Preparationism was a popular view among Puritans regarding activities in which an unbeliever could participate to "prepare" him for salvation. The preparatory behaviors include things like going to church, praying, studying the Bible, and undergoing an examination of moral choices.
Preparationism – What is it?
At times, preparationism was taught as a bit of a different take on prevenient grace—God's softening the heart before justifying a person in salvation. Others taught it as a way for a person to present himself as a "better candidate" for salvation. In extreme versions, preparationism was put forth as a requirement to first get one's life in order before salvation was possible, which is clearly unbiblical.
The Puritans were Calvinist so their belief in preparationism is a bit odd. Preparationism is inconsistent with the Calvinist tenants of total depravity and irresistible grace. Calvinism teaches that a person can do nothing to get the attention or favor of God and though each person rebels against God, God alone is responsible to initiate a relationship with a person.
Preparationism was most popular in Puritan communities in Colonial America. Other Christians of the time objected, saying that following a code, rules, or morals could not gain the attention of God as a step toward salvation.
The Puritan form of preparationism is not seen today. Yet the debates over faith and works, grace and law, Calvinism and Arminianism, and the like continue. So, too, does the discussion of how much an unbeliever can or should be encouraged to live like a Christian outwardly. These controversies all echo back to the issues in the preparationist view of salvation.
Is salvation by faith or works or both?
Why do so many people believe in salvation by works?
Prevenient grace – What is it?
The effectual calling / call – What is it?
Are there steps to salvation?
Truth about Theology