In response to some things I have seen on social media lately, I want to address Prevenient Grace. We will deal with three primary questions: What is Prevenient Grace? Is Prevenient Grace a biblical idea? Is Prevenient Grace distinctly an Arminian doctrine?
Let’s begin with a definition of Prevenient Grace. We will quote the definition found at Theopedia.
“Prevenient grace refers to the grace of God in a person’s life that precedes conversion (or salvation). The word “prevenient,” considered an archaic term today, was common in the King James English and simply means to “go before” or “precede.” Likewise, it is sometimes called “preventing” grace (from prevenient) with the same meaning.
- In Reformed Theology, it is the particular grace which precedes human decision — a salvific grace prior to, and without reference to, anything we have done.
- In Arminianism and Wesleyanism, it is a grace that offsets the noetic effects of the Fall, restores man’s free will, and thus enables every person to choose to come to Christ or not. There are two forms of this view:
- Universal prevenient grace — This grace is extended to every person.
- Individualistic prevenient grace — This grace is only extended to those who come under the intelligent hearing of the gospel, and not to every person.
We can see, already, that Prevenient Grace is a doctrinal position of both Calvinists (Reformed Theology) and our Arminian brethren. Permit me to expand for a moment on the Calvinist side of things: Prevenient Grace is, literally, grace that is preceding, but preceding what? This is actually the grace that we refer to as being irresistible. God, in an act of preceding grace, elects, calls, and regenerates those whom He has chosen.”
In Arminian Soteriology, Prevenient Grace is referred to in the F of the F.A.C.T.S of salvation. The Arminian Theologian would say that we are freed by the Grace of God to respond with an act of our own volition and “choose” to respond to the Gospel call.
The sad irony is that most of my teaching brethren do not know their theology well enough to realize that the two perspectives are so closely related that they are most likely two halves of the same sandwich…
In both Calvinism and Arminianism, saving grace is 100% a choice and act of God. In both cases Prevenient Grace precedes regeneration and justification. The major question, and point of disagreement, is the effect of Prevenient Grace on the will i.e. does Prevenient Grace restore man’s free will and thus allow said grace to be resisted or is Prevenient Grace irresistible as the Calvinist teaches.
As a Calvinist, I do not believe grace can be resisted. Since it is antecedent to salvation and a corollary of election, Prevenient Grace cannot be resisted.
Prevenient Grace is entirely Biblical and it is not a distinctly Arminian doctrine. For further study, I would refer you to the Foundations of Doctrine Series.