Electing Love - The command to and not to



If you ever get around to reading this, I’m hoping you might comment on some confused thoughts I have regarding Piper’s “electing love” from your exhcange with him years ago.

Piper states "…Yes God does withhold electing love from his enemies, but we are not commanded to show them electing love. Yes, we are commanded to love our enemies in many ways, but God also loves these enemies in the same ways. (matt 5:45)"

A couple of questions fell in line for me while reading through this: What does Jesus mean by Pray for your enemies? Is Piper saying that we should pray that they get fed but not saved? It seems clear that Jesus is not concerned with the bread of men but rather that we pray for their salvation (election).

Piper continues as he anticipates this by stating: "But Talbott will no doubt stress that our intention should be for the eternal welfare of our enemies perdition." -(this has been Talbott’s point from the beginning) to which he raises two objections:

  1. Our intention concerning another person’s eternal destiny is always conditional.
    My thought here is that Piper has re-directed the argument - Your objection was not whether or not we should act as God acts but more profoundly - the objection was - God who commands us to love our enemies fails to love his enemies.

So I understand Piper to ultimately argue that God in fact does not love his enemies while we are commanded to. After all this is the charge against Calvinism.

But here is where I’m confused:

Piper, in an attempt to avoid hypocrisy, continues by stating “Yes, we are commanded to love our enemies IN MANY WAYS But God also loves these enemies in the same ways”.

His qualification “IN MANY WAYS” is telling. It seems to me that here, like a masterful magician, the slide of hand slips in the H of spades (the hate card). As I understand him, it means “electing love” is not one of the ways of which we are called to love them. But this seems to defeat his whole argument of ignorance in regards to the elect.

Now Piper at that point might alter his argument, something along the lines of: we are called to love in an electing sense but only because of ignorance. - of course he would not agree since election is God’s alone.

But of course then he would be conceding the hypocrisy charge, God fails to love the very enemies he commands us to love. This would make God a hypocrite, which is the very reason why Piper creates the scapegoat of us not being commanded to love in an electing sense – or more casually put ‘in many ways’.

So to put it in an organized manner: Isn’t this a contradiction?

  1. We are called to love our enemies in an electing/saving sense because we are ignorant of who is elect and who is not.
  2. We are not called to love our enemies in an electing/saving sense since that belongs to God alone.

It’s as if Piper is saying we are commanded to dispense an electing love (saving love) because we don’t know who God wants to save AND We are not commanded to dispense an electing love because God himself does not love them in such a way.

I’m hoping you might help me sort some of these thought out as to triangulate exactly where his arguments lead and where he has difficulties.


Good question. I would also be interested in understanding how your two points are not illogical, because issues like this are what helped me come out the other side (so to speak) of Calvinism and into UR. :slight_smile:



I think that the Calvinists would at this point be required to make a distinction between
a) Saving love
b) Electing love

But this distinction would be an interesting one.

It seems Piper’s argument is endorsing.
We are called to have a saving love which God does not have for the reprobate.
We are not called to have an electing love for the reprobate anymore than God does.

But the former is something I believe Calvinists would not conceed. Usually the language is that God does not have a salvific love for the reprobate. So then, that distinction would have to be defined.