Stephen Hitchcock explains: “The impediment the Calvinist faces in evangelism is that the faith that is required for salvation is a faith that believes that God loves him or her as a sinner and yet the Calvinist does not believe that God loves anyone, but the elect. So how can a Calvinist tell an unbeliever to believe that God loves him, with personal meaning, if the Calvinist cannot know if it is true or not? The Calvinist cannot proclaim God’s promise, which is the gospel, to an unbeliever that God does certainly love him and that the sinner can know without a doubt that if he believes in Jesus, God will save him. At the very best a Calvinist can say that God has a ‘benevolent lovingkindness’ toward those who are not the elect, but not that God so loves them that He actually wills their salvation. ‘He loves me not’ becomes a real possibility because of Calvinism. According to his doctrine, the Calvinist is unable to preach the gospel, because he cannot proclaim the certainty of God’s promise in such a way that an unbeliever can be encouraged to lay hold of it by faith. When a ‘Calvinist’ does seek to persuade sinners to come to Christ based upon God’s love for them it is only because he is not allowing his Calvinism to get in the way of the gospel.” (Recanting Calvinism, pp.181-182, emphasis mine)
I think that this is why some Calvinists insist that the gospel is not an “offer” or an “invitation” (based upon the certainty of any such prospect definitely having a Savior who loved them salvificly and died for them accordingly), but a “command,” which command, only the Calvinistically elect can render a positive response toward.
One person comments: “Some Calvinists say that God loves everyone, but differently, and some blatantly say that God hates the lost. Either way, it is the personal awareness of God’s love and desire for them to be saved, that the individual experiences before they trust in Jesus. What kind of love is indifferent to the eternal life an person?”
Another person observes: “This explains in great detail what I have always considered a conundrum for Calvinism. To proclaim the gospel to any crowd of people that would include what Calvinism otherwise terms as ‘goats’ or ‘reprobates’ (these being quite unable to ‘hear’ the gospel), are being lied to.”
Another observation: “Calvinists espouse that God loves everyone, though only the elect in a ‘special way’ that guarantees their salvation, and yet in defending their own dogma, are just as quick to also point out the old chestnut, ‘Jacob have I loved but Esau have I HATED’? Do they mean that God’s love for the non-elect is actually hatred? Do they mean that the non-elect (who are ‘reprobates to damnation’ to the ‘praise of God’s glorious wrath’) are actually the out working of God’s Love? Sounds rather schizophrenic to me!”
John Calvin writes: “That Christ, the redeemer of the whole world, commands the Gospel to be preached promiscuously to all does not seem congruent with special Election. ... But the solution of the difficulty lies in seeing how the doctrine of the Gospel offers salvation to all. That it is salvific for all I do not deny. But the question is whether the Lord in His counsel here destines salvation equally for all.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.102, 103, emphasis mine)
This seems like the 4-Point view. In this way, John Calvin affirms the Gospel as a legitimate “offer,” and the promise is fully salvific. In other words, it’s a bona fide offer. Jesus died for you, and He can save you. Calvin’s caveat, however, is whether God “destines” the particular hearer to receive it, and I get that, since He’s of the Calvinist mind-set, but the point stands, that he would have been able to sympathize with what Hitchcock is saying. However, Hitchcock would have replied to Calvin’s concept of “destines” with this:
Former Calvinist, Steven Hitchcock, explains: “We ought to stop and question a gospel that proclaims, ‘The wonder is not that He withholds mercy from some, but that He should be gracious to any.’ It sounds so spiritual, so humble, so weighty, and awesome, and yet it is a lie. Because of Calvinism we have actually come to think that God’s great willingness to be gracious is more unlikely than likely.” (Recanting Calvinism, pp.xxvi-xxvii, emphasis mine)