A brilliant Catholic philosopher by the name of Alexander Pruss has given an argument from 1 Corinthians 10:13 against the Reformed doctrine of mongergism in sanctification:
For clarity's sake 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads as follows:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Pruss’s Blog post can be read here for more detail.
But Dr. Pruss draws this argument from 1 Corinthians 10:13 against the Reformed view of causal determinism in the process of salvation:
“1) For any temptation, the faithful Christian will receive a grace sufficient to withstand that temptation.
2) Some faithful Christians succumb to temptation.
3) Some faithful Christians fall to a temptation that they have received a grace sufficient to withstand.”
From This Dr. Pruss concludes:
“But the puzzle is greater for Christians of a more Reformed bent, who normally see a grace sufficient for A as in fact a grace that necessitates A. This is, after all, the standard Reformed view of salvific grace: anybody who has received the grace sufficient for salvation is one of the Elect, and because of the receipt of the grace is necessarily going to be saved.
The question now is whether a Reformed Christian can give a different story about sanctifying grace, so that a person can receive a grace sufficient to withstand temptation and yet fall to that temptation. If not, then Reformed Christianity is not tenable in the light of (1) and (2).”
My Critique of Pruss’s argument:
I would reject Premise one (For any temptation, the faithful Christian will receive a grace sufficient to withstand that temptation) on the grounds that I think that Christians do not receive sufficient grace to avoid sin in all cases in their sanctification (if you are catholic then you would confuse justification and sanctification and say "in the process of justification"). Pruss might say “well then how might you deal with 1 Corinthians 10:13?” My answer to this is more exegetical and theological than it is philosophical.
I would take 1 Corinthians 10:13 as referring to falling away from salvation (i.e. becoming apostate) when one is being tempted, either by consciously giving up their faith or by being tempted continually into living in unrepentant sin (which would thereby show that the person was never justified by faith to begin with). My reason for this is found in the preceding verse. Verse 12 is a warning about falling away like those who fell away from the covenant as described in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11. Moreover, someone can fall away from the covenant having never been a true believer, but rather having been either baptized as a confessing believer (where the confession was not genuine) or as an infant. In this life we may have uncertainty given our sinful desires and struggles as a believer as to whether we are truly internally saved in the covenant of grace or whether we are just external members with a man-made profession. Our works give us assurance of salvation because those who have been justified by faith can be assured of it on the evidence of good works. And Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:13 that God will never allow a believer to be tempted to give up his faith in Christ either by living in sin or by rejecting the gospel. In other words, you will not sin and be tempted so much that you lose your faith as a Christian and fall into the unbelief. Far from being a verse against Calvinism, it seems to me that this verse supports the doctrine of perseverance of the saints (the "P" in TULIP).
To sum up: I am saying that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is referring to temptation to the sin of falling away from faith, or sins (living in sin) that lead to falling away. And Paul teaches us that in fact this cannot happen with believers because God will always give you a way out (which would then lend support to Calvinism).
I also have another reason for believing that 1 Corinthians 10:13 cannot be referring to believers in every instance of temptation having two alternative possibilities (i.e. having libertarian freewill; being able to sin and not sin in any circumstance C with the same casual background F) with regards to sanctification. My reason is more systematic: I believer that Romans 7 is referring to a believer and Paul says of believers (including himself) that they can at times lack the ability to carry out the good.
As Paul teaches us about believers:
Romans 7:18 "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."
The reason we know this is a believer is because Paul says that this person gives thanks to Christ and yet still struggles in the same section:
Romans 7:25 "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."
Christians, then, do not always have sufficient grace with regards to every act in sanctification, but rather they have sufficient grace in order that they do not lose their salvation, which I have argued is what 1 Corinthians 10:13 refers to. Thus, I conclude that we do not have a good reason to accept Dr. Pruss’s argument.