So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
Steven Hitchcock writes: “Contrary to the Calvinistic notion of faith, the issue is not whether or not one can have faith, but rather, what the object of our faith is.” (Recanting Calvinism, p.82)
Faith is common to man, but not faith in God. Mankind is a deeply religious creature, believing in various different deities. So the question is not whether man has faith, but what man has faith in.
John 20:31: “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
1st Thessalonians 2:13-14: “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”
John Calvin writes: “Now experience teaches us that the Spirit is not bestowed on all. Hence faith is a special gift by which the election of God is ratified.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.104, emphasis mine)
John Calvin writes: “Let him only admit that only those believe whom God illuminates by His Spirit; only confess that election is the mother of faith.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.155, emphasis mine)
John Calvin writes: “We have to understand Christ’s aim -- that not many people believe the Gospel, because faith comes only from the sacred revelation of the Spirit.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.176, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, John MacArthur, states: “There has to be faith on your part but that faith is the result of God’s choosing as He prompts by His Spirit.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
MacArthur adds: “It’s the only way anybody believes, is God graciously gives you the ability to believe. You don’t deserve it; He gives it anyway. You can’t merit it; He gives it anyway. You can’t earn it; He gives it anyway.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “…for Luther the origin of faith is divine election. Thus God’s elective grace precedes man’s faith.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.173, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, James White, writes: “The preached Word is God’s chosen means of bringing His elect unto Himself.” (Debating Calvinism, p.136, emphasis mine)
Calvin writes: “Now let Pighius asseverate that God wills all to be saved, when not even the external preaching of the doctrine, which is much inferior to the illumination of the Spirit, is made common to all.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.109, emphasis mine)
John Calvin writes: “The minister’s teaching and speaking does no good unless God adds his inward calling to it. ... Preaching alone is just a dead letter, and we must beware lest a false imagination, or the semblance of secret illumination, leads us away from the Word on which faith depends.” (Acts: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.278, emphasis mine)
Consider an Old Testament example of faith coming by hearing the word of God:
Joshua 14:6-12: “Then the sons of Judah drew near to Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know the word which the LORD spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully. So Moses swore on that day, saying, “Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.” Now behold, the LORD has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.’”
Adrian Rogers explains: “Look in chapter 14 and verse 6, the last part. ‘Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said. Now Caleb is speaking, and He says, “Do you remember what God said?’ Just underscore the thing that the Lord hath said. Look in verse 10: ‘And now behold the Lord hath kept me alive as He said.’ Just underscore as He said. Then look in the last part of verse 10: ‘The Lord spake this word unto Moses.’ Underscore the Lord spake. And then notice again if you will, look in verse 12: ‘Now therefore give me this mountain whereof the Lord spake.’ Just underscore the Lord spake. Then look in the last part of verse 12. Again, ‘as the Lord said.’ Do you see it? Over and over again, ‘God said, God said, the Lord spake, God promised.’ Do you know where Caleb’s confidence was? Caleb’s confidence was in the word of God. Caleb’s battleaxe was the word of God. Caleb had a mountain he needed to conquer. God had given him that mountain, and I want you to know that as he went up that mountain with the sword in his hand, he also went up that mountain with the title deed in his pocket, because God had already given it to him. The Lord had promised it to him, and his confidence came out of the word of God. Ladies and gentlemen, listen to me, ‘Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.’” (Give Me This Mountain, emphasis mine)
However, Calvinists tend to emphasize that faith is a gift, in order to suggest that it’s just a gift for some people. Yet, the gift of faith comes from the gift of the Gospel, and anyone who hears it preached is able to derive sufficient faith from it, in order to believe in Jesus and become saved.
