Skip to content

Synergism and Monergism: Which one is scriptural?

for pdf file of this post click here

Does our salvation depend on (1) God’s Grace, or on (2) our own free-will, or on (3) both God’s Grace and our Free-Will? The first means that our salvation depends solely on God while in the second one we are the ones who decide whether we want to be saved. The third view implies both God and us contribute in our salvation.

To answer the above question Scripture (Romans 9:21-23) uses a metaphor of God as the potter while we are the clay. God molded us to become either vessel of beauty or vessel for menial use. Whether a piece of clay becomes a vessel of beauty or a vessel for menial use is at the sole discretion of the potter – as clay we can neither choose nor decide. Predestination, which means God is in control in everything, is a doctrine rooted in Scripture (Isaiah 46:9-10). In relation to our salvation, predestination means God from the very beginning chose those He wants to be saved or the Elect. Thus Election is predestination to heaven of the Elect.  In Matthew 25:34 Christ told the Elect (the sheep) to enter the kingdom of heaven prepared for them from the foundation (creation) of the world. Does God also do the same to those who will end up in hell or the Reprobate? Scripture says God desires salvation of all men (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). He has no intention to put any one in hell (Ezekiel 33:11) and His Grace brings salvation to all men (Titus 2:11) through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22). The phrase “prepared from the foundation of the world” is not applied to the goats (the Reprobate) in Matthew 25:41 – the verse plainly says that hell is prepared for the devil and his angels, not for them.

The debate on the relation between our free-will and God’s grace in our salvation did not start during sixteenth century Reformation. In early fifth century Pelagius and Caelestius taught that the Fall, i.e. when the first man (Adam) committed the first sin, does not affect all mankind. In other words there is no such thing as Original sin. We can achieve salvation (or sinless state in Pelagius terminology) using our free will – God’s grace has only optional role in assisting our free will. Against their teaching, now known as Pelagianism, St. Augustine (died in 430 AD), bishop of Hippo in North Africa, taught the Fall makes all of us born with Original Sin[1] which makes us inclined to sin and therefore unable to reach salvation without God’s grace. Augustine did not deny the existence of free will but unless it is moved by God’s grace we can do nothing [2]. He introduced what is now known as prevenient grace, i.e. grace that precedes our free will. Later some tried to have middle ground between Pelagianism and Augustianism – they admitted the existence of original Sin but we are still able to initiate our salvation using our free-will and only then God will assist us with His Grace, a necessity to achieve our salvation. In other words God’s grace, though a necessity, is not prevenient in our salvation. Their view is now known as semi-pelagianism. In a nutshell in pelagianism our salvation depends on our free-will while in semi-pelagianism it depends on our free-will and God’s Grace where free-will governs. There is no predestination in both pelagianism and semi-pelagianism because our salvation depends on us. Pelagianism and semi-pelagianism were condemned in the (second) council held in Orange (or Arausio) in southern France in 529 AD. Its 25 canons followed by conclusion [3] declared that (1) the existence of original sin, (2) prevenient grace from God makes us able to do good works, to obey His Commandments and to be saved, (3) God foreordained no one to evil.

Reformation gave rise to a new debate on the issue not addressed in the council of Orange, i.e. when God’s grace works in us (1) do we cooperate or work together with it using our free will or (2) are we simply passive which implies His grace alone works in us? The former is view is now known as synergism. Catholics and Arminianist [4] Protestants are synergists. The name Arminian came from Dutch theologian Jacob Harmensen or in Latin Jacobus Arminius (1560 – 1609). The latter (and opposing) view is now known as monergism. Protestants and “Bible only” Christians who adhere to Reformed theology (Calvinism) based on the teachings of John Calvin (1509 – 1564) and his successors are monergists. Both synergism and monergism teach that our salvation depends on God’s Grace, which implies there is predestination, both Election and Reprobation. This may surprise many monergists who tend to confuse synergism with semi-pelagianism [5] simply because synergism involves bioth grace and free-will.  They think this makes salvation of the Elect depend on their free-will, i.e. the error of semi-pelagianism. Yet Catholic beliefs on Election [6] state that prevenient grace given to the Elect is efficacious, i.e. it governs their free-will. It is Grace, not the Elect free-will, which is the primary cause of Election [7].The following two column table gives comparison between synergism and monergism:



Synergism is theological belief that we cooperate or work together with God’s Grace.

Monergism is theological belief that God alone, through His Grace, works in us.

When Scripture says we are dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13) it can be interpreted without making analogy to physical death. Scripture says the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4); and whoever sins is of the devil (1 John 3:8). Thus our sins do not entitle us to enter heaven.

Monergism is based on the interpretation of the phrase “dead in sin or trespasses” in New Testament (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13). Monergists draw an analogy between “dead” in those verses and physical death, i.e. a physically dead person obviously can do nothing.

