A question is often asked, “Why is one person saved and another not. Two people can hear the same gospel message and one repents and the other does not.” The question is then asked, “Why does one repent and the other not given the same set of circumstances?” The obvious inference in this question is what Calvinists consider to be the only plausible answer, “God effectually calls the one who repents and He does not extend that call to the one who does not.” This appears to be the only logical answer for the Calvinist. To try to argue differently, the most common retort is that one must elevate the individual’s choice above God’s choice and that is problematic for the Calvinist.
Understanding the implications of the argument, there is an interesting twist that really tosses the ball back into the Calvinist court in this argument. The same question can be asked about why one person who has been regenerated matures as a Christian and another does not. Why does one Christian stay on a milk diet while another matures to a meat diet. The same question can then be asked, “Why does one individual grow spiritually and walk with God while another does not?” Is God the One who decides who matures in his faith while another does not? It would seem that the only answer for the consistent Calvinist would be, “yes because God is sovereign He and He alone determines who does and does not grow spiritually just as He is the One who determines who is and who is not regenerated.” How can God be sovereign and deterministic in regeneration and not in sanctification?
If one argues that man’s choices are the determining factors in sanctification then why is it completely out of question that man is not equally responsible for his own choices concerning his conversion and regeneration?
I do not believe it is theologically conceivable to posit one position where regeneration is concerned and not extend the same theological postulate to sanctification as one ascribes to regeneration and vice versa. If God is solely responsible for one’s regeneration then why would He not be solely responsible for that person’s sanctification? It does not make sense that God would effectually call the lost to new life and then leave the quality of that life solely up to the new born spiritual babe.
Now on the other hand, if one is going to contend that sanctification is indeed synergistic and God’s response to us is in fact contingent on our choice in obedience to His Word then it would also seem theologically consistent to argue that God’s choice concerning my conversion would be also contingent on my choice with respect to my obedience to the revelation of His promises to me in His precious Word. It would certainly seem plausible from this perspective to suggest that God’s choice concerning my eternal destiny is in fact contingent on what I do with Jesus. It does not seem logically plausible to claim that regeneration is monergistic and sanctification is synergistic.
Sanctification is just as important a part of the salvific process as is justification. If one is synergistic then it would certainly seem feasible that other would be synergist and if one is monergistic then both justification and sanctification would be monergistic. It does not seem tenable to argue that regeneration is monergistic and sanctification is synergistic but that does appear to be the way Calvinism attempts to shape their theological position.
I do not see a Scriptural justification for the two differing views.
If conversion is synergistic, why does one person repent and believe and another not? The Calvinist position reduces this event to ONE moment in time. At the appointed time, God regenerates or “re-births” the elect individual. It is a predetermined or predestined choice made by God before the foundation of the world. This choice is made with no regard to anything the individual may or may not have done, including going to church, being raised up in a Christian home, or spending time reading the Word of God. These human efforts have no bearing on God’s choice in regeneration. The elect WILL be saved and that is the sole determining factor in who is saved.
I believe the Bible presents a very different picture of the salvific process. The answer to this question, “Why does one person repent and believe and another does not?” is rooted in the choices the two individuals have made in their lives and the reconciliatory work of the Holy Spirit in those individual’s hearts up to this point. Two people may hear the same gospel message on a given Sunday and one repent and another not; understand something, both made choices! One chose to repent and the other chose to reject. These choices at this one moment in time could well be more the result of where these two individuals have been and what they have been through to this point. Now this does not discount the immediate impact of the gospel message and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, but even the response to those influences can be the product of events that have taken place and decisions that have been made in the past that lead up to the choice to repent or reject the gospel message in any given moment.
I believe the Holy Spirit can work in a person’s heart long before he may hear a gospel message that may well change his eternal destiny. I believe the Holy Spirit most certainly goes before us on personal evangelistic opportunities. I believe the sum total of one’s decisions in the past help shape our decisions in the present and in the future. I believe it is very possible for me to harden their own hearts to the gospel message as they choose to reject the claims of Christ on their lives. When an individual says “no” to the gospel message and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, I believe it can get easier and easier to do so down the road. I believe sin has a very deceptive side to it. Since our sin does not kill us on the spot, I believe men develop a false sense of security and think, it’s not a big deal. These folks conclude they do not need Jesus when in reality He is the greatest need they have in their lives. I believe this is the key to the story of the rich you ng ruler who came to Jesus in Mark 10.
There is another factor I believe comes into play in answering the question, why does one repent and another reject the gospel invitation and I believe it involves a procrastinating mindset. I believe there are many who come under the convicting Word and work of the Holy Spirit and know they need to respond and repent but decide to wait. Procrastination is most certainly one of the major vices the devil uses to accomplish his goals.
In conclusion, I believe the overarching thrust of Scripture point to a synergistic approach to conversion as opposed to the monergistic approach touted by Calvinism. I believe a person’s response to the gospel is more times than not, a product of the choices that individual has made and the influences that have permeated that individual’s life. Even the first time hearer of the gospel who repents may do so because the Holy Spirit has been at work in the individual’s heart preparing him or her for this monumental moment in their life. One final comment. Revival is sweeping the world today because the gospel is being taken into places that have not been open to it in the past. Muslims and Hindu are coming to Christ in record numbers today because the gospel is more readily available today than it has been in past years and decades.
Is this a response to God’s efficacious call or a result and response to a more prolific proclamation of the gospel, which the Bible says is the power of God unto salvation to them who believe? I believe it the latter and I pray for a continued out pouring of the Holy Spirit into the dark places of the world where the gospel is penetrating the hearts and lives of people groups all over the world.