Prevenient Grace is the Arminian doctrine that God sends His Holy Spirit to enable a person to choose to receive Christ in order to be born again, and thus, saved. We believe, like Calvinists, that man is utterly sinful and depraved, and that every part of him has been infected to some degree by the sin nature he inherited from his first parents, Adam and Eve. As such, he has an inclination to do evil, but worse yet, he is totally unable to do good or repent apart from grace. This is where prevenient grace comes in. God enables and draws a person to Himself. He frees his will so that He can choose to follow Him. However, unlike the Calvinist’s view of grace, prevenient grace isn’t an irresistible force that inevitably bends man to God’s will. God purposefully holds back so that the sinner can resist Him if he chooses.
But what biblical evidence is there for prevenient grace? Does The Bible actually teach prevenient grace, or does it teach irresistible grace like the Calvinists contend? Does Christ woo His bride or does He ravish her? I contend that there are 2 categories of reasons to believe God’s grace is resistible. 2 categories of reasons. I think these make a good cumulative case for resistible grace. By the way, I take prevenient grace and resistible grace to be synonyms so I’ll be switching back and forth between the 2 terms.
It Can Easily Be Inferred From 4 Biblical Teachings
Like The Trinity (and I would contend, Molinism), even if The Bible nowhere addressed the potency level of God’s grace, it could still be inferred from 4 other facts that The Bible does teach. What are these 4 facts? They are;
1: Men are totally depraved and cannot repent without the aid of grace
2: God wants all people to be saved.
3: Jesus died on the cross for all people.
4: Not all people will be saved. Some will end up in Hell for eternity.
If these 4 facts are true, then resistible grace logically follows from them. If men cannot repent without the aid of grace (1), then obviously grace of some kind is needed. And if God wants all people to be saved, and Jesus therefore died for all (2 and 3), then it seems that common sense would say that He would send grace to all people so that they could repent. After all, how could God want a person saved and not send him grace, knowing that he couldn’t turn to Him without such grace? That would be like a man wanting a woman to marry him but doesn’t even propose. However, fact 4 states that not all will be saved; some will end up in Hell for eternity. Now, if this were an irresistible grace that God sent to all people, then the 4th fact couldn’t possibly be true. Universalism would be true! No one would go to Hell, but instead, everyone would go to Heaven! So, if men can’t repent without grace, and God wants all people to repent, then it follows that God would send all people grace. But if God sent irresistible grace to all people, it would follow that all people would repent. In fact, it would be the case that they couldn’t choose not to repent. But this conclusion contradicts 4. So, if 1, 2, 3, and 4, are all true; it seems we have no choice (pun not intended) but to believe in the doctrine of resistible grace; God sends grace to all people, but some people resist this grace until the day they die.
Calvinists, pelagians, and semi-pelagians cannot accept this truth because it contradicts their theological systems. So what do they do? Calvinists deny facts 2 and 3 while affirming 1 and 4. Pelagians and semi-pelagians deny fact number 1, but may be quite comfortable excepting 2-4. Now, some universalists might affirm, 1, but all universalists accept 2, and 3, but Universalists deny fact number 4. These sects realize that in order to avoid concluding that God’s grace is resistible, you have to reject at least some of these facts.
However, I think all 4 aforementioned doctrines are very firmly established by the biblical evidence. Below, I will list some of the biblical evidence for these 4.
*1: Men are totally depraved and cannot repent without the aid of grace
This first fact is a fact that all orthodox Christians embrace. It’s the view commonly known as “Total Depravity” although I prefer to use Kenneth Keathley’s term “Radical Depravity” because Total Depravity has a misleading name. It makes it sound like the person is as evil as he could possibly be. It’s self evident that not everyone is as evil as they could possibly be. Rather, it’s that the sin nature (depravity) has infected every single area of a person’s life to a certain extent (hence the “total” part of the title). The biblical evidence for this is abundant.
