D-U-M Spells “Grace” (part I)

It appears it is necessary once again to discuss the definition of “grace”. In English (as in Greek), there are many different senses in which the word “grace” and its derivatives (gracious, graceful, graced) can be understood. In the CoW debate, Jacob did once mention (don’t make me look it up!), that grace in the CoW is a “different kind of grace” than in the CoG. So what exactly is that difference?

First off, consider the kind of grace that we Christians experience. It is God’s “demerited favor” — despite the fact that we explicitly fell short, God justified us by executing our justice against his Son, so in the end, we’re going to be rewarded anyways.

But at his creation, Adam had done nothing wrong to demerit God’s favor, so by definition, sinless Adam cannot be a recipient of dGrace. Then again, neither had he done anything good to merit God’s favor, and yet God created the world for his dominion, brought him into covenant, and endued him with power and ability to keep it. There is an honorable desire to glorify God for this unnecessary um, whachamacallit — many words come to mind: goodness, kindness, love, power, glory…. The excellent term the confession offers to describe this is “voluntary condescension.”

Despite the existence of all those alternatives, however, some also want to apply the term “grace”. Well, since the defintion above doesn’t apply, we must supply an alternate definition of grace — instead of demerited favor, simply unmerited favor. When one has done nothing wrong or right, when God is obliged neither to reward nor punish, God takes the initiative and gives an unearned gift. (Note that “unmerited favor” is completely equivalent to “voluntary condescension.”) To avoid confusing equivocation, I’ll distinguish this new use of “grace”, by calling it uGrace, as opposed to dGrace.

So yes, it was uGracious for God to create a good world, and bring Adam into covenant. But (to dQuote Kline), it involved “not a gram of dGrace.” God might well have said to Adam, “It was uGracious of me to create this environment for you, to offer you conditions by which you may earn a reward; but in terms of your fulfillment of the conditions of this Covenant of Works, don’t expect any dGrace from me. You may not fall short in the least; you must obey personally, perfectly, entirely, and perpetually, if you are to receive the reward of life. Any breach on your part will be punished with death.”

Up to this point, I don’t see how Frank Valenti and I could be in fundamental disagreement. FV might not prefer the terminology I have defined, but stipulating my definitions, I can’t see how anybody can take issue with this content. Beyond this, here are how FV and I part ways:

  • FV desires not to (or at least demonstrates no desire to) be clear in their speech about the difference between the senses in which Adam received pre-Fall (u)Grace, and we are justified through faith by (d)Grace.
  • FV denies that Adam (or Christ) could have merited covenantal reward.
  • FV insists that Christ was a recipient of grace from the Father

On this last point, FV has a few proof texts (in Luke 2 and Philippians 2). In my next post, I will address these and define another term: mGrace.

5 Responses

  1. Rube,

    Good post.

    I follow and agree with the logic. I, too, think it is important to define terms carefully. I am not sure about the “merit” that Adam was supposed to have earned, but I am not against the possibility either. It’s just that I haven’t studied this aspect of theology enough to have a strong opinion.


  2. Thanks! I’m glad to know somebody read it!

  3. […] D-U-M Spells “Grace” (part I) […]

  4. […] D-U-M Spells “Grace” (part I) […]

  5. […] D-U-M Spells “Grace” (part I) […]

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