The central objection to Calvinism has always been, and will always be, that God’s decision to elect some people to salvation whilst leaving (or electing) others to damnation is inconsistent with the notion of divine love.
But Calvinists are not without their rebuttals. One common rejoinder is to argue that our understanding of love is imperfect. It is all too human. It is corrupt. It is our failure to understand the perfect nature of divine love that leads to our mistaken conclusion that there is some kind of inconsistency here.
If you say so.
[Pensive, brooding interlude.]
I am reminded here of the great eighteenth century Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa.
After two of his children died Issa wrote a famous haiku to give expression to his pain. According to the Buddhism he had been taught, all suffering — including the suffering he himself was experiencing — was caused by desire. If he could only detach himself from worldly concerns, including the longing for his deceased children, if he could only realize that the world is but dew, an ephemeral, vanishing dream, then he would find release from his pain.
But try as he might, it would seem he could not quite persuade himself that release was found in denying his longing for his children. The conflict is captured in that famous haiku:
“The world of dew
is the world of dew.
And yet, and yet–“
That is basically my response to the Calvinist’s rejoinder that we don’t understand love enough to know that God’s infinite love is consistent with his choosing some for damnation:
“God’s electing love
is God’s unlimited love
and yet, and yet—“
The problem was stated succinctly (if not quite as poetically) by Philip Melanchthon, good friend and colleague to Martin Luther, upon the death of Luther’s beloved daughter:
‘The feelings of parents are a likeness of divinity impressed upon the human character. If the love of God for the human race is as great as the love of parents for their children, then it is truly great and ardent.”
Although Luther was often torn by the existential angst of the unknown God of the hidden decree, Melanchthon saw in the moments of Martin’s grief the face of a God who has the same unconditional love for all his children. In other words, Luther’s love was a pale token of the divine type. And surely it must be this way, for if we shall not find love in the face of a parent for their child, then where in this fallen creation shall we find it?
But this is a dangerous starting point for Calvinism. For if we accept the unconditional love of a parent for a child reflects a candlelight glimmer of the blazing solar furnace of the divine love for creation, then what shall be left of an electing love that turns some over to the most unimaginable horrors of eternal damnation?