Is Arminian Theology Synergistic?

For some, the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism boils down to whether salvation is monergistic or synergistic. I believe the term “synergism” is not always accurately applied to the Arminian position. The word comes from the Greek synergos, which essentially means “working together”. While monergism (to work alone) may be an acceptable label for what Calvinists believe (God does all the work in salvation), synergism does not always rightly portray what Arminians have historically believed.

The word itself, when taken in a grammatically strict sense, is not a very good description of what Arminians believe regarding salvation. Arminians do not believe that both God and man “work” together in salvation. We believe that we are saved “by faith from first to last” (Rom. 1:17). Since faith is antithetical to works (Rom. 3:20-28; 4:2-5; 9:32; 10:5, 6; Gal. 2:16; 3:2, 5; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:9), it is a misnomer to label Arminian soteriology as synergistic in the strictest sense of the word.

Arminian theology, when rightly understood, teaches that salvation is monergistic. God alone does the saving. God alone regenerates the soul that is dead in sin. God alone forgives and justifies on the merits of Christ’s blood. God alone makes us holy and righteous. In all of these ways salvation is entirely monergistic. The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is whether or not God’s saving work is conditional or unconditional. Arminians believe that God will not save until we meet the God ordained condition of faith. Faith may be understood as synergistic only in the sense that God graciously enables us to believe, but we are the ones who must decide whether or not we will believe.

F. Leroy Forlines put it well when he said,

I believe that saving faith is a gift of God in the sense that the Holy Spirit gives divine enablement without which faith would be impossible (John 6:44). The difference between the Calvinistic concept of faith and my concept of faith cannot be that theirs is monergistic and mine is synergistic. In both cases it is synergistic. Active participation in faith by the believer means it must be synergistic. Human response cannot be ruled out of faith. Justification and regeneration are monergistic. Each is an act of God, not man. Faith is a human act by divine enablement and therefore cannot be monergistic. (The Quest For Truth, pg 160, emphasis his)

If faith were monergistic then it would not be the person believing, but God believing for the person. Faith is the genuine human response to God’s call, and the means by which we access His saving grace (Rom. 5:1, 2). It is still God’s grace that saves, but that grace must be received by faith, and the nature of faith is such that it can never be properly called a “work”.

Does this mean that man is the determiner of salvation and not God? Absolutely not. God has determined that those who believe in His Son shall be saved, and that determination is absolute and unchangeable (Jn. 3:16-18, 36). We simply determine whether or not we will meet the God ordained condition of faith.

Calvinists tend to object that faith, when understood in the context of Arminian theology, is really just a “work”. My next post will answer this charge and define the nature of saving faith in Arminian theology.

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27 Responses

  1. Man, I told you that you would be awesome for blogging! That was awesome! I am leaping on the inside. I like the way in which you communicate God’s truth. This is going to be an awesome ride. I’ll hang on tight.

    Billy

  2. Arminianism vs. Calvinism
    (C) Total Depravity vs. (A) Natural Ability
    Total depravity is best explained by quoting Romans in saying, “no one seeks God, no not one.” Because of an inherent sinful nature, man does not search for God and will not ever. Natural ability is not the idea that man can save himself but rather once prodded by the Holy Spirit a person may choose Christ. Man, while flawed, is not so bad that he will never look to God on his own. (This, in my own thoughts is contra the above scripture from Romans)
    (C) Unconditional Election vs. (A) Election based on (fore)knowledge
    In Unconditional Election, God hand selects who is going to be saved. No matter what a person may have to say about it, God is going to save them despite themselves. Good examples of this are Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonians and the Apostle Paul. Both were in the business of persecuting the people of God. Nebuchadnezzar spent seven years as a madman before turning to the Lord while Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus .
    Election based on (fore)knowledge acknowledges that the Bible speaks of people being elect. The argument is made that God knew how a person would react to the gospel before it was ever presented to them. It is not a matter of God forcing His will on anyone, but rather God knew they would become saved and God chose them because of that. Despite Paul’s free will seeming to be violated, it could be argued that God knew Paul would become a Christian and thus elected him and never forced anything upon him.
    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

  3. As St. Augustine wrote against the Pelagians, man is completely unable to avail himself in meriting the free grace of God, but his natural will can cooperate with this prevenient grace when it is quickened by the Holy Spirit.
    And St. Augustine wrote against the Manichaeans, the mystery of election is in the hidden counsels of God and singularly unto salvation (not “double” unto reprobation); yet, anyone that enters hell does so by their unassisted “free” choice.
    Peace Be With You
    Micky

