From Reformation Theology
Recently a visitor seemed deeply troubled that we would equate our belief in Monergism with "Christ alone" -- that by doing so we were being tribal, because this communicates the idea that synergists do not affirm "Christ alone" and to make this claim is to stir up animosity between brothers. But our purpose is not to create bitter feuds, but to be faithful to Scripture on a foundational subject. For those of us who are persuaded of monergism didn't we all come to embrace monergistic regeneration because it best expresses the Biblical data regarding the extent of Christ's work in our salvation?
Doesn't he word "monergism" itself help us understand this concept? The word consists of two main parts: The prefix "mono" means "one", "single", or "alone" while "ergon" means "to work". Taken together it means "the work of one". That is, regeneration is the work of Jesus Christ alone (as applied by the Holy Spirit), not the cooperation of man and God and not the result of unregenerate man meeting a condition (like faith) before regeneration takes place. THE main difference between Monergism & Synergism, then, is that while synergistic theology affirms the necessity of Christ, yet they do not affirm the sufficiency of Christ. That is, synergists do not affirm that Christ provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe and understand the gospel. (1 Cor 2, John 6:63-65, 37, 44). Christ does most of what we need, but we still need to meet God's condition to be saved. If, as synergists may say, God grants grace to all men, then we must ask, why do some believe and not others? Did some make better use of Christ's grace than others? Does Christ make them to differ or something else (like our decision)? That 'something else' means that Christ may be necessary to them but not sufficient to provide all they need to be saved (including a renewed heart to believe). Thus 'Christ alone', as it was understood in the Reformation, is a monergistic distinctive. His cross is sufficient to provide all we need including the very faith required of us.
Is our faith, therefore, something we can thank God for, or is it the one thing we contribute to the price of our salvation? Is God's love for us conditioned upon whether we believe or not or does His love meet the condition for us in Christ, according to scripture? We affirm that God gives us this condition but Christ does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. We are not, therefore, partly dependent on Christ for salvation but wholly dependent.
Example: Is God's love like a parent who sees his child run out into traffic and who merely calls out to him to get out of the way or is God's love like the parent who, at the risk of their life, runs out and scoops up the child to MAKE CERTAIN that his child is safe. We all know that true love gets the job done ... it doesn't merely sit on the sidelines when something so critical as ones life is at stake. God's love is unconditional for His people and He sends his Son to make certain His sheep are not lost.
Note: a large percentage of synergists who are Protestants would openly confess that there is no hope save in Christ alone - and for this we embrace them as our beloved brothers in Christ, but the debates come about when their theology blatantly contradicts this good confession, when they believe in Christ PLUS a condition we meet, apart from grace. When we deny the sufficiency of Christ to provide anything (for apart from Christ we can do nothing) then we are not faithfully giving witness to the Scriptural understanding of "Christ alone" .
Michael Haykin rightly said, "It is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ's sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith."
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