"...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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  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
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  • « The Most Helpful Thing I Ever Learned As A Christian by Pastor John Samson | Main | Self-Deception »

    Monergism = Christ Alone

    Recently a visitor seemed deeply troubled that we would equate our belief in Monergism with "Christ alone" -- that by doing so we were being tribal, because this communicates the idea that synergists do not affirm "Christ alone" and to make this claim is to stir up animosity between brothers. But our purpose is not to create bitter feuds, but to be faithful to Scripture on a foundational subject. For those of us who are persuaded of monergism didn't we all come to embrace monergistic regeneration because it best expresses the Biblical data regarding the extent of Christ's work in our salvation?

    Doesn't he word "monergism" itself help us understand this concept? The word consists of two main parts: The prefix "mono" means "one", "single", or "alone" while "ergon" means "to work". Taken together it means "the work of one". That is, regeneration is the work of Jesus Christ alone (as applied by the Holy Spirit), not the cooperation of man and God and not the result of unregenerate man meeting a condition (like faith) before regeneration takes place. THE main difference between Monergism & Synergism, then, is that while synergistic theology affirms the necessity of Christ, yet they do not affirm the sufficiency of Christ. That is, synergists do not affirm that Christ provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe and understand the gospel. (1 Cor 2, John 6:63-65, 37, 44). Christ does most of what we need, but we still need to meet God's condition to be saved. If, as synergists may say, God grants grace to all men, then we must ask, why do some believe and not others? Did some make better use of Christ's grace than others? Does Christ make them to differ or something else (like our decision)? That 'something else' means that Christ may be necessary to them but not sufficient to provide all they need to be saved (including a renewed heart to believe). Thus 'Christ alone', as it was understood in the Reformation, is a monergistic distinctive. His cross is sufficient to provide all we need including the very faith required of us.

    Is our faith, therefore, something we can thank God for, or is it the one thing we contribute to the price of our salvation? Is God's love for us conditioned upon whether we believe or not or does His love meet the condition for us in Christ, according to scripture? We affirm that God gives us this condition but Christ does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. We are not, therefore, partly dependent on Christ for salvation but wholly dependent.

    Example: Is God's love like a parent who sees his child run out into traffic and who merely calls out to him to get out of the way or is God's love like the parent who, at the risk of their life, runs out and scoops up the child to MAKE CERTAIN that his child is safe. We all know that true love gets the job done ... it doesn't merely sit on the sidelines when something so critical as ones life is at stake. God's love is unconditional for His people and He sends his Son to make certain His sheep are not lost.

    Note: a large percentage of synergists who are Protestants would openly confess that there is no hope save in Christ alone - and for this we embrace them as our beloved brothers in Christ, but the debates come about when their theology blatantly contradicts this good confession, when they believe in Christ PLUS a condition we meet, apart from grace. When we deny the sufficiency of Christ to provide anything (for apart from Christ we can do nothing) then we are not faithfully giving witness to the Scriptural understanding of "Christ alone" .

    Michael Haykin rightly said, "It is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ's sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith."

    -J.W. Hendryx

    Posted by John on April 1, 2010 12:54 PM


    I appreciate this website for its resources, so I really do ask this question in earnest. I agree with the Reformed stance, but I'm still caught on trying to understand some things that I hope you can help me with.

    How is it that we have responsibility for our sins if the following statements are true: 1.) We were born sinful, and 2.) We are incapable of obtaining salvation for ourselves. So, if we were born sinful and totally depraved, and the only way out of it is to have God rescue us, and God does not rescue us, then how is it that we become responsible for something we were never able to do in the first place? God requires X, but only God can do X. We cannot do X. So then we are punished for not being able to do X, even though we could never do it anyway?

    I wanted to know if there was an Orthodox response to how this works, or is it simply God's decision and unknowable.

