Monergism: A Doctrine of Demons?

, posted by John Kebbel

Probably not, but this is SO MUCH FUN to say with a straight face. Let’s run with it a while and see how much mileage we get from it.

First, Calvinists claim that monergism is the only view of salvation that really glorifies God. Any non-Calvinist Christian knows this a lie, and since Satan is the Father of Lies …

Second, Calvinists claim that anyone who rejects monergism is a Pelagian at worst or a semi-Pelagian at best. Arminians know this is a false accusation, and since Satan is the Accuser of the Brethren …

Third, “Calvinism makes it difficult to recognize the difference between God and the devil except that the devil wants everyone to go to hell and God wants many to go to Hell.” (Roger Olson) Calvinists might whine they’re being misrepresented here, but Calvin himself said that election necessarily entails reprobation.

“But God isn’t sending people to Hell by withholding grace; he’s merely allowing them to go,” Calvinists might reply.

“Maybe it’s not first degree soul murder to withhold grace, but it’s second degree soul murder through depraved indifference,” a non-Calvinist might respond. (Well, at least this non-Calvinist would.)

Points 1 and 2 above were tongue-in-cheek. The third point, however, is serious business and is the number one reason non-Calvinists reject Calvinism.

Calvinism is like a radiation suit allowing Calvinists to hold a totally toxic conception of God in their hands without feeling any effects. They can say with complete absence of affect that God decided to torment most of humanity for all eternity in a place that would make those persons nostalgic for a good, old-fashioned Nazi death camp or Spanish inquisitorial prison. (Yes, I know you weren’t expecting a Spanish Inquisition reference here, but, then, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition…) Calvinists blithely say, “God can do this because He’s God, and who are we ‘insolent pups’ (Calvin’s words) to challenge God.”

Non-Calvinists are not insolent pups challenging God when we reject Calvinism; we are holy dobermans attacking their specious, non-Biblical view of God. We grant that God is Sovereign and is certainly powerful enough to do such a thing, but the God of the Bible would not and could not do such a thing. He would not and could not for the same reasons: He is Loving, and He is Just.

Calvinists would argue that God IS loving, that He sent His Son Jesus to the cross itself…for the Elect. As for the non-Elect, well, He loves them in a different way. In what way could God be said to love them when He and only He can save them from everlasting Hell, and He chooses not to? Calvinists reply that God is not obligated to save anyone, but that He lovingly chooses to save some.

Let me drag Fred, the hypothetical Calvinist Christian fire chief of a small town, into our discussion. The alarm sounds in the fire house; there is a fire in the boys’ reform school at the edge of town! Fire Chief Fred rushes to the scene. He suffers a horrible burn on first entering the building, but recovers and rescues ten of the one hundred disgustingly delinquent boys from their locked cells. Fred has the time, strength, and safe conditions to rescue the other ninety boys but chooses not to, and they perish, screaming in their cells as the flames swallow them.

Fred attends a Calvinist church. The next Sunday the pastor praises Fred before the entire congregation as not just a hero, but as such a beautiful model of our Lord. Fred showed incredible love in rescuing the ten unworthy boys, and such a wonderful, different kind of love for the boys that he let burn to death. The congregation was in awe of Fred, who certainly did display that he was indeed a powerful Fire Chief, able to make decisions about who to save and who not to save, decisions that nobody else could make. Then Fire Chief Fred shares something no one else had learned yet. Fred himself had not only started the fire that killed the 90 boys but had also decided in advance which boys to save! The congregation is overjoyed. What a remarkable resemblance to our Lord!

The point to take away from the absurd Fire Chief Fred story is the problem monergism creates for sanctification. The ultimate goal of Christian sanctification in not increasing our compliance with the commandments of God; sanctification is being conformed to the image of Christ. If the Calvinist God and the Biblical Christ are one, then Fire Chief Fred IS a laudable role model.

Fortunately, the God of Calvinism is nothing like Jesus–the self-emptying servant come to save the world not judge it. It’s been decades since I’ve done street evangelism, but there were many encounters with street persons back then where I walked away shaking my head and mumbling, “Now, there’s a guy who really needs Jesus!” When encountering this narcissistic, glory-obsessed God of Calvinism arbitrarily casting most of His creations into Hell while the survivors sing Kumbaya songs about His Love, I can’t help but mumble about this God, “Now, there’s a Guy who really needs Jesus.”