Universally sufficient enabling grace

In my compatibilist proposal, the ninth point of my platform had to do with universal sufficient grace. It may be the most unusual of my points but I find it helpful, and so I continue to commend it to other Calvinists for consideration.

I summed up the concept with this statement from Who Can Be Saved?: “it may be that God gives everyone sufficient grace to enable them to believe in him but that he only draws and persuades effectively the elect. Not only does everyone receive revelation sufficient to lead to salvation if responded to with faith, but at least once in everyone’s life that divine revelation is accompanied by a divine enabling that makes a faith response possible, in the sense that people are justly condemned for failing to believe when God is made known to them on that occasion” (239).

In a comment on that earlier post, Tony Penner had some questions about this proposal and I thought some of these might express the wonderings of others too. So I’m answering his questions in a post.

Tony asked:

“1. You say that God has given everyone sufficient grace but only effective for the elect. This is not a new concept if in it you are communicating the concept related to the atonement that says that Christ died sufficiently for all but only effectively for the elect. Is this close to what you are saying? If so, then, who did Christ die for and what does that do to the significance of the atonement?”

I will address the sufficiency of the atonement when I treat Roger Olson’s discussion of “limited atonement,” fairly soon, so I won’t describe my understanding of it here. I point out now, however, that my proposal regarding universal sufficient grace has to do with the work of the Holy Spirit rather than of  the Son, as in the case of the atonement. I should also note that, in view of some change currently under way in my concept of the sufficiency of the atonement, I have begun to ask myself just what the relationship may be between the “sufficiency/efficiency” distinction in Christology and that distinction in pneumatology. I’m not ready to speak to that yet, but I’m pondering the matter.

Tony asked:

“2. If you are using the word ‘grace’ in this context but it does not actuate faith, is it not closely resembling common grace and not saving grace? And if it is approaching the grace of the saving kind are you not then diminishing the force of the word ‘grace?’”

Yes, this grace is “common” in that it is universal and also that it does not effect salvation. It is a gracious divine enablement which puts sinners in a position analagous to Adam and Eve before they fell; it gives them the sort of  ability  to respond to God’s revelation that makes them culpable for not doing so. They could believe, if they would. But they won’t unless God gives them the grace that is efficient/effective. Its “sufficiency” is therefore rather limited; it is sufficient to account for their moral blameworthiness in unbelief or the counterpart disobedience.

Francis Turretin (1823-87) made this proposal in regard to Adam and Eve, in his attempt to account for their being justly condemnable for their disobedience, even though God had chosen not to give them the grace necessary to assure their obedience. As per my earlier post, I understand the need for that grace in terms of a “moral entropy” in the created order.

Interestingly, I was not aware of Turretin’s having postulated this concerning Adam and Eve, when I first came up with the concept in regard to people after the fall, but I was heartened to find that the idea had so illustrious a forerunner. But Turretin did not reapply the concept in the post-fall situation as I am doing. My own idea took shape in my mind while I was reading various books, including some Molinist works and Thomas Oden’s work on grace, from a Wesleyan perspective.

Why?, you may wonder, do I make this suggestion. It is part of my grappling to understand the moral accountability of pervasively depraved sinners for their acts of sin, when they are naturally unable to please God apart from a gracious enablement. Traditionally, Reformed theologians have accounted for this universal responsibility for the sins we commit, despite our having been conceived dead in sin, by appeal to our implication in the original sin. As Paul says in Romans 5:12, we sinned in Adam. We are not accounted guilty because of something Adam did, we are guilty for what we did in Adam.

I affirm the federal/covenantal understanding of original guilt, but I see a problem which I have not found addressed in Reformed theology. (If it has been spoken to, I will be very grateful to whomever tells me by whom and where it has been addressed.) I do not consider unjust the corporate role of Adam as head of the race “in him,” by God’s constitution, any more than I object to our incorporated righteousness in Jesus, the second Adam. But I have concluded that the traditional Reformed treatment of this matter puts a weight upon original guilt which is not warranted by biblical teaching. Having been born sinners in Adam, no human being after the fall (with the exception of the second Adam, of course, who is head of a new race) is able not to sin. Every sin we commit during our entire lives grows out of our original act in Adam. But no biblical text with reference to the final judgment cites our sin in Adam as a factor in our condemnation! That should surprise Calvinists. Scripture always cites, as the criteria for judgment, deeds we did in the body, that is, what we call “actual” guilt as distinct from “original” guilt.

