Making monergism make sense: reconciling divine sovereignty and free will

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

This article at Free Thinking Ministries was written by my friend Tim Stratton. In it, presents a view of God’s sovereignty over salvation without falling into the error of double-predestination.

Excerpt: (links removed)

Many reformed folks (freely?) choose to reject Molinism because they contend that this theological view “smells of synergism.” What is this stench that reportedly makes John Calvin turn over in his grave? Simply put, synergism is the view that man plays at least a small part in his own salvation process. Monergism, on the other hand, is the view that God is the author of salvation from beginning to end.

Since Molinism affirms that man is free to choose to reject God’s saving grace or not, many Calvinists jump to the conclusion and assume that Molinism must be synergistic. This does not necessarily follow.[1] Consider one possible model:

1- God, by nature, is a volitional unmoved mover who is free to choose between options in accord with His nature. (This is supported via the Kalam and the Argument from Time).

2- By God’s grace, humans are created in the “image of God.” By nature, then, we are free to choose between options in accord with our nature. (This is supported via the Freethinking Argument).

3- Adam & Eve freely chose to disobey God and this sin completely separates humanity from God. This is what it means to have a “totally depraved sin nature.” (Every aspect of man is separated from God).

4- In this state of depraved separation from God (sin nature), humans do not even know God exists if merely left to our own devices.

5- If humans do not even know God exists, then, left to our own devices and apart from God’s grace, it would be impossible to choose to love and follow God (thus, Pelagianism is impossible on this view).

6- God, in His love for all people, provides amazing prevenient grace to all people (Romans 1:20), writing the law on the human heart (Romans 2:15), conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-9), and draws all men (John 12:32). This is commonly referred to as “common grace.”

7- Therefore, by God’s grace, human nature has changed from a “totally separated from God nature” to a nature that has now experienced enough divine revelation (influences) allowing all mankind to start making some free and volitional choices in accord with our new nature; namely, to choose to resist God’s grace and revelation, or not.[2] Mankind is without excuse because we do not have to resist what God has made clear (Romans 1:18-20).[3]

[Note: According to Calvinist, Matt Slick (albeit inadvertently), Mark 4:10-12 implies that if an unregenerate person gets access to clear and accurate information, then they possess the ability to become Christians!]

8- If one does not reject or continually resist the grace and revelation God provides them, then God will continually provide more and more until the person reaches the point of “no return” and will become saved.

Thus, God does ALL the work in salvation from beginning to end on this Molinistic model; all the human can do is freely resist God’s grace and revelation, but he or she does not have to! The human does nothing to gain salvation apart from God’s grace on this Monergistic Model of Molinism.

I think that Stratton’s formulation above does indeed keep God as the sole initiator of salvation. And that’s good. But it also makes sure that human who resist God’s leading are responsible for their choice to resist God, and that’s good. We want salvation to be 100% by faith alone in Christ alone. But we don’t want God to be the cause of people not being saved. On Stratton’s view, God wants everyone to be saved. If anyone is saved, it’s because God did ALL THE WORK to lead them and secure their salvation with the death of Jesus on the cross. But, on Stratton’s view, humans do get a choice – the choice to trust God or not. And so, if a person is not saved, then it’s their fault – not God’s. This works.

Read his whole post, and see what you think about it.

7 thoughts on “Making monergism make sense: reconciling divine sovereignty and free will”

  1. It is interesting.

    I have always been experienced more people arguing that you can lose your salvation vs eternal security of the believer. So I have never spent much thought on the topics you mentioned.

    As a result I have little to add to your post as I don’t have any deep thought and have not completely formulated which side I lay I the topic.

    On the issue I mentioned I am strongly eternal security of the believer. But I have often been less committed to other points of Calvinist thought.

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    1. If it’s impossible to loose our salvation, why does Scripture waste any space on “falling away”?
      I don’t think we can easily sin our way out of grace, and I know that no one will pluck us from the Father’s hand, but what if we tell God to shove it and jump?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve interacted with Tim Stratton online before. He’s terrific. And brilliant. And a protégé of William Lane Craig’s at Biola.
    As for Molinism, I think it is THE way to go. God’s middle knowledge solves so many problems/paradoxes.
    I’ll have to talk about my take on eternal security some other time. Too big a topic for right now. Great post, WK.

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  3. Well, big issue right in the middle:

    “In this state of depraved separation from God (sin nature), humans do not even know God exists if merely left to our own devices.”

    is completely contradicted by Romans:

    “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

    God’s eternal power and divine nature can be “seen” (deduced/experienced) from looking at His creation by EVERY depraved human.

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  4. And secondly, I personally believe we can loose our salvation by unrepentant, persistent sinning. The list of bible texts warning Christians (!) is just too long to ignore, combined with all the texts commanding us to behave in certain ways. Even the Great Commandment of Christ to the Church has “disciple all the nations … teaching them to observe all things whatever I commanded you”.

    I prefer the view that we have to stay IN Christ, by trusting and obeying Him day-by-day. John : “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

    Hebrews: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

    Notice the WE in “if WE deliberately keep on sinning …”
    That should strike fear in all God-fearing Christians, as in Matthew:
    “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    Of course we can only do this by the power of the Spirit through God’s grace. We are therefore encouraged to live by the Spirit, not by our flesh. We reap what we sow.

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