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5 Reasons For Infused Grace or Why God’s Favor is Not Merely Imputed

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace in me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10).

The famous English theologian, John Davenant claims that the Reformers affirm infused grace, that is, grace inhering within the souls of believers after being “poured in” (or inspired – “inbreathed”) to the soul by God. He does not claim that grace is something other than God’s favor. Rather, he says, God’s favor is never separated from his gifts that he pours into the soul to restore and direct it back to him. His proposal of inherent righteousness is not the proposal of a semi-Pelagian. On the contrary, Davenant argues that inherent righteousness is always accompanied by original sin, and so it cannot be the ground of God’s favor toward a sinner. The ground of God’s favor is always Christ’s righteousness, which is imputed to the believer. Davenant rallies Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Melanchthon, Vermigli, and Chemnitz in his defense. One may add Zanchi to that list. From what I’ve researched Davenant’s claims are accurate. The Reformed, especially the Reformed Orthodox, generally hold that righteousness is both imputed and inherent, usually using the term “infused” or “inspired” to denote God’s act of creating a new power of action within the regenerate soul. Davenant gives Scriptural evidence for his assertion of infused righteousness as well as rational explanations.

Below I’ve listed 5 reasons why infused grace or righteousness is necessary, based on Davenant:

  1. The love of God always produces some lovely effect in the thing beloved. God embraces his children in love and this love necessarily imprints itself upon them. If a father loves his children, then he shows his love in his care for them, and his care for them leads them to grow and mature. So, God’s care for his children causes the development of their own holiness, which is a reflection of God’s holiness.

  2. It is self-evident that relationships give added definition to human persons. In the simplest terms, the relationship of a father to his child implies the inherent quality denoted by the term “child.” So, when God adopts a sinner as his child, he brings that sinner into a new relationship with him. This relationship adds a new quality to the sinner. He is now a “child” and the word “child” denotes a new quality. This quality implies a change within the person that inheres within his nature, since a “child” of God is one who has taken on the characteristics of the Father. This characteristic is referred to as “righteousness” or “being in a right relationship with the Father.”

  3. The effects of new righteousness presuppose a cause of that righteousness. That cause cannot be sin, since sin cannot produce good works, nor can it be God since God is not the immediate agent of man’s good works. Therefore, even though man’s righteous works are supernatural they are immediately caused by man’s cooperation with the Spirit. As Thomas (via Davenant) says, man needs “a faculty of performing spiritual actions” in order to be a cause of righteous works.

  4. If God were to be the sole agent of righteous action within man, then human agency would be either destroyed or absorbed within the divine agent. This would render grace destructive rather than restorative and perfective. It would also make God culpable for the presence of sin in every act of the regenerate human agent. The Father does not become the child but adopts the child and perfects him.

  5. Grace can only be increased in us if it inheres within us by divine infusion or inspiration. Faith does not produce more faith unless the agent is already faithful. The word “faithful” describes something accurate about the character of the one believing. The ability to increase an activity presupposes the power to act in a certain way. Likewise, a guitarist does not become a better guitarist without first becoming a guitarist. So, the act of belief presupposes a power to believe. This power does not come about by nature because it concerns a supernatural object. Therefore, the believer in Christ must possess a supernatural power of believing in order to develop his ability to believe, and this supernatural power must be inspired (or infused) by God.

Davenant concludes with a rather strong determination: “He therefore who denies that there is an inherent grace or righteousness in the justified, may be said to have altogether denied the efficacious and internal flow of Christ the head into his members; and, thus, one of the chief benefits of our conjunction or union with Christ. But this is contrary to the received opinion of all Divines.”

By Eric Parker

Eric Parker (PhD McGill University) is the editor of the Library of Early English Protestantism (LEEP) at the Davenant Institute. He lives in the deep South with his wife and two children, where he is currently preparing for ordination to the diaconate in the Reformed Episcopal Church.

One reply on “5 Reasons For Infused Grace or Why God’s Favor is Not Merely Imputed”

So this seems basically the same as the Westminster Larger Catechsism Q/A 77:

Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?

A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification,[330] yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ;[331] in sanctification of his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof;[332] in the former, sin is pardoned;[333] in the other, it is subdued:[334] the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation[335] the other is neither equal in all,[336] nor in this life perfect in any,[337] but growing up to perfection.[338]

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