Shawn, in recently countering Calvinism, you mentioned man has the “ability to believe or not believe”. I agree with this, however it conflicts with GES’ normal position that “believing is passive”. Bob often says “one either believes or he does not” and this not by decision of his will. If man does not “decide to believe”, then how does one get saved unless it’s by an irresistible granting of faith by God? Thus you are right back to Calvinism as far as I can tell. What say you?
Thanks for the question.
In saying we having the ability to believe or not to believe, I mean there is nothing inherent in our nature that prevents us from believing the saving message. We are not totally unable to believe. We do not need to be regenerate before we can come to faith.
To be more specific, when I say we are free to believe, I mean two things—
First, everyone is persuadable. The Calvinist (and the Lutheran) would say only the elect are persuadable (because of Total Inability). There’s no use presenting evidence to the non-elect. Nothing could persuade them. Their depraved natures prevent it. I think everyone is persuadable. God loves all (John 3:16), gives light to all (John 1:9), and draws all (John 12:32).
Second, everyone can seek the truth, pursue more evidence, better arguments, and otherwise “grope after God” (Acts 17:27). Calvinists would deny that unbelievers can do that without being regenerated first—or at least without God predestining them to grope in that way.
However, the act of faith itself—that ‘aha’ moment of coming to believe in Jesus—is not a decision of the will. It comes when you become persuaded. It makes no sense to me to say that we choose our beliefs. I can’t just choose to believe that I’m a dinosaur. I can imagine that (as I do, when playing with my son), but I can’t choose to believe it, and then choose to believe I’m sitting here typing at this computer. Those beliefs are passive. They come when we are persuaded of the evidence. That is passive. But being open to the evidence, and seeking out the truth, is active.
I hope that helps.