Accusation 1: A popular misunderstanding of so-called Calvinism is when a critic presents Calvinism as teaching: "God forces us into a relationship". This is a complaint I hear often.
Answer: "Calvinism" teaches that when God calls a person to salvation, He does so freely and effectively. Not with a forced relationship, but with the effectual grace of a loving Father. God in His tender mercy and pure grace, changes the sinners heart of stone, and gives that person a heart of flesh and the gift of His Holy Spirit (Ezek 36:26, John 3:5). God creates light and life in the heart of a sinner, so that they freely and willing respond to Him. God does not compel us against our wills or violate our unique personalities. Instead, God's grace frees us from our sin and enables us to see Jesus Christ as He truly is. In response, we freely choose to embrace Him out of thankfulness and love of our hearts. The grace of God effectually sets people free from sin to be the people He intended us to be.
Accusation 2: The second misunderstanding of Calvinism is when a critic presents Calvinism as teaching: "Calvinism teaches that when God's involved you don’t have a choice". (This is similar to accusation 1).
Answer: Calvinism does in fact teach that man has a choice and that God calls on all people to make a choice: We can continue in our rebellion and sin, or we can turn to Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation. Reformed theology teaches that all men in their natural lost condition, freely choose to reject God's free offer. This is the free choice all fallen men make. We cannot separate a man's will from his nature. And man's fallen nature is dead and in bondage to sin. This teaching is based on texts of Scripture like (John 6:44, 65, Romans 1-3:18, Eph 2:1-3, 1 Cor. 2:14, 2 Cor. 4:3-4).
Yet, when God graciously calls a sinner (as I discussed in point 1), He is freeing that person from the bondage of sin and enabling them to respond to His grace (John 6:44,65). God chooses and man also chooses. Yet we believe God's choice is foundational to man's choice since it was made in eternity past (Eph 1:3-4).
Accusation 3: A third popular misunderstanding and rejection of Calvinism is when a critic responds to a high view of God's Sovereignty with a statement similar to this; "I cannot accept that man is free and responsible to do what he wants to do, and God is also in complete control of man's actions".
Answer: Here, I can agree with the critics statement as presented: "man is free and responsible to do what he wants to do and God is also in complete control of his actions". I would simply ask that the critic (or anyone else) to not draw a conclusion from this statement that I (or a Calvinist) would not affirm. I would not take all the statement's possible meanings to be equally true, nor would I draw any conclusions from it beyond any Scriptural truths it may proclaim. With that caveat stated, the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers and then rising to second in command in the land of Egypt is a perfect example of this mysterious relationship from Scripture. Joseph (speaking to his brothers) says in Gen. 50:20, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." This passage explicitly teaches us that Joseph's brothers evil deeds were done freely by the human agents. The brothers are fully responsible for their actions. At the same time, God sovereignty determined this event for good...and it saved many lives. Please note that this passage does not teach that God simply turned this bad situation around and made something good out of it. But the verse teaches that God was in sovereign control of these events and determining the events as well as the outcome (Gen 45:5-8). Here we see the mystery of God's sovereign determination along-side human freedom and responsibility. Scripture bulges with these type of examples, and many more could be given. Calvinism attempts to hold the tension of these twin truths without down-playing either one. Both are simply true. There will always be room to grow and adjust our thinking along these lines as God reveals more to us through His word. Our job is to study His word and treasure it's beauty along with the truths it contains, even when we cannot fully comprehend how it all "works".