Quoting an opponent, Calvin writes: “That some believe in the gospel and others remain unbelieving is a difference, they hold, arising not from God’s free election or His secret counsel, but from the will of each individual.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.55, emphasis mine)
Calvin adds: “For because the Gospel is called the power of God unto salvation to all who believe, some have made this a pretext for obliterating the election of God. But it ought to have occurred to them to ask whence faith arises.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.50, emphasis mine)
The Gospel is where “faith arises.” The reason why many choose not to repent and turn to Christ is because of what God had warned mankind not to do: “Do not harden your hearts.” (Psalm 95:8)
John Calvin adds: “Hence it follows, first, that faith is not produced by us but is the fruit of spiritual new birth. For the evangelist says that no one can believe except he who is born of God. Therefore faith is a heavenly gift. Moreover, faith is not cold and bare knowledge, for no one can believe unless he is born again by the Spirit of God.” (John: The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.24, emphasis mine)
According to John Calvin: “Unless a man is born again, he cannot believe.” That’s Calvinism. Furthermore, who alleges that faith is produced by us? Faith is not produced by us, but by the Gospel.
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “Thus the doctrine of total depravity leads directly to that of unconditional election--a dead man cannot respond to the gospel’s appeal.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.181, emphasis mine)
John Calvin comments concerning Faith, Adoption and Total Depravity: “Since the whole human race is blind and stubborn, those faults remain fixed in our nature until they are corrected by the grace of the Spirit, and that comes only from election. Two people may hear the same teaching together; yet one is willing to learn, and the other persists in his obstinacy. They do not differ in nature, but God illumes one and not the other. We are, indeed, made God’s children by faith--faith is for us the door and beginning of salvation; but there is something deeper with God. He does not begin to choose us after we believe, but by the gift of faith he seals the adoption that was hidden in our hearts and makes it manifest and sure.” (Acts: Calvin, Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.229, emphasis mine)
When Calvinists insist that unregenerate, natural man is spiritually dead, remind them that the Gospel is alive. The Gospel is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), gives faith (Romans 10:17), cleans (John 15:3), washes (Ephesians 5:26) contains life (John 6:63) and makes you born again. 1st Peter 1:22-23 states: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” It also pricks and convicts. (Acts 26:14; John 16:8) Besides this, a man does not receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit until after he has heard and believed in the Gospel. (Ephesians 1:13; Galatians 3:2)
Additionally, Jesus Christ draws all men to Himself (John 12:32), with the supernatural power of the Gospel in the hands of the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of its sin. (John 16:8) Indeed, the Law of Faith is a greater intervening law than the Law of the depravity of unregenerate, natural man. The one law is greater than the other law, just as the law of aerodynamics is able to overcome the law of gravity, with the result being that all men have a legitimate offer from God to repent, believe and be saved.
John Calvin comments: “Certainly the human voice cannot by its own power penetrate the soul. Too much honour would be paid to a mere mortal if it were said that he had power to regenerate us. The light of faith also is too exalted to be able to be conferred by man. But all these things do not prevent God from acting effectually by the voice of man, so as to create faith in us by his ministry.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.232-233, emphasis mine)
What Calvin fails to understand is that the preaching of the Gospel is not just “the voice of man,” but rather, when you preach the Gospel, man’s ears may hear your voice, but in his heart, He hears Jesus knocking. That’s why it is so important for Christians to preach God’s Word, and also why we are held accountable if we fail to take part in the ministry of evangelism. (Ezekiel 33:7-11)
One Calvinist asks: “Where does the Scripture clearly teach with theological intention that God has given life (spiritual ability) apart from the complete salvation?”
To the Calvinist, spiritual life must precede the ability to utilize the faith produced from the preaching of the Gospel. Again, remind the Calvinist that although man may be spiritually dead, the Gospel is alive(Hebrews 4:12), such that according to Jesus, it is “spirit” and “life.” (Jesus 6:63)
The Calvinist counters: “What about the person who never heard the Gospel? Is he not ‘free’ then in your terms?”
God places the responsibility back upon us to preach it, and holds us, not Himself, accountable if we refuse and they perish. (Ezekiel 33:7-11)
John Mason comments: “However, there is nothing here to suggest that the ‘word of Christ’ is selective, or anything other than scripture itself.” (Calvinism: The Road to Nowhere, p.185, emphasis mine)