Is Man Totally Passive Prior to Monergistic Regeneration?

March 7, 2018

By Ronnie Rogers, Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church Norman, OK

It is common to hear a knowledgeable and consistent Calvinist contend the lost are totally passive in salvation until they are monergistically (God alone) born again.[1]

For example, James Montgomery Boyce says, “In this sad and pervasively sinful state we have no inclination to seek God, and therefore cannot seek him or even respond to the gospel when it is presented to us. In our unregenerate state, we do not have free will so far as ‘believing on’ or ‘receiving’ Jesus Christ as Savior is concerned. In fact, such is our slavery to sin that we cannot understand our need of Christ until God first gives us spiritual understanding. Even faith must come as a gift, because prior to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit our depravity renders us impotent to cooperate with God’s saving grace.”[2] (italics added)

The Westminster Confession states, “This effectual call [to salvation] is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed by it.”[3] (italics added)

Therefore, according to Calvinism, God’s grace leaves man absolutely incapable of responding to the gospel or even perceiving anything about the gospel, his need, or being influenced toward the gospel by anything; anything includes what anyone does prior to God causing him to be born again—quickened. Since man is totally passive and salvation is monergistic until after regeneration (one is born again) is accomplished, we must see every gospel offer, acceptance or rejection, pleading, persuasion, shed tear, sense of urgency to receive the gospel, or biblical condemnation for rejecting the gospel in light of this tenet of Calvinism. This is because none of these have a meaningful relationship to a person’s salvation prior to regeneration.

Any suggestion of or inclination toward believing some activity such as faith, prayers, witnessing, evangelism, love, or devoted parenting has any effect upon a person’s salvation is an illusion. This is because a person cannot be active and passive at the same time in salvation. Monergism prior to regeneration absolutely excludes man’s active participation in any way because that would be a synergistic relationship. Any speech by Calvinists that obscures this harsh reality is misguided and problematic.

As an Extensivist,[4] I believe God’s sovereignly predetermined salvation plan provides sufficient grace for man’s organic participation so that such things as faith, prayers, witnessing, the gospel, and choice precede and are inextricably and substantively related to election and being born again.[5] God organically uses preconversional workings and man’s grace-enabled choice to have an actual chance to accept or reject the gospel, the conviction of Holy Spirit, and the power of the gospel in bringing a person to accept the gospel. God’s eternal salvation plan accomplishes the salvation of individuals by comprehending these activities so they are constitutionally related to election, faith, regeneration, and the entire grace work and process of salvation.[6]

The problem with Calvinism’s belief that man is totally passive is that when one reads the Scripture, without such secret knowledge, it clearly appears that other realities such as testimonies, persuasion, miracles, particular sins, and the freedom to believe or not believe do actually exist and do substantively matter. To wit, they are related organically to whether or not someone exercises faith in God or withholds such trust at that time.

Calvinists often emphasize that these things matter in Calvinism by noting that God ordained the process. While it may be true that he may have ordained the process, they still do not seem to matter in a substantive way since Calvinism also argues that salvation, to the point of regeneration, is monergistic—God alone does something—and man is totally passive. It seems that a person cannot coherently argue man is active in a substantive way while simultaneously and adamantly arguing God alone is active and man is totally passive prior to regeneration. This is also evident in unconditional election unless unconditional does not mean unconditional, which would mean regeneration is conditional. The emphasis upon God using the process does not solve this dilemma if nothing means nothing. Aristotle reminded us of how nothing, nothing really is. He described nothing as what a box of rocks thinks about. If this is not what Calvinists mean by nothing, then they do in fact include something and are therefore not monergistic Calvinists.

Therefore, in order to respect the due emphasis of Calvinism’s rejection of faith as a condition for regeneration because they deem such to be a work or virtue, love to extol monergism (God alone), man’s passivity, and initial belief in the gospel not happening until God via regeneration produces the will to believe in the elect, we must be equally careful to disallow any suggestion by Calvinists that anything influences man toward the gospel. Because that reality does not exist until God bestows the will to believe, and the lack of God’s bestowal of the will to believe is the only deciding reason why others do not believe.

