I recently came across a Calvinist polemical work by a Mr. Greg Gibson, entitled “Calvinism, Arminianism, So What?” Who Gets Credit for Your Decision for Christ: The Evangelist, You, or God? In it he presents a decent spiel on Calvinism and why he thinks it’s correct, as well as a list of 23 questions to persuade one to accept his position. We’re going to tackle those questions here, and see if the Arminian/Synergist view can stand up to them and is congruent with the passages of scripture he cites.
1. Was your will free from Satan’s control, yes or no?
2. Was your will free from sin’s control, yes or no?
3. Is God sovereign & in control over humans’ wills including yours, no or yes?
Yep. Though what they draw from it isn’t quite accurate:
Wow! Could God possibly make it any clearer that He controls our wills? What we’re saying is: God is in control (of ALL things, even salvation.) He is sovereign (over ALL things, even salvation.) Most Christians acknowledge He’s in control only in a general, vague sense. But, He tells us He’s in control of every minute detail of His universe, even your decisions, and the number of hairs on your head.
God is sovereign, so He retains control of everything, but this does not mean that He exercises control over every aspect of the human will. Indeed scripture plainly declares that He does not.
And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (Jeremiah 32:35)
In the Fall, Did Adam & His Offspring Lose Their Desire and Ability to Come to Christ?
4. After Adam and Eve sinned, did they move toward God, or hide from Him?
5. Did Adam initiate contact with God, or did God initiate contact with Adam?
God did, and still does.
6. As a fallen sinner, were you just spiritually sick, or spiritually dead?
The spiritually dead can’t raise themselves. They must be raised by God.
7. Could you spiritually see the gospel, or were you spiritually blind?
Blind, unless allowed to see by grace.
8. Could you spiritually hear the gospel, or were you spiritually deaf?
Deaf, unless allowed to hear by grace.
9. When you were spiritually dead, blind, & deaf, did you desire & seek God, yes or no?
Nope, except when influenced by prevenient grace.
10. Are unbelievers not sheep because they don’t believe, or do they not believe because they’re not sheep?
Because they’re not His sheep. Though what we define ‘His sheep’ as may differ. Calvinists see sheep as being those who are regenerated, Arminians/Synergists see the sheep as those taught by God (John 6:45) and therefore given by God to Christ.
11. When you were spiritually dead, deaf & blind, were you born again by your will, or God’s will?
God’s will of course. He then states,
How much of a part did you have in willing your own physical conception? None! Your parents conceived you by their own wills. As it is with physical birth, so it is with spiritual birth. You didn’t ask to be birthed. The Father birthed you.
Which has nothing to do with the conditions God has placed upon the new birth, since having faith and being born from above are separate events.
Then, the question arises, “If fallen, dead, deaf, blind sinners can’t come to Christ, then how do they come to Christ?”
Answer: Prevenient grace.
Does God give the new birth because they believed, or so that they can believe?
Because they believed and are in Christ.
In other words, is faith the cause of the new birth, or is the new birth the cause of faith?
Grace and hearing the word of God is the cause of faith, faith is the cause of being in Christ, being in Christ is the cause of the new birth.
To believe that fallen, dead, deaf, blind sinners repented and believed to be born again is like getting the cart before the horse.
Unless you factor in prevenient grace, in which case scripture makes it clear that regeneration prior to faith is completely backwards. Jesus made it clear that spiritual life doesn’t come until people hear Him,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:25)
Ben also wrote an excellent post on the subject of regeneration which addresses it in more detail. Continuing,
Logically, they must have first been spiritually born again, before they could repent and believe in Christ.
Unless prevenient grace is factored in.
12. Did God predestine your adoption & inheritance according to your will, or His will?
13. Did God choose you because you would believe, or so that you would believe?
“God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thes. 2:13)
So we would believe, but note that faith comes by hearing and receiving the word of God (Romans 10:17), which still implies conditionality.
14. Whose choice made the ultimate difference, the apostles’ choice, or God’s choice?
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (Jn. 15:16)
‘Ultimate difference’ is ill-defined here, and is worded to suggest that either man’s or God’s choice is the only true variable in producing the outcome. God making a choice does not prohibit a man from going against His will. So while it is true that we don’t choose ourselves, we do have to comply with the word of God if we are to be saved. In other words, both choices are required for a positive outcome, making ‘which one’ questions erroneous. Kind of like asking, ‘Which is more important for life: your heart or your blood?’ I touch on this logical fallacy further when he employs it again below.
