It must be understood that men are free to make decisions or choices that fall within the boundaries of their abilities. A man cannot safely step off a third story balcony. An individual cannot of his own free will just walk into a bank a pauper and walk out a wealthy man, not legally. Free will is obviously limited to a set of predetermined parameters. Conversion is no exception. Individuals are not able on their own to gain right standing before God, which is a definition of conversion. Right standing is freely granted by God to those He has promised that right standing to. This right standing cannot be earned nor is it ever granted to someone because they deserve it. So if God is sovereign over all things, and He is, does man have free will to choose to be saved or does God make that choice for him?
It must be understood that even in framing the latter question, the Calvinist position contends God changes man’s heart so that he willingly and wonderfully chooses to repent and by faith accepts God’s offer to be saved. So, conversion is the result of man’s free will choice to come to Christ. He simply does what God effectually has called him to do.
What about the non-Calvinist perspective? How does the perspective of man’s free will frame itself against the sovereignty of God and still maintain its Scriptural integrity? One must keep this one overriding principle in mind: man’s decisions and choices are made within a prescribed framework. Calvinists limit man’s choices to his sinful nature. If one were to limit man’s choices to the parameters God in His sovereignty sets, then things change drastically. The Scriptures teach that God offers His provisions to those who are obedient by faith to the promises found written in His Word. He leaves the choice to choose to the individual and He blesses those who respond positively to His promises and He punishes those who respond negatively to His promises. This is true in this life and it is true in the life to come. It would seem consistent with the tenets of Scripture that God blesses those who follow Him by faith and that is true because He has divinely chosen this way to be the determining factor for the quality of life that men enjoy.
This does in fact seems to be the basis for the covenant aspect of both the Old and New Testaments. God made the declaration that He wanted to be God to the children of Israel and He wanted them to be His covenant people. He gave men the law and He promised to bless those who kept that Law. It does not appear that He gave the Law and had some predetermined plan as to what select individuals would and would not keep His Law and those were the ones He would bless and those He never planned to bless in the first place would be the ones who did not and could not keep His Law. God’s sovereign choice was subject to men’s choice. He chose to bless those that followed Him. It should also be noted that those who chose to follow Him one day were the very same ones who refused to follow Him the next. This is very problematic for the concept of regeneration in the Old Testament and even a consistent concept of unconditional election as well.
So what about man’s conversion? Is God in complete control of who is and is not saved or is man in complete control of His conversion? The answer to both of those questions is yes and no. God is completely and totally in control of who is and who is not saved. He is the One who gave His Son to pay the penalty for the sins of the world. He is the One who has set the parameters for the provisions that would be made available to those who would be saved by the blood shed at Calvary. Man had no say in any of these matters. God alone set those parameters. Now remember, man is a free moral agent and is only able to choose among the parameters that have been pre-set and predetermined, not by his sinful nature but in this case by God Himself. Man has no say in the parameters of the provisions; he is only free to choose from the choices that are set before Him by God.
So in this sense, God is 100% sovereign and man 100% responsible for his eternal destiny because his destiny is determined by his decisions made in this life concerning the provisions and promises of Christ on the cross on his behalf. Man is not free to choose outside those parameters set for him by God where his conversion is concerned. If he does not choose the right choice given to Him by God, his conversion will not take place and he will never have right standing and right thinking so right living will never be possible.
Man’s choice is his to make given the parameters God Himself has set for him.