i love love love to read.
a book that i am reading right now that i am really enjoying is "chosen by God" by rc sproul. in the book he writes about the doctrine of predestination (basically the idea that God decides, before we are born, whether our final destination is heaven or hell) and answers some of the biggest questions/objections to this doctrine.
here are some of the questions he answers/points he makes:
*if God decides people's destiny, then are people just basically robots?
sproul's answer is a firm no. people are allowed by God to choose what they want. however, the bible makes it clear that people (in our natural state) want sin (romans 1, 5), we want to be separated from God to do what we want. no one will ever choose God on our own, we will always choose sin, because we are enslaved to it (titus 3). however, when God opens some people's eyes to his mercy, they truly want his mercy and accept it.
therefore, whether christian or not, we are all choosing what we truly want.
*if God chooses some people to receive his forgiveness and be known by him, does he also specifically choose other people to not receive forgiveness?
yes, this is known as double predestination.
in that case, does God put evil in the hearts of non-believers just as he puts a desire for Himself in the hearts of believers? NO!!! this would be evil, and God is not the author of evil and doesn't tempt people (james 1:13). when the bible speaks, for example, of God hardening pharaoh's heart (exodus 7) this is an example of his passive wrath, where he isn't actively doing it, he just allows it to happen. and when God doesn't intervene in our sin, we dig deeper and deeper into it... and our hearts get hardened (romans 1 also explains this process).
*sproul also points out that contrary to popular teaching today, rebirth/regeneration precedes faith. in other words, God doesn't remove our sin because we place our faith in him, as some kind of reward. God forgives our sin and cleanses us, and when he does so we are no longer enslaved to sin and therefore are able to believe in him. first, new birth, then faith.
good stuff :)
speaking of RC Sproul, even though his podcasts are among the top ten listened to on itunes, apparently he has never sent an email and never gotten on the internet!!!! [who has time to when you're so godly?]
i recommend mark driscoll's interview series with sproul. here is the first one, where he talks about his lack of internet ability: http://theresurgence.com/rc-sproul-on-the-internet