Throughout history, within the Evangelical Protestant Church, the topics of salvation, election and the mechanisms by which God brings individuals to Him have been crucial. Historically, three primary viewpoints — Reformed, Arminian, and Molinism — have dominated discussions regarding the balance of divine sovereignty and human free will.
Reformed theology, deeply rooted in the teachings of John Calvin and Augustinian doctrines, adopts a monergistic approach. This viewpoint asserts God as the sole initiator and finisher of salvation, negating any contribution from human free will. Denominations such as Orthodox Presbyterian, historic Lutheranism, and other Reformed denominations align with this perspective.
Conversely, Arminian theology supports a synergistic viewpoint where divine grace and human free will collaborate, allowing the individual to choose salvation. This approach is prominent among Methodists and classical Pentecostal denominations, underlining cooperation between divine and human will in the process of salvation.
Molinism, conceptualized by Luis de Molina in the 16th century, introduces the idea of God’s middle knowledge, where He knows every possible choice free creatures might make. Molinism harmonizes divine sovereignty and human free will by proposing that God actualizes a world aligning with His providential plans through creatures’ free decisions. This theological stance, resonating with some Lutheran expressions, has gained modern popularity through theologians like William Lane Craig.
Despite differing opinions on divine sovereignty and human free will, there’s common ground: God initiates the drawing of people to salvation. This truth is echoed in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Knowing how God draws people is crucial for effective prayers and Gospel propagation.
1. Through the preached Word
The preached word stands as a pivotal medium by which God draws people. The indispensability of preaching is underscored in Romans 10:14-15, emphasizing hearing the word in fostering faith (Romans 10:17). Thus, the church must prioritize mission and gospel proclamation.
2. Through the Holy Spirit
John illustrates the role of the Spirit in drawing people by bearing witness to Jesus (1 John 5:6-9). The Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, thus playing a vital role in human experience and divine drawing (John 16:8).
3. Through Prevenient Grace
Prevenient grace, a grace preceding human decision, empowers individuals to choose salvation. This Arminian concept implies that humanity, though fallen, has received enabling grace to respond to the Gospel freely. Although every human experiences a degree of prevenient grace, they can reject it and remain unregenerate (which is contrasted with the Reformed view regarding irresistible grace).
4. Through Circumstances
God often utilizes circumstances or crises to draw people, as seen in the conversion of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16). Whether through witnessing miracles or experiencing crises, numerous individuals find faith in such instances.
5. Through witnessing a miracle
The early church saw many conversions through witnessed miracles, illustrating the power of the resurrected Jesus (John 20:30-31; Acts 4:33). Observationally, witnessing divine interventions often brings individuals and entire families to faith.
6. Through answered prayers
The story of Cornelius reveals God’s responsiveness to the sincere prayers of the unsaved, leading them to salvation (Acts 10). Personal experiences often echo this, where circumstantial miracles and divine revelations guide sincere seekers to Christ.
7. Through godly parents
Parental spiritual guidance is emphasized in scriptures like Psalm 78:1-4 and Deuteronomy 6:6-9. The perpetuation of faith across generations is vital, as seen in the Pentecost message, emphasizing the role of faith continuity within families (Acts 2:39).
8. Through personal supernatural encounters with God
Personal supernatural encounters serve as another profound way God draws individuals to Himself. These divine encounters illuminate and clarify the path to salvation for those earnestly seeking the truth. It is common to hear of individuals, including those of the Muslim faith, who have experienced unique, sometimes audible, communications from God that have led them to believe in Jesus Christ. Many conversions to Christianity have been documented globally, with testimonials citing varied reasons such as divine revelations, dreams, exposure to Christian teachings, and influence from Christian relationships. These accounts, sourced from religious organizations, missionaries, and personal testimonies, confirm this ongoing spiritual transformation within diverse communities worldwide.
9. Through the beauty of nature
Scriptures like Psalm 19 and Romans 1:19-21 articulate the revelation of God’s glory, power, and divine nature through the intricate beauty and order of the natural world, leaving humanity without excuse. The grandeur and symmetry observed in nature have sparked spiritual awakenings in many, including proclaimed atheists, leading them to acknowledge and embrace Christ. The inherent beauty and intricate laws governing the natural world serve as silent yet powerful testaments to God’s existence and attributes, drawing individuals to explore and eventually accept the truths of Christianity.
In summary, each theological perspective brings nuanced understandings of divine and human interactions in salvation. Acknowledging the diverse ways God draws people enables believers to be more insightful and effective in their prayers and Gospel-sharing efforts.
This acknowledgment inspires a renewed commitment to sharing the transformative message of the Gospel, fulfilling the Great Commission with wisdom and love.
Dr. Joseph Mattera is an internationally-known author, consultant, and theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence culture. He is the founding pastor of Resurrection Church, and leads several organizations, including The U.S. Coalition of Apostolic Leaders and Christ Covenant Coalition.
To order his books or to join the many thousands who subscribe to his newsletter, go to josephmattera.org
Free Religious Freedom Updates
Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.