Irresistible grace

Irresistible grace (or efficacious grace) is a doctrine in Christian theology particularly associated with Calvinism, which teaches that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom He has determined to save (the elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to faith in Christ. It is to be distinguished from prevenient grace particularly associated with Arminianism which teaches that the offer of salvation through grace does not act irresistibly in a purely cause-effect, deterministic method, but rather in an influence-and-response fashion that can be both freely accepted and freely denied.[1]

The doctrine

Fourth-century Church Father Augustine of Hippo taught that God grants those whom he chooses for salvation the gift of persevering grace, and that they could not conceivably fall away. This doctrine gave rise to the doctrine of irresistible grace (gratia irresistibilis), though the term was not used during Augustine's lifetime.[2]

According to Calvinism, those who obtain salvation do so, not by their own "free" will, but because of the sovereign grace of God. That is, men yield to grace, not finally because their consciences were more tender or their faith more tenacious than that of other men. Rather, the willingness and ability to do God's will are evidence of God's own faithfulness to save men from the power and the penalty of sin, and since man is dead in sin and a slave to it he can not decide or be wooed to follow after God, God must powerfully intervene by giving him life and drawing the sinner to himself. In short, Calvinism argues that regeneration must precede faith. In contrast, Arminianism argues that God’s grace through Jesus Christ stirs up a willingness to know God and respond to the gospel before regeneration;[3] it is how God intervenes that separates Calvinism from Arminianism.

Calvin says of this intervention that "it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant,".[4] Despite the denial within Calvin and within the Calvinist confessions[5][6] of violence or coercion being done to the will, Puritan scholar Perry Miller characterized Calvin's view of regeneration as being "a forcible seizure, a holy rape of the surprised will."[7] John Gill says that "this act of drawing is an act of power, yet not of force; God in drawing of unwilling, makes willing in the day of His power: He enlightens the understanding, bends the will, gives an heart of flesh, sweetly allures by the power of His grace, and engages the soul to come to Christ, and give up itself to Him; he draws with the bands of love. Drawing, though it supposes power and influence, yet not always coaction and force: music draws the ear, love the heart, and pleasure the mind."[8]

Objections to the doctrine


Christians associated with Arminianism, such as John Wesley and part of the Methodist movement, reject this Calvinist doctrine. They believe that as Adam and Eve were free to choose between right and wrong, humanity is able, as a result of the prevenient or preceding grace of God through Jesus Christ, to choose to turn from sin to righteousness and believe on Jesus Christ who draws all of humanity to Himself. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. John 12:32. In this view, (1) after God's universal dispensation of grace to mankind, the will of man, which was formerly adverse to God and unable to obey, can now choose to obey through the work of Christ; and (2) although God's grace is a strong initial catalyst to effect salvation, it is not irresistible but may be ultimately resisted and rejected by a human being.

Both Calvinism and Arminianism agree that the question of the resistibility of grace is inexorably bound up with the theological system's view of the sovereignty of God. The fundamental question is whether can God allow individuals to accept or reject His grace and yet remain sovereign. If so, then grace can be resistible. If not, then grace must be irresistible. This different understanding of sovereignty is often attributed to an improper understanding of total depravity. However, both Calvin and Arminius taught total depravity. Total depravity is expressly affirmed in Article III of the Five articles of Remonstrance. Nevertheless, Calvinist Charles Hodge says, "The (Arminian) and (Roman Catholic) doctrine is true, if the other parts of their doctrinal system are true; and it is false if that system be erroneous. If the (Calvinistic) doctrine concerning the natural state of man since the fall, and the sovereignty of God in election, be Scriptural, then it is certain that sufficient grace does not become efficacious from the cooperation of the human will."[9] Hodge's argument follows Calvinist teaching which denies that the work of Jesus Christ empowers humanity to respond to the gospel before regeneration.