This is one of the things that led me to postulate that, at least once in everyone’s life, God’s Spirit puts every human being in the situation of Adam and Eve before the fall. Faced with temptation, we are placed in a position where we could believe/obey God’s revelation, if we would. The act we then commit is analogous to that of Adam and Eve in the garden, and the relationship between that decisive personal act and the sins we do after it is precisely the relationship which “actual” sins have been classically understood to bear to “original” sin. What changes with my proposal, however, is that the “originating sin” is one that was done in the body, not representatively in Adam, our natural covenant head. This would explain why no final condemnation passage refers to our sin in Adam. By marked contrast, our being “in Christ” is front and center when our final justification is in view; God’s people are clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

Tony asked:

“3. If God provides a divine enabling to every human being how does this work if enabling grace is only given to the elect unless you believe that everyone is elect? Is this not just dangling the carrot?”

I am hoping that my answer to your second question has also given you the answer to this one.

Tony asked:

“4. How does your proposal of universal divine enabling differ from prevenient grace?”

You’ll observe that the grace of which I speak is similar in effect to the universal prevening grace of Arminian theology. But I posit it to be accompanying rather than prevening, and hence more akin to Lutheran theology, except that Lutherans believe that this grace accompanies every divine revelation, whereas I posit that it need only happen once, though it may happen more times in the lives of some individuals.

Arminians have objected to me that the grace I call “sufficient” is problematic because it never suffices for anyone’s actual faith. But, I point out that their prevening grace doesn’t either! In both cases, something else is needed, for faith to occur. They posit that what is additionally required is an act of the human will, without any further divine enablement. I posit that what is additionally needed is an act of God, the regenerative grace that is at work in the efficacious call.

I first made my proposal publicly at an annual meeting of ETS, in a paper entitled: “The universal salvific work of the Holy Spirit: reducing the scandal of Calvinism.” They informed me that, since my proposal still affirms a monergistic action of divine grace for salvation to occur, I had not reduced the scandal. I grant that fact, but I have reduced my level of puzzlement, and I am hopeful that the concept may be useful to my fellow Calvinists.

This is a concept that has also helped me to understand God’s distress at the unbelief of the non-elect. Jesus, for instance speaks of having tried to gather Jews of Jerusalem under his wings, but they were not willing to be gathered (Mt 23:37). Why the distress if they could not come to him, in any sense?

Tony asked, finally:

“5. If everyone is given sufficient grace whereby a faith decision were possible how does this square with depraved inability?”

I am hopeful that my answer to question number 2 has made this clear.

If you are a Calvinist, how do you understand God’s distress at the unbelief of the non-elect and the lack of reference to original guilt in the final judgment? What have you read that has helped you on this point?

 Further explanation

For anyone who wants to get a better understanding of my proposal of universally sufficient enabling grace, I have uploaded three files to a new page under “Documents,” titled “Excerpts.” The files are under Soteriology/Universal Sufficient Grace, and you can get to the files from that page or go directly to them from the following links:

“Who is Able to Believe?” [This is a prepublication draft of Chapter 11 of Who Can Be Saved?. It may not correspond exactly to the final published form of that chapter]

“The Distinction Between My Proposal of Universal Sufficient Grace and Amyraldian ‘Hypothetical Universalism’” [This is a prepublication draft of Appendix 2 of Who Can Be Saved?. It may not correspond exactly to the final published form of that appendix]

“Scriptural Support for the Concept of Universally Sufficient Enabling Grace”  [This is a prepublication draft of Appendix 3 of Who Can Be Saved?. It may not correspond exactly to the final published form of that appendix]

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9 Responses to Universally sufficient enabling grace

  1. Tony Penner says:

    Thanks Terry for answering my questions, although I will still have to ponder much of what you have proposed. I realize (I think) that as a theologian you are doing your best to try to understand the paradoxical concepts of Scripture. It is in many regards a mystery how God may grieve over the condemnation of sinners while at the same time be the nature of predestination overlook them for salvation. One’s mind can whirl trying to come to terms with the truths of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. I am glad that you are willing to try to reconcile these things as I believe that it is a benefit to the Christian community. But without trying to be disrespectful, do you not have to hold some of what you are proposing lightly because there is not a strong biblical affirmation but rather a philosophical one? I am not trying to dismiss or join the camp of believers who simply throw up their hands to everything that they read in Scripture that does not make sense on a cursory reading and who do not put any value in the hard work of searching out the Scriptures. But this brings me to a question, at what point do we embrace the mystery of the Scriptures and conclude that we only see dimly but one day we will see in full?
    On another related note. In regard to the sufficiency and efficiency of the atonement and work of the Holy Spirit it would seem to me there are a couple of things milling around in my head.
    1. I have since becoming a monergist concluded that the grace provided by the H.S. comes to all in common grace but grace that would lead to salvation is only imparted to the elect and is irresistible. Your proposal seems to indicate that I am leaving a significant concept.

