Drinking Deeply

Thursday, November 09, 2006 at 5:17 PM

TULIP (3) - Prevenient Grace

Having previously given a basic defense of the depravity of man in his natural state and his inability to do anything good or please God (same thing, different terminology), I'm going to answer the objection raised up by classical Arminians like John Wesley. This was touched upon in the 5 points of the Remonstrance (but is a little oblique, look at articles 3 and 4)

Their disagreement on this point was what led to the doctrine today labeled Total Depravity.

Wesley affirmed that the fall has affected all humanity in a complete and comprehensive way, so that man, in his natural state could not will anything that was pleasing to God.

But where prevenient grace parts ways is that it said that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross provided grace for all people who ever lived, live, and will live in the form of "prevenient grace." This grace erased some of the effects of the fall (but not completely, they were still sinners), and one of those effects was the total inability. Though man was in his natural state hostile to God, that was no longer in effect completely, so that man could freely will to choose God.

Basically, man is dead, but God made them alive enough so that they can choose Him.

I think I'll get into this a lot more when I talk on Irresistible Grace (I would agree with it, but that those that God makes alive, do choose Him, due to irresistible grace), but for now I think Romans 8 and Ephesians 2 is sufficient to reject the idea that God's general grace enables all people to will and choose good.

Romans 8
5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Ephesians 2
1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
I really don't know what to add to these texts to unpack them. It is very clear that Romans 8 and Ephesians 2 are talking of two classes of people that are existing now. One has set their mind on the flesh, is following the course of this world, is living in the passions of our flesh. Hostile to God and unable to please Him. The other class has set the Spirit of Christ in them, has set their minds on the Spirit (but is still at war with their sinful nature, as Romans 7 makes clear), is no longer hostile to God, and is able to please Him (but not perfectly, but that requires other verses to prove).

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