Follow Up Question Concerning Theological Method

If Grace is present (are we speaking of saving grace here?) and working to redeem all men where does man's will come into the picture?

Eric Landstrom's Reply

First a little background and then, if you don't mind, some insight into my own theological process (without all the boring Paleo-Orthodoxy methodology): Grace, which I summarized by saying as present among all people with the immediate goal of justification followed then by sanctification, begins with a period of preparation that leads up to saving faith in the cross and saving faith itself. "Conversion" points to that decisive moment where the sinner becomes radically aware of atoning grace on the cross and understands that the grace of the cross applies to him or herself. At that point the sinner then begins by repentance and faith through God's ministry of grace to be cleansed from sin an inward renewing of the mind and the taking on of the image of Christ and clothing oneself in the righteousness of Christ.

Augustine and most of the church fathers held that the grace of justification doesn't stand alone as a unilateral, monergistic (singly worked out without willing cooperation) imputed decree, but is joined and imputed freely and coresponsibly in an extended interpersonal process (Augustine, On Man's Perfection in Righteousness, NPNF 1 V, pp. 159-76). Some of the informed Reformed as well as most Arminian and Wesleyan theologians are in agreement with Augustine's assessment and further argue that man is the media that God ministers to and that as media, man, in response to stimuli given, responds in a personal way.

While understanding that adherents to the above description believe their own cooperation accounts for no merit whatsoever, I remain uncomfortable with cooperative language in terms of soteriology. Westminster acknowledges what is, from a Calvinist perspective, a paradox of truths wherein man is in possession of free agency of some sort while God sovereignly assigns all things to come to pass. Although I don't share the same presuppositions as Westminster, where Westminster doesn't try to resolve the paradox, I do try to resolve the paradox by altering our perspective of how moral free agency is thought to work in the theological sphere of God's theocracy while steadfastly refusing to break with orthodoxy.

In light of orthodoxy, however defined, moral freedom is said to exist thereby making man fully responsible for personal sin and absolving God as the author of evil. From Westminster's perspective freedom exists as a paradox and from an Arminian-Wesleyan viewpoint freedom exists as the result of a “freed will” from grace that is then able to respond and act on the grace God has given. No matter how freedom is thought to work the end is the same: man is responsible, God is not the author of evil.

My major change in perspective is to say, no, man doesn't cooperate with grace to bring to fruition further graces (such as justification and furthering sanctification) because man's will is fallen. As such, man can only exercise his will negatively and not positively. Thus my change of perspective assumes that in God's providence to create a moral world were man is responsible, God allows the defective will of man to be exorcised while not applauding the results of those exorcises.

The illustration that man is a cup that God is continually pouring grace into comes to mind wherein man is given the ability to spill the cup or to completely knock the cup over comes to mind. The idea is that as the cup fills, the harder it is to for man to spill grace but the more grace that is spilled, the easier it is to spill more until some regrettable point comes where the cup is upended and the conscience seared and forever blind to God.

In remembrance of God’s outpouring of his Spirit upon all men, and the reversal of Babel on the day of Pentecost,

Eric Landstrom


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