For Fellow Arminians and Quasi-Arminians (Non-Calvinists): Prevenient Grace

"[P]revenient grace (enabling, assisting grace that goes before conversion making it possible) is supernatural and a special work of the Holy Spirit freeing the will of the sinner which is otherwise bound to sin (unbelief). I have presented the alternatives as Calvinism (irresistible grace) and semi-Pelagianism (the initiative in salvation is human)." - Roger Oleson

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TylerR's picture

Editor

If only prevenient grace were actually mentioned in Scripture! On a serious note, Olson's "Arminian Theology" is very helpful for going beyond strawmen often erected by well-meaning Reformed folks.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Just curious.  What's the explanation that Titus 2:11 doesn't mean what it appears to say?

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men"

Bad/inaccurate translation?

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The grammar of the verse actually sorts out to something more like:

  • For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men (NASB)
  • For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (ESV, NET, CSB)

NIV paraphrases a bit...

  • For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

So there is a very real sense in which both grace and salvation have come to "all," but they come together and are applied together... and are not applied to all.

Worth noting: I'm pretty sure it's the "grace" that is the antecedent to "it" in v.12... so this is "salvation-bringing grace that teaches us..."

J. Baillet's picture

dcbii wrote:

Just curious.  What's the explanation that Titus 2:11 doesn't mean what it appears to say?

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men"

Bad/inaccurate translation?

Translation is okay although there is a question whether the phrase "to all men" is connected to the noun "salvation," i.e. "the grace of God that brings salvation to all men has appeared," or to the verb "appeared," i.e. "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." I don't believe that it matters for present purposes.

In context, Titus 2:11 plainly means what it says. Whether to older men or older women, young women or young men, children, or bond-servants and masters, the grace of God that brings salvation to all mankind or that has appeared to all mankind, teaches us, God's elect, "that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all kinds of humans to achieve its fitting purpose, that is to sanctify a special people for Himself. The grace that saves also sanctifies. "All men" here does not mean each and every person in the world.

JSB

G. N. Barkman's picture

This two comments above are helpful to understand the meaning of Titus 2:11.  This text, however, does not really address the concept of Prevenient Grace, as described by Oleson.  What Oleson posits is a universal grace that reverses the effects of the Fall, thereby enabling all men to understand and believe the Gospel.  It is a theological necessity for Arminian Theology.  Unless one is prepared to deny the effects of the Fall, there must be some divine enablement to overcome those soul-deadening effects.  The Calvinist says God's grace overcomes spiritual inability for the Elect.  The Arminian says God's grace overcomes spiritual inability for everyone, thus essentially canceling the effects of the Fall.  Yes, Adam's sin affected his entire posterity, but not to worry, Prevenient Grace has neutralized those effects, putting everyone back on equal footing as if the Fall did not occur.  It's a soothing, man-pleasing doctrine, which is not only not found anywhere in Scripture, but emphatically denied by Scripture in many places.

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

Bro. Barkham wrote:

What Oleson posits is a universal grace that reverses the effects of the Fall, thereby enabling all men to understand and believe the Gospel.

That is correct. This is classical Arminian theology. I recall a Nazarene theologian (Wiley) saying the same thing. This is why Sproul was so strong in his characterization of Arminianism.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?