I (BogRaphy) had the following correspondence with a Christian on how a person comes to (believe in) Christ (In the dialogue, O.C. refers to “Other Christian”):
BogRaphy: Do you agree that the Bible teaches that there is no merit in coming to faith in Christ?
O.C. Yes, but the person still has to decide to come to Christ. He/she can refuse the offer if he/she chooses.
Bography: So, would it be correct to infer that those who decide to accept Christ’s free gift deserve salvation and those who reject it deserve damnation?
O.C. No, I am not saying that the one deserves and the other does not deserve, because otherwise it would be saying that the one person merits salvation and the other doesn’t.
Bography: So are you saying that a person cannot merit salvation because that would make him/her better, and no one, in your view should be regarded as better, because that would be an occasion to boast?
Bography: So, no one merits salvation, no one deserves salvation, but those who say yes to Christ are saved.
Bography: So, salvation lies in saying “yes”. And If you say no you are damned.
The upshot of this view of how one come to Christ– a view shared by most Christians – is this:
When they read: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44)” they understand it to mean that nobody has the ability to come to Christ unless God draws him, but this doesn’t mean that all who are drawn necessarily believe. No. It means that God enables us to come to him. We need his grace to come to Him; that is indisputable. If, however, people were totally depraved, nobody would be able to believe – to say yes to God. The god of Augustine who provides grace only to some so that others have no opportunity to be saved, who bypasses our choices is not, they assert, the God of the Bible. And such a god never has been and never will be the God of the Bible.
A major reason why many hate the doctrine of radical corruption – there’s a flower growing out of the coffin of the dead soul – is because this doctrine of “dead in sin” implies that a person has absolutely no part in salvation, because he is dead; and they WILL not have that! They believe that a person can come to Christ if they desire. But here is the problem, as Charles Spurgeon explains:
“The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ. You reply, that men sometimes are willing, without the help of the Holy Spirit. I answer-Did you ever meet with any person who was? Scores and hundreds, nay, thousands of Christians have I conversed with, of different opinions, young and old, but it has never been my lot to meet with one who could affirm that he came to Christ of himself, without being drawn. The universal confession of all true believers is this-“I know that unless Jesus Christ had sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God, I would to this very hour have been wandering far from him, at a distance from him, and loving that distance well.” With common consent, all believers affirm the truth, that men will not come to Christ till the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them.”(End of Spurgeon).
Many Christians will say: “yes, God draws those who are saved, but he also draws everybody else. Some say yes some say no. In other words some dead people after they have been raised from the dead say yes, other dead people after they are raised from the dead say no, and fall back into their coffins. Maybe tomorrow or when I’m old, whenever God raises me from the dead again – he never gives up on me – I might change my mind.”
I want to return to the dialogue between another Christian and myself (above). O.C. said: All you have to say is “yes.” That little, teeny weeny affirmative blink makes all the difference between eternal life and and the horrors of eternal damnation. It all hangs by the thinnest of blinks. If, however, you look below the surface of that blink, you will find an inner roiling, writhing determination to let man be man.
What is the most unhuman (unlike man) – many would say, “inhuman” – passage in the Bible: Romans 9:
13. As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14. What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15. For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16. So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. 17. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18. So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. 19. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20. But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is moulded say to its milder, “Why have you made me thus?” 21. Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? 22. What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, 23. in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, 24. even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
God is a God of love, everyone agrees, but what many – including Christians – find hateful is a God who hates, a God of wrath and vengeance. if you hate such a God, you don’t understand the God of the Bible – the Older and the Newer Testaments. Without wrath, there would be no Cross.