The Bible teaches that Humanity was created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 9:6), good and upright, but fell from its original sinless state through willful disobedience, leaving humanity in the state of total depravity, sinful, separated from God, and under the sentence of divine condemnation (see Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3, respectively). Human beings are fundamentally corrupt at heart. Scripture tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9; cf. Genesis 6:5; Matthew 19:17; Luke 11:13). Indeed, human beings are spiritually dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1-3; Collosians 2:13) and are slaves to sin (see Romans 6:17-20). The Apostle Paul even says, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18).
Worse yet, is that mankind is completely, 100% unable to come to God all by themselves. Our sinful natures cause us to hate God and His ways. This is what the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Romans. He writes “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8). So, Paul says the mind of man is hostile to God. The mind of man does not submit to God’s law, and moreover he says “nor can it do so”. Not only do people not submit to God’s law, they’re unable to! Then he says that those in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. In other words, we are unable to do anything that gains God’s favor.
Jesus also stated this fact. He said in John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws Him.” Later Jesus said “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6:65). This sounds pretty clear cut to me. Unless The Father draws a man, he will never become a Christian. Romans 3:11 says “there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.”
It seems clear that humans are inherently sinful creatures. We have an inclination to do evil, we have no goodness in us in our natural state (Romans 7:18), we are hostile to God, unwilling and unable to submit to His laws (Romans 8:7-8), and we cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws us (John 6:44, John 6:65).
*2: God Wants All People To Be Saved
*3: Jesus died on the cross for all people
I’m going to defend facts 2 and 3 together since they usually go together. This is because if one is true, the other has to be. Think about it: If Jesus died for all people, but God did not want all people saved, why would have Jesus died for them? Why would Jesus die for someone He didn’t want saved? Moreover, if God wanted all people saved, why would Jesus not die for all people? So, it seems like if one is true, the other has to be. Moreover, The Bible asserts both very blatantly.
In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, He said “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.” – (John 3:16-17). Jesus said that God loved “THE WORLD” that He gave His one and only son. Who is Jesus referring to here? Jesus is referring to “the world”. So, anyone who is a part of the world is a person whom God loves and whom Jesus died for. Now the question is; who is a part of the world? Am I a part of the world? Are you a part of the world? Did Adolph Hitler live in the world? Are all of the members of ISIS living in this world and are therefore a part of it? Is Richard Dawkins a part of this world? What about Sam Harris? Is he a part of the world? The answer is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. In fact, I think every single person I’ve interacted with today was a part of this world. According to Jesus, God loves those people and sent Him to die for them. What am I getting at here? I’m saying that in saying that God loved “the world”, Jesus was saying that God loves all of humanity. The Greek word for world is “Kosmos” and was often used to describe either the entire planet, or the entire physical universe.
God loves the “Kosmos” (the entire planet/the entire universe). This love for all of humanity prompted Him to send Jesus here to take our punishment. Whoever places their faith in Him won’t end up in Hell, but will end up in Heaven. John 3:16-17 teaches that God loves all of humankind and therefore sent Jesus to die for all humankind.
You also have 2 Peter 3:9 which states that God “is not willing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance.”.
In 1 Timothy 2:4-6, the apostle Paul wrote “This is good and pleases God our savior who wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.“ <– So, according to this passage of scripture, God wants every human being to be saved and Jesus died for every human being. In verse 4, Paul says God “wants all people to be saved” and then immediately after says that Christ died “as a ransom for all people.”
“[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2
“Jesus tasted death for everyone.” – Hebrews 2:9
The Bible says that “The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14; cf. John 4:42), and that God is “the Savior of all people” (1 Timothy 4:10). The Bible says that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And Titus 2:11 says “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”
The Bible unequivocally states over and over and over and over that God loves all people, wants all people saved, and died on the cross to atone for the sins of all people.
One has to wonder how a Calvinist can deny facts 2 and 3 in the face of such overwhelming scriptural evidence. Well, whenever Arminians appeal to these texts, Calvinists have 3 rebuttals they often give, but I find none of these objection compelling. I cannot tarry in responding to these objections since I’m trying my best to prevent this blog post from being too long, but since I know Calvinists are apt to use them in the comment section, I’d rather just go ahead and address them.
