Reformed Theology: God's Grace

JeffLogan's picture

This discussion will be limited to the discussion of God's grace as it pertains to Reformed Theology.

Barry writes,

I would like to suggest that we explore the topic of "God's Grace " as it relates specifically to the process of one's coming to salvation. I personally am particularly interested in the doctrine of "Prevenient Grace", however, at ElderDad's suggestion which points out our primary forum theme, addressing the RT position termed "Irresistible Grace" first is the more appropriate approach.

So, if this approach is acceptable, I would invite someone to begin this thread by first defining the term, then giving a brief re-cap of the history of "TULIP", and concluding with Scriptural references supporting the concept. That should get us rolling.

Barring objections, I would encourage someone in the Reformed camp to please begin.

Grace and peace to all.


Suggested Structure: (Best if viewing options set: Threaded Collapsed | Oldest First | 200/page |)

(The first 3 headings are reserved for Reformed Theology Adherents ONLY)

Defining the terms (No opposing views here)
     Irresistible Grace
     Prevenient Grace
Brief re-cap of the history of "TULIP" (No opposing views here)
     Early History
     Later History
     Unfolding History/Current Understanding
Scriptural references supporting the concept (No opposing views here)
     Irresistible Grace
     Prevenient Grace
1st Discussion: Irresistible Grace
2nd Discussion: Prevenient Grace
3rd Discussion: etc...

bwarddvm's picture

Re: ML: ...'God in a box'.....

Okay, Michael, let's see what we have in this post:

ML: But we cannot interpret scripture by letting the number of verses determine which of two difficult alternatives to choose to espouse.  We must reconcile these two different and apparently contrary ideas or simply admit we do not understand the revelation God has presented to us

BW: I beg to differ on the number of verses. The more often Scripture repeats itself or reaffirms a truth on a concept it has already addressed is very indicative of the importance the Holy Spirit places on that concept. Yes, we must reconcile apparent contradictions, however we must also acknowledge that a mystery is not necessarily a contradiction. Mysteries are those matters about which we would love to understand more completely but must acknowledge that God is not pleased to reveal. Yet we still are free to opine on what we suppose the answers to be, but are obligated to always state them in the form of opinions rather than forgone truths.

ML: Remember God sent His Son to die for the sins of the world.  That is completely unnecessary if the application of grace can do it all

BW: No, Michael, you misunderstand. God's special grace does not atone for sins, it enables fallen man to accept that atonement through faith in Christ, a position which his fallen nature vehemently opposes.

ML: To say God can give us a free will but sometimes treats us like puppets is not an adequate attempt to save this doctrine from its internal inconsistencies and contradictions.

BW: All I said was that IF God elected to treat us as puppets (NOT that He does) He would still not be unjust.

ML: BW: "As to you first question, yes, the benefits and efficacy of common grace are solely of God's determination, yet still the framework of man's "free will" which is the means by which He brings these to pass".

How is this possible?  Just because you say your doctrine is not inconsistent with free will does not make it so, you really need to have an explanation of how your doctrine remains consistent.

BW: What I am saying is that Scripture teaches both God's sovereignty and man's free will. The fact that Scripture teaches both is evidence that they do coexist. It is a mystery to us as to precisely how God resolves the tension between those two truths (to His satisfaction alone, I might add) but it is not a contradiction but rather a truth to say that He does. Part of the answer, I suspect, lies in how we define free will as I described in an earlier post.

ML: BW: "So, yes man's choices are relevant and certainly have consequences in this life. We can all clearly attest to that in our own lives."

What we can attest to has no bearing on the truth.

BW: Are you actually questioning the truth that our choices have consequences in this life? Really??

ML:BW: "Yet when all is said and done, God works within our choices to bring about His will in all things"
Then His grace is not irresistible, because if it is then God would not have to work around our free will choices.

BW: The RT teaching of Irresistible Grace refers ONLY to Special Grace, that grace by which God sovereignly draw the elect to Himself. Man can obviously resist and reject many manifestations of common grace. For example many men resist the grace of God's ordained governments and the laws which they are authorized by God to enforce to maintain civil obedience and conduct for the benefit of all men under that government. Many men resist, break the law and do many evil unlawful things. Fortunately, the majority submit to that restraining grace thus we are able to maintain a level of civility in those "civilized cultures".

ML: But when those mysteries make the understanding they have come away with turn out to be inconsistent or even contradictory then they do have to explain that because no one should be expected to hold two completely contrary beliefs at the same time.  That is why it is not enough to simply side with the doctrine you think is more clearly expressed in scripture.

BW: If you will give me a specific examples of these inconsistencies and contradictions, I will certainly attempt to address them.

ML: BW: "I would concede that one could make the case (albeit unfair, IMO) that God is responsible for all the pain and evil in the world because it is ultimately the result of His judgement on the world and mankind for sinning. One could say "Well, God didn't have to pass such a severe judgment for one little bitty sin of eating a piece of fruit that He had forbidden, did He?" That doesn't seem either reasonable or fair to us, does it? We would argue that the punishment does not fit the crime. Thus we blame God for being so stern and unbending and picayunish to begin with".

