The following is only a few portions of a conversation I had with someone who believes in Predestination. The complete conversation would not make any sense because of the way the back and forth debate went. However, I felt that there were points of the debate that might be interesting and have therefore placed them here.
The natural man is totally depraved and dead in sin and is incapable of "making a decision" for Christ. Man does indeed need to be rengenerated first, but I don't agree that I have to throw a lot of scripture out to prove this. The truth is that everything you quote from scripture that shows that man must "choose" or "repent" or "believe" is indeed a command to everyone everywhere. But, here again is the tension. I read in numerous places where God clearly chooses Whom He will save, but then we read where man is responsible. How can this be? I humbly proclaim "I don't know".
My response is in Green:
Let me address sovereignty here for a moment. I have always wondered about people who believe in predestination on the basis that God is sovereign and therefore man cannot have a choice. I am not trying to put words in your mouth, but this is the point I see most often given for predestination; that if man were allowed to have a choice that would take God's sovereignty away. My problem with that line of thinking is that the person is taking a certain amount of God sovereignty away by believing that. Here is what I mean. If God is totally sovereign, why can't He in His sovereignty decide that He wants to give man a choice? To say He cannot make that decision is to say that there are limits on what He can do, or in other words limits on His sovereignty. I am not trying to argue the point, just point out that the whole idea that predestination is based on God's sovereignty is misplaced. As I said before, If God chooses to pick who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, He sure can do that, but I think He also has the ability in His sovereignty to choose to allow man to have a choice. Would you agree in theory? I am not trying to get you to agree that He has made that choice, but rather that He is able to make that choice if He so chose.
You say there is a tension between people being called to make a decision and Jesus saying that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them. I don't personally see any tension at all between the two. The tension for me only comes if I believe that if God draws someone they have no choice to resist that drawing. To say someone has a choice and then say that they can only and will always choose one option is to say they have no choice!!
I don't know if you are familiar with the Jewish wedding ceremony as it was in Jesus' day. I am certainly no expert on this, but I have studied it and even seen an example of it done in church. Let me set the stage for why I think this is important. Jesus often used statements which would have made the people listening to Him think about the marriage ceremony. He is called our Bridegroom and we are His bride. He mentioned that He was going to prepare a place for us and would come back to get us and take us there. He even said that it was only known to the Father when the time of His return was. There are more, but those will do for now.
Let me try to explain the Jewish marriage ceremony and you will see those things I just spoke about. The father of the bridegroom pours a glass of wine and gives it to his son. The son can't take it upon himself to pour the glass of wine, the father must do it and then give it to the son. I see this as God the Father drawing the sinner. The son then takes the glass of wine and turns toward the bride. He says some words that I don't recall off hand, but basically are a marriage proposal. He then holds the cup of wine up and out towards the bride. This is his offer of marriage. The bride cannot force him to hold the cup out and until he does there is no offer of marriage. Once the bridegroom holds the up out, the bride has to decide if she wants to accept it or not. If she turns and does not take the cup, there is no marriage. If she reaches out and takes the cup, she is agreeing to be his wife.
If the bride takes the cup, then they are marriage, but they don't go off on a honeymoon. The bride goes back to her father's house and waits on the bridegroom. The bridegroom goes back to his father's house and starts to build an addition onto it. This addition is where he will live with his bride. He is preparing a place for her. He is not the one who decides when it is finished. The father is the one who will finally decide that the addition is up to his standards and he will tell the son to go get his bride.
This is why the bride must be watching for her bridegroom. She has no idea when, what day or what hour he will come for her. He may come at midnight or at noon or any other time that his fathers says go.
This is a beautiful picture of salvation. God the Father must draw us, or bring us to the marriage offer. We can't just come on our own, anymore than a girl can just come to a man and have him offer marriage. Jesus through His shed blood (the cup of wine) offers us marriage (salvation). He chooses us, but we have to make a decision as to whether we want to accept His offer of marriage or not.
He can say that He chose us, yet He gives us a chance to say yes or no. There is no tension, there is no diminishing of His sovereignty.
There are many verses which show this very thing. Jesus said that He stands at the door and knocks and if anyone will open the door He will come in. We can't force Him to come to the door and knock, He chooses to do so, but we have to decide to either open the door or refuse to open it. He does not say that He has the key and will come in whether we want Him to or not.
(Revelation 3:20 NIV) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
This passage again shows choice.
