Jesus’ Divinity and His Humanity: Synergistic or Monergistic?

A lot has been written about man’s ability to respond to God’s salvific initiative in revelation and reconciliation. Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe. On the surface, that verse sounds simple. When an individual is confronted with the gospel message, those words are life to those who repent and by faith place their trust in the perfect promises of God. While most will give a hearty amen that last statement, some will quickly qualify the “those who believe.” The qualifier that some will suggest is that those who believe are those who God has given the ability to believe and they are the only ones who WILL believe.

At the heart of this matter is man’s sin nature. I suppose the question could be asked, “is man a sinner because he sins or does he sin because he is a sinner” I believe the correct answer to that question is “yes.” Both are equally true. The next question focuses on the extent of this sin nature and man’s ability to respond to God. Total depravity seeks to answer this question by saying man is enslaved to this sin nature and is dead in his sin and is therefore incapable of making any decision that glorifies God and can ONLY sin. On the surface, this statement seems to make sense. Obviously no one can on their own make any decision that will glorify God apart from His Divine initiative. At the heart of the issue is, what does the Scripture mean when it declares an individual “dead in his trespass and sin?” Can a lost person respond to the gospel in repentance and believing faith or does God have to change this sinful nature FIRST and give him new life so that he THEN can repent?

I want to approach this argument from a different perspective. I believe the best answer to this question may well be found in a discussion of the remedy. I believe the incarnation may hold the key to understanding the ramifications of sin in our hearts. In the incarnation, God became flesh and dwelt among us. The question is this; was Jesus 100% man AND 100% God? Once again I believe the correct answer is YES. Both are true. Now, which “nature” controlled Jesus? Was Jesus’ Divine nature in control of every decision He made or was His human nature in control? I suggest that the answer here again is “yes”. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” If one attempts to argue that Jesus’ Divine nature controlled every decision He made then His humanity was of no consequence and He could not have been “tempted in all points AS WE ARE yet without sin.” Jesus had the responsibility to “choose” just as all men do.

Consider the following passage: “8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) Jesus was obedient in every decision He made. His humanity was 100% subjected to God’s Divine will and purpose for His life. One must understand that BOTH natures are submissive to the other. Jesus’ Divine nature was submissive to His human nature just as His human nature was submissive to His Divine nature. Some might ask, “How can that be?” I believe the best answer is that it perfectly pictures the relationship that God created in the Garden of Eden where humanity is in perfect harmony with God’s Divinity. Today, conversation is focused on God’s sovereignty and it is difficult to talk about God’s sovereignty being subject to man’s choice. However, if that conversation is framed around God’s Divine nature and His Divine will relative to man’s choice to choose and the consequences of those choices, the conversation takes on a whole different perspective.

Could Jesus have sinned? Some will argue that the answer to this question is “no.” I believe Jesus COULD have sinned and chosen to submit to temptation. Otherwise, I find it extremely difficult to imagine Him being tempted in all points AS WE ARE and the resulting statement being made, “yet without sin.” The point of this statement is that Jesus WAS tempted, which means there was the potential for submission but He did not submit and fail. Jesus’ choices were in perfect harmony with His Divinity and His Divinity was in perfect harmony with His humanity.

In Philippians 2, we read the following, “5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Clearly, Jesus CHOSE to go to the cross. He was “obedient to the point of death.” He COULD have chosen to do otherwise. I argue that this is the significance of the Gethsemane experience where Jesus prayer, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me but nevertheless, let Your will be done.”

Two things stand out in this exchange. The first is that Jesus could have chosen to do something other than what He did. Why did Jesus appear to shrink from going to the cross? Some will argue that in His humanity, He did not want to die. Perhaps that reflects an element of the agony He experienced. I also believe the significance of Him going out to the disciples who were asleep carries a key to understanding the dilemma He faced and that agony He was forced to consider. Perhaps Jesus was being tempted once again, much like the temptation following the 40 days of fasting when He began His public ministry. Here Satan appealed to His pride; “Jesus I know you are going TO THE CROSS; You cannot do it today. Look at Your disciples, they are asleep and if You go today, Your death will be in vain and the church will never get off the ground and I will win.” I believe the real agony of Gethsemane was more of timing than anything. “God I know I am going to go to the cross; I just do not see how I can do it NOW.” Nevertheless, not My will but your will be done.”

