I write from a reformed, Calvinist point of view which includes three things:
I believe in the complete sovereignty of God in all things, he does whatever he pleases in heaven and on earth (Isaiah 46:9-10; Daniel 4:35, 5:21); and
I believe in the responsibility of man, that man is solely to be blamed for all his sins including for his rejection of Christ; and
I make no pretence to be able to reconcile 1. and 2. above, or to be able to bring into harmony these two seemingly contrary truths. If they seem contrary to me then that can only be because of my limitations; what I can see is that they are both fully taught in Scripture.
Lord, we are sometimes tempted to complain Your withholding of mercy would be no problem if You did not also make people to be born sinners. But, as we can see in Rom 5:19, people are born sinners through no fault of their own. Their path of life, then, is inevitably full of sin..... Thus, You judged Adam and Eve fairly. But as for all their children, being heirs of Adam and Eve's sin, "are damned by default, with slim chance of being saved by Your whim".
What answer is there to this?
My faith in God's goodness should not be shaken by such thoughts:
Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.
Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever. (Psalm 131)
The Psalmist, David, is not going to think he can analyse everything to his own satisfaction: he will be humble, childlike, even as a weaned child, satisfied in the Lord's goodness. (One writer comments on one of the names of God, "El Shaddai":-
"Shaddai" primarily means "Breasted", being formed directly from the Hebrew word "Shad", that is, "the breast" or more exactly, "the woman's breast" (Andrew Jukes, "The Names of God", 1967, p66).
In other words, I will not allow myself to be put into much consternation by perplexities which are beyond me; I will remember the exceeding goodness that God has shown to me and exercise a complacent faith in him.
And then, also, if anything has gone wrong with the world we must believe, by faith in God's word, that it is never God's fault. Perhaps I cannot prove it by any logic of mine, but I can see the goodness of God, especially at the cross of Christ, where the Son of God "loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20), and therefore I rest in his goodness.
"The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17, Habakkuk 2:4):
Where I cannot rationally see God's goodness I still believe in it because the Scriptures proclaim it, and in the cross he placards it to us:
God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
I should not let a single, relatively small issue, which threatens to be a problem for my faith to take over the whole horizon of my thinking about my God and my beliefs. I have all the Scriptures to think over; they prove to me God is good. For instance, the whole tenor of the Psalms flatly disprove any evil in God. Just reading through the Scriptures should remind me of this basic fact in the world and in my life and experience: "God is good".
Furthermore, the reason we are born in sin is not because God made us that way, but because Adam and Eve chose that way. God created Adam and Eve in sinless perfection, but they sinned, and that is why we are the way we are. It is not fair to blame God for Adam's choice. The moment they sinned they could have been cast away from God's presence in eternal punishment forever: that would have been the fair thing; the fair thing would have been that you and I had never been born at all.
You could argue that they only fell because God had planned it. The trouble with this line of reasoning is that every criminal the world over could then claim that they only committed their crime because it was in God's eternal plan! Someone robs a bank.. God planned it! Someone knifes you in the back, God's fault!! Does it really make any sense to blame God? No. Our sins are our fault. If a criminal were to blame God for his crimes no court of law in the world would pay any attention. God has not so ordered the world, nor produced his plan, such that we are free from blame, or free from any choice in the matter. We sin because we choose to. God's plan incorporates our sins but he is not to be blamed for any sinfulness of ours within his plan; the blame, the guilt belongs to us, and us alone.
Our Saviour "being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" was taken "and by wicked hands" was crucified and slain (Acts 2:23). Those men were fulfilling God's plan, but they were still evil in what they did. Just because something is in the plan of God does not mean God is responsible for the evil of it. The evil of crucifying Jesus belonged to men alone, nothing to God; they were guilty of the crime and will be punished for it. God is able to bring good out of man's evil, that is God's speciality. Since all we do is more or less evil God could not even have a plan if he did not incorporate man's evil into it. As Joseph said at the end of the story "But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." (Genesis 50:20). (In the life of Joseph and in the death of our Lord in the very selfsame act by which men intended evil against God and against their neighbour, God intended good. Surely the same must apply to the sin of Adam
- though he intended to rebel against God, God had ultimately a good purpose in Adam's fall.
If you think it unfair that God should condemn many because of the sin of the one man Adam, then don't forget that he also brings forgiveness to many by the righteousness of the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:12-21); out of every nation, tribe, language, a vast assembley which no man can number. And how else can sinners like you and me have any hope to be pardoned except by that one Man's righteousness?
If you believe that you are a fallen creature from birth and that only Christ can save you, then you will seek him more fervently than if you were to believe that you are not fallen but that you can save yourself by your own strength. Our fallenness and helplessness, far from being a reason to reject the word of God, is a reason to all the more fervently seek for salvation through Christ. When God says "Seek you the Lord while he may be found" (Isaiah 55:6) when he says "Repent and believe the Gospel" his words are genuine and sincere. No man can say he did not believe because God did not want him to believe, he cannot blame God for his unbelief, it is all his own fault.
