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

ElderDad: Chapter 5 of Romans

Response to ElderDad for thoughts on Romans 5 as regard "original sin" and "limited atonement":

Okay, here it is, Dave
As I read through chapter 5 of Romans I find the concept of "original sin" more clearly stated than any other chapter in Scripture that I can think of. The crux of the Reformed doctrine of original sin is that it affirms that all of the human race, except for Christ, are conceived in their mother's wombs as sinners because of our participation in Adam's sin. This is stated unequivocally in verse 12 "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned."

Let us notice here that Paul is not saying "because we all have or will sin" but rather that we all sinned already with Adam's sin. Thus all people are conceived as sinners in their mothers womb. God does not wait until we have sinned in our individual lives to declare us to be sinners; we born already sinners. We originated in sin. Exactly how or in what manner we participated in Adam's sin is the mystery of which I agreed with Noshi. God simply does not explain His divine "rationale" in that matter. But that it is true is quite evident in everyday life. As our infants grow into toddlers we find that we do not have to teach them to sin; on the contrary, we have to teach them not to sin. ;-)

Now as to the matter of what Calvinism refers to as "Limited Atonement" we have a concept of greater complexity regarding various Scripture passages which elude to it. For now we will confine this discussion to Romans 5. This doctrine is one of the 5 Point of Calvinism which all Reformed folk do not fully affirm. Thus they might well be among those who label themselves "4 Point Calvinsists" because of the "L" issue.

Essentially, the way the doctrine of a limited atonement as presented in the classical Reformed sense and was taught to me is that while Christ's atonement was sufficient to merit forgiveness for the sins of all men, God's eternal intent was for it to only be efficient for the elect. Therefore, based on this reasoning, one could come to the logical conclusion that in the context just stated Christ only died for the sins of the elect and not for all men. To me that begs the question "How can the atonement be sufficient for all if Christ only died for the sins of the elect? Thus many are unable to embrace this understanding of a limited atonement if He truly did only die for the sins of the elect which I find is not an unreasonable assumption. Equally clearly that reasoning makes sense if one considers it in the context of predestination regardless of whether one embrace unconditional or conditional election. God certainly does foreknow exactly who the individuals are among the elect and thus foresees the atonement being only applicable to them. However, to me the central issue to clarify here is the matter of the offer of the atonement. Many people, even a number of folks who would identify themselves as being Calvinist, balk because of this particular issue. There is the somewhat legitimate perception that if the purpose of the atonement is "limited" or "particular" then so must be the offer of the gospel. To offer the gospel to those for whom it was never intended is a fraud. Herein, in my opinion, is where all the confusion lies, and yet we must admit that the concern is, indeed, valid. Thus how does one resolve that issue and remain consistent with the rest of Reformed soteriology? I will give you my reasoning to answer that question.

With that preface let's look at what I understand to be the key verse in Romans 5 that raises a question regarding limited atonement and I hope this was the one you had in mind. That would be verse 18: "Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life." (New King James Version). (John 1:29 is a quite similar verse in its implications.)

First, I believe, we need to be clear as to what this verse does not teach. Clearly, based upon the whole counsel of Scripture, we know that it cannot imply a doctrine of "universalism", that is the implication that ultimately everybody will be saved through the gospel, specifically, through Christ's atonement. But it, as I am able to understand, clearly does teach that the offer of the gospel is valid for "all men".
Convinced that for the offer of the gospel to all men to be legitimate, I have expanded my personal understanding of the Calvinist doctrine which I can best describe with a word picture.
Imagine that God the Father took all of the sins that have been and ever will be committed by mankind and places them in a cup. But while this is the sum of all the sins of the world, God does not place them in the cup with regard to which individual person committed each sin. Into this cup also God pours the full measure of His wrath for the totality of those sins. This is the cup is then the cup that Jesus drank on the cross! If we agree, speaking to my Calvinist cohorts, but also to any who will listen, that Jesus' atonement was sufficient to cover all sins then His suffering for the atonement must also have been sufficient as well. However, when it comes to efficiency, God foreknowing all things, applies (predestines) the atonement only to the elect. When I, personally, view the doctrine in this manner I find nothing in my expansion of it that violates Scripture, but rather affirms the totality of Scripture that refers to the Atonement. And I can now proclaim to any and everyone the gospel and say "Jesus Christ suffered and died for your sins" without in misgivings and yet still hold also to an understanding of a limited atonement. Any who choose not to accept the offer of the gospel have done so through their "free" will. The free gift was legitimately offered, but they rejected it.

ElderDad, I don't know if that is what you specifically were wanting me to address in Chapter 5 and if you would care to elaborate on your thoughts please, by all means, so so; or anyone else for that matter. I suspect there are corrections or more that could be clarified regarding my thoughts.