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God's choice or mans?

Posted by: David Carroll

Commenters on my previous post on Irresistible Grace raise a good question regarding salvation. Is man responsible or is God? Also, who is the originator of salvation, man or God? Anyway I’ll say up front that the answer in my opinion is that it is God who is both responsible from beginning to end and it is God who originates salvation. Now let’s see if I can be consistent with the idea that man has to make a choice without being compelled to do so irresistibly.

I see God as responsible for my salvation because I cannot find heaven without him. In fact I don’t even know of it’s existence without him. And now that I am aware of it and believe that he has secured it for me, I am still just along for the ride without anyway of getting myself to heaven without him.

I see God as the originator of salvation because it was his idea and not mine. He offered it first as a free gift which I could accept through faith. This was his design for such a transaction and not mine. But notice the requirement: my acceptance or rejection of that free gift. He decreed that I should glorify him by requiring my exercise of faith. My faith in him does not glorify me—I only love him because he first loved me. This is the synergism that glorifies God, not because man may choose rightly thereby completing the transaction but because the choice gives God glory, praise, honor and adoration from his creature whom He in turn makes happy in Him.

I will even say that the faith I have has come from him. How could it not? He is the creator! All I know is that God has somehow made man’s ability to make true free will choices compatible with his sovereignty. And we are called upon to make a choice to repent and have faith in God which has real consequences in both positively and negatively. That seems to me to be the emphasis of the Bible in all of its warnings (including Jesus’ pronouncement regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit). He wanted it that way because faith is the only thing that accords with grace and faith is what gives God glory.

Romans 4:16a (NKJV)
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace

Romans 4:20 (NKJV)
He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God

There is a glorious mystery in all of this. One has to believe two apparently incompatible things simultaneously: 1) God is sovereign and knows everything past present and future. 2) man is created by God in His own image and thus has been given a free will with the responsibility to make a choice to trust in Him or not. This means God both knows the choice man will make and yet man must still make it freely. I cannot reconcile this and the Bible does not seem to worry one wit about helping me to do so.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."

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Bob wrote:
Hey, I asked in regard to the last post "Irresistible Grace" what is it that makes those who chose to accept the offer of forgiveness differ from those who reject this offer? This post only begs the very question raised as you say: "I see God as the originator of salvation because it was his idea and not mine. He offered it first as a free gift which I could accept through faith."

The issue is why did you accept the offer while others reject it? Is the answer in God (election and effectual calling) or you (autonomous free will)? If salvation's application is in some way dependent upon man then those who applied it to themselves surely must be in some way better than those who did not (smarter, open minded etc) and therefore have grounds for boasting.

You seem like you care about theological consistancy that's why I posted orginally. To be honest I think it is inconsistant to say that salvation is all a work of God when its application through regeneration as well as perseverence to the end are contingent upon the will of man autonomous from God's governing.

I think we do choose Christ but that is only because He first chose us and our decision to be His disciples is a free choice we make upon having our eyes opened by the Spirit "All that the Father has given Me will come to Me." (John 6) and "You He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sin in which you once walked according to the course of this world according to the prince of the power of the air..." (Eph 2)
David Carroll wrote:
I wasn't ignoring your question, I thought I was answering it in this post. The answer is that it is God who decreed that it must be by faith freely exercised by man. The inconsistancy is the Great Mystery which I don't think can be answered by anybody or any system of theology because you have to put the mystery somewhere. This is where I put it: I believe a sovereign God is able to make man perfectly free and still know the future without becoming deterministic as to what that will be. This way, I don't have to strain the meaning of all the "whosoevers" of the Bible nor do I have to redefine what free will means. And I can hear Jesus warning about the unpardonable sin without seeing Him as unnecessarily terrorizing the helpless lost person. But I still have to hold on to a mystery that is wrapped up in the omnipotence of God. How could this position possibily take anything away from the sovereignty of God?

God has designed salvation by grace through faith because it most glorifies himself. Who am I to question the clear weight of scripture on man's free will excersise of faith? I am not taking credit for the gift of salvation because I accepted it through faith. Faith excludes boasting; it cannot be the grounds for boasting.

Why me and not others? I don't know but I am called to go and tell those others the good news of the kingdom. And the good news is that anybody can walk right in if they will just change their whole way of thinking about the world (repent) and place their trust in Christ.
Bob wrote:
Hey David,
You said "This is where I put it: I believe a sovereign God is able to make man perfectly free and still know the future without becoming deterministic as to what that will be." It is odd to me I hear synergists make sweeping statements like this all the time but precision seems to remain evasive. How is God soveriegn in this system? For example does God rule over politics? To do so I think He would need to influence the wills of men. Another glaring problem for the Arminian synergist is prayer, frankly what can you pray for the lost if their regeneration depends not upon God's soveriegn regeneration but rather their free will? Spurgeon said "When men pray they are calvinists."

