Thursday, June 11, 2009

Monergism, Synergysm, and Arminianism

Monergism-The view that God through the Holy Spirit effectually works salvation in individuals without the cooperation of the individual.

Synergism-in general, may be defined as two or more agents working together to produce a result not obtainable by any of the agents independently.

So, what's up with this?
It is often charged by Calvinists that Arminians believe that man must work with God to procure their salvation. Man must make a move toward God and then God will make a move toward them. It is often described as God meeting man half way. Is this what is taught by Arminians? Did Jacobus Arminius believe this way?

The answer is no. Arminians believe the work of salvation is started and completed by God. The Bible says in order for man to come to God, He must draw them to Himself (John 6:44). That is, the initial work of salvation is done by God. God must do this, because due to the effects of sin, man's will toward faith in Christ has been lost and destroyed. God must free the person's will in order for them to make a conscious decision whether to accept His gift of grace or not.

God the Holy Spirit acts upon the heart of a man when that man is exposed to the grace of God. This is done through the hearing of the Gospel (Romans 10:17) which God has declared as the great commission for His children; to spread His gospel (Matthew 28:19). Upon the hearing of the word, the Spirit of God calls the sinner to repent of his sins, draws the sinner to accept Christ, enables the sinner to accept Christ, and convicts the sinner of his or her sins and their need for Christ. After being enabled by the Spirit, the response of the sinner is passive. The sinner must stop resisting, repent of their sins, and place their faith in Christ. This gift, like any gift, is not irresistible. The sinner must accept the unmerited gift of God. Once this is done, following the plan of the Father, the Spirit joins the sinner to Jesus and thus begins the Savior's relationship with the sinner.

This is the part of Arminianism one could call synergistic, the acceptance of the gift of salvation, and it is nothing to be scared of because it is Biblical. The process of salvation is monergistic. He enables, He convicts, He draws, and He calls. Once the sinner places their faith in God, He is the one who justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies the sinner; just as He had predestined to do (Romans 8:29-30) because the work of Christ on the cross was made for our atonement. Calvinists cannot seem to get past the synergistic aspect of salvation, but it is the Biblical view (Acts 16:30-31, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc).

The gift of salvation is entirely God's to give. Man accepting that gift no more means they have merited that gift than if someone offered you a monetary gift and you accept it. God commands us to believe in His Son for salvation. It is not that obeying the command earns the salvation that results. It is simply the means to receiving salvation.

God has determined that this gift be offered to all men (John 3:16) and has determined to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32). If you place your faith in Jesus Christ and turn from your sins you will be saved. Truly whosoever will may come.

Arminius wrote:
"In this [fallen] state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace."
And also:
"I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is the grace which . . . bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires.

"This grace . . . goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world, and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory . . .
"This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it. I confess that the mind of . . . a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins."
So as we can see, Arminius didn't teach that man meets God half way either. He clearly thought that the work of salvation is of God, and man's only and necessary choice is to accept the gift or to reject it. Arminian synergism gives all the glory to the One who deserves it, namely God, but does not deny the responsibility God has given man to accept the gift He offers.


Jonathan Jason Woodward said...

Good stuff. Quick question: when you say, "just as He had predestined to do (Romans 8:29-30) because the work of Christ on the cross was made for our atonement," are you not saying that the work of salvation was entirely credible to God, in that the person "responding" to salvation was nothing of his own doing, but also the gift of faith to receive, to which he had not had preceding salvation? (Eph. 2:1-10; Gal. 3:22-26)

How else could the righteous live by faith if it is not granted to them to live by (Rom. 1:17).

bossmanham said...

By referencing Romans 8:29-30, I was saying that God predestines to conform those who believe to the image of His son. I don't think Romans 8:29-30 at all supports the Calvinist's view of unconditional election. I think God knows who will believe (by true foreknowledge) and predestines that they will be conformed to the image of Christ, then they are called, justified, and ultimately glorified. All of that is predestined, but I don't think the condition of faith is predestined.

I personally don't think faith is a gift either. I think faith is the means by which we receive the gift of salvation. Faith is the positive reaction to the prevenient grace of God. Without God's grace it would be impossible to have faith.

I hope that explains it.

Jonathan Jason Woodward said...

Shouldn't we then not use the word predestine if it is in fact not true predestination? It just seems inconsistent. Take this quote from Jack Cottrell: "God predestines believers to go to heaven, just as he predestines unbelievers to go to hell. But he does not predestine anyone to become and remain a believer, or to remain an unbeliever. This is a choice made by each individual, a choice that is foreknown by God" (Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once for All). This, too, is an inconsistent statement. I think we try to make predestination consistent with our theology if it is other than true predestination, and it ends up inconsistent. True foreknowledge and true predestination are biblically coherent anyways (Rom. 8:29).

Just wondering also, if faith wasn't a gift, what is the meaning of Gal. 3:23-26?

Good discussion, thanks for the openness!

God bless!

bossmanham said...

I don't think we should stop using the word because it is a Biblical concept. The Calvinists put an incorrect meaning into the word. I agree with Cottrell's statement. Just because the word "predestine" is used does not necessitate that it carry the meaning that Calvinists want it to. God did determine beforehand that those who believe would experience certain things, and those who refuse to believe will experience certain other things. But, I do not think God determined who would believe and who would not believe.

The predestination spoken about in Romans 8:29-30 only happens after one has faith in Christ (and maintains that faith, in my opinion).

Jonathan Jason Woodward said...

I agree, we shouldn't stop using the word, Predestination. While I believe in predestination, I know I do not have a "perfect" understanding of it; just as I do not have a "perfect" understanding of foreknowledge. Predestination, chosen, determined; all these things are just all throughout the Scriptures, I have come to believe in them - not that I understand how God does it, but that I just believe it.

The same way with foreknowledge. It is all through the Scriptures, so is the ability for man to chose his own path. But these two ideas, predestination and foreknowledge, are incomplete in our minds. I do not reject foreknowledge, nor do I reject predestination. I see them both in Scripture, embrace them (both), and leave the "how" up to God. It would be - for me - simplistic to reject either one.

bossmanham said...

In Gal 3:23-26, Paul is using "faith" to speak of the new covenant and contrasting it with the "law." In other words, faith is not something that was introduced one day, because faith has always saved, but the new covenant was introduced at some point. Faith, in this passage, is simply referring to the new covenant found in Jesus Christ (since faith in Christ is what saves us).

I hope that's clear.

Jonathan Jason Woodward said...

Thanks for the discussion!

bossmanham said...

You're welcome. Any time, my friend :-)