Objection 1: “All” (e.g 2 Peter 3:9) doesn’t mean “all human beings to ever exist” but only “all kinds” of people. “The World” (e.g John 3:16) means “the world of the elect”, and “everyone” (e.g Hebrews 2:9) means everyone whom God has chosen.
This is generally how they explain away these Bible passages. They say that words like “all”, “world”, “whole world”, and “everyone” don’t refer to the entire human race, but only to the elect. “all” means all kinds of people (e.g every people group, every race, every nationality), and “the world” only means “the world of the elect” The problem with these explanations is, aside from being blatantly ad-hoc, if the logic were applied to other passages of scripture, very strange interpretations would result.
For example, Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” According to the “all kinds” hermeneutic, one could legitimately say that this verse doesn’t mean that literally every human being who has ever lived has committed sins during their lifetime. Rather, only “all kinds” of men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Or again, John 1:3 says “Through him [Jesus] all things were made”. Should we conclude that Jesus only created “all kinds” of things? Are there some things that exist that Jesus didn’t create? 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” According to the “all kinds” hermeneutic, we’d have to conclude that only all groups of books were divinely inspired. You know, some of the prophets, some of the gospels, some of the epistles, etc. But not literally ALL scripture. Only all kinds of scripture. So much for the traditional view of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. What about Romans 5:12? Did Adam bring death to all men, or only all kinds of men?
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. If we applied the same logic that Calvinists apply to passages like 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4, we’d come to “all kinds” (pun intended) of bizarre interpretations. I’ve come to the conclusion that “all” only means “all” when it’s convenient for the Calvinist. When it’s inconvenient, it means “all kinds”. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not interpret my Bible based on what’s convenient for me.
One more thing before I end this section, 2 Peter 2:1 says “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves.” <– This passage is talking about false teachers, and Peter say they “deny the Lord who bought them” which will result in them “bringing swift destruction upon themselves”. Jesus bought the false teachers! He bought the false teachers who denied Him! If Jesus only died for the elect, as Calvinists say, then what do we make of this passage? Are false prophets who deny Christ among the elect? That’s absurd! Especially given that they bring “swift destruction upon themselves”! In what sense could Jesus have “bought them” if not dying on the cross to atone for their sins? Maybe, just maybe, “all” means more than simply “all of the elect” or “all kinds”.
Objection 2: Look at this Bible verse! It says that Jesus died for Christians! Therefore, He didn’t die for everyone!
Even weaker than the “all kinds” approach is the appeal to passages that say that Jesus died for the elect, or for Christians. From these texts, Calvinists conclude that Jesus did not die for all people, but only for the elect. For example, in Matthew 1:21, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that Jesus “will save his people from their sins.” I’ve had Calvinists point to Matthew 1:21 and say “See? It says ‘his people’ not ‘everyone’! Jesus didn’t come to save everyone!”. Or they’ll point to passages like Mark 10:45 where Jesus says “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” They’ll say “See! It says ‘many’ not ‘all’!”
The problem with virtually every proof text for limited atonement that I’ve encountered is that they’re completely compatible with the Arminian view that Christ died for all humankind! Think about it; if Jesus died for literally every human being who ever was, is, or will be, wouldn’t that include the elect? Wouldn’t that include “His people”? Wouldn’t that include the church? Moreover, would that not be “many” people? Obviously! If Jesus died for everyone, then that includes believer and non-believer alike! That includes those who will eventually receive Christ and those who never will. You can’t take scriptures which state that Jesus died for a particular group of people and read into that that he therefore did not die for all people. By this reasoning, we would have to conclude that Jesus only died for the apostle Paul and no one else! Why? Because in Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” <——- See? Paul didn’t say that Jesus died for everybody or even other Christians. Paul said that Jesus loved him and died for him. I don’t see any mention to other Christians, do you? No mention of other Christians in this passage at all. Oh well, I guess that means Jesus only died for Paul.
