I'll try to make this brief. First of all, your website has been a blessing to me because you have very sanely and intelligently argued that we do indeed have free will to choose salvation, which I want to believe. While looking at Bible studies online a few months ago I came across some articles in support of Calvinism and I have been in misery ever since. I want to be a Christian but I have this nagging feeling that God doesn't love me and doesn't want me to be saved. Do you think that's just Satan talking? And do you think that if I ask God to show me the truth and help me believe it, He will? Salvation just seems too simple and too good to be true. It seems so dark right now, and I feel alone and helpless and can't imagine ever being happy again if I don't get all this settled. Any advice or scripture you could offer would be appreciated.
My response is in Green:
Thank you for writing me. I will try to help you. I think you have found the flaw in Calvinism, or at least the reason I don't believe it. If you believe that God decides who will get to heaven and who will suffer for eternity in hell, then what you are saying is that God loves some people but not others. Not because of anything about that person, but because He chooses to love some and not others. That is not the God that I personally know and whose words I read daily. That is not the God that claims to love everyone and who claims that He does not want anyone to perish.
But so far I have done nothing but give my opinion, so now let me let God speak for Himself.
First let me start with what God says about Himself:
(Numbers 23:19 NIV) God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
(Hebrews 13:8 NIV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Notice that God does not change. So let's see what He has said and we can know that He has not changed:
(Ezekiel 18:23 NIV) Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
This would be a ridicules statement if God were the one to choose who lived and who died and nothing they did made any difference. The following passage would also be ridicules:
(Amos 4:6-10 NIV)  "I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD.  "I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up.  People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD.  "Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD.  "I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD."
If God chooses and not man, then it would make no difference that God gave them empty stomachs, etc... This passage shows how God calls and draws people back to Him, yet if you believe Calvinism that makes no sense at all.
(Matthew 23:37 NIV) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." Jesus clearly says in this passage that the people themselves made the decision, that He had longed to gather them, but they were not willing. Again that is a ridicules statement if God is the one who chooses.
(Joshua 24:14-15 NIV)  "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." This passage is just a cruel joke unless the people really had a choice in the matter.
(Ezekiel 18:30-32 NIV)  "Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.  Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!"
(Ezekiel 33:10-11 NIV)  "Son of man, say to the house of Israel, 'This is what you are saying: "Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?"'  Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'
Again if man has no choice in the matter at all then God must be lying in these two passages because He declares that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn and live.
Here is another thing to think about. Why didn't Jonah want to go to Nineveh? He did not want to go because he knew that if they repented God would forgive them. Or in other words he knew that they had free will and could choose to repent and God would forgive them. (Jonah 4:1-2 NIV)  But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.  He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."
Let's see what God says about who He loves:
(Proverbs 8:17 NIV) I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. This passage shows choice, because love is a choice. God says He loves those who love Him, not just those He has chosen to love.
(John 3:16-18 NIV)  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
Now Calvinist will try to construe that passage so that it means that God loves the elect, but that is not what it says. It says that God loves the world. You said you have a nagging feeling that God doesn't love you and does not want you to be saved. I hope I have already shown you that He does love you, but I want to go even farther and show you, how I know He wants you to be saved.
Jesus made a statement that impacts this idea: (John 6:44 NIV) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
A Calvinist might say, see that means that God chooses, but I think it shows just the opposite. Let me try to explain. You are worried that God might not love you and therefore you might not be able to be saved. Why are you worried? If God chooses and you have nothing to do with it, then you would not even care. The very fact that you want God to love you and want to be saved proves that God has indeed drawn you. If He had not, you would not care one way or the other.
Now that is fine for you, since you have these feelings, but what about those who don't want to be saved? Has God drawn them too or has He not loved them and drawn them? This comes down to the idea of God choosing some and rejecting others.
I think we can get our answer by looking at Jewish tradition. Jesus called Himself our Bridegroom. That might not mean a whole lot to us, but it meant a lot to the Jewish people. You should look at the Jewish wedding ceremony, it is beautiful. The Bridegroom holds up a cup of wine to his Bride. This is his offer of marriage. The Bride cannot make him offer it, she has to wait until he chooses to offer it to her. Once the Bridegroom holds out the cup of wine it is up to the Bride if she takes it or not. If she takes the cup, she is saying she wants to be his wife, if she does not take the cup she is rejecting his offer. Christ is holding out the cup of salvation to us, but it is up to us to either choose to take it or reject it. Yes He has chosen us, we cannot make Him hold out that cup, but He has held it out to all the world, and now it is up to the world to either take it or reject it.
Those that take the cup have accepted what He offered to them, but in a very real sense He choose them, because He held out the cup by His own love and grace. Take the cup and rejoice in your Bridegroom, He is hold the cup out for you, you just need to come in faith and humility admitting that you are a sinner in need of a Savior.
I hope that helps put your mind at ease. I do think that Satan is the one who is causing you to have doubts. Praise God that He is faithful and that we can believe and trust His word!! I do believe that if you ask God He will reveal the truth to you. I believe that we already have the truth in His word, we just need to read it and be open to what it says.
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)