After the Fall, human nature is wounded but not totally corrupted [8]. We still have free-will but without God’s prevenient grace we cannot use it to believe in Christ, to obey God’s command-ments and to be saved [9].

After the Fall, human nature is totally deprived [10]. We still have free-will but it always follows our sinful nature [11]. We are spiritually dead even though biologically alive [12].

The (Greek) word regeneration occurs only twice in New Testament (Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:5) and neither of them talks about being regenerated as understood by monergists today.

Catholics relate regeneration in Titus 3:5 to Sacrament of Baptism, through which we are regenerated [13] into new life (Romans 6:4).

Because men are spiritually dead God must first monergistically regenerate them. It is an instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Once they become spiritually alive they can come to Christ willingly, i.e. no kicking and screaming [14]. In other words monergistic regeneration must take place before faith in Christ [15]. This is how monergists of today understand regeneration.

The Greek verb sunergeo, meaning to work together, appears in New Testament five times, of which three are:

And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked [Greek sunergountos] with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen (Mark 16:20, RSV).

We know that in everything God works [Greek sunergei] for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, RSV)

Working together [Greek sunergountes] with him [God], then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1, RSV)

Scripture also uses corresponding Greek adjective sunergos, meaning fellow worker, eleven times, one of them is:

For we are God’s fellow workers [Greek sunergoi]; you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9, RSV)

Luther related regeneration with Baptism, i.e. he believed in Baptism of Regeneration [16]. Calvin understood regeneration as renewal of man, a process that includes not only divine act which originates the new life, but also conversion and sanctification [17]. Turrentin considered regeneration as renovation from corrupt nature and part of sanctification [18]. Hodge wrote that regeneration, renovation and conversion were used interchangeably and only later, regeneration was used to indicate the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life [19].

According to Sproul only regeneration is monergistic – the rest that includes conversion and sanctification is synergistic [20]. Berkhof [21] and Hodge [22] also taught that only regeneration is monergistic and we do cooperate after being regenerated. According to Boettner sanctification is joint work of God and man [23]. Horton, on the other hand considers regeneration and justification as monergistic. While he admits men are not passive during Sanctification he stops short from referring it as synergism [24].

Analogy of Synergism

Analogy of Monergism

When a man proposes to a woman of his choice and asks her to marry him, she voluntarily cooperates by saying yes while she remains free.  Being free means she can reject him, though she does not do it.  She is not under any obligation to marry him.

Thus in synergism efficacious Grace from God makes the Elect voluntarily cooperate using their free will, while they remain free.

When a mechanic decides to repair a damaged car, he/she will do all repair works by himself/herself.  The damaged car does not need to cooperate with him/her and there is no kicking and screaming from it either.

Thus in monergism God efficacious grace works alone to regenerate the Elect, who were spiritually dead.  No cooperation is required and no kicking and screaming either.

Against Synergism

Against Monergism

1. Synergism makes God’s grace depend on our free-will and this contradicts Scripture that says: So it [election] depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy (Romans 9:16, RSV).

This could be the most common but false charge monergists make against synergism.

Catholics do believe in Election. It implies the Elect will go to heaven only through grace of God. If they are the one who choose heaven then there is no such thing as Election.

God gives the Elect prevenient grace, which is also efficacious. The Elect co-operate with this efficacious grace for simple reason – because it is efficacious, not because they have stronger or better free-will than the rest (the Reprobate) [7]. Yes, they remain free, which means they can reject this grace, but they don’t do it for the same reason – grace given to them is efficacious. We call it efficacious grace for good reason – it is grace that always brings effect.
Thus in synergism salvation of the Elect depends on God’s grace, not on their free-will. There is no conflict between synergism and Romans 9:16.

Monergists also believe in efficacious grace or effectual calling – in fact they prefer this term to irresistible grace. Irresistible grace may cause misunderstanding [25]. To monergists grace is efficacious because the Elect are spiritually dead and remain passive while being regenerated.

Since many monergists believe only regeneration is monergistic and what come after it are synergistic, the same question can be applied to them: If the Elect become spiritually alive after being regenerated, do their conversion and sanctification, both require their co-operation, depend on their free-will or on God’s grace? If they answer both depend on God’s grace, then they should not have problem with grace-dependent synergism.

1. Monergism teaches that God from eternity unconditionally decided whom He will monergistically regenerate and therefore will be saved (the Elect) and whom He will bypass from being regenerated and therefore will end up in hell (the Reprobate).

As mentioned earlier Scripture plainly denies that God predestines any to hell but call all men for salvation. Keep in mind that according to Scripture (Numbers 23:19) God will fulfill what He says.

