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Synergism Belongs in a Car Dealership, Not in Divine Salvation . . .

The “Calvinism-Arminianism” debate is substantially a debate between what is called “synergism” and “monergism.” For those who are new to this debate, the following is an instructive primer on the two perennial branches of theological systems in Christianity. Or to put it another way, there are two very different ways for believers to understand their salvation.

In general, the first type, Arminian-Synergist, affirms what is called “synergism.” It teaches that two forces in the universe are necessary to bring about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, the two forces at work (cooperation) that are necessary to bring about regeneration, or spiritual life, is the human will and the Holy Spirit (grace).

To put it another way, the work of the Holy Spirit is dependent on the creature’s will, hence, “synergism” (working together). These individuals will sincerely say, “I believe in grace alone.” But in reality, they believe that grace is not alone (sufficient), but that the human will is necessary for regeneration to be effective.

It could be said that these individuals are “functional” Arminians because even though some will deny the label, their theology functions synergistically; thus, how they identify themselves is inconsistent with what they teach and believe.

The second group of believers, Calvinist-Monergist, affirm what is called “monergism.” They believe that there is only one force in the universe (grace alone) that brings about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, because of the deadness of the spiritual human will (i.e. moral inability), the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of spiritual resurrection (regeneration) in that person; hence, “monergism” (one work). Grace is sufficient to be effective, and does not depend on some action of the human will.
In other words, the Holy Spirit does not merely whisper in the hardened sinner’s ear and hopes that the rebel sinner will “cooperate”; rather, while the sinner is in a state of hardness and rebellion, the Holy Spirit penetrates into the human will and performs the miracle of spiritual life (regeneration). That is grace alone. Faith does not precede regeneration, regeneration precedes faith.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13

He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47

Arminians cannot affirm monergism (grace alone); they must always have the creature’s will as the final determiner of their destiny, not God. Inconsistently, Arminians pray, without knowingly, as a Calvinistic: “God, change the unbeliever’s heart.” I have never heard an Arminian pray: “God, only whisper in the unbeliever’s ear, but don’t change their heart unless you’ve been given permission by the unbeliever.”

The Calvinist prays and affirms biblical truth consistently.

 

 

Pastors, Cut Your Sermon Prep Time in HALF! I Am Serious…

I want to piggyback on Michael Kruger’s “You Don’t Think Learning the Biblical Languages is Worth It? Think Again” and add a few comments of my own on the use of Biblical languages for pastors (and anyone who has a desire to learn them).

1. Pastors (I am not one) who actually know how to read the biblical languages (not consulting “Vines”), will tell you that they save many hours of sermon prep time because they are not dependent on secondary sources. If you know the languages you can bypass commentaries and other secondary sources because you possess the ability to work in the text without training wheels—bypass the middle man.

2. Speaking of commentaries, they are overrated, not to mention we are living in the dark ages of commentary writing; i.e. don’t equate how many commentaries that publishers produce with quality. I would rather have one good quality cigar weekly than a cheap cigar every day.

3. And even if you do consult a commentary, journal article, monograph, or the LOGOS library after your linguistic analysis of the biblical text, you are in the position to evaluate them—that’s right they are fallible, including Hebrew and Greek lexicons! I often hear people cite BDAG and other lexicons as if they are inspired and descended gold-plated from the Greek gods themselves. Lexicons are interpretive; and just like commentaries they often repeat each other. I give you permission to critically evaluate these resources. May there be a day when pastors and other students of the Bible will not perform “LOGOS-gesis”—typing in a biblical reference and poof uncritically incorporate your LOGOS results in your sermon…uhg.

4. Don’t learn the biblical languages to be able to “translate.” There are plenty of good translations out there. Why not use them if that is what you are looking for? Learn the biblical languages because you want to read Hebrew and Greek, yes? And read it aloud! Which brings me to my next point.

5. Don’t use the Erasmian pronunciation system that is taught by the vast majority of seminaries today; instead, use the Modern pronunciation or at least Randall Buth’s Koine Reconstruction system. This is a whole other topic that I will write a blog article for. But I really believe that the Erasmian pronunciation is a major impediment to learning Greek and retaining Greek. So many more seminarians will retain their Greek if they learned to read or listen to it aloud with the Modern system. This is what I listen to about every day. If you do use the Erasmian, it only takes a week to switch over to the Modern system. Well worth it, trust me.

6. I recommend Rodney Decker’s first year Greek grammar coming out in November, Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook. Stanley Porter also has an excellent first year grammar. I realize that Mounce’s grammar is the most popular; but don’t confuse popularity with what is the best. Mounce’s traditional understanding of the verb system is flawed in my opinion, as well as the opinions of many other Greek scholars including Decker and Porter.

7. As far as an intermediate Greek grammar I highly recommend Stanley Porter’s Idioms of the Greek New Testament. I realize Wallace’s grammar is the most popular, but, again, don’t confuse popularity with what is the best.

Okay, that’s it. Save on prep time so you can focus on other aspects of pastoral ministry!

 

A Biblical Case for Calvinism…

This article is worth printing out and giving to your Arminian friends!

Many Arminians labor under the misapprehension that the case for Calvinism begins and ends with Rom 9. In my observation, that’s common due to their self-reinforcing ignorance of the exegetical literature.

In this post I’m going to quote a number of Reformed prooftexts, in canonical order, then quote interpretive comments by various scholars. So the post has a simple structure: I quote a text of Scripture, then I quote one or more scholars expounding the passage. Taken by themselves, Reformed prooftexts might seem to beg the question by presupposing a Reformed interpretation thereof. (Arminian prooftexting is open to the same objection.) I’ve gone beyond bare prooftexting to provide exegetical arguments for the Reformed interpretation.
I’m doing this in part for the benefit of laymen who don’t have easy access to the best modern commentaries. But it’s also useful to have some of this material collated, at one’s fingertips.

Although both Calvinists and Arminians have their one-verse prooftexts, Reformed theological method is based less on snappy one-liners than tracing out the flow or argument or narrative flow of larger blocks of Scripture (e.g. Gen 37-50; Exod 4-14; Isa 40-48; Jn 6, 10-12, 17; Rom 9-11; Eph 1-2, 4).

I’ll quote Calvinists, Arminians, an open theist, and some scholars I don’t know how to classify. All the quotes will support or be consistent with Reformed theology. You might wonder why a non-Calvinist scholar would offer an interpretation consist with, or supportive of, Calvinism. One reason is that some commentators compartmentalize exegetical and systematic theology. They think you should interpret each book on its own terms, without shoehorning passages into a harmonious system of doctrine. Likewise, some scholars think some verses are more Calvinistic while others are more Arminian. They don’t interpret one in relation to the other. In addition, some liberal scholars don’t think Scripture has a consistent theological message.

This post is not exhaustive, either in terms of Reformed prooftexts or supporting arguments. It’s a sampler. It understates the exegetical case for Calvinism.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE