Monday, November 03, 2014
Prevenient Grace by W. Brian Shelton
Prevenient Grace, God's Provision for Fallen Humanity
by W. Brian Shelton
Description: If human nature is utterly sinful, how can any human being comprehend and respond to the gospel? This paradox has been debated by theologians for more than five hundred years, and Wesleyan-Arminians have answered that the Holy Spirit enables every human being to accept God's call to redemption. This concept of prevenient grace is the most significant difference betwen Calvinist and Arminian Christians.
I was reading Roger E. Olson's blog when he recommended a newly published book that is finally an indepth scriptural exegetical work on the subject of prevenient grace.
In the book, Olson said, "I am often asked to recommend a book explaining the Wesleyan-Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace. Until now I have not been able to. I am grateful to Brian Shelton for satisfying this greatly felt need. His book is erudite but easily understandable, convincing but irenic, and completely biblical and orthodox. From now on I will know exactly what book to recommend to people curious about prevenient grace."
In this same post, he said something I need to think and affirm in my mind. It is about my understanding of Total Depravity, which I need to review.
Olson said, "I have always defined “total depravity” as extensive, not intensive. That is, “total depravity” simply means that all parts of every persons, except Jesus Christ, since Adam are corrupted by sin—reason not excepted. I have gone out of my way to say that total depravity does not mean, either for Calvinists or Arminians, that every person is as evil as possible. I affirm total depravity as spiritual helplessness apart from a special operation of God’s grace—whether universal or particular. Calvinists typically describe total depravity as being totally dead spiritually. I prefer to define it as being totally helpless spiritually, left to oneself, without prevenient grace. That’s because I believe the image of God remains, however damaged, in every person. Saying, as Calvinists do, that they are “all dead” (before regeneration) implies that they are not God’s special, loved creatures, possessing dignity and worth above all animals.
I have always been one to embrace good theological words even if they are misused by others. I prefer to rescue them from the dustbin of theological vocabulary rather than discard them. “Total depravity” simply means that there is no spiritual good useful for salvation and developing a strong relationship with God in any person born of Adam’s race (except Christ) that is not a super-added gift of God. With Calvinists I can affirm that we are all spiritually dead apart from supernatural grace, but I add only that 1) even the spiritually dead possess the formal image of God, and 2) supernatural grace heals that deadness so that sinners can at least make a decision to repent and trust in God and Christ or not."
I just bought a copy of Prevenient Grace and I've started reading it and it certainly looks promising. I look forward to a good read in the next few days or week.
And I absolutely love the cover of the book!