Galatians 5:22-23 (see also Luke 8:11-15)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Calvinist, James White: “The word faithfulness can be translated as ‘faith’ as well, and just as no believer would ever say that the love he has in his heart comes from himself; none would say that his patience or goodness came from his flesh. So why insist that faith is a capacity available to all, including the natural man? The answer is simple: Because without that assertion, God must be sovereign in salvation and man utterly dependent upon Him. This is the only reason.” (Debating Calvinism, p.201, emphasis mine)
Yes, God is sovereign, and man is utterly dependent on Him, who provides faith to all who hear the preaching of the Gospel: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Once a person is made Born Again, it is agreed that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a faith, plus all of the other noted gifts of the Holy Spirit, including a desire to do His will:
Jerry Vines: “The lost man or woman has no desire for the things of God. Unregenerate souls have no interest in finding out what God wants them to be and to do. But the new-birth experience puts into our heart a desire really and actually to do what God wants.” (Exploring 1-2-3 John, p.49, emphasis mine)
For Christians, one of the fruits of the Spirit is faith, allotted for Christian living. Romans 12:3 states: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” For non-Christians, saving faith comes from the “living and active” Gospel (Hebrews 4:12) and is available to all who hear its message preached, as confirmed by Romans 10:17.
But then, “why don’t all believe?” On that basis, the Calvinist will insist that something more than just the Gospel is needed for someone to believe, namely, a changed heart by means of preemptive, Regenerative Grace. Many have converted to Calvinism over that very point. However, God doesn’t give Regenerative Grace to sinners in order to believe. Rather, God gives believers Regenerative Grace in order not to sin, and to accomplish the holy calling in which each Christian has been uniquely gifted by God to serve within the Body of Christ.
Question: How does anyone embrace the faith produced by the Gospel?
Answer: Jesus said that you must receive the Word with “an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15), presumably, meaning with all sincerity.
However, Calvinists simply view such sincerity as a sign of regeneration because the unregenerate man does not possess an honest and good heart, but rather possesses a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked heart.” (Jeremiah 17:9) However, Jesus didn’t mention anything about “Preemptive Regeneration” in His presentation of Luke 8:15. In fact, Jesus never specifically taught Preemptive Regeneration, period. So if not for Preemptive Regeneration, how does a “deceitful” and “wicked” heart become an “honest” and “good heart” in order to receive the faith produced by the preaching of the Gospel? The simple answer is that it doesn’t. Evangelism is not about seeking out the race of the good-hearted in order to get them saved. Many with a wicked heart have received the Gospel, while those of a lesser evil nature, remain unrepentant. Why? Because Jesus never said that good-hearted people are inclined to receive the Gospel. What He said was that you need to have “heard the word in an honest and good heart” (i.e. with sincerity), not that you must already possess an honest and good heart, as Calvinism teaches that Preemptive Regeneration operates. For instance, a wicked person can be utterly broken and convicted by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), and therefore sincerely surrender under the weight, burden and guilt of sin, empowered by the faith-producing Gospel. Becoming a Christian is not about being a good person, but rather about bad people surrendering under fear and pressure induced by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Hell is a real place and Jesus taught more about Hell than anyone one else in the entire Bible. Furthermore, as an illustration, the two thieves on the cross next to Christ weren’t good-hearted people at all, but yet one of them heard what was being said about Jesus (through the scoffing of the Pharisees), and heard it with honest sincerity, and as a result of it, surrendered to Christ under the conviction of his sins. However, the Calvinist will still ask why the one surrendered and the other didn’t. The answer, again, is that one sincerely embraced it, while the other hardened his heart. And why is that?, the Calvinists will still protest. Ultimately, it comes down to a free choice, under pressure of the Holy Spirit, empowered by the faith-producing Gospel. Jesus said to an unrepentant Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14) Will you choose to sincerely embrace hope, or will you harden your heart in faithlessness? For instance, Adam and Eve were sinless creatures while in the Garden of Eden, were they not? Yet, they freely chose to sin, did they not? It was a perfectly free choice. Most Calvinists seem to loathe that analogy, but it was nevertheless a free choice, and like Adam and Eve, God gives us the glorious privilege of being able to receive reconciliation with Him, like the one thief, or the dubious privilege of rejecting Him, like the other thief. God enables man, and then holds man accountable according to the enablement. In terms of such accountability, 2nd Peter 2:21 states: “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.” In other words, genuine opportunity is presented by God towards man for salvation, which is something that Calvinism denies, apart from Elective and Regenerative Grace.