When a certain truth had been taught by our Lord Jesus many of his former disciples murmured saying "This is a hard saying, who can believe it?" And many left him and walked no more with him; subsequent to this we read:
And Jesus asked the twelve "Will you also go away?" Peter answered "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (John 6:60-69)
These are the words of faith, which says "even if this teaching is difficult, I know what I know, and I know that Jesus is the Christ of God, and I will not hear the words of eternal life except from his lips. There is no one else, and no other group of people, who can save us or help us. We will stay with him, even if we do not understand everything.
And then consider, if you decide to give some of your money to charity would it be right of anyone to say "You are being unfair!" If you gave to the poor in, say, Asia; could someone accuse you and say "You are not being fair because you have given nothing to the poor of Africa!! You have not given any of your money to them but all to the people of Asia! You are not doing well, because you are unfair!" Of course, it would not be right for anyone to say so, because you are free to give what is yours to whoever you wish. And God is free to give what is his, forgiveness, to whoever he wishes also. We do not deserve his forgiveness - we all deserve his condemnation and nothing more.
But you will say, but God has made us sinners so our sinfulness is his fault. No, the Scriptures everywhere hold us accountable for our sins. The sole responsibility of men for their own sins is assumed, presumed, and taught throughout all the Scriptures.
So these two things run parallel throughout Scripture, the sovereignty of God, and the free choice of men to choose good or evil. We cannot see how they can both be true, but we must believe in both equally.
Now, according to Calvinism we all suffer the consequences of "Total Depravity" - it is the T in Calvinism's "TULIP". It does not mean that we are all as totally depraved as we possibly could be, the total refers to all the attributes of our being: our affections, our will, our memory are depraved, warped by sin; our consciences (not as accurate as it should be); and this depravity extends to our ability to reason rationally and logically, especially about spiritual things. When we come to Christ our minds begin to be re-educated and taught to think correctly about spiritual things by the Spirit through the Scriptures. So our Lord Jesus said:
It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words which I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)
What about our logical faculty? Does what we logically infer spring from the scripture? What if our logic leads to a conclusion contrary to God's word? Surely in such a case our logical faculty is basing its deductions not on Scripture, or the leadings of the Spirit, but on the leadings of the fallen flesh, which cannot be trusted in spiritual things, because it is depraved and fallen along with our whole nature.
God truly, sincerely, desires the salvation of all, and so cannot be held responsible if some are condemned.
See for example:
Ezekiel 33:11 ("I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked... so turn, turn from your evil ways");
Luke 19:41-42; (where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem) - they were not crocodile tears but true tears; the sovereign saviour gave them the ability to choose or to reject, and they rejected him;
Luke 13:34 ("How often would I have gathered you.. but thou wouldest not!" He would but they would not, so their sinful rejection is their own fault);
1 Timothy 2:4 ("God desires all men to be saved", so unbelief is not God's will, so how can it be his fault?);
Romans 9:2-3 ("I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ...for them, (for the sake of the Jews)" - such a desire is from God the Holy Spirit acting mightily in Paul's heart; Paul's yearning was the yearning of God the Holy Spirit within him; so God yearns for the salvation of the lost too).
All these Scriptures prove that God cannot be blamed for the eternal punishment of those not elect, because God takes no pleasure in their death nor in punishing them.
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
God's plan is huge and will result in a measure of glory in the eternal realms we cannot yet imagine. The whole scheme is way beyond our limited minds, and the glory that will be ours who believe will be on a scale so vast it is beyond our comprehension. So we ought not to think we can make judgements on the plan while the plan is still in progress. Let us wait until the whole plan is completed: wait till glory, then we shall be better able to judge.
Consider a building company building a vast building on a huge building site in the remotest most unreached part of the jungle of the Amazon; the construction being watched (and scorned) by a bunch of tribesmen who only have their own experience to go by. They look and see the building site and its a terrible, terrible mess; it looks a real mess for so long in their eyes; only at the end do they realize what it was all about; the building was far bigger, far more complex, on a much vaster scale than anything they have ever even thought about, much less attempted.
So now, it might be tempting to doubt God and God's ways (but "You [God] are good and do good" (Psalm 119:68)). Shouldn't we, then, refrain from judging God and God's plan? That is, we should not judge until we reach the glory where we shall see what he was constructing, the City of God, the New Jerusalem, the vast numbers, the eternal safety, the glory of its inhabitants, the wonderful love and union that exists between all, where there is no more sin and even no more temptation; and more, more than our fallen minds can even begin to imagine.