Calvinism's rejection of prevenient grace leaves humanity in a state of Total Depravity which requires regeneration of an individual before that individual is capable to believe or repent.[10] John the Baptist called all to his baptism for the remission of sins Mark 1:4 and multitudes responded without regeneration Mark 1:5. The New Testament regularly calls individuals to repent and believe with no indication that they had been previously regenerated. The Apostle Peter called the Jews to repent and be converted Acts 3:19. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin John 16:8. Calvinism's response is found in Limited Atonement. So as a result of the Calvinist understanding of God's sovereignty, one must conclude that God's election does not depend upon any human response, necessitating a belief in (1) both Total Depravity and Unconditional Election, (2) Irresistible Grace rather than Prevenient Grace, and (3) Limited Atonement; if any of these beliefs are rejected, this logic fails.


"The certain mark by which a Christian community can be recognized is the preaching of the gospel in its purity."—Luther[11]

Like Calvinists, Lutherans view the work of salvation as monergistic in which an unconverted or unrepentant person always resists and rejects God and his ways.[12] Even during conversion, the Formula of Concord says, humans resist "the Word and will of God, until God awakens him from the death of sin, enlightens and renews him."[13] Furthermore, they both see the preaching of the gospel as a means of grace by which God offers salvation.

Calvinists distinguish between a resistible, outward call to salvation given to all who hear the free offer of the gospel, and an efficacious, inward work by the Holy Spirit. Every person is unwilling to follow the outward call to salvation until, as the Westminster Confession puts it, "being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed by it."[14] Once inwardly renewed, every person freely follows God and his ways as "not only the obligatory but the preferable good,"[15] and hence that special renewing grace is always effective.

Contrary to the Calvinist position, Lutherans hold that whenever the Holy Spirit works outwardly through the Word and sacraments, he always acts inwardly through them as well. Unlike Calvinists, Lutherans believe the Holy Spirit always works efficaciously.[16] The Word heard by those that resist it is just as efficacious as the Word preached to those that convert.[17] The Formula of Concord teaches that when humans reject the calling of the Holy Spirit, it is not a result of the Word being less efficacious. Instead, contempt for the means of grace is the result of "the perverse will of man, which rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Ghost, which God offers him through the call, and resists the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious, and works through the Word..."[18]

Lutherans are certain that the work of the Holy Spirit does not occur merely alongside the means of grace to regenerate, but instead is an integral part of them, always working through them wherever they are found. Lutherans teach that the Holy Spirit limits himself to working only through the means of grace and nowhere else,[19] so that those who reject the means of grace are simultaneously resisting and rejecting the Holy Spirit and the grace he brings.[16]

Biblical passages related to the doctrine

The statement of St. Paul is said to confirm that those whom God effectually calls necessarily come to full salvation: "(T)hose whom (God) predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified" (Romans 8:28,30). Of course, this confirmation depends upon the belief that when God elected certain individuals for salvation, He either did not know or did not consider who would respond and obey, though the Apostle Peter refers to the "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ". 1 Peter 1:2

Calvinists also rely upon several verses from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, which contains a record of Jesus' teaching on humanity's abilities and God's activities in salvation, as the central proof text for the Calvinist doctrine:

  • John 6:37,39: "All that the Father gives me will come to me.... And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day."[ESV]
  • John 6:44–45: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.... Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me."[ESV]
  • John 6:65: "(N)o one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."[ESV]

Proponents of Arminianism argue that the word "draw" (Greek: ἕλκω, helkô)[20] as used in John 6:44 does not require the sense of "drag", though Calvinists teach this is the word's usual meaning (as in Jn. 18:10; 21:6; 21:11; Acts 16:19; 21:30; Jas. 2:6). They point to John 12:32 as an example: "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." Many Arminians interpret this to mean that Jesus draws all people to Himself, but the draw only enables people to come to Him, since, if the call was truly irresistible, then all must come to Christ and be saved. They may also note that in the Septuagint version of Jeremiah 38:13, when Jeremiah is lifted out of the pit where he was left to die, this Greek verb is used for the action which his rescuers performed after he voluntarily secured the ropes under his armpits, and that this rescue was certainly performed in cooperation with Jeremiah's wishes and would have failed if he did not cooperate. Therefore, they may argue, even if the semantics of "draw" are understood in the usual sense, this should only be taken to indicate the source of the power, not the question of whether the person being drawn responds to the drawing, or to indicate that the drawing is done irrespective of their will.

