This is a question I sometimes get from Calvinists. They ask, “Why does one person believe in Jesus and not the other?” The short answer to the question is: One person chose to believe and the other did not choose to.
Now, let’s take a look at the question and flesh it out a bit. The root problem is that the question is posed from a deterministic framework, and assumes the answer. In effect, the questioner is asking, “What necessitates a choice that is not necessitated?” Arminians reject the assumption of the question. Through the drawing of Jesus, each person is given the capability to make the choice to believe. Because of God’s grace, any person and every person can chose to believe. There is nothing in the person or in his experiences that necessitates him choosing one way or the other.
This is what makes us responsible to God. A person is accountable for what he does when he has the ability to do it, or to do otherwise. I can’t demand that my son flap his arms and fly, and then punish him for not flying. That would be unjust. Similarly, if a puppet pulls out a gun and shoots someone in the audience, the puppet is not accountable for his action, the guy pulling the strings is. The puppet can’t do anything other than what he has been determined to do. Only the ability to make genuine choices is what makes us accountable to God. And this is what Calvinists misses.
Everyone innately understands who God is, because God has revealed himself to everyone. Paul writes that God has shown himself to everyone, that he has made his nature plain to us, and that we understand who he is. It is for this reason we are without excuse (Romans 1). Paul also writes that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to everyone (Titus 2). And John tells us that Jesus is in the process of drawing everyone to himself (John 12). So we have an understanding of who God is, we have an innate desire1 to seek him, his salvation has appeared to us, and he is drawing all of us. That is why the conscious rejection of Jesus is such a serious matter. Because we can do otherwise.
1This post has also been translated to Portuguese. You can find it here: Por que uma Pessoa Crê em Jesus e Outra Não? The person who translated it had a concern that the phrase “we have an innate desire to seek him” might be interpreted by some to be a denial of “Total Depravity” (which I do hold to). Here is my clarification to her: Hi Gloria, Thanks for translating the post, I’m excited that you are sharing it with others! What I mean by “innate desire” is not that the non-believer has an ability to seek God, but rather that that the non-believer has a need that only God can fill. Before believing each one of us has an empty place in our heart, and this emptiness can only be filled by God. When he draws us through grace, we realize that we need him and that he will replace our emptiness with joy. C.S. Lewis stated it like this: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” I hope that helps! Thanks again for the translation, and God bless!