However, the Calvinist will still protest. Why, they will ask, does the one submit under pressure of the Holy Spirit, and not another, if not by preemptive Regenerative Grace by way of eternal in the Father Election? The answer is that one hardened his heart and not another. Naturally, the Calvinist will persist with, why did one choose to harden his heart, and not the other? The point of the Calvinist is simple, in that the difference between the two individuals is something that lies within themselves rather than something that lies within God, as Calvinism teaches, whereby God irresistibly helps the one to make the right choice, that is, the eternal elect individual in the Father, while withholding help for the other. Although the Calvinist perspective is functionally sound, it is nevertheless not biblically sound, and the Arminian is left to explain the concept of a free-will choice to the Calvinist.
Question: How does a person harden their own heart?
Answer: By stalling or procrastinating. It isn’t necessarily by rejecting Christ immediately. But each time a person stalls, like Pharaoh, and puts off God, their heart becomes a little bit harder. As the next day rolls into the next, they perceive that they’ve gotten away with putting off God, all while abusing God’s long-suffering patience, until the day that it catches up with them. If man does not possess the ability to harden his own heart, then what does Psalm 95:8 mean when it says: “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness”?
What if God took a person and dropped him in hell for two minutes? Upon lifting him out, he might come out cursing, or he might come out surrendering. It just depends upon the free choice of the individual. This, incidentally, is the very picture of “the rich man” at Luke 16:19-31, who had developed the heart of an evangelist while in Hell, persisting in an attempt to persuade Abraham (on the other side of the chasm) to reach his lost brothers who were soon to join him in Hell and fiery torment. Now did “the rich man” require preemptive Regenerative Grace to arrive at this new perspective? The Calvinist will protest that this is simply not the manner in which God deals with the lost. Or is it? When the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, in conjunction with the faith-producing Gospel message, the world is essentially placed under that very same perspective of fear and impending doom in an eternal Hell, contemplating the same exact future as “the rich man,” and some become bitter and harden their heart, while others submit. Some put off a decision for Christ for another day, while others walk the aisle and surrender their heart to Christ. Either way, for both, it is a life-changing event. For the one, their heart is regenerated and are now being born again. For the other, their heart has been hardened, and they don’t even realize it, which is why Isaiah warned: “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) The perfect illustration is the two men on the crosses next to Jesus. Both of them had their eternal future starring them right in their face, and one submitted and the other didn’t. It’s a Free Will choice, and you don’t get Regenerative Grace to make it. Just as what Abraham told the “the rich man,” they have Moses and the Prophets to listen to. (Luke 16:29, 31) Today, however, we have the Bible. Abraham’s answer is that even if someone should return from the dead, even that will not change their heart. They have the free choice, either to disbelieve and harden their heart, which God warned against, “Harden not your heart” (Psalm 95:8), or to surrender and quit fighting and quit kicking against the goads. The Calvinist will still protest, and ironically, that is entirely their free-will choice.
Question: If literally everything is subject to the total plan of an exhaustive, immutable decree of Calvinism, including all thought, then why would only good things be spoken of as the “fruit of the Spirit,” rather than all things whatsoever?
Answer: The non-Calvinist has a distinct advantage over the Calvinist, because the former can talk about the distinction between the fruit of the Spirit vs. the works of the flesh more meaningfully, whereas with the latter, Determinism requires that everything be the product of God, and that everything is working towards God’s optimal glory, including sin.