This is obviously absurd. Here’s an illustration to help further drive home my point; if a man said “I love my wife.” would you interpret that sentence to mean that he only loves his wife, that he has no love for his children, his dog, his mom, his dad, or his siblings? Of course not! You would never make that inference from that statement. Especially if you’ve repeatedly heard him say “I love my entire family”, “I love everyone”, “I love all the people in my entire household”, and so on. In fact, I submit to you that you would conclude “my wife” is a subset of “my entire family” or “everyone”. Well, in the same way “His people” or “the elect” or “the church” or “me” (i.e Galatians 2:20, Paul) are subsets of “all people” and “the world”.
Objection 3: In John 17:9, Jesus says “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” He says He’s not praying for the world, but only those The Father has given Him. If He wanted everyone saved, He would have prayed for the world.
I don’t think this is any more successful than the previous objections were. The fact that Jesus says He’s not praying for the world in John 17:9 doesn’t necesarilly mean He doesn’t desire the salvation of the world. For one thing; one of the most basic rules in biblical hermenutics is to interpret unclear passages of scripture in light of the clear. We’ve seen over and over and over and over again that The Bible teaches that God loves “the world” (John 3:16). This love for the world is why He is not “…willing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), and that explains why Jesus became incarnate and die for the sins of “the world” (John 3:16, 1 John 4:14, John 4:42), “the whole world” (1 John 2:2), “everyone” (Hebrews 2:9), which means “all people” (1 Timothy 2:6). Passage after passage after passage expresses God’s universal love for all, God’s universal salvific will, and God’s universal provision in the atonement. Therefore, however we interpret John 17:9, we should interpret it in light of the boat load of passages that affirm that, yes, God does want the world saved.
But how should we interpret this passage? I think that one way to look at it is that Jesus isn’t saying anything about whom He wants saved, but He’s saying that He’s not currently praying for the world. Jesus said “I am not praying for the world” in the present tense. Not “I have not” or “I will not” or “I have never and will never pray for the world”. We could look at this passage as Jesus saying that He isn’t praying for the world at the moment. For all we know, Jesus might have prayed for the whole world’s salvation on different occasions, occasions we didn’t even know about! After all, scripture doesn’t record every single word that ever came out of his mouth (i.e from the time He was 2-33). Here lately, I’ve been praying for 3 specific atheists I’ve interacted with on the internet. I ask God to save each of them by name. I don’t pray for the salvation of the souls of “all people” in general. Does that mean I don’t want all people saved? No, of course not! My lack of praying for the world no more indicates that I don’t want everyone saved than it does Jesus.
Moreover, we need to look at the context of the verse. When studying chapter 17, I noticed something interesting; Jesus isn’t praying for the world in verse 9, but neither is he praying for ” the world of the elect”. He’s only praying for the 12 disciples….at least in the portion of the text where this Calvinist prooftext is found. Jesus does pray for all believers in John 17, but he doesn’t do that until we get to verse 20. From verses 1-19, he’s praying only for the 12 disciples. From verse 20 and beyond, He’s praying for all believers. Should we conclude then, that Jesus didn’t want all believers to be saved? Since He’s not praying for them in verses 1-19? Surely not.
*4: Not all people will be saved. Some will end up in Hell for eternity.
Most of the Christians who read this blog will agree with this one, so I won’t tarry on this one. The Bible teaches that Hell is a very real place. The Bible describes Hell as a place of “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12), “shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2), a place where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44-49), and it’s a place of eternal separation from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Hell is a place where the wicked are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10)! And The Bible teaches that people who reject Christ will end up in that place for all eternity. For example, right after saying that God loves the world and sent Jesus to die for everyone (John 3:16-17), Jesus went on to say “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” In John 3:36, John the Baptist said “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” And The Bible says that many will find the gate that leads to destruction (see Matthew 7:13). Revelation 14:11 says that whoever worships the beast and the false prophet will have the smoke of their torment rise forever and ever, and that day and night, they’ll receive no rest from their torment.
The Bible teaches 4 things
1: Men are totally depraved and cannot repent without the aid of grace
2: God wants all people to be saved.
3: Jesus died on the cross for all people.
4: Not all people will be saved. Some will end up in Hell for eternity.
From these, it follows that God’s grace is resistible.
