One of the problems with the standard debate between Calvinism and Arminianism is that there do seem to be passages that genuinely lend support to elements of both views. On the one hand, there are passages that strongly imply that God is the one who bestows saving faith on those who have it. The text just mentioned, of course, is one example, to which many more could be added. Faith is described as a gift in Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29 says it is granted to us to believe for Christ’s sake; Acts 16:14 says God opened Lydia’s heart to believe. John 6:37 says that the Father has given certain people to the Son, and that this giving is what results in their coming to Him.
But, on the other hand there are texts that emphasize God’s will to save even those who persist in unbelief, as Ezekiel 18:23 demonstrates. According to Acts 17:25, the times and places of all people are determined so as to accord them all the opportunity to find God. According to 2 Peter 3:9, God does not will that any should perish, etc.
Though both sides claim to be able to adequately explain the texts used by the other, it is my own conviction that both sides fail in this regard. This is because, in my opinion, a tertium quid has been neglected in this discussion; the advantage of this view, as I see it, is that it that allows the passages seized upon by Calvinists to mean exactly what they take them to mean while at the same time allowing the passages seized upon by Arminians to mean exactly what they take them to mean (with the exception of the classical Arminian insistence that salvation can be lost, which evangelicals on both sides typically reject).
The conceptual space for this alternative is discovered by considering the nature of the will and its possible states with respect to particular things. Typically, with regard to man’s attitude toward God it is assumed that the possibilities are limited to rebellion or faith. What is not considered is that a lack of rebellion is not sufficient for faith. In order to transition from rebellion to faith, one must stop rebelling, and then the choice must be made to trust in God.
But what accounts for why that decision to trust in God is made? Could not the sinner cease rebellion for a mere second only to continue in rebellion a second later? On the view I am defending (which has its roots in Eleonore Stump's interpretation of Aquinas), the reason anyone goes from the cessation of rebellion to trust in God is because God acts on the will to bring it to faith. But, God only acts on the wills of those who enter into a state of non-rebellion (or what has been called quiescence). In this state one has not made any decision to follow God, and thus they can in no way be credited for having reached it (since it is not yet determined what they will do once they are in that state). Once they enter this state, however, God orients the will toward Himself. But since the will is not against God in the quiescent state, God’s action upon it is not coercive.
The key to this account is that we are responsible for whether our wills enter into the quiescent state, so that God is not behind unbelief. But, since no one can be credited for having reached the quiescent state (since it is morally neutral), God alone is the force behind the salvation of any individual. Thus, one can interpret all of the passages which speak of God granting faith in the most literal sense (just as the Calvinist wants). But one can also affirm the passages which speak of God’s will for all to be saved in the most literal sense (just as the Arminian wants). In this way, all of the central scriptural data appears explained and none of it appears at odds with each other.