This is I believe an important concept to understand. If Jesus’ Divinity was subject to His humanity as well as His humanity subject to His Divinity, then it provides for a much different perspective to frame the foundation for a discussion concerning the relationship that exists detailing our humanity and His Divinity. If one sees God initiative in revelation and reconciliation as one aspect of His Divine will and our response in obedience to His will as the other side then the whole discussion may well take on a new perspective.

Was Jesus’ life a synergistic balance of both natures or was it more monergistic in nature? I believe it was the former and because He lives to make intercession for us, that same synergistic balance is what God looks for in us and as such His Divine will is subject to our human wills as our human wills becomes subject to His Divine will, our lives take on new meaning and purpose as He is able to do in us, with us and for us more than we can as or hope for in Christ Jesus.

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Interested in bringing the issues facing The Southern Baptist Convention to light.
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43 Responses to Jesus’ Divinity and His Humanity: Synergistic or Monergistic?

  1. Wow! I’m not sure what to make of this one! Not only do we have the original problem of how divine sovereignty relates to human activity, but now we also have the question of how the three Persons of the Trinity related to each other, and the relationship between the two natures of Christ. I know that some of these issues were discussed quite extensively in the early church, but I’m not sure if we as humans can really comprehend any of it.

  2. I think that the analogy breaks down here: According to the Council of Chalcedon (451) Jesus had two natures in one Person, and as one Person He had only one will. Thus I’m not sure that it is a question of His humanity being subject to His deity and vice versa. In any event, He was fully divine and sinless, and perfectly obedient to the will of God the Father.
    In regeneration, however, it is a question of how an stubborn, rebellious sinner is brought to new life in Christ. What is the transformation that is involved, and how does it take place?
    I’m a little reluctant to call myself a “monergist,” because the human will is obviously involved at some point in the process — we don’t just become mindless robots. In fact, what should be true in the case of a regenerate person is that he is conscious of the change that took place, of having passed from darkness into light. His heart and mind, his intellect, will and emotions were all affected. And at some point he did consciously respond to the gospel.

    • Les Prouty says:

      TSaint,

      Monergism applies only to regeneration. Monergists like me believe the man’s will is involved once he is brought to life. Man repents. Man believes. Monergism in no way means man is a mindless robot.

    • sbcissues says:

      This post really has little to do with regeneration. I understand that monergism deals only with regeneration… which I have pointed out is sort of an interesting concept… one solitary event in the life of the elect… and monergism ends right where it begins. Just not very coherent in my opinion.

      TS… STOP and think for a moment about what you just wrote… Jesus had two natures in one Person, and as one Person He had only one will. Thus I’m not sure that it is a question of His humanity being subject to His deity and vice versa.

      The WHOLE point of the calvinist position is that man is enslaved to his nature and can only will what is in his nature. Well… the same would be true of the Lord Jesus who was BOTH God and man. My point is that both were subject to each other. If it was true in Jesus’ life it can be true in ours as well. Jesus’ humanity was in perfect harmony with His Divinity. His humanity was rightly related to His Heavenly Father, which was what Adam enjoyed in the garden.

      The indwelling restores our right standing with the Father giving us the potential to be everything that God would have us be, which was exactly what Jesus’ life did.

      I believe all men are created in the image of God and as such have the capacity to respond to God’s initiative in revelation and reconciliation to restore our right standing that is available to those whose response to the gospel message is one of repentance and believing faith. When one repents, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a person’s heart and he now has right standing; not because of what he has done but because of what Christ has done for Him on the cross.

      If Jesus had 2 natures and each was submitted to the other then it leads that our wills are to be subject to the interaction of our 2 natures; the one we were created with and the one we acquired because we were born outside the garden and outside God’s perfect presence.

      Our acquired secondary nature because we do not have this right standing is secondary to our created nature that can only be filled by a rightly related relationship with God Himself.

    • Les Prouty says:

      Bob,

      I realize this post was not about monergism per se. I just wanted to disabuse any synergists of the idea that monergists think that man’s will is not involved or that man is a mindless robot.

