Sanctification: Monergistic or Synergistic?

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Gator_Baptist, Feb 23, 2010.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Gator_Baptist

    Gator_Baptist Puritan Board Freshman

    This is something that has been on mind a lot lately, and I wanted some guidance on the subject from other reformed folk.

    I know that all reformed folk will agree that justification is monergistic. But what about Sanctification? I am starting to think that it is monergistic for a couple of reasons. I read this Q & A from another website, and found it to be very convincing. And it appears to me that Ezekiel 36:27 would also indicate that as well.

    I wanted to put this idea out there and see if it would hold up to criticism, so let me know what you think.
  2. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I believe it is both. Sometimes God needs to override us in our sanctification. Here are a few passages for both.

  3. Gator_Baptist

    Gator_Baptist Puritan Board Freshman

    What do think of this argument that Philippians 2:12, 13 actually supports monergistic sanctification and not synergistic sanctification?

  4. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    The beginning of sanctification is monergistic, being regeneration and definitive sanctification.

    Progressive sanctification is synergistic with the regenerated soul co-operating with the work of Christ by His Holy Spirit in the soul.

    The end of sanctification is perfection at death, which is monergistic.

    All the glory goes to God because we would never want to co-operate in progressive sanctification without being monergistically regenerated.

    Progressive sanctification is definitely not some kind of "Let go and let God" situation.
  5. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

  6. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    If one does not like the term 'synergistic' in regards to sanctification, the word 'participation' might work. We participate in our sanctification in a way that we do not in our justification. I brought this up in a recent thread:

    Even though God causes me to love righteousness that does not mean I do not actually and truly love righteousness.


  7. Don Kistler

    Don Kistler Puritan Board Sophomore

    This is one of those "both/and" things. As Philippians points out, we work out what He is working in us, and we only work out *because* He is working in us. But it is important to remember that none of the commands in the Bible are given to God. Every one of them is given to us.
  8. EricP

    EricP Puritan Board Freshman

    Under the rubric that it never hurts to mention Puritan authors on the Puritan Board, the more you read of them the more you feel and see their pastor's hearts in dealing with the battle against the world and the work every Christian has to put into his sanctification. Law's A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, Brooks' Precious Remedies, Owens' Mortification of Sin etc all chime in well with the later likes of Ryle's Holiness--we are saved by the Father, under the accomplished work of our Savior, and we are assisted throughout our lives by His Spirit. He has given us the ability to respond to His call to fight for our sanctification to the death!
  9. TaylorOtwell

    TaylorOtwell Puritan Board Junior

    Good question.

    I'm struggling to see how it could be any less monergistic than justification. Though, perhaps I'm not understanding the nuances of the terms. For instance, if we say we co-operate through attending to the means of grace, is it not God who stirred up our hearts to attend to His means of growing us in spiritual life? Regarding justification, we willingly embrace Christ after our hearts have been regenerated by His sovereign grace; however, this does not cause us to call justification synergistic. In the same way, it seems that though we willingly participate in the means of grace, it is always God who stirs up our hearts to do so.

    Is this not orthodox? I understand that sanctification is not a "let go and let God" situation; however, is not every growth in grace, at the root level, because God is working in our hearts?

    *Edit* - It seems minds much stronger than my own differ with me... I'm willing to trust others judgment in divine things, but I'm still struggling with understanding how sanctification is not, at the root, monergistic. I checked Gill's Body of Divinity, and he seems to view sanctification in more monergistic terms, at least in its cause.

