Calvinism is distasteful to many people, including myself – and even many Calvinists – because it teaches that God has only chosen to save some human beings even though He has the power to save all. This seems unfair. It makes God’s will seem arbitrary. After all, why would He choose to save person X but not person Y if He loves them both, and has the power to save both? Many who reject Calvinism reject it for this reason alone.
While there are formidable theological, exegetical, and philosophical problems with Calvinism, I’ve come to think that the “fairness” objection is not a good argument against Calvinism. First, there is nothing unfair about God’s choosing to save some but not others. God is not obligated to save anyone. Those who commit moral crimes all deserve to be punished for their crimes. When they are punished, they are punished justly. If God chooses to save some, He is not acting unjustly, but rather graciously. It is similar to a governor who chooses to pardon some inmates, but not others. Is this unfair? No. The inmates who were not pardoned are getting what they deserve. They are rightfully paying for their crimes. Those who are pardoned are objects of the governor’s grace. The governor is not acting unfairly to extend mercy to some but not others, even if the public does not understand why he has chosen as he has.
Secondly, even Arminians acknowledge that God does not extend salvation to all persons. While God has extended the possibility of salvation to human persons, He has not extended the possibility of salvation to angelic persons. As the author of Hebrews noted, “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death. For surely his concern is not for angels, but he is concerned for Abraham’s descendants. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:14-17).
God chose to become a man to redeem fallen man, rather than an angel to redeem fallen angels. Why did God choose to save humans, but not angels? Surely He has the power to save us both, and arguably He loves those angels who have fallen just as He loves us humans who have fallen. Interestingly, I’ve never heard a single Arminian charge God with unfairness for choosing to save men but not angels.
If we think God is fair and just despite the fact that He has chosen to limit the offer of salvation to only human sinners, how is this principally different from Calvinism? Both theologies admit of a God who only chooses to save some. They only differ in how wide they believe the net of salvation to be. While that is an important point to argue about (particularly if you are a human), it is a mere footnote once you have swallowed the concept that God’s salvation is limited. So to my Arminian peers, I would urge you to stop charging the God of Calvinism as an arbitrary, unfair, unjust, and capricious God. After all, the fallen angels probably say the same thing about the God of Arminianism. If that claim is not justified when coming from the mouths of fallen angels, then neither is it justified when coming from the mouths of fallen Arminians.
See my post on theological determinism at http://theosophical.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/against-theological-determinism-compatibilism/, as well comments 13 and 21.