Calvinists argue that (1) the word "draw" should be understood according to its usual semantics in both John 6:44 and 12:32; (2) the word "all" (translated "all people" in v. 12:32) should be taken in the sense of "all kinds of people" rather than "every individual"; and thus (3) the former verse refers to an irresistible internal call to salvation and the latter to the opening of the Kingdom of God to the Gentiles, not a universal, resistible internal call. Of course, that argument requires acceptance of either the doctrine of Limited Atonement or universalism, since John 12:32 clearly states that "Jesus will draw all". Some have asserted on this basis that the text of John 6:44 can entail either universalism or Calvinism (inclusive of Limited Atonement), but not Arminianism.[21]

Arminian William Barclay argues that "man's resistance can defeat the pull of God" mentioned in John 6:44, but commentator Leon Morris contends that "(n)ot one of (Barclay's) examples of the verb ('draw') shows the resistance as successful. Indeed we can go further. There is not one example in the New Testament of the use of this verb where the resistance is successful. Always the drawing power is triumphant, as here."[22] Such arguments invite the criticism that Calvinists teach salvation by decree of God rather than justification by faith alone, that they "so zealously sought to guard the free grace of God in salvation that they denied faith any involvement at all in the actual justification of sinners."[23] But even if the drawing power is always triumphant, the ability to resist does not depend upon the meaning of the word "draw" in John 12:32, but on the question what the "draw" is intended to accomplish. Calvinism assumes that persons who Jesus "draws" will be regenerated. Arminianism states that all are drawn to Jesus to be given an enabling grace. "Jesus does not define what 'His drawing' will accomplish in John 12, only that He will do it."[24] Even if the semantics of "draw" are understood in the manner Calvinist's urge, this should only be taken to indicate the sufficiency of the power to draw (they were "not able to draw" as in John 21:6, or they were able to do so as in John 21:11), rather than to define what God does to those He draws. Arminians reject the Calvinist teaching that God draws for the purpose of forced regeneration irrespective of their wishes. Rather Arminians believe God draws all persons to provide all with an ability or enabling to believe, as prevenient grace teaches.

History of the doctrine

In the Catholic Church, debates concerning the respective role of efficacious grace and free will led to the establishment of the Congregatio de Auxiliis at the end of the 16th century by the Pope Clement VIII. The Dominicans insisted on the role of the efficacious grace, but the Jesuits embraced Molinism, which postulated greater liberty in the will. These debates also led to the famous formulary controversy in France which pitted the Jansenists against the Jesuits.

The doctrine is one of the so-called Five points of Calvinism that were defined at the Synod of Dort during the Quinquarticular Controversy with the Arminian Remonstrants, who objected to the general predestinarian scheme of Calvinism, rejecting its denial of free will and its condemnation of the "majority of humanity for the sole purpose of torturing them in hell for all of eternity, and that they never had a choice".[25] In Calvinist churches, the doctrine is most often mentioned in comparisons with other salvific schemes and their respective doctrines about the state of mankind after the Fall, and it is not a common topic for sermons or studies otherwise.