    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  10. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    :agree: Fundamentally, does a mature believer say that he had a role to play in his sanctification as it was he himself who participated with the Holy Spirit, or is it purely by the grace of God that he was willing to participate in the first place? Shouldn't human responsibility and God's sovereignty logically work in the same way for both regeneration and sanctification? I've heard of definitive and progressive sanctification before, and it seems to make a whole lot of sense, but I'm not fully convinced scripturally. Do we have scriptures to back up this distinction definitively? Then again, is there ultimately any practical purpose to understanding if sanctification is monergistic or synergistic, assuming mature believers exhibit humility and do not boast of how sanctified they are?
  11. student ad x

    student ad x Puritan Board Freshman

    Is prayer the means of co-operation?
  12. yoyoceramic

    yoyoceramic Puritan Board Freshman

    John Owen in Mortification of Sin

    Full Text Here
  13. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    This is big in my estimation. A lot of guys separate the the two when they shouldn't and make to many differences between when they shouldn't. Just my humble opinion. Many people do not understand Grace from the word Charis in my humble opinion. It is the word translated grace.

    I wrote these two older posts a long time ago.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2010
  14. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I accidentally deleted a post by someone that can be seen in my prior post.. It was by Reverend Winzer.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2010
  15. Gator_Baptist

    Gator_Baptist Puritan Board Freshman

    This is basically the way that I have understood it. And since justification and sanctification are pretty much inseparable, I think that sanctification has to be monergistic if justification is. But one way that I have heard it explained is that if there is an omnipotent being living in you, then He will get His way. Nothing will stop an unstoppable force from getting what it wants. And, so, if the Holy Spirit wants sanctification and holiness, then the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to obtain that and coerce my will to be subservient to His will. I know that may sound like quietism, but I am not saying that we should just sit back and wait. The way that I view it is that we should actively attempt to mortify sin, and then realize that it was 100% of the Holy Spirit apart from my cooperation.

    With that view, it sounds as if that puts me at odds with a lot of people here, but that could be due to ignorance on my part, which is why I asked the question in the first place. For those who are advocating for a synergistic view on sanctification, where would you find this idea in scripture? I am not fully convinced that Philippians 2:12-13 really says that sanctification is synergistic because I have found the argument made in the article that I posted above to be very convincing. Are there are any other places in scripture where this idea can be found or does the whole idea rest on a certain understanding of Philippians 2:12-13?
  16. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Is sanctification synergistic? It depends on how you are looking at. If your view is from the horizontal plane, than yes, sanctification is synergistic. If the vertical aspect is considered then sanctification is vertical. Philippians 2:12, 13 has already been quoted, but something has been missing in the discussion of this text.

    Paul commands the Philippians to work out their salvation. Only exegetical gymnastics could misunderstand the responsibility the individual has in walking in a manner worthy of his calling (Eph. 4:1). But the ability of the believer to walk in such a manner is because of the work of grace in their life. For it is God who is at work in you. Not only is He at work, but it is according to His will. This will is as much the decretive will of God as is the calling of His elect unto salvation. God is the One who is ultimately at work; perfecting the faith of Christian (Phil. 1:6). There is no doubting our participation, but it's the result of God's will, not consubstantial with it.
  17. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    Here is an excerpt from a J.I. Packer article:

    I agree with some of the previous posters that sanctification can be viewed as monergistic in that we could never be made holy in and of ourselves, however if the work were completely God's alone, then would not every saint be perfectly holy?
  18. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    Been looking at Romans 8:29 (For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.) and wondering if it applies at all to this debate. Also, how about Rom 9:15-16 (For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.)? Is the whole of Romans 9 limited to purely regeneration, or is there some truth about sanctification to be glimpsed as well? If we view sanctification in the same light as regeneration, then the answer as to why not all are equally sanctified will be the same as that for why not all are saved. Namely, that God chooses it to be so according to His own good will. Does this take our view of God's sovereignty too far? I'm just throwing some suggestions around, as I'm kind of on the fence.
  19. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I agree that a better word than synergistic could be used for progressive sanctification, since we would never co-operate at all willingly with the Holy Spirit in progressive sanctification if we hadn't been monergistically regenerated in the first place.

    So its down to the sole power of God (monergistiism) in

    (a) In bringing us to spiritual life from death in the first place.

