As Free Grace people, most of us want to be strict Biblicists. We are not tied to, or at least try not to be tied to, the language of prior theologians or theological traditions. We want to be Biblical through and through. And that often means rejecting commonly used terms.
I was reminded of this in my reading of Robert J. Kerrey’s How Does God Draw People to Believe in Jesus? I’ve only begun to read it, but it looks promising. The book is about whether or not regeneration comes before or after faith. And if it comes after faith, as the author believes, how does God work in the nonbeliever’s life to draw him or her to faith?
I believe that Kerrey writes from a Free Grace perspective. I like that he is careful with his terms.
For example, traditionally, Protestant and Evangelical theologians have spoken about synergism vs monergism to describe the two major views of how unbelievers come to faith. Here is Kerrey’s explanation of what they mean:
Etymologically, the term “synergism” is a compound word made up of two Greek constituents, meaning “together” and “work”; hence, it means “to work together.” Likewise, “monergism” is a compound made up of two parts, meaning “alone” and “work”; and so, it means “to work alone.” When applied to regeneration, then, “synergism” means God and humans work together to effect regeneration; “monergism” means that God alone works to effect regeneration (pp. 19-21).
Traditionally, Calvinists have been called monergists, while Arminians have been called synergists. Free Grace people have been called synergists, too, but that terminology makes Kerrey uncomfortable. He thinks we should reject it. Here’s why:
Calvinists use the term “synergism” to describe the faith-before-regeneration view because they believe this view has humans doing some of the work needed for salvation, together with God (p. 20).
Do you see the problem with using synergism to describe the Free Grace position?
Etymologically, if synergism means “to work together,” it implies that salvation is by works. And that is emphatically not our position. On the contrary, we strongly believe in salvation by faith apart from works.
So, strictly speaking, even though we believe in free will and therefore reject monergism, the Free Grace position is not synergistic. We believe in salvation by faith in Christ, apart from “ergism.”
Hence, we should reject this old terminology and come up with something better.