For that reason, according to Calvinism, people only seemingly reject the gospel because of the elevation of the traditions of man above Scripture (Matt 15:3 & 6), love of preeminence (Matt 23:6), respect of men (Luke 11:43), lack of miracles (Matt 11:21), love of riches (Matt 19:22–23), Satan’s blinding (1 Cor 4:4), false philosophy (Col 2:8), or vain religion (Jas 1:26). In like manner, no one is even minutely inclined toward accepting the gospel because of such things as hearing the gospel, witnessing the lives of godly parents, people praying for them, or any influence of Christian family or friends. If Calvinists do allow for such in any meaningfully influential way, then salvation is not monergistic and man is not totally passive until God causes him to be born again; one simply cannot have it both ways.

If Calvinism is true, one could throw bananas at the lost or sing the national anthem of Bangladesh in Swahili, and it would have the same effect upon the lost as praying, witnessing, or hearing the gospel. I recognize that such would be against God’s commands for the Calvinist to preach the gospel, witness, or pray, and that the Calvinist would therefore be disobedient to such commands; however, that still does not help to extricate the Calvinist from the predicament, which is that in Scripture, the aforementioned things do seem to meaningfully relate to one’s salvation.

Admittedly, these biblical realities in Extensivism do make God’s work of salvation far more complex than the deterministic plan suggested by Calvinism, but I for one believe God is up to the challenge. Now, I do not mind so much that my Calvinist brethren disagree with me, but I do find it quite telling when they are unable even to entertain how a sovereign God could create man with otherwise choice and concomitantly comprehend that in His salvific plan without resorting to a works salvation. Additionally unsettling is that they unequivocally contend for monergism, and yet, they simultaneously and frequently speak, pray, and write in very synergistic terms. To say this differently, they quite doggedly contend for compatibilism and vociferously castigate libertarianism, but often and quite confusingly speak libertarianly.

Further, Calvinists can rightly affirm their belief in “whoever will may come.” But they should be equally clear that their understanding of total depravity (requiring a new nature given to the elect in regeneration) and man’s passivity prior to such time when God gives him the “will to believe” and the “belief” (faith), that man will only disbelieve because that is all he can do. To wit, no amount of prayers, persuasion, compelling testimonies, a Christian living a life dedicated to Christ before a lost person, or rearing children in a godly home has even a micro whit of salvific benefit; that is, if man is passive, monergism is true, and unconditional election have any meaning at all.

Thus, in Calvinism, “whoever will may come” is only trivially true. In other words, yes whoever will may come if they had a different nature, which of course the non-elect do not and will not ever have, and that by God’s good pleasure and design; even the elect cannot will to come prior to monergistic regeneration. Consequently, when a Calvinist attributes a person’s rejection or acceptance of the gospel to anything other than God’s deterministic salvific will, it is only trivially so (makes not one whit of actual difference in who believes and who rejects). This reality is inextricably related to their adamant unflinching insistence upon monergism and the passivity of man. Euphemisms or double talk will not assuage this truth except for the unsuspecting.

In contrast, I believe the Scripture clearly teaches encounters with the gospel are reliable (they are what they seem to be) and involve accessible benefits which can be rejected or accepted by the hearer. They should be accepted according to God’s grace through a spiritual paupers’ trust (Eph 2:8–9) in order to escape our just dessert of incalculable eternal peril.

For example, in John 4:39–42, the Scripture explicitly states that Jesus’ words did influence the Samaritan woman to believe in Him; at least that is her testimony (vs. 39). Equally clear is that her testimony and words influenced the people of Samaria to believe in Him, at least that is their testimony as recorded in Scripture (vss. 39,41–42), but not if Calvinism is true. If Calvinism is true, these explicit assertions are only incidentally true rather than essentially related to these individual’s faith as indicated because faith cannot be considered to be even minutely related to anything other than, or even existing prior to, monergistic regeneration. Accordingly, if Calvinism is true, they were all under a grand delusion, which Jesus did nothing to dispel; I fear we must all realize we too are equally deluded. This is not reading into Calvinism, but rather a serious attempt to respect their dogmatic tenets for which they brand we who reject Calvinism of being guilty of adding works to salvation, making salvation a work of man, undermining God’s sovereignty, or giving God’s glory to man (all of which, if true, are blasphemous).

