Irresistible Grace: A Fictional Factual Dialogue

Pastor Paul was studying when interrupted by the knock at the door. The sound was rapid fire and thud-like.  "Someone is upset," he thought as he called out an invitation to enter.  Jacob stumbled through the doorway carrying an armload of books. The pastor sat easily back in his chair. He knew it was going to be a long afternoon and he might as well get comfortable.  Jacob often had one remonstrance or another he wanted the pastor to answer. However, lately they had been discussing the difference between Calvinistic and Arminian theology. 

Without waiting for an invitation, Jacob threw himself in the chair opposite the pastor's desk looking disheveled. After a brief greeting, Pastor Paul leaned forward, "So, Jacob, what brings you from the little town of Leiden all the way to Dordrecht today?"  Looking a bit forlorn, Jacob blurted out, "Pastor, I no longer believe in irresistible grace! I have come to accept that God gives every person a sort of enabling grace, giving them the ability to accept or reject the gospel."

Pastor Paul was a man of patience with a deep love for his flock, even difficult sheep like Jacob. So, he leaned back again. "Alright, let's think about that for a few minutes. How about a review of some of the points we have discussed already. Does that sound like a good plan?" Jacob nodded in agreement. "Good. Let's start with humanity's fallen condition. Do you remember our study of Psalm 51:5 and how David's words teach us that every man, woman, and child is conceived in sin? And do you remember the metaphor in Ephesians 2:1 that Paul used to describe this condition? It is death, we were dead in our sins. Jacob, do you remember that discussion?"

"Yes, Pastor, but I have been reading Orton Wiley's Introduction to Christian Theology as of late." Jacob pulled out a yellow volume with red tracing around the title.  He opened it and began to read, "Regeneration is not brought about unconditionally by the Holy Spirit apart from any preparatory steps and without man's co-operation. Calvinism falsely holds that regeneration is the first step in salvation, and that it is accomplished without the co-operation of man." Jacob looked up, "Pastor, Dr. Wiley and Dr. Miley before him both believe that man co-operates in salvation."

Pastor Paul asked the obvious, "How can a dead man co-operate, Jacob?" Jacob was quick to respond, "Dr. Wiley agrees you.  He even says on page 285, after quoting Ephesians 2:1, 'Regeneration, then, is a spiritual quickening, by which the souls of men dead in trespasses and sins are raised to walk in newness of life.' But Dr. Wiley says that we co-operate in this awakening."  Jacob looked satisfied.

Pastor Paul, after a pause, looked at Jacob and said, "Turn to Ephesians 2 and start reading." Jacob did as he was bidden to do and when he read verses 4 and 5 Pastor Paul stopped him. "Jacob, did you hear what you just read? The Apostle Paul says, 'But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…'  Jacob, it was God who made us alive."

Jacob's response was again quick, "Yes, but with our co-operation!" Pastor Paul asked, "Jacob, if our spiritual resurrection involves the whole man, then what operation does he contribute to his own resurrection?" Jacob again read from Wiley, this time from page 286, "Dr. Wiley says, "But nothing is clearer in the Scriptures than the fact that before one can be made a child of God by regenerating grace, he must first make use of prevenient grace by repenting, believing, and calling upon God." Pastor Paul looked at Jacob with love toward him and said, "So, a dead man must be sorry that he is dead, believe that he can be made alive, and then ask to be resurrected all before being made alive? Is that what you are saying?"

Not knowing what else to say Jacob started to collect his books.  Pastor Paul asked to pray for him but as they bowed, Jacob looked up and said, "Oh, Pastor, could we pray for my aunt's salvation?"  Paul looked at Jacob and smiled, "Yes, we can pray that God will make her alive in Christ." Then he prayed.

Jeffrey A. Stivason has been serving the Lord as a minister of the gospel since 1995.  He was church planter and now pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He also holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.  Jeff is the Managing Editor for Place for Truth.

Jeffrey Stivason