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(from Gk. synergeo, “to work with”). In religious context the term refers to the concept of man cooperating with God in his own conversion.* The concept of synergism developed out of an attempt to solve an apparent contradiction. Scripture teaches the native corruption of man (Jn 3:6), that God provided all-inclusive redemption (Eze 33:11; Jn 3:16; 2 Co 5:19; 1 Ti 2:4), and that man is saved by faith (Mk 16:16; Gl 3:11).

Three views have been held regarding the “how” of conversion: (1) God alone brings man to faith; (2) man unilaterally decides to believe; (3) man cooperates with God (God begins, man completes conversion; or vice versa). Gen. speaking, the synergistic view holds that man is by nature not altogether spiritually dead and that some resist God's call to faith less violently than others.

The synergistic view rests on such arguments as these: (1) if one can do nothing in his conversion, he will become careless and fatalistic; (2) the call to repent (Mk 1:15; Acts 2:38) implies power to repent; (3) if man is entirely passive, conversion is mechanical; (4) God makes conversion possible, man makes it real; (5) since man can hinder conversion (Mt 23:37; Lk 7:30) he can also cooperate in it; (6) ability to resist implies ability to cease resisting.

Scripture teaches that man is by nature spiritually dead (Jn 5:24; Eph 2:1) and antagonistic to spiritual things (Ro 8:7–8; 1 Co 2:14) and that man is saved by God's grace, not by works (Eph 2:8–10). Whatever synergism there is, in the proper sense of the term, follows conversion and is a result of God's monergism in man's conversion (Jn 6:44, 63–65; Ro 9:16; 2 Co 4:6; 5:17; 6:1; Eph 4:24; Cl 1:13). EMP

See also Synergistic Controversy.

E. M. Plass, “Synergism,” The Abiding Word, II, ed. T. F. C. Laetsch (St. Louis, 1947), 299–321.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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