“The emphasis on the prