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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Answering a question about prevenient grace(Arminianism) and Eastern Orthodoxy

This is from the forum.

« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2010, 06:53:01 PM »

Hey y'all!

Christ is Risen!

So, I have a friend writing a paper on Prevenient Grace and he asked me what I thought about it. I told him I'd never heard of it before, but I told him I'd look it up, ask around and get back to him. So, what's the deal? Is this something that fits into the Eastern Orthodox paradigm/phronema? Thanks a million! Smiley

"Prevenient grace (also referred to as prevenial) is a Christian theological concept rooted in Augustinian theology.[1] It is embraced primarily by Arminian Christians who are influenced by the theology of John Wesley, and who are part of the Methodist movement. Wesley typically referred to it in 18th century language as prevenient grace. In modern English, the phrase preceding grace would have a similar meaning.

Prevenient grace is divine grace which precedes human decision. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. As humans are corrupted by the effects of sin, prevenient grace allows persons to engage their God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ or to reject that salvific offer. Whereas Augustine held that prevenient grace cannot be resisted, Wesleyan Arminians believe that it enables, but does not ensure, personal acceptance of the gift of salvation.

(If you're not sure or don't know, please refrain from speculating)""

Truly he is risen!

Prevenient/prevenial or preceeding grace in this context is really only needed when you first advocate a doctrine of Total inability (the Augustinian term for it) or Total depravity/Radical depravity(the Reformed, Calvinistic, and Arminian terms for it)

In the Arminian system, both Classical and Weslyian, the fall of Adam and Eve is total in the sense that it destroys/annihilates their human will.

And since free will is lost, it takes prevenient grace to bring it back, restore it, resurrect it, renew it, recreate it.......etc. Classical and Wesleyan Arminianism starts out the same as Calvinism because they both follow Saint Augustine's later teachings on this issue. They begin to depart ways when Arminians make use of the doctrine of prevenient grace.

For classical Arminians, it is unclear if prevenient grace is universal or particular. As seen here with Arminius:
The will
VII. In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, "Without me ye can do nothing."

And at the very end of the page when quoting Augustine he says:

"Subsequent or following grace does indeed assist the good purpose of man; but this good purpose would have no existence unless through preceding or preventing grace. And though the desire of man, which is called good, be assisted by grace when it begins to be; yet it does not begin without grace, but is inspired by Him, concerning whom the Apostle writes thus, thanks be to God, who put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. If God incites any one to have 'an earnest care' for others, He will 'put it into the heart' of some other person to have 'an earnest care' for him." Augustinus, Contra. 2 Epist. Pelag. l. 2. c. 9."

But for Wesleyan Arminians prevenient grace is universal. The difference between us(Orthodox Christians) and them in this regard is the whole issue and nature of the fall in general. For us, the human will is connected to the issue of being made in God's Image, and so, we can't go as far as them when it comes to the will being ""destroyed/annihilated"". We believe the Image of God to still be there, and so the image is marred, weakened, broken, but never eradicated/annihilated/destroyed. And so, this is where we differ. I wrote something about this last year or the year before. I will re-post it here at the very end or in a new post.

If you need resources in regards to how Arminians...both classical and Wesleyan understand the issue of prevenient grace , I can always quote what I have from books like:

1.) "Why I am not a Calvinist" by Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell (Wesleyan Arminians)
2.) ""Why I am not an Arminian" by Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams (Calvinists)
3.) "Grace Faith Free Will, Contrasting views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism" by Robert E. Picirilli (A Classical Arminian)
4.) "Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities" by Roger E. Olsen (An Arminian)
5.) "The Justification of God:An Exegetical & Theological study of Romans 9:1-23" by John Piper (A Calvinist)
Audio mp3:
6.) (Arminius -The Scapegoat of Calvinism by Vic Reasoner)

In regards to us and the term itself. It was used in the westernization/Latinization period in the The Confession of Dositheus: (Dositheus)
"Chapter 6

"We believe the most good God to have from eternity predestinated unto glory those whom He hath chosen, and to have consigned unto condemnation those whom He hath rejected; but not so that He would justify the one, and consign and condemn the other without cause. For that were contrary to the nature of God, who is the common Father of all, and no respecter of persons, and would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth; {1 Timothy 2:4} but since He foreknew the one would make a right use of their free-will, and the other a wrong, He predestinated the one, or condemned the other. And we understand the use of free-will thus, that the Divine and illuminating grace, and which we call preventing grace, being, as a light to those in darkness, by the Divine goodness imparted to all, to those that are willing to obey this — for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling — and co-operate with it, in what it requireth as necessary to salvation, there is consequently granted particular grace; which, co-operating with us, and enabling us, and making us perseverant in the love of God, that is to say, in performing those good things that God would have us to do, and which His preventing grace admonisheth us that we should do, justifieth us, and maketh us predestinated. But those who will not obey, and co-operate with grace; and, therefore, will not observe those things that God would have us perform, and that abuse in the service of Satan the free-will, which they have received of God to perform voluntarily what is good, are consigned to eternal condemnation."

