It is a question that has divided Christians for a long time. The Calvinists on one side claim that God picks and chooses whom ever He fancies and there is nothing we can do about it. The Armenians on the other hand claim that whoever chooses God will be saved. The Bible clearly suggests both. Is this a contradiction? Perhaps we just need to bring the question down to our level.
Imagine I am a human with the ability to create and transform creatures. Imagine also that when I transform one creature into another it still holds many of the characteristics of the old creature. Also imagine that my ultimate goal, is to create creatures like myself that I can love.
This is where the analogy gets ugly…
Now imagine that I have created a bunch of special rats that I want to make into humans. (My son keeps a pet rat; believe it or not, they are quite loving.) I have endowed these rats with self awareness and free-will. Each rat is unique. Some are strong and aggressive. Some are weak and timid. Even with these highly advanced rats, I observe a pecking order. The stronger are the first to eat; they tend to abuse the smaller ones. The weak tend to be abused by the rest. I created these differences because I am more interested in their heart than their bodies. Since my purpose is to love on these creatures, I am looking for those that would return my love. Because they do not understand my purpose, I give them a simple rule, “Share your food so that all can eat.” As I watch them interact, some of them begin sharing with the weaker rats. Others continue in their abusive ways. Still others, seem to be enforcing the rule upon the rest of the rats without sharing themself.
After watching them for some time, none of them have evolved into humans. They cannot. They are just advanced rats. However, I have noticed several that I want to share my gift with. One by one I pick them up and breathe on them. Immediately, they are transformed into humans like me.
Slowly they begin to realize what has happened to them. They are so excited, but then they notice the remaining rats going about their routines. Eventually, they inquire what will happen to the other rats. I inform them, that they will eventually be destroyed. I then ask each to return to the rat world to teach more creatures about love. One by one, I recast them to look like rats, but really they are humans in rat bodies. As they scurry off on their mission, they hold a secret that the other rats cannot fathom. They will speak of it plainly, but the other rats cannot comprehend fully what they are saying. Only I can truly reveal what it means to be like me.
In much the same way, God is about his work of shaping man into his image. He is watching over the human population. He is testing the hearts of men and revealing himself and transforming those he chooses. There is no knowledge, action, words, or affiliation that can dictate our adoption. Likewise, there is nothing than can withhold us from God’s gift if he chooses to bestow it. Yet as he bestows his gift, he commands that those adopted ones, tell others of what is available. So free will is a necessity for God to test our hearts, but our choice is never adequate. Only God’s election can complete the process that he intends for us.