    2. I had at one time held to the view that Christ died sufficiently for all but only effectively for the elect. I moved in this direction as a means as you say of softening the scandal of Calvinism. But as I have studied further, I have concluded that although this could be true, I find that Scripture confirms that Christ only for the elect. His love in Salvation was expressed only for those he predestined to save. For me this maintains the biblical understanding of propitiation.

    Thanks again for addressing my questions, it has given me much to think about.

  2. David says:

    Hey Tony,

    You say:

    1. I have since becoming a monergist concluded that the grace provided by the H.S. comes to all in common grace but grace that would lead to salvation is only imparted to the elect and is irresistible. Your proposal seems to indicate that I am leaving a significant concept.

    David: there are a couple of things that draw my attention in what you say there. 1) Grace is not a force. It is not resistable or irristable. Grace is an attitude or disposition of favour. It is better to use the traditional labels, and not the modern TULIP terms, of effectual calling. For the original term focuses on the work of the Spirit in the internal calling of the elect. 2) I am reading your lines there as suggesting a dichotomy, wherein only electing grace is salvific, and common grace is non-salvific. Divine grace, whether effectual or not, always seeks the salvation and well-being of the recipient of grace, as Isa 26:10 suggests. Divine favour is expressed to induce the sinner to turn to God (Rom 2:4 etc). In the end, all divine grace is given to seek the spiritual well-being of the creature.


  3. Tony Penner says:

    Hi David,

    I hear what you are saying I think. The definition of grace simplified that I will adhere to is this, “God’s unmerited favor.” God’s favor to the world is found in his “common grace.” It is the grace that causes the rain to fall on the just and unjust and enables unbelievers to be kind to each other. It is also the grace that as the Spirit is present on this earth keeps it from falling into utter chaos. Enabling or Effectual grace is that grace that is bound to God’s predestination of the elect and is exercised as God calls and justifies those he has predestined (Rom. 8:30).
    I believe that there is no mistaking that the grace that is exercised by God for salvation is distinct from what we call common grace. And I would contend that while the Holy Spirit is the force behind the grace of salvation, the two cannot be so easily separated. If God’s grace is not upon a person, that person will not benefit from the power of the Holy Spirit. So in some senses, Grace is a force granted and enabled by God.

    I am not sure I would agree with you that all grace in all it’s nuances is meant to lead to the “spiritual well-being of the creature.” But I would not say that it is meant to lead to his demise either. The favor of God has a purpose in mind and in that purpose because of the sovereignty of God it will be fulfilled. Your statement that I quoted above seems to reduce grace to a simplified form without substance. Grace is connected with power and when exercised for salvation leads to salvation. Eph 2:8-9 seem to make it quite clear that we are saved through grace, something that is not of ourselves and if all grace of every kind is meant to lead to the “spiritual well-being of the creature” then either Eph 2:8-9 has been overstated or the grace common to mankind should lead effectively to universal salvation or God’s unmerited favor has no effective results.

    These are just some thoughts and I will have to take some more time to mull things over. If I have misunderstood your response to me, go right ahead and make clarifications.

    • David says:

      Hey Tony,

      You say: I am not sure I would agree with you that all grace in all it’s nuances is meant to lead to the “spiritual well-being of the creature.” But I would not say that it is meant to lead to his demise either.

      David: My comment presupposes a pre-commitment to the two core doctrines and ideas, 1) the secret/revealed will distinction with regard to the salvation of all men, and 2) the well-meant offer of the gospel. I would argue that if someone meaningfully accepts these ideas then what I say has to follow. If we take this example as a window into the problem. John Gill affirmed the standard idea of a general love and general grace and mercy on the part of God for all men. What Gill did with that, however, is interesting. He compartmentalized divine love and grace into a sharp dichotomy of nature and grace. God’s general love has only regard for the sinner’s physical and natural well-being, eg, that a man was fed, clothed and housed. Gill may even say it regards their physical attendance to a church. However, for Gill, this general love has no regard to the spiritual or eternal well-being of the sinner.

