The following here at Apprising Ministries is adapted from Recovering Reformation Theology: Rejecting Synergism and Returning to Monergism (RRT) by Bob DeWaay at Critical Issues Commentary. DeWaay is pastor of Twin City Fellowship “a non-denominational evangelical Church located…in St. Louis Park, MN.”

Some may also recall DeWaay from his debate with emerging church leader Doug Pagitt, pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, MN. The short synopsis of DeWaay’s RRT below is designed to shed some initial light on “the contemporary evangelical movement [which proclaims] that revival [as well as individual salvation] can be engineered” using what essentially amounts to “modern marketing principles.”

In this very well-researched article—which you can read in its entirety here—DeWaay will say:

This theological perspective is fully at odds with the doctrines of the Reformation. The Reformers taught human inability and bondage to sin. They taught monergism (that salvation is fully an act of God) not synergism (that salvation is a cooperative effort between man and God). They taught that only a sovereign work of grace (grace alone) brought salvation…

Most people, based on their own perceptions, assume synergism to be true. They assume that though God made it possible for people to be saved, it was something in them, apart from any special work of grace, that caused them to “accept Christ” as they say… [But w]e must gain our theology from the Bible, not from our interpretations of our own experience. The Bible does not teach synergism, but that salvation is an act of God…

Synergists may say that salvation is 99 percent from God and 1 percent from man, but the 1 percent part that is man’s doing determines who is saved and who is not 100 percent of the time… This is what most of the evangelical world believes today. It is, however, a rejection of Reformation doctrine including the solas… The reason Roman Catholicism, and other synergistic theologies teach prevenient grace is to avoid Pelagianism (a system of doctrine that denies that Adam’s sin nature is passed down to His descendents). The Bible has so much material on universal human sinfulness, that teaching human ability would embarrass most people who claim to believe the Bible (though it did not seem to bother [Charles] Finney).

To avoid teaching that sinful man is fully able to come to God without a work of grace, the doctrine of prevenient grace was introduced. “Prevenient” comes from the old English term “prevent” that meant “go before.” The idea is that God universally sends prevenient grace to all humans that undoes the sin nature just enough to make it possible for them to choose to believe the gospel.

The alternative to synergism and prevenient grace is monergism and efficacious grace. God effectively saves, by his power alone, all those who He has elected for salvation. Rather than believing that God is trying His best to save every individual but failing most of the time, the Reformation doctrine is that God’s purposes do not fail. Since salvation depends on God alone, through Christ alone, by faith alone, through grace alone, it ultimately gives all glory to God alone. These beliefs are found by holding Scripture alone to be God’s authoritative revelation. These are the solas (Latin for “alone”) of the Reformation…

Synergist Christians want to give glory to God and mostly do not want to boast (though sometimes you would not think so given the lyrics of so many man-centered “worship” songs one hears). But their doctrine creates a temptation to boast in man because ultimately their own decision is the only reason they are saved and someone else is not. The doctrine itself does not give all glory to God no matter how sincerely motivated the synergist is to give all glory to God…

It is undeniable that the trend in evangelicalism is to be more man-centered. Robert Schuller issued a call in the 1980’s for a reformation based on man-centered rather than God-centered theology. The most popular evangelical writer and pastor today, Rick Warren, presents his version of Christianity as a journey to discover one’s purpose that reads like a journey of self-discovery. It stands to reason that if we believe that salvation is a cooperative effort between God and man like Rome taught, we end up with a man-centered theology…

The doctrine of sola fide [faith alone] is near and dear to all evangelicals—historically. There are those today who doubt the reality of damnation and future judgment. Such persons have a much different notion of what salvation means. If salvation means finding a better life in this world, then “faith alone” does not make much sense. It doesn’t take faith in Christ to find a better life in this world. Unbelievers often do that. But for those who take damnation to be real, salvation by faith alone is a glorious and cherished doctrine.

This doctrine is rarely lacking in published statements of faith.
But, as with the other solas, this one is being compromised. Non-Catholic synergists assert that “faith alone” is a true doctrine. But they usually deny that faith is a gift from God given to the elect. In this denial, again they depart from the teaching of the Reformation. They usually claim that everyone has the ability to believe, only some choose to exercise it and others do not. This gets us back to human ability again, which is the root cause of many theological problems…

Bob DeWaay, Recovering Reformation Theology: Rejecting Synergism and Returning to Monergism

In video clip below you will hear for yourself Robert Schuller and Billy Graham express their own belief in synergism, which DeWaay has outlined above:

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