Monergism Versus Synergism: Beware, Kobayashi Maru Ahead!

, posted by John Kebbel

Monergism and Synergism are extra-Biblical terms coined to encapsulate Bible truth. They fail. God’s dichotomy is Works and Faith, not Monergism and Synergism. Works are bad; faith is good. Faith in Jesus is something humans do (with prevenient grace courtesy of the Holy Spirit); saving these believing humans is something God does.

Arminians are sucker punched by Calvinists when they allow themselves to ignore Works Versus Faith and engage Calvinists on the battlefield of Monergism Versus Synergism. This becomes clearer when we look at the abortion debate.

Those who are pro-abortion do not call themselves Pro-Abortion; they call themselves Pro-Choice. They have reframed the debate to be about women’s rights. They are now able to paint their opponents as Neanderthal chauvinists grumbling about women receiving equal pay and having equal rights. That’s not your agenda at all. You’re a Foetusphile unscrupulously caricatured as a misogynist.

Using the same technique, Calvinists are able to frame the debate to their favor and discredit their critics from the get-go. To oppose Monergism is to exalt undeserving man, rob God of glory, and deny the power of grace. How do you avoid this? You refuse to play the No-Win Kobayashi Maru game; you reprogram the Starfleet Academy computer just like Kirk did. Tell a Calvinist you’re going to replace Monergism with another, more suitable term; for example, Divine OCDism, TheoPuppetry, Hyper-Deism (It’s not just Nature God wound up like a clock and left to run; it’s EVERYTHING), or I Did It My Way Ism. (I can’t speak for you, but for me, portraying the God of Calvinism as Sinatra or Elvis just purrs.)

As for Synergism, replace it with Biblical Response-Ism, Creature Obedience-Ism, Doing What the Bible Tells Me To Do Ism, or The Opposite of Calvinistic OCD and Gnat Straining Ism.

Next, laugh twice in a Calvinist’s face when they say that Synergism (under whatever term you’ve renamed it) gives men grounds for boasting.

Laugh the first time because although not all Calvinists are bloated, puffed-up toads sunning on the rock of their supposed doctrinal superiority, enough are to make it hilarious when Calvinists sound an alarm about the dangers of human boasting. (I am fortunate in having the main Calvinist in my life a godly, good-natured pastor who only occasionally lapses into doctrinal self-congratulation.)

Laugh the second time because of their failure to grasp the Scriptures. What does the Scripture say? “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith.” Romans 4:27. Boasting is excluded by the fact that we cannot offer any works to God, that we can only please Him by faith. Even worse, boasting is excluded by the content of saving faith itself—faith says, “Your Spirit has opened my eyes to see I am a worthless lump of feces stuck to the wheel of a Hellbound train, unable to do anything to help myself. Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins, for scraping me off that train wheel and helping me to live in a way that makes You glad you died for me!” This bears repeating as it is of monumental importance. The content of faith precludes boasting: the content of faith acknowledges that God is all, and we are nothing. This is a fact Calvinists seem to perpetually gloss over.

Granted, there is the occasional Christian boasting that “I was smart enough to choose Christ, but my friend Bob wasn’t!” but if the Holy Spirit and the Bible don’t catch up to and convict that individual quickly enough, a fellow Christian surely will. Non-Calvinists are just as quick as Calvinists to point to God as deserving of all the glory. The claim that only monergism focuses on God’s glory is more Calvinist schlock.