      • sbcissues says:

        Les,

        You are right; I just used the term in the title for emphasis. If as you stated earlier, monergism ONLY applies to regeneration THEN I would argue that in this limited case, man’s will is NOT involved in regeneration and only becomes viable WHEN regeneration has taken place.

        Since you mentioned synergists… do you believe sanctification is synergistic?

      • Les Prouty says:

        Yes Bob. Sanctification is synergistic.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob have we stumbled upon something we agree on?

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, for your Friday enjoyment from Pink on regeneration:

        “As intimated above, two things are absolutely essential in order to salvation: deliverance from the guilt and penalty of sin, deliverance from the power and presence of sin. The one is secured by the meditorial work of Christ, the other is accomplished by the effectual operations of the Holy Spirit. The one is the blessed result of what the Lord Jesus did for God’s people; the other is the glorious consequence of what the Holy Spirit does in God’s people. The one takes place when, having been brought to lie in the dust as an empty-handed beggar, faith is enabled to lay hold of Christ, God now justifies from all things, and the trembling, penitent, but believing sinner receives a free and full pardon. The other takes place gradually, in distinct stages, under the Divine blessings of regeneration, sanctification, and glorification. In regeneration, indwelling sin receives its death-wound, though not its death. In sanctification, the regenerated soul is shown the sink of corruption that dwells within, and is taught to loathe and hate himself. At glorification both soul and body will be forever delivered from every vestige and effect of sin.”

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob,

        Another summary quote by Pink shows why regeneration must be monergistic and precede any faith on man’s part:

        “By the spiritual light which God communicates in regeneration the soul now perceives the infinite demerits of sin, that its “wages” can be nothing less than eternal death, or the loss of Divine favor and a dreadful suffering under the wrath of God. The equity of God’s law and the fact that sin righteously calls for such punishment is humbly acknowledged. Thus his mouth is “stopped” and he confesses himself to be guilty before God, and justly liable to His awful vengeance, both for the plague of his own heart and his numerous transgressions. He now realizes that his whole life has been lived in utter independence of God, having had no respect for His glory, no concern whether he pleased or displeased Him. He now perceives the exceeding sinfulness of sin, its awful malignity, as being in its nature contrary to the law of God. How to escape the due reward of his iniquity, he knows not. “What must I do to be saved?” is his agonizing cry. He is convinced of the absolute impossibility of contributing anything to his deliverance. He no longer has any confidence in the flesh; he has been brought to the end of himself.”

        How can any man recognize these things about himself truly and do anything spiritually beneficial to his soul without the Holy Spirit?

      • sbcissues says:

        How can any man recognize these things about himself truly and do anything spiritually beneficial to his soul without the Holy Spirit?

        He cannot. However, the fact that a man cannot save himself does not mean God has to efficaciously do it either. You are trying to make a case for monergism without any real basis. (At least in this quote.) You are basically trying to say because A is necessarily true, B must also be true.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob,

        You said, “He cannot. However, the fact that a man cannot save himself does not mean God has to efficaciously do it either. You are trying to make a case for monergism without any real basis. (At least in this quote.) You are basically trying to say because A is necessarily true, B must also be true.”

        Well I’m glad we agree on something else. You said, “he cannot.”

        But i’t more than that “a man cannot save himself.” He cannot birth himself in his natural born, sinful, God hating, rebellious state. Man, as Pink points out from scripture, is in no state to believe and repent lest a radical act by God occurs.

        “Man’s heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). His mind is blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4) and darkened by sin (Eph. 4:18), so that his thoughts are only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). His affections are prostituted, so that he loves what God hates, and hates what God loves. His will is enslaved from good (Rom. 6:20) and opposed to God (Rom. 8:7). He is without righteousness (Rom. 3:10), under the curse of the law (Gal. 3:10) and is the captive of the Devil. His condition is truly deplorable, and his case desperate. He cannot better himself, for he is “without strength” (Rom. 5:6)”

        Yes, beacuse A) man is all that in the above quote he B) cannot birth himself nor can he exercise faith without a new birth. Furthermore, man doesn’t want to believe. Man hates God.

