Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
Calvinism says that God extends his common grace to all mankind, but it is not sufficient to save anyone. Only God’s irresistible grace can draw the elect to salvation and make a person willing to respond. It cannot be obstructed or resisted.
Arminianism says that through the preparatory (prevenient) grace given to all by the Holy Spirit, man is able to cooperate with God and respond in faith to salvation. Through prevenient grace, God removed the effects of Adam’s sin. Because of free will men are also able to resist God’s grace.
One of the things that bothers me the most is the need to redefine the same term and classify it. Grace no longer is just one thing, it’s common grace or irresistible grace or prevenient grace.
This teaching brings up all sorts of questions. How does Jesus’ death provide grace? Is this grace for all or only for those who will believe? Is it irresistible? Can we in our free will resist it? Did Jesus bleed too much for those who would not believe? Did he bleed for everybody, but grace only ‘works’ to save the elect?
The problem that many Calvinists have with the Arminian idea is that it allows for Pelagianism or Semipelagianism. Pelagius taught that the original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing Good over Evil – it is the idea that human beings can choose salvation by their own efforts. I think the issue is that pesky question of free will, Calvinists believe that the elect will be saved because they can’t resist God’s grace – they in and of themselves cannot chose to be saved unless and until God enables them to. From what I’ve seen, free will isn’t really free in Calvinism. Arminians would realize that Jesus paid the price for Adam’s sin and that enables their free will to choose grace and their free will to not choose grace. They choose to believe, Jesus is the one that saves them.
Looking at the Bible, Calvinists see all people as being either dead in their sins or alive in Christ. Only the elect, through grace, are capable of going from the dead state to an alive state. Arminians would believe in a grey zone where anybody who is dead in their sins is actually separated from God by sin but are capable of choosing God when grace enables them.
It sounds like it all comes down to: what grace is, what it can do, what it can’t do, and how people react to it. It’s not easy to figure out how to define it because there are so many different kinds that do so many different things. I would still agree with the assessment that trying to define these system of beliefs is trying to know the unknowable and define the undefinable.