Does God choose us or do we choose God?

theology-word-press
Amongst Christians there is confusion and debate about how people come to faith in Jesus.

Some believe that we go searching for God. Others believe that God goes searching for us. Many believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Here are some things to consider…

1. MANY CHRISTIANS WOUD DESCRIBE THEMSELVES AS EITHER A ‘CALVINIST’ OR AN ‘ARMINIAN’.

Calvinism vs Arminianism Table

Calvinism places the emphasis on God’s sovereign choice. It is often summarized by using the acronym ‘TULIP’…

T – TOTAL DEPRAVITY – We are so totally depraved that we are even unable to seek God.
U – UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION – God’s decision to elect us to be His children is not conditional upon anything He sees in us.
L – LIMITED ATONEMENT – Jesus died on the cross to atone for the sins of a limited number of people (i.e. those whom God elects)
I – IRRESISTABLE GRACE – God’s grace is so powerful it is impossible to resistwhen He chooses us
P – PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS – The people God chooses to be His children (also called His saints) will remain His children because God will give them the ability to persevere in the faith.

Arminianism places the emphasis on our decision to choose God…

TOTAL DEPRAVITY – We are so totally depraved that we are even unable to seek God.
PREVENIENT GRACE – The grace given by God that precedes the act of the sinner placing their faith in Jesus. This grace is given to all people and it allows them to see their need for Jesus to save them.
ATONEMENT FOR ALL – Jesus died on the cross to atone for the sins of allpeople
RESISTABLE GRACE – God’s grace can be resisted by our free-will
SECURITY IN CHRIST – Our relationship with God is secure as long as we continue to have faith in Christ

2. BOTH CALVINISTS AND ARMINIANS BELIEVE IN ‘TOTAL DEPRAVITY’

The doctrine of ‘Total Depravity’ states that we are so depraved, we have become blind to the depth of our sin and our desperate need for a saviour. As a result, we would never go searching for God. God has to come searching for us.

This doctrine is taught in various places in the Bible…

ROMANS 3:10-12
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

1 CORINTHIANS 2:14
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit”

2 CORINTHIANS 4:3-4
“Our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”

JOHN 6:44
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day”

It is also held by both ‘Calvinists’ and ‘Arminians’…

JOHN CALVIN
“Our nature is not only destitute of all good, but is so fertile in all evils that it cannot remain inactive. Everything in man, the understanding and will, the soul and body, is polluted”.

JACOBUS ARMINIUS
“The Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost: And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace”

The main difference between the different views, is not whether or not ‘Total Depravity’ exists, but rather how God deals with ‘Total Depravity’, and how ‘free’ we are to accept or reject Jesus once God has dealt with our ‘Total Depravity’.

3. HOW DOES GOD DEAL WITH TOTAL DEPRAVITY? + HOW FREE ARE WE TO ACCEPT OR REJECT JESUS?

Consider the following diagrams…

Here we find that our sin has created a huge gulf between us and God…

election-1

Because God desperately wanted to be in a relationship with us, He sent His Son Jesus into the world in order to bridge the gap. So that anyone who places their faith in Jesus as their Saviour enters into an eternal relationship with God.

election-2

But because of ‘Total Depravity’, we do not see the depth of our sin and our need for a saviour. It’s as if some kind of mist has made us spiritually blind.

Election #3.png

SO HOW DOES GOD REMOVE THE MIST? AND WHAT HAPPENS ONCE THE MIST IS REMOVED?

Here are five different views:

1. CALVINISM

God only removes the mist for some. The Bible refers to these people as the ‘Elect’.

Election #4.png

Once the mist is removed, the ‘Elect’ automatically enter into a relationship with God. They do not have the free-will to reject God.

Election #5.png

Those who were not chosen by God remain blind to the depth of their sin and their need for a saviour. They do not enter into a relationship with God.

2. ARMINIANISM

God removes the mist for all people.

Election #6.png

Once the mist is removed, people have a choice as to whether they will accept God or reject God.

Election #7.png

3. GOD CHOOSES BASED ON FOREKNOWLEDGE

Since God knows our hearts and He also knows the future, He already knows who would choose to become a Christian if they were given the opportunity. So God chooses to remove the mist for those He knows will accept Him.

Election #8.png

Once the mist is removed, those people obviously decide to become Christians.

Election #9.png

Those who don’t want to become Christians remain blind to the depth of their sin and their need for a saviour.

One way to think about this is to consider what might happen if a survey was conducted to determine the love interests of university students. Suppose a confidential questionnaire is filled out. One of the questions asks for specific names of people that the students would be willing to date. This data is then stored on computer. Now if one of the students was to hack into that computer and get access to the data, they would be able to find out who would be willing to date them. They then decide to only ask out people who they know will say yes.

4. GOD INVITES ALL, BUT HEADHUNTS SOME

God removes the mist for all people.

Election #10.png

Once the mist is removed, some use their free-will to choose God. Some use their free-will to reject God. But some are chosen by God to come no matter what.

Election #11.png

In some ways, this is similar to what might happen in a workplace environment. Suppose there is a new branch opening up, and the boss invites all employees to be part of a start-up team. The employees have a choice as to whether they will stay or go. But there might be a few particular employees that the boss decides just have to go no matter what. He needs them in the team and they don’t get a choice in the matter.

Some cite the Apostle Paul as an example of this. Paul was actively rejecting Jesus, but then God chose Paul to be an Apostle, almost against his will.

5. FREE WILL TO TURN AWAY, BUT NOT TURN TO GOD

God only removes the mist for some. The Bible refers to these people as the ‘Elect’.

Election #12.png

Of those who can now see, some will choose to come to God. Some will choose to reject God.

Election #13.png

This is similar to what happens to Will Smith’s character ‘Jay’ in the movie ‘Men in Black’. At the beginning of the movie Jay is a police officer. ‘MIB’, a secret organization dedicated to putting alien criminals in prison, decide to reveal themselves to Jay and ask him to join. Jay then has to decide if he will choose to join MIB.

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