Does Our Choosing of God Take Away from His Glory?

I recently received an email from a reader asking this question.  I thought it would be worth sharing, as it comes up occasionally.  I’ve received permission to share our correspondence, but have removed the specifics for privacy.

[From the reader]
Hello was really hoping for some help.

I fell down the Calvinist rabbit hole and have been trying to get out. I sometimes sway back and forth between unconditional election and conditional. I have a question which has been really tough for me. How does us freely choosing God apart from his sovereign election not take away from his glory? Or doesn’t us choosing Christ and therefore choosing correctly give us something to boast about? Like we chose right everyone else chose wrong?

I’ve really been struggling with this and it seems safer to see salvation as a monergistic work of God, and I’m fearful to believe anything else is to steal glory that is owed to him. Please I would really appreciate some insight or help you could offer.

In our dear Lord and Savior,
[name redacted]

[My Reply]
Thanks for the email.  To specifically answer your question, I don’t think God allowing us to believe or not believe steals from his glory or causes boasting.

First, I think God deliberately created a world where people can make choices.  This is by his sovereign design.  He prefers to have genuine relationships – where people choose him.  CS Lewis said it like this:

“God has made it a rule for Himself that He won’t alter people’s character by force. He can and will alter them – but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power. Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn’t. But apparently He thinks it worth doing. He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else.”

Second, the very nature of faith precludes boasting about it.  Faith is knowing that I’m a sinner, and that my only hope is to trust in Jesus to save me.  The minute I start bragging it’s no longer faith.  It’s like the parable of the prayers of Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18).  The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like the tax collector, while the tax collector prayed “God have mercy on me a sinner.”  Jesus said the tax collector was the one who was justified.

In reality, I think holding to Limited Atonement can cause boasting.  Because the nature of monergistic election puts one in a special class where others are excluded. And this can cause pride.  Wesley said in describing the Calvinistic concept of grace that it naturally inspires contempt and coldness to those whom we suppose to be outcast from God.  I’ve seen this in some Calvinists (though certainly not all), and you probably have too.

I leaned towards Calvinism for a while too, but what brought me to Arminianism is that I think it best represents the character and heart of God.  If God loves the world and Jesus died for all, and monergism were true, then everyone would believe, because God would ensure it.

But since not everyone does believe, we must settle between God loving everyone and allowing people to to reject him, or that God doesn’t love all in a meaningful and eternal way.  To me, the most scriptural position and the position that best represents God’s character, is to believe that he loves everyone yet allows people to reject him.

Hope that helps and blessings!




Filed under Arminianism, Calvinism, questions

7 responses to “Does Our Choosing of God Take Away from His Glory?

  1. I am continually astonished that Calvinists cling desperately to this idea that God can’t in His sovereignty grant that men have free-will. It’s not as though that free-will will in any way challenge Him in His awesome almighty-ness. No matter who the person is, whether angel or man, all must fall on their faces before the Wonderful altogether powerful God Who created the heavens and earth. They will become aware of an awesomeness that is beyond imagination and will recognize their feeble minuteness before Him. If God decided to grant the ability to us of willing – either sin or obedience in His Spiritual power, or choosing to respond to Him after His awakening us to our desperate need, then who is man to pretend in his supposed logic that God can’t???

  2. colnunn1 said: “I am continually astonished that Calvinists cling desperately to this idea that God can’t in His sovereignty grant that men have free-will.”

    So am I.
    To me a God unable to grant that would be a far weaker God than the one who has revealed Himself and His gospel to us through the scriptures.

    A God, unable to grant freedom of choice to man, would not be truly sovereign.
    He gives man sufficient “free will” to allow man to choose to follow Him or not. To make it possible for Him to have a willing people and not an enforced people.

  3. A man gets himself into an enormous debt that he cannot repay and he faces debtors prison. A patron offers to pay it for him. Now a man may be a fool for declining the gift, but the man who accepts the gift hardly has anything to boast about, after all he got himself into debt in the first place.

  4. Imagine a man paddling his canoe along a river and hears a person on the bank call out to warn him that there is a waterfall around the next bend. The canoeist has a choice; to believe the person or reject his warning and go on happily. He then becomes aware of the sound of the waterfall and feels the current getting stronger. He tries to paddle for the river bank but can’t seem to overcome the current. The man on the bank is equipped for such situations and has a rope tied to a tree and throws the rope across the canoe. So the man in the canoe has another choice; either to keep struggling against the current, being determined to save himself, or to take hold of the rope and allow himself to be rescued. He grabs hold in desperation and is brought to shore and climbs out onto the river bank.
    This canoeist has made choices – firstly to believe the man on the bank, then to try to paddle clear of the current, then to realise that he can’t save himself, then to choose to take hold of the rope and finally to cling for dear life to the rope the rescuer has offered out of care, and kindness.
    I ask you, would this canoeist when on dry land make the silly and dishonest claim that he had saved himself, or would he be forever thankful to the man that had taken the trouble to warn and save him? Common sense and honesty must force him and us to conclude that he had no part in his rescue. Taking hold of the rope is not what saved him. It was simply his only resort if he was to be saved.
    So too, our taking hold by faith of the rope (salvation offered by Jesus through His death and resurrection) is the only possibility for our salvation and we have no right to make silly claims that to do so make us our own saviour. To push this nonsense that we have bragging rights to our own soul’s rescue because we respond to the warning, realize that we can’t save ourselves and take hold of the salvation offered, is a lie of Satan and those that make that claim are themselves clinging to doctrine rather than seeking truth.

  5. Adrian Gallagher

    This seems relevant to this discussion:

    Title: Does the Doctrine of the Divine Decrees Eliminate Human Will?:


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