You also said: "This way, I don't have to strain the meaning of all the "whosoevers" of the Bible nor do I have to redefine what free will means. And I can hear Jesus warning about the unpardonable sin without seeing Him as unnecessarily terrorizing the helpless lost person."

I think this is a bit of a straw man argument. I don't think the calvinist is "straining" the "whosoevers" they fit just fine. As I said before the issue is not the fact that men will one thing or another, but why? For example Jesus said in John 10:26 "You do not believe because you are not My sheep." We can see that the reason for their unbelief is because they are not His, the Arminian has it backwards.

Also I think it is tottally a straw man argument to say "nor do I have to redefine what free will means" good night philosophers and theologians have been wrestling to define free will for millinea there really is no simple answer when you want to seriously take up the issue. I will grant you that most assume a libertarian view of the will but to say the calvinist is redefining free will is a straw man argument and borderline ad hominem.

Finally you said: "I am not taking credit for the gift of salvation because I accepted it through faith. Faith excludes boasting; it cannot be the grounds for boasting."

I agree with you 99% but my point is that if regeneration is dependant upon your free will and God is "wooing" you just as much as the next guy and you choose and he doesn't I have to ask why. In your system the answer is free will. Well as you said faith excludes boasting, but how can it when it is something that YOU bring to the table which the next guy didn't? So I think there is a problem here. In the calvinist framework faith is a gift God imparts to the elect "For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God." (Eph 2:8)
And I know you don't boast about your salvation, but I think logically if regeneration is dependant upon your free will then you have your answer for what made you differ from the next guy it is no mystery it is yourself.

For me the mystery lies in why God chose some and passed over others. Anyway hey if you want to give me some flack about my theology my blog is puritanbob@blogspot.com

God bless you David

David Carroll wrote:
God is sovereign even when he sovereignly chooses to give man a free will which he deigns to not determine. If he cannot do that, then he is not sovereign.

I don't have prayer figured out yet and don't expect to. And yes, I do pray for God to perhaps grant repentance to individuals.

Why do some men repent and trust and others not? God grants it. "If any man thirsts, let him come and drink of the water of life." God is not wooing people equally, some never hear.

Regarding straining whosoevers and redefining free will, I only speak for myself having heard calvinistic explanations which to me don't satisfy scripturally or logically. No straw man, no ad-hominem here.

Choosing some, not others? Foreknowledge which preceeds predestination in Romans 8:29.

I think we agree on much: the sovereignty of God, the terrible sinfulness of man and the innerancy of scripture, and Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. And we both agree that it is election that secures our salvation. And we both admit to there being a mystery in election, a mystery which we will put somewhere to reconcile it in our own pea brains. But I am not sure God wants us to put it anywhere. He just wants us to tell people about Jesus and believe the impossible, a feat at which He particulary excels.

Blessings to you Bob as well.
Gary Petersen wrote:
That thought hasn't been a conundrum for me at all, as I've thought of it like this.

God is now, always has been, and always will be. He knows everything that has ever happened, everything that is happening now, and everything that will happen. He has given me the free will to make decisions and he knows the decisions that I will make throughout all of my life.

I still get to make the decisions. He just knows what it is that I will decide.
Matthew Tilley wrote:
I believe both that the grace is irresistable and that I have a responsibility to accept or reject it. Unless God's grace has the power to accomplish it's goal (to save its intended target), it is either not Divine or it has some other goal. Therefore, I believe God's grace does what it sets out to. But unless I have a responsibility to respond to God, I have no onus of rejection and no pleasure in accepting.

In the final analysis, salvation is either all God or it isn't (and I believe the Bible plainly teaches that it is). But God's primary position in salvation doesn't remove my responsibility to comply (Romans 10:9 and 10 is still in the Bible), it only means that I can take no credit for my simple act of faith.
Sebastian Ku wrote:
The Bible clearly teaches that God is a relational God who has, in His sovereignty, chosen to be "conditionable" by human actions. Matters of salvation aside, just recall so many instances of conditional prophecies given to Israel/Judah: "If you repent... If you do not repent....".

The notion that God lives in the eternal now, I'm afraid, is not a wholy biblical concept, but borrowed from Neo-platonism by the early Church Fathers. It was Aristotle who posted the idea that the Divine was the Unmoved Mover. The Biblical God is one who is involved in human actions, appalled by human depravity, and rejoices at the salvation of sinners.