Standard reply from monergists is the word “all” in the above two verses and others (Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Timothy 2:4, 6; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9) does not mean all without exception, i.e. it refers only to the Elect. For example Berkhof wrote: the context clearly shows that the “all” or “all men” of Rom. 5.8 and 1 Cor. 15:22 include only those who are in Christ, as contrasted with all who are in Adam. If the word “all” in these passages is not interpreted in a limited sense, they would teach, not merely that Christ made salvation possible for all men, but that He actually saves all without exception [26].

But 1 Cor. 15:22 says “in Christ shall all”, not “all in Christ shall”. If “all “ in “in Adam shall all die” means absolute all, why the second all does not mean the same? Berkhof statement that interpreting “all” in the above verses will imply universalism (Christ saves all men or all men will go to heaven) is baseless. God offers salvation to all men does not imply that all men will be saved – some (the Reprobate) will refuse this offer.

Catholics believe that God does not give the Reprobate efficacious grace but He still gives all men sufficient grace. The Reprobate will end up in hell because of their own will, not because God wants them to be there [27]. Catholic position on Reprobation is Positive Conditional Reprobation [28]. Thus to Catholics the word “all” in 1 Corinthians 15:22 and Titus 2:11 means all men without exception and Catholics do not have problem with Christ statement about the goat (the Reprobate) in Matthew 25:41.

2. Synergism makes us contribute in our salvation through good works.

Co-operation does not imply contribution. For example, can the blind man in John 9:1 – 7 claim he contributed in his healing? He did co-operate with Christ by following His instructions but certainly he did not contribute. Does the Greek verb “sunergeo” (meaning to work together) in Romans 8:28 and 2 Corinthians 6:1 imply contribution? Can any missionary claim that his/her missionary works contribute to salvation of others?

Does Scripture say we are required to do good works? When one asked Christ what he must do to inherit internal life, His answer was (1) to love God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind and (2) to love his neighbor as himself (Luke 10:25-28) – both are embedded inside the Ten Commandments. Thus Trent’s Canon XX of the decree on Justification [29], which many monergists use as proof of salvation by works in Catholic teaching of salvation, simply echoes what Christ said.

As shown on the right column monergists would say that good works are required as fruit or effect of true faith, which is now known as Lordship Salvation doctrine.  Not all Protestants accept this doctrine – those who oppose it say it is no longer faith-alone salvation.

Does God reward our good works, which Catholics believe only possible with prevenient grace from God, with eternal life? According to Scripture the answer is Yes (John 5:25-29; Romans 2:6-7). Catholics consider this reward as God’s gift – it is not something we deserve like we deserve our wages through our daily works.

Catholics believe we will enter heaven if we die without any un-repented mortal sin – it depends neither on the amount of good works we do nor on the amount of sins we commit. Scripture says (1 John 5:16-17) there is deadly (mortal) sins and non-deadly ones. Those who die with un-repented mortal sin, even only one, will go to hell. Their good works, no matter how impressive and how many they are, will not save them (Ezekiel 18:24, 26). Since the reward of our good works, possible only with His prevenient grace, is God’s gift there is nothing unfair from God’s side when He does not take them into account if one dies with mortal sin. In the same way God does not take into account how many sins we commit if we die without any un-repented mortal sin (Ezekiel 18:21, 27-28). Keep in mind that without God’s prevenient grace, given through Christ by the Holy Spirit we cannot repent from our sin. Thus in synergism salvation is always by grace and not by works.

By grace alone through faith alone is the slogan of monergists. Thus monergists would say that our good works are neither necessary for nor the ground of our justification. It is faith alone that justifies and good works are fruits or outcome of faith-alone justification.

The question is: while good works are not necessary for justification are they necessary for salvation? In 1535 Luther wrote that works are necessary for salvation, i.e. faith saves inwardly while works save outwardly [30]. According to Turrentin good works are necessary for salvation [31]. He wrote that good works are required as means and way to possess salvation, they are highly necessary and without them salvation cannot be achieved [32].  Turrentin did explain why what he wrote above in no way contradicts justification by faith alone [33]. According to Hodge, good works are absolutely essential to salvation [34]. Berkhof wrote that good works are not necessary to merit salvation but they are necessary because they are required by God, as fruit of faith, as expression of gratitude, unto the assurance of faith and to the glory of God [35]. Sproul wrote faith alone justification is inevitably accompanied by works because it is not by faith that is alone [36]. If good works are necessary as fruit or effect of justification, the next question is what is the minimum amount or frequency of good works one must do?

In one video presentation [37] Sproul talked about carnal Christian, a Christian who has Christ as Savior but not as Lord. A spiritual Christian is the one who has Christ both as Savior and Lord. Sproul admitted that there is carnal Christians (cf. Romans 7:14-20). According to Sproul a “Christian” who completely carnal is not Christian but a Christian cannot be completely spiritual either. This implies a Christian is to be X % spiritual and (100 – X) % carnal. The question is what is the minimum X (0% < X < 100%)? Sproul did not address this question in the video.

