A tragic and popular misconception exists in our pluralistic minds!
Which is more difficult to understand?
God is fully sovereign (monergism).
God shares His sovereignty with man (synergism).
For over a year, I have been wrestling with and considering my role in my life and the lives of those around me: challenging motive, human nature, thinking, and good works. In essence, why am I doing what I am doing? Is it all only for myself?!
I question the existence of altruism. (Albert Camus) Is there any truly selfless act?
I look closely at the fruit of “alien”, imparted righteousness against the black backdrop of self or depravity. (Jonathan Edwards)
What is the role of prayer, evangelism, and social justice if God is fully sovereign?
The conclusion that I seem to be arriving at is that Sovereignty is like energy. There is a fixed amount of it. Either it is spread out or unshared, but it cannot be both. It is either all being possessed by God, or it is partly possessed by God and partly by creatures of His design–what Erasmus and Melanchthon discuss as God + Man = Salvation?
So, if God is not sharing sovereignty with man, what is a proper way to understand the presence of goodness within man?
When we accomplish anything good, we crave the praise for it. When a friend shows me a kind act, I believe them to be a “good person.” (Many eulogies nauseate me). When a person shows me goodness, it helps me better understand the Heavenly Father. I have the choice to acknowledge the origin of that understanding as belonging to them or to God.
So, for prayer, missional evangelism, good works, etc. I can recognize something good within myself as the source, or I can go back to the fountain–back to the original source and agree with God that every perfect gift comes from the Father of Light (James 1:17).
So, one question yet remains: Why do I crave glory, or impart it where it does not belong? I cannot save you or myself, so how can I boast? I cannot love you or myself, so how can anyone be saved? I am incapable of selfless love (in my nature), so how can anyone show me selfless love (in their nature)? I am incapable of knowing God or my need for Him since my rationality and will are damaged by sin. This seems to lead to a world where no love and altruism exist.
BUT I do believe that there is something GOOD at work in me and the lives of others that are around me who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I can then, through His work of Sovereignty through me, be an agent of love toward someone, be impartial, or selfless and altruistic. Therefore, the answer that I seem to be arriving at is this: God does share something with His creation. If He does not share His eternal Sovereignty with His creation, but His plan does involve people, then, I am a passive recipient of His regeneration.
He is going to accomplish His will through the obedience of believers who are in the posture of service. Instead of seeing salvation or love as the good work of a redeemed individual, it is the good work of Christ imparted to those who recognize him.
We do not receive any of God’s sovereignty, therefore, we don’t deserve any of His praise (Eph. 2:8-9). We do, however, receive His righteousness passively, and therefore, He reserves all access to the praise. It is a righteousness FROM God (Rom. 1:16-17), of supernatural origin, taught by the Spirit, interpreted and understood supernaturally (I Cor. 2).
Conclusion: All good that resides within any creation of God is alien to and imparted to mankind from someplace outside of himself.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:10
Paul said “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” (Romans 7:18). Jesus said in Mark 10:18 no one is good but God alone. Paul was addressing the true understanding that no one is righteous of his or her own deeds or nature, but it comes through faith in Christ. (Romans 3:21-4:5)