“When in Rome” and Irresistable Grace

I recently saw the movie When In Rome.  What’s fascinating about the movie is that the plot bears a lot of similarity to the Calvinistic concept of  irresistible grace.

[Warning, spoilers ahead]

In the movie, the female lead (Beth) picks some coins from out of a wishing fountain in Rome.   What she doesn’t realize is that the fountain is magical.  When she took the coins from the pool it put a spell over the men who threw the coins in, and they are all now passionately in love with her.  The problem is there is a guy that she really does like.  And he is also smitten with her.  He is trying to convince her that he really loves her, but she thinks his love is not genuine because of the magical fountain.  But the thing is, he never threw a coin into the fountain. He really does love her.

What makes the plot interesting is that the men under the spell all really do love Beth in the Calvinistic sense.  In other words, the magic fountain worked in such a way upon the men that it changed their desires, so that they freely chose to love Beth.

So we have 1) Unconditional election – Beth picked the coins out of the pool based on her own motives. and 2) Irresistable grace – the men whom she picked now love her because their desires have been irresistibly changed.

Lucky for us, Beth is smarter than the average Reformed theologian.  She understood that love is not genuine if it is not freely chosen.  She recognized that if her suitor’s desires were irresistibly changed, then he didn’t really love her at all.  And Beth wanted to be truly loved for who she was, not because of a magical spell.  Fortunately this is a sappy chick flick, and all ends well.

Beth recognized the problem with the Calvinistic concept of irresistible grace.  If we love God because he has irresistibly changed our desires, then we don’t really love God at all.

Perhaps God also wants to be truly loved for who he is, and not because of a magical spell.


Filed under Election, Irresistable Grace, movie review

19 responses to ““When in Rome” and Irresistable Grace

  1. slw

    Hated the flick, loved the post!

  2. Thanks. Just for the record, I begrudgingly watched it with my wife. :)

  3. Seen the movie with my kids. Use the plot to explain theology to them. Another useful movie along the freedom theme is Ella Enchanted.

  4. Truly inspired Kevin.
    I’ve made reference to your article on my blog.

  5. Bethyada, good point on “Ella Enchanted”. Onesimus, thanks!

  6. Lucian

    The same can be said about “Serendipity” and “The Matrix”.

  7. I’ve never seen Serendipity, but yeah, The Matrix has a lot theological overtones. It has a lot of Gnostic influences (the physical world is bad, we need special knowledge to escape).

  8. Pingback: “When in Rome” and Irresistible Grace | Society of Evangelical Arminians

  9. Hi,

    Loved one of your posts so highlighted it at http://charismaticcentral.com

    People there aren’t keen on irrestible grace, problem though is I can’t get them to tell me who gets to resist it.

    We know that one must hear the Gospel and believe to be saved. Paul says: “for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:13-15) but as well Jesus says “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;” John 6:44.

    Now with irrestible grace this is easy. Everyone God draws believes. But wrt resistible grace who does the Father draw? Does He draw people whom He knows will not believe (which seems a waste of time). Does He draw people who haven’t heard the Gospel and therefore don’t know what to believe in (which again seems a waste of time).

    Anyone here have any thoughts on this?


  10. Hi FCC, thanks for stopping by.

    Does God draw people who he knows he will not believe? Yes, I believe he does. God loves everyone, and he does not show favoritism, so he draws even those whom he knows ultimately will reject him. God is unlimited and timeless, so there can be no person who is a waste of time or resources for him.

    I also believe God draws those who haven’t heard the Gospel. He draws them to the gospel when possible, and when not possible he draws them with general revelation.

    God bless,

  11. Tommy Akin

    Kevin, I am glad that you contend for the gospel of Jesus our Lord. I am not well educated and am in awe of most of the people who are posting their beleifs,both cal & arm. BEING,that you are gifted at expressing what you beleive so well,would love to hear what you would write in reply to my beliefs on the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.John 12:32 And I,if I be lifted up from the earth,will draw ALL me unto me. Is the preaching of the cross and the price that was paid, lifting Him up ? Romans 10:14 Does the preaching of the Word draw men to Salvation? John 16: 8-11 shows activity of the Spirit at work on the earth ? In your wonderful way of explaining what you believe,how would you apply what I have stated above, combined with Acts 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days,saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon ALL flesh. Fill free to make me aware of I may have the context of these scripture out of order. In my heart it is very disturbing to read about the cal. beliefs. Thank you for your time on this matter.

