A Response to the Synergist Challenge

Last week I issued a Challenge to Synergists to ask how and why it was (according to their view) that unregenerate persons, responded differently to the message of the gospel: some believe and others do not. (I received one written response from a synergist brother to the list of questions which I will share with you below.)

To recap, while synergism does believe grace to play a cooperating role in a persons new birth, yet, unlike monergism, it does not believe regeneration is by grace alone. Instead, to the synergist, it is grace plus the response of our fallen autonomous self which makes us to be born again. So when we scrutinize the position carefully it becomes apparent that grace plays the same role in the one who ends up as a believer as the one who does not ... so this synergistic grace does not carry with it the power to believe and thus only makes available the offer of salvation for natural men to choose or reject Christ of his own innate faculties and natural ability. In the challenge my intent was to prove that the synergist must, by definition, either believe in a salvation that is by merit or by sheer chance.

As a reminder, I asked the following questions:


Here are the answers to some of the above questions by a synergist visitor (followed by my responses):

(Synergist) [What principle made the one man choose to believe?]
Nothing made him choose. No principle, no power, no word. Nothing forced him to choose, but we could say that the gospel was presented "not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power that his faith would not rest on the wisdom of men but the power of God" (I Cor. 2:4-5). In other words, God confronted him with the Reality of Himself. He chose to embrace Reality rather than the world's illusions.

But why did he embrace Reality as opposed to the world's illusions? Your answer reflects a common response among those who hold to the synergist position. It breaks down because it erroneously concludes that there is no reason whatsoever that we are disposed to choose one way or another. The reality is that everything happens for a reason. Our choices are always driven by what we desire the most. Our greatest desires always determine what we choose (Matt 7:17, 18). This brings us to the reality of your position. It comes down to what is called a belief in "chance". If there is no reason for our choice to believe then we do not live in a reasonable universe. In the above statement you explained that our choice is governed by nothing of necessity, which can lead to only one conclusion: that it must be by sheer chance. If there is "no principle" or "power" by which we are motivated to believe or reject Christ, then you are embracing a fatalism of chance. If there is no inward motivation or greater desire to believe one way or the other then it is no different than saying that there is no reason that one chose one way or another. One just happened to believe the gospel and the other just happend to reject it. Of this line of reasoning Donald J. Westblade said,

"Champions of the will's self-determination [to believe the gospel] preclude themselves by their premises from arriving at any ultimate answer to why we find ourselves disposed to will in the way that we do. Proponents of God's absolute sovereignty over the will, conversely, are prepared to attribute our malign dispositions to sin, and even those, like our better dispositions, ultimately to God."

This alone should be enough to dismantle your position and exposes its clear difference with the Scripture. For the Bible never says we are saved by chance, as you appear to be saying here ... and having heard this line of reasoning before I am sure I have not misunderstood you. In your view, one just chose Christ over the world, sort of like the flipping of a coin--- no real reason except mathematical probability or fluke. Again, the Scriptures teach that our choices are indeed determined ... but determined by our greatest inward desire. Now why do some have this desire for God and not others? Where did he get it? Did we generate it ourselves, apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit?

Next Question

(Synergist) [Why is it that one unregenerate person believes the gospel and not another?]
One person is more resistant to God's efforts to win his trust than another. The sources of this resistance are manifold: commitment to a certain evil habit, a desire to bow the knee to no one, pride, etc. Essentially, it is a choice to "suppress the truth in unrighteousness"
(Rom. 1:18), or to "not receive the love of the truth" (II Thess. 2:10). Also, since no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him, it's a reasonable assumption that in many cases the elect, unregenerate person receives more powerful instruction than the non-elect. Please observe that I say, "instruction," because this is how Jesus describes how the Father draws people (John 6:44-45).

Well, this contradicts your first answer above since you are now giving a reason for choosing one way or another, but lets take it on its own merits. I asked you why one man believes and not another. Your answer is pride and humility or willingness or unwillingness to break a certain bad habit that determines our eternal destiny. If one suppresses the truth by pride and not the other ... aren't you thereby basing the choice of salvation on something meritorious to be found in the character of that person? For the person who receives Christ is more naturally humble, and thus, more virtuous. If it is not grace itself that makes us humble then that humility can only be produced from our autonomous self. Some have the independent ability to exhibit this virtue while others do not. Why?

Your two views display that faith either it happened by chance or it must have been from an innate moral ability. Which is it dear brother?

If it is a commitment to an "evil habit" that keeps one unsaved, as you say, then it shows he loves sin more than God while the other, willingly abandons his evil habit for God because His love for God has become greater than his love for sin. Why is this? Again, your answer has only served to make my point. If one is more naturally virtuous than the other, since he fled his pride, is this why you claim he is now saved?. Does the ultimate reason for salvation, therefore, lie within himself, his virtue and natural abilities? Now it is clear that if this is the case you, therefore, believe a person's choice was made for a reason ... not chance ...that is, determined by his natural viture as expressed by his desires. Some people apparently have the ability or wisdom to see more clearly than others and thus exercise their will unto salvation. But God does not save us because of our merit or some virtuous thing He sees in us but because of his mercy alone. But in this scheme you are making faith into a work instead of seeing faith for what it really is: something that springs from the work of God in us; a temporal witness of God acting to bring us into the sphere of His covenant love. You have mistakenly made it a contribution and part of the price of your redemption. The fact that some make the choice and not others means that your choice itself, being independent from the work of God, is the sine qua non of salvation

The question of our choice is "why?" Is one more wise, or smart? By saying that one chooses and not another you admit, then, that one makes a better choice. And that is a good thing isn't it? The one who refused Christ made a sinful choice for he refused to love the truth. God is then, in your view, rewarding the man who, of his own hearts desires, made the better choice. If it wasn't "of himself" then why didn't the other make the same choice? Either your position promotes pure merit OR, as your first answers mentions, it all happened by the fate of the draw. The question is WHY? Why does one choose God and not another?

The reality is that one suppresses the truth because he loves darkness. (Notice the word "because") The other embraces Christ because grace gave rise in our heart to a love for God and the truth. To say there is no reason is to utterly abandon meaning in this world for the scriptures are clear that those who reject Christ do it for a reason. How could it be sinful to reject Christ if there were no reason for our choice? If we are not saved by grace alone then it is grace plus something (be it ever so small).

Final Question
[Was he able to generate a right thought, produce a right affection, create right belief while at the same time man #2 did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith to be saved?]

One man chose to depend on God and submit to His rule; the other chose not to.

Again, why?


"All that the Father gives Me WILL COME TO ME, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." John 6:37

"but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:26,27

"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 "But there are some of you who do not believe." ...65 And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." John 6:63-65

"When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." Acts 13:48


Click here to view the rest of the debate which rabbit trails off into the topic of being dead in sin vs. dead to sin