Catholics believe that inclination to sin always remains with us after Baptism, which we can resist with the help of grace (1 Corinthians 10:30) [38]. Even if we commit sin, Christ gave the authority to forgive sins to His Church (John 20:22-23). To Catholics there are no issues of maximum tolerated carnality or minimum required spirituality or minimum amount or frequency of good works. As shown in the left column the only requirement to enter heaven is when one dies without un-repented mortal sin.

End Notes

  1. While Romans 5:19 gives allusion to Originalk Sin, the term Original Sin is not found in the Bible but it was not inveneted by Augustine.  In Against (or Contra) Julian (his letter to Julian, bishop of Eclanum in Italy and supporter of Pelagianism, full text available at, Augustine quoted testimonies of a number of early Christians who though did not call it Original Sin, testified the earlier and continuous existence of the doctrine.  Original Sin is the term used by Catholics and Protestants; Eastern Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, prefer to call it ancestral sin.
  2. Therefore, my dearly beloved, as we have now proved by our former testimonies from the Holy Scripture that there is in man free determination of will for living rightly and acting rightly; so now let us see what are the divine testimonies concerning the grace of God, without which we are not able to do any good thing.

    Augustine: On Grace and Free Will. Chapter 7

    For complete text check


  4. For more information on Arminianist’ synergism check:
  5. The difference between Augustine and Cassian [John Cassian, died c. 435 AD, was originator of semi-pelagianism] is the difference between monergism and synergism at the beginning of salvation. Cassian and semi-Pelagianism is, with respect to the sinner’s initial step toward salvation, decidedly synergistic. God makes his grace available to sinner, but the sinner must, with his infirm will, cooperate with this grace in order to have faith or to be regenerated. Faith precedes regeneration.

    Sproul, R.C.: Willing to Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will, page 73

    Robert Charles Sproul (born 1939) is president of Reformation Bible College, Reformed theologian, author of numerous books and founder of Ligonier Ministry ( What Sproul describes above is semi-pelagianism but he equates it to synergism.  There are Calvinists who understand the difference between synergism and semi-pelagianism. Check this site:

  6. There two views within Catholicism on Election, they are: (1) Unconditional (absolute) Election: God by His decree chose the Elect when He created the world without considering their cooperative free-will response to His prevenient grace.  It is followed by the Thomists, Augustinians and some Molinists.  Thomism is philosophical and theological teachings developed by St. Thomas Aquinas (died in 1274) and mostly by religious order he established, the Dominicans.  It was Dominican theologian Banez (died in 1604) who formulated Thomism teaching on relation between grace and free-will.  Augustinian is religious order established in 1274 bsed on St. Augustine teachings on monastic life.  Their teaching on relation between grace and free-will was developed by their members Noris (died in 1704) and Berti (died in 1766).  Molinism came from teaching of Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina (1535 – 1600) on relation between grace and free-will.  Extension of Molinism, referred as Congruism, was developed by Suarez (died in 1617), St. Robert Bellarmine (died in 1621) and Jesuit General Aquaviva (died in 1613).  Jesuit or Society of Jesus is religious order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556) in 1540. (2) Conditional Election: God chose the Elect when He created the world based on His Divine Foreknowledge of their cooperative free-will response to His prevenient grace.  It is followed by most Molinists and St. Francis of Sales (died in 1622).Other than Thomism, Augustinianism, Molinism and Congruism’ teaching on relation between grace and free-will, that of Ysambert (died in 1642), Habert (died in 1668), Tournely (died in 1729) and St. Alphonsus of Liguori (died in 1787) syncretizes all previous four and is therefore known as Syncretism.  For more detail of all those five teachings check Ludwig Ott: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pages 248-249 and/or Catholic encyclopedia at today the Catholic Church does not declare (1) which one of the above five is correct and (2) whether Election is Unconditional or Conditional.  They may remain as mystery as God may not reveal everything to us (Deuteronomy 29:29).
  7. So it remains true that grace is not efficacious because free will consents, but conversely the free will  consents because grace efficaciously premoves it to the willing and performance of a good act.Catholic Encyclopedia: Controversies on Grace: ThomismFor it is not the will which by its free consent determines the power of grace, but conversely it is grace which makes the free good act possible, prepares for it and co-operates in its execution. Catholic Encyclopedia: Controversies on Grace: Molinism

    For complete text check:

  8. Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a depravation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church # 405

  9. When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight

    Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1993

    If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

    Council of Trent: Canon III of the decree on Justification

  10. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

    Westminster Confession of Faith, IX.3

  11. after the fall, though the will itself remains free, its capacity for choice is limited by the sinfulness of human nature. Human beings retain the capacity of choice, but all choosing occurs in the context of sin.

    Donald K. Mc Kim (Editor): Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith, page 145

    As Calvinists we hold that the condition of men since the fall is such that if left to themselves they would continue in their state of rebellion and refuse all offers of salvation.

