Prevenient Grace is Irresistible

I may be about a week late to the game, but Pastor Gary L. W. Johnson over at the Teampyro blog finishes his three part post entitled Arminianism: Semi-Pelagianism? I am not here to argue that Arminianism equals semi-pelagianism either directly or practically. I think Greg Welty argued well and reasonably that it doesn’t.

I am here to argue, in the spirit of the Arminian/non-Calvinist objection that irresistable grace isn’t a biblical concept, that they too believe in a irresistable grace. That is, prevenient grace is irresistable. Let’s start by looking at article 4 of the Remonstrance and there understanding of grace.

Article 4.
That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to the extent that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, since it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places).

Now let’s turn to one of the theologians in question. In part two of Peter Lumpkins’ interview with Arminian Roger Olson, Olson states:

Arminianism is that God comes to us first, through the gospel which can be efficacious in our lives—through a sermon, a song, a witness, or reading the Bible. But that God the Holy Spirit reaches into our lives first, through prevenient grace, and partially regenerates us, then we have to actualize that with our free will decision which God’s grace makes possible.

This shows my point that prevenient grace is irresistible in its “partial regeneration” because if this “partial regeneration” could be rejected it would be then be semi-pelagianism. Prior in the interview Olson says:

The difference is this: in classical Arminianism–in real Arminianism–if someone gets saved, it’s because God came to them first; the initiative is God’s. God calls them and God enables them. That’s called prevenient grace.

But you don’t hear that in pulpits a lot. What you hear in pulpits and pews is what scholars call semi-Pelagianism; although they don’t know it’s called that.I definitely agree with what Olson said is heard from many pulpits today. If there is no grace acting upon man and man left in his natural, sinful state can make a “decision” without any grace at all we are back to a form of Pelagianism.

Therefore, prevenient grace is irresistible. Proving my point further is one last quote from Olson:

Without God’s prevenient grace, we would not be free, so we don’t believe in Free Will, we believe in the Freed Will. Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism believe that humans have inherent free will apart from any supernatural grace. So, there is a very important difference there.

This basically summarizes my point. Men’s wills are irresistibly freed or otherwise we are back to a form of Pelagianism. So then the irresistibility isn’t really the crux of the argument then is it?


tagged as , in Arminianism,calvinism,theology

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Nathan White November 16, 2006 at 11:34 pm


Good thoughts. You are right, what is coming from the pulpits in not some kind of ‘prevenient grace’ concept, but rather, just plain semi-pelagianism.

Talking to you yesterday, I thought you were going to argue against Phil Johnson. I heard you all wrong, no wonder I was trying to make sense of your use of prevenient grace. LOL! 🙂



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