See also


  1. ^ Forlines, Leroy F.; Pinson, Matthew J.; Ashby, Stephen M. (2001). The Quest for Truth: Answering Life's Inescapable Questions. Nashville: Randall House Publications. pp. 313–321.
  2. ^ Hägglund, Bengt (2007) [1968]. Teologins historia [History of Theology] (in German). Translated by Gene J. Lund (4th rev. ed.). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 139–140. ISBN 978-0758613486.
  3. ^ "Our Wesleyan Heritage". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  4. ^ John Calvin. "John 6:41-45". Commentary on John. 1.
  5. ^ Westminster Confession of Faith, X.1
  6. ^ Canons of Dort, Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine, Article 16
  7. ^ Miller, Perry (June 1943), ""Preparation for Salvation" in Seventeenth-Century New England", Journal of the History of Ideas, University of Pennsylvania Press, 4 (3): 261, JSTOR 2707254
  8. ^ John Gill. "John 6:44". John Gill's Exposition of the Bible.
  9. ^ Charles Hodge. "Efficacious Grace". Systematic Theology. 2.
  10. ^ Calvin, John. Institutes of Christian Religion. Book 3, Chapter 3, Section 1. p. 509.
  11. ^ Tappert, T.G., Selected Writings of Martin Luther, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007, p.325
  12. ^ Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration, art. ii, par. 71; par. 18
  13. ^ Solid Declaration, art. ii, par. 59
  14. ^ Westminster Confession of Faith, X.1,2.
  15. ^ Loraine Boettner. "Efficacious Grace". The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.
  16. ^ a b "Calvinism and Lutheranism compared". Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 2009-09-27. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
  17. ^ Henry Eyster Jacobs: A Summary of the Christian Faith. Philadelphia: General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, 1905, pp. 216-17, Engelder, Theodore E.W. (1934). Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and Of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 58.
  18. ^ Solid Declaration, article xi, "Election", par. 41
  19. ^ Smalcald Articles, part 8, "Of Confession": "[I]n those things which concern the spoken, outward Word, we must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one, except through or with the preceding outward Word."
  20. ^ Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott. "helkô". A Greek-English Lexicon. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  21. ^ Brian Bosse (2005-10-11). "A Logical Analysis - John 6:44" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  22. ^ Leon Morris (1995). The Gospel According to John (revised ed.). p. 328, n. 116.
  23. ^ McKelvey, Robert J. (2011). That Error and Pillar of Antinomianism’: Eternal Justification. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 239-40.
  24. ^ Yuriy, Stasyuk. The Reluctant Skeptic Retrieved 29 May 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ Corey, Benjamin. "Why Calvinism Makes Me Want to Gouge My Eyes Out". Patheos. Retrieved 16 April 2017.

External links



Augustinian Calvinism

Augustinian Calvinism is a self-identifying term used by Reformed theologians who acknowledge John Calvin's theological dependence upon Augustine of Hippo. The famous defender of the Reformed faith in the early 1900s, B. B. Warfield, declared, "The system of doctrine taught by Calvin is just the Augustinianism common to the whole body of the Reformers." Paul Helm, a well-known Reformed theologian, uses this term identifying his own view in "The Augustinian-Calvinist View" in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views.


Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.

Calvinists broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Calvinists differ from Lutherans on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, theories of worship, and the use of God's law for believers, among other things. As declared in the Westminster and Second Helvetic confessions, the core doctrines are predestination and election. The term Calvinism can be misleading, because the religious tradition which it denotes has always been diverse, with a wide range of influences rather than a single founder. In the context of the Reformation, Huldrych Zwingli began the Reformed tradition in 1519 in the city of Zürich. His followers were instantly labeled Zwinglians, consistent with the Catholic practice of naming heresy after its founder. Very soon, Zwingli was joined by Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Capito, William Farel, Johannes Oecolampadius and other early Reformed thinkers. The namesake of the movement, French reformer John Calvin, converted to the Reformed tradition from Roman Catholicism only in the late 1520s or early 1530s as it was already being developed. The movement was first called Calvinism, referring to John Calvin, by Lutherans who opposed it. Many within the tradition find it either an indescriptive or an inappropriate term and would prefer the word Reformed to be used instead. Some Calvinists prefer the term Augustinian-Calvinism since Calvin credited his theology to Augustine of Hippo. The most important Reformed theologians include John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Bucer, William Farel, Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Theodore Beza, and John Knox. In the twentieth century, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, Karl Barth, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark, and R. C. Sproul were influential. Contemporary Reformed theologians include J. I. Packer, John MacArthur, Timothy J. Keller, David Wells, and Michael Horton.

