Calvinists contend that the elect believe due to the influence of irresistible grace. Arminius and the Remonstrants rejected this partly due to the fact that the Bible plainly says that some do indeed resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).
The Calvinist tends to retort that this is true only of reprobates. They also divide grace into two categories to alleviate the tension. They call one category “common grace” which has various meanings depending on which Calvinist you ask. The general definition comes from Matt. 5:47, where Jesus says that the Father sends rain on both the just and the unjust. The other kind of grace is “regenerating grace” which is always effectual and only for the elect. Calvinist James White makes some rather dismissive statements concerning this issue in Debating Calvinism,
The doctrine [of irresistible grace] has nothing to do with the fact that sinners “resist” the common grace of God and the Holy Spirit (they do) or that Christians do not live perfectly in light of God’s grace.” (197)
He end notes this sentence with the following comment,
Hence the irrelevance of citing passages such as Acts 7:51. (ibid. 207)
I personally find Mr. White’s comments extremely unsatisfying. Just how does one resist “common grace”? Would one of my Calvinist friends please explain? Just how is Acts 7:51 a reference to “common grace”? Such a definition as that given in Matt. 5:47 does not fit the context of Acts 7:51.
So my question is rather simple. When a reprobate resists the Holy Spirit just what exactly is he resisting? If the Holy Spirit has no intentions of regenerating the reprobate and has instead decided to “pass him by”, then what on earth is the reprobate resisting? Do you really believe you can resolve the difficulty by saying that he or she is resisting common grace? Just how does one resist the rain? And how does such an interpretation harmonize with the context of Acts 7:51? I invite anyone to explain this to me.
I also want to ask my Calvinist friends how they can harmonize their doctrine of irresistible grace with Isaiah 5:1-4,
Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning his vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choices vine. And he built a tower in the middle of it and also hewn out a wine vat in it; then he expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done for it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? (NASB)
So according to the Lord Himself, He had done all He could do to His vineyard, and yet it still did not produce acceptable fruit. Shouldn’t we be able to answer the Lord, “Sorry, but you obviously didn’t do all that you could have done Lord. You could have irresistibly caused your vineyard to produce good grapes.” The Calvinist, to be consistent with his doctrine, could object in such a way. So here are my last two questions for my Calvinist friends. Would you feel comfortable saying such a thing to the Lord? Would you contend that God did not give sufficient grace for the Israelites to produce acceptable fruit?