Effectual Calling


Monergism means only one person does the work. Synergism has to do with cooperation, with two or more people working together.

When a sinners turns from spiritual death to spiritual life, is that step accomplished through monergism (as Calvinism says) or through synergism (as Arminianism says)? In other words, does God alone change (or regenerate) the heart of the sinner, or does the change of heart rest on the willingness of the sinner to be changed?

The majority of professing Christians believe that faith comes before regeneration. In other words, to be born again, one has to believe. One has to choose Christ before rebirth can occur. But if that were the case, we would have no hope of salvation, because a spiritually dead person cannot choose Christ. Dead people do not cooperate. Lazarus cooperated by walking out of the tomb, but there was no cooperation involved in his transition from death to life. Thus Reformed theology teaches that regeneration precedes faith.

The only way anyone will ever choose Christ willingly is if God intervenes to make him willing by regenerating his soul. After God makes us alive, we reach out in faith, but that first step is something God does alone. Jesus said no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). The apostle Paul said that faith is a gift of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this [which includes faith] is not your own doing” (Ephesians 2:8). Even the faith we have is not something we generate.

Those who believe that man co-operates in regeneration hold to a form of works righteousness, for they say that some can enter in by making the “right” response. This is a denial of the gospel. There is no human righteousness in man’s regeneration.


In Romans 8:29-30 there is a chain, a sequence beginning with foreknowledge: all whom God foreknew He predestined. “And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” It is clear that the word “called” here is not referring to the external call of the gospel, which goes out to everyone. For not all who are externally called are justified. Therefore, this text is about the internal call, the work of the Holy Spirit that effectually changes the heart from spiritual death to spiritual life. The effectual call of the Holy Spirit brings to pass in our hearts what God purposed to do from the foundation of the world. All who have been predestined are called effectually by the Holy Spirit; all who are called by the Holy Spirit are justified; and all who are justified are glorified.


[Adapted from R.C. Sproul, Everyone’s a Theologian]