“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains: “It is widely held that this passage looks forward to the new covenant that God will make with His people. This new covenant was fulfilled in the New Testament through the shed blood of Christ. One comes to participate in this new covenant through faith in Christ’s blood (Rom. 3:25). The text of Ezekiel 36:25-27 describes those who will come to participate in the new covenant.” (Is the “New Heart” of Ezekiel 36:26-27 a Reference to Regeneration Preceding Faith?)
However, Calvinists frequently cite this verse as evidence of Irresistible Grace, insomuch that no one can repent of their sins while they possess a heart of stone, and thus what is necessary is for God to elect to preemptively remove their unregenerate heart of stone and implant a regenerate heart of flesh:
John Calvin writes: “For it is madness for anyone to say that this is promised to all in general: I will make a covenant with them, not like that I made with their fathers; but I will write My laws on their hearts (Jer 31:33). To restrict this to those who are worthy or who have rightly prepared themselves by their own endeavor would be worse than gross folly; for the Lord addresses those whose hearts were formerly stony, as is clear from another prophet (Ezek 36:26).” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.106, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, James White, writes: “While unregenerate men may know the facts of the gospel, they have no desire to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and cast themselves solely upon Him.” (Debating Calvinism, p.297, emphasis mine)
White explains: “It requires the work of the Spirit to take out their stony hearts and give them hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).” (Debating Calvinism, p.297, emphasis mine)
Yes, it is indeed the Holy Spirit who makes a person Born Again with a new heart and a new spirit.
White continues: “Dave Hunt is actually defending the idea that a man with a heart of stone can choose to remove that heart and implant a heart of flesh in its place and that he possesses the capacity to perform this operation on himself.” (Debating Calvinism, p.297, emphasis mine)
No, man does not make himself Born Again, and I know of no Arminian who ever suggested it.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 similarly states concerning the New Covenant: “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’” Therefore, Ezekiel 36:26 is similar to Jeremiah 31:33 in that both speak of the coming blessings of the New Covenant.
Calvinists therefore cannot believe in two covenants, that is, an Old Covenant and a New Covenant, but rather one secret Covenant of Election whereby all of those who are secretly in the alleged, eternal flock of the Father, are preemptively placed in Christ in order to receive what Calvinism believes to be absolutely necessary for saving faith.
Calvinist, James White, writes: “When the time comes in God’s sovereign providence to bring to spiritual life each of those for whom Christ died, the Spirit of God will not only effectively accomplish that work of regeneration but that new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ (‘all that the Father gives Me will come to Me’). Hence, we are not saved ‘without’ faith, but at the same time, Christ’s atonement is not rendered useless and vain without the addition of libertarian free will.” (Debating Calvinism, p.191, emphasis mine)
So you can see that Calvinism teaches that those of the alleged, one Covenant of Election for those among the alleged, eternal flock of the Father, are preemptively placed in Christ, before they hear, believe and are sealed in Christ, as per Ephesians 1:13. This seems to put Calvinism in a bit of a crisis.
Calvinists reject that the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the old stony heart is sufficient to overcome the fallen state of man. Therefore, it is the Calvinists who have painted themselves into a corner, especially since no one was ever made Born Again until after Calvary. Meanwhile, the Arminian points out the biblical evidence that Jesus Christ seeks the lost (Luke 19:10), draws the lost (John 12:32), and knocks upon the heart’s door of the lost (Revelation 3:20), while the Holy Spirit convicts the heart of the lost, and that being “the world” (John 16:8), pierces the heart (Acts 2:37), pricks the heart (Acts 26:14) and opens the heart in order to respond to Him (Acts 16:14), through the supernatural power (Romans 1:16) of the living and active (Hebrews 4:12), faith-producing Gospel (Romans 10:17), which is spirit and life. (John 6:63) In all of this, where is there any mention of swapping out the old heart with a new heart, in order to irresistibly respond to Him? Instead, you have the Holy Spirit operating on the existing old heart, and that spells big trouble for Calvinistic preemptive Regenerative Grace. Arguing that the Holy Spirit merely does this for the elect, offers no help either since you would still have the Holy Spirit operating on the old, unregenerate heart, which is why Paul had been resisting. Calvinists can argue that it is futile to attempt to evangelize the old, unregenerate heart of fallen man, but Arminians use it as fuel to pray that the Holy Spirit prepares the unregenerate heart of the lost in order that they may become receptive to the Gospel.
Adrian Rogers explains: “Spiritual blindness makes beggars of us all. ... The blind need more than light in order to see. ... I used to think, as a young preacher, that what you had to do to get people saved is just to tell them how to be saved. Just turn on the light. But it doesn’t matter how much light there is, or the person is blind because he cannot see it. It takes more than light, it takes sight. And a person who is blind cannot see the light, no matter how strong the light is or how pure the light is. It takes more than preaching to get people saved. That’s the reason I frequently say to you, I can preach truth, but only the Holy Spirit can impart truth. That is the reason why we must be a praying church. That’s the reason you must be a spirit filled soul winner. That is the reason that we must have the anointing, because we are dependent upon God to open blinded eyes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It takes more than light, it takes takes sight. We need to understand that nobody can be argued into the kingdom of heaven. Nobody can be educated into the kingdom of heaven. I’m not against letting the light shine. You must let the let shine. You must preach. But remember, there is another dimension.” (Jesus is God’s Answer to Man’s Darkness: John 20:30, emphasis mine)
In order for a man to receive the light of the Gospel, he must receive sight from the Holy Spirit, and that is precisely why Christians pray for the lost, that God may open their hearts (Acts 16:14, which doesn’t say anything about removing the old heart), in order that by the illumination of the Holy Spirit (John 1:9), they might respond to the light of the Gospel. Though it is not irresistible, God, for His part, is willing that all become in Christ, and share in all that which He has bestowed in His Son.