Does Calvinism (and those who believe in Unconditional Election) teach that Cain was elected to Salvation?

This is my source for defining Unconditional Election.

Unconditional Election: God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21).

Source: https://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm

My question is sincere, as I struggle with many of the doctrines of the Protestant Revolt, and find countless objections to the new teachings of especially Calvin. How do you resolve the issue of Cain in Gen 4:6-7?

“The Lord said to Cain, “why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

In my understanding of Protestant doctrine of Election, God would have created Cain for destruction, or else he would have created him for Salvation. God says that if Cain does well he will be accepted and if he does not well he will be consumed by sin? If God created Cain for destruction, would not he have said, “I have molded you for destruction, it is not in your power to do well, rather, I have made you this way for my Glory.” or something to that effect? It seems rather that the dispensation of Cain resides entirely on his own free will, at least on the surface. Why would God offer to him something directly opposite to the purpose for which God created him, making it sound as if he could do otherwise than what he has done.

If the tradition of Unconditional Election is Truth, then Cain must have been a member of the Elect of God. Otherwise, God would not have told him that he would be accepted if he did well.

I struggle with these Protestant doctrines because they seem to go against the grain in every case, like a jigsaw puzzle piece jammed into the wrong space. When I hear sermons or teachings by the likes of James White or R.C. Sproul I hear what they are saying and unlike onlookers who nod in agreement having what appears to be a shared understanding that they too are fortunate to be part of the arbitrarily chosen elect, unlike myself destined for eternal damnation. Which leaves me, if I was somehow convinced of Unconditional Election, to be the only person who accepts the Doctrine with the understanding that I’m not one of those elect!

Please explain how Cain might not be the Elect of God if his acceptance is subject to what he does.

  • Notice also the "if you do not well". The argument seems to work both ways: since he may be accepted, he must be elect, and since he may be "mastered by sin", he must be rejected. Both Calvinism and Arminianism do have an answer (somewhat different) to this paradox which exists in some form in both views.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 21:19
  • @disciple that’s the point, in reformed understanding, Cain must be saved regardless of his choice.
    – Marc
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 21:22
  • but logic demands that he also be condemned regardless of his choice.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 4:41
  • @disciple At least we are seeing the problem with the doctrine
    – Marc
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 11:15
  • I think this question is similar with the question here : christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/55707/… . I haven't put mark as an accepted answer :).
    – karma
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 15:24

2 Answers 2



You are not alone in your struggles with the doctrine of predestination. Many others (including myself) wrestle with these profound doctrines.

In your particular case where God is speaking to Cain, some light may be shed by observing that God is speaking here of "acceptance" which might also be translated "honored." However, God is not telling Cain that he will be shown to be elected if he behaves righteously. I know this seems like splitting hairs, but bear with me.

The Hebrew word used in Gen 4:6 is "seet" which can be elevation in the skin (like a scab or boil -- Lev 13) or elevation in prominence (see Job 13:11, 41:25). God is telling Cain that if he does well, he will be honore. Thus, we can see honor is a consequence of right behavior. But, that does not mean election is the consequence. If you do a word-study on "seet" you will find it never refers to "election" in any usage in the Bible.

"Election" is frequently in the Old Testament translated from "bahar" (to choose) or "yada" (to know). In my brief reading, "bahar" seems to be time-based (e.g., Num 16:5-7, Deut 17:15, Is 42:1) and may be conditional (e.g., 1 Sam 16:7, 1Ch 28:10 and 1Ch 22:8). However, God's "yada" of individuals seems often to have a timeless quality (implying fore-knowledge) and seems unconditional (e.g. Gen 18:19, Exo 33:12, Ps 37:18, Ps 139:4, Is 37:28).

Now in your question, you also speak of "mold[ing] for destruction" which goes beyond your cited source for election. This is actually the doctrine of double-predestination. Double-predestination is a logical conclusion if we take the doctrine of God's sovereignty to it's ultimate end, and I've seen people try to force that on many Calvinistic theologies. Some Calvinists embrace it (including the original Calvinist: John Calvin), and some do not. Per Wikipedia no Reformed (i.e., Calvinistic) tradition confesses Double Predestination.

Personally, I have wrestled with Double Predestination, but I find that while it appears a logically inescapable consequent, it also seems to go beyond Scripture. The best biblical support for this doctrine (that I have seen) is Romans 10, but there are several issues with a Double Predestination interpretation of this passage (first and foremost, it is talking about the salvation of the Jews and not their damnation, also it is talking about whole nations and not individuals (except pharaoh who is the token for Egypt)). Since I also believe that our logical systems are a second-hand observation of God's character (via creation), I find that I must submit first to the revelation of the God in the Bible. If the Bible doesn't admit it as an inescapable conclusion, neither can I.

If you would like a deeper discussion Biblical discussion on the topic and the Hebrew words, I suggest you might want to ask the question on the Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange.


The main issue about unconditional election is the basis upon which God elects people. God elects people to salvation by His own sovereign choice and not because of some future action they will perform or condition they will meet. Those who come to Christ become His children by His will, not by theirs. “They were not God's children by nature or because of any human desires. God himself was the one who made them his children” (John 1:13 CEV). The premise that Cain’s election was subject to what he might or might not have done by exercising his free will, appears flawed.

Here are a few extracts from “The Five Points of Calvinism Defined Defended Documented” by David N. Steele & Curtis C. Thomas (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company 1963 pp. 33-34)

“Before the foundation of the world, God chose particular individuals unto salvation. His selection was not based upon any foreseen response or act performed by those chosen. Faith and good works are the result, not the cause, of God’s choice.

God did the choosing: “And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days” (Mark 13:20).

God’s choice was made before the foundation of the world: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4).

God chose particular individuals unto salvation: “And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast...” (Revelation 17:8).

God’s choice was not based upon any foreseen merit or good works: “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call... So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy” (Romans 9:11-13; 16).”

The doctrine of Unconditional Election is about God’s grace and His sovereign right to choose whomsoever he pleases.

To conclude, with regard to "the issue of Cain” that is entirely down to God. His judgments are always fair and just and I would never presume to question his sovereign will. All we can say, with certainty is that Abel is mentioned in the Hebrews Hall of Faith (chapter 11), whereas his brother Cain is not. It appears that Cain was not elected to salvation.

EDIT: Although Genesis 4:5 says God did not accept Cain or his gift/offering, does that mean the difference between being predestined or elected to salvation or predestined or elected to destruction? Cain brought only a token gift (some of his crops), whereas God requires the first and best. Cain’s heart attitude made his offering inferior to Abel’s. I confess I struggle to connect that verse of Scripture with the doctrine of Unconditional Election, and I’ve noted Tim’s comments about that, which are very helpful.

With regard to God choosing particular people and not all people, the Bible does not support the idea of Universal Salvation. Here are a few Scriptures that show some are chosen:

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thessalonians 1:1)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved...” (Colossians 3:12)

Those words are addressed to believers, to Christians who have come to saving faith in Christ Jesus. The idea that God chooses all people is not supported by Reformed Protestant Churches.

  • Could you form your answer without using “I believe” and “I think” “ I don’t think” Also some reference that states God choose Particular people and not all people.
    – Marc
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 15:18
  • @Marc - happy to oblige.
    – Lesley
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 16:44

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