Reformed churches may exercise several forms of ecclesiastical polity; most are presbyterian or congregationalist, though some are episcopalian. Calvinism is largely represented by Continental Reformed, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist traditions. The biggest Reformed association is the World Communion of Reformed Churches with more than 100 million members in 211 member denominations around the world. There are more conservative Reformed federations such as the World Reformed Fellowship and the International Conference of Reformed Churches, as well as independent churches.

Canons of Dort

The Canons of Dort, or Canons of Dordrecht, formally titled The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands, is the judgment of the National Synod held in the Dutch city of Dordrecht in 1618–19. At the time, Dordrecht was often referred to in English as Dort or Dordt.

Today the Canons of Dort form part of the Three Forms of Unity, one of the confessional standards of many of the Reformed churches around the world, including the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, and North America. Their continued use as a standard still forms an unbridgable problem preventing close cooperation between the followers of Jacob Arminius, the Remonstrants, and Dutch Reformed Churches.

These canons are in actuality a judicial decision on the doctrinal points in dispute from the Arminian controversy of that day. Following the death of Arminius (1560–1609), his followers set forth a Remonstrance (published in 1610) in five articles formulating their points of departure from the stricter Calvinism of the Belgic Confession. The Canons are the judgment of the Synod against this Remonstrance. Regardless, Arminian theology later received official acceptance by the State and has since continued in various forms within Protestantism, especially within the Methodist churches.The Canons were not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of Reformed doctrine, but only an exposition on the five points of doctrine in dispute. The five points of Calvinism, remembered by the mnemonic "TULIP" and popularized by a 1963 booklet, are popularly said to summarize the Canons of Dort. Also see Stewart's essay in chapter 3. However there is no historical relationship between them, and some scholars argue that their language distorts the meaning of the Canons.

Common grace

Common grace is a theological concept in Protestant Christianity, developed primarily in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Reformed/Calvinistic thought, referring to the grace of God that is either common to all humankind, or common to everyone within a particular sphere of influence (limited only by unnecessary cultural factors). It is common because its benefits are experienced by, or intended for, the whole human race without distinction between one person and another. It is grace because it is undeserved and sovereignly bestowed by God. In this sense, it is distinguished from the Calvinistic understanding of special or saving grace, which extends only to those whom God has chosen to redeem.

Effectual calling

Effectual calling (or effective calling) in Calvinist Christian soteriology is a stage in the ordo salutis in which God calls a person to himself. It is connected with, but different from external calling, in which a person hears the gospel message.

Wayne Grudem suggests that it is a summons from the King of the universe that has "such power that it brings about the response that it asks for in people's hearts." Grudem appeals to the story of Lydia: according to Acts 16:14, "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message" (NIV).

Five Articles of Remonstrance

The Five Articles of Remonstrance were theological propositions advanced in 1610 by followers of Jacobus Arminius who had died in 1609, in disagreement with interpretations of the teaching of John Calvin then current in the Dutch Reformed Church. Those who supported them chose to call themselves "Remonstrants".

Free grace theology

Free grace theology is a Christian soteriological view teaching that everyone receives eternal life the moment that they believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. "Lord" refers to the belief that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore able to be their "Savior". The view distinguishes between (1) the "call to believe" in Christ as Savior and to receive the gift of eternal life and (2) the "call to follow" Christ and become obedient disciples.Historic Christian denominations, including the Lutheran Churches, Reformed Churches and the Methodist Churches, regard free grace theology as an antinomian heresy.