Two other examples: first, John 7:17. Jesus actually made knowing the truthfulness and understanding of His words dependent upon a “desire to do His will,” thereby placing man’s will to desire prior to knowing; I desire and exercise faith in order to understand. Gerhard Maier says, “In an irreversible way it deduces understanding from obedience.”[7] We see in the passage that some chose not to desire (vs. 30) and some chose to desire and believe (vs. 31). Second, in Mark 10:17–22, Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler gives every indication of Jesus offering a real opportunity to follow Him. The declination of such is explicitly attributed to the young man’s unwillingness to follow because of his concern for his wealth (vs 22–23, 25, 28–30); an unwillingness which the passage indicates could have been otherwise. It is important to note that vs. 21 says Christ “loved him.” It seems unimaginably dreadful to believe that Christ truly loved him, and yet withheld the very enablement he needed to obey His commands (Rom 2:8; 2 Thess 1:8). Jesus’ offer of “treasures in heaven” (vs. 21) in place of his treasures on earth seem to be made with the most sublime sincerity.  One thing is certain, this pericope does not intimate in any sense that Christ actually developed the plan that inviolably prohibited man from obeying the call to follow him and thereby inherit eternal life.

© Ronnie W. Rogers 2018

[1] Some Calvinists use quickened or renovated. Some Calvinists do not believe the new birth precedes faith. Millard Erickson is an example of this perspective, Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 330. However, they all, including Erickson, believe God determinatively and monergistically works to bring the unconditionally elect to exercise a free act of faith, compatible style.
[2] James Montgomery Boyce, Phillip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace, Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, Original edition copyright © 2002 by Linda McNamara Boyce and Philip Graham Ryken, First printing, trade paper, 2009), 30 accessed 7/26/14.
[3] The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), Chapter X, Section II, found online at The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics,, accessed 7/24/14. I am specifically dealing with Calvinists who accord with Boyce and this confession in that salvation is monergistic until the quickening is accomplished.
[4] I use the term Extensivist generally to include all who would fall under the category of “non-Calvinists”. More specifically I would define an Extensivist as someone who believes that man was created in the image of God with otherwise choice and that God’s salvation plan is comprehensive, involving an all-inclusive unconditional offer of salvation and eternal security of the believer; reception of which is conditioned upon grace-enabled faith rather than a narrow plan involving a limited actual offer of salvation restricted to the unconditionally elected, or any plan that, in any way, conditions salvation upon merely a humanly generated faith from fallen man.
[5] Organic participation or relationship speaks to the complex relationship of libertarian freedom and God’s preconversional grace enablements working according to his grace plan so that salvation for each person is available and undetermined. These are organic in that they all do really matter as a part of his grace plan. Some components are substantively related, which means if one or more of them is not present the outcome may, and probably would, be different. The outcome of this organic relationship is that man is saved by non-determined, and non-meritorious faith. For example, we may say the prayers of a grandmother were instrumental in a person’s salvation; by this we mean if the grandmother had not prayed, the person may not have been saved at that time.
[6]Being constitutionally related means to be essential and sequentially incorporated into the structure of God’s salvation plan. This means since God’s work of salvation is a grace work, every aspect of the plan exists and functions according to his grace; therefore, such things as prayer, witnessing, listening and faith are not human works or virtues, but rather, they are grace components.
[7] Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method, trans. Edwin W. Leverenz and Rudolph F. Norden (St. Louis: Concordia, 1974), 54.

A Country With a Reprobate Mind

March 6, 2018

By William F. Harrell
William F. Harrell Ministries

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Dr. Harrell’s personal website and blog and is used by permission.

Millions of people are scratching their heads these days and wondering what in the world is wrong with America. It seems that up is down and down is up. We have lost our direction morally and spiritually and don’t know where we are going. It gets more and more confusing and discouraging day by day. It is not the desire to of this writer to paint a gloomy picture but when one faces the realities of today, there is hardly another position to take. We have, quite effectively placed ourselves outside the arena of the blessings of God. We claim to be a Christian nation but the rest of the world takes a dim view of Christianity when they observe the actions and moral positions of America.

I am of the opinion that God is primarily withholding his wrathful judgment upon the United States because of the vast number of people who ARE faithful Christians and who are trying to hold onto the foundational Judeo-Christian principles upon which this country was founded. He set this kind of precedent in the Old Testament when he was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorra if even ten righteous people could be found in it. Even though God has not ventured into the area of wrathful vengeance upon our sinfulness, He is judging this nation harshly and most of the citizens are so removed from Him and His Word that they are unaware of what is really going on. People have become so accustomed to living with transgression against God that they are no longer offended, and they think that God has seen so much of it that He really doesn’t mind it much anymore or care about it. How wrong they are.

