Thursday, 9 September 2010

Prevenient grace and freedom

An interesting conversation was carried out in the comments of a recent post which I followed with some interest. It was my most commented post thus far.

Starwind asked Robert a couple of questions (which he asked in several ways thru-out the comments)
  1. If prevenient grace has enabled salvific "importances" (e.g. trust, obedience, humility, etc.) in the spirit as necessary to enable a faith response, but not sufficiently to prevent resistance and regardless the spirit resists and chooses disbelief based on non-salvific "importances", then what are those non-salvific "importances" upon which resistance was decided and why don't believers likewise sucumb to their insufficiencies and resist faith?
  2. If necessary prevenient grace is regardless not sufficient, from whence comes the sufficiency that chooses faith?
Here are some initial thoughts, though I think answering by analogy is more helpful to comprehension than answering thru logical syllogisms. The questions are difficult for me to give a straightforward answer to because I think they contain assumptions that the Arminian may deny.

My understanding of prevenient grace (though I have not studied it, so perhaps my perspective on prevenient grace!) is that because of our fallen nature humans would not choose God even though they have some freedom of choice. But God is turning the hearts (will and desires) of men back to himself. While this may entail an enabling on God's behalf, I see it more as a wooing. And this is not limited to some men, God woos all men while they are alive (mostly).

Thus the focus is not on how we are able to follow God, rather will we choose to follow God. So perhaps God's prevenient grace is (logically) sufficient to be able to make God following choices it is not (logically) sufficient to become saved. Similarly working legs in a live adult are sufficient to be able to run, but a not sufficient to choose to go for a run.

Because we are talking about resisting God, I do not think the term "sufficient" helpful.

When a man chooses to follow God he is responding to God, but the salvation event comes from God, not from the man, nor does the man contribute to his salvation in any meaningful manner.

So the statement "prevenient grace has enabled salvific "importances" necessary to enable a faith response, but not sufficiently to prevent resistance" mixes 2 different concepts. It implies that God's grace is measured. It suggests that more prevenient grace would mean that man is unable to resist. I claim that grace is always able to be resisted. The nature of love, and wooing is that no amount of them can prevent resistance.

To the second part of the question, the non-salvific importances. I take this to mean things that man takes into consideration for salvation but do not indeed save him. In choosing God I think many things affect man's choice. How strongly God woos him, the examples of godly people in his life, the temptation to sin.

Our desires compete between long term pleasure and short term pleasure. Sin and righteousness. Yielding to temptation depends on degree of perceived pleasure, previous yielding, our resistance, our requests to God to help us, tiredness, knowledge of consequences, past experiences. All these feed into our decision to follow God, or not. But because men love wickedness, many choose to reject God.

So what is it specifically within our spirit that means 2 men with similar inputs choose opposite paths?

I see nothing deeper than our will. Our choice to obey righteousness or wickedness. Nothing compels us. This is part of the imago Dei in us. In the same kind of way that God can make free, non-necessary choices, so can we. God can create, or not create. And he could have created a variety of worlds, all of which are good. This freedom that exists within God he imparts to us.


  1. I will be away from my computer for a few days with limited access.

    I am unable to turn off spam detection which is a little overly sensitive. If you write more than one comment, I suggest publishing them with at least a minute between comments.

  2. Bethyada:

    I offer some clarification and nuance in the hope it stimulates more fruitful discussion:

    It implies that God's grace is measured.

    My understanding of prevenient grace is that, yes, it is measured. That God provides it, essentially, to compensate the recipient for our fallen nature and the unfair vicissitudes of life, which varies in quality and quantity from individual to individual. Some have been raised in caring, godly homes and have had ample opportunity to respond in faith and need less prevenient grace, whereas others through little fault of their own have been poorly taught, abused, isolated, etc., and to them God grants more prevenient grace, enough to enable the same faith response as in those who had more benefits.

    I also am given to understand that prevenient grace, as a "wooing" is not an 'event' but rather a 'process' and that the grace can be material as well as spiritual, protective as well as provisional.

    Because we are talking about resisting God, I do not think the term "sufficient" helpful.

    Perhaps not, I'm open to other terms, but "sufficiency" conveys what I understand, insofar as God provides a measured amount, in a process, of prevenient grace, sufficient to compensate for our fallen nature and vicissitudes of life, to enable anyone to respond in faith, no matter what their differing circumstances relative to others, such that no one can say at the white throne judgement "But I didn't have a fair chance. My teachers were all atheistic darwinists. There was no church near me. I never had a bible. My life was harder than theirs" ... or some such.

    As I pondered in the previous thread, where might a "seared conscience" enter into consideration, e.g. would prevenient grace "unsear" a conscience, or is preveneint grace administered long before the conscience became seared?

    To the second part of the question, the non-salvific importances. I take this to mean things that man takes into consideration for salvation but do not indeed save him

    I didn't elaborate as I didn't want to lead the answer. But I also considered "anti-salvific" importances such as pride, rebelliousness, greed, deceit, etc., i.e. things that not only don't save but can also condemn.

    I see nothing deeper than our will. Our choice to obey righteousness or wickedness. Nothing compels us. This is part of the imago Dei in us.

    I would agree, broadly, and more narrowly suggest the issue is for the human soul or spirit "willing to do/be what? be prideful?, be stiff-necked? or be humble, be teachable, etc." While there may be nothing in our souls or spirits deeper than the "will", how is that will characterized, what attitude predominates, when presented with any given circumstance?

    A final thought: Is the human "will" embodied in the soul or in the spirit?

    I will, on this thread, avoid asking questions but instead lurk and learn from others, unless asked a direct question.

  3. Grace is offered corporately. I don't believe there is any bible reference where God's grace is offered differently to people based on individual circumstances. Grace is accepted individually. A man's circumstances may make their acceptance of grace more or less appealing to God. But no man has any valid excuse for rejecting grace.

  4. Starwind, comment as much (or little) as you wish. I have responded to a question of yours so if I have misunderstood you...

    Briefly, I see prevenient grace affecting ability, not will. A difference in kind. So even infinite prevenient grace will not convert a person as it does not address the issue of free will at that level. It may cause acknowledgement that God exists, but God will not force men to follow him. And God cannot logically make people love him.

    Of course my position may be inconsistent with official Arminian doctrine?

  5. Interesting perspective Stripe, will have to consider that further.



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