Calvinists are notorious for asking the unsuspecting believer, “Why did you believe in Christ and someone else does not; are you smarter, or more praiseworthy in some way?” What the Calvinist and likely the target of his inquiry often do not understand is that the question itself is a fallacy known as “Question Begging.” (or more specifically “plurium interrogationum” or “Complex Question”)
Begging the question is a debate tactic where your opponent presumes true the very point up for debate. For instance, if the issue being disputed was whether or not you cheat on your taxes and I began the discussion by asking you, “Have you stopped cheating on your taxes yet?” I would be begging the question.
Likewise, in the case of the Calvinist asking “Why did you made this choice,” he is presuming a deterministic response is necessary thus beginning the discussion with a circular and often confounding game of question begging. The inquiry as to what determines the choice of a free will presumes something other than the free function of the agent’s will makes the determination, thus denying the very mystery of what makes the will free and not determined.
The cause of a choice is the chooser. The cause of a determination is the determiner. It is not an undetermined determination, or an unchosen choice, as some attempt to frame it. If someone has an issue with this simply apply the same principle to the question, “Why did God choose to create mankind?” He is obviously all self-sustaining and self-sufficient. He does not need us to exist. Therefore, certainly no one would suggest God was not free to refrain from creating humanity. So, what determined God’s choice to create if not the mysterious function of His free will?
In short, whether one appeals to mystery regarding the function of man’s will or the function of the Divine will, we all eventually appeal to mystery. Why not appeal to mystery BEFORE drawing conclusions that could in any way impugn the holiness of God by suggesting He had something to do with determining the nature, desire and thus evil choices of His creatures?
What also must be noted is that the decision to trust in Christ for our salvation is not a meritorious work. Asking for forgiveness does not merit being forgiven. Think of it this way. Did the prodigal son earn, merit or in any way deserve the reception of his father on the basis that he humbly returned home? Of course not. He deserve to be punished, not rewarded. The acceptance of his father was a choice of the father alone and it was ALL OF GRACE. The father did not have to forgive, restore and throw a party for his son on the basis that he chose to come home. That was the father’s doing.
Humiliation and brokenness is not considered “better” or “praiseworthy” and it certainly is not inherently valuable. The only thing that makes this quality “desirable” is that God has chosen to grace those who humble themselves, something He is in no way obligated to do. God gives grace to the humble not because a humble response deserves salvation, but because He is gracious.
Calvinists often conflate man’s choice to confess with God’s choice to forgive while labeling it all “salvation.” They go on to convincingly argue that God is “sovereign over salvation” which actually means “God controls man’s choice to confess and His own choice to forgive.” It’s difficult to argue with someone who is making the case that God is “in control of salvation” and is “the One who gets all credit for salvation,” but that difficulty only exists due to the conflating of man’s responsibility to believe/confess with God’s gracious choice to save whosoever does so. Of course Salvation is all of God, but that is distinct from man’s responsibility to humbly trust in Him for salvation.
Clearly scripture calls us to humility and there is nothing which suggests we cannot respond in humility when confronted by the powerful clear revelation of God’s convicting life-giving truth through the law and the gospel:
1 Peter 5:5-6: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Isaiah 66:2: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.
James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
2 Kings 22:19: “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.”
2 Chronicles 12:7: When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak.
2 Chronicles 12:12: Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed.
Psalm 18:27: You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
Psalm 25:9: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
Psalm 147:6: The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.
Proverbs 3:34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
Zephaniah 2:3: Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
Matthew 18:4: Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 23:12: For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Luke 1:52: He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
Luke 14:11: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:14: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
James 4:6: But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
If you will not humble yourselves, God will humble you in judgment.
- The lost man’s inability to seek God does not equal the inability to respond to a God who is actively seeking to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
- The lost man’s inability to save himself does not equal the inability to respond to God’s gracious and powerful appeal for all the lost to repent and believe. (Col. 1:23)
- The lost man’s inability to attain righteousness by pursuing it through works does not equal the inability to attain righteousness by pursuing it through faith. (Rom. 9:30-32)
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. – The Apostle Paul