    Boettner, L.: The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, page 163

    Lorraine Boettner (1901 – 1990) was Reformed theologian and author

    However, after the fall, people are bent toward unbelief and sin. The heart chooses that which it approves and desires.

    Horton, M.: For Calvinism, page 39

    Michael Scott Horton (born 1964) is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California and Editor in chief of Modern Reformation magazine

  12. When we considered in an earlier study our condition of original sin, we used the biblical metaphors of death and slavery. By nature we are born into this world DOA, dead on arrival, spiritually although alive biologically. We have no inclination whatsoever in our souls towards the things of God – no interest, no passion, no love. We are dead. Because we are spiritually dead, we are slaves to the sinful impulses and lusts that drive our behavior. We are not just participation in sin; such a description is far too weak. The Bible teaches us again and again that we are slaves to sin. Sin is not only in our nature, but it is our master.

    Sproul, R.C.: Romans, St Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 188-189

  13. This sacrament [Baptism] is also called the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit [Titus 3:5], for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one can enter the kingdom of God [John 3:5].

    Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1215

  14. Calvinism does not teach and never has taught that God brings people kicking and screaming into the kingdom or has ever excluded anyone who wanted to be there. Remember that the cardinal point of Reformed doctrine of predestination rests on the biblical teaching of man’s spiritual death. Natural man does not want Christ. He will only want Christ if God plants a desire for Christ in his heart. Once that desire is planted, those who come to Christ do not come kicking and screaming against their wills. They come because they want to come. They now desire Jesus. They rush to the Savior. The whole point of irresistible grace is that rebirth quickens someone to spiritual life in such a way that Jesus is now seen in his irresistible sweetness. Jesus is irresistible to those who have been made alive to the things of God. Every soul whose hearts beats with the life of God within it longs for the living Christ. All whom the Father gives to Christ come to Christ (John 6:37).

    Sproul, R.C: Chosen by God, pages 122 – 123

  15. The Reformers taught not only that regeneration does precede faith but also it must precede faith. Because of the moral bondage of the unregenerate sinner, he cannot have faith until he is changed internally by the operative, monergistic work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is regeneration’s fruit, not its cause.

    Sproul, R.C.: Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, pages 23

  16. In Titus 3:5 St. Paul terms Baptism “a washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” In the last chapter of Mark we read that “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). And in this passage Christ declares that whoever is not born anew of the water and the Holy Spirit cannot come into the kingdom of God. Therefore God’s words dare not be tampered with. Of course, we are well aware that Baptism is natural water. But after the Holy Spirit is added to it, we have more than mere water. It becomes a veritable bath of rejuvenation, a living bath which washes and purges man of sin and death, which cleanses him of all sin.

    Luther: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapter 3

    English translation from Luther’s Works Vol. 22, page 284

    Baptism, then, signifies two things—death and resurrection, that is, full and complete justification. When the minister immerses the child in the water it signifies death, and when he draws it forth again it signifies life. Thus Paul expounds it in Rom. 6[:4]: “We were buried therefore with Christ by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” This death and resurrection we call the new creation, regeneration, and spiritual birth.

    Luther: The Babylonian Captivity of the Church

    English translation from Luther’s Works Vol. 36, page 68

  17. In one word, then, by repentance I understand regeneration, the only aim of which is to form in us anew the image of God, which was sullied, and all but effaced by the transgression of Adam. So the Apostle teaches when he says, “We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Again, “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds” and “put ye on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Again, “Put ye on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Accordingly through the blessing of Christ we are renewed by that regeneration into the righteousness of God from which we had fallen through Adam, the Lord being pleased in this manner to restore the integrity of all whom he appoints to the inheritance of life. This renewal, indeed, is not accomplished in a moment, a day, or a year, but by uninterrupted, sometimes even by slow progress God abolishes the remains of carnal corruption in his elect, cleanses them from pollution, and consecrates them as his temples, restoring all their inclinations to real purity, so that during their whole lives they may practice repentance, and know that death is the only termination to this warfare.

    Calvin, J.: Institutes of Christian Religion, III.3.9

  18. Rather, it [sanctification] is used strictly for a real and internal renovation of man by which God delivers the man planted in Christ by faith and justified (by the ministry of the word and the efficacy of the Spirit) more and more from his native depravity and transforms him into his own image.

    But because this real change of man is made by various degrees, either by efficacious calling (which carries with it the donation of faith and of repentance by faith and a translation from a state of sin to a state of grace); or by regeneration (which bespeaks a renovation of the corrupt nature); or by the infusion and practice of holiness, hence sanctification is now extended widely to the whole state of the believer and embraces also calling itself. In this sense, Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, often designates believers by “those who are sanctified” (tous hagiazomenous, Heb 2:11, 10:14). It is also taken more strictly and properly for renovation after the image of God. This follows justification and is begun here in this life by regeneration and promoted by the exercise of holiness and of good works, until it shall be consummated in the other glory. In this sense, it is now taken passively, inasmuch as it is wrought by God in us; then actively, inasmuch as it ought to be done by us, God performing this work in us and by us.

