Thursday, August 05, 2010

Monergism & synergism

Dan, you're being duplicitous. If grace is only a necessary condition of salvation, and not a sufficient condition, then we aren't saved by grace alone. Rather, our libertarian consent is an additional factor, independent of God's grace, without which grace cannot save us.


"I'm not at all familiar with these controversies, but it doesn't seem like Arminianism is a denial of salvation through grace alone. God may only give salvation to those who freely accept it by faith."

In which case, saving faith is not included in saving grace. That's not part of the package. Rather, that's something by which the package is received or rejected. Hence, salvation is not by grace alone.

"Rather, the person is sitting inside the cart and gives God permission to push it up."

If permission is a necessary condition of salvation, and saving grace does not entail permission, then permission is an independent factor. In that event, we're not saved by grace alone.

"I don't see how that's being duplicitous. In both Calvinism and Arminianism a person is still helpless to effect their own salvation. Acceptance of God's offer of salvation has always been a prerequisite of salvation."

And in Calvinism, unlike Arminianism, acceptance of God's offer of salvation is, itself, wholly the result of God's grace. Therefore, your comparison actually illustrates the difference, and reinforces my original charge.


"The necessary/sufficient cause or condition distinction is unimportant in this discussion as can be seen by the fact that Calvinism affirms man is responsible despite sufficient causes."

You're jumping categories. The question at issue is not what's sufficient to render us responsible, but what's sufficient to ensure our salvation. Those are hardly convertible propositions.

"The key here is that faith does not save, God's grace does."

Faith is a necessary condition of salvation. So the question is whether or not saving faith is a necessary result of saving grace. If not, then you can't say we're saved solely by grace.


“Salvation, in the expression salvation by grace alone through faith alone) is typically referring to justification, forgiveness, redemption, and adoption. Apparently you mean something else - something that precedes faith.”

Typically, salvation by grace alone through faith alone stood in contrast to Roman Catholic synergism. And that debate certainly included the preconditions of saving faith.

“But it's not like faith is through faith alone.”

Which ducks the question of what causes saving faith.

“Again, even if faith is a necessary result of grace, man still believes, per Calvinism. That's synergistic. By couching the discussion in terms of necessary/sufficient conditions; you enter a labyrinth you can't escape from.”

You’re attempting to redefine “synergism” to suit your personal agenda, but “synergism” has a specialized meaning in historic theology. The fact that faith is a human mental act doesn’t make that relation “synergistic” in historic theological usage.

SLW, Paul doesn't define faith in contrast to grace. Rather, Paul defines faith in contrast to works.

Unless saving faith is a gracious faith, we're not saved by grace alone.


“That right there should tell us that faith isn't the stuff of works, which is often the argument Calvinists make against Arminians. Faith is not at odds with grace, so not contrastible.”

Actually, you just confirmed the accuracy of the charge. Faith would be a work if you decouple faith from grace.

“If salvation is likened to sunlight, faith would be the window that lets in the light. The light is what it is, the window doesn't produce it, it is merely the means for it to get inside the room.”

Your metaphor is not an argument. And it’s not exegeted from relevant prooftexts. It’s just a distraction.

“That confounds grace and faith. Faith by this reckoning is just a category of grace. In that case, the five solas should be reduced to four to avoid repetition.”

Illogical. Grace/faith is a cause/effect relationship. As such, faith isn’t reducible to grace–anymore than effects are reducible to causes.

Godismyjudge said...

“The Protestants did not deny that men cooperate in their own conversion, taking that word in the sense in which the Romanists used the term (and the still broader term justificatio), as including the whole work of turning unto God. No one denies that the man in the synagogue cooperated in stretching out his withered arm or that the impotent one at the pool was active in obeying the command of Christ, ‘Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.’ But the question is, Did they cooperate in the communication of vital power to their impotent limbs? So Protestants do not deny that the soul is active in conversion, that the ‘arbitrium a Deo motum’ freely assents.’