I think what has happened is that God has turned the “collective mind” of this nation over to a reprobate mind. He is letting us “stew in our own juices” and will allow us to keep on going until we destroy ourselves. We have leaders who are so wicked and undone that it defies words. And, wicked leaders can lead wicked people to do anything and not bat an eye. In fact, they will wonder why others object to their actions as they are unable to discern the error of their way. Romans 1: 21-32 is an accurate description of who we are as a country today. This nation has largely doesn’t want to be bothered with what God says on an issue. They do not “like to retain God in their knowledge.” They have chosen their way and it does not take God into account. So, I believe He has done what happens next in Romans 1:28….He has turned the nation over to a reprobate mind. He is letting America go wildly into destruction.

There are those who are still hopeful. I desire to be. They think that there is going to somehow be a turnaround. They can’t imagine that God would deal harshly with a nation which has been so blessed. I think that the more He has blessed us is going to be the measure of his judgment because we have “thrown His blessings back into His face.”

The only thing which will save America at this point is a profound visitation of God upon us that would result in a massive revival and return to Him. Sorry, but I am concerned that we have come too far. It is too messed up. Too many cultures. Too many wicked leaders who have betrayed the American people. Too many religions have been assimilated, accepted and adopted. Too much materialism. Too much narcissism. Too much political correctness which is dumbing down the people and numbing the nation to reality is infecting the nation with a false conscience which has no common sense. My concern is that we have come too far. We now have a majority of the populace which can’t think for themselves and don’t want to. They can be told anything and are spoiled to everything. When people begin to see themselves as a nation of one, then the nation as a whole is in danger. I am concerned that the United States is like the Thanksgiving turkey. It is DONE. You can stick a fork in it and the world is getting ready for the meal. Our leaders have let us down. They think only of themselves and have abandoned the trust placed in them in order to preserve their little kingdom. They see themselves as a nation of ONE.

The only thing which will save America is a profound visitation of God upon the hearts and minds of people. No one is beyond his reach. No nation is immune to revival unless it adamantly refuses to be led by God. There is no limit to the degree of correction that can be made if we will listen to and follow God’s Spirit. He is the only one who can save us at this point. Even some of our Congressional members have correctly stated that the nation has gone too far and that the only way we will be saved and survive is if God does something. There have been great awakenings before and we should be praying that there is one more left. But, I believe that God, in order to get our attention, is going to have to bring us to our knees in a way we have never experienced before. We are no one special. He is not a respecter of persons. He owes us no excuses and, as stated above, I think He is holding off simply for the fact that there are millions of Americans who are Christians holding onto Jesus for hope and redemption. We need to hope and pray that He does not finally let us go because when He does there will be no limit to our destruction.

The root problem is that God is no longer considered by the leaders who are taking us down the Primrose Path to destruction. When political correctness has made of us a people who are expected to accept human activity which is abhorrent to God then we are on that Primrose Path. When judges ignore the will of the majority to impose a politically correct judgment which favors the ungodly, then we are on the Primrose Path. When our leaders keep on doing the same things even though those things are not working and bringing confusion, then we are on the Primrose Path. When the people fail to stand up and say “enough is enough” then we are on the Primrose Path. When God is ignored we are on the Primrose Path. We had better find the right Path and find it soon or we will look, act and think like Europe before we know it. More than that, we will find ourselves, once the greatest nation of history, as refuse along the roadway of history to be viewed with pity instead of revered for our example of greatness.

Some will say that I am a doomsday prophet. No, I only wish that what I am observing were not true. I am facing reality and that is something few people want to do today. I am praying for God’s intervention and for our willingness to follow Him out of this morass. I urge all Christians to pray fervently that the next “Great Awakening” will take place and soon.

Pelagianism: The Boogie Man

March 2, 2018

By Leighton Flowers
Director of Apologetics for Texas Baptists

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Soteriology 101 and is used by permission.

If I had a dollar for every time I was accused of being a “Pelagian” or “Semi-Pelagian,” I would have at least enough money to put my eldest through college and for that, I would be grateful. At least it would serve some practical purpose.

Typically, the accusation comes from those who are less informed about the historical use of these labels and their actual meanings as it relates to our current soteriological disagreements.[1] So, let’s get educated. Continue reading