    Turrentin, F.: Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 2, page 689

    Francis Turrentin (1623 – 1687) was Swiss-Italian Reformed Theologian.

  19. In theological language, it is called regeneration, renovation, conversion. These terms are often used interchangeably. They are also used sometimes for the whole process of spiritual renovation or restoration of the image of God, and sometimes for a particular stage of that process.

    With the theologians of the seventeenth century conversion and regeneration were synonymous terms.

    By a consent almost universal the word regeneration is now to designate, not the whole work of sanctification, nor the first stages of that work comprehended in conversion, much less justification or any mere external change of state, but the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration, therefore, is a spiritual resurrection; the beginning of a new life.

    Hodge, C.: Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, page 3, 5

    Charles Hodge (1797 – 1878) was Reformed theologian.

  20. This view is clearly monergistic at the initial point of the sinner’s movement from unbelief to faith. The whole process, however, is not monergistic. Once the operative grace of regeneration is given, the rest of the process is synergistic. That is, after the soul has been changed by effectual or irresistible grace, the person himself chooses Christ. God does not make the choice for him. It is the person who believes, not God who believes for him. Indeed the rest of the Christian life of sanctification unfolds in a synergistic pattern.

    There is much confusion about the debate between monergism and synergism. When Augustinianism is defined as monergistic, one must remember that it is monergistic with respect to the beginning of salvation, not to the whole process. Augustinianism does not reject all synergism, but does reject a synergism that is all synergism.

    Sproul, R.C.: Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, pages 73

    Sanctification is not monergistic. It is synergistic. That is, it demands the cooperation of the regenerate believer.

    Sproul, R.C.: Chosen by God, page 131

  21. Regeneration, then, is to be conceived monergistically. God alone works, and the sinner has no part in it whatsoever. This, of course, does not mean, that man does not co-operate in later stages of the work of redemption. It is quite evident from Scripture that he does.

    Berkhof, L: Systematic Theology, page 473

    Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957) was Reformed Systematic Theologian

    But though God only is the author of conversion, it is of great importance to stress the fact, over against a false passivity, that there is’ also a certain co-operation of man in conversion.

    Berkhof, L: Systematic Theology, page 490

    It [Sanctification] is essentially a work of God, though in so far as He employs means, man can and is expected to cooperate by the proper use of these means.

    Berkhof, L: Systematic Theology, page 532

  22. The act of grace which regenerates, operating within the spontaneous energies of the soul and changing their character, can neither be co-operated with nor resisted. But the instant the soul is regenerated it begins to co-operate with and sometimes, alas! also to resist subsequent gracious influences prevenient and co-operative.

    Hodge, A.A.: Outlines of Theology, page 448-449

    Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823 – 1886) was Reformed theologian and son of Charles Hodge

  23. Boettner, L: The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, page 172

  24. It is vital to distinguish the new birth (or effectual calling) from conversion. In the former, we are passive: acted upon and within by the triune God through the gospel. In the latter we are active (having been “activated” by grace), since we are raised from spiritual death to everlasting life.

    In conversion (unlike regeneration), we are told, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). This does not mean that in conversion our salvation shifts from God’s sovereign grace in Christ to our activity and cooperation, but that salvation that has been given is worked out by the same Spirit, through the same gospel, in a genuine relationship in which we become covenant partners who are now alive to God in Christ. Apart from our repentance and faith, there is no justification or union with Christ. Yet even this human response is a gift of the Spirit through the gospel.

    Does this mean that we are monergists at the point of regeneration and justification, only to become synergists thereafter? Not at all, our faith and grateful obedience are not only responses to God’s gift, but are produced in us from beginning to end by the same grace of God.

    Horton, M.: For Calvinism, page 110, 111

  25. I once heard the president of a Presbyterian seminary declare, “I am not a Calvinist because I do not believe that God brings some people, kicking and screaming against their wills, into the kingdom, while he excludes others from his kingdom who desperately want to be there.”
    I was astonished when I heard these words. I did not think it possible that the president of a Presbyterian seminary could have such a gross misconception of his own church’s theology. He was reciting a caricature which was as far away from Calvinism as one could get.

    Sproul, R.C: Chosen by God, pages 122 – 123

  26. Berkhof, L: Systematic Theology, page 396

  27. God predestines no one to hell; for this, a wilful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1037

  28. According to the teaching of the Church, there is conditioned positive reprobation, that is, it occurs with consideration of foreseen future demerits (post et propter praevisa demerita).

