Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Prevenient Grace taught by John Calvin?

In terms of Total Depravity, the Calvinist says that the solution to man’s depraved nature is divine intervention. Arminians couldn’t agree more! It’s how God intervenes, that separates Calvinists from Arminians. Does God’s intervention include full blown regeneration, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Or, does God reserve full blown regeneration for the believer in Christ? Based upon Eph. 1:13, I contend for the latter, but I don’t doubt that a Calvinist can provide their own slant on that verse, as even Calvin himself had, by imagining a two-fold application of the Holy Spirit. So if God does not intervene with full blown regeneration, how else could He possibly bring the unregenerate, dead rebel sinner to a place where they are able to receive His free gift of grace? How, exactly, does Prevenient Grace work? I like how Paul described it at Acts 26:14. Now, before Calvinists say that it is 100%, absolutely impossible for God to be able to bring an unregenerate, dead rebel sinner to a point where they can receive His free gift of grace, they ought to consider something that John Calvin suggested. Calvin postulated how some people can live a life of thinking that they are one of the exclusive, Calvinistically elect, when yet they would later go on to fall away from the faith, and prove that they were not one of the Calvinistically elect after all. Here is what Calvin reasons:

John Calvin explains: “Let no one think that those [who] fall away...were of the predestined, called according to the purpose and truly sons of the promise. For those who appear to live piously may be called sons of God; but since they will eventually live impiously and die in that impiety, God does call them sons in His foreknowledge. There are sons of God who do not yet appear so to us, but now do so to God; and there are those who, on account of some arrogated or temporal grace, are called so by us, but are not so to God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.66, emphasis mine)

What kind of grace was that again? That arrogated grace sounds like a non-regenerative, Prevenient Grace? No?

Calvin adds: “Yet sometimes he also causes those whom he illumines only for a time to partake of it; then he justly forsakes them on account of their ungratefulness and strikes them with even greater blindness.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, 3.24.8, emphasis mine)

“Illumes only for a time.” What kind of arrogated illumination is that? That sounds a lot like Prevenient Grace. Surely it’s not regeneration, since regeneration and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit is apparently reserved only for the Calvinistically elect. So is John Calvin showing that an unregenerate, dead rebel sinner can be illumed with an arrogated grace which allows him, for a time, to overcome Total Depravity? So even though they suffer from Total Depravity, by God’s power, and without full blown regeneration, God has the power to breach their Total Depravity, and bring them to a place of illumination.

So what if God should “illume” someone with such an “arrogated grace” so that a person could be brought to the point where they are able to receive Christ’s free gift of grace, and thus as a converted believer, receive the regeneration and indwelling that is alone reserved in Christ, as Arminianism proposes? Ultimately, it seems like John Calvin has opened up a logical door to Arminian, Prevenient Grace. No? To me, it looks that John Calvin has proposed a way in which God could breach an unregenerate, dead rebel sinner's Total Depravity, through an arrogated illumination.


redi said...

Calvinist don't have a problem wit the idea tat god frees sinner to believe. we believe that he does. we have a problem wen we are told tat someone if freed to believe when they still ave no desire for Christ. how can someone who is enslaved by their love for sin and lack of desire to come to Christ be said to ave been freed by prevenient grace if they still love their sin and as a result they still have no desire to come to Christ. That doesn't make sense to me.

Richard Coords said...

Hello Redi,

Depraved people still love their sin, but there are other factors at play. Consider an illustration from Ray Comfort:

Ray Comfort illustrates: “You are standing on the edge of a 10,000-foot drop. You have to jump. Your heart is thumping in your chest. Why? Because you know that the law of gravity will kill you when you jump. Someone offers you the original Mona Lisa. You push it aside. Another person passes you the keys to a brand new Lamborghini. You let them drop to the floor. Someone else tries to put ten million dollars into your hands. You push the hand away, and stand there in horror at your impending fate. Suddenly, you hear a voice say, ‘Here’s a parachute!’ Which one of those four people is going to hold the most credibility in your eyes? It’s the one who held up the parachute! Again, it is your knowledge of the law of gravity and your fear of the jump that turns you toward the good news of the parachute. In the same way, knowledge of what God’s moral Law will do to you on the Day of Judgment produces a fear that makes the gospel unspeakably good news! It solves your predicament of God’s wrath.” (How to Know God Exists, pp.97-98)

Yes, people love their sin, but they also fear Judgment, and the living and active Scriptures make that fear a gnawing reality (see Acts 2:37), through the conviction of the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8), which is the goading and pricking of the Holy Spirit. (see Acts 26:14) Some people respond to the Holy Spirit's fear with repentance, and others reject it and become hardened. Calvinists respond that some repent only because God irresistibly made it happen, while passing by the rest. I do not believe that is consistent with Scripture, but that's also besides the point. The point of the post was to show that John Calvin did, in fact, teach a prevenient grace that causes the alleged, non-elect, to overcome TD, and believe, until God withdraws said grace.

redi said...

Yes people fear judgment, but the reality is that most people after prevenient grace still love there sin more than they fear god and judgment. So the question still stands. What does prevenient grace do for them if there love for sin is still greater then there love for God or fear of judgment?

Richard Coords said...

Hello Redi,

Just one moment.

Richard Coords said...

Mr. Michael Gormley,

No more spam please. I understand that you are a Catholic. Please make your comments in the appropriate Catholic forum. Peace. Shalom, thank you :-)

Richard Coords said...