15. Whose will made Paul an apostle, his own will, or God’s will?
16. Did God call you according to your purpose (will,) or His purpose?
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom (not “what”) He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:28-29)
Here he attempts to exclude any and all human will from the salvation process. The difference lies in the fact that it was no purpose of ours that we are saved, but God’s; receiving Christ does however involve the will. If someone makes you the offer of the century (or eternity) and you accept, does that render making such an offer your purpose somehow? Again Calvinists are forced to stretch definitions and logical concepts to ridiculous extremes to make their point. He also cites,
“who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Tim. 1:9)
Presumably equating receiving Christ with a ‘work’ of the law. This of course is fallacious and does nothing for the Calvinist position.
17. Who opened your heart, you or God?
God, through His grace.
18. How many of the lost does God call/draw, all or only some?
Apparently all. Though the proof texts he presents are interesting, none of which indicate that He draws only some,
“Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Mt. 11:27)
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn. 6:44)
“Moreover whom He predestined, these he also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”(Rom. 8:30)
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12:32)
Which Ben also addresses in this post.
19. How many of those whom God calls/draws respond, some or all?
Some. Let’s look at his proof texts here as well.
“And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
There is no indication that all who were called were appointed, for it is also written,
For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14)
“whom He called, these He also justified” (Rom. 8:30)
This is spoken in the category of those whom He foreknew, and does not necessarily indicate that everyone who was called was justified, but those who were both foreknown and then called. He then quotes from Romans 11,
“concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom. 11:28-29)
And this has nothing to do with who responded. The context of this passage makes it clear that this is speaking of the offer of salvation to Israel, to which many as of yet do not respond.
20. Who did your repentance come from, you or God?
Granted by God, embraced by man.
21. Who did your faith come from, you or God?
Same as above.
22. Who made the difference in your decision for Christ, the evangelist or God?
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:6-7)
Though he doesn’t define what ‘the difference’ is, I think we can safely agree that it is God.
23. Who made the difference in your decision for Christ, you or God?
Again, “the difference” is poorly defined, as the question is worded to force a dichotomy that either only you were ultimately responsible for deciding to follow Christ or only God was, effectively giving only the choices of ‘Calvinism or Pelagianism.’ God makes the difference in our decision in the fact that we could make no decision to follow Him apart from His grace; man makes the difference in that once God has bestowed grace upon him, he is free to receive or reject the gospel, which is biblically congruent and doesn’t hit the unbiblical ‘unlimited free will’ or ‘effectively no free will’ pitfalls of Pelagianism or Calvinism. He offers a few proof texts, which we’ll examine:
“that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus…that as is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.'” (1 Cor. 1:29-31)
How can one ‘glory’ over accepting what is freely given? Calvinists can’t really offer a reasonable explanation here.
“For who makes you differ? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor. 4:7)
It’s God who makes us differ — from the world. Actually, it backs up our case very well, for if all we did was receive what God offered, then there is no room for boasting.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10)
We agree. Note our emphasis on prevenient grace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
If you made the difference in your decision for Christ, then you’d have reason to boast, wouldn’t you?
Not in the slightest. My decision is worthy of no merit or praise, but was what was expected of me and is expected of all men. Christ’s words in Luke 17:10 put following Him in perspective,
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Mr. Gibson closes with,
Many credit God for 99% of salvation, and themselves for the other 1% (their decision.) Will you give Him ALL the glory?
And here’s the straw man that constitutes the core of Calvinist indoctrination. I already do give Him all the glory, for my fallen mind could have had not have believed apart from God’s grace, and even if it could have, it would still not have saved me apart from God’s gracious will in sending Christ die for my sins, therefore there can be no reason for bragging on my part, and all credit necessarily goes to God.
The ridiculousness of trying to stretch the decision to believe in Christ into a cause for 1% glory to man goes well beyond any semblance of credibility. That’s like crediting the pardoned criminal with his own release because he agreed and walked out of the prison. There is no room for boasting there, and hence we can firmly say, “To God alone be all glory.”