Monday, June 16, 2008

Monergism all over the place

John Calvin (left) was a monergist. Jacobus Arminius (right) was a synergist.

I admit that we reformed people use all sorts of terms that initially confuse newcomers. Instead of avoiding the terms all together, I would prefer to define them. One of the most helpful theological terms I know is monergism. I think Wikipedia describes monergism well:

Monergism is the name for the belief held by some in Christian theology that the Holy Spirit alone can act to bring about the conversion of people.

In its simplest form monergism states that the salvation of an individual is all from God, as opposed to synergism, which, in its simplest form, insists that God performs most of the action(s) leading to the salvation of an individual but that salvation is not complete until the individual performs some action(s). According to monergism, a sinner is given pardon for sin by the death of Jesus, acceptance with God by the imputed righteousness of Jesus, and faith in Jesus by the Holy Spirit. It is the third of these points that most distinguishes monergism from synergism. To remain consistent to monergism, justification must be entirely of God.

Very bluntly, most modern evangelicals are synergists. They believe God performs most of the actions leading to salvation, but in the end, they "pull the trigger" by choosing to receive Christ. I would submit that such a view is a form of salvation by works and not salvation by grace at all.

I am continually amazed by how pervasive monergism is in Scripture:

John 6:63-65 63 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. 64 But 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.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Titus 3:5 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit...

John 1:13 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Romans 8:29-30 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Sumarizing a few more:

- For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him (Phil 1:29).
- He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created (Jm 1:18).
- "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last" (Jn 15:16)
- One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message (Acts 16:14).
- "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Mat 11:27).
- "For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him" (Jn 17:2)

Seriously, monergism is the teaching of Scripture regarding our salvation. All praise to God!
Tony Felich (left) is a monergist. Joel Osteen (right) is better looking, more smiley, and a synergist.


Hough said...

He is also dressed more professionally you slob.

pjw said...

But Joel Osteen blinks his eyes too much--not trustworthy.

GUNNY said...

The monergist will tell sinners to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and they will be saved, knowing that apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit they never will.

The synergist sees the sinner as fully capable of seeing Jesus, liking Jesus, and believing in/on Jesus all in an unredeemed state.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
-1 Cor 2:14

pjw said...

Seriously, thank you for this post. It cleared up some confusion I had regarding these terms. Now I understand why your consistent teaching and preaching on salvation by "grace alone" instead of "Jesus plus..." got through to me, so that I know I am not only saved by grace but live by that grace every day.

Reepicheep said...

Hough- try shaving more than once a week.

Gunny- well said.

PJW- you got it.

mother said...

Joel is NOT better looking !!

Your mother xoxo

jeff said...

Ok, so I'm confused. Please help me out here...

I understand everything you said, but what I'm confused about is this - let's say "John" is a non-believer. He hears the Gospel message, God moves in him, and John realizes he is totally lost and spiritually dead. Doesn't John have to "accept" the gift of Salvation?

Reepicheep said...


Certainly, humanly speaking, from our perspective, we believe on Christ and are saved. People describe it different ways- "accept Christ", "receive Christ", "trust on Christ", I'm not really knocking the terms we use to describe what we perceive.

Still, it's important to understand the truth behind our perceptions about our salvation, so that we might give proper praise to God. Salvation is TOTALLY of Him.

What's the truth about John, who "accepts Christ". The truth is, he was dead in his sins- not sick. John could in no way respond to the call of the gospel UNLESS God give him spiritual life (regeneration). Once he is born again, he can accept Christ. So, when a person "accepts" Jesus, this is an evidence they have been born again, not the way they become born again.

Regeneration preceds faith. Faith is a gift God gives when he regenerates a person.

So, keep preaching the gospel to people, but understand the truth behind how they will be saved- it's a monergistic act. God does it, not us.

Phantom495 said...

You are more handsome on the inside which is where it really counts! You have a face your mother loves! And besides is Joel even a Christian?!?

Jeff, remember 1 John 4:19, "We love because he first loved us." Our "acceptance" of Christ is still completely dependent on His sovereign plan and timing.

Rick Calohan said...

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 14: 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14: 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

In countless email and personal exchanges, I have explained to my friends and family members who are either Catholic or Evangelical what Covenant Reformed Theology, Monergism is in light of their Arminianist, Semi-Pelagian Theology and while we all may profess, Christ as our Savior the key element is the Latin word Sola in English it means Alone.