    Hi Eric,

    That's a good question. Consider the following: If you were to borrow $1 billion to fund a new company from a bank and you went and squandered all the money you had in a week of wild living in Las Vegas, your inability to ever repay your debt to the bank would not alleviate you of your responsibility one bit. You are still responsible to pay back your loan. Likewise, in Adam, we are responsible to repay a debt we can never repay. So the inability is not a physical inability but a moral inability.

    In other words, God does not lower his standard of holiness simply because we are no longer able to meet the conditions. He still calls us to live perfectly holy, to keep his law and to believe the gospel, none of which we can do apart from Christ working in us.

    (Read 1 Cor chapter 2)

    Hope this helps. Please feel free to ask if you have more questions about this.


    I can completely understand your situation of strugling with comprehending certain aspects of God's sovereignty. God will absolutely teach you my friend. Keep digging in His Word with a heart to love Him more and give Him the glory.

    I hope this note and these scriptures will be of help to you.

    - Luke 13:24
    - Acts 13:46
    - Matthew 23:37
    - Romans 2:2-6)

    - to see (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4),
    - to hear and understand (John 8:43; Psalm 58:4-5),
    - to come to Christ (John 6:44),
    - to feel proper emotions (Ephesians 4:19),
    - to receive the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14),
    - to submit to God's law (Romans 8:7).
    - to change (Jeremiah 13:23).

    Regarding God's punishment and whether it's fair if we don't have the ability to believe on our own. It's important to realize that we are not cast away from God simply due to unbelief. The root issue is our "SIN".

    MATT 5:41,32 - The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.

    NOTE: God's punishment is due to our "SIN". Unbelief is one of our sins.

    Unbelief will be judged just as our lying, our adultery, our hatred, our idolatry, our covetousness, our pride in not wanting God as first place in our lives, etc.

    We are completely guilty and if God does not take out our "sin loving heart" and replacing it with a "Jesus loving heart", through regeneration, we will continue in our sins forever.

    John Piper will also be of great help:

    Thank God for saving unworthy wretches like us.

    He is beautiful!
    Titus 3:4-6


    Thank you brothers, for these words! Glory to God!
    I just want to add that in Rom.1:18-3:20 Paul is clear in that, everyone is responsible before God, for they all knew Him, yet didn't glorify Him but went their own evil ways. If it is so, I believe that
    we should pray for those who do not repent and believe, that God will have Mercy on them as he had on us and will change their hearts of stone for hearts of flesh (Ezek36:26-27) and will enable them to repent &believe, will regenerate them &save them! He will show mercy to whom He shows mercy (Ex33:19), yet, knowing that He doesn't wish 'that any should perish, but that all should Reach Repentance'(2Pet.3:9), we should earnestly pray for All the lost sheep to be brought back to the Shepherd!


    He is Sovereign and Faithful,
    Merciful and Gracious!

    In Him,
    Ivana (Bulgaria)

    Great comments. I have a thought, which is also a question. On this whole issue, upon reading John chapter three and Jesus' interaction with Nicodemus, just prior to John 3:16; Jesus says, regarding the Spirit of God's birth giving power, 'The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.' With regard to this verse, and its context, doesn't it seem that Jesus is saying, 'The Spirit is impossible to predict and equally impossible to manipulate'? So, in context, isn't it also outside our ability to manipulate or predict God's re-birth giving power? In other words, it's God's to do or not to do. I am interested in a discussion on these verses, especially since they are located only a few verses from the wonderful words of Jesus in John 3:16.

    Brother, may I ask why my April 3 post has been removed already? I spent a good deal of time on that. If I have done something wrong, please tell me.


    Michael C Rogers

    That is exactly the point. The Spirit is sovereign in dispensing grace on whom he will according to the good pleasure of his will (Eph 1:3,4) God calls all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel but, men cannot rise above themselves and so reject spiritual teaching UNLESS the Holy Spirit comes and opens their eyes to the gospel. The point of all this is to marvel that God saves us by his grace alone.