      • sbcissues says:

        Les,

        You wrote… Yes, because A) man is all that in the above quote he B) cannot birth himself nor can he exercise faith without a new birth.

        I have no problem with the statement “man cannot birth himself.” I agree. It is God and God alone who saves… however your statement “he cannot exercise faith without new birth” you know is an illogical conclusion.

        I do not have any problems with the statements you quoted depicting man’s pitiful plight because of sin. It is simply a conclusion calvinism posits that depicts man’s totally depraved condition… Nowhere in the Bible is it said man is no longer created in the image of God… I maintain Adam lost his right standing when he was put out of the garden and that is the essence of our sin nature since all men have been born outside the garden of Eden… with the exception of Jesus who was born Son of God as well as son of man… and because the Divinity was present with His humanity… He was rightly related and had right standing that no one else has until the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the human heart and that restores what Adam lost.

        Man MUST respond to revelation and reconciliation which are God’s expressed initiative. Our response determines our eternity as well as the quality of our lives here. Interestingly enough, you agree that our sanctification is synergistic… i do not understand why our conversion cannot be synergistic… not in our securing our salvation but in our response that secures our salvation.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob,

        YOU: “Interestingly enough, you agree that our sanctification is synergistic… i do not understand why our conversion cannot be synergistic… not in our securing our salvation but in our response that secures our salvation.”

        Conversion IS synergistic. I’ve never said otherwise. Conversion is repentance and faith. Calvinists believe that conversion is synergistic. We believe regeneration is monergistic.

        Now, assuming you meant to say you don’t understand why I can believe that regeneration must be monergistic but I can believe that sanctification us synergistic, see what I have been belaboring above about man’s dead natural condition. Dead people can’t do anything. They can’t even hear the preacher…spiritually…savingly…until they are spiritually alive. Once alive, synergism is possible. beginning with conversion.

      • sbcissues says:

        OK..

        So just for kicks… IF the calvinist position on TD/TI were inaccurate and God indeed DID create man with the ability to respond to the gospel… not make his own way to heaven but believe indeed that God is everything He says He is and that HE will do everything He says He is….

        THEN conversion and salvation in total would be a synergistic exercise with God as the initiator and man as the respondent.

        I said… IF…. but that would be a possibility right?

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob,

        TD/TI. How do you define TD/TI? Here is two short statements from Theopedia defining TD/TI. See if you agree with them:

        “The doctrine understands the Bible to teach that, as a consequence of the the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”

        and…

        “The doctrine of total inability teaches that people are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, as he requires, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God.”

        Now, as to your question. “So just for kicks… IF the calvinist position on TD/TI were inaccurate and God indeed DID create man with the ability to respond to the gospel… not make his own way to heaven but believe indeed that God is everything He says He is and that HE will do everything He says He is….

        THEN conversion and salvation in total would be a synergistic exercise with God as the initiator and man as the respondent.”

        I think the answer would be yes. If man after the fall still has a spark of goodness in him and still has a natural capability to repent of his sin and exercise faith toward God (conversion all on his own and based on his own will) and God’s part of man’s conversion is merely to place the beauty of Christ in front of man and wait for man to take it thru repentance and faith and thereby God exerting NO influence on man’s ability and willingness to choose Christ…yes you would have synergistic salvation from start to finish.

        But I hope you will interact with the TD/TI definitions above. I don’t see how even you can disagree with them.

      • sbcissues says:

        The devil is in the details… every argument is based on the choice of words used. Listen to your own words… If man after the fall still has a spark of goodness in him… no one said ANYTHING about a spark of goodness in him… that is immaterial and totally inaccurate…

        has a natural capability to repent of his sin and exercise faith toward God (conversion all on his own and based on his own will) I NEVER said he has any “natural ability on his own to repent”

        What I said was he had the ability to RESPOND to God’s initiative to repent based on his RESPONSE to revelation and reconciliation… BIG DIFFERENCE.

        One more statement: God exerting NO influence on man’s ability and willingness to choose Christ…

        Would you NOT consider God’s initiative in revealing Himself through His Word or the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in a lost person’s heart who has come in contact with the gospel message as His active work in the salvific process?

