I’ve been processing some of John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift. He emphasizes incongruity in Paul but consistently goes to transformative aspects (like life from death, new creation, power) to demonstrate it. This seems as much the reality of the efficacy of grace, which he downplays in Paul (vis-a-vis Augustine). Thoughts?

It seems to me that he only allows for efficacy of grace to be perfected with regard to the will, such that efficacy is the issue at play when monergism is on the table, that is divine agency being the sole and sufficient cause (74). Why should Barclay only limit efficacy to will? It seems that other aspects of human experience are just as dependent upon the power of God’s work–not least in life from the dead.

Barclay’s discussion of judgment by works also seems to belie a theology of efficacy. Even though grace is incongruous from start to finish, “the transformative power of grace thus creates a fit” (569) or a form of “congruity”, though not fully perfected since it’s variable. So it seems to me that Barclay’s articulation of the incongruity of grace entails a form of efficacy of grace, which is not only based in the will as the basis of efficacy but the creation of life from the dead so believers can live (in obedience and be resurrected).

I’m thinking that since the ‘will’ was so important to the Augustine-Pelagius debate that efficacy then becomes tied to the will (for Barclay), but of course other aspects of efficacy were evident in Augustine, such as the role of sacraments and the ex opere operato issues. Of course, will is never totally out of the question, but I’m just not sure that it should always the focus in efficacy.

In short, does the perfection of the ‘efficacy’ of grace necessitate (or should be equated with) ‘irresistible grace’? Notwithstanding the connections between irresistible grace and perseverance, it seems that efficacy could just as well address either or both issues and not just focus on irresistible grace, as it seems Barclay does. I think this focus on perseverance comes out clearly in his disagreements with Brant Pitre in Perspectives on Paul, where Barclay rejects the distinction between an initial and final justification because the initial demands the final not based on human agency.

What thoughts might you have?