Hello Redi,

I understand your point. However, the concept of Prevenient Grace, which operates in a number of ways, for example, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37, Acts 26:14; John 16:8), the living and active Gospel (Heb 4:12), which is faith producing (Romans 10:17), all operate in a way in which the individual is not merely left to their own free will. God most certainly intervenes. Calvinists and Arminians agree there. It's how God intervenes, I understand, where C & A have their differences, and I understand your point. Arminian previent grace operates so that one *CAN* make a positive decision, whereas Calvinist prevenient grace operates so that a person *WILL* make a positive decision. I'm also familiar with the verses each side uses in support, and often the C will ask this question, which I'm sure that you will agree, "So if Arminian Prevenient Grace merely enables a person so that they *CAN* make a position decision for the Gospel, why doesn't everyone?" The Arminian comes back with free will. The Calvinist feels that this is no answer at all. The Arminian asks, "Well, then, why did Adam and Eve choose the way that they did?" Calvinists, like RC Sproul candidly have admitted that they simply do not know. (quotes available upon request) That's my understand of the back & forth on that matter.

mcfirefly said...

Except that Calvin's illustration provides the rationale for the C doctrine, I can't remember the name, that says _God_ deceives some into a false faith so He can punish them all the more when they fall away, which, of course was His desire all along. This whole Calvinist doctrine of demons (which it truly is) was so the undoing of my faith when I was a very young that I have very little tolerance for it, as in, I have a low tolerance for arsenic. I intend to tolerate the people who have unwittingly become trapped in Calvinism but I can't tolerate the lies, because they destroy the same gospel they give lipservice to since they make satanic accusations against the God who gave us the gospel, although under the guise of "orthodoxy" ( which it acquired through violence and the threat of it). Calvinism makes God a liar over and over, because it is not only through direct statements that one can lie; it is certainly possible to lie by implication.

We are told to not let philosophy spoil our faith. We are to discern when people are putting the traditions of men before or in the place of the word of God. Jesus said in His prayer,

(KJV) Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.

But the wise and prudent are not without hope, because he tells them that unless they turn and become as children (in being willing to believe God), they will not see God, showing them that turning to Him is still possible.

Unknown said...

From Calvinist to Catholic (another powerful conversion story)
EC ^ | May 14, 2007 | Rodney Beason

Posted on Sunday, 14 October 2007 1:02:02 AM by NYer

Rodney Beason

I am a convert to the Catholic Faith from Calvinism. I loved Calvinism and owned a library full of Calvin, Luther, Warfield, Hodge, Murray, Owen, Machen, etc. as well as helped plant a local Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I knew Reformation Theology and how much hatred it generates for the Catholic Church.

As a Calvinist, I could boast with the best of them. I even persecuted the Catholic Church and went after every one of them I found, beating them back with Scripture, upon Scripture, upon quotes of Luther, Calvin, etc. I found great pleasure in debating Catholics.

My one flaw was learning what the Early Church Fathers believed. A Catholic who had not fared well in a debate with me, mentioned I should read the Early Church Fathers to see just how Catholic they were. I honestly thought I would just gain more "ammo" to use in my battles.

I found Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp with my first visit to the University Library. I poured over them for months until finally I pounded the books on the table with my fists, tossed them from the fourth to the third level of the library and wept.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

From Calvinist to Catholic

It seemed these great martyrs for the Faith were Catholic. It had taken about 8 months of going over Clement, Augustine, Athanasius, etc. to see the Catholic Church was the Early Church. I kept coming back to Ignatius and Polycarp as I could not get them out of my mind.

Over the next two years, I read more and more on the Catholic Faith and became less and less convinced the Reformed Faith was correct. It became clear to me; it was nothing more than a novelty, spewing forth doctrines that had never been believed before.

Christ promised the Holy Spirit to His Church and stated the gates of hell would not prevail against it. I thought that was a lie and for 1500 years, the Church had been without truth and the gates of hell had prevailed.

It is very humbling to come to the conclusion you have been horribly wrong, even to the point of not trusting the words of our precious Lord and Saviour. Yet, I still was not ready to become a Catholic.

Then one day when I was reading the Scripture I read Paul talking about how he was the most religious Pharisee, the most upright, and you know my heart was pierced and I actually laughed about how I could claim I had been one of the best Calvinists around, but then it hit me.

Was that even something to boast about? So I looked up one of the most wonderful examples of boasting the Lord mentioned. Luke 18:9-14 (Please read the Scripture as this is my paraphrase)

'Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Calvinist and the other a sinner. The Calvinist (that would be I) stood and was praying thus to himself, God, I thank thee that I am not like other people, sinners, Catholics, heretics, or even like this sinner beside me.

I planted your church in this god-forsaken part of the country, I read the Scriptures and Calvin and Luther twice a week, and the rest of the week I read nothing but reformers and your Scriptures. But the sinner standing a little off to the side, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast saying, God, be merciful to me the sinner. I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."

You know who the sinner was? I turned next to Luke 5:8 because I was then looking for others who admitted they were sinners for I knew I was once the boaster but now I was the sinner. "But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." Peter then was able to go on and follow Jesus. Peter came home, this home became the Church, and he was the Rock it was built upon, and he was justified.

At that moment, it finally became clear I could not stay a Calvinist or stay in the OPC. I had plans to attend Westminster Seminary and those were discarded. I lost friends and was informed I must have never been a Christian in the first place.

As I became least, Christ became more. I decided the only place I could go was the home where the Apostle Peter went. I was accepted into the Catholic Church in Easter 2002. I have never been happier and I wish and pray this joy for all. I will never be the same after taking the Body and Blood of our Lord.