"...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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  • « Engagement with Secular People | Main | Pre-Trib?...Pre-Mill?....Left Behind? »

    Prayer of the Consistent Synergist

    Synergism is one of the greatest errors run amok in modern evangelicalism. Erroneous, because it takes our eyes off of the fullness of salvation found in Christ alone and turns our hope partially onto ourselves, leaving room for boasting. While most, I believe, do not consciously think they are boasting, yet their theology gives space to that last bastion of pride, which is to believe that faith itself and the humility to believe, was not a gift. It asserts that we were the originators of our faith, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. But the full counsel of Scripture declares that a true work of grace has taken place when we come to an end of ourselves and recognize that we have nothing apart from God's mercy. We have faith, not because we were more spiritually sensitive than our neighbor, but because of God's mercy to us.

    Here is a prayer that would be consistent with the synergist's theology if he really believed that faith is a product of our unregenerated human nature and not the result of grace alone:

    "God, I give you glory for everything else, but not my faith ... This is the one thing that is my very own that I produced of my fallen natural capacities. For this little bit the glory is mine. So I thank you Lord that I am not like other men who do not have faith. When you extended your grace to all men some did not make use of it, BUT I DID. While You deserve glory for all I have Lord, my faith was the one part that I contributed to the price of my redemption, apart from and independent of the work of Your Holy Spirit."

    Doing something independent from the Holy Spirit does not sound like synergism, does it? But this is what synergism amounts to in the end because when you ask them why one person believes the gospel and not the other, the answer is never, "it is grace that made the one to differ from the other", no, instead it always points to some virtue (humility perhaps) that one unregenerate person has and another does not. So technically, it is not synergism but human monergism. But because in synergism God gives the kind of grace that is not effectual, they call themselves synergists. But ultimately this theology looks to something one person does that another (the unbeliever) does not have the capacity to do. And thus the danger of synergistic theology.

    While the prayer recited above no one would dare pray, but it is what a synergist would pray if he were consistent in his theology. But instead of glorying in yourself for you own faith ...give glory to God for all that you have.

    "Who has ever given to God, ...........that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. ........To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom 11:35-36)

    For "What do you have that you did not receive?" ...Believe the Scriptures when they say, "no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3)... and no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:65) Won't you, then, also glorify God for the Holy Spirit who works faith in you as well?

    Posted by John on June 22, 2006 03:12 PM


    The "Amazing Grace" of the consistent synergist:

    Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
    My choice saved me!
    I once was lost, but found my way,
    Was partially vision-impared, but now am healed.

    The Lord has promised good to me,
    My action, His hope secures!
    He shall my sheild and portion be,
    So long as I don't lose my salvation.

    Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
    I have already come,
    Twas my faithfulness that brought me safe thus far,
    And I'll bring myself home.

    Looks like there is only one way that leaves man with 'no cause to boast'.

    God bless,

    A. Shepherd
    The Aspiring Theologian

    The Knight of the Living God: Reformed Theology & Apologetics

    Hmmm. That's interesting. Haven't thought of it that way before. So if the same prayer were said by a monergist would it be as follows?

    "God, I give you glory for everything, including my faith ... There is nothing I contributed to my own salvaiton from my fallen natural capacities, but all glory goes to you alone. Not even for a little bit is the glory is mine. So the only thing that makes me to differ from others is your grace and mercy in Jesus Christ towrd me, not something I contributed. Although I deserve your just wrath you sent your own Son to redeem me and your Holy Spirit to grant me repentance and faith. All glory to you alone.

    Dictionary definition of synergism is the way Reformation Theology uses it (as it related to regeneration, not sanctification as the verse in Philipians uses it)

    Synergism is "...the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory accordingly holds that the soul has not lost in the fall all inclination toward holiness, nor all power to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives."

    The problem is that a person without the Holy Spirit does not and cannot have spiritual thoughts. God must do a work of grace in the heart that one might believe.

