If there was a decree by which every thought, word and deed for all humanity was predetermined, then all of our choices would not be independently our own, and without independent choices, you could have genuine love or human responsibility. Ultimately, in Calvinism our choices are seemingly unimportant to God, since we make no independent choices. Conversely, in the Bible, our choices matter a great deal to God. The angels had a choice, and their respective choices determined their eternal destination. Adam and Eve had a choice, and a poor choice led to the fall of humanity. God is a God who searches the heart, which would be because God created us with intelligence, creativity and imagination. Otherwise, what would be the point of God searching our hearts if He already determined what He searches, as per Calvinistic determinism?
Adrian Rogers: “God is a God who gives us the choice. Now I want to give you some Choice Principles. You are free to choose God. God says, ‘I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.’ Here you’re in the Valley of Decision. There’s a mountain of misery and a mountain of mercy. You can choose. You are free to choose. Now, I am a Calvinist to the degree that I believe that God is sovereign. But I am not a Calvinist to the degree that I believe that God does not enable anybody to choose, or that God chooses for anybody. God gives you the choice. You must choose. And God says to all of us, ‘Choose you this day.’”84
Adrian Rogers: “Your responsibility is your response to His ability. … Now you must choose. Listen, you can’t do it without Him; He will not do it without you. You must yield. … When temptation comes, you must yield, and you will yield. That much is settled. The only question is, which way you will yield? Will you yield to Satan, or will you yield to Christ?”85
Adrian Rogers: “Jesus came to deliver you. Jesus came to set you free. He came to give you peace and power, forgiveness of sin and a home in heaven, but He will not force it upon you. The same God that gave to Lucifer the power of choice, gives to you the power of choice. ‘Choose you this day whom you will serve.’”86
So do you think you are good enough to choose God?
Yes, because if we couldn’t, then we would be utterly evil and demonic. Even lost people sometimes choose good things. An alcoholic, for instance, entering AA is capable of admitting that they have an addiction and need help. Moreover, choosing God is indeed a moral choice, between choosing good over evil, and Jesus will one day say of the redeemed: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)
Notice how the Bible contrasts a voluntary choice versus an involuntary forced-choice involving a stewardship, in which by contrast, free-will volunteerism results in a “reward” or “award” in the form of a crown of righteousness:
1st Corinthians 9:17: “For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.”
2nd Timothy 4:8: “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
The meaning of “voluntary” would be invalidated if humanity did not possesses an independent will to form self-determined choices, and with that, the concept of a reward/award would be lost as well.
Who has the final say in salvation? Who makes the decisive choice? God or man? A God-centered theology rests the choice with God, while a man-centered theology rests the choice with man.
God determined that salvation would be given to those who believe in His Son, while mankind determines whether to act on God’s free gift. When Calvinists conflate those two choices, that is, man’s choice and God’s choice, as if they were one and the same, it leads to confusion and misrepresentation, as if God was not only choosing the condition of eternal life, but also choosing who will and won’t meet it. Such thinking is the product of skepticism, producing an outlook of fatalism, resulting in a concept of inevitability, as if all things are as they are by design, such that whatever will be, will be. Calvinism is thus a “Que sera sera” theology.87
What is required for salvation in free-will, in terms of what percentage or ratio is performed on my own apart from God? In Pelagianism, salvation is perhaps accomplished in a 50/50 ratio, of God’s choice and man’s choice. God takes the initiative through Calvary and the message of the gospel, and man must respond to receive it, in order for it to be personally applied, which means that man’s response is ultimately the determining factor in his salvation. In Semi-Pelagianism, or other forms of Arminianism, the best case scenario is that salvation is accomplished in a 99/1 ratio, but which still means that man has a hand in his own salvation, and thus salvation cannot be said to be 100% of God.
In other words, Calvinists normally think in terms of Irresistible Grace, such that God contributes 100% to salvation and man contributes 0%, since regeneration (in Calvinism) does all 100% of the work. So, Calvinists devise other ratios in their conversations with non-Calvinists, asking whether God contributes 99% for providing salvation and then man contributing 1% for choosing to believe in Christ—or in some cases being 50/50. Realize that all of this stems from the Calvinist’s perspective that, apart from Calvinism, if we were able to freely choose to accept the free gift of salvation from God, then we would be contributing some percentage of our own to salvation.
As an analogy, the next time when the Calvinist’s significantother presents them with a gift, ask them to tell their significant-other that they cannot—in good conscience—accept the gift, on the grounds that if they were to freely accept it, then any free acceptance of the gift would naturally contribute some percentage to their gift, thus accruing credit for themselves, simply by accepting it, and hence it would no longer remain a true gift. Accepting the gift could even establish themselves as their own “gift-giver,” because they never would have received the gift if they had not said “yes” to it. The absurdity should make the point.
The simple reality is that everyone is 100% responsible for their own choices. God is 100% responsible for providing salvation and man is 100% accountable for whether or not they receive it. As an illustration, citing the parable of the Prodigal Son, it was 100% the son’s choice to ask to leave with his share of the inheritance, and it was 100% the father’s choice to allow him to go. It was 100% the son’s choice to squander his fortune, and 100% the son’s choice to return home in disgrace, and then 100% the father’s choice to receive him back as a son. Everyone is 100% responsible for their own choices. The father had no moral obligation to take his son back but did so anyway out of the graciousness of his heart.
Similarly, Calvary was not owed to anyone but was 100% God’s choice to provide forgiveness, simply out of the graciousness of His heart, and He regularly raises up servants to spread His message of reconciliation. Man’s choice to either receive or reject God’s gracious gift is also 100% their own choice, with the result being that man becomes 100% accountable for his own choice.
Additionally, no matter how many people may help you to receive Christ, either by witnessing to you, or praying for you, or living a godly example to encourage you, ultimately you still have to make your own choice, and your choice remains 100% your choice.
Life is indeed about choices, but our environment can also affect those choices. While sometimes we can’t help our environment, sometimes we can. At some point, our choices can greatly affect our environment. If we choose the baser things of this world, then our environment can come to reflect such baser choices. Conversely, if we choose to immerse ourselves in the things of God (i.e. going to Church, reading the Bible, prayer, ect.), our environment can come to reflect those choices as well. Moreover, someday in Heaven, we will learn that throughout all our lives, we were under various influences—some good and some bad. We will learn that God had been speaking to us our whole life. If we choose the wrong things, then it has the effect of drowning out God’s voice, in exchange for hearing a different voice, and one with far less wisdom than what it otherwise portrays. Given these influences, and the impact of our own choices affecting our successive choices, it must be concluded that despite whatever nature we were born with, life is dynamic, rather than static. Our nature is ever-changing, either for good or for bad. God warns us not to harden our heart. So, if our heart is indicative of our nature, then we can affect our nature. Moreover, even if we are on the wrong path, and with a worsening heart and nature, we can change that, even by as little as a choice, because good moral choices forms good moral character. We end up hearing the voice of God afresh and come under the influence of God, leading to new courses of action. Of course, the old nature can creep back in as well. So, our choices, our environment, outside influences and our nature are all dynamic and constantly changing.
84 Choices Made in the Valley of Decision: Joshua 8:1, 1996.
85 Abounding Victory Thru Amazing Grace: Romans 6:6-7, 1994.
86 From the Palace to the Pit: Ezekiel 28:8, 2004.
87 This comment refers to a 1956, Doris Day song.