Update: John Hendryx, of the Monergism.com site I reference below, has opened up a discussion with me here. See below in the comments.
In the very first post in this soteriology diablog, along with contending that monergism was a heresy, I also claimed that the author of the site, John Hendryx, made a caricature of synergism, essentially creating a straw man which he can knock down and claim that “synergism” is a heresy and unbiblical. One of the clearest examples of this caricature of true synergism is his A Prayer That a Synergist Won’t Pray.
The following prayer is indeed a caricature that no synergist would dare pray, but is what a synergist would pray if he were consistent in his theology:
“God, I give you glory for everything else, but not my faith … This is the one thing that is my very own that I produced of my natural capacities. For this little bit the glory is mine. I made better use of Your offer of salvation than others did. While You deserve glory for all I have Lord, my faith was the one part that I contributed to the price of my redemption, apart from and independent of the action of Your Holy Spirit.”
Which just goes to show that Mr. Hendryx has no clue whatsoever what true synergism is. But then he has his own heresy to establish. (He also has a complete misconstrual of synergism in his straw man chart, Two Views of Regeneration by John Hendryx.)
On the Monergism.com website is this quote by A. A. Hodge:
“The Semi-Pelagian doctrine taught by John Cassian (d. 440) admits that divine grace (assistance) is necessary to enable a sinner to return unto God and live, yet holds that, from the nature of the human will, man may first spontaneously, of himself, desire and attempt to choose and obey God. They deny the necessity of prevenient but admit the necessity of cooperative grace and conceive regeneration as the product of this cooperative grace.” A.A. Hodge (The Semi-Pelagian Theology of John Cassian)
There is also this outrageous comment:
Eastern Orthodox will argue that Cassian was not a semi-pelagian (and fail to explain why not) but Cassian himself saw grace and freedom as parallel, grace always cooperating with the human will for man’s salvation.” (p. 56; cf. Phil. 2:12-13) He teaches that the grace of God always invites, precedes and helps our will, and whatever gain freedom of will may attain for its pious effect is not its own desert, but the gift of grace.” (The Semi-Pelagian Theology of John Cassian)
I have decided to take up that challenge, to both show that St. John is not a semi-Pelagian, and that Mr. Hendryx completely mischaracterizes synergism. I will use St. John Cassian’s Conferences, XIII (the third conference with Abba Chaeremon) to do so. But first some caveats. St. John is not a systematic writer, or a systematic theologian. If he is anything, he is an ascetical theologian. And the context in which he takes up this issue is that of Christian askesis. He also makes comments which, lifted out of the context of the thirteenth Conference as a whole, do seem to support the accusations of his critics. But those disclaimers notwithstanding, it is clear from the whole of the conference St. John is not a semi-Pelagian, nor is the synergism in his writings in any way accurately described by the comments cited above.
The other caveat that needs to be stated, is that the understanding of the role of human will and deliberation in the context of salvation and eschatology was given a much more rigorous and Christological framework in St. Maximus the Confessor in the sixth century, and sharpened yet again by St. Gregory Palamas in the thirteenth century. But to explore these issues are beyond the scope of this single post (which will itself be perhaps too extensive in its reach). So I will limit myself to St. John Cassian’s words in the thirteenth Conference.
Continue reading “St. John Cassian: On Grace and Free Will”