Friday, September 16, 2011

Can One Choose to Believe, or Just to Disbelieve?

Did you make a good choice?
As a sort of follow up to my last article Can One Have a False Faith or Just a Delusion? I am asking you to consider the reversal of a criticism that I hear from Calvinists who hold to the Total Inability understanding of Total Depravity.

In conversations with Calvinists I will often be accused of attributing a person's Eternal Salvation to being the result of a "good choice" that they made to believe the Gospel, or accept Christ or however they want to express how one becomes saved. I invariably point them to Romans 4:16 which shows us that salvation had to be accessible through faith alone in order that it could bey by grace, or unmerited favor. I explain that this shows that no one can boast, or feel good about, having faith. Only works give us reason to brag or expect rewards. Rom 4:1-25, and Eph 2:8-9 show this clearly.

No for me this ends the debate. As far as I'm concerned the question of giving someone something to brag about, or contributing to one's own salvation if that person is responsible and able to bring faith is answered absolutely by the fact that God does not look on faith as something "good" and to be rewarded.

So if my faith is "MY faith" and I'm saved by Grace through that faith, then is salvation "not all of God"?Have I made a "good choice" have I done something "good" by choosing to believe? I actually think the Bible gives us the answer in even more detail than I had previously thought.  Rom 4:16 settles it, but the concept is explored even more.

Romans 1:18-32 shows us that people do know there is a God and choose not to worship Him. Acts 28:24 says that some believed because they were persuaded and others "disbelieved." In John 3:18 the Lord says that those who have "not believed" are condemned but in John 3:20 He explains that those who do not believe actually refuse to believe.

I don't think that one "chooses" to believe. I think one is persuaded (as per Acts 28:24) God and His agencies (Creation, the Bible, Preachers, Situations...) persuade someone and that person then passively believes. Other people will refuse to believe, they will harden their hearts.

Therefore, I believe, it is not that I did something good that resulted in my salvation, nor did I even make a decision. My will was not involved. However, others harden their hearts by wilfully disbelieving and actually make a BAD decision to refuse to believe.

The only human will involved was to make the choice to not believe. Believing is passive, no will required. Rom 9:16 One doesn't choose to believe, they are convinced by whatever God does to convince them. There is no "ability" involved. One does not exercise some skill, ability or goodness to believe. They are persuaded.

Here are some Bible refs to reasoning with the Lost and persuading them. These do not fit with Total Inability.

Reasoning Isa 1:18; Acts 17:2; Acts 17:17; Acts 18:4; Acts 18:19; Acts 19:19; Acts 24:24-25
 Persuade 2Cor 5:11; Luke 16:31; Acts 17:4; Acts 18:4; Acts 19:26; Acts 28:24; Gal 1:10; 

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