There Are A Few Places In Scripture That Actually Teach Resistible Grace
Other than resistible grace being an inference to the best explanation of 4 biblical teachings, there actually are a few places in which The Bible explicitly teaches the Arminian doctrine of resistible/prevenient grace.
One instance is in Acts chapter 7. Stephen had just been dragged in front of the Sanhedrin on the accusation that he repudiated the law of Moses and had blasphemed God. Stephen then went through a very lengthy recap of biblical history. At the end of his speech, he rebuked the religious leaders saying “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51). Stephen says outright that the religious leaders were resisting The Holy Spirit! This does not sit well with T.U.L.I.P theology which says that God’s grace is irresistible. According to Calvinism, The Holy Spirit cannot be resisted! No one can resist The Holy Spirit, no one can resist God’s will, God will always get people to do what He wants them to do. But Stephen says explicitly that the religious leaders are resisting The Holy Spirit!
Now, one could perhaps argue that Stephen was mistaken. After all, Stephen is just a man, and men can make mistakes. The problem with saying that Stephen made a mistake is that scripture tells us that everything he was saying to the leaders, he was saying under the inspiration of The Holy Spirit. ”
All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15), “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55)
John 1, the very first chapter of John’s gospel states in verse 4 that “In Him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” Verse 7 says that John The Baptist “…came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all might believe.” and in verse 9, The Bible says “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” What type of light is being given to every man? Well, many Arminian theologians will say that this light is prevenient grace. They will argue that God is illuminating the minds of unbelievers with the light of His grace so that they’ll be able to see the path of salvation (so to speak), and will be able to choose to take it or not take it. God illuminates the darkened hearts and minds of unbelievers so that they can choose to believe in Him.
In John 16:18, Jesus said that The Holy Spirit has come to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8) Again, who is a part of the world? Me, and you, and every person you’ve ever met and will meet. If it’s a human being and they’re on this planet, they’re a person The Holy Spirit has come to convict. Obviously, this convicting isn’t an irresistible convicting or else, again, everyone would fall to their knees and ask Christ to forgive them.
In John 12:32, Jesus said “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Jesus said that He would draw all people to Himself. Now, this is very interesting. According to Jesus’ earlier words in John 6, no one can come to Him unless God draws them (John 6:44, John 6:65), and yet here, Jesus said he would draw all people! Now, if this were an irresistible dragging as Calvinists contend, then universalism would result! Everyone would be saved! But we know that The Bible teaches that some will be eternally lost. It follows, therefore, that the drawing Jesus is talking about here is not an irresistible drawing, but a resistible one.
Of course, the Calvinist could always apply the “all kinds” hermeneutic to John 12:32, but again, that’s ad hoc, there’s no more reason to apply that logic to a passage like John 12:32 than there is Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, or 2 Timothy 3:16.
Another objection I’ve heard is that the entire reading of John 6:44 says that those whom Jesus draws, He will raise up at the last day. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” The objection is that Jesus is saying that whomever Jesus draws will be raised up at the last day, but only the elect will be raised from the dead, right? Only Christians are going to experience the bodily resurrection! So if that’s the case, then John 6:44 “proves” that God does not send grace to all people, but only people He has selected for salvation. The problem with this argument is that I think the presupposition behind it is false. It is not the case that only Christians will be raised from the dead. It is true that only Christians will go to Heaven, but it’s not true that only Christians will be granted resurrection bodies. In John 5:28-29, Jesus said “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” John 5:28-29 says that everyone will rise from the dead when Christ returns. Those who belong to Christ will rise to experience life, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. Daniel 12:2 likewise says “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” The Bible is clear that everyone will regain physical bodies, but those who have rejected Christ will still have to experience an eternity away from Him. So yeah, I agree, anyone whom Jesus draws will be raised from the dead. What of it?
By the way, interesting factoid; in the very same speech, Jesus ends by saying “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51). Jesus ends his discourse by saying that He’ll give His life for “the world”. Again, who is part of the world? Everyone. Would Jesus die for the world and yet not draw the world?
