How many times have you heard that statement made? It’s often made with an air of superiority, as if the person making this claim has a completely biblical theology “untainted” by any theologian. Both the Calvinist and Arminian lay claim to the idea of Biblicism. Both systems of theology believe they are expressing the literal, historical, grammatical meaning of scripture within each system so it is a pejorative when you claim the Calvinist or Arminian is not a Biblicist. Rather than try and paint each other as a “Calvinist” or an “Arminian,” [not to mention Lutherans, Anabaptists and Roman Catholics] the discussion could be broken down into monergism and synergism.
A monergist believes the Holy Spirit will act effectually bringing sinners to salvation by spiritual regeneration. This is done without the sinner assisting God, period. From beginning to end the work belongs to God. A synergist on the other hand believes the sinner must cooperate in the salvation process. It is the act of the unregenerate sinner in believing that begins the process of salvation. One dictionary stated, “there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate.”
This is the hinge on which the discussion swings;
Do you believe a sinner must be saved purely by an act of God? or,
Do you believe a sinner is saved by cooperating with the Holy Spirit?
It has been my experience that when the statement is made, “I’m not a Calvinist or Arminian…I’m a Biblicist,” the person making the statement is in fact a synergist. Without knowing, their doctrines often mirror the views held by Arminians and it is with this in mind that I ask the following questions to help get to the bottom of the issue.
Questions on the Will
Do you believe that human nature was gravely affected by the fall of Adam, but that sinners have not been left powerlessness in spiritual matters and can choose to be saved?
Do you believe that God enables every sinner to repent and believe but does not override man’s freedom to do so?
Do you believe each sinner possesses a free will that they will use to decide their final destiny depending on how they uses it?
Do you believe the sinners free will enables them to choose good over evil in spiritual matters?
Do you believe the sinner has the power to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and be regenerated or refuse to accept God’s grace and perish?
Do you believe the lost sinner needs help from the Holy Spirit but does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit to believe? Or that faith is man’s act and precedes regeneration?
Questions about Election
Do you believe that God’s choice in election is based on what He foresees?
Do you believe that some sinners would respond to the preaching of the Gospel and God therefore elects them unto salvation based on His knowledge of their choice? Or that God decided to elect only those who would believe the Gospel?
Do you believe election is ultimately determined by man’s faith foreseen by God from eternity past?
Questions about the Atonement
Do you believe that Christ’s saving work on the cross made it a possibility for everyone single person that has ever lived to be saved but did not really secure the salvation of anyone?
Do you believe that Christ died for all sinners but only those who believe on Him are saved?
Do you believe Christ’s death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe?
Do you believe that Christ’s death did not actually put away anyone’s sin?
Do you believe that redemption becomes efficient only if man chooses to believe it?
Questions on the Work of the Spirit
Do you believe that the Holy Spirit calls inwardly all those who are hear the preaching of the Gospel?
Do you believe the Holy Spirit does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation but man is able to over power the Spirit and resist the call?
Do you believe the Holy Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes?
Do you believe the sinners free will limits the power of God the Holy Spirit in drawing sinners to Himself for salvation?
Do you believe God’s grace can be opposed and frustrated by the sinners free will?
If someone answers yes to some of the questions above it’s safe to assume they are a synergist. If they answer yes to half of the above questions they are definitely a synergist and if they answer yes to all of the above they are an Arminian…or something worse.
Information from this site was used to create the above questions as well as info from the Puritan Board.
Helpful definitions from YourDictionary.com:
Biblicist: 1. a person who takes the words of the Bible literally, 2. an expert on the Bible; specialist in biblical literature
theology: 1.the study of religious doctrines and matters of divinity; specif., the study of God and the relations between God, humankind, and the universe, 2. a specific formulation or systemization of religious doctrine or belief as set forth by a given religion or denomination or by one or more individuals
Calvinism: 1. Christian Theol. the doctrines of John Calvin and his followers, esp. the doctrine that the elect are predestined to salvation, 2. a set of religious practices and beliefs based on Calvin’s teachings, often associated with a stern moral code
Arminianism: a liberal Christian movement based on the doctrines of Jacobus Arminius, that stressed free will as opposed to Calvinistic predestination