      The Reformed, on the other hand, affirm that while all that is true with regard to the physical well-being of the sinner, as recipient of this general love, it also concerns their eternal well-being. Verses like the Isa text: ‘even if grace is shown to the sinner, he will not learn righteousness;’ ie, he should have learnt righteousness. Roms 2:4: the goodness of God leads you to repentance: it is given to direct and induce you to repentance. The “grace” behind both verses is clearly not electing, but it is salvific, as the righteousness, or repentance cannot be simply natural, or external or church righteousness (before men, etc).

      This general love is evidence in such verses as Acts 14:17, the general love is a witness to men of divine compassion. The import is that men should respond properly. Acts 27:26-27, God sets man in his respective places, that they should seek God.

      So there is grace of God which regards a man’s well-being, but yet which is not electing.

      In classic Protestant Scholastic theology, this was also called the Common Operations of the Spirit, which are gracious workings of the Spirit, tho not effectual. Some of the standard proof-texts for this are such verses as Hebrews 10:29.

      Also, check out Turratin’s discussion of common sufficient grace here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?p=138 (sections 1, 4, and 5), and how it can be used. Turretin leans in the direction of Gill in some regards, tho never quite actually falling across the line. 🙂

      I think, to sum up, Terry’s position is the natural conclusion of the standard construction of the secret and revealed will distinction, with the well-meant offer of the Gospel.

      You say: The favor of God has a purpose in mind and in that purpose because of the sovereignty of God it will be fulfilled.

      Agreed; Agreed. But keep in mind that the revealed will has some aspect of intentionality: the grace of God is given so that men should repent. This “purpose” cannot be stripped away. Nor can one say that it is given merely or singularly for the purpose of increasing their condemnation (Hypercalvinism) because it is expressly said that it is given to direct or lead them to repentance (cf 2 Peter 3:9 and Peter’s use of long-suffering in the epistle).

      You say: Your statement that I quoted above seems to reduce grace to a simplified form without substance. Grace is connected with power and when exercised for salvation leads to salvation.

      David: It may be connected with divine ability, but itself, it is not power, nor should it be defined as a power or force. The grace of God is an affection, a compassion, an disposition of kindness. God can so connect this with his elective intentionality or with his revealed will intentionality alone.

      You say: Eph 2:8-9 seem to make it quite clear that we are saved through grace, something that is not of ourselves

      David: Sure, but the sense is that the basis of our salvation is God’s free favour, not anything we have earned or merited. Salvation is a free gift, not a payment due. And still, it is not a force.

      You say: and if all grace of every kind is meant to lead to the “spiritual well-being of the creature” then either Eph 2:8-9 has been overstated or the grace common to mankind should lead effectively to universal salvation or God’s unmerited favor has no effective results.

      David: Well there you are inserting extra predications into the definition. If grace is unmerited favour, one does not have to claim it is has to be an effectual or infallible unmerited favour. Make sense? Check out John Murray’s comments on Romans 2:4: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?p=518

      I can say, because it is clearly exhibited in Scripture, that grace is an unmerited favour, a favourable disposition, and then I can also affirm with equal certainty that for non-electing grace, it is given to men to direct, to promote, to lead them, to salvation, because it regards their eternal well-being.

      Like this: to love anything is to have an affection for it, which entails a regard for that thing’s well-being. A man loves his tools, such that he takes care to preserve them from perishing (rust, decay, misplacement, etc). The bible cannot support such a claim as made by Gill, that with regard to the non-elect, God has no concern for their eternal well-being.

      Ill stop there for now.

      Thanks for your time,

  4. Stan Fowler says:

    Terry, I wish I had the time to think this through more carefully and articulate my response more fully, but here is my lingering question: How is this grace “sufficient” if no one responds apart from a distinct work of efficacious grace? Why is it that no one responds via this grace, even though they are able? Is it just coincidence? No matter how hard I try to climb inside this idea, I just can’t seem to understand how it is in fact sufficient.