    Augustine was not synergist. He believed human will does not by liberty obtain grace, but by grace obtains liberty. That is why he prayed "O God, command what you wouldst, and grant what thou dost command." That is why the counsel of Orange said, "...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)

    "Augustine did not deny that fallen man still has a will and that the will is capable of making choices. He argued that fallen man still has a free will (liberium arbitrium) but has lost his moral liberty (libertas). The state of original sin leaves us in the wretched condition of being unable to refrain from sinning. We still are able to choose what we desire, but our desires remain chained by our evil impulses. He argued that the freedom that remains in the will always leads to sin. Thus in the flesh we are free only to sin, a hollow freedom indeed. It is freedom without liberty, a real moral bondage. True liberty can only come from without, from the work of God on the soul. Therefore we are not only partly dependent upon grace for our conversion but totally dependent upon grace." Sproul

    Spurgeon beat you to this one...

    The Prayer of the Arminian

    Although, thinking Spug's thoughts after him is not necessarily a bad thing!

    Please allow me to re-write that prayer for your readers:

    "Lord God, you have created the earth and everything in it. You created man and put him in paradise. You commanded man not to eat of the evil fruit, but he disobeyed you, and because of that, he doomed man-kind to be underneath the reigns of sin. Everything about man was twisted. Every child who is born is a natural born sinner. Everybody deserves to be sent to hell for eternity because of his state. Yet, because you love ALL of man-kind so much, you gifted him to be able to accept your word. This way it gives ALL men a chance to receive your gospel. Lord God, I know that I am a sinner, yet I know that you came to this earth and you died- not only for my sin- but everybody's sin. You give everyone a chance to receive your Word, as long as it is presented to him, and God, I am so thankful that you presented your Word to me because otherwise, I would be lost in the dark."

    We are commissioned to go and tell ALL the world the good news of the Gospel. So put yourself in this picture: You are literally telling the whole world the gospel. Everybody on this entire planet. What would you say to them? Would you say to them,

    "Everyone, your natural state is wicked and evil. You were born a sinner, and for this reason you are condemned to hell. Yet, because Jesus loved you and died for YOU on the cross, you can put your faith in Him and say 'Yes Lord, I am a sinner, but I believe you came for me personally to wash my sins away.' "

    Or would you say to them,

    "Alright look, Jesus came to die for a select few of you, the rest of you are going to hell, nothing you can do about it."

    Weren't we supposed to tell them GOOD news?

    According to Calvinist theology, it pleased God to randomly (I know you wouldn't say randomly) select some men to be saved. Does that also mean it pleases Him to not pick people to join His family?

    I do not believe, I will not believe because I cannot believe that God is narrow-mindedly selecting a few to go to heaven and sending others to hell. It contradicts the character of God. The God I know is a loving, compassionate God, willing to take anyone who realizes that he needs to be saved by the blood of Jesus.

    I challenge you to read Romans 1, verses 18-32, and see why people go to hell. Not because they aren't pre-ordained, but because they choose to wallow in their sin and reject God's gift to them.

    The Gospel according to Jesus Christ:

    "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. For God so loved the world in this way: He gave his One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God." (John 3:14-18)

    The Gospel according to John Calvin:

    "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who is elected by Him will have eternal life. For God so loved the elect in this way: He gave His One and Only Son so that everyone who was pre-ordained in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God sent His Son to condemn the world, but the elect will be saved through Him. Anyone who was predestined by Him is not condemned, but anyone who is not predestined is already condemned because he has not been chosen by the One and Only Son of God."

    I believe in the teachings of JC: Jesus Christ, not JC: John Calvin.

    Please publish this letter.


    Thanks for your post.

    If all men merely get "a chance" as you claim then why does one person take this chance and not the other? Was it fate that one believed? Or was it that one was more spiritually sensitive than the other? one more wise? What makes us to differ from others that makes some chose Christ and not others? Is it grace that makes us to differ or our autonomous will?

    It is grace than makes us to differ from others, the Scripture says, not something found in us. We, like you, also believe in heralding the gospel to all creation indiscriminately in the world. The gospel must be preached ... for God does not save people in a void. Election does not save but Christ does. Election is merely a blueprint of what Christ intended to accomplish for HIs people. He purchased with his blood for God men from every tribe, nation people and language" (Rev 5:9) Jesus makes a new covenant in his blood poured out for many.