But this example is a purposely weak example to undermine the real argument.  That is what is known as a strawman attack.   The argument is that if God’s grace is irresistible then we have no choice in being saved or in acting moral ways with the right intent or not, so we either sin or do not because His grace made it so.  If that is the case then the sacrifice of His Son and the love He showed to us by that act is meaningless since salvation is determined solely on the gift of special grace or the withholding of the same.

BW: Yes, we do have a choice. We all choose what we believe about God and, if given the opportunity, the gospel. But Scripture teaches that in our state of spiritual death we are at enmity with God, have no desire for Him, exchange the truth of His existence written on our hearts for a lie and worship a creature instead of the Creator. Fallen man readily, freely choose those things. God does not have to force him to do it, he does what comes natural to him. That is fallen man's free choice. God's in His mercy and grace choose to turn some (His elect) away from that fallen mindset by His irresistible grace working to change the disposition of their hearts that are turned away from Him to regenerated hearts that turn to Him, freely, readily, eagerly. What do you find inconsistent or contradictory in the fact that God does that?? Scripture clearly teaches that is exactly what He does.

And, yet again, Michael, please get it clear in your mind that special grace in no way negates the necessity of Christ's atonement. It does, indeed, affect to whom that atonement is applied. But that discussion will have to wait until we get to "Limited Atonement".

ML: Even now with that last statement you imply that God knew in a irresistible way that Adam would sin, so Adam had to sin, else God would have erred.  But this means that Adam even before being in a fallen state had no real free will.  If that is the case then within your doctrine God does become unfair for He becomes the author of sin even for Adam and Eve.

BW: Of course God foreknew Adam would sin. I have no idea what you mean by "in an irresistible way". You sound as if you are implying that I was stating that God irrevocably ordained Adam to sin. That is nonsense!! God foresees all things that will occur. In His permissive will He allows men to make all kinds of decisions and take all kinds of actions that are not pleasing to Him. But, still, in spite of this, He still works out all things according to His sovereign inscrutable will. And, for the believer He even works them for good. He is never surprised and His eternal purposes are never thwarted. Exactly how He does this is a mystery, is it not? However, it certainly is not a contradiction, is it?

ML: BW: "For us to try to wedge it into a theological system that we find to be "fair and equitable" and yet remain true to Scripture is likely never going to happen".

But it already has, it is merely the insistency to hold onto a definition of sovereignty that is no more sustainable in the face of free will then the concept of omnipotence is in the face of one of God’s other covenants.  But if one understands the concept of covenants and how they apply to God then the problem disappears as the man made terms and definition are simply revised.  Remember God, being infinitely perfect in all ways, does not really have characteristics as understood by men or covered by our limited language.  So if we have to come to a different understanding of these terms based on the revelation of God as we make consistent systematic theologies then that is what we must do.  To demand that God fit in some box formed by such a small term as sovereign is not good exegesis.

BW: God's omnipotence is one of His divine attributes, not a covenant. I am quite familiar with Covenant Theology, but have no idea where you are going here with your reference to His covenants. The fact that He "does not really have characteristics as understood by men or covered by our limited language" is exactly what I have been telling you in trying to explain to you why many of His concepts in Scripture are shrouded in mystery. His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours as to be beyond our understanding.

ML: I find it strange that so many resort to this statement when its basis was from such a prideful comment.  The original use of this phrase was by a man named John Bradford (1510–1555). These words were uttered by Bradford while imprisoned in the Tower of London when he saw a criminal on his way to execution. ("There, but for the grace of God, go I")  It expressed not an attributing of his salvation to God, but the good fortune of his that another was being led to execution instead of him, as if he was better than that man.  But more to the point for your position we have to consider - If God’s grace plays a role in everyday decisions such as these, affecting who some human chooses to go to an execution,  then truly we have no free will.

BW: Bradford's quote has many applications, wouldn't you say?

And, once again, God's common grace does influence the everyday decisions of some people, other resist. He does not force it on anyone, but He does bless certain individuals with it. Surely, you can understand that simple statement. Yes, I would say this is clearly demonstrated in our judicial systems among other institutions. This is why sometimes justice is miscarried by fallen men, but then other times, hopefully most of the time in free countries, they get it right. But that the magistrate has been given that authority and responsibility is a manifestation of God's grace in restraining evil as Paul clearly explains in Romans 13. If you see this as an injustice or God's "puppeteering" his creatures, please know that nobody here is trying to "foreordain" (lol) you to see otherwise.

I'll be looking for those inconsistencies and contradictions.

Grace and peace,

Oh, have mercy!! I see a couple of more posts from you! I certainly cannot match your prolific output, Michael. If quantity of words is a criterion for winning this debate, then I surrender right now! LOL!