    Bruce, we do not recall seeing your post. If we removed it, it was an accident. Was it regarding "Monergism = Christ Alone?" Perhaps you are referring to the OTHER post - "I am not a Calvinist or an Arminian"

    I agree with:
    "regeneration is the work of Jesus Christ alone (as applied by the Holy Spirit),"
    "not the result of unregenerate man meeting a condition (like faith) before regeneration takes place"
    "We affirm that God gives us this condition but Christ does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. We are not, therefore, partly dependent on Christ for salvation but wholly dependent."

    I disagree with:
    your statement above that you "affirm that God gives us this condition but Christ does for us what we are unable to do ourselves", but then, illogically, you label anyone who affirms the condition (which is only met by the Holy Spirit's regenerative work to begin with) a synergist, and call this Christ plus works. This is a false dichotomy and not logical. It is not either/or. It is both/and. And God gets the credit for both. How is this "Christ plus man's work? I affirm it is God's choice, and it is all made possible by the Holy Spirit's work first, during, and after.

    I would appreciate hearing your response.

    Bruce, according to Jesus, our Lord, God grants a new heart in regeneration that we might believe. See John 6:63-65 which teaches that no one can believe unless God grants it. A synergist is someone who thinks faith is produced by the unregenerated human nature. God gives some kind grace but it falls short of regenerative grace. Therefore, synergistic faith comes from the old nature, which the Bible teaches, does not understand spiritual truth. (See 1 Cor 2).

    We all believe God gives us the condition of faith in Christ to be justified, but faith is no more easy for the unregenerate than works, without renewal of heart. The moment we are reborn, we are united to Christ and believe. We do the believing, but it is because God FIRST opened our blind eyes, unplugged our deaf ears and turned out heart of stone to a heart of flesh.

    Thank you, John. I think we are playing tag on two different articles. My mistake. Sorry! To all: I am stopping here and posting on "I am not a Calvinist or an Arminian". Last comment here: sounds like I do believe in the CONTENT of what you call monergism. Like the visitor you referred to at the outset, however, I disagree with the label's implied connotation that those who don't share my belief in regeneration before faith necessarily believe in "Christ-plus-works". I think they are wrong, but I wouldn't call it Christ-plus-works. That's a misuse of the terminology. That's all. See you at the other site, brother!

    It is true that faith is not a work, but we make it into a work as soon as we believe the natural man has the ability to look to his native resources to produce faith in Christ apart from the quickening/renewing work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is not a product of our unregenerated human nature, but the first call of the new nature "ABBA Father"

    "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." - Romans 8:15

    When we do not believe that faith is what the Spirit effectually works in us, then our faith is in faith and not in Christ. In this case we cannot thank God for our faith since we take credit for it over those who did not have faith.

    Great article! I'm glad to see the quote from 1 Cor 4:7 at the top, "What have you that you did not receive?" It is the question that I would like for synergists to genuinely answer!

    If an individual goes to hell, i.e., is not saved, whose responsible? That individual, because he/she broke God's law and willingly as all do. If an individual is given eternal life through the election of the Father, atonement of the Son, and calling of the Holy Spirit, i.e., is saved; whose responsible? God, because he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy with no room for an individual to glory. The whole work involving mankind is all about bringing glory to the just, merciful, and gracious God of the Bible.

    This may not be the place for these questions; but I have not found an easy answer online.

    A couple verses have been given to me in relation to what seems like folks responding without any mention of God acting or as in the OT, acting apart from Christ (Or an obvious reference)

    ---The idea that Abram beleived before righteouness was imputed. Or that Abraham believied God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Rom. 4:3)

    Genesis 4:26-

    Or what about those from the OT in general, where it seems God is rewarding the righteouness of these men. Does it have to do with the idea that we cannot see or it is not discussed in terms of God working on them prior to what we see (their righteous acts, obedience, etc)?

    Or is this a matter of a kind of equivocation in the verse where it could seem to go either way (mon. vs. syn.)

    I am enjoying the dialogue on this post and others. Thank you to all involved.

    how will the new reformed warrenism begin to affect current reformed thought i am new to calvin but i am somewhat familiar with rick warren

    I have some questions are you still reiceveing e-mail. Thanks. Walt.

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