You’re using “cooperation” as if it were a synonym for “synergism.” That’s incorrect.

i) In historical theology, “synergism” is a technical term. It’s not equivalent to “cooperation.”

If you want to use “synergism” in a popular, modern sense (i.e. “interaction”), you’re free to do so, but don’t anachronistically substitute that innovation for historic theological usage, then accuse me of using “salvation” in “atypical” fashion.

ii) To say man is “active” in “conversion” is also equivocal. At which stage of the process? In Reformed theology, man is passive in regeneration. However, regeneration produces faith (among other things). Man is “active” in believing, but saving faith is the effect of saving grace.

So the “activity” or “cooperation” is still grounded in monergism.

Godismyjudge said...

“This is because faith does not save us, God’s grace does.”

You keep resorting to that evasive, palpably defective formula. But in Scripture, faith in Christ is clearly a necessary condition of salvation (excluding special cases).Therefore, you can’t separate faith from salvation.

Your only out is to separate faith from grace. But since faith and salvation are inseparable (see above), if you separate faith and grace, then you deny salvation by grace alone.

“If you hold that 1) believing is our act, 2) we are responsible for our acts and 3) believing is part of salvation, then it follows that we are responsible for part of our salvation.”

That’s another one of your evasive equivocations. “Responsible” has more than one meaning. It can mean “accountable/liable,” or it can denote a causal relation, as in: “pilot error was responsible for the crash” (i.e. the pilot caused the plane to crash).

In Calvinism, we are “responsible” in the sense of having a duty to believe, and being culpable in case we shirk that obligation.

But a Christian is not the cause of saving faith. Rather, God’s grace is the cause of saving faith. So a Christian is not “responsible” for saving faith in the causal sense. And that’s what makes it monergistic rather than synergistic (in the technical sense of the terms).

“As I explained to Steve, in the phrase, ‘saved by grace through faith’ saved must be taken in the narrow sense as justification – otherwise we end up with the absurd idea that faith is through faith.”

To say that saving faith is the result of saving grace is hardly a tautologous formula. That’s not reducible to “faith is through faith.”

That’s just one of Dan’s rhetorical gimmicks. And it fails.

“He rejected the narrow sense and maintained the broad sense. In which case it follows that, per Calvinism (or at least per Steve), we end up being responsible for part of our salvation. This violates grace alone in the expression ‘saved by grace through faith’…”

The “violation” only ensues if we allow Dan to trade on conspicuous equivocations.

“Further I would define synergism in terms of two parties working together.”

Which is not what “synergism” means in the conflict with Rome.


  1. I love this exchange. It looks similar to some of the personal discussions I've had with Arminian friends.

    And you seem to quickly get down to the real error many western non-Calvinists make. I think it can be traced to the influence of today's popular philosophies driven by a visceral sense of personal empowerment. So they try to make the scriptural statements align with cultural sensibilities and toss clear exegesis out the window...


    Oops. Was that the window of faith that was letting in all the grace?

  2. I agree, great exchange there!

    For me it boils down to one being given the understanding of two Greek words found in Chapter 5 of Romans, verses 16 and 18.

    You would have to have His Faith by Grace already to understand what is going on and why we are monergistic?

    In the verse, Romans 5:16, you have this Greek word rendered "justification" in the English translation:
    From G1344; an equitable deed; by implication a statute or decision: - judgment, justification, ordinance, righteousness.

    In the verse, Romans 5:18, you have this Greek word rendered "justification" in the English translation:
    From G1344; acquittal (for Christ’s sake): - justification.

    God does both on our behalf. It is Jesus' equitable deed that God acts upon and then by it we receive the sentence of acquittal. All we can do is receive forgiveness and an inheritance after God comes to us by the sanctification work of the Holy Spirit who can only sanctify us because of Christ's equitable deed!

    What else can a dead man do for himself? I can't wash myself. I can't sanctify myself. I can't justify myself.

    Unless another does it for me, I'm doomed!

    Rom 5:16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
    Rom 5:17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
    Rom 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

    1Co 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.