"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Must Reading for your Theological Edification & Education | Main | Christ loved the Church... (Quote) by Dr. John Piper »

    Monergism v. Synergism (Quote) by R. C. Sproul

    The doctrine of justification by faith alone was debated during the Reformation on the deeper level of monergistic regeneration. This technical term must be explained. Monergism is derived from a combination of a prefix and a root. The prefix mono is used frequently in English to indicate that which is single or alone. The root comes from the verb “to work.” The erg of monergy comes into our language to indicate a unit of work or energy. When we put the prefix and root together, we get monergy or monergism. Monergism is something that operates by itself or works alone as the sole active party. Monergism is the opposite of synergism. Synergism shares a common root with monergism, but it has a different prefix. The prefix syn comes from a Greek word meaning “with.” Synergism is a cooperative venture, a working together of two or more parties.

    When the term monergism is linked with the word regeneration, the phrase describes an action by which God the Holy Spirit works on a human being without this person’s assistance or cooperation. This grace of regeneration may be called operative grace. Cooperative grace, on the other hand, is grace that God offers to sinners and that they may accept or reject, depending on the sinner’s disposition.

    Monergistic regeneration is exclusively a divine act. Man does not have the creative power God has. To quicken a person who is spiritually dead is something only God can do. A corpse cannot revive itself. It cannot even assist in the effort. It can only respond after receiving new life. Not only can it respond then, it most certainly will respond. In regeneration the soul of man is utterly passive until it has been made alive. It offers no help in reviving itself, though once revived it is empowered to act and respond.

    Here we reach the ultimate point of separation between semi-Pelagianism and Augustinianism, between Arminianism and Calvinism, between Rome and the Reformation. Here we discover whether we are utterly dependent on grace for our salvation or if, while still in the flesh, still in bondage to sin, and still dead in sin, we can cooperate with grace in such a way that affects our eternal destiny.

    Arminianism reverses the order of salvation. It has faith preceding regeneration. The sinner, who is dead in sin and in bondage to sin, must somehow shed his chains, revive his spiritual vitality, and exercise faith so that he or she may be born again. In a very real sense regeneration is not so much a gift in this schema as it is a reward for responding to the offer of grace. The Arminian argues that in this universal prevenient grace is primary, in that God first offers grace for regeneration. God takes the initiative. He makes the first move and takes the first step. But this step is not decisive. This step may be thwarted by the sinner. If the sinner refuses to cooperate with or assent to this proffered grace, then grace is to no avail.

    [excerpts from R. C. Sproul - What is Reformed Theology?]

    Posted by John Samson on April 13, 2006 02:53 AM


    It is so true. Arminianism does reverse the order of salvation.

    R.C. always does a great job explaining Calvinism. I've never really understood, though, why he believes so strongly in Classical Apologetics. It doesn't seem as compatable with the doctrine of Total Depravity as Presuppositional Apologetics is.

    But anyways, R.C. is one of my heroes!

    A. Shepherd
    Aspiring Theologian

    The Aspiring Theologian Blog: A Reformed Theology Blog

    Aspiring Theologian's Blog Entry on Calvinism

    Because there are times to prove God for the salvation of someone and there are times to "silence the ignorant barking of the dogs" to quote Calvin. So when R.C. uses classical apologetics, he is not trying to necessarily witness to someone but to simply defend the faith.. 1 Peter 3:14-16 talks about that. furthermore, we never know how depraved someone is.. if someone is totally and utterly depraved then there would be no presuppositions before he was being work on by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am a fan of both forms of apologetics, Dinesh D'Souza is a great apologist who uses Presuppositional apologetics and R.C. is a great apologist who uses Classical Apologetics.

    In trying to distinguish Monergism and Synergism, R.C. Sproul lumps semipelagianism with Catholic synergism and "Augustinianism" with the Reformed view. This is incorrect. Semipelagianism, which the Church condemned as heresy in the Council of Orange in 529, is opposed to Catholic doctrine of synergism. They are both about co-operation, but semipelagianism states that man can come to God initially without the aid of grace, and only then does God come alongside and aid the person in their faith and completing the work of salvation. Synergism, a doctrine which, ironically, St. Augustine espouses so clearly in his treatise "On Grace and Free Will", states that God initiates his grace first, and then man chooses freely to turn to him. God always works alongside the faithful by giving them grace to workout their faith through love with fear and trembling to attain eternal life in Christ Jesus. Grace for grace.

    I leave with a quote from St. Augustine from the 33rd chapter of "On Grace and Free Will": "And who was it that had begun to give him his love, however small, but He who prepares the will, and perfects by His co-operation what He initiates by His operation? Forasmuch as in beginning He works in us that we may have the will, and in perfecting works with us when we have the will. On which account the apostle says, I am confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. He operates, therefore, without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us. We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either working that we may will, or co-working when we will."

    The basis for Armenian opposition is not an indignant defense of our free will. It is, rather, that our free will is what makes rejection and damnation (of the 'reprobate') understandable. A strict monergism forces one to conclude that the damnation of the lost is just as much an expression of God's will as is the salvation of the redeemed. Otherwise, why would God not save everyone? I realize that the matter is complex. But simply pronouncing monergistic salvation "grace" does not explain why God would not choose to save everyone. One can readily see why Lutheran evangelism would tend to be subdued. A pre-determined and unilateral salvation is a very "hard sell". Are we really justified in calling it "love" or "grace" at all? It would seem, rather, that the redeemed are "lucky", rather than loved. After all, by monergistic lights, there really is nothing in us to love that would separate us from those who are ordained to Hell.

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