Responsible Grace

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Randy Maddox is the Professor of Wesleyan Studies at Duke University and is widely regarded as one of the leading Wesleyan scholars in the world. His book, Responsible Grace was one of his books which helped to establish him as a leading thinker. Maddox’s contribution to my own thinking has been helping me to understand more fully what makes Wesleyan soteriology distinctive. There are many facets of this, ranging from Wesley’s views on prevenient grace, to sanctification, to the “means of grace” to holy love, etc. However, the book title Responsible Grace probably sums up one of the greatest distinctives of all; namely, that God’s grace does not descend untethered into our lives like a deus ex machina. Rather, God’s grace is always united with a summons to join with him in His redemptive work in the world. We are “elected” to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. We are “healed” that we might become instruments of healing. We are “forgiven” that we might go forth to forgive! We are never mere passive recipients of grace, but we are called to become co-participants with God in redeeming the world.

Maddox’s phrase “responsible grace” manages to capture in a single phrase the perfect balance between Augustinian pessimism and Pelagian optimism. Because the Holy Spirit is so very fast, we can never beat him to the place of healing and hope. Every pastor knows about this. You receive that dreaded phone call at night. You jump in the car and rush to the hospital and to the bedside only to find that the Holy Spirit is already there ministering his grace. That’s monergism—God sovereignly acting in grace. But, then, there you are, standing by the bedside, offering words of grace and encouragement. You have mysteriously “rolled up your sleeves” and joined the Holy Spirit in His work. That’s synergism. If prevenient grace is our testimony to monergism, then our freed wills is a testimony to synergism. This beautiful truth is captured in Randy Maddox’s phrase, “responsible grace.” It is still God’s undeserved grace. But it comes with a summons to us to respond responsibly.

Today you will have the opportunity to make some real decisions. You will decide to pray or not; to visit someone, or not; to give that word of encouragement, or not; to serve in the soup kitchen, or not. Life is filled with countless opportunities to respond to God’s grace. May today be a day of Responsible Grace.