St. Paul wrote: "For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's planting, God's building" (1 Cor. 3:9). The Greek word for "coworkers" or "fellow workers" is "synergoi" and for "working together" is "synergeo" - often used in the New Testament as workers or working together with God:
"They went out, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed. Amen" (Mark 16:20).
"Working together with Him [Christ], then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor. 6:1).
"and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith" (1 Thes. 3:2).
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them" (Eph 2:8-10).
The Early Church's teaching on "Synergy" is just what the above verses describe: God's grace working in all human beings, enabling us to freely choose to work together with Him and do good works. God's love and grace toward all mankind is the overriding theme of the Apostles, the New Testament, and the Early Church:
"Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mat. 28:19).
"He was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light, the true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world" (John 1:8-9).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
"Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Let all the peoples praise Him" (Rom. 15:11).
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people" (Titus 2:11).
"The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).
Synergy seems to strike the right balance between God's sovereignty and mankind's liberty/responsibility. The Augustinian-Calvinist doctrine of predestination and God's sovereignty obliterates our liberty, we are not morally responsible for our actions because our freedom to do good or evil is merely a mirage. God's sovereignty and predestination of all events, the salvation of the elect and damnation of the unelect, are predetermined. And just as people prefer to think they will win the Megabucks lottery rather than being struck by lightning when there's less chance of the former than the latter, many prefer to believe they are among the elect.
Thus whatever they do is OK, because they've convinced themselves they are among those chosen for eternal salvation, they have "eternal security" - a guaranteed ticket to heaven! This idea of "limited atonement" - that Christ died only for the elect - leads directly to a totalitarian mindset, excusing one's own actions while accusing those of the "damned" or "deplorables." In his Predestination Paradise of Geneva, John Calvin had his opponents executed: obviously, they were predestined for it, so disposing of them must be God's will! We see a similar mindset of "only we are the enlightened ones" with Marxists and Islamic terrorists, promising to build their paradise on earth, which excuses their violent elimination of all opposed.
How different is the original Church's doctrine of Synergy! It promises that God's grace is for all mankind: "He [Christ] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sakes died and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:15). Here we see the implication of human responsibility: because He died for all, we should no longer live for ourselves, satisfying our fleshly passions. We struggle against the passions all our lives.
It may seem contradictory that both are true: God is sovereign, and mankind is also free and responsible. Einstein was puzzled over "Spooky Action at a Distance" - a seeming contradiction to his discovery that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. And yet, experiments now seem to prove that quantum particles can communicate instantaneously over vast distances of hundreds of lightyears. The article even mentions how it applies to human freedom. We are like tiny little quanta in the universe, floating around in an indeterminate state until we are observed by God, and known only by Him.
This Sunday is "Meatfare Sunday" for Orthodox Christians, when "we commemorate the inexorable Second Coming of Christ. The holy fathers have ordained that it be observed after the second parable of the Prodigal Son, so that no one who has learned from it of God's love of for mankind will live in laziness, saying, 'God loves mankind, and when I am separated from Him by sin, I will nevertheless be restored.' This terrible Day of Judgment is now commemorated, so that through fear of death and the expectation of future torment, those who live in laziness may be encouraged to strive for the virtues, not only trusting in the love of God, but also realizing that He is the righteous Judge, who will judge all men according to their deeds." We begin the Lenten period of repentance by saying farewell to meat for the seven weeks of Lent. The Christian life should be one of continual repentance because we cannot know if we are among the elect. Only those who "persevere to the end" (Mat. 24:13) will be saved.
I've written about this in my most-read blog article "Does God Give Us a Second Chance?'. Everyone will have a fair opportunity to hear and respond to the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Christ. But that also means that everyone is responsible to respond to the Gospel. This is not Universalism! How must we respond? Not by words only, but by faith that results in works: Caring For Orphans and Widows and Building Christian Communities.
It is high time to swing into action, not whiling away our days doing the same old stuff. It's time to repent and change our ways. There might not be much time left!