Proverbs are Proverbs

Submitted by Neil Short of neshort.org:

Proverbs 16:4 reads:

The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble (RSV, NRSV, ESV, almost NASB).

This verse seems to teach the Calvinist doctrine that God created some people with the purpose of sending them to Hell (a logical corollary to Calvinism’s Irresistible Grace and Unconditional Election). This interpretation contradicts several straightforward Biblical passages saying that God does not want anybody to be damned and he is grieved when somebody chooses that life destiny (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:30-32; 33:11; Lamentations 3:33). That’s why we check for an alternative interpretation for Proverbs 16:4! or we need to accept the Calvinist explanation and wrestle mightily with the other passages (as Calvinists do with 2 Peter 3:9).

My instant reaction to the “destined for Hell” view is a question. Why would you grab a verse out of the Wisdom literature of the Bible and apply it mathematically – like an axiom or theorem? Think of any proverb from Proverbs. Is it a rule that is true in every circumstance? The proverbs are true in a general sense; but there are [almost] always exceptions. Once we understand exactly what Proverbs 16:4 actually says, we’ll see that the usual method of applying proverbs applies here too. In fact, reading this verse in the Calvinist way is reading it in some way other than as a proverb. What life-lesson is being taught by stating that some people are created by God for Hell? None at all. It is thus seen as a statement of universal fact amidst a vast ocean of wisdom proverbs. Point: When you apply a Bible reading, be sure to acknowledgement the kind of literature the reading is.

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