        So yes… I believe God’s salvific work is indeed synergistic from start to finish… because of Calvary which is God’s sole provision.

        Now to your statements on TD and TI

        First TD… “The doctrine understands the Bible to teach that, as a consequence of the the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”

        I believe every person is born into the world lacking right standing, which was God’s initial created purpose and as result, everything he does is sin because it falls short of the glory of God as long as one is not rightly related to Him.

        Where I am going to fall aside is in the language “apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.” I will agree to a degree depending on how one defines “apart from the grace of God” with that statement; I do not believe one can come to repentance apart from the gospel message nor apart from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit…

        I do not believe man is utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation” apart from some efficacious calling or process of regeneration FIRST… I believe man has the ability to respond to revelation and reconciliation which are God’s initiative based on the cross and the resurrection.

        While I am not going to go the extreme that calvinism will on depravity I will adamantly disagree with the inability side of depravity.

        You write on TI… “The doctrine of total inability teaches that people are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, as he requires, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God.”

        I agree that men of their OWN inclination are not inclined to love God as He requires… and all are inclined to serve their own interested and reject the rule of God.

        Left to their own devises, I believe that is 100% accurate. However, TI goes on to say that man has a dead heart, deaf ears and blinded eyes and CANNOT respond to God apart from an efficacious work of God in his heart that gives Him NEW LIFE and a NEW HEART and a NEW NATURE so that he can THEN repent and believe.

        This last part takes depravity to an extreme that the Bible does not. Men have the capacity and responsibility to choose in EVERY single aspect of his life and I believe the same thing is true of the gospel message… salvation is from the beginning God’s sole initiative and in the end man’s response…

        My salvation is NOT God’s sole choice. I am responsible for MY choices and my eternal destiny is based on God’s promises and provisions and the parameters He as put in place… Choose Christ and live; deny Him and perish.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob,

        We could go on and on. We’ve been doing this for a long time and interacting with you continues to sharpen me. I’m thankful for that. In fact, I think each of us has deepened our respective positions. I’m more convinced today of the Reformed faith than when we started interacting a couple years ago and I think you are as well. And it continues to be enjoyable to interact.

        For today, I think we’ve said about all there is to say. We are as far apart on this issue of man’s natural state and capabilities as when we started. I’ll be around all day. And maybe tomorrow. We are experiencing a winter ice and snow storm such that our worship services are cancelled today so I’m here if there’s anything new we can hash out.

        You have a great sunny, warm Lord’s day brother.

        Les

  3. I guess I’m little confused by your terminology here. I don’t quite understand how a “nature” can “submit” to another nature. That would seem to attribute personhood to a “nature.”
    I’m also a little confused by your statement that “The indwelling restores our right standing with the Father.” Usually we use the term “standing” to refer to forensic righteousness, which is the result of our believing in Christ and having His righteousness imputed to us — we are justified by faith, faith being the instrument of justification and the death of Christ being the ground of justification. I would think that it is our right standing with God that permits the indwelling of the Spirit.

    • sbcissues says:

      TS

      Thoughtful questions. If 2 natures exist then one MUST submit to the other or else there is only 1 nature. It is not that personhood is being attributed to a “nature” it is right the opposite; nature is what makes up personhood.

      I do not like the term “imputed” as such. It is too ambiguous and too easy to assign meaning to that may or may not be accurate. When I began looking at the cross as the remedy for the malady caused by sin, I began to see a very different picture than what I had read so much about with total depravity/inability and in fact our sin nature in total.

      My position is this. When one repents and exercises believing faith, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in that person’s heart and THAT is tantamount to what I believe you would term “imputed righteous”. This right standing as you see it ALLOWS the indwelling to take place; I believe the indwelling is what BRINGS right standing or the righteousness of Christ. To me, new life is the result of the indwelling; it is the Spirit that gives life.

      This led me to rethink the whole garden of Eden experience and led me to my conclusions that Adam and Eve being “put out of the Garden of Eden” is in effect the real cause of our sin nature; when the couple were put out of the garden, they lost their right standing with God and every person since has been born outside the garden and therefore without right standing with Him and that is the essence of our sin nature.