  12. Hi Tommy, thanks for stopping by and thanks for the kind words. I’m currently at work, but hope to give you a response later today or perhaps tomorrow. God bless, Kevin

  13. Hi Tommy,

    I believe “lifted up” in John 12:32 refers to Jesus’ death on the cross. When he died on the cross he was literally lifted up (he was above ground, and others could see him). Also at that time God exalted him, this is another sense in which he was lifted up (Phil 2:8-9). Because of his sacrifice, anyone can be saved, and those who “look up” to Jesus are saved. Jesus explains his language in John 3:14-15.

    Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

    Jesus referred here to the 40 years the Israelites were in the wilderness. During that time they were being bitten by snakes. God commanded Moses to put a bronze snake on a poll. Whoever looked at the snake lived:

    The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. -Numbers 21:8-9

    Likewise, we are bitten by snakes (the devil and our own sin). We too will die, but if we look to Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross, we will live. It’s very fascinating how God foreshadowed Jesus being “lifted up” with the bronze snake.

    I completely agree with your other thoughts. The Holy Spirit is at work, drawing all people to Jesus. All can be drawn because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross. The Holy Spirit draws us by the preaching of the word (Romans 10:14, Acts 2:37).

    You may also enjoy my post here on prevenient grace. Prevenient grace is drawing grace which all non-believers receive, and which draws them to Jesus. It is exactly what you describe here.

    God bless,

  14. Tommy Akin

    Kevin thank you. Having backslid for almost a year, in true repentance and Godly sorrow began praying Matt. 5:6 Had become disturbed with the magnitude of the cal. arm. debate and was at a loss to understand why this issue WAS so heavy to me. Until today I did’nt even know what Prevenient grace meant. A couple of weeks I was arrested and spent one night in jail on charges would have sent me to prison for a long time,but the next mourning was released , I WAS INNOCENT, and it was all dissmissed. the jailer said in all of his years he had never seen this kind of felony warrent dropped. I do not want to sound sensational but a lot of hopless looking things problems in areas kept coming. The shield of faith is real and the glory all belongs to God. Today Romans 1:17 means more than it ever has for me. Kevin,I may have above average knowledge of the old & new test. ? How would I begin build a better complete understanding from foundation you have grown from? The presence & power of God is so stong around me I beleive it is His will that I continue in this hunger & thirst to be filled with more of what I am learning. my faith has never felt so strong. this computer is still all new to me, my typing is awful but today fellowship has been blessing

  15. Hi Tommy,

    Thanks for sharing your testimony. I’ve had ups and downs in my spiritual walk too.

    I understand the Cal/Arm issue being heavy. It has been for me at times too, and is why I started this blog. I recognize Calvinists as brothers in Christ, and can appreciate their motivations even though I disagree. :)

    Regarding a better understanding of scripture: The best thing to do is read scripture and ask God to give you insight, it sounds like you are already doing that.

    Next, it helps to recognize the context of a passage. Who wrote it? Who was the intended audience? What are the issues being addressed? So, for example, we know that the early church in Corinth had problems with disunity. And Paul’s letters to the Corinthians address this issue.

    I find if helpful to read long sections of a scripture passage, rather than jumping around and reading short snips. It helps to get into the flow of the book and to better understand the context.

    It also helps to find mature believers in Christ whom you trust, and who you can bounce questions off of.

    You can of course do lots of reading online too, but be careful, there is a lot of garbage out there. :) If you are interested in Arminian resources, check the links on the side. In fairness, you should read Calvinist stuff too, to be balanced. A great Calvinist site is “Reclaiming the Mind” managed by Michael Patton.

  16. Wesley Mcgranor

    I recently read a examination of one Calvinist that stated about her piety–that she was ‘lost in grace’. The statement–i’m sure–was not intended as i understand it; but never-the-less makes the point.

  17. adg

    “Lucky for us, Beth is smarter than the average Reformed theologian. She understood that love is not genuine if it is not freely chosen”

    Luckily :-) the average reformed theologian understands reformed theology better than the average blogger.

    A reformed Christian’s love for God is freely chosen. The ability to love though is something that fallen man doesn’t have so God has to give it to him.

  18. Pingback: Society of Evangelical Arminians | “When in Rome” and Irresistable Grace

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