Was this "common love"? After all, his physical needs were met, and he had even more than he needed. But what did God say to him? "[Thou] fool!"
In Psalm 73, Asaph confessed that he was envious of the foolish, whose "eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than their heart could wish. ... who prosper in the world." But verses 17-28 show God's correction of that notion: "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; [then] I understood their end." Those who would believe and promote universal love would do well to go into the sanctuary of God.
Common-love advocates would say that the wealth of the sinner shows God's love for him. But Proverbs 13:22 says, "The wealth of the sinner [is] laid up for the just." God gives things to the reprobate for the good of the elect.
Does the common-love advocate mean to tell us that God shows His love for the reprobate by giving them things that do them no good, things that actually are used to harden them for damnation? What kind of a love is that?
The following passage ought to shut the mouths of all who say that God's causing of the reprobate to flourish is a sign of His love for them and that God's love only turns into wrath when the reprobate go to hell:
"A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this. When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, [it is] that they shall be destroyed forever." (Psalm 92:6-7) Let God be true, but every man a liar.
Not content to let the subject rest on his "proofs," Breed then resorts to accusations of those who do not hold to his contradictory universal love theory. He uses phrases like "Is your God big enough," "Are you mad at God ... You will have to get over it!", "Lose that Phariseeism," and "It is best that we never try to justify God!" In other words, if we do not hold to his theory, we are putting God in a box, are mad at God for loving everyone, are being pharisaical, and are trying to justify God. On the contrary -- those who are ashamed of a God who unconditionally hates those whom He chooses are those who feel compelled to justify God.
Breed concludes his pamphlet with an astonishing quote from Stephen Charnock's Existence & Attributes of God. It must be assumed that Breed believes this, since he included it. This is part of it:
"God hates no creature; no, not the devils and damned, as creatures; he is not an enemy to them, as they are the works of his hands. He is properly an enemy, that doth simply and absolutely wish evil to another; but God does not absolutely wish evil to the damned."
God does not hate, is not an enemy of, and does not wish evil on Satan, the demons, and the damned!! This is incredible. This is so obviously contradictory to Scripture that it seems almost ridiculous to refute it. This is from the so-called "Puritan, Reformed heritage"? May God keep us from such heresy!