Freedom of the will, regeneration and faith: D.C. Carson’s “It’s up to you.”

I was discussing with a Christian friend the songs he sings in church, songs such as “At the foot of the cross,” (Worship and Wordship: What songs shall we sing in Church?).

In these songs, I described the radical contrast between monergism (regeneration and justification are totally of God) and synergism (regeneration and justification involve cooperation between man and God). Synergism is the common view among professing Christians, whereas the monergistic position belongs to Reformed (of the Reformation) Christianity.

The synergistic position will naturally receive more sympathy with the world for whom the freedom to choose one’s beliefs is what makes us human.

If, as the monergist claims, regeneration (born again) and justification (made right with God), are all of God, then this, argues the synergist, would mean that a person is unable to come freely to God, unable to freely accept Him. This inference is not biblically sound. The New Testament teaches that a battle rages between the natural self (the “flesh”) and the “new creature” in Christ. Every born-again person does indeed accept Christ, but he can only do so after his fallen will has been resurrected (“quickened” – Ephesians 2:1-3). In other words, only when the effects of the Fall are reversed (through a unilateral divine act of regeneration), only then will a sinner, as Jesus said, become free to know the truth (not all truth, of course), only then will he become free to believe/accept the truth.

D.C. Carson. In his “Christianity: Why it’s important and how to live it” says (discussing the difficult notion of the Trinity):

“It’s up to us to welcome him (God), even if he’s difficult to explain.”

So,  “it’s up to us,” –   it’s our decision.” Do you want Jesus? No one’s forcing you now. It’s up to you, ’cause God is so high up that he’s left it up to you down here.

Here’s a prayer from a monergist friend: We pray that he will surrender his life to You.” So, if you surrender (hand/render over) your life, God will remove your stony heart that makes it impossible for you to surrender in the first place. So, like Carson, he fluffs it. The bothersome thing, though, is that he doesn’t see any difference (theological or linguistic) between “surrendering” (handing your life over) to Jesus and “accepting” Jesus.

I was praying recently with a synergist relative who prayed: “Please send the Holy Spirit to them.” After the prayer, I asked, “don’t you believe that the Holy Spirit is hammering on everybody’s door begging to be let in (a synergistic interpretation of ‘I stand at the door and knock’) but in your prayer you ask God to send the Holy Spirit to them?” My relative turned on me: “the problem with you is you walk around everywhere with your red pen; you lack the social graces.” The thing is biblical grace can be so unsocial, so unkind, so mean, so divisive, so judgmental.

“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” Unfair? “Who are you to talk back to God?” (Romans 9). Every synergist is a synergist on their feet and a monergist on their knees.

Here is a part of Charles Spurgeon’s ironic “Arminian’s prayer.”

“There are many that wilI go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as l am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them” (Inviting your dead enemy to surrender: The chicken and the egg of regeneration and faith).

Make your mind up; it’s up to you. Or is it?

A while later.  Now D.C. has really gone and upset the apple cart. I returned to reading further in his book when I came across this degenerate-looking sentence:

“Regeneration is the process triggered by our faith where the Holy Spirit works to reconfigure us from the core so we can rightly love God and show His importance to the world around us.”

Carson has it back to front; faith does not trigger regeneration. Hw’s put the regenerative horse before (that is, behind!) the faith cart. For us monergists/Calvinists, it is regeneration that triggers faith, for  the dead have no triggers  of faith. Or to return to my horse ‘n cart, the horse of regeneration drags the motionless dead cart to life. “He has quickened you (brought you to life)” (Ephesians 2). Only then do you get faith, which is the second part of God’s gift after regeneration.