Thursday is for Theological Terminology:
The Study of Specialized Words relating to Theology

May 12, 2011

Ron F. Hale, Associate Pastor, West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson, TN

Resistible Grace

One Definition:

Arminians taught that since God wanted all of mankind to be saved, He sent the Holy Spirit to draw all men to Christ. The human will, however, is free to reject the drawing power of the Holy Spirit. An example of scriptural defense of this would be found in Matthew 13 where Jesus teaches the parable of the sower and the soils. Obviously some reject the good seed before it even takes hold. Others allow it to be stolen through other personal decisions (Frank S. Page, Trouble with the TULIP, 2d ed. [Canton, GA: Riverstone, 2006], 27).

In a synopsis (pp 26-28) of the five points of Arminianism, Dr. Page shares the above definition. He points out that in 1618, several persons disagreeing with the orthodox faith of the Calvinist state church presented their beliefs to the Dutch parliament. These beliefs became known as the five points of Arminianism of which Obstructable or Resistible Grace is the fourth point.

The Case For Resistible Grace

Dr. Steve W. Lemke does an excellent job critiquing the reformed doctrine of Irresistible Grace (chapter five) in the book Whosoever Will: A Biblical Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism. Writing as a Biblicist, not an Arminian, Dr. Lemke lays out key Old Testament and New Testament texts showing Resistible Grace at work in the hearts and lives of individuals.

I, personally, enjoyed how Lemke traced the ministry of Jesus and showed over and over how irresistible grace was inconsistent with our Lord’s encounters and experiences. He writes on (pp. 119-120),

Jesus appears to advocate the idea that God’s grace is resistible. For example, hear again Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!” (Matt 23:37 HCSB, cf. Luke 13:34). What was Jesus lamenting? He was lamenting that despite God’s gracious love for Jerusalem and desire to gather them to eternal security under His protection, and the many prophets and messengers He sent them with His message, they rejected the message that was sent them and they “were not willing” to respond to God. In fact, the Greek sets the contrast off even more sharply than the English does because forms of the same Greek verb thel? (to will) are used twice in this verse: I willed … but you were not willing.

After referencing and explaining a bevy of Biblical passages, Dr. Lemke summarizes on (p. 129) by saying,

The Bible specifically teaches that the Holy Spirit can be resisted. It repeatedly calls upon all people to respond to God’s gracious invitation. The descriptions of how to be saved seem to focus on human response to God’s initiative. The texts do not seem to support irresistible grace, but they call upon persons to respond to the grace of God in specific ways. This is not to say, of course, that Calvinists cannot reach different interpretations of these texts, based upon their theological presuppositions. It means that the plain sense reading of these texts tends to support the belief that God’s grace, by His own intent and design, is resistible.

The Case Against Resistible Grace

On the Founders Ministries website, Matthew Barrett published a response to Dr. Lemke’s chapter; it is entitled: “Is Irresistible Grace Unbiblical?” Barrett shares,

As opposed to the gospel call to all people which can be resisted, the effectual call is intended only for those whom God has unconditionally elected. The Calvinists position, sometimes called monergism, concludes that effectual calling and regeneration logically and causally precede man’s faith in conversion. Monergism stands in direct tension with synergism, the view held by Arminians that God’s saving grace can be resisted. While God provides a prevenient grace to all, such grace is not successful unless man exercises his free will to cooperate with it. Therefore, for the Arminian, God’s act of regeneration is contingent upon man’s free will to believe. Consequently, faith precedes regeneration in the ordo salutis. Lemke argues that Calvinists have no biblical warrant in affirming the doctrine of irresistible grace. To the contrary, Lemke seeks to argue for the Arminian position, namely, that God’s grace is dependent upon the will of man for its success and efficacy.

Closing thought: One view seems to indicate that God’s grace can be resisted by any or all sinners resulting in eternal death, while the other view indicates the elect cannot not believe due to being irresistibly drawn to Christ and regenerated in order to believe.

One view “believes” in order to be saved, while the other view “believes” because they were first regenerated.

My personal testimony undergirds my biblical convictions of living a rebellious life and resisting God’s wooing voice until the age of twenty-three.

How does your theology and testimony interconnect with the doctrine of … Resistible Grace?

Ron F. Hale