On his website, Arminian Perspectives, Ben Henshaw has a questions page at which he answers questions about Arminianism and Calvinism that visitors to his site pose in the comment section of the page. Here is a question from a man named Drew:
Question: My name is Drew. I’ve been an Arminian for a while but as of late I’ve had a deep fear in the pit of my stomach from time to time that Calvinism might be true. My fear is that God only gives some the GIFT of belief and withholds it from others. I’ve been pondering this due to fact that so many people can look at the same evidence (in a variety of different fields) and come to RADICALLY different conclusions. This becomes even harder to deal with when the opposing party has very reasonable answers to counter ones arguments. This troubles me deeply when I actually think about it. Why? In the words of Rachel Evans commenting on her post “Why Calvinism Makes Me Cry”,
“It’s a post about how our loudest protests and most passionate tirades tend to reflect our insecurities rather than our convictions.”
If I’m honest, I would hate to think that God creates disposable people. How could God be like that? That seems utterly cruel and vindictive to me.
But sometimes I wonder if that is true even if I would hate that and eventually find God unworthy of worship. Calvinism doesn’t “feel” right to me in my heart, but I can’t stop wondering about why people have such radically different views. I understand that there are other factors that play an important role in how we come to believe things.
This particularly hits home for me when I stop and think about the stories I’ve read about people de-converting and walking away from the faith. My cousin might be one of them. He is leaning toward an open agnosticism right now and has told me on numerous occasions that he would love to come back to faith in God if he was so persuaded. He is open. This is heart renching for me. My fear is that “persuasion” is solely God’s doing. My cousin is brilliant and looks at the same evidence I do, yet he comes to some radically different views to the point that if he comes back to God, his faith will look little to nothing like he grew up believing.
All this to ask: How do you understand the radical diversity of beliefs from some well intentioned/thoughtful/generally good people who want to believe but can’t bring themselves to commit to belief? Why do some long to believe but seem always just out of reach?
I think that the fact that people come to different opinions regarding Scripture and interpretation lends strong support to Arminianism. If it is true that God has given us a measure of free will and has made it possible for us to resist His drawing and leading in a variety of areas, then it makes a lot of sense why people disagree. While the Spirit is leading all Christians into His truth, it is possible for the believer to resist that leading. Why do people resist that leading? For a variety of reasons. Why do some people desire to believe but ultimately resist? For a variety of reasons. Many want to believe, but want to believe on their own terms and not on God’s terms, so they are conflicted and may never come to faith unless they decide to believe on God’s terms. This doesn’t mean that God is not working in such people to bring them to repentance and total surrender to God. What it means is that God’s work is resistible, just as Arminianism (and I am convinced, the Bible) teaches.
But imagine if Calvinism was true. How then would we explain such things? God would have decreed everything that everyone will ever think or decide. This is very hard to make sense of in the context of believers coming to different interpretations of Scripture. It would be a case of God causing all that confusion by way of an irresistible eternal decree. Why does the Calvinist disagree with the Arminian? Because God decreed it. Why does the unbeliever who “desires” to believe ultimately continue in unbelief? Because God decreed it and ultimately desires to leave that person without hope (since His decree trumps any “desire” God may have for their salvation). Why are you so confused about these things? Because God decreed it, even though the Bible says that God is not the author of confusion.
Much more could be said, but hopefully this will help you see why it seems that Arminian theology makes far better sense of what we read in Scripture and experience in our daily life than Calvinism does.
For those who are resisting but seem to have some desire for faith, I recommend that you pray hard for them. God is personal and desires for us to be a part of the process of bringing people to Him. Your prayers could eventually make the difference. This doesn’t mean that God will irresistibly bring someone to faith because you pray, but it does mean that He will continue to work in that person powerfully to bring that person to faith. It was God’s sovereign desire for people to put faith in Him freely just as it was my desire for my wife to willing accept me as her husband. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t actively persuading her with my love and pursuit. I truly desired to have a permanent intimate relationship with her. But more than that, I desired for that relationship to be based on her willingly desiring the same. I think it is the same with God, and for that reason He does not work irresistibly to bring us to faith, nor does He cause us to love Him.
Also, I do fear that many walk away from the faith because they have become convinced of Calvinism. Eventually, the logical implications may drive some people away from God. Also, the obvious contradictions inherent in Calvinist theology may lead people to abandon Christianity (since they have come to equivocate Calvinism with true Christianity), because they come to find and admit that Calvinism is incoherent, giving them good reason to walk away. Thankfully, many Calvinists find ways to ignore these problems and remain faithful.