    With regard to the question lying behind this construct, I confess that although I’m a Calvinist, I have come to the conclusion that the biblical evidence for original guilt is not strong. As you note, the biblical references to condemnation consistently ground it in what we actually do, not in original guilt. The evidence for original corruption is clear, I think, but original guilt is another matter. The locus classicus is Romans 5, but I am struck by the fact that Paul’s emphasis is on the one sin committed by the ONE man (Adam), not on our somehow having committed that sin. The “all sinned” of 5.12 is the same construction as in 3.23, and in that place it seems pretty clearly to denote the aggregate of human sins. So I’m not convinced that Paul believed that we are all guilty of Adam’s original sin, even though that sin led to our corruption and in that sense to our actual sins. So how can God condemn us for doing what we are driven to by our sinful nature? Well, why would we not be held accountable for doing what corresponds to our nature? I think here of Psalm 51, where David admits that he has been sinful since the beginning of his personal existence, but he says that to admit that God is just in punishing him, not to argue that he ought not be condemned for doing what he couldn’t help doing.

    Too many interesting discussions, too little time. I will leave it there for now.

    • Terrance Tiessen says:

      Thanks Stan,

      For the sake of space and clarity (hopefully), I’ll take more than one post to speak to items arising in your comment. First, regarding the sufficiency of “sufficient” grace.

      I understand your doubts about the sufficiency of a grace that never secures salvation. Its sufficiency is limited to culpability. The “sufficient grace” given to everyone, at least once, is an enablement sufficient to warrant God’s distress at our rejection of his overtures toward us, and our culpability for sin, including our bent to sin. It is, therefore, analogous to the ability that warranted condemnation of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, despite the fact that God had withheld from them the kind of assistance that was needed to keep them from disobedience, that is the will to obey.

      Turretin said this about the election of angels. He says this about the fact that all the angels were obedient for a while: “For as long as they stood (before they were confirmed), they stood by that strength which they had received at their creation and which was concreated with them (by which the evil angels also stood until their fall)” (4,8,7; Q VII; p. I:337). That might sound like a natural ability, except that Turretin goes on to speak of it as a divine “help.”

      All of the angels were helped to “stand,” that is, to be obedient, but only some of them were “confirmed” in that obedience. So, Turretin goes on: But when they were confirmed, not only that they should not fall, but that they should be no more capable of falling, this flowed from election, which separated them from the others. Before, they had the help sine quo non, which sufficed [note that term!] for them to stand if they willed. Through election, they had the help by which they could actually and immutably stand (in virtue of which they were transferred from a state of liability to an immutable state of happiness and glory incapable of being lost)” (4,8,7; p. I:337).

      Turretin considers God’s help to all of the angels, in keeping them good for a while, to be “gratuitous because God was not bound to it” (4,8,8; p. I: 337). God “was bound to create them good and holy, not sinners; he was not bound to create them immutably just. For he did no injury to those whom he permitted to fall by their own fault; without any injury he could have left the others in that state of liableness to fall” (IV, VIII). God’s willing to bestow the grace of confirmation upon some, but not all of the angels, “was of his good pleasure, not from their merit” (4,8,8).

      With that angelic context in mind, we come later to the situation of Adam. God has “stipulated that man—by the powers received in creation—could perform it [i.e., his federal obligation], although in order that he might actually perform it, he still needed the help of God both to actuate these faculties and powers and to preserve them from change. This help did not tend to the infusion of any new power, but only to exercising the efficacy of that power which had received. Now this did not belong properly to the covenant of nature, but always depended on the most free good pleasure (eudokia) of God; otherwise the covenant of nature had been immutable, and man had never sinned” (8,3,14; p. I:577).

      We get to the real nub of the matter when Turretin explains how it is that a holy man could fall: “Although man fell, still he had the ability to stand if he wished. Otherwise God would have placed him in an impossible condition. Hence a twofold help or assistance is commonly distinguished: help without which (auxilium sine qua non) or the power of not sinning (by which he had strength sufficient to stand if he wished); and the help by which (auxilium quo) or efficacious grace (which gave not only the ability if he wished, but to will what he could) (9, 7, 7; p. I: 607-08). There we have the distinction that I am working with in understanding the situation of others after Adam. God provided Adam (and, I suggest, all humans) with two kinds of help, one “sufficient” and one “efficacious.” The first is the “strength to stand if he wished,” and the second is the ability “to will what he could.”

      Of these two abilities, which come by God’s help, Turretin went on to say: “The former was after the manner of a habit and faculty in man; the latter, however, after the manner of an action or efficacious motion to good. The former was necessary to his ability to persevere, but the latter to his actual perseverance. The former help was never absent from Adam, not even in the very moment in which he sinned; but the latter, God withheld from him freely as he was not bound to give it. Notwithstanding, neither can man be excused (because he sinned voluntarily and was impelled by no force) nor could God be accused (because as a most free dispenser of his own goods, he was bound to the bestowal of that grace by no law, as will hereafter be more fully shown)” (9,7,7; p. I:608).