I'm not sure what that passage shows, but your interpretation seems to cast Jesus as some poor fellow begging people to open the door as if His plans can be thwarted if no one opens the door. If you are right about his passage what do you think if NOBODY ever opened the door? is this scenario possible? What if, according to your thinking God gives unregenerate man the ability to choose Christ and NOBODY ever does? No one is going to heaven and Jesus died for nothing. That would mean that God sent His Son to die for... no body.
I am sorry but that is ridiculous reasoning. For one it limits God's foreknowledge. The Bible tells us that Jesus was the perfect Lamb before the creation of the world. Meaning that it was God's plan of salvation for Jesus to die for our sins even before He created us. Why? Because He knew we would sin, He also knew who would accept His free gift of salvation, so there was never any doubt that there would be people who followed Christ.
But let me take this a step further. God chose the Israelites as His people, what if they had not followed Him? If you look at the Old Testament you will see that they did not follow Him most of the time. He knew when He picked them that they were going to act this way too.
My point is two fold; 1. God knew people would be saved through the death of Jesus, so to ask what if questions make no sense. 2. To truly offer a choice is to allow both a positive answer and a negative answer. I believe that is what God does. Jesus is not helpless as He knocks at the door of men's hearts. He gives up none of His sovereignty by giving us a choice, but He shows His unlimited love.
I was a Police Officer for 7 years. I often gave people choices. Let me give you an example. I often would get a call to a bar where people had been drinking and had gotten out of hand. Often I would tell someone who was loud to shut up and go home or they were going to go to jail. Now I was giving them a choice, but I did not give up my authority, nor was I at their mercy, I merely gave them a choice. I would even put a time limit on the choice, so that if they did not choose to go home immediately it was the same as choosing to go to jail. If I did not end up at their mercy, why is God at our mercy if He gives us a choice? He isn't!
(Matthew 19:16-22 NIV)  Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
 "Which ones?" the man inquired.
Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony,  honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Can you tell me this man had no choice? If he did not have a choice, then God did not truly draw him, which would mean there would have been no reason for him to come to Jesus and ask the question in the first place. It seems pretty obvious that Jesus put a choice in front of him and he declined it. That goes directly against your doctrine.
Let's carefully look at this passage. This man APPROACHED Jesus. He was inquiring of what he could DO to get eternal life. This man was filthy rich and arrogant, hence the claiming he kept the commandments Jesus listed for him. He was prideful, no? Jesus DID indeed give him a choice to follow Him but He rejected Him. This is the difference between the Old testament and the new as the new covenant was broadened to include those elect who were not Jewish.
I never said man doesn't have a choice, I have said all along that when he is confronted with a choice, unless he is regenerated, he will ALWAYS choose to reject. This is evidence that God did not draw this man to Christ because Jesus said plainly in John 6, that those who God gives him SHALL COME TO HIM... and those who come to Him Jesus does not cast out. Jesus said that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. I know you have said that God draws all men to himself, but if we understand that verse in context it cannot mean every person on earth without exception because then all would be saved. I know you will say that man can still decline after being drawn by God. Not so, as Jesus says ALL that the Father draws to me SHALL COME TO ME.
I am sure the following is what you are referring to in John 6, so let me quote it and then comment on it.
(John 6:35-44 NIV)  Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.  But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.  For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."  They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"
 "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered.  "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."
Yes it says that all who the Father gives to Jesus will come to Him, but you can't stop there. Who are those who the Father gives to Christ? Is it all those whom the Father draws, or is it all those who choose to follow Christ after the Father draws them?
Look at verse 35, Jesus says there are the one's who "come to Him" and who "believe in Him." Now look at verse 40 which says that it is the Father's will that "everyone" who looks to the Son and "believes in Him" shall have eternal life. The common idea here shows choice on the part of those who the Father draws, then those who choose to believe are given to Christ.
But we need to keep going in this passage to see another example of what I am talking about. Let me quote the passage from three different translations:
(John 6:45 NIV) It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
(John 6:45 KJV) It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
(John 6:45 ASV) It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me.
Notice that in all of them the "every one" is qualified, but not by being drawen by the Father, rather by their learning from the Father. I believe this too shows choice. Many people hear, but few listen and learn. The point is that I believe God draws everyone, or they could not come to Christ, but once the Father draws them then the decision is up to them.
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)