Synergism vs. Monergism

Synergism is the doctrine that the act of being born again is achieved through a combination of human will and divine grace.

In Christian theology, SYNERGISM is the belief that salvation involves some form of cooperation between divine grace and human freedom. Synergism is when we cooperate with God for salvation. Synergism is upheld by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Anabaptist Churches, Methodist Churches and Wesleyan–Arminian. It is an integral part of Arminian theology common in the General Baptist and Methodist traditions, AOG Assemblies of God, Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches.

Monergism is the doctrine that teaches salvation is entirely a work of God; That man can contribute nothing toward the price of his salvation and that one is saved wholly and unconditionally by grace through faith.

In Christian theology, MONERGISM holds that God works through the Holy Spirit to bring about the salvation of an individual through spiritual regeneration, regardless of the individual’s cooperation. It is an integral part of Lutheranism, Reformed Theology Tradition such as Presbyterian, Puritans, Reformed Baptists and Dutch Reformed Church.

Synergism and Monergism Examined

Synergism: A Belief That Faith Arises Out of An Inherent Capacity of the Natural Man.

Synergists believe that faith itself, a principle standing independent and autonomous of God’s action of grace, is something the natural man must add or contribute toward the price of his salvation. Unregenerate man, in this scheme, is left to his freewill and natural ability to believe or reject God. Synergists teach that God’s grace takes us part of the way to salvation but that the fallen, rebellious human will must determine the final outcome. It does this by reaching down into an autonomous principle within in its fallen unrenewed nature in order to either produce a right thought or create a right volition toward God. But, the Scriptures are clear that as long as the natural man hates God he will not come to Him. In this system, then, grace is merely an offer or a help but does not do anything to change man’s heart of stone or natural hostility to God. This means that God will only look favorably upon and reward those natural men who are able to produce or contribute faith, independent of God’s inward gracious call or spiritual renewal.

This is a subtle, but serious, error that is plaguing the church of the 21st century. It is a misapprehension of the biblical teaching concerning the depth of our fallen nature and the radical grace needed to restore us. This leads me to believe that one of the greatest challenges facing the church today is its re-evangelization. While many evangelicals may understand the doctrine of “sola fide” (faith alone), that we must place our faith in Christ to be saved, it seems many have abandoned the biblical concept of “sola gratia” (grace alone).

The Synergistic Conception of “Sola Fide” therefore must, by definition, draw on nature to cooperate with God’s grace as the human fulfillment of a condition. Why do people believe this? I can only guess it is because by nature we want to maintain an island of righteousness, a last bastion of pride in thinking that he can still contribute something, be it ever so small, to our own salvation. It would involve great humility on our part to admit this. If the Church took more efforts to search the Scriptures and reform her doctrine on this point, I am convinced that a great deal of blessing would be restored and God would remove much of the current worldliness in our midst.

How is Monergism Different?

In contrast, historic Christianity, as best explained by Augustine and the Reformers, would reject the above position and honor the more biblical position of monergism. This position teaches that salvation is entirely a work of God; That man can contribute nothing toward the price of his salvation and that one is saved wholly and unconditionally by grace through faith. That faith itself is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8, John 1:13, 2 Timothy 2:25, Philippians 1:29, Hebrews 12:2, 1 John 5:1, Romans 3:24, Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:26-27) which is not the cause, but the witness of God’s regenerative grace having worked faith in the inner man. This gracious act of God was based on nothing meritorious in the individual, but rather, entirely on God’s sovereign good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5).

It was not because God knew which persons would believe of their own free will, for there are no persons which fit that description. This is because apart from grace their is no delight or inclination to seek God (in man’s unregenerate nature). And since those dead in sin will not seek God (Romans 3:11), regenerative grace precedes justifying faith. God must, in effect, raise them from the dead- (see Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13).

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

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