    (b) In the Holy Spirit giving our new natures, which now have some inherent will to co-operate with Him, the power to make progress in sanctification.
  20. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman

    What if one doesn't cooperate in their sanctification? Can you be saved yet unsanctified?
  21. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Any cooperation by man is the result of the work of saving grace in our life. Yes, we do participate, or cooperate, in our sanctification. But we must be careful to understand that we can take no credit for obeying. The ability to obey God is also a work of grace. God still receives all the glory; just as He does in salvation. In fact, our sanctification is the working out of our salvation (Phil. 2).
  22. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman

    Sounds like the Roman Catholic view of justification/sanctification. Why are they wrong, but we are not?
  23. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    You misunderstand the Romanist view of sanctification. The Romanist view requires human effort (works). Works are as efficacious as grace according to Rome. The Protestant view considers our part in sanctification as a result of justification. The Christian will become more like Christ because he is able to (2 Cor. 5:17). God is working in the believer (Phil. 1:6; 2:13), as opposed to man working independent but in cooperation with God.
  24. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    Certainly not. That's antinomianism. Sanctified to varying extents, yes, but no evidence of sanctification means absolute death. We may bear different amounts of fruit, but if there is no fruit, we will be cast into eternal damnation. As for who are truly those bearing genuine fruit, God alone will judge.
    Matt 7:17-19 "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."
    Which is why, there is at the very least some degree of monergism in sanctification, unless we bring that aspect of sanctification into our definition of regeneration in itself. This is where the idea of definitive sanctification comes in I believe, and much of this debate is to sort out how it fits into the whole picture of God's sovereign will.
  25. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    The Romanist view is that we are justified by faith plus works. According to Romanist teaching it's grace working faith and our good works in us that gets us to Heaven or purgatory. It's thoroughly synergistic.

    The Protestant view is that we are justified by faith alone through grace alone. We contribute nothing to our justification.

    We are no more or less justified after years of progressive sanctification, or years in Heaven, than we were the moment we first trusted in Jesus , by God's grace.

    Protestants make a clear distinction between justification (which includes adoption) and sanctification, although you never have true justification without true sanctification or vice versa.
  26. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't see the difference between what you guys are saying about sanctification and what Rome says about justificiation/sanctification (which they don't distinguish). They don't believe in "works" in the sense of unaided human effort. They conceive of it in terms of God's grace working in a person, and that person's cooperation with that grace. Which is what I hear you saying about sanctification.

    Moreover, if one has to be sanctified to be saved, then the distinction between justification and sanctification breaks down. Just like Rome, you are saying that we need to cooperate with God's grace working in our lives in order to be saved. Simply putting that requirement later in the process doesn't change the end result.

    I don't mean to be dense, but this is how I am hearing it.
  27. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    What you are saying of RC justification/sanctification is contrary to what I've been taught about it thus far. Yes, they believe in God's grace, but it is not conceived in terms of God's direct workings with the hearts of the believers, but rather works through the sacraments and the Catholic church itself. On the second part, no, one does not have to be sanctified to be saved, but a saved person will naturally bear fruits due to his regeneration, which is always accompanied by saving faith and justification. Sanctification is not a requirement to be saved, but rather, it is something which shows that one has true saving faith. It's nothing but a symptom of the marvelous regeneration of God, albeit a very important symptom that never ever fails to appear.
  28. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman


    We understand the Roman system differently. There is the sacramental aspect, but there is also this other.

    On sanctification in salvation: If you require human action in sanctification, doesn't that make sanctification contingent on something that was not present in justification? If so, then how can one define sanctification as being the inevitable fruit of justification? If justification is monergistic, and sanctification flows inevitably out of it, then sanctification would be monergistic too, no?
  29. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    Would you care to show from the RC dogma how there is also "this other"? I'm not well-versed in it at all, so please show me what the RCs really think if you will.

    Justification is monergistic, and sanctification flows inevitably out of it, so there is definitely at least part of it that is monergistic. The debate here is whether all of it is monergistic, or if it only takes place to a certain extent (with the idea of definitive sanctification) with the rest of it being synergistic. It's also not entirely clear whether this portion that is monergistic should accurately be called part of sanctification or be considered part of regeneration, though it is definitely not part of justification.
  30. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page