Are people born unable to believe? If so, how does anyone come to faith?
As I work through these issues for an upcoming book examining “total depravity,” it might help to conceptualize the different answers given to explain how people who are born unable to believe can ever come to faith. Here are six options.
“People are born unable to believe, therefore…”
- Patristic: you need infant baptismal regeneration.
- Calvinist: regeneration precedes faith.
- Arminian: partial regeneration precedes faith.
- Wesleyan: gracious enablement precedes faith.
- Thiemer: the Holy Spirit acts as a substitute for the human spirit in the presentation of the gospel, enabling faith.
- Quaker: the Inner Light enlightens every man coming into the world, enabling them to believe.
Those are six possible answers. None of the answers are Biblically obvious to me, although I can see kernels of truth in #4 and #6, provided you explain them in a certain way (cf. John 1:9).
However, the deeper question is: what is the Biblical evidence for thinking that people are born unable to believe? That’s the big question I don’t see very many theologians asking. Instead, they seem to be working with old theological categories that stem from debates between Augustine and Pelagius. Theologians, even Evangelical ones, assume a debate between two Catholic monks should be normative for what Bible students should believe from Scripture.
As a staunch Biblicist, that’s something I’m simply unable to believe!