One of our battles with the world involves free will, sovereignty, and human depravity. Our position on these matters radically affects our evangelism. As a Reformed Presbyterian, I am a Calvinist. I believe, with the Bible, in the absolute sovereignty of God over all things including salvation. I also hold to the biblical doctrines of total depravity and total inability. Human beings are unable to take any proper steps toward God because of their moral inability. They cannot come to Christ because they will not come to Christ. “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:7). Lost souls are ill-disposed to Christ. They are hostile to God. They are inclined to do evil. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5). This is the truth of God.
On the other hand, as human beings, we are “free moral agents.” We make a myriad of choices each day. As we do so, we freely act according to our own nature. We never act contrary to our nature. In the physical realm, we cannot mount up with wings as eagles. We are not eagles; we do not have wings. The only way we can actually fly is by boarding an airplane. It is the same in the moral realm. Because we are fallen creatures, we never take any spiritual step toward God by our own power. Does this mean our freedom is limited? Of course! This is nothing new. We are free. We are not autonomous. Only God is autonomous.
Because this biblical view is decidedly undemocratic, most Christians reject it. They tenaciously hold to elusive freedom. They claim a certain reservoir of innate ability for themselves. After all, it is unjust of God not to allow freedom of choice. Right? Our vaunted freedom, autonomy, displaces both divine sovereignty and human depravity. We deny the sovereign choices of God in salvation. We deny the depth of human inability. We frame all our discussions of God in terms of this secular notion of freedom and autonomy.
This profoundly affects our evangelism. If we insist people have the freedom to choose Christ, we tell them the choice is theirs. If they fail to make the right choice, perdition awaits. It is all in their hands. Modern evangelism often frames the message this way. What are the results? First, pride is at the door. I can boast about my right choice. Second, this approach to evangelism undermines assurance. If salvation rests upon my right choice, I can undo that choice. I can walk away from Christ. Third, if salvation rests upon my right choice, my assurance rests upon how I feel about this choice. Assurance becomes subjective. It is bound up in my feelings not how I live. Fourth, if my right choice is the real basis for my salvation, I am Pharisee. My salvation is based on human righteousness, my right actions.
If an unbeliever carefully thinks through these points, really thinks it is within his or her spiritual power to make a righteous choice for Christ, and then self-consciously bases his or her salvation upon this right choice so there is boasting about it, if a person decides for Christ on this basis, this person is not a Christian. A bold statement? I’ve tried to frame it so you can see how the position just outlined blatantly contradicts the Word of God (Ephesians 2:8-10).