A Conversation With Myself: Why I Speak Against Monergism

by pjamesbeardsley

Much of what you’ve written in the theological vein is very anti-Calvinist, or more broadly, anti-monergist.  Why?  Aren’t there other heresies to decry?

Yes, there are many other heresies to decry.  Monergism is a unique one, at least to me.  It’s a belief held by some people that I love and care about.  People who either are close to me or have been.  People who ostensibly truly believe in their hearts and minds that they love, worship, and care about the cause of the One True God.  People who do read the Bible and books about the Bible.  Who go to church.  Who give of themselves.  Who are not ashamed of their faith.  I hate to see such people be so wrong about this critical aspect of Christianity.

Critical?

Critical might be a strong word to use there.  Might.  At a minimum, I’ll say important.  The most fundamental truth of Christianity is,”Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Almost nobody, I suspect nobody, who calls himself or herself a Christian, when confronted with that simple statement, will deny it.  Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Restorationists, Reformers, Eastern Orthodox, Calvinists, and Arminians do not deny it.  That’s not all though: Arians, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Modalists and other sets of folks that most in the former list would not call “Christians” won’t deny it either.  Perhaps those in the latter list would deny it upon further reflection, and I’ll emphasize perhaps, but if given that statement and asked, “True or false?” the vast majority would instinctively reply “True.”  It’s a very short statement, and almost seems trivial to many Christians.  They confess such a thing, and should, but I don’t know if some folks realize just how many unique statements (and this list is not exhaustive) are extracted from that one:

(1) Jesus (referring to Jesus of Nazareth) is a Christ.
(2) There is only one Christ.
(3) God has one, and only one, Son.
(4) That Son is Jesus.
(5) There is one, and only one, God that has the attribute of “living”.
(6) The God to Whom Jesus is the Son is alive.

These things are a very big deal in Christianity.  Deny any one of them, and you cannot say, “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  That’s why I say many in the second list, upon further reflection, might deny it.

That doesn’t at all explain why a false belief in monergism is critical, or even important.

It does if you understand statements (1) and (2).  What is this “Christ” thing that Jesus is? It’s a six letter word in and of itself, and only a six letter word in English.  What’s important is the meaning of that word.  The set of stuff to which that word refers. You can say, “Jesus is a Christ and there is only one Christ,” but if you believe that “Christ” means an anthropomorphic coffee maker who is an expert in fencing and a sexual deviant, then the statement lacks the meaning it has in Christianity, and you would be very wrong. There are thousands of years of texts written on it, and a man could spend quite literally an entire lifetime reading and pondering them.  There are likely dozens, if not hundreds, of such texts sitting in the Vatican Library that haven’t been touched for centuries.  So even if I could rehash the extent of it, I won’t.

The Christ is the One who was foretold by the prophets: the Messiah.  The Anointed One.  The One who would be born of a virgin.  He’s also the One who would deliver a synergistic, not monergistic, salvation that is all to God’s glory (Isaiah 9:4).  Therefore, to deny that the salvation that came by Jesus is synergistic is very arguably to deny that Jesus is the Christ.

Well I can see why you say “critical,” but I don’t understand why you would consider reducing it to “important.”  Regardless, that seems like a bit of a stretch.  It seems like you’re saying that without a proper Christology or soteriology, a man is not a Christian.  Many good Christians don’t even know what “Christology” or “soteriology” even are, let alone have a complete, accurate, Biblical definition of them.

Let me be clear then.  I’m not saying that.

It sounds like you are.

Well I’m not.  First off, I’m not out to pass judgment on folks, at least not at this time (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).  Second, if someone doesn’t know that salvation is synergistic or understand it, I see no reason to believe that such a person is not a Christian.

Well then why is it so important or critical?

Because there is a huge gulf between simply not knowing or understanding that the salvation Jesus delivered is synergistic and actively denying that it is.  Not knowing or understanding isn’t preferable to knowing and understanding, but there’s a big difference between those and actively denying.  To actively deny that the salvation Jesus delivered is both synergistic and all to God’s glory is to deny that Isaiah 9:4 refers to the One God proclaims shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God. Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), which can only be the Christ.

How could that be anything but critical?

Because it equates being, not necessarily correct, but at least not actively wrong, about one aspect of Jesus with having faith that Jesus is the Christ.  There are many aspects to the Christ.  Can somebody be actively, clearly wrong about one aspect of Jesus and still have saving faith Jesus is the Christ?  If so, how many are they allowed to be actively wrong about?  The truth: I don’t know.  That’s why I say it’s important at a minimum, and might be critical.

Muslims believe in Jesus, and call Him a prophet.  Christians do too.  But Muslims don’t believe that Jesus is the begotten Son of God.  This, too, is one aspect of the Christ.  The heavily monergist Gospel Coalition thinks that’s sufficient to say they don’t believe in the same God.  I’m not saying they’re right or wrong, I’m just saying the logic is much more nuanced than they make it out to be.

So, that’s why

Yeah, that’s why.  In all truth and love, I call upon monergists to repent.  Christians are to be in unity with one another, but in unity with one another in the true, Biblical Christ.  Not a god according to their own understanding.

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