Reading Thomas Talbott’s article “On predestination, reprobation, and the love of God” (RJ, Feb., 1983) brought back a grievous experience I had when some of George MacDonald’s sermons were published in 1976 (Creation in Christ). I had relished three of MacDonald’s novels and the Anthology compiled by C.S. Lewis. Then I read this sentence, and the budding friendship collapsed: “From all copies of Jonathan Edwards portrait of God, however faded by time, however softened by the use of less glaring pigments, I turn with loathing” (Creation in Christ, P. 81). I was-stunned. George MacDonald loathed my God! Over the last fifteen years since I graduated from college all my biblical studies in seminary and graduate school have led me to love and worship the God of Jonathan Edwards.
So to read the words of Thomas Talbott brought up all those feelings of sadness and loss again. He writes: “I will not worship such a God, and if such a God can send me to hell for not so worshipping him, then to hell I will go” (p. 14). Can Christian fellowship have any meaning when we view each other’s God like this? I hope some wiser reader than I will write and tell us how we can be brothers in Christ and loathe each other’s God. And if this is impossible, what does it imply for -our standing in the church?
My purpose here is simply to do what a pastor is supposed to do when “men rise from among our own number speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). I want to try to defend the doctrine of God’s sovereign predestination against Talbott’s criticisms and so “preserve the truth of the gospel” and magnify God’s glorious grace. I hope no one clucks his tongue, saying, “God does not need our defense.” I know that. But the sheep do. That’s why there are shepherds. I would recommend as an articulate antidote to Talbott’s nonbiblical argumentation the biblically saturated essay by Geerhardus Vos, “The Spiritual Doctrine of the Love of God, ” now found in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation (ed. Richard B. Gaffin). First I will try to restate Talbott’s arguments fairly, and then I will reply.