Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gordon Clark on Synergism in Sanctification


I was flipping The Holy Spirit, one of the books by Gordon Clark I haven’t read fully, and came across a section in his chapter on sanctification (pgs. 46-48) which shows he believed sanctification is a synergistic or cooperative process in the same manner as I do (link). Sanctification is a struggle. It requires our "activity" and that we "do" that which God's law commands. In this sense we "cooperate" with God's determinate and efficient grace:
That sanctification is a struggle is plainly stated in Scripture. Romans 7:23 and its context show how Paul struggled. Note that he is here describing his experiences after regeneration. He could not earlier have said, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” The phrase in 2 Corinthians 10:3, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh,” indicates a war. Paul here makes a play of words by using flesh in two different senses First Timothy 1:18 describes Timothy’s sanctification as a good warfare. And in 6:12 Paul urges him to “Fight the good fight of faith.” See also 2 Timothy 2:3. 
But the fullest statement that the Christian life is a warfare comes in Ephesians 6:10-17. The whole armor of God is needed to withstand the wiles of the devil; we wrestle against the rulers of darkness; we need a breastplate, a shield, a helmet, and especially a sword. And we need perseverance. 
The theologian today and the man in the pews must recognize that this warfare is conducted in the power of the Spirit. Were not the right man on our side, our striving would be losing. 
But there is a difference between regeneration and sanctification. As to the former, “we are altogether passive therein.” In the latter we struggle. One must not deny either the Spirit’s power or our activity. 
Certain popular Bible teachers have been so impressed by the power of the Spirit that they deny our need to struggle. When I was a boy, my aunt, previously a missionary to the Mormons, gave me Hannah Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. Fortunately I was too young to understand it. Somewhat hypocritically, as it seems to me now, Mrs. Smith wrote in her Preface, “I do not want to change the theological views of a single individual. The truths I have to tell are not theological, but practical” (p. vi). When she adds, “They will fit in with every creed, she is certainly asserting a falsehood. 
The Keswick movement, of which I think Mrs. Smith and her husband were a part, used such phrases as “Let go, and let God”; “We must not try to sin”; “Let him do it all.” For example, Mrs. Smith declares, “Man’s part is to trust, and God’s part is to work…. Either we must do it for ourselves, or someone must do it for us… it is something we are unable to do…. Plainly the believer can do nothing but trust…. Surrender and trust… is positively all the man can do We do not do anything, but He does it” (p. 29-31). 
As a dedicated, and many will say extreme, Calvinist, I more than gladly insist on God’s doings. No one understands much of the Bible unless he believes in sovereign predestination. But if God predestinated Calvin to write the Institutes, and if God has predestinated me to write this greatly inferior booklet, it was nonetheless Calvin and it is nonetheless I who must put down the words on paper. Mrs. Smith’s statement, “Either we must do it ourselves, or someone must do it for us,” is in its context a false disjunction. Both Calvin and God did the Institutes. And in an even stricter sense both God and Moses wrote the Pentateuch. They cooperated, and as in all cooperation their precise activities in producing the result were different. God is the source of our abilities and the effective determiner of how we use them. But it is we ourselves who must fight the good fight and run the straight race through God’s grace.

5 comments:

John said...

Did you believe (and so were justified) or did God believe through you? So if in our sanctification we're to walk by faith, how is this any different than our justification?

How do you deal with Galatians 3:3-5: "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or the hearing of faith, just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?"
Sounds like we go on the same way we started, by the faith that God supplies. So if the one is monergistic, so must be the other.

Ryan said...

I believed. I have my own mind and will, so I myself am the actor in the assent to the gospel (essentially, faith), though this assent is caused by God's grace. So conversion is synergistic in that I couldn't believe without both my own act of will and God's grace which is necessary to effect said act. Sanctification is also essentially an act of our will.

On the other hand, justification is a declaration of God whereby a sinner is declared righteous in His sight through the instrument of faith in Christ. Insofar as conversion is a precondition for justification, cooperation or a synergy is a precondition for justification. But as justification itself is essentially an act of God, and as our own act of faith which logically precedes justification is also caused by God, it seems inappropriate to me to call justification synergistic.

It might be easier to just eliminate any discussion of synergism and monergism from these discussions altogether and just talk about what concepts these things are supposed to signify.

I didn't really see what the point of Galatians 3:3-5 is in relation to this topic.

Jimmy said...

RYan in para 1 (of your reply) you make a distinction between grace of act and an act of your will.... while these may be 2 different entities are they without any connection... if the grace of God makes the will to act in the way that it acts.... would not the act of believing be monergistic..... and if its moergistic inspite of your willing.... would not santification by these very terms also be monergistic inspite of your choosing to do the right things....

and para 3 seems to suggest an escape route from discussing the question whether salvation and santification are monergistic or synergistic.... the question is not whar do the concepts mean, but more importantly is it or is it not monergistic

Jimmy said...

hey Ryan if possible do try to complete reading Clark's book on the holy Spirit, so that you could know if he actually believed santification to be monergistic or not.... i am looking forward to see your post because i dongt have Clark's book and would like to know....

PS: if you think the suggested quote is enough to settle the issue in favor of synergism, I dont think so for the reasons sated in my previous reply

Ryan said...

Hi Jimmy,

No, they would not be monergistic. If x causes y, but x and y are both acts of will, then there are two actors acting. The fact that the latter (our act of faith) is caused by the former (God's act of regenerative grace) doesn't have any bearing on this fact.

This is assuming by "synergism" and "monergism" we are referring to the same concepts, i.e. "two energies or actors" vs. "one energy or actor." In salvation, there are two energies or actors involved, even though our action has been determined by God.

I have read Clark's book fully. He believed in synergism in sancification in the above sense. Check the opening post:

“But there is a difference between regeneration and sanctification. As to the former, “we are altogether passive therein.” In the latter we struggle. One must not deny either the Spirit’s power or our activity...As a dedicated, and many will say extreme, Calvinist, I more than gladly insist on God’s doings. No one understands much of the Bible unless he believes in sovereign predestination. But if God predestinated Calvin to write the Institutes, and if God has predestinated me to write this greatly inferior booklet, it was nonetheless Calvin and it is nonetheless I who must put down the words on paper. Mrs. Smith’s statement, “Either we must do it ourselves, or someone must do it for us,” is in its context a false disjunction. Both Calvin and God did the Institutes. And in an even stricter sense both God and Moses wrote the Pentateuch. They cooperated, and as in all cooperation their precise activities in producing the result were different. God is the source of our abilities and the effective determiner of how we use them. But it is we ourselves who must fight the good fight and run the straight race through God’s grace.”

But especially see here as well:

http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2013/01/gordon-clark-on-synergism-in.html