Monday, December 8, 2008

Monergistic Incoherence

I'm at a loss exactly how to reconcile these two statements.
The Reformed position is that sanctification is monergistic
(followed by quotations from the Westminster Standards to support the claim)

And this, from the same individual, eighteen hours later, reacting to a quotation from a Reformed theologian who calls sanctification "synergistic":
I would expect that [the theologian]'s comments were aimed at countering "easy believism" in which people "get saved" and then sit on their laurels, waiting to be sanctified. Such an attitude is improper for a Christian, although the entire progress in sanctification is the work of God in our life.
But if sanctification is monergistic, then it is something that is done to you. So why on earth would you then say that waiting for God to do it is "easy believism"? How is that "improper" if monergism is presumed?

Now I happen to agree that the "easy believism" attitude is indeed "improper" to say the least. But how is the Catholic's synergism (which the individual in question rejects as some flavor of "Pelagianism") sufficiently different in kind as to warrant condemnation? He doesn't want Christians sitting on their rears waiting for God to make them holy - well and good. This implies that he expects them to strive to live holy lives - well and good. He insists that actually managing to live a holy life "is the work of God in our life" - well and good. There is not a thing in this that Catholics would reject, as far as I can tell.

I suppose the "scandal" to the author in question is that Catholics say that the good things we do are meritorious. But this is a merit that must be understood in context. It is not the case that we believe we can do things that in and of themselves merit salvation. No. Rather we believe that the very power to do meritorious things comes from God, by his grace. This is why we say with St. Augustine, as I have often repeated (and as is perfectly consistent with Trent and the Catechism (§2006-2011)), "what else but His gifts does God crown when He crowns our merits?"

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