Free Will and Synergism [01-13-05]

Today I received this unhappy letter from Peter, a synergist. He is responding to my essay on Monergism, in which, he accuses me of misrepresenting the synergist position. The following bold italicized script is the quote from my essay which he dislikes and his (and my) comments follow:

[In other words, synergists believe that faith itself, a principle standing independent and autonomous of God's action of grace, is something the natural man must add or contribute toward the price of his salvation.]

You begin your argument with an erroneous statement. You evidently, purposely, misrepresent what Synergism means so as to present your argument. You know what this error is called--- “STRAWMAN”. You erect a strawman by misquotation and then argue against this false premise. In other words--- you argue like a cultist. Sounds like you are trying, unsuccessfully, to defend Calvinism.

Synergists, as I understand it, believe in salvation BY grace THRU faith. Scripturally, GRACE and FAITH are synergistic. Faith is based on “free will”, which God built into man. This expression of faith, based on God’s gift of free will, is NON-meritorious (not works). Perhaps you don’t believe in free will either.

Faith is the key that opens the door to salvation in Christ. And “Faith comes by hearing” and the word of God--- the gospel expressed by the Holy Spirit--- is what calls, draws, man to express this faith toward salvation. TOTALLY of God’s grace not man’s work.

PS: Your "comparison chart" continues the error of building a strawman and attacking the strawman. You evidently delight in error and I have no hope of convincing you otherwise. Thus you need not respond.


Brother Peter:

Thank you for your email. Would you take the time to read my response? I am fully willing to hear what you have to say and respond to it. So please hear me out.

I believe it is important that we begin by defining terms like "free will" because it seems that you and I would broadly agree about the condition of man's will. You yourself admitted in your email [above] that the Holy Spirit is a necessary part of coming to faith in Christ, apart from which, no one would come of their natural ability. Simply put, no one naturally submits to the humbling terms of the gospel. So even you yourself admit that apart from a work of the Holy Spirit, man has no free will, that he is bound to sin - that he would always choose to rebel against God. The Holy Spirit is necessary, as you yourself have said. That is all that is meant when I say man has no free will. Man can freely choose to do whatever he wants. God does not coerce anyone to disobey him. Yet if left to himself, apart from any work of the Spirit, you would agree with me that man would never choose Christ. This is because he acts according to his nature. Similarly, God, who is holy, always acts according to His nature. He cannot lie, or be unholy simply because that is who He is. Likewise, man apart from the Holy Spirit has no desire to obey the gospel since His affections lie elsewhere (John 3:19-20).

If you will allow me, I would like also to defend my statement that you call a strawman. Here it is again:

[Synergists believe that faith itself, a principle standing independent and autonomous of God's action of grace, is something the natural man must add or contribute toward the price of his salvation]

Here is why I Believe it isn't a strawman. Try to work through this with me.

In the synergistic system, lets say two persons receive an equal amount of grace. In this situation one person ends up believing the gospel and the other rejects it. By your definition in your email "grace" is what calls and draws men to God, right?, and the people themselves under the influence of grace must make the final determination whether they will receive or reject Christ, as some can and will resist this call, am I correct?

This being the case, the crucial question is, why did one man believe the gospel and not the other? In your scheme, it is not grace that makes these two men to differ, but their faith. Now, was one smarter than the other? more humble? Any answer you give simply tells me that one person had an advantage of nature that the other did not. Did one make better use of the grace than the other? You see, the reason one ultimately chooses and not the other in your belief system of synergism, has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, but rather something innately superior in one and not the other. One was able to see God's unsurpassed beauty and not the other. Why? Where did this affection for God come from? If not from God then you must believe that it is drawn from self. But does an unregenerate man naturally love God?

When it comes down to it, isn't it GRACE ITSELF that makes us humble and willing? Isn't it God who first makes our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. We cannot believe while our heart is still like a stone, can we? We cannot see until our eyes are opened. We will not come to Christ unless something happens to change us. Otherwise we could boast and say, "thank you God for helping me. For this you get all the glory, but my faith was something I came up with on my own that my neighbor could not, and for this I get the glory." While no one would say this, deep down we think we made a better choice than another because of our own natual capacities and wisdom or whatever, apart from the Spirit.

See these clear passages from john 6.

37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

65And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."

"Come to me" and "believe" in me are synonyms here. The text says no one can come unless it is granted (universal negative) and then the other verse says "ALL who the Father gives to him will come" (Universal positive). This is an inescapable biblical syllogism that your only route of escape is to submit to Christ and His word, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Unless it is granted, no one will come, but all to whom it is granted WILL COME.

When we preach the gospel, the Holy Spirit must germinate the seed we cast in order for it to grow. The apostle Paul said that one [person] plants and the other waters, but it is God who causes the growth.

Hope this helps illuminate

p.s. if you can show from scripture that I am wrong (not unaided human reason), I will change my position. But it is clear that I have provided you with the Bible's unassailable logic and unless you can clearly show how my interpretation is wrong from Scripture and not just because you don't like it, then I suggest you consider that you may very well be wrong about your understanding.