Arminianism vs. Calvinism – Irresistible/Resistible Grace

The fourth of the five points of TULIP (Calvinism theology) is irresistible grace. This was a direct response to the Arminian view of resistible grace. Irresistible grace is the idea that when the spirit of God works on the heart of a sinner, the sinner can’t resist. Resistible grace states that God calls all to salvation, but that many people resist and reject this call.

Perhaps a more proper term for the Arminian view is prevenient grace. It is a matter of God opening the doors to heaven and a person choosing for themselves to walk through. If God does not open the door, the person cannot get in, but just because the door is open does not mean the person will walk through it. The person still has free will; this grace allows the person to choose God that would otherwise be unable to do so.

Resistible grace goes back to the theory that man was wounded from the fall. Resistible grace underestimates the power and determination of God. To the Calvinists, this view reduces God to little more than a concerned by-stander and placed man in the ultimate position of sovereignty.

“We will be saved only when God reaches in to our hearts and changes them. He is the seeker. He is the one who is aggressive. He is the one who reaches to us.” – Dr. Thomas Nettles

As I have mentioned before, men were not just wounded from the fall, they are dead. The Bible makes this clear:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.” – Ephesians 2:1

The last time I checked, a dead man can’t choose to take a step. He can’t make a decision for himself. He is dead.

Further (Jesus speaking):

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” – John 6:44

A sinner is dead, not simply wounded. When the Holy Spirit works on the heart of a sinner, there is nothing that person can do to reject it. God is sovereign above man.

Study verses for this section: Isaiah 46:8-11, Romans 9:19, John 3:3,6, John 6:44,63, James 2:6, John 1:12-13

– Adam Smith

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2 thoughts on “Arminianism vs. Calvinism – Irresistible/Resistible Grace

  1. Hi Adam,

    There are several issues to address here. I do not think that you are defining your terms consistently with what scripture teaches.

    First is the definition of “dead”. Scripture does not define dead as “unable to make a decision”. Rather, it is defined as “separation from God”. In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15) the father states: “My son was dead, but now is alive, he was lost but now is found!” The son was not a rotten corpse unable to make a decision. He was separated from relationship with his father. The son was still able to make decisions. What he was not able to do was to be reconciled with his father, unless his father was willing. This is the context of death in Eph 2 and other places. Death means separation from God.

    The second issue is the idea that man is unable to reject God’s grace. This is a logical construct that is not supported by scripture. Scripture teaches instead that we can and do reject the saving grace of God. (Matt. 23:37, John 5:34-40, Acts 7:51, Rom. 10:21, 2 Thess. 2:10, Heb 4:2). This is to our detriment, not his.

    The third issue is the unscriptural definition of sovereignty. The fact that man can reject God’s grace (to his own peril) does not impugn the sovereignty of God in the least. The Biblical definition of sovereignty is NOT that God meticulously micromanages all of the decisions of his creatures. The Biblical definition of sovereignty is that God does as he pleases. (Psalm 115:3, Psalm 135:5-6, Daniel 4:35). Since God can do whatever he pleases, he has the right to create man as a free moral agent. He has the right to plan salvation according to his own conditions. Why do Calvinists deny God these rights? Going back to the prodigal son parable – The father clearly wanted to be reconciled with his son, but he did not go about it by dragging the son from the foreign land and then forcing the son to live in his house. Rather, he respected the personhood of the son. All of the grace came from the father, yet the son had the decision whether or not to go home. And that the son had a decision to make didn’t impugn the sovereignty of the father. What’s amazing about the parable of the prodigal son is the scandalous love of the father. That the son came to his senses is certainly relevant – without it he would not have been reconciled. However, the focus is all on the love of the father, and what the father decided to do. The same is true of salvation for us. God sets the terms (Romans 10:8-13). We must believe. But our belief is not the focus. The focus is the scandalous love of God, and his right to save as he pleases. If we don’t meet God’s terms, it doesn’t in any way negate his sovereignty.

    The fourth issue is that scripture teaches that God draws every person. John 12:32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” This idea of God’s limited love is completely foreign to what scripture teaches.

    Let me close with a relevant quote from John Wesley:

    “I appeal to every impartial mind…whether the mercy of God would not be far less gloriously displayed, in saving a few by his irresistible power, and leaving all the rest without help, without hope, to perish everlastingly, than in offering salvation to every creature, actually saving all that consent thereto, and doing for the rest all that infinite wisdom, almighty power, and boundless love can do, without forcing them to be saved, which would be to destroy the very nature that he had given them.”

    God bless,

    • Wilson says:

      How do you explain Acts 13:48 “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed?”

      And how do you understand Romans 3:10-11 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God?”

      And how do you read Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time (before flood)

      Genesis 8:21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (after Flood)

      If nobody seeks God, how can you justify “men receive God’s grace freely?”

      by the way, where is the idea of prevenient grace in the Scripture?

      I will thank you very much if you can show me a single verse that supports prevenient grace.

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