I often hear people make the comment, “We can do nothing without God’s grace.” It occurred to me recently that if an atheist friend asked me to explain what Christians mean by that, I probably couldn’t do a very good job.
I know that the fact that we have an opportunity to be reconciled to God and be with him for eternity is all thanks to grace, i.e. there’s nothing we could do to earn it on our own. As I’ve said before, I know that it’s because of God’s grace that I’m a better person now that I’m a Christian. I know that when people like the great saints reach the spiritual echelon of having truly love-filled, utterly selfless lives that shine the light of Christ on everyone they meet, it is the result of their cooperation with God’s grace, not the result of them just willing themselves to be good people, all of their own power.
Got all that. Where I get confused is when people say we can do nothing without God’s grace.
Obviously, we all know folks who are good people who don’t believe in God. Even I was a fairly decent person when I was a militant atheist (most of the time). So I’m not exactly sure what that statement is getting at. Is it a reference to the fact that all goodness ultimately comes from God, i.e. that even nonbelievers who do good are letting God work through them? Or is it not meant to be taken literally?
You guys always have such great answers for questions like this (remember that discussion about the Psalms? — awesome), so I thought I’d get your input:
If someone were to ask you, “What do Christians mean when they say ‘we can do nothing without God’s grace’?” how would you respond?
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