  4. CALVINISM AND CATHOLICISM CONTRASTED
    Calvin: God’s sovereignty determines the will.
    Catholic: God’s sovereignty includes free will.
    Calvin: Predestination as predetermination.
    Catholic: Predestination as infallible foreknowledge.
    Calvin: God desires only the salvation of the elect.
    Catholic: God desires the salvation of all.
    Calvin: God provides grace only to the elect.
    Catholic: God provides grace to all, though not all accept it.
    Calvin: Christ died only for the elect.
    Catholic: Christ died for all men.
    Calvin: God predetermines some for hell.
    Catholic :Men merit hell by their own wickedness.
    Calvin: The elect include all those born-again.
    Catholic: The elect are those who persevere to the end.
    Calvin: Grace co-opts human free will.
    Catholic: Grace perfects the free will that cooperates.
    Calvin: Those in grace (born-again) can’t fall away.
    Catholic: Those in grace can freely sin and lose grace.
    Calvin: The elect will unfailingly persevere.
    Catholic: The elect are those who have persevered.
    Calvin: The elect are assured of their salvation.
    Catholic: Yes, but only God knows who they are.
    Calvin: Predestination eliminates merit and guilt.
    Catholic: Predestination includes merit and guilt.
    The Pelagian heretics held that man alone (apart from God’s grace) is responsible for his salvation. Calvinists start with the opposite premise that God alone is responsible for man’s salvation.
    I understand more clearly the difference between Calvinism & Catholicism. I was saved, I am saved, and I am being saved. Yes, but only God knows who they are.
    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

  5. Hey Mickey,

    Thanks for the info. You seem to have looked very deeply into this issue. Where do you stand soteriologically?

  6. Mickey,

    BTW I left a comment on your blog yesterday concerning an article you posted which seemed to be teaching that Christians should not expect a physical second coming of Christ, but only a spiritual second coming that has already taken place through the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world. I tried to find that blog today and it seems to be gone. Did you delete it? Do you believe that there will be no physical second coming of Christ?

  7. Find It! First, Fast and Free!
    English Dictionary – With Multi-Lingual Search
    soteriologically? Found No Matching Entries.

    soteriology
    noun
    1. Christianity.
    The theological doctrine of salvation.
    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

  8. kangeroodort said…
    I tried to find that blog today and it seems to be gone. Did you delete it? Do you believe that there will be no physical second coming of Christ?

    Why do you ask?

    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

  9. MIckey,

    The reason I “ask” is because you had a blog entry which seemed to plainly say that there will be no physical second coming of Christ. I thought I made that clear. The reason I asked if you deleted it is because I cannot find it after leaving my comment there yesterday. Did you delete it? Did you delete it because you have decided that you do not agree with it?

    When I asked where you stand soteriologically, I meant do you see salvation from an Arminian or Calvinist perspective? You left me what you believe to be lengthy definitions of Arminian, Calvinistic, and Catholic soteriology. I am not sure why you did that, but it made me wonder where you personally stand on the issue. I hope that clears things up.

    Ben

  10. “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit[John 3: 8].
    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

  11. Mickey,

    You are a strange bird.

  12. Read my comments CHILD MIGRANT – POST.
    I imagine they thought Jesus was a strange bird, also? That’s why they they crucified Him!!
    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

  13. Hey Mickey,

    I meant no offense. It is just a little weird when you ask a guy some fairly straight forward questions, and all you get is questions and Scripture quotes that have nothing to do with the questions being asked. I don’t mind you dropping comments, but it would be nice if they made some sense.

  14. Why didn’t you leave your comments on my BLOG?

  15. I did leave my initial comment on your blog post about the second coming of Christ (I assume that is how you found my blog). I checked back to see if you responded and could no longer find that post. That is why I asked if you deleted it.

    The other comments had to do with whether or not you deleted that post and why. I have still not gotten a straight answer from you, only scripture quotes from Jn. 3 and questions like, “why do you ask?”. I went to the other post you directed me to above and found that you had tried to respond to my comments there. Why would you respond to comments I made here on an unrelated post at your site?

    One of your replies was “how do you FEEL?” Am I supposed to make sense of that? Sorry Micky, but you do not seem to understand how blogging and comment interaction generally works. If you want to give me a straight forward answer to my initial comment, then I will be happy to discuss it with you. If you just have more irrelevant and non-sensical comments, then please don’t bother to leave them. I would be happy to continue this conversation at your post concerning the Second Coming (where I initially left a comment), but again, I cannot find that post. Did you delete it? Can you direct me to it?

  16. kangeroodort said…
    One of your replies was “how do you FEEL?” Am I supposed to make sense of that? Sorry Micky, but you do not seem to understand how blogging and comment interaction generally works. If you just have more irrelevant and non-sensical comments, then please don’t bother to leave them. Did you delete it? Can you direct me to it?

    Greetings Ben
    I felt some pain when I read your comments. I imagine you were RAGING over your fear, pain and shame. I imagine you are a RAGEAHOLIC (passive – aggressive), CONTROL FREAK and AVOIDER – you have a conscious fear of intimacy and an unconscious fear of abandonment. I suggest you get down on your knees and ask Jesus to forgive you for the above DIATRIBE (sins). I love you, Ben!! Do you love me? How do you FEEL, Benjamin? Do you believe in the second physical coming of Jesus Christ? Are you a Catholic?

    Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. -1 Peter 5:8 NLT
    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

  17. Mickey,

    I honestly do not know what to say in response to that. I am not sure how you came to those conclusions about me based on the brief dialogue that we have had. I can see, however, that there is no point in further dialogue.