      Re: Adam’s culpability, Turretin write: “Therefore man alone was the cause of his evil. He willingly sinned and freely and of his own accord without any compulsion or external force transgressed the command of God, though he was furnished with such strength and helps that he might easily have avoided sin, if he had wished” (9,7,8; p. I:608). There is the “sufficiency” – Adam could have remained obedient (easily yet!), if he had wished. But he did not wish because God withheld from him the efficacious grace “to will what he could.” If God had given that efficacious grace, Adam would not have fallen, and God’s “permission” of his fall “involved the negation of the efficacious grace and help by which man might actually stand” (9,7,14; p. I:610). But Adam is culpable because God “took away from him no internal grace given before, nor impelled nor forced him to admit or consent to the temptation. Rather he only did not give the new grace of confirmation or the efficacy by which the grace in him might be actuated (which he was neither bound to give, nor in his most wise counsel did he will to give) in order to test the obedience of the creature. If without such help, Adam could not avoid falling, it does not follow that he was free from culpability. That necessity did not destroy his liberty, nor hinder him from sinning freely and with the greatest spontaneity, for he was being impelled to it by no necessity or compulsion of nature)” (9,7,14; p. I:610).”

      Turretin cites appreciatively statements made by “the celebrated Twisse,” in his disputation with Arminius: “We say that Adam had sufficient grace to enable him to obey the law given to him; we deny that he had efficacious grace which would cause him actually to obey the law” (9,7,17; p. I:611). This is not contradictory, as Twisse illustrated from the soldiers who did not break Jesus’ bones: “just as the soldiers were not deficient in the power to break the bones of the Savior, yet the decree of God in opposition being posited, they could not be broken. By parity of reasoning, although Adam had the power to obey the law of God, yet God’s decree to deny efficacious grace being posited, it could not happen that he should obey the law. God did not remove the grace which he had granted (to wit, sufficient), he only did not bestow grace effectual to the avoiding of sin” (9,7,17; p. I:611).

      Hopefully, Stan, this will give you the sense in which I am speaking of “sufficient grace.” As I mentioned in my post, I was not actually aware of Turretin’s work on this point when I first began to address the situation of humans after the fall. When I read Turretin, however, I found in him exactly what I was working on in the post-fall situation. Might God put us all, at some point in our lives, into the position of Adam? It is, admittedly, speculative, but I see some explanatory power in the suggestion.

      • David says:

        Hey Terry,
        Yeah I think Turretin would distinguish between external sufficiency grace and what we call saving grace. I think you are on the right track.

        I do think tho, it can only work on the supposition of an unlimited satisfaction; else it would just be incongruent (in my opinion).


    • Terrance Tiessen says:

      Stan, my second reply will be much more brief than my first. Hooray!

      1) do I gather from your doubts about original guilt that you affirm the grand old Baptist doctrine of an “age of accountability,” so that no one is born guilty, and people therefore become guilty only when they first sin personally?

      2) I won’t ask you to unpack your understanding here, but it would be profitable if we could talk a bit about corruption. John Murray convinced me that our corruption derives from our guilt so, if people are not guilty, I wonder how they become corrupt. This takes me back to my suggestion of “moral entropy” (which Turretin refers to as “mutability”). God created us good but dependent upon him to remain that way. So long as we are in fellowship with him, we are in a position by which his goodness sustains us. When we sin, we are alienated from God, cut off from his goodness and hence corrupt. Thus, corruption (an inclination to sin) follows from guilt, as practical righteousness follows from justification and is maintained so long as we are “in the vine,” in fellowship with Christ.

      3) You cited Romans 3:23. There, I think the aorist and present forms of the verb are significant. Paul says: “all sinned [aorist]” and “are falling short [present] of the glory of God.” The first verb connotes our original sin in Adam and the second our ongoing actual sins. I can’t recall who put me on to this. I’m thinking either Paul Jewett or Henri Blocher but it might well have been neither of them. Anyway, someone else’s writing drew this point to my attention, and I have found it illuminating in the way it ties together 3:23 and 5:12, as you noted, though without this intent.

  5. David says:

    ack I hit send before proofing, sorry for the clutter: external sufficient grace.

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