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,
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!