    To answer your question, No, I am not Catholic [not sure why you would think that], and Yes, I do believe in the physical second coming of Christ. See, it isn’t hard to answer questions with straight answers. As for your warnings and admonitions, I will take them under advisement.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  18. kangeroodort said…
    Mickey,
    I honestly do not know what to say in response to that. I am not sure how you came to those conclusions about me based on the brief dialogue that we have had. I can see, however, that there is no point in further dialogue.

    Greetings Ben
    I imagine you are emotionally shut down and have escaped into your head. I feel some pain and sadness. Were you abused as a child, Ben? You haven’t once told me how you feel? What happened? (At 17 God brought me to my knees as I discovered that the freedom I was after had led only to bondage,). I imagine your fear is starting to surface (I can see, however, that there is no point in further dialogue.) and you want to run away. Have you suffered, Benjamin? Have you been to the CHAMBER OF HORRORS? My name is MICKY, not MICKEY!! Are you an EMOTIONAL COWARD, BENNY?
    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

  19. Sorry about the name Micky,

    No, I was never abused. I don’t even know where the CHAMBERS OF HORROR are so I am pretty sure I have not been there. I don’t think I am an emotional COWARD, but I suppose anything is possible. Right now I FEEL a little tired, and confused by one of the weirdest interactions with one of the weirdest individuals I have ever come in contact with. Thanks for the concern, and again I am sorry about the whole “Mickey” thing.

  20. I really wouldn’t worry about him Ben, after reading his posts I have concluded that Micky is merely an experimental A.I. construct gone horribly awry.

  21. I have a soteriological question to ask, Ben? Can crazy lunatic blogger AI’s be saved?

  22. J.C. Thibodaux said…
    I really wouldn’t worry about him Ben, after reading his posts I have concluded that Micky is merely an experimental A.I. construct gone horribly awry.

    Greetings Brother Thibodaux
    SATAN means adversary or accuser in the original Hebrew (Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-7). In the New Testament Satan in also called by his Greek name Diabolos, or the devil. He is also called “the dragon,” “the old serpent” (Rev. 12:9; Rev. 20:2); “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; John 14:30); “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephes. 2:2); “the god of this evil world” (2 Cor. 4:4); ” He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” (Ephes. 2:2).
    Are you an agent for Satan Mr Thibodaux [SHIFT SHAPING REPTILE]?
    BEGONE SATAN!!

  23. Jordan (w.m.s.n.b.s.) said…
    I have a soteriological question to ask, Ben? Can crazy lunatic blogger AI’s be saved?

    Greetings Ben
    It appears Satan’s messengers (Jordan & J.C.} are joining forces with you. Jordon (I am a Christian. I can be friendly at times and stoic at others (usually when I am deep in thought)like yourself is just another emotionally shutdown, SHIFT SHAPING REPTILE. I love you all, do you love me? I will pray for you, Jordon & J. C. How do you FEEL, Benjamin?
    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

  24. Micky,

    You have amazing powers of observation. I have personally witnessed both J.C. and Jordan morph into Komodo Dragons.

    We love you too Micky. I feel fine, thanks for asking.

  25. Micky, when I first read your posts, I thought you were trying to appear super-spiritual and enlightened by being vague and confusing; that combined with your posting on loosely-related information apparently retrieved from key word queries, use of out of context Bible verses on topics, inability to answer most direct questions or follow a conversation, use of uncommon idioms that sound like they were badly translated from a foreign language -e.g. ‘chamber of horrors,’ ‘shift-shaping’ (it’s ‘shape-shifting’ by the way), psychobabble about everyone else having pent up pain and rage, repeated use of certain phrases (such as ‘do you love me?’), and frequent use of all caps (considered very rude on the net) make your posts sound like something from a Taiwanese spam-bot algorithm that usually ends up in my e-mail bulk folder, hence my A.I. joke.

    But after seeing your responses and the creepy e-mail you sent me with demonic imagery, I conclude that my initial assessment was incorrect. I am no psychoanalyst or seer, but you appear to either,

    a). Be very troubled and have a lot of problems in your own life that you feel the need to project onto others,

    and/or

    b.) Have the deep-seated desire to be someone else’s helper or healer.

    Not that we don’t appreciate your concern Micky, but not everyone has quite the same difficulties you’re going through. Some of us have had great childhoods. All of us have had pain in our lives at some point, but whatever trials we’ve had, we have no need to lay them on you, for you are not our healer and great physician, we already have that in Jesus Christ. If you have a burden that you need to share with another Christian, I recommend that you find a good church with an experienced counselor; and don’t worry, Christians are to love all men, even our enemies, don’t think we’ll exclude you from the list.

  26. Yay, I’ve been promoted. I’m now Satan’s Messenger. That’s a big promotion from my earlier position as Satan’s Stooge. And a much bigger promotion from my first position as a Presbyterian.

  27. […] Thibodaux Several common accusations we hear from Calvinists is that a Synergistic view of faith (as opposed to regeneration) ‘robs God of the glory.’ “It’s man-centered,” they say, “and […]

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