How can God be just or fair in condemning those who deny him to eternal damnation when it is God himself who predestined them to fall in the first place?
A friend asked me this question recently. I didn't know how to answer, so I told him to give me some time to look into this. I turned to Calvin to see if he has addressed this. Indeed he did.
I'll paste Calvin's take on this issue below. The blue-italicized is my preface to each point. The bold-italicized are emphasis that I added on Calvin's original writing. The following section is from Book 3, Chapter 23:4, in John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (USA: Hendrickson, revised edition, 2008), p. 627-628:
[The questioner asked isn't it unjust for God who has predestined people to fall to condemn them as if they are responsible for their own fall?]
Were not men predestinated by the ordination of God to that corruption which is now held forth as the cause of condemnation? If so, when they perish in their corruptions they do nothing else than suffer punishment for that calamity, into which, by the predestination of God, Adam fell, and dragged all his posterity headlong with him. Is not he, therefore, unjust in thus cruelly mocking his creatures?
I admit that by the will of God all the sons of Adam fell into that state of wretchedness in which they are now involved; and this is just what I said at the first, that we must always return to the mere pleasure of the divine will, the cause of which is hidden in himself. But it does not forthwith follow that God lies open to this charge. For we will answer with Paul in these words, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" (Rom. 9:20, 21).
[Calvin's foresaw the questioner would suspect that the God Calvin understood is arbitrary in term of justice]
They will deny that the justice of God is thus truly defended, and will allege that we seek an evasion, such as those are wont to employ who have no good excuse. For what more seems to be said here than just that the power of God is such as cannot be hindered, so that he can do whatsoever he pleases?
[Calvin replied to this suspicion by asserting that God's justice is mysterious and final. It may appear unjust to us not because God is unjust but because of our inability to understand it. To draw a simple and imperfect analogy: Parents know that going to school is good for their children. So the parents force their kids to school regardless of what the children think about school. To the children, their parents are not good in sending them to school. However, we know that the little children's judgement can not measure up to their parents. Therefore we should not conclude that the parents' judgement is not good simply because the children think that their parents are not good.]
But it is far otherwise. For what stronger reason can be given than when we are ordered to reflect who God is? How could he who is the Judge of the world commit any unrighteousness? If it properly belongs to the nature of God to do judgment, he must naturally love justice and abhor injustice. Wherefore, the Apostle did not, as if he had been caught in a difficulty, have recourse to evasion; he only intimated that the procedure of divine justice is too high to be scanned by human measure, or comprehended by the feebleness of human intellect. The Apostle, indeed, confesses that in the divine judgments there is a depth in which all the minds of men must be engulfed if they attempt to penetrate into it. But he also shows how unbecoming it is to reduce the works of God to such a law as that we can presume to condemn them the moment they accord not with our reason. There is a well-known saying of Solomon (which, however, few properly understand), "The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool and rewardeth transgressors," (Prov. 26:10). For he is speaking of the greatness of God, whose pleasure it is to inflict punishment on fools and transgressors though he is not pleased to bestow his Spirit upon them. It is a monstrous infatuation in men to seek to subject that which has no bounds to the little measure of their reason. Paul gives the name of elect to the angels who maintained their integrity. If their steadfastness was owing to the good pleasure of God, the revolt of the others proves that they were abandoned. Of this no other cause can be adduced than reprobation, which is hidden in the secret counsel of God.
Whether we agree or disagree with Calvin's handling of this issue, we must at least understand the coherence of his thoughts on this matter. It seems to me that Calvin is pretty coherent here.
Of course, coherence does not mean true. One simply need to read Chapter 10 of Alvin Plantinga's Warrant and Proper Function (USA: Oxford University Press, 1993) for a good exposition on the limitation of the criterion of coherence. Nonetheless, what is coherent does give itself some weight for being something thinkable, if not believable.
Do you still disagree with Calvin even after understanding the coherence of his view? If yes, do share why?