      In the incarnation, Jesus changed that because He was born rightly related to God as Adam was created. Where Adam sinned, He did not. So what is it that Jesus accomplished on the cross? Obviously a number of things but He said, “It is necessary for Me to go so that the Holy Spirit can come..” one of the purposes of the cross was the coming of the Holy Spirit (or the sending) into our hearts because that is what corrects the separation problem and actually gives us our right standing.

      See the difference? We get to the same place but I believe we have been doing so in the wrong way.

  4. Do I ever see the difference! I can see now why you have such a big problem with Calvin.
    At the heart of the Reformation was the issue of whether we are justified by an “imputed righteousness,” i.e. the perfect righteousness of Christ credited to our account, or an “infused righteousness,” an actual righteousness that God produces in us. The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives us this brief definition: “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” (Question 33). The Council of Trent took the latter position.
    I hope you’re with Luther and Calvin on this one.

    • sbcissues says:

      My position is not necessarily markedly different… my position is that the righteousness of Christ is ours in the indwelling… so that could be consistent with the imputed concept… I just define the imputation as being made possible with the indwelling. After all, righteousness is right standing… so what better means of gaining right standing than to have the presence of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in my heart? Seems to me that removes all the verbal wrangling…. simplifies everything for me….

    • sbcissues says:

      PS… I think much of the issue of imputed righteousness versus infused righteousness was really framed by imputed guilt… if righteousness is imputed THEN guilt must be imputed and the two arguments went hand in hand.. and in fact, I have even heard that argument made on several occasions.

      • Historically I think it actually went the other way. Luther came to understand justification by faith first. It was Theodore Beza, Calvin’s successor at Geneva, who formulated the idea of the immediate imputation of Adam’s guilt to his posterity. And yes, it can be argued that there is a correlation between the two in Rom. 5:12-21, especially verse 19 which uses the verb “kathistemi” (to appoint, make, constitute) to describe both situations.
        I think that it is possible to say that we are justified by virtue of being “in Christ.” “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30). It can also be argued that our union with Christ is sealed when we are baptized as believers (Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 3:29-29; Col. 2:11-14).
        But I’m afraid that the way you’re stating it sounds too much like we’re justified by being sanctified.

      • sbcissues says:

        But I’m afraid that the way you’re stating it sounds too much like we’re justified by being sanctified.

        Want to explain this statement.

  5. DP says:

    Dr H, sometimes we get to run our own business and sometimes our own business run us. I’ve been really busy the last couple of days but was still trying to keep an eye on your new post. It’s probably a good thing too, as this one took some reading and re-reading! It think I think I follow your reasoning and it makes some sense, but thus far, (for whatever it might be worth) I don’t think I can jump on board. I am failing to see where it solves the tension between Calvinistic irresistible salvation and biblical salvation. It seems that you are making an apples to oranges comparison. It does seem fair enough to call the relationship between Jesus’ humanity and His deity a kind of synergism. (I would still rather use the term “antinomy” for the incarnation because it would *appear* to be a contradiction…and is definitely a mystery.) But I don’t think we can reasonably compare the relationship between Jesus’ impeccable humanity and His impeccable deity to anything having to do with our natural Adamic corruption. We really needed the 2nd Adam to come through for us and (Praise His name)… He did.

    The synergism that I would defend, as biblical, would be the God ordained kind, which requires our human will to repent… by the common working of the Holy Spirit, as He uses the law as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ and also the goodness of God (Rom 2.4) as demonstrated by Jesus being “lifted up”. We must acquiesce… or perish. Thus, the two entities are working together and God imputes the redemption purchased by Jesus…alone… monergistically, if you like (only 1 entity working).

    Shying away from imputation is shying away from Romans 4 and the heart of the Gospel. It seems that you are working too hard to come up with new ways to refute the Calvinistic hypothesis, when biblical texts do the job just fine. As a layman, I appreciate it when we stick to the biblical terminology as much as possible.

