Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monergism? Synergism?

I grew up under the umbrella of monergism but truly, its arguments have never satisfied me, but then again, synergism seems to be filled with many more holes. Truly over time, I believe the meaning of the terms have changed, but in a nutshell, if you are not familiar with the terms, monergism suggests God alone, in his grace, is responsible in the salvific act that reconciles man with God. Synergism, on the other hand, suggests that a cooperation of sorts exists—man plays a part in the role.

Obviously, at first glance synergism sounds heretical to a guy like me, brought up and educated under an evangelical protestant worldview—how can man, lowly man, play a part in his own salvation.

But, according to any stream of reformed theology, does God manipulate man, supernaturally taking command of his motor functions, forcing his lips to utter the confession to save his soul, that Jesus is the Son of God, the sacrificial atonement for his sins? NO! In that sense, monergism, is inadequate.

We must work (in the sense of involvement) for our salvation. Truly, Christ did the dirty work, that which we cannot…he lived a perfect life and willingly accepted a guiltless punishment. But, freewill must be considered in the equation. Jesus is not going to confess himself for us, otherwise we are mindless drones. Humankind has to take part and make that confession. So yes, I believe we are intrinsically involved in our own salvation, which is a very pre-reformation ideal:

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one
can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning
of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for
ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the
increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even
temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with
God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer
attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. (1994 catachism)

James himself was very synergistic (chapter 2):
20 Fool! Would you not like to know that faith without deeds is
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by his deed, because he
offered his son Isaac on the altar?
22 So you can see that his faith was
working together with his deeds; his faith became perfect by what he did.
In this way the scripture was fulfilled: Abraham put his faith in God, and this
was considered as making him upright; and he received the name 'friend of
24 You see now that it is by deeds, and not only by believing, that
someone is justified.


Ken said...

Am I being too simple with this comment or taking it out of context or missing the boat completely?! LOL

Philippians 2
12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Nate Watson said...

You read my mind Kenni...I was thinking about using this verse. It has been postulated that James was written to counter Paul. If you compare James and Galatians it seems like there are two streams of Christiamity divulging in the emerging new faith. But, one must keep in mind, James and Paul most likely were writing to two different audiences. This verese is a perfect example of my view point, and an example of harmony between Paul and Jerusalem.
Great insight, love it!