I am convinced that the scriptures teach of a God who is completely sovereign in salvation. I am a monergist. I can cite several passages that make me think this way. I think if you look at some of my answers on this SE, you'll see that I'm a Calvinist. However, this does not mean that I'm a blind Calvinist. I arrived where I did by many years of study and internal deliberation. I am having another internal deliberation at this point.
If we examine passages like the first half of Ephesians 2, we see that it was our nature to sin, and that we had the spirit of Satan working within us. In the same place, Paul refers to us as being dead in our sins. By all accounts, it looks to me like plain support of a Reformed interpretation of the doctrine of regeneration. In the first two chapters, we see plainly that we have been unified with Christ: he in our death, and us in His life. Because of this unity we have with Christ, God made us to be alive as He made His Son to be alive (and now, being united with Christ, we are sons and co-heirs with Christ). This all paints a beautiful monergistic picture.
In the course of my studies this past weekend, preparing for a Bible study that I lead, I happened upon this verse:
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12 ESV)
I get it most of this. Most of it still even paints a monergistic picture, with the phrase "circumcision made without hands," and the whole idea of being "raised" from the dead (the imagery being that it doesn't really involve an act of man's will that he should become alive while he is already dead).
But I have a problem with the phrase "raised with him through faith." I see a logical contradiction that I need help working through (and a non-Calvinistic perspective on the passage does not solve the problem).
Dead men cannot have faith (again, read Ephesians 2). We need to be made alive. However, this passage cites that we are raised through faith. What should I make of this contradiction?
I can think of two options:
- The reformed interpretation of regeneration is wrong. Men have the capacity to believe in God before they are regenerate (Wesley's idea of Prevenient Grace would therefore be inapplicable). This simply cannot be. Again, those with faith were once under Satan's influence. A house divided against itself cannot stand; we cannot serve two masters. There was nothing in us to make us want to believe.
- Faith must be inherent in regeneration. Not tied to it, but faith would be regenerating. This would mean that predestination would be unto faith, and I've read Reformed authors who would quite disagree with this.
I hope I've made the problem clear. I would appreciate some insight.
Please allow me to clarify, I welcome explanations from traditions other than Calvinistic/Reformed. However, I would like these to address the basic doctrinal problem I am discussing. Please see @Eric's comment and my answer to his comment to get an idea of what I mean regarding this.