    For what its worth…

    • sbcissues says:

      DP,

      The issue of Jesus’ humanity is a very important aspect of the incarnation and His temptation and ability TO SIN is an important aspect to consider theologically. That possibility impacts a number of aspects and not necessarily Calvinistic irresistible salvation and biblical salvation as you suggest. At issue is the dichotomy that exists with 2 distinct natures coexisting. It is important because I believe we still have the properties God gave to Adam when He created him in His Own image and then a secondary or acquired nature in our losing our right standing before God, which I maintain is the essence of our sin nature. It is not impossible for both natures to coexist since that is exactly what took place in the Lord Jesus with one exception; He was born rightly related to God where we are not. In His perfect humanity, being tempted in like manner as we are, He faced the constant challenge of sinning but did not do so. His victory over sin sets the foundation for our victory over sin.

      There is another aspect of this argument and that has to do with the calvinist position that man is “enslaved to a dead, totally depraved nature and can only sin unless a special touch of God’s supernatural grace is given so that he may THEN respond. I do not believe that is a Biblical position and for me the incarnation points to a different aspect of our human nature. It is not that our nature is corrupted; it is that we are not rightly related to God and that is what has affected our natures.

      I am not shying away from “imputation” just understand that this word carries with it a number of implications that may or may not be accurate. I simply maintain that our righteousness comes in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; that does not set itself up against the Biblical position on imputation but as I see it, compliments it. I am simply suggesting that our righteousness or right standing is the result of the indwelling. Up until that time, God is “with us” now He is “in us” and that gives us right standing which by the way is because of what Christ did on the cross so in a sense, it is His righteousness that gives us our righteousness in the person of the Holy Spirit who has taken up residence in our hearts.

      For the record, I do not have to conjure up arguments to refute calvinism; I am simply looking at the Scripture and presenting what it says as I see it and comparing that to the tenets calvinism presents. If the two soteriologies do not line up, then we discuss it.

    • sbcissues says:

      DP…

      Thought about your comment… I think the general thrust of this particular post might deal more with the concept of God’s sovereignty than anything. I keep hearing this argument that since God is sovereign man does not have the choice to choose; God has already made those choices and our plight is simply to follow what He knows will happen.

      If the Divine nature was submissive to Christ’s human nature (that does not mean was tainted by sin as some have seemed to indicate) THEN this whole argument about God’s sovereignty that is being touted may be seriously be called into question.

      Divine nature does not necessitate a fatalistic or determined human position. I think that is more the direction of thought that I had in mind… I have not reread the article to see if that distinction was made clear and it may be that this is an afterthought to your question!

  6. Dr. H,,
    When you say “I simply maintain that our righteousness comes in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit” and “our righteousness or right standing is the result of the indwelling” it sure sounds like you are saying that we are justified by an infused righteousness. We believe on Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us producing a holy life, and this results in a right standing with God. Am I understanding you correctly?

    • sbcissues says:

      No. We are justified WHEN the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts. Now, that position of right standing will produce works of righteousness but our right standing is established with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I maintain Adam and Eve lost that right standing when they were put out of the Garden of Eden where the manifold presence of God was… so it is restored when the manifold presence of God is restored in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

  7. How are you defining the word “standing”? I have always taken it to mean our state of guilt or innocence in the sight of God — our forensic righteousness. You seem to be using it in a different sense.

    • sbcissues says:

      TS

      I believe in keeping things simple so anyone can understand them. Standing is just that… my position relative to God. I do not see it in terms of guilt or innocence as such; a lack of right standing before God means I am not rightly related to Him so everything I do is sin because it falls short of His perfect will for my life which involves His glory.

      To be rightly related to Him means I am restored to that created position that Adam enjoyed… righteousness literally means “right standing” which can only be granted or provided by God Himself. The only way to be rightly related to Him comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; He takes up residence in my heart and that gives me this right standing.

      I have never used the term forensic righteousness… I believe Paul used the legal system of his day to describe an aspect of justification… that does not mean the illustration itself or the aspect he is describing is a full picture of the act of justification itself. Obviously justification is an element of the conversion experience but I believe sometimes the elements themselves are given more credence than was intended.

