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Monergism describes the position in Christian theology of those who believe that God through the Holy Spirit works to effectually bring about the salvation of individuals through spiritual regeneration without cooperation from the individual. Monergism is most often associated with Calvinism (e.g., Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed) and its doctrine of irresistible grace and in particular with historic doctrinal differences between Calvinism on the one hand and Arminianism on the other.
Statement of the doctrine
Monergism states that the regeneration of an individual is the work of God the Holy Spirit alone, as opposed to synergism, which, in its simplest form, argues that the human will cooperates with God's grace in order to be regenerated. To the synergist, faith may arise from unregenerated human nature. Salvation is not complete until the individual performs some action(s). According to monergism, faith in Christ only springs from a heart first renewed by God. Among various arguments, proponents believe 1 Corinthians 12:3 to mean that no one can possibly confess Jesus as Lord apart from the Holy Spirit's prompting and conviction.
Since faith is infinitely beyond all the power of our unregenerated human nature, it is only God who can give the spiritual ears to hear and eyes to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel. God alone disarms the hostility of the sinner turning his heart of stone to a heart of flesh. It is God, the Holy Spirit, alone who gives illumination and understanding of His word that we might believe; It is God who raises us from the death of sin, who circumcises the heart; unplugs our ears; It is God alone who can give us a new sense, a spiritual capacity to behold the beauty and unsurpassed excellency of Jesus Christ. The apostle John recorded Jesus saying to Nicodemus that we naturally love darkness, hate the light and WILL NOT come into the light (John 3:19, 20). And since our hardened resistance to God is thus seated in our affections, only God, by His grace, can lovingly change, overcome and pacify our rebellious disposition. The natural man, apart from the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, will not come to Christ on his own since he is at enmity with God and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14). Shining a light into a blind man's eyes will not enable him to see, because eyesight first requires a set of healthy eyes. Likewise, reading or hearing the word of God alone cannot elicit saving faith in the reader (1 Thess 1:4, 5) unless God plows up the fallow ground of our hearts and the Spirit "germinates" the seed of the word, opening our eyes to see Christ's true beauty and excellency and uniting us to Him through a Spirit-wrought faith. The problem is not with the Word or God's Law but with man's prideful heart. The humility required to submit to the gospel is, therefore, not prompted by man's will but by God's mercy (Rom 9:16) since no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:63, 65). As an example of how the Spirit uses the means of the spoken word to disarm closed hearts, the Book of Acts records the work of the Holy Spirit during the preaching of the apostles and, in one instance, states that "the Lord opened her [Lydia's] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul," (Acts 16:14). The Spirit must likewise give all His people spiritual life and understanding if their hearts are to be opened and thus respond to Christ in faith. God commands all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, so the monergist believes in heralding the gospel indiscriminately. But no one will hear it UNLESS the Spirit gives them ears to hear.
Opposition to monergism
Synergists typically believe that God wills human beings to follow Him and leads people into the decision, but He does not determine the choice for the individual. Some synergists believe that because man is made in the "image and likeness of God," he has the ability to make free choices for good or for evil. Other synergists believe fallen man is by default unable to do good but God has extended grace to all people which gives them the ability to have faith in Christ (see prevenient grace). Either way, synergists believe individual salvation is a matter of individual, not divine, choice. Synergists look to various Biblical passages, such as the parable of the talents and the passage "If today you hear the voice of God, harden not your heart."
Some synergists believe that monergism is fatalistic. The argument is largely predicated on moral considerations, namely that there is no necessity to live in a godly and decent way and obey God's law if one cannot have an influence on his or her personal salvation.
Another argument against monergism is that it is comparable to the lottery; for the human being, the eventual outcome of grace could just as well be the result of drawing a lot or a divine whim.
- Monergism.com - Contains articles explaining and defending Calvinistic monergism.
- A Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God by Jonathan Edwards
- Two Views of Regeneration (chart) by John Hendryx
- The Work of the Trinity in Monergism by John Hendryx
- Jesus Teaches Monergistic Regeneration by John Hendryx
- The New Genesis by R.C. Sproul
- A Defense of Monergistic Regeneration by Gannon Murphy
- Monergistic Regeneration 2-Part MP3 Lecture by Art Azurdia