Q and A: Is Molinism Monergistic?

I'm actively learning about Molinism and when in a small debate with a calvinism they asked me if God or man is the terminus of Salvation? I thought it adequate to state that Molinism is Monergistic. They did not like that answer and even told me it was Synergistic.  I provided the Ambulatory Model bY Kenneth Keathely in Salvation & Sovereignty. They did not like that analogy since it wasn't an analogy from scripture.

In your words how would you explain or express how Molinism is Monergistic and if the Ambulatory Model isn't a good model what model would you give? Any scriptural support is welcome.

-- Phillip


Whether a soteriological view is monergistic or synergistic really depends on how one defines those terms. Monergism comes from the two Greek words "mono" which means "one" and "erg" which means "work". Synergism, by contrast, comes from the two Greek words "syn" meaning "together" and "erg". So Monergism means that only one entity is at work while synergism means that two entities are at work. Now, it would seem to me that Keathley's Ambulatory Model of grace allows us to be monergists while at the same time agreeing with the Arminians that grace is resistible and that we have a choice in whether or not we want to enter into a relationship with God.

For readers of this blog post who may not be familiar with what we're talking about, let me explain: Keathley calls his view of grace "The Ambulatory Model" because it comes from the illustration he puts forth in his book Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach which involves an ambulance.

Keathley writes "Imagine waking up to find that you are being transported by an ambulance to the emergency room. It is clearly evident that your condition requires serious medical help. If you do nothing, you will be delivered to the hospital. However, for whatever reason you demand to be let out, the driver will comply. He may express regret and give warnings, but he will still let you go. You receive no credit for being taken to the hospital, but you incur the blame for refusing the service of the ambulance." 

Keathley's point here is that in our salvation, The Holy Spirit is the only one at work, so grace is monergistic, but it isn't irresistible like the Calvinists argue. We can resist God's grace until the day we die, and therefore end up eternally damned. We have free will and can choose whether to resist or not resist. If we resist, we will remain unsaved. If we choose not to resist, we will be saved. God does everything in saving us. God The Father sent God The Son to die on the cross to suffer the penalty for sin on our behalf, God sent us prevenient grace to enable and persuade us to repent, and The Holy Spirit is the one who regenerates us. You don't do anything to get saved, but you can do something to keep yourself from being saved; namely resist The Holy Spirit. 

Keathley's point is that in the absence of resistance, salvation is inevitable. In this case then, while salvation isn't worked for, damnation is! You have to work hard at resisting The Holy Spirit! He won't let you go to Hell without a fight! If one defines monergism as salvation being solely the work of God, then Kenneth Keathley's ambulatory model fits that definition. 

To return to the ambulance analogy, the paramedics did all the work. The ambulance driver drove them to your location, the paramedics got out and put you on a stretcher, they then headed towards the hospital, and then they treated you until you healed. You didn't do anything in that whole process! Your trip to the hospital was monergistic! But, even though it was monergistic, it wasn't irresistible. you could have resisted treatment. You could have fought off the paramedics. You could have insistently demanded that they let you out of the ambulance, and if you did, they would have, and therefore you'd be responsible for not being healed. 

Any contribution you give is harmful. It's the lack of contribution that is required to receive the medical aid. This is the way it is with salvation; any contribution you give is harmful, it's the lack of contribution or works and submission or faith that is required. I agree wholeheartedly with Kenneth Keathley's Ambulatory Model of grace. The Ambulatory Model (a.k.a The Overcoming Grace Model) successfully harmonizes two things taught by scripture: monergism and resistible grace. 

Brenden Paul Burnett (not a Molinist, but an advocate of resistible grace nonetheless) has used a different analogy to make this point. He wrote "Imagine an unconscious person lying in a dry river bed. Now imagine that a river begins to flow down that dry river bed to the man. When the river flow hits him, it startles him awake, and begins to carry him right along constantly and powerfully towards salvation. How might the man not reach the destination to which the river is flowing? What might resistance look like? Well, perhaps resistance is like a positive action of swimming against the current. However, by simply not resisting, by allowing the current to take its course, he will inevitably be carried on by the flow to salvation. God grace is a bit like the river. Human condition is unconsciousness. When grace hits us it causes us to become conscious of it. We can then do two things: (1) cooperate by allowing grace to take its course and be saved, or (2) resist by swimming against the current and dying." 

On this analogy, if a person did absolutely nothing, he would eventually be washed downstream. His reaching the destination was monergistic. The river acted alone while the man did nothing at all. However, the current isn't irresistible. He can, if he chooses to, swim upstream and therefore does not go to that destination. 

So long as there's only one actor in our salvation, it can be considered a monergistic view of grace, regardless of whether or not people can resist grace. After all, that's what monergism means; one (mono) work (erg). There is one worker in our salvation! There was one worker in getting the man to the hospital (i.e the paramedics), there's one worker in getting that man downstream (i.e the river), and there is one worker in getting us saved (i.e The Holy Spirit). However, in all 3 cases, you could freely choose to resist. 

Now, you said that your Calvinist friend didn't like the analogy Keathley gave because it wasn't from scripture. I think an adequate response would be "So what?" Pastors use modern analogies to illustrate points in their sermons all the time! Even the Apostle Paul used the writings of Greek Philosophers (see Acts 17). In fact, I've even heard Calvinist writers use analogies not found in scripture to illustrate their points. What he should be concerned about isn't whether the analogy is found in scripture, but whether the teaching the analogy is supposed to describe is found in scripture. What's really important is whether (A) the teaching is found in scripture, and (B) the analogy is similar enough to help people get the point. 

It is beyond the scope of this blog post to get into whether or not scripture teaches resistible grace rather than irresistible grace, so I would recommend the interested reader in checking out the following blog posts I've written 

I defend the doctrine of resistible grace in the 3 above blog posts. Anyone wanting to know the biblical evidence for the doctrine should read those posts. Moreover, I also recommend checking out Kenneth Keathley's book Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach

In conclusion; even though I'm an Arminian and a Molinist, I can agree with the following theological statements;

"You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary." - Jonathan Edwards

"Salvation is all of the grace of God. Damnation is all of the will of man." - Charles Spurgeon

Click To Enlarge