    As you know, men naturally close their ears and eyes to Jesus Christ and the word, but the Holy Spirit comes and opens blind eyes and unplugs deaf ears. He turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh that we might believe. No one believes while their heart is still stone and without the Spirit. Can a man believe the gospel apart from any work of the Spirit? If he cannot that means left to himself his will is in bondge to sin, i.e. not free It requires a supernatural work of grace in our hearts to set us free to believe.

    Further if every man was a sinner, as you claim ...if every man by nature "loves darkness and hates the light and WILL NOT come into the light" (John 3:19,20) what "chance" is there that he will believe the gospel apart from the work of the Holy Spirit? Can a man believe without the Spirit opening his eyes to the gospel? Not if his heart is hostile toward Christ and the gospel BY NATURE.

    Interestingly, you quoted an isolated text John 3:14-18 ... but left out what follows, verse 19 and 20. In other words, you avoided the entire context of the passage. What comes before v14-16 was also left out. The later says that we must be "born again" to either see or enter the kingdom of heaven. The new birth is required for faith (aslo see John 6:63-65; 1 John 5:1)) Flesh gives birth to flesh but Spirit to spirit ....and the later part of the context (v 19, 20) that those who love darkness will not come into the light. Their affections are for what is contrary to Christ. But those who come into the light show that what has donme in them was "wrought by God" vrs 21 A weork of grace is required if one is to believe. Whosoever believe will have eternal life.. WE ALL BELIEVE THAT. The question is is there anyone NATURALLY WILLING?

    Spurgeon once said, "Oh!" saith the Arminian, "men may be saved if they will." We reply, "My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the if they will that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it--"Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that "ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will."

    Jesus himself speaking to unbelievers says, no one can believe the gospel (in Me) unless God grants it and all to whom God grants it will believe" (John 6:65, 37)

    TYou make it sound a little like God's love is condtional for his children. That man must first find it in himself to love God and then God will save him. But this is nonsense and not biblical at all. God's love is unconditioanl for his children. What we cannot do for ourtselves Christ does for us, that we might live.

    Your prayer which "gives each person a chance" is like a parent who sees his child run out into the street and runs in front of a car. He calls to the child to give him "a chance" to escape death but does nothing more fearing he will violate his child's will if he ran out to save him from oncoming traffic. But the Biblical parent sees his child run out in to the street and sacrifices his own life TO MAKE CERTIN his child will live. What kind of love merely gives a "chance" to somoene who is hopeless. True love saves IN SPITE OF HIMSELF and sin. The kind of love you think God has is weak and saves no one in particluar, while the God which the Bible reveals loves with an effectual love that actually GETS THE JOB DONE. His love MAKES CERTAIN that his loved ones do not get hurt. What is more loving I ask?

    And you make it sound as if all persons DESERVE to be save. But God would be just if He saved no one. That he saves ANYONE is what should suprise us.

    I also noticed that all of your analogies appealed to pity rather than the whole coulsel of Scripture. You use selective texts but avoid texts that clearly show God loves a particular people and purposes to save them. He gets the job done.

    Do you believe God has exhaustive foreknowledge? If so, even from your belief system, why would God, then, create beings He knows before He creates them will, with certainty, go to hell. Your own question to me goes to you:

    How can you consistently say that God foreknew who would be saved and then preach that God is trying to save every man. Surely if God knows whom He can save or who will be saved, then who would say that He is trying to save more? it is foolish to assert that God is trying to do something which He knew never could be accomplished.

    How can you consistently say that God foreknew which sinners would be lost and then say it is not within God's will to allow these sinners to be lost. Why did He create them? Consider that question. God could have just as easily refrained from creating those that He knew would go to Hell. He knew where they were going before He created them. Since He went ahead and created them with full knowledge that they would be lost, it is evidently within God's providence that some sinners be lost, He evidently has some purpose in it which we human beings cannot fully discern.

    In other words, you cannot escape from the same criticism you make of Calvinism, but at least Calvinism believe in a persons God who has intent to save his people. It is a personal determinism. But yours, since you believe God does not determine it, yet it was inevitable that certain persons believe since God already knew it. It could not be otherwise. So was it fate or some other force outside of God that made things turn out this way?

    In other words, your position is not only unbiblical but untenable.

    John H

    Excellent response, John!

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