God the Son

God the Son (Greek: Θεός ὁ υἱός) is the second person of the Trinity in Christian theology. The doctrine of the Trinity identifies Jesus as the incarnation of God, united in essence (consubstantial) but distinct in person with regard to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (the first and third persons of the Trinity).

Grace in Christianity

In Western Christian theology, grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it", "Grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life." It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to people "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.It is an attribute of God that is most manifest in the salvation of sinners. Christian orthodoxy holds that the initiative in the relationship of grace between God and an individual is always on the side of God.

In Eastern Christianity too, grace is the working of God completely, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity.

The question of the means of grace has been called "the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism, Calvinism from Arminianism, modern [theological] liberalism from [theological] conservatism." The Catholic Church holds that it is because of the action of Christ and the Holy Spirit in transforming into the divine life what is subjected to God's power that "the sacraments confer the grace they signify": "the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through [each sacrament], independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them." the Sacred Mysteries (sacraments) are seen as a means of partaking of divine grace because God works through his Church. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants agree that faith is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8; "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Protestants almost universally believe that grace is given by God based on the faith of the believer. Lutherans hold that the means of grace are "the gospel in Word and sacraments.” That the sacraments are means of grace is also the teaching of John Wesley, who described the Eucharist as "the grand channel whereby the grace of his Spirit was conveyed to the souls of all the children of God". Calvinists emphasize "the utter helplessness of people apart from grace." But God reaches out with "first grace" or "prevenient grace". The Calvinist doctrine known as irresistible grace states that, since all persons are by nature spiritually dead, no one desires to accept this grace until God spiritually enlivens them by means of regeneration. God regenerates only individuals whom he has predestined to salvation. Arminians understand the grace of God as cooperating with one's free will in order to bring an individual to salvation. According to Evangelical theologian Charles C. Ryrie, modern liberal theology "gives an exaggerated place to the abilities of people to decide their own fate and to effect their own salvation entirely apart from God's grace." He writes that theological conservatives maintain God's grace is necessary for salvation.

John Cassian

John Cassian (c. AD 360 – c. 435), also known as John the Ascetic and John Cassian the Roman (Latin: Ioannes Eremita Cassianus, Ioannus Cassianus, or Ioannes Massiliensis), was a Christian monk and theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern churches for his mystical writings. Cassian is noted for his role in bringing the ideas and practices of Christian monasticism to the early medieval West.

John Murray (theologian)

John Murray (14 October 1898 – 8 May 1975) was born in Bonar Bridge, Scotland. He was a Scottish-born Calvinist theologian who taught at Princeton Seminary and then left to help found Westminster Theological Seminary, where he taught for many years.

Limitarianism (Christianity)

Christian theological limitarianism teaches that Christ's atonement applies only to the elect (as Calvinism), and not to all humanity (as Christian universalism taught), or of limited atonement and irresistible grace as St. Augustine had taught, later associated with classic Calvinism.

Reformed theologian, pastor, and author R.C. Sproul suggests there is confusion about what the doctrine of limited atonement actually teaches. While he considers it possible for a person to believe four points without believing the fifth, he claims that a person who really understands the other four points must believe in limited atonement because of what Martin Luther called a resistless logic.


Monergism is the view within Christian theology which holds that God works through the Holy Spirit to bring about the salvation of an individual through spiritual regeneration, regardless of the individual's cooperation. It is most often associated with Calvinism (such as Presbyterianism and the Dutch Reformed Church) and its doctrine of irresistible grace, and particularly with historical doctrinal differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. This position contrasts with Arminian synergism, the belief that God and individuals cooperate to bring individuals salvation.


