Monergism vs Synergism
Been reflecting on this issue for some time and I must admit that it is intellectually stimulating on the topic of soteriology. The only drawback is that there is a tendency to turn away from the simple faith in Christ when pouring over this issue. I meant trying to rationalise and harmonise the thoughts can possibly be a distraction from knowing Christ, even though the ideal is to have exercise the intellectual and spiritual mind at the same time.
So what earth is monergism and synergism exactly? Simply put, monergism states that God is the only agent who effects the regeneration of christians (born again); while synergism states that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which cooperate. The critical difference is that for monergism, regeneration precedes faith; while for synergism, faith precedes regeneration. In plain English, the former states that if a man is saved, it is because God has already regenerated him so that the man will come to believe in Him willingly after being regenerated; while the latter states that God regenerate the man on account of his faith because the man willingly believes and trusts in His.
This reflection is not so much to defend either of the two positions commonly known as Calvinism and Arminianism, but rather to address the issue that we should not be overly distressed when we are lost or caught between the two positions. If you are looking for arguments for or against the two positions, you will be able to find some books that might interest you under the list of recommended readings. So let's see why we should not lose sleep worrying about whether Calvinism is right or Arminianism is right, and that we might not be saved if we believe in the wrong one.
If you will to take a look at the Monergism/Synergism Comparison Chart, you will see that we are either saved by works or by faith. Now the Scripture is very clear that we are not saved by works, and we will not go in depth to discuss about that. It is suffice to note that if we believe that we are saved by works and we actually work for it, when the fact is that we are saved by faith, then we will never work enough to be saved. On the other hand, if we believe that we are saved by faith (which results in works), when the fact is that we are saved by works, then we have no worries because we would have worked anyway.
It is the four scenarios relating to monergism and synergism that we want to take a closer look. Supposed we believe in monergism and the reality corresponded with our beliefs, we would be safe and saved of course! Supposed then we believe in synergism and the reality actually corresponded with our beliefs, we would again be safe and saved throughout. It might sound like stating the obvious, but we are only left with two scenarios to deal with. They are represented by a red and a blue triangle.
Let's turn to examine the red triangle first. Supposed that monergism is the underlying reality but we have been mistaken to believe in synergism, does that have any impact on our salvation? The answer is no. Since by the definition of monergism, anyone who comes to faith has already been regenerated by God (saved), it doesn't matter if one is a synergism advocator because he has merely recognise the source of his faith wrongly after he came to faith. As long as the synergism advocator does not believe in meritorious work and actually attempted to work for his own salvation, he will do fine. It is also worthy to note that faith itself is not considered as a meritorious work by the synergism advocator.
What about the blue triangle? Supposed that synergism is the underlying reality but we have been mistaken to believe in monergism, are we saved then? Yes, of course we are! Monergism does not say that God Himself does our believing for us, but rather He changes the direction of our will, such that we will voluntarily believe in Him. In practice, the monergism advocator chooses to believe but merely and wrongly attribute his faith to God's grace in the strictest sense, presuming that synergism is the actual underlying reality.
In conclusion, it is not an imperative to decide between monergism or synergism, Calvinism or Arminianism before one can be truly saved. This can be saved for later study in one's christian walk. The litmus test for salvation is whether one received it by faith; in contrast to working for it. This article in no way discourages further studies on this topic, but all the more suggests that we should seek to understand where our different brethren are coming from. If there is any wise saying, it is to be a practical arminian with a calvinistic outlook.