So when I see evangelist of an Arminian stripe trying to convert a Catholic I often wonder do they not fail to realize they too are Synergist? That in the taking of God’s glory in “accepting the gift” by their “free-will” they have in their mere 1% Work + 99% Grace become the same as a Catholic who believes that their 99% works + 1% grace will also earn them salvation?

I have even broken it down by illustrating Grace Alone

• For a Catholic 99% Works plus 1% Grace

• For the non-Reformed Evangelical Protestant it is 1% Works (accepting Christ as your Savior) plus 99% Grace

• However, for the Covenant Reformed Protestant it is 100% Grace Alone

The Westminster Shorter Catechism # 36
Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love,[100] peace of conscience,[101] joy in the Holy Ghost,[102] increase of grace,[103] and perseverance therein to the end.[104]
[100] Romans 5:5. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
[101] Romans 5:1. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[102] Romans 14:17. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
[103] 2 Peter 3:18. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
[104] Philippians 1:6. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 1:5. Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

We did not choose God, God chose us.

Fallen man cannot save fallen man.

In my study of Calvin’s Institutes via ACCESS at Covenant Seminary, Dr. Calhoun pointed out a story about Whitefield and Wesley on the subject of prayer it goes like this.

“Wesley and Whitefield were preaching together. We know they did that from time to time. Wesley was an Arminian, and Whitefield was a Calvinist. According to this story, they were spending the night at an inn and each man knelt by his bed to pray. Whitefield prayed, “Lord, we thank Thee for all those with whom we spoke this day, and we rejoice that their lives and destinies are entirely in Thy hand. Honor our efforts according to Thy perfect will. Amen.” His friend John Wesley then said, “Mr. Whitefield, is this where your Calvinism leads you?” Apparently, that was a comment about what a brief
prayer it was. Wesley went on to pray. Two hours later when Whitefield woke up, Wesley was still on his knees, asleep. Whitefield said, “Mr. Wesley, is this where your Arminianism leads you?”

As Pastor Nathan told me in passing regarding Monergism vs. Synergism, Predestination vs. Free Will it is all there in Romans 9.

As for Joel Osteen, I don’t want to pass judgment on him, I mean I know he really works out, his experience of being the son of an evangelist without any theological training. The fact that he worked behind the scenes as television producer along with his time spent in India with Hindus who are really good people, I just don’t want to go into all the negative things, because I know God wants you to get rid of the stretchy pants and feel good about yourself, and your ministry, because God wants you to be prosperous in all that you do.

Praise God for Redeemer PCA and for Pastors Tony, Nathan, and Brian where the REAL GOSPEL of Jesus Christ is proclaimed!

Jim said...

Luther and Lutherans were/are monergists as well!

Frontier Forest said...

Through all these outstanding dialogs, the thing that I gleaned most revealing was Pastor Tony’s comment, “Regeneration precedes faith. Faith is a gift God gives when HE regenerates a person.” From my understanding, I would suggest, “Regeneration MUST precede faith!” Else, faith would have to be considered works. Instead, we comprehend, then confess Faith is indeed God’s gift to all believers, after regeneration. Thanks for such obviously clear teachings.

AliGirl said...

So, would you say that Monergism = Calvinism as we know it? Throwing out the word "Calvinist" in a conversation really seems to end it... and relationships... and social acceptance, so can I legitimately use "Monergist" as a substitutionary theological term? I would absolutely love the opportunity to explain the concept of God's sovereignty in all matters (especially salvation) without all the preconceived notions and upturned noses.

Reepicheep said...

Yes Ali, Calvinism is monergistic, therefore it's a great word to use in place of Johnny C's name for exactly the reason you site. I recommend it highly.

Jim said...

Yes, Calvinism is monergistic, but it is anachronistic to equate the two, as in monergism = Calvinism. Every Augustinian is monergistic.

A thousand years before the Reformation, in 529 A.D., the Second Council of Orange produced a set of canons that are thoroughly monergistic. The canons are still an edifying read:

Reepicheep said...

Jim, true point. Augustine was a pre-Calvinist.

GUNNY said...

Yeah, Augustine was a Calvinist before Calvinism was cool.

AliGirl said...

Paul was definitely a Calvinist...