    The conditional nature of Positive Reprobation is demanded by the generality of the Divine Resolve of salvation. This excludes God’s desiring in advance the damnation of certain men (cf. 1 Tim. 2, 4; Ez. 33,11; 2 Peter 3,9).

    St. Augustine teaches: “God is good, God is just. He can save a person without good works, because He is good; but He cannot condemn anyone without evil works, because He is just” (Contra Jul. III 18, 35)

    Ott, L.: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, page 245

    Ludwig Ott (1906 – 1985) was Catholic priest and theologian

  29. If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.

    Council of Trent: Canon XX of the decree on Justification

  30.  I reply to the argument, then, that our obedience is necessary for salvation. It is, therefore, a partial cause of our justification. Many things are necessary which are not a cause and do not justify, as for instance the earth is necessary, and yet it does not justify. If man the sinner wants to be saved, he must necessarily be present, just as he asserts that I must also be present. What Augustine says is true, “He who has created you without you will not save you without you.” Works are necessary to salvation, but they do not cause salvation, because faith alone gives life. On account of the hypocrites we must say that good works are necessary to salvation. It is necessary to work. Nevertheless, it does not follow that works save on that account, unless we understand necessity very clearly as the necessity that there must be an inward and outward salvation or righteousness. Works save outwardly, that is, they show evidence that we are righteous and that there is faith in a man which saves inwardly, as Paul says, “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” [Rom. 10:10]. Outward salvation shows faith to be present, just as fruit shows a tree to be good.

    Luther: The Disputation Concerning Justification, from Luther’s Works Vol. 34, page 135

  31. Third Question: The Necessity of Good Works

    Are good works necessary to salvation? We affirm

    There are three principal opinions about the necessity of good works. First is that of those who (sinning in defect) deny it; such were formerly the Simonians and the modern Epicureans and Libertines, who make good works arbitrary and indifferent, which we may perform or omit at pleasure. The second is that of those who (sinning in excess) affirm and press the necessity of merit and causality; such were the ancient Pharisees and false apostles, who contended that works are necessary to justification. These are followed by the Romanists and Socinians of our day. The third is that of those who (holding the middle ground between these two extremes) neither simply deny, nor simply assert; yet they recognize a certain necessity for them against the Libertines, but uniformly reject the necessity of merit against the Romanists. This is the opinion of the orthodox.

    Turrentin, F.: Institutes of Elenctic Theology,

    Seventeenth Topic Sanctification and Good Works, Vol. 2, page 702

  32. Hence it is evident that the question here does not concern the necessity of merit, causality and efficiency – whether good works are necessary to effect salvation or to acquire it of right. Rather the question concerns the necessity of means, of presence and of connection or order – Are they required as the means and way for possessing salvation? This we hold.

    ibid, page 702

    For since the will of God is the supreme and indispensable rule of our duty, the practice of good works cannot but be considered as highly necessary (which the Lord so often and so expressly recommends and enjoins in his word). There is no need to refer to passages for they are so numerous. Let the following be specially consulted (1 Thess. 4:3, 4; 1 Jn. 4:21; Jn. 13:34; Mt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16; 2 Pet. 1:5-7, 10; Rom. 6:11, 12; 12:1, off.). And so far from leaving to each one the license of living according to his pleasure, it openly condemns and abhors it (Rom. 6:1, 2, 15; Gal. 5:13; 1 Thess. 4:7; 1 Pet. 2:16) and declares that believers are “debtors” who are bound to new obedience by an indissoluble and indispensable bond (Rom. 8:12; 13:7; 1 Jn. 4:11), not only by the necessity of the precept, but also by the necessity of the means.

    ibid, page 703

    For since good works have the relation of the means to the end (Jn. 3:5, 16; Mt. 5:8); of the “way” to the goal (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 3:14); of the “sowing” to the harvest (Gal. 6:7, 8); of the “first fruits” to the mass (Rom. 8:23); of labor to the reward (Mt. 20:1); of the “contest” to the crown (2 Tim. 2:5; 4:8), everyone sees that there is the highest and an indispensable necessity of good works for obtaining glory. It is so great that it cannot be reached without them (Heb. 12:14; Rev. 21:27).

    ibid, page 705

  33. Although we acknowledge the necessity of good works against Epicureans, we do not on this account confound the law and the gospel and interfere with gratuitous justification by faith alone. Good works are required not for living according to the law, but because we live by the gospel; not as the causes on account of which life is given to us, but as effects which testify that life has been given to us.

    ibid, page 705

  34. Although not the ground of our acceptance, good works are absolutely essential to salvation, as the necessary consequences of a gracious state of soul and perpetual requirements of the divine law. Gal v. 22,23; Eph ii.10; John xiv.21

    Hodge, A.A.: The Confession of Faith, page 196

  35. There can be no doubt about the necessity of good works properly understood. They cannot be regarded as necessary to merit salvation, nor as a means to retain a hold on salvation, nor even as the only way along which to proceed to eternal glory, for children enter salvation without having done any good works.  The Bible does not teach that no one can be saved apart from good works. At the same time good works necessarily follow from the union of believers with Christ. “He that abideth in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit,” John 15:5. They are also necessary as required by God, Rom. 7:4; 8:12; Gal. 6:2, as the fruits of faith, Jas. 2:14, 17, 20-22, as expression of gratitude, I Cor. 6:20, unto the assurance of faith, II Peter 1:5-10, and to the glory of God, John 15:8; I Cor. 10:31.

