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  • « Today - God's Gift To You | Main | "Lord, Lord" "I never knew you" »

    Is Monergism Really a Form of Synergism?

    Question: I appreciate the monergistic model of salvation since it appears to give God all the credit for the salvation of man. Many synergists believe that the Holy Spirit, thru a temporary working within a man, illuminates man to the truth of the gospel, leads him to a point of repentance, and that God gives the gift of faith for him to believe; yet something in the lost man has to believe in the gospel in order to be saved. God can’t believe for or have faith for the lost man. The monergists believe that the Holy Spirit, thru a permanent residing within a man via regeneration, illuminates man to the truth of the gospel, leads him to a point of repentance, and that God give the gift of faith for him to believe. I am not sure what part is regenerated, the spirit of man? His will? In any event, regeneration does not save that man because he has yet to believe in Christ. The remaining part of that man, something in the lost part of man still has to believe in the gospel in order to be saved. He may have a new spirit, a new will, a new heart of flesh, but he is still lost with the wrath of God abiding on him and destined to hell until he believes the gospel. It appears to me that monergism is still really synergistic since something in the remaining lost part of man has to agree with or believe in the gospel in order to be saved. Any thoughts?

    Response: Thanks for your email. It is important that we first make some distinctions. Justification is not something God does in us. It is God's declaration that we are righteous for Jesus sake. It is in an alien righteousness counted toward us. Justification, therefore, is imputation. Justification is not something that changes us on the inside, it only declares what we are before God because of what we are in Christ. On the other hand, regeneration is impartation, which grants us a new nature. So to partly answer your question, there would be no remaining part of lost (unregenerate) man after regeneration. I would encourage you to further explore the difference between imputation and impartation.

    I can see why you may have trouble here but perhaps you are thinking of the order of salvation temporally rather than in a causal manner:

    In divine monergism, regeneration precedes faith (not temporally, but causally). So regeneration, faith and justification are not separate events in time yet are distinguished as to what they do. How can this be? Well consider that fire and heat, sight and seeing or having ears and hearing all occur simultaneously. But one must first have sight to see, or ears to hear or fire to have heat. Once your eyes are opened you see; once your ears are unplugged, you hear and once God grants us a new heart we are already believing. To think causally rather than temporally consider this: If a pool ball rolls on the table to strike another, both strike at exactly the same time, but only the ball that moves and strikes the other causes the other one to move. Likewise, the order of events in the Bible is always grace causally preceding action. For example Ezekiel 11:19-20

    I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

    Notice that God placing a new heart within precedes following, obeying and the consummation of the covenant promise. No one believes while they have a heart of stone. That would be absurd. The heart must be softened to flesh prior to a desire for Christ. no?

    Jesus likewise teaches this same idea of monergistic regeneration in the gospel of John chapter 6:

    It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (vs. 6:63-65)
    All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (vs.37)

    Notice several things in these passages.The Bible declares there are only two states of being: flesh and Spirit, and that it is only those who are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:3, 6:63) who will come to Jesus (Jn. 6:65). The native resources of the flesh are, therefore, morally impotent to meet God's humbling requirement to believe the gospel. (1:13) But impartation of the Spirit causally precedes our action and imputation.

    Also notice two universals in this passage. A universal negative "no one" and a universal positive "all".

    Put these together and what to they say: no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it through the quickening work of the Spirit, and all to whom God grants it will believe. The granting precedes the believing and it is effectual. In other words all those whom God grants will infallibly come to Jesus and He will indeed raise all of them up at the last day. None will be lost.

    So regeneration causally precedes faith/justification. Both are benefits granted to us in Christ. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no new birth, no illumination, no understanding or affection for the gospel, and thus no faith -- in other words, no Christians. So there is no synergism here because the man is granted the new birth so that he might believe and be justified. These all occur simultaneously ... one simply causes the other from the outside. The Spirit works faith in us. No one says 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3).

    Hope this helps

    Posted by John on May 20, 2010 12:03 PM


    Great explanation John! Do you archive these blog posts anywhere on the site?

    Thanks for the encouragement Perry. I often archive important articles on RT on the site. I will likely post this essay under Monergism Vs. Synergism.

    John - thanks for this succinct explanation!

    Thank you for this very helpful clarification. I have struggled with the opposite question as it applies to sanctification; that is, is synergism really a form of monergism? Specifically, if we can only "work out" what God has "worked in" (Phil. 2:12-13), where does the "synergism," that is, "our part," come in? I think your explanation here has helped me with that question. To use your analogy of eyesight above, "seeing" "automatically" follows being given sight, thus that is a "monergistic" action. However, being able to see, if I realize my vision is not as clear as it could be and I put on glasses in order to see better, that is the "synergistic" response. My desire to see better only arises once I have been given the "gift" of sight. Is that a valid analogy? If not, can you help me see "more clearly" the "synergistic" aspect of sanctification and and what it looks like?

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