      • If the gospel, in the broadest sense, is the good news about the coming of the Kingdom, then personal salvation is just one aspect of the gospel, and justification is just one (fairly narrow, but crucial nonetheless) aspect of salvation.
        The Greek verb “dikaioo,” usually translated “justify” in our English versions means to “declare or pronounce righteous,” and the question is, how can a guilty sinner be declared righteous in the sight of God? Paul spends the greater part of Romans addressing this question, and the answer he gives is basically that when we believe on Christ His perfect righteousness is imputed or credited to our account. “And to be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). As Martin Luther put it, the Christian is “simul justus et peccator” — at the same time righteous and a sinner. The sinner has to be reconciled to God through the shed blood of Christ before the Holy Spirit can take up residence in him. n This is why Protestant theologians have traditionally made a careful distinction between justification (the act by which a sinner is declared righteous) and sanctification (the work in which the Holy Spirit transforms his life).

      • sbcissues says:

        TS…

        You wrote… the answer he gives is basically that when we believe on Christ His perfect righteousness is imputed or credited to our account.

        What I am saying is the indwelling is the process that gives us our right standing… my position is perfectly consistent with this picture. Again you write… but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” We are granted right standing or righteousness by faith as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our heart.

        You wrote… The sinner has to be reconciled to God through the shed blood of Christ before the Holy Spirit can take up residence in him.

        I disagree with this statement. Reconciled means justified. With justification comes the indwelling. Reconciliation is a work of the Holy Spirit made possible by the shed blood of Christ. Do not confuse sanctification with the indwelling, which is what your last statement kind of hints too. Sanctification begins with the indwelling.

  8. DP says:

    TSaint, A hearty and Bible thumping “Amen!” to your 8:14 post. I am “all in” with Brother Martin on this point. I am badly in need of an “alien” righteousness. (Just ask Les!) Mine won’t get the job done.

    I do think the issue issue of sanctification is made a little complex in that it does seem the word is used in two distinct, but related, contexts. One is our sanctification in Christ (1 Cor 1:30) without which no one will see the Lord. The 2nd context is the practical/day to day living out of that sanctification, which evidences the new birth and indwelling of the Spirit. (Rom 6:19-22, 1 Th 4:3…) I’m no fan of the “entire sanctification” taught by some on my side of the debate over election, however, it ought to be the serious goal of everyone who wants to please the Lord and enjoy the full assurance of salvation.

    • Dr. Hadley,
      What you seem to be saying is that we are justified by an infused righteousness (the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts producing actual holiness in our lives) and not by an imputed righteousness (the righteousness of Christ charged to our account). Am I reading you correctly on this point?

      • sbcissues says:

        No.

        The righteousness or right standing that Christ died on the cross to make available to us is completed with the indwelling. My point is this; if the Holy Spirit dwells in my heart THEN by virtue of His presence I have right standing before God. I do not see “the righteousness of Christ charged to our account; I see it as the presence of the Holy Spirit is that which grants our right standing. I will say that the purpose of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is to give us our right standing AND THEN lead us to walk in this rightly related relationship… but that is BECAUSE we are saved NOT to save us.

  9. But when we stand before God at the Last Judgment, on what basis will He judge us? An imputed righteousness or an infused righteousness? Or not on the basis of righteousness at all?

  10. sbcissues says:

    To me Ephesians 1:13-14 gives the best answer to your question: 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

    I believe God will look for the presence of the Holy Spirit that is the guarantee of our eternal destiny.

    • The problem here is that Paul doesn’t really discuss justification, per se, in Ephesians, although he hints at it in verse 7: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. . .” (NKJV). Paul does discuss the issue of justification extensively in Romans, however. He makes it clear there that the issue is our sin and guilt before God, and tells us that no one can make himself right before God by keeping the Law. He then goes on to describe the righteousness through faith, “that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (3:26). Paul doesn’t actually say in Romans that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer, but he does make it clear that the issue is forensic righteousness.
      Imputation comes into the picture in a passage like II Cor. 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Here we have a double imputation: our guilt is imputed to Christ (He was made sin for us), and His righteousness is imputed to us (we became the righteousness of Christ in Him).
      I think the Bible makes it clear that the ground of our justification is the death of Christ, not the indwelling Spirit. The reason the is the “guarantee of our inheritance” (NKJV) or “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (NIV) is because the indwelling Spirit is what gives us the assurance in this sin-cursed world that we have eternal life in the age to come. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of future glory.
      I hope this is what Southern Baptist evangelists are telling their audiences!

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