Titus 2:11 says “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”
Prevenient grace would also be consistent with the scriptures that appear to depict people having a genuine choice between serving God and rebelling against Him, passages like Deuteronomy 30:15-19 and Joshua 24:14-15 for examples.
“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” – Deuteronomy 30:15-19
Moses is clearly giving the Israelites a choice to serve God or to serve idols. Now, if the Israelites thousands of years ago had a choice, why don’t we have a choice today?
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:14-15
Joshua is clearly giving the Israelites a choice to serve God or to serve idols. Now, if the Israelites thousands of years ago had a choice, why don’t we have a choice today?
Moreover, on the Calvinist view, God causally determines everything, so we’d have to conclude that the apparent offer to choose between the one true God and pagan gods was insincere. Is God insincere? Surely not!
These are the biblical reasons why I believe in prevenient grace. I hope that you’re a T.U.L.I.P adherent, I’ve challenged you to rethink your position.
This Post Has 7 Comments
I believe that you should personally reject the Armenian teaching of total depravity. Although I can agree that the bible does teach we are dead in sin it does not mean that we can't freely choose God of our own free will. We are only depraved because we choose sin in favor of God. The bible nowhere teaches that we are so depraved that we don't have a free will and that God grants us prevenient grace to restore our free will to choose him( which I think is prevenient is a restoral our of free will) grace I'm not sure and I could possibly have it wrong but I believe that prevenient Grace teaches that God restores man's completely depraved will as you put it along with Calvinist and Armenians. Yes I can agree that without God we are dead in sin without God but God does not deny us a lack of free will to freely choose him. therefore in my sense we all can freely choose Christ because He has drawn all to himself (John 12 32) so if prevenient Grace teaches a restoration of free will then it should ultimately be rejected because it is false teaching. And also I'm not a Calvinist nor an Armenian but I am a Christian the name that jesu s assigned. Be a follower of God and not of men. Follow God's teaching instead man's incorrect logic God bless you
Reading this article I can certainly now understand that God restores your free will to the state of the pre-fall Adam so one can make his choice. I always thought we all fell in Adam and were already dead, as it were. I didn’t know God made us alive for a time to give us another chance like Adam. Do I misunderstand? Having read much Calvinist and Arminian literature, I see good points on both sides and I certainly respect the author if this article but I am just unclear about things. Too, in all the writings of both sides that I have read, I have seen some inconsistent hermeneutics. I just don’t know if demanding God hold to all hermeneutic principles is something we can do as finite humans. He says what he wants to say, through whom he wants to say it, at the time sequence in which he chooses.
You have indeed misunderstood. For one thing, God doesn’t “make us alive for a time and give us another chance like Adam”. No Arminian worth his salt would say that we are made alive in Christ prior to coming to faith. God enables us to respond, yes, but until we actually respond to the gospel in faith we are still “dead in our trespasses and sin”. That brings me to another point; what it means to be “dead in our trespasses and sins”. There are two alternative views to the Calvinist take and both seem to me to be far more reasonable than the view that it means we can’t do anything because we’re like corpses. One view is what we might call The Relational Understanding. I defended this view in my 2017 article “What Does It Mean To Be Dead In Sin?” and this view basically says that to be dead in our sins means we are relationally cut off from God. It’s like when someone have a falling out with someone and they say “You’re dead to me”, and they no longer have anything to do with the other party. Among the biblical support I martialed in favor of this understanding was Jesus’ Parable Of The Prodigal Son, where, when the son returns, the father says “My son was dead and is alive again”. The Prodigal son wasn’t physically dead, or dead in the sense of being incapable of returning (or doing anything else) because he was like a corpse. Rather, he was separated from his father. This is important, because repentant sinners represent the prodigal in the parable and the father represents God.