Pneumatology in Christianity refers to a particular discipline within Christian theology that focuses on the study of the Holy Spirit. The term is essentially derived from the Greek word Pneuma (πνεῦμα), which designates "breath" or "spirit" and metaphorically describes a non-material being or influence. The English term pneumatology comes from two Greek words: πνεῦμα (pneuma, spirit) and λόγος (logos, teaching about). Pneumatology includes study of the person of the Holy Spirit, and the works of the Holy Spirit. This latter category also includes Christian teachings on new birth, spiritual gifts (charismata), Spirit-baptism, sanctification, the inspiration of prophets, and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity (which in itself covers many different aspects). Different Christian denominations have different theological approaches on various pneumatological questions.

Prevenient grace

Prevenient grace (or enabling grace) is a Christian theological concept rooted in Arminian theology,. It is divine grace that precedes human decision. In other words, God will start showing love to that individual at a certain point in his lifetime.

Prevenient grace is embraced primarily by Arminian Christians who are influenced by the theology of Jacob Arminius or John Wesley. Wesleyan Arminians believe that grace enables, but does not ensure, personal acceptance of the gift of salvation. Wesley typically referred to it in 18th-century language as prevenient grace. In current English, the phrase preceding grace would have a similar meaning.

Sola gratia

Sola gratia (Latin: by grace alone) is one of the Five solae propounded to summarise the Lutheran and Reformed leaders' basic beliefs during the Protestant Reformation. These Lutheran and Reformed leaders believed that this emphasis was in contradistinction to the teaching of the Catholic Church, though it had explicitly affirmed the doctrine of sola gratia in the year 529 at the Council of Orange, which condemned the Pelagian heresy. As a response to this misunderstanding, Catholic doctrine was further clarified in the Council of Trent. This Council explained that salvation is made possible only by grace, and that the faith and works of men are secondary means that have their origins in and are sustained by grace.

During the Reformation, Lutheran and Reformed theologians generally believed the Catholic view of the means of salvation to be a mixture of reliance upon the grace of God, and confidence in the merits of one's own works performed in love, pejoratively called Legalism. These Reformers posited that salvation is entirely comprehended in God's gifts (that is, God's act of free grace), dispensed by the Holy Spirit according to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ alone.

Consequently, they argued that a sinner is not accepted by God on account of the change wrought in the believer by God's grace, and indeed, that the believer is accepted without any regard for the merit of his works—for no one deserves salvation; at the same time, they condemned the extreme of Antinomianism, a doctrine that argues that if someone is saved, he/she has no need to live a holy life, given that salvation is already "in the bag".It is also linked to the five points of Calvinism.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches affirm salvation by grace, teaching:

So we, as Orthodox Christians, affirm as clearly and unambiguously as any Lutheran, for example, that “salvation is by grace” and not by our works. Unlike medieval Catholicism, Orthodoxy does not hold that a person can build up a “treasury of merits” that will count in our favor at the Judgment Seat of Christ. What will matter then is our having surrendered our sin to God through confession, and our gestures of love (Mt. 25), together with the unshakable conviction that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” and the unique Way to eternal life.

Being synergists, those of Wesleyan-Arminian soteriology, such as Methodists, take a different approach to sola gratia than Lutherans and Reformed Christians, holding that God, through prevenient grace, reaches out to all individuals though they have the free will to cooperate with that grace or reject it.

Thomas Edwards (divine)

Thomas Edwards (1729–1785) was an Anglican clergyman and divine.

Total depravity

Total depravity (also called radical corruption or pervasive depravity) is a Christian theological doctrine derived from the concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin as a result of their fallen nature and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God, refrain from evil, or accept the gift of salvation as it is offered.

It is advocated to various degrees by many Protestant confessions of faith and catechisms, including those of some Lutheran synods, and Calvinism. Arminians, such as Methodists, believe and teach total depravity, but with distinct differences. The key distinction between the total depravity embraced by Calvin and the total depravity taught by Arminius is the distinction between irresistible grace and prevenient grace.


A vocation (from Latin vocātiō, meaning 'a call, summons') is an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.

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