It is claimed that Arminians are synergists whereas Calvinists are monergists. I don’t strongly object to the label but I am not certain it is helpful; especially when it is concluded that Arminians save themselves. This is obviously incorrect. The dispute is not whether God is involved: he is; it whether we are involved.
Calvinists argue that God regenerates us prior to faith and that this regeneration is effectual. By this they mean that such people do not fail to come to faith and thus are saved. God must regenerate men because we are depraved and depraved men do not choose God; and because we are dead in our sins and dead people cannot choose God. Thus we are all estranged from God; God, for reasons known only to him, chooses a man; God regenerates the man who responds in faith; and God saves him.
The Arminian would disagree with this process but he also disagrees with the framework. The framework fits with the Calvinist worldview so to argue about whether regeneration precedes faith, or whether God’s regeneration is effectual, or whether depraved dead men can choose God assumes Calvinist concepts.
Arminians often argue for prevenient grace, but all that means is that God is, at all times, calling all men to repent: to turn away from their sin and follow him. Calvinists may wish to call this regeneration which they say is an ineffectual regeneration. Well if you wish. But it is not ineffectual because God is somehow limited in his abilities, it is ineffectual because of the nature of faith. Trust is something we have in God, not something that God is able to decisively bring about in man. God is certainly faithful, but men do not always believe that to be the case.
So back to synergism. The word is derived from syn (together) and erg (work). In science it means to work together, though theologically it means the combination of God’s grace (his work) and man’s faith; and faith is is not a work. So while God requires faith from me, the saving is all of him.
A father who is a mechanic has 2 sons whose cars are broken. The father asks his sons if they would like their cars repaired? The first son says yes and the father repairs the car; the other son says no so the father does not repair his car. Now neither son actually did any work on his car. Is the situation with the first son synergistic? Did the son do any work?
So do I mind being called a synergist? Not particularly. But to the extent Calvinists use it to misconstrue or misrepresent what Arminians believe it is unhelpful.
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