To Calvinists, God’s grace is irresistible. This follows naturally in their entire scheme of salvation by logical necessity. It is a point that must stand or the system falls. If God has not made His grace that moves the heart of man, convicts them of their sins, and enables them to come to Him irresistibly, then the Arminian is correct in that man has the ability to choose to resist that grace when it is presented to them. The question is, What does the Bible say, and What does that which we know about the character of God say?
We know that God must draw a person to Him for one to come to Him (John 6:44). This is due to the depravity of man (Romans 3:10-11; Ephesians 2:1-3). But we also know the Bible asserts that God has a desire for all men to be saved (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), and that to this end Christ also died for all men (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:2), and also draws all men to Himself (John 12:32). Based on this biblical testimony, we know that the grace of God which leads to salvation (Titus 2:11) must be resistible, because we know that many men, perhaps most men, will not enter the kingdom of God (John 3:18-21; Matthew 25:41-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 2 Peter 2:4,9; Revelation 20:10).
Since all of this is a part of the infallible word of God, one must ignore or redefine clear biblical teachings in order to teach that grace is irresistible. Titus 2:11 is the clearest affirmation in Scripture supporting the Arminian’s concept of the grace that goes before salvation which enables man to believe. Calvinists contend that because man is depraved, then it is only the grace of God that can change the sinner to a believer, and when that happens man is truly changed and thus he responds automatically in faith. All Arminians would agree with the first part of that statement. Only God’s grace can change men. Only God’s grace can enable men to believe. The second part of the statement they will have trouble finding biblical support for.
Since we have already established that God’s grace leading to salvation appears to all, then in Calvinism every single person should come to belief in Christ, if we followed the logic that all will be converted when presented with the prevenient grace of God. But since this is an essential belief in the Calvinistic system, a philosophical a priori must be formed in order for them to maintain consistency. 1) God actually doesn’t want everyone to be saved, and 2) God does not show His prevenient grace to everyone. How this upholds the assertion that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) is beyond me.
Why give man the ability to resist His grace? Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell say it very succinctly in their book Why I am Not a Calvinist: The same freedom that makes it possible to enter a genuinely trusting and obedient relationship with God also makes it possible for us to go our own way and disobey him. God allows the latter in order to enable the former (emphasis mine). If this is not the case, then God just seems to be playing a giant game of chess against Himself. He is simply controlling a bunch of puppets and knows which ones he intends to trash at the end of the day.
Calvinists, however, continue to contend that grace is irresistible and tie that in with their contention that regeneration must precede faith. We should simply point to Paul’s epistles, which make it patently clear that we are saved by grace through faith. Yet in the Calvinist’s system, we are saved unto faith. Faith is just a byproduct and an afterthought of regeneration. Calvinist’s can’t point to a place in Scripture that teaches regeneration must precede faith.
Many times Calvinist’s will ask us a question. If Arminians are correct about prevenient grace, what makes one person repent and another resist if they are both presented with prevenient grace? First, we need to make clear that God supplies sufficient grace to any who hear His gospel to believe in Him. Whosoever will may come! Second we need to point out that this line of thinking from the Calvinists is fallacious. The Calvinist assumes there must be something that necessitates a choice that is not necessitated. This is begging the question. J.C. Thibodaux dealt with this fallacy in this post. I will quote him in part:
This line of questioning is not only logically absurd, but also requires assuming that all of our decisions must be necessitated, when that is in fact the proposition he is trying to prove. This fallacy is more formally known as “begging the question,” a form of circular reasoning.
Calvinistic apologists often employ such fallacies in attempts to prove that libertarian free will is nonsensical. But looking to God as an example of how the will functions, we can see that a being with free will can make choices without them being necessitated by something outside of its own will. For example, there was no principle in God that impelled Him to save anyone, but He chose to anyway. If God is truly free, then it’s absurd to argue that there are conceptual problems with the very idea of free will, and hence no tenable, logical basis to argue that it couldn’t exist in human beings.
The bottom line is that no man has an excuse for not repenting. Even though the Calvinist would chastise someone who claimed, “I can’t repent because I’m not elect,” according to a faulty reading of Romans 9:19-20, it is a valid point. Those men have an excuse. They can’t repent. Granted, they don’t deserve the chance to repent, but that doesn’t remove the fact that they never have the ability to repent. So an excuse does exist if Calvinism is true.
Just because we may not know the individual reasons some choose not to place their faith in Christ doesn’t mean that the Calvinist assertion, that they haven’t been elected, is correct. The biblical account agrees with Arminians.