The Man-Made and Biblical Adjectives of Grace

Grace is a great thing. Grace is foundational to Christianity. Grace should be talked about a lot.

Unfortunately, as with all things that are talked about a lot, many stupid things are said. People can’t leave well enough alone, they must press on to uncharted waters.

People want to appear to be novel and fresh. “Look at this new thing I discovered over here!”

Theology is like any other field–if you want attention, you have to come up with something new.

So, we can’t just talk about grace, we must talk about some new facet of grace that I, and I alone, have discovered. If we’re lucky, we might even get to start a new church over it.

Irresistible Grace is one example. Obviously, the Bible never speaks of grace as being irresistible. It’s a theological theory, that through much repetition, has come to be seen as “biblical.”

Prevenient Grace is a close second. Again, there is no such term in the Bible. Prevenient Grace is an Arminian idea that makes Arminianism just like Calvinism, only differing in terminology and keeping both parties entrenched in thinking they are not like the other at all. (How was that for a good attempt to offend all?!)

Theologians have also gone to talk about common grace, electing grace, preached grace, regenerating grace, justifying grace, adopting grace, ministry grace, sanctifying grace, empowering grace, provisional grace, financial grace, miraculous grace, persevering grace, glorifying grace, sacramental grace, and probably thousands more.

In the end, grace is grace. God didn’t have to define it further to build up any theological barricades to differentiate between orthodox and heretical.

For he that is not against us is on our part.” That sounds like grace.

God does use some words to further describe what Grace is. The list goes like this (all phrases from the KJV):

great grace
abundant grace
all grace
exceeding grace
manifold grace
true grace

These are not words that are limiting grace; these adjectives tend to expand our idea of grace. Grace is such a big word, and yet the Bible seems to constantly be pushing us to expand our understanding of it further, to help us see how big it really is. People define words to limit them, to buttonhole them, so they can better disagree with people.

It is the height of irony that we can turn this word into something to bash people with and divide over.

(My thanks to Onesimus for sparking this thought.)