Site Updated August 24, 2018

SYNERGISM vs MONERGISM

 

 

 

 

The misconception

 

James White tells his podcast listeners that William Lane Craig has a synergistic view of salvation. An example of this took place during an episode of the dividing line titled "William Lane Craig, the Lowered Bar, Molinism, and Erasmus". Dr. White said the following of Dr. Craig:

 

"I am a presuppositionalist and I'm reformed. He is a synergistic, arminian, evidentialist, so we do things very very differently..."

 

White, James. “William Lane Craig, the Lowered Bar, Molinism, and Erasmus” Alpha and Omega Ministries, podcast audio. June 7, 2016.

https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=67161524498

 

William Lane Craig has responded to a similar confusion/misrepresentation concerning the arminian/molinist view while in dialogue with Paul Helm in an episode of the "Unbelieveable?" podcast with Justin Brierley.

 

"Well I would strongly reject the charge that molinism or arminianism leads to some kind of synergism where we are partly to credit for our salvation. When Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 that "by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God lest anyone should boast", the word "this" is in the neuter gender in Greek. "Faith" is feminine so he's not referring to faith as the gift of God. Rather, commentators will say, it is the whole process of salvation by grace through faith which is the gift of God and nowhere does Scripture speak of faith as a work which we perform which merits salvation. Over and over again Paul opposes faith to works. Faith and works are opposite to each other and I think one of the mistakes calvinists make is thinking that if we exercise faith in God we have somehow performed a work and that's a very non-Pauline..."

 

Craig, William Lane. “Calvinism vs Molinism - William Lane Craig & Paul Helm” Premiere Christian Radio, Unbelieveable?, podcast audio. January 4, 2014.

https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Calvinism-vs-Molinism-William-Lane-Craig-Paul-Helm-Unbelievable

 

At that point Paul Helm steps in again to clarify that he did not say that faith is a work. Granted.

 

Whether or not the term "synergism" applies seems to boil down to how one defines synergism and monergism. If Dr. White defines synergism as including even faith alone which is biblically defined as non-meritorious, then the label of synergism fits Dr. Craig. But it seems that Dr. Craig does not accept this definition of synergism and instead takes synergism to mean some sort of meritorious co-working with God to bring about salvation.

 

Dr. Craig's response also applies to Dr. White's misrepresentation of the molinist/arminian view in places such as The Potter's Freedom by Dr. White. In The Potter's Freedom Dr. White says "...the Arminian position must hold to the idea that the unregenerate man can, to some extent, know, understand, appreciate, and in fact, accept, spiritual things so that the spiritually dead rebel can then cause his own regeneration by exercising true saving faith that is pleasing to God..."

 

White, James. "The Potter's Freedom". Amityville, NY: Calvary Press Publishing, 2000.

https://www.amazon.com/Potters-Freedom-Reformation-Rebuttal-Geislers/dp/1879737434

 

Dr. White would obviously reject the idea that faith is a meritorious work that causes salvation by being "pleasing to God" but, oddly enough, he doesn't seem to see that his arguments, like that above, are based on implicitly painting faith as just such a meritorious work that is "pleasing to God". This implication in his argumentation is something that is not consistent with Dr. White's actual views on faith as presented in other contexts. On the one hand, Dr. White wants to affirm, along with scripture, that faith is not a meritorious work that pleases God. On the other hand, he argues that the sinner cannot do anything good or pleasing to God that causes the sinner's salvation. But it is only in the implications of Dr. White's argumentation here that faith is cast as something that "causes" salvation in virtue of being something "that is pleasing to God". Scripture and Arminians reject the categorization of faith as being meritorious in the sense that it is "pleasing to God" as a sort of quasi-good work and even Dr. White himself rejects it outside of the implications of these particular arguments for calvinism.

 

We can conclude that this sort of implicit branding of faith on the part of Dr. White and others is, as Dr. Craig said, "very non-Pauline".

 

And we will end with the words of Charles Spurgeon as quoted on Dr. White's own website in an article titled "The Empty Hand of Faith". Contrast the following words of Charles Spurgeon with Dr. White's characterization of faith as quoted above. Notice Dr. White's emphasis when arguing for calvinism vs Spurgeon's emphasis which Dr. White quoted and affirms.

 

"Faith is chosen by God to be the receiver of salvation, because it does not pretend to create salvation, nor to help in it, but it is content humbly to receive it. Faith is the tongue that begs pardon, the hand which receives it, and the eye which sees it; but it is not the price which buys it. Faith never makes herself her own plea, she rests all her argument upon the blood of Christ. She becomes a good servant to bring the riches of the Lord Jesus to the soul, because she acknowledges whence she drew them, and owns that grace alone entrusted her with them."