What I wrote about the issue last year or the year before:

"Arminianism, Calvinism, Semi-Pelagianism, and my own views

Arminianism should be called "Semi-Augustinianism" rather than "Semi-Pelagianism". True Arminianism embraces Augustine's Hard Deterministic views about the fall of man in his Older years. But they also embrace the free will views of Augustine's early years. So they properly should be called "Semi-Augustinian" or "Moderate Augustinians". The Calvinists seem to only want to embrace Augustine's latter teachings. His Deterministic views and nothing else.

The real difference between Arminianism and Semi-pelagianism is that Semi-Pelagianism taught the grace of God must precede the will of "most" people. Whereas Arminianism believes that the grace of God must preceed the will of "all men".

Thus for semi-Pelagianism, Prevenient grace was for "most" men. Whereas for Arminianism, Prevenient grace was for "all men".

This is the fundamental difference. the difference that very few seem to notice. Also, classical and Wesleyan Arminianism both seem to teach that the will of man was destroyed and lost by the Fall of man. I don't think Semi-Pelagianism ever went that far. I know the Greek Fathers never went that far. Nor did the Latin Fathers before Augustine. Nor did Augustine in his early Christian years.

My view is the Grace of God must precede the will of "all men", but the will of man was never destroyed or lost by the fall for that would mean the Image of God(which man is) would of been destroyed and lost as well. Being an Image of God is not something man has. It is something man is. So fallen man is a "marred" Image of God. If God's Image was eradicated/annihilated in the Fall then man would cease to exist. But if God's Image is eternal then it can't be destroyed.

Thus I believe the will of man to be broken, bent, fallen, wounded, damaged, and weakened. But never destroyed.....nor lost.

I might be wrong but as far as Arminianism goes I probably would agree more with Philip Limborch of the Remonstrants in this regard.

So now you all know what I am.....and what I'm not........I'm Augustinian light or Cassian without his mistake of Prevenient grace preceding the will of most men. I believe it precedes the will of all men. I tend to agree with Augustin in his middle years......but I totally reject what he says in his latter years.""

And what I said elsewhere in regards to the issue:

Yes! As an Orthodox Christian, I can't be a classical Arminian(which adheres to total inability, Weslyian Arminianism does too, and so I can't really be a true Arminian). In truth, the Essence and Energies distinction in our form of Pan-enTheism makes us have a different paradigm than both Calvinism and Arminianism....since both of them are based on the Augustinian paradigm. The Orthodox are pure Synergists (simultaneous co-operation).

Even-though some may see us as truth.....we can't be. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't be. For classical Semi-Pelagianism speculated that maybe the thief on the cross was able to come to God first with his free will before God came to Him with grace.

Other than that.....semi-pelagains believed that the Prevenient Grace of God was for most people. But this isn't something the Orthodox can say for we believe God's grace to be everywhere/universal. And thus prevenient grace is for everyone......including the thief on the cross. For us, Prevenient grace was always there.......even before the Fall......For it was God that was keeping Adam and Eve Alive. Adam and Eve were not perfect before the fall......instead, they were on their way to perfection/immortality.

The idea that somehow our free will can exist where God is not is impossible. God's grace will always be there to Energize us so that we can do what we do......His Grace not only empowers us.....but it permeates us as well. And thus God is always working!

John 5:16-18
"So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."

Acts 17:27-28
"God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'"


Phil 2:12-16
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing."


Psalm 127:1
"Unless the LORD builds the house,They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain."

And so, I see a simultaneous co-operation going on. If God is not working in you, then you are working in vain. Also, if God is working in you, but you are not working yourself........then you might grieve the Holy Spirit.....and thus stagnate or regress in grace.

Ephesians 4:30
"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

If God was the only one working.......then it would be impossible to grieve Him.

In Short, what I am trying to say is that I don't see Gen 1-4 saying that Pre-Fall Adam and Eve were naturally able to choose right and wrong apart from God's grace while post fall Adam and Eve were not naturally able to choose right or wrong apart from God's grace.

Scripture makes it seem as if post fall Adam and Eve were still able to choose right or wrong......I mean after all they ate the fruit off the tree of the knowledge of good and evil! And the people from Gen 1-4 still made right or wrong choices just like pre-fall Adam and Eve were able to. And what will we say about the choices of post fall Adam and Eve? Gen 1-4 doesn't tell us that Adam and Eve weren't able to make right or wrong choices after eating the fruit. Gen 1-4 doesn't tell us that their free will was annihilated. What it does seem to that they still had some sense of free will.....even after eating the fruit.

I believe the image of God to be wounded in post fall man, but not annihilated.......and since our free will is connected to us being made in God's image......I believe that free will existed in post fall man. But our free will is never independent from God's grace.........never! For it is God's Energies/grace that enables our human will to conform to His will.

And His Divine Energies/Grace was present in both pre and post fall man."

I hope this helps!

I found this to be very helpful in regards to our view: (GOD: Essence and Energies)

It relates to the topic at hand.

Christ is Risen!


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