    Berkhof, L: Systematic Theology, page 543

  36. Justification is by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone. Saving faith is not a “lonely” faith, having no works following as a companion.

    Sproul, R.C.: Faith Alone, page 156

  37. An inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or, metaphorically, ‘the tinder for sin’ (fomes peccati); since concupiscence ‘is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1264




Leave a Comment
  1. FingersBackAtYou / Mar 18 2014 4:08 pm

    There are so many problems here…perhaps best summarized in your last paragraph on the left:

    “Catholics believe we will enter heaven if we die without any un-repented mortal sin..”

    Notice the complete absence of Jesus in that statement.

    The question is not what your mortal sins are, but rather what are you to do with all your sin? I pray that every Catholic would in true humility ask The Lord for the Holy Spirit’s guidance before reading this excellent piece on sin vs. “mortal” sin…

    Indeed, “Which one is scriptural?”

    • vivator / Mar 18 2014 5:56 pm

      Jesus is NOT absence in the statement “Catholics believe we will enter heaven if we die without any un-repented mortal sin..” First, Catholics repent from their sin through Sacrament of Reconciliation, which Christ Himself instituted (John 20:23). Second, we can repent only after being moved by God’s prevenient grace given through Christ by the Holy Spirit. If you have problem with Catholic grouping of mortal and not-mortal (venial) sins you should read 1 John 5:16-17 – it is scriptural. For obvious reason the link you provided ignore those verses – a common practice among those who share the same belief with you.

      • FourFingersBackAtYou / Mar 19 2014 7:34 pm

        There is no equating of the Catholic idea of “mortal” sin with 1 John 5:16-17.
        Despite what you say, the Catholic idea of “mortal” sin is not scriptural and goes far beyond the Word of God.

        The sin of presumption according to Rome is a mortal sin: “It may be defined as the condition of a soul which, because of a badly regulated reliance on God’s mercy and power, hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it, or for pardon of his sins without repenting of them.” Catholic Encyclopedia

        But is this what the Bible says?

        “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” Here the knowledge of eternal life is a ‘know so,’ not a ‘maybe so’ or ‘hope so.’
        This means that trusting in God’s promises of eternal salvation by faith alone consigns me to hell according to the bizarre theology of Rome!

        The Church of Rome itself is guilty of the sin of presumption… presuming it has the authority to enumerate what constitutes the fiction of “mortal” sin.

        1 Cor. 4:6 – “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.”

      • vivator / Mar 19 2014 8:33 pm

        Scripture is supposed to be your only authority but ironically you prefer to rely on the authority of your man-made church. 1 Cor 4:6 is even best applied to you because you are the one who goes beyond Scripture by rejecting the Words of God in 1 John 5:16-17 that clearly mentions mortal and non-mortal sins. You quote cleverly selected verses of Scripture to justify salvation by faith alone – the verse you cited does NOT say “who ONLY believe”. Do you really believe that if you have faith in Christ you will be guaranteed heaven even if you keep on sinning without repenting? That will explain why you are so strongly against sin of presumption!

  2. Steve Reid / Dec 24 2014 2:06 am

    Sola el Papa when thrown into the mix with Sola scriptura really deceives the uninitiated and the flesh gets pleased when people get their ears tickled with smooth humanism talk and not sound doctrine. I decided to enroll for a catholic seminar titled – “Finding God in nature” – a talk which confirmed my worst fears.

    • vivator / Dec 25 2014 12:33 pm

      The Bible says the foundation and pillar of truth is the Church (1 Tim 3:15) Isn’t that clear enough? There is no such thing as sola papa and neither is sola scriptura! You are the one who is deceived!

  3. Unio ChristI / Dec 27 2014 5:57 am

    what do you think about the non-compétitive view of aquinas

    • vivator / Dec 27 2014 12:32 pm

      Thank you for the given link. It is the first time I heard about non-competitive view of Aquinas. How to explain how God’s prevenient grace can work efficaciously while human remains free is not easy. The Catholic Church does not give dogmatic explanation and currently there are a number of views: Thomism, Augustianism, Molinism, Congruism and Syncretism. The detail of each can be found in Ludwig Ott: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma page 248 or (online) Catholic encyclopedia. I am not sure to which view what Aquinas wrote belongs to.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: