Is monergism or synergism correct?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
This topic has been hotly debated within the church for centuries. It is not exaggerating to say that this debate concerns the very heart of the gospel itself. First, let us define the two terms. W...

July 01 2013 8 responses Vote Up Share Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
Neither view is correct, as most often defined by man. They are not usually strict premises of themselves [such as God alone saves vs. Man contributes,] but are rather theological buzzwords created early 20th century.

As such, the terms themselves must be analyzed and the false dichotomy of the two theories presented before the real topic; salvation; can be studied.

Monergism, in theology, is the theory that *because* God alone saves, then God 'must' subsequently bring salvation about by the spiritual regeneration of certain individuals, without their consent or control, so that they may have faith. (In some variations, only irresistible enlightenment is needed.)

Note that this is not a premise of itself, but rather a conclusion a couple steps away:

Premise: God alone saves (All Christians would agree with this)
Premise: If man can choose to be convinced/have faith then he would be participating in his own salvation (Not all Christians agree with this)
Conclusion: Man cannot have faith of his own volition.
Premise: The Spirit could regenerate man so he could have faith.
Conclusion: God must regenerate certain men through the spirit so they will have faith. 

The above is vastly simplified, but you can see that Monergism is not as simple as the idea "God alone saves". Instead it is a theory developed from that starting point.

Synergism is a buzzword usually used to describe how Calvinists perceive any non-Calvinist presentation of salvation; namely that any view contrary to monergism must hold that man contributes to saving himself.

As such, it is not a theory people hold of themselves (usually), but rather a "prop" theory to argue against.

In the monergist view, claiming sinful man could have faith is equivalent to claiming that man saves himself, at least in part, and hence the idea that man can obey/have faith without prior spiritual regeneration is branded 'synergism'.

This is what is known in logic as a "false dichotomy". Two ideas are presented, and one is asked to decide 'either/or'. One is pressured to choose a "side", vs. Examining the actual premise or the definitions involved. Often, these 'sides' are presented by a person who only believes one, and so the view he/she opposes is often a false presentation, a characterization, or presented through a distorted lens. 

This leads to factions and divisions, as those just beginning to study an issue are told that one idea or another is more Biblical, more spiritual, more humble, etc. This may lead to the further consequence of scripture being redefined or ignored in order to hang onto the chosen theory, and errors become more and more entrenched over time, as the person who has taken a side feels he "must" hold to it, lest he fall into the "even worse" errors of the other side. 

Some resolve this simply by choosing not to resolve the problem, saying "It's a mystery", or "It's unknowable", and then doing their best not to think about it. Others resolve this, partially, by becoming experts in where the "other side" is wrong. The best resolution is to avoid, as far as possible, the trap that any Biblical concept can be completely summed up by a theory of man or popular buzzword; or that any one person or theory will have all the answers.

God alone accomplishes salvation, as man cannot save himself. 
But what is salvation?  Salvation is deliverance.  It has connotations both of what one is delivered from (sin, affliction, poverty, captivity, etc.) and of what one is delivered into (righteousness, welfare, prosperity, freedom, etc.) 

Yet, there is nothing inherent in the concept of salvation that would mean a captive accepting salvation 'works with' the savior.

Further eBible topics cover the relationship between faith and salvation. Here is one:


December 17 2014 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Evan Doan
In spite of the fact that monergism/Calvinism has many appealing aspects, it seems to me that few advocates consider some of the logical implications of this particular theological paradigm.

First, multiple passages state that God's will is that no one perish:

1 Timothy 2:4
2 Peter 3:9
Ezekiel 18:23
Ezekiel 18:32
Ezekiel 33:11

According to monergism/Calvinism, God chose us instead of us choosing him. That means God deliberately did NOT choose whoever is unfortunate enough to not be elected and receive irresistible grace. If it's God's will that no one perish, then according to Calvinism, it would seem that God is either incompetent or a liar, not to mention unjust and unfair, since the scriptures clearly state that some will be resurrected to eternal condemnation (John 5:29 and Daniel 12:2) while at the same time clearly stating that God's will is that no one perish. 

Technically, the doctrine of Calvinistic unconditional election would apply to EVERYONE in one of two ways: either one is elected to eternal life or one is elected to eternal condemnation. This is extremely convenient if one finds him/herself elected to eternal life. However, this is a raw deal for one elected to eternal condemnation. How could we say that God is fair if he arbitrarily administers election in this way? If personal responsibility and accountability have nothing to do with this, then how is it that the scriptures declare that God shows no partiality or favoritism (Romans 2:11 and Acts 10:34)? The very concept of justice, which Psalm 89:14 and Psalm 97:2 declare to be the foundation of God's throne, is predicated on individual responsibility and accountability for one's choices. Furthermore, what is love if not freely given by choice? God may grant us the ability to love, but the choice is still ours to make; otherwise it's not authentic love.

On a more pragmatic note, nothing about choosing to accept God's salvation and invitation into his kingdom in any way implies that we're effecting our own salvation any more than a drowning man who chooses to grab a rope that someone else throws to him is credited with saving himself. Will he really "boast" that he saved himself simply because he technically made the choice to grab the rope? The person on the riverbank throwing the rope is still the decisive and determining factor in the drowning man's salvation.

April 10 2019 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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