It’s not true to say that God loves everyone. Certainly not in the same way that He loves His children. And this is perhaps the best way to get at the question and why it’s striking to us. Does God always work for the joy and the happiness and the good of His children? Yes. Does He want to see all of His children come to believe in faith in Him? Yes. Will God in the end see that all of His children believe in Him, rejoice in Him, belong with Him forever? Yes. Are all people God’s children? No.
Kevin DeYoung, alleged Christian
David tapped his foot nervously as he sat in the wood-paneled office, flanked by his parents. His mother held his hand tightly and stared straight ahead, while his father sat sternly yet calmly, ready to accept whatever news the test brought them.
"I'll just be so glad when this is over and we know that everything is alright," his mother said chattily. Her voice sounded slightly higher than usual to David, and she was speaking quickly. Of course everything would be alright, he thought to himself. Why shouldn't it be? He was one of the elect wasn't he? He had been raised by elect parents, taught right, given the lessons, learned the catechism from the moment of his birth. What's more, he believed it. With all of his heart he believed in God, Christ, and his church. He stood in church and said the creeds with all of the sincerity that anyone could ask for, including God. How could he not be among the elect?
The test would tell. David didn't understand how the technology worked or what exactly was being measured, but the test offered an infallible result, which told the subject whether or not they were in fact marked as the elect of God. Of course, whether you were in fact among the elect was known by God from all eternity, as well as whether you were among the damned. God in his divine providence and foreknowledge chose from all eternity the saved and the damned. Nothing that anyone could do could change God's inexorable judgement. No act, no belief, no prayer or supplication could change one's status as elect or reprobate.
The elect were garaunteed the grace and blessing of God from all eternity. Their lives were expected to be long and successful, their status in society ensured by their exalted status. The best jobs were open to the elect, the best opportunities. The reprobate, on the other hand, were known to be among the damned. This was not a guess. It was a certainty. They were created by God in order to suffer damnation for the sake of God's glory. They were evil, not only by inclination but by intention. God had hardened their hearts in order to make them incapable of hearing and responding to God's grace, so that through their damnation they might demonstrate the justice and wrath of God.
David had heard the statistics: Approximately 10% of the population were among the elect, while the rest were relegated to the ranks of the reprobate. Once you were tested, the result was stamped on your identification, conveyed with all official documentation about you: Your school transcripts, employment information, legal documentation. Every official document that followed you through society marked you as elect or reprobate. For the elect, this smoothed the path to success: Easy access to scholarships, internships, career advancement. The elect received favorable credit ratings, easy access to loans. Exclusive membership in the elite ranks of society.
The reprobate received the opposite treatment. Because they were known to be evil, they were excluded from juries, prevented from working in any official capacity with children, banned from any kind of government or medical work. Of course, with so many reprobate in society, this meant that many thousands within society couldn't find any kind of work, find any kind of shelter, or put down any genuine roots. They revealed their reprobate natures by turning to crime. Incidence of alchoholism and drug abuse were rampant among the reprobate, thus further demonstrating their eternal election to damnation. The sectors in which the reprobate dwelt were known to be violent and impoverished.
David had heard that, before the test, there had been no way to distinguish between the elect and the reprobate. People simply didn't know, and as a result, had no way of ensuring that the elect were given their proper privilaged place in society. As a result, some Christian communities treated everyone as though they were among the elect. Social status had no relationship to one's state of election. Others tried to divine their own state of election through various unscientific methods. This caused a great deal of unnecessary fear and anxiety.
Since the test, things were much clearer, and as a result, people were much happier. Everyone was given the test on their twelfth birthday. From that day one, the elect were expected to live up to their now universally known and acknowledged status as one of God's chosen, while the reprobate were looked on with sadness, and often fear. Between the ages of twelve and eighteen, the reprobate continued to live with their families, who were of course expected to continue to love them as much as was possible with Christian love, and to act toward them with Christ-like compassion. Of course, once their reprobate nature was known, the reprobate often left home quickly, as their evil nature began to present itself openly, and they became a danger to their families.
In some cases, the reprobate were able to cobble together a legitimate living on the lower rungs of society. But they were always viewed with legitimate suspicion, and sometimes with pity.
"David Barker," the attendant called. David rose and entered the testing room.
As their car moved through the streets, David could hear his mother's soft sobs from the front seat. Every so often she'd mutter to herself, "It must be wrong; the test must be wrong. Surely there's some margin for error?"
"There's no margin for error," David's father said. He had remained silent as the technician read the them the test results. Then he stood, and with a contemptuous look at David said, "We're going."
Now he would periodically glance back at David through the rearview mirror. The eyes which had always filled David with a mixture of love and fear when their focus fell on him, were now narrowed with suspicion. It was as though, now that his father knew that David was among the reprobate, his only question was when it would be that David's evil would begin to truly manifest itself.
David wondered the same thing. He was damned. Unrighteous. He was not a child of God but one who was chosen from all eternity for the fire. He had failed his paternity test. The knowledge ate at him. He was now marked for the rest of his life -- for all of eternity! -- as one of the enemies of God, one whom God had rejected, cast aside, created for destruction. How could he live with himself, knowing that?
His mother's sobs deepened. He felt as though he should reach out to her, touch her shoulder, and tell her that everything would be alright. That was how he had been raised. That's what one of the elect would do. But he wasn't among the elect. So how should he behave? He felt hot tears well up from within him. He felt the grief of his loss overcome him, and involuntarily doubled over, wracked with heaving sobs. This cries came from him as though torn from his lungs by some great demonic beast.
He was damned. There was no doubt. At the age of twelve, his fate was sealed, and there was nothing to be done but accept it. Truly, his pastor had once said, it was a worthy thing even to be damned for the glory of God. Even the reprobate should give thanks for their own condemnation if they truly loved God. But David could feel no thankfulness, and could see no glory in the fact of his own damnation. He saw only the pit of eternal torment looming before him. He wanted his ignorance back.
His father gripped the steering wheel tightly with both hands. He said nothing to David's mother for the remainder of the drive. As they pulled into the driveway, he turned to her: "We're still young," he said. "We can try again." Then without looking at David he got out of the car and went inside.
His mother turned to him, her red-rimmed eyes took him in. She reached out and put her hand gently on his head. "I loved you. I'm sorry." Then she too got out of the car and went inside.
David sat by himself for a long time. Finally the tears ended. They had to end. He had to steel himself for what was to come. He had to become hard. If he was not to be loved by God, love would have no place in his life. If he was destined to be hated for all time by God, he decided, he would become worthy of God's hate.
Updated to include George C. Scott explaining the theology behind all of this.