R. C. Sproul comments, “From all eternity, without any prior view of our human behavior, God has chosen some unto election and others unto reprobation. The ultimate destiny of the individual is decided by God before that individual is even born and without depending ultimately upon the human choice. . . . A human choice is made, . . . but the choice is made because God first chooses to influence the elect to make the right choice.” Boice and Ryken: “…if we have a part in salvation, however small, then our love for God is diminished by just that amount. If it is all of God, then our love for him must be boundless. Reformed thinkers are convinced that the only way for God to receive all the glory is to be the only active agent on His objects of grace.
– Lanny Wilson, excerpts from The Metaphysical Implications of Unconditional Election
I like Mr. Wilson’s paper in general. I chose the excerpts above to represent a concise statement of a problem with total depravity: Reformed theology rejects man’s ability to choose to believe unto salvation because it diminishes God’s glory. The moment a man should act it would then be by that much action that God is not acting. According to Reformed theology, God must first give man the ability to believe and then he is able to exercise faith. My problem is this: man is still acting so God’s glory would still be diminished. The Reformed theologian says that since God is the author of man’s new ability through regeneration, then God gets the credit for it.
The reason why I believe a Reformed theologian and I will never be reconciled on this is because the argument becomes impossibly subjective at about this point. It does not bother him that man is acting, even though it is by God’s power. I have not seen Scripture offered by a Reformed theologian regarding this yet; I have only seen a philosophy. Reformed theology makes an argument in which they can aver anything as long as the argument seems consistent. If man acts by God’s power, it doesn’t diminish God’s glory. Yet if man acts at all, it does. It seems to me that the generalization of any of man’s action being unacceptable would exclude him being able to do so even if it is by the power of God.
This reminds me of an argument from the Jehovah’s Witnesses about Christ sharing God’s glory and worship: God is a jealous God Who will share His glory with no one, but it is alright to worship Christ because God shares His glory with Him.
The only way around this seems to be that man is not even really choosing to believe even with the power of God; it is really God doing it. Of course this would belie the reality of all kinds of people exercising faith in the Scriptures. All the apparent times people choose or told they must choose Christ lie alongside an alternate invisible universe where it is really God doing all the believing through us.