Reclaiming Monergism: The Case for Sovereign Grace in Effectual Calling and Regeneration

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Reclaiming Monergism: The Case for Sovereign Grace in Effectual Calling and Regeneration

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Title: Reclaiming Monergism: The Case for Sovereign Grace in Effectual Calling and Regeneration
Author: Barrett, Matthew
Advisor: Ware, Bruce A
Abstract: This dissertation examines the doctrines of effectual calling and regeneration and argues that the biblical view is that God's saving grace is monergistic - meaning that God acts alone to effectually call and monergistically regenerate the depraved sinner from death to new life - and therefore effectual calling and regeneration causally precede conversion in the ordo salutis, thereby ensuring that all of the glory in salvation belongs to God not man. Stated negatively, God's grace is not synergistic - meaning that God cooperates with man, giving man the final determative power to either accept or resist God's grace - which would result in an ordo salutis where regeneration is causally conditioned upon man's free will in conversion and, in the Calvinist's opinion, would rob God of all of the glory in salvation.

Chapter 1 introduces the monergism-synergism debate by placing it within the contemporary evangelical context. Chapter 1 not only introduces the debate between Calvinists and Arminians but also introduces the recent attempt of modified views to present a via media between the two. Chapter 1 also presents the thesis and explains the parameters and presuppositions of the dissertation.

Chapter 2 examines the doctrine of monergism within the Reformed tradition. Rather than an exhaustive survey, chapter 2 selects some of the most important representatives from the Reformed tradition including: Augustine, John Calvin, the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Confession. In discussing these figures and confessions, chapter 2 provides the historical and theological context in which the Reformed argued against the synergists of their own day.

Chapter 3 turns to a biblical and theological defense of total depravity and effectual calling. Chapter 3 first begins with a biblical defense of total depravity and spiritual inability, as well as a brief discussion and utilization of Jonathan Edwards' understanding of free will (the freedom of inclination). Chapter 3 then seeks to argue for the thesis presented in chapter 1 by showing from Scripture that the Calvinist view of effectual calling is biblical.

Chapter 4 continues the argument from chapter 3 by focusing in on the doctrine of regeneration. Chapter 4 argues that regeneration is monergistic rather than synergistic, meaning that God's grace in regeneration is not contingent on the will of man to believe but God's grace works alone. Therefore, faith and repentance are the result not the condition of regeneration in the ordo salutis.

Chapter 5 seeks to give an accurate and fair presentation of the Arminian view(s), giving attention to the theological nuances among Arminians. Chapter 5 shows that there is diversity within Arminianism, so that there are those who hold to a "classical Arminian" view and there are those who hold to a Semi-Pelagian view. However, chapter 5 demonstrates that both views end up in the same place, namely, affirming the doctrine of synergism which makes God's grace contingent upon man's will.

Chapter 6 is a biblical and theological critique of the Arminian view. Chapter 6 shows that the Arminian doctrine of synergism is not found in Scripture, contradicts Scripture, and robs God of all his glory in salvation.

Chapter 7 turns from the Arminian view to examine recent modified attempts to pave a middle way between Calvinism and Arminianism. Chapter 7 shows specifically that attempts at a middle way borrow from Arminianism and consequently fall prey to an erroneous interpretation of Scripture. Chapter 7 shows that a middle way is biblically impossible and it also robs God of all his glory in salvation.

Chapter 8 concludes the dissertation by restating the thesis, summarizing the biblical data, and arguing that only the Calvinist view can preserve the glory of God to save sinners.

Three appendixes conclude the dissertation. Appendix 1 examines the Arminian and Calvinist views of the love of God and argues that divine love in Scripture is far more complex than the Arminian makes it out to be. God not only has a universal love for all people but a special, particular, and efficacious love only for the elect. Appendix 2 examines the Arminian and Calvinist views of the will of God and argues once again that the will of God in Scripture is far more complex than the Arminian makes it out to be. Scripture shows, it is argued, that God not only has a moral or preceptive will as well as a will of disposition but also a will of decree by which he effectually ordains all that comes to pass. Appendix 3 looks at the relationship between effectual calling and regeneration in the Reformed tradition and the diversity that exists among the Reformed as to how exactly describe this relationship. Appendix 3 presents and critiques each view, but pays particular attention to Michael Horton's recent proposal for "covenant ontology and effectual calling."

Date: 2011-05-16

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