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...

Concerns about Irresistible Grace II (re: John Piper)

John Piper writes, "Someone may say, "Yes, the Holy Spirit must draw us to God, but we can use our freedom to resist or accept that drawing." Our answer is: except for the continual exertion of saving grace, we will always use our freedom to resist God. That is what it means to be "unable to submit to God." If a person becomes humble enough to submit to God it is because God has given that person a new, humble nature. If a person remains too hard hearted and proud to submit to God, it is because that person has not been given such a willing spirit. But to see this most persuasively we should look at the Scriptures."

This argument is founded on a very dim view of human nature. We should look at scripture, as Piper suggests, to the very first bad decision made therein: Eve eats the fruit. Adam eats the fruit. Why? Were they totally depraved? Not at that point, not in the classic sense. One does not need to be "fallen" or infected with the "sin" virus in order to make bad decisions, to be disobedient--the Adam-and-Eve incident illustrates that men and women were created with the free ability to choose obedience or disobedience, to exercise their individual wills. Even in the purity of the Garden, before the Curse, in full community with God, we were disobedient. (What made us disobedient? Paul says it was the creation of rules (Romans 3.20, 7.7-11). We have a will, as part of the nature God gave us in his image; the only way we can sin is if there are rules we can break through the exercise of that will.)

Someone may say, "Justin, yours is a critique against Total Depravity, not against Irresistible Grace." But it is Piper who binds Irresistible Grace back to Total Depravity. He writes, "...we will always use our freedom to resist God. That is what it means to be "unable to submit to God." If a person becomes humble enough to submit to God it is because God has given that person a new, humble nature." Piper's narrative of conversion presupposes a fallen state. In order to submit, we must be given a "new, humble nature." What was wrong with the prior nature? It seems impossible to even conceive of a need for "irresistible grace" without first accepting a prior corruption which inhibits the exercise of a free will.

There is, next, this issue: Piper writes, When a person hears a preacher call for repentance he can resist that call. But if God gives him repentance he cannot resist because the gift is the removal of resistance. GRACE = REMOVAL OF RESISTANCE? Or is the "gift" in question not "grace," but something else? The gift of "salvation?" SALVATION = THE REMOVAL OF RESISTANCE? This is a substantial claim Piper is making, and I was hoping someone could clarify his point. Contextually, though, I would think that the gift is a grace which is irresistible, and to this definition I would seriously object. Grace, in both the New and Old Testaments, is a word referring to God's favor, a word frequently describing generosity, beauty, qualities of admiration (gracious, graceful, etc.)--when Christians receive "favor" from God, they receive his grace. What is it when God chooses to "favor" you with salvation? I call this election, but some call it the free "grace." I've don't recall ever seeing grace described, as Piper does, as "the removal of resistance." That's called "victory," isn't it?