Evangelicals believe that a long, long, long time ago, when God created the world, God created people with absolute free will to choose sin or righteousness, to choose God or death. The trick, though, is that God knew that man would choose sin. He knew it. And God knew it while also knowing that he would take everyone – including every animal – and destroy them in the global flood for making the wrong choice.
There is a group of evangelicals, however, who disagree. They say God didn’t actually give man free will at all. Instead, God set the trap, and gave man and woman a weakness, so that man would take the “bait.” In other words, God planned the fall. God also planned the flood. God, basically, planned it all. We call this superlapserianism, or just plain o’ Calvinism at its worse. (Many Calvinists disagree, however.)
The appeal to the Calvinist version is that at least God had a rhyme and reason for the fall. God wanted the fall so that man could feel pain, could experience right and wrong, experience the good the bad the ugly, but also experience life apart from God. He wanted it, so he could one day lavish love upon a chosen people, and they appreciate it. (He also wanted it so the non-elect would experience wrath. It was more about God than us; ask John Piper.)
In Calvinism we often talk about the difference between angels and people. Angels are awesome because they always loved God, but they can’t sing the song of the redeemed. People have a special connection to God. As I said, they know the good, the bad, the ugly.
Obviously I reject Calvinism now, as I wrote, because I see no evidence of a non-elect people group. But I also reject the typical evangelical perspective because a God who wipes everyone out in a flood (and later hell) for making the wrong choice, really, isn’t very helpful.
But my heart still appreciates the other side of Calvinism. The side that says the fall isn’t all bad. The part that says heck, yes, I would have chosen good and evil, too, not because I like evil but because I want to know both good and evil. The part that says that pain is worth something, that it’s a guide and a teacher. The part that says that the songs of the redeem drown out the African plains. The part that says, it’s okay, God *gets* us. He gets that we want our choices, he accepts that part of us, and he will claim us back anyway. The part of Calvinism that isn’t all that different than Buddhism that says, gosh earth is full of suffering, but it’s also redeeming, also a teacher, also part of our journey.
In other words, merge Calvinism and Universalism together – albeit an oxymoron – and we are getting to a theology I can live with.