What I think is a more likely view is that Paul is using a figure of speech known as “Prolepsis”. This is when you talk about a future event as though it were a present reality. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and to die is to die in both body and soul (Matthew 10:28). Those who are living in rebellion to God are on their way to meet the second death (Revelation 20:15).So Paul could be talking of unbelievers as though they had already experienced damnation. Certainly Jesus spoke of unbelievers being, in a sense, already condemned in John 3:18. We even talk like this today. For example, we refer to prisoners on death row as “Dead men walking” when they are walking to the room with the electric chair. While I don’t think I have grounds to rule out the relational interpretation entirely, I do tend to favor the prolepsis interpretation more. Paul says we were “dead in trespasses and sin”. We were on our way to God’s capital punishment, but Jesus rescued us. Now we’re alive. We’re no longer “dead men walking”, rather we are given eternal life (John 3:16).
I’m not sure what you mean by “I just don’t know if demanding God hold to all hermeneutic principles is something we can do as finite humans. He says what he wants to say, through whom he wants to say it, at the time sequence in which he chooses.” God is not an irrational being. He hasn’t inspired the human authors of scripture to write nonsense. And while it’s true that the principles of hermenutics that biblical scholars and theologians practice aren’t inspired, it seems to me like they’re pretty good principles to abide by. If you just sit down and think through why we ought to do them, I think you’ll agree. For example, the principle to always interpret a verse in its context. Why should we do this? Well, we all know how context can change everything. We all know how statements of some of our favorite politicians have been taken out of context in a sound bite by biased news medias to make them sound bad. A sentence might make no sense, or it might make God look like a moral monster, unless we’re provided the context. To interpret scripture in light of scripture also seems like a sound principle to me. If God never contradicts himself, and very clear and plain verses teach X in over 100 different places, and you find 1 verse that SEEMS to teach Non-X, then you probably should find a way to harmonize that 1 with the 100+. If something I say makes me sound like, say, a modalist, but you know from reading 100 of my blog posts that I am a hardcore Trinitarian, would you not charitably interpret my modalistic sounding sentence in that light? So, we can see that, although The Bible doesn’t come with a set of rules on how to interpret it, these are some pretty good rules to go by. It makes sense to do it this way. Why would you not?
How do you reconcile resistible Grace with “Jacob I loved , but Esau I hated”? Thank you
The short answer is that this has to do with God’s choice of nations. God choses the Israelites over the Edomites to be His people whom the Messiah would come into the world. And a common biblical idiom is to talk of something favored as being “loved” and something not favored as being “hated”. But God doesn’t literally hate the Edomites nor anyone else for that matter. And it’s certainly not about the individuals Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau are metonmy for the nations that came from them.
For a longer response, I recommend checking out my article “What Is Romans 9 Really About?” — https://cerebralfaith.net/what-is-romans-9-really-abou/
Do you believe you know more than the Apostles Paul? The Apostle Paul details a “Prevenient Grace” from God within Acts 17:24-31. Three specific verses especially, verse 26-27 & verse 30. Do you believe you know more than God through formulating your own belief system about God? The Word should change you, you shouldn’t change the Word.
THE PURPOSE OF LIFE…
24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31)
16 When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning nor distort God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For , with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:16 to 2 Corinthians 4:6)
1. by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.
2. we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.
3. We refuse to practice cunning
4. nor distort God’s word
5. by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
6. what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord
7. with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Based on your opening paragraph, it sounds like you’re disagreeing with me. No, I don’t “know more than God”. This sounds like silly fundamentalist rhetoric that paints the detractor in an unflattering light in order to avoid dealing with exegetical arguments for a certain viewpoint. This is not how theological disagreement should be handled.
On the other hand, you go on to cite a bunch of proof texts that either support my position (e.g Acts 17, “God calls all people everywhere to repent”) or at the very least is not incompatible with it. But given that you don’t exposit the texts that you cite, I can only conjecture what point you’re trying to make by quoting those verses. Is the idea that “The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing” because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers” supposed to be a point against Prevenient Grace or something? If that’s what you’re trying to say, it’s not. Paul isn’t saying that God is supernaturally making people utterly incapable of responding to the gospel. Rather, this is about Satan deceiving people away from the truth. No Arminian in the history of the church would deny that Satan has lots of unbelievers under numerous kinds of deceptions. These deceptions keep them from seeing the truth. Cutting away these deceptions is what my apologetics ministry is all about. As 2 Corinthians 10:5 says “We destroy arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”