Another Nice Short Post on Problems in Calvinism and the Calvinist Use of Language

Janis Joplin, Calvinism and More Words w/ Multiple Meanings


I think Jonathan Edwards & Co are looking too much to the hard sciences to explain spiritual realities and therein lies their mistake. They also would deny God the sovereign prerogative to delegate the power of contrary choice to everyone born in sin. In this regard, it is the Calvinists who would “limit” divine sovereignty and resist God’s right to be God. If the LORD wants to delegate the power (or ability) to believe, or reject, the Gospel to lost sinners, then who are we to object? A truly sovereign God can delegate authority as He sees fit. We know that God gave Adam the ability to choose sin even though he did not have a sinful nature, so why can’t He give the rest of us the ability to repent, even though we have a sinful nature?

HT: Dale Wayman

7 thoughts on “Another Nice Short Post on Problems in Calvinism and the Calvinist Use of Language

  1. What would be the difference to an Arminian between common grace and prevenient grace? “…while non-Calvinists believe that God has supplied sufficient grace for those who are dead in trespasses and sins to repent and believe the Truth.”

    If common grace is enough to be enabled to believe, what is the role of prevenient grace? How does prevenient grace work above and beyond the common grace given to all men which is “sufficient grace….to repent and believe the Truth”?

    “The common grace of God does not enable us to live without sin, but it does enable us to live by faith; and we know that the just shall live by their faith.”

    I understand the Calvinist viewpoint and don’t agree with it. I’m just not certain I understand the Arminian viewpoint on this issue.

  2. Well, common grace is used in different ways by different theological perspectives. So “prevenient” grace is more precise in that it has specific reference to the grace that precedes faith and salvation and makes faith possible (overcomes depravity and enables faith).

    Common grace can have reference to God’s influence in the world that prevents sin and sinner from wreaking all the havoc they could (and would) if not for that grace. In that sense it could be seen as a restraining grace. Another view is that it simply has reference to God’s general care over His creation, even over those who reject Him. A verse often appealed to for “common grace” is Matt. 5:45 where Jesus says that the Father gives rain to both the righteous and unrighteous.

  3. 1) Is prevenient grace supplied to all sinners throughout history as well?
    2) Can there be grace without the Holy Spirit involved?
    3) If no to #2, how does prevenient grace convict an unregenerate sinner by operating on him externally since the Holy Spirit can not in-dwell an unbeliever? In other words, if prevenient grace is a work of the Holy Spirit on an unregenerated sinner, is that grace not similar to the Calvinist concept of regenerating grace (with the important exception that prevenient grace can be rejected?)

  4. Hey Paul,

    1) I think that God’s grace is always working to bring people to Him. I think God judges based on how we respond to whatever grace we are given and gives subsequent grace (or leading) based on such response.
    2) Probably not the sort of grace that would ultimately lead one to God, but the Spirit’s involvement may not always be the same (e.g., in the new covenant era, His convicting work has specific reference to the need for Christ and leading one to Christ for salvation, etc.)
    3) I don’t know exactly how God works on the heart of a sinner to make faith possible. I don’t think the Bible gets into such details. But I do think the Bible makes it clear that such a work is necessary.

    Yes, it is very similar to the Calvinist concept of regenerating grace in that it makes faith possible and is necessary to make faith possible. But it is different in that it is not regeneration, but will lead to regeneration if it is not finally resisted (which is why some Arminians prefer to call it pre-regenerating grace rather than prevenient grace).

  5. I don’t accept irresistible grace within the structure of Calvinism because it is a beam to hold up the T and the U and therefore it necessitates a reversal of the biblical ordo of faith preceding regeneration. It compels faith and therefore makes the reception of faith unnecessary for salvation. So I understand the biblical charge against Calvinism’s “regenerating grace” because it effectively entails the existence of a “regenerated unbeliever that is now enabled to exercise his faith.”

    I still struggle with the difference between the Arminian concept of “common grace” as a restraining grace upon all men, and “prevenient grace” which is somewhere between common grace and an effective saving grace. Prevenient grace is potentially saving grace which can become effective saving grace if it is received by faith. But if it is resisted, is that ineffective prevenient grace really any different from common grace? Doesn’t ineffective prevenient grace just become a dog waiting for you to walk it? Grace that is waiting for you to see it as “grace” so as to positively respond?

  6. Hey Paul,

    It doesn’t matter to me if you would rather refer to it as common grace. I don’t see that as a problem at all and it can certainly serve as a good descriptor. Common grace as a sort of restraining grace is not necessarily Arminian. In fact, it think Calvinists probably reference it more often than Arminians.

    I would also point out that there may be an aspect of prevenient grace that is irresistible. Some would see God’s enabling us to believe as irresistible (so far as we are made capable of faith), while seeing our response to that enabling as resistible (in that once enabled, we do not have to believe and receive the grace of slavation).

    God Bless,

  7. I really appreciate the A.W. Tozer quote about God sovereignly authorizing mankind to make analytical choices. And I appreciate the analysis in the previous posts concerning types of grace that would differentiate from one another. Perhaps prevenient grace is an unnecessary response to the construct of irresistible grace?

    For me, one of the significant warning signs of Calvinism is its use of language. If the language of scripture is read “at face value”, it cannot support Calvinist claims. It becomes easy to recognize by all of the complex interpretations of verses deployed within Calvinist exegesis, that reading the language “at face value” is going to contradict the theology. To read a sentence at “face value”, essentially means that one accepts the “common” definition for each word within the sentence. When the “face value” reading contradicts one’s theology, the standard practice is to craft alternative definitions for selected words within the sentence. We see this manipulation of language in Luke 10:29 where the expert in the scripture challenges Jesus. The lawyer quotes the scripture verbatim…so far so good. But reading the text at “face value” contradicts his theology. So he crafts an alternative definition for one single word…..“neighbor”. Jesus recognizes the manipulation, and tells the story of the good Samaritan, which functions as a language tool allowing everyone to clearly recognize God’s original meaning of the word “neighbor”. By the time the parable done, it is clear that the “Love” commandments are to be read “at face value”. Calvinists have had centuries to come up with all sorts of altered definitions for words within verses in order to neutralize contradictions. This also explains the Calvinists arguments: “to not embrace Calvinism is to not understand it”. “Calvinism is a “fully-orbed” theology. What they are really saying is to believe in Calvinism requires embracing altered definitions for words. So what is really “fully-orbed” is the ability to avoid reading the language of scripture “at face value”. On the issue of “irresistible grace”, this smacks too much of witchcraft for my taste. God is said to use supernatural powers to make himself “irresistible”. This is what witches and warlocks do. God casts a spell on the person and they cannot resist him. I’m sure Calvinists see it as a viable way of supporting monergism in the process of salvation. But they’ve had to lower God down to the level of utilizing witchcraft methodology. Just a little bit too “dark ages” for my taste. :-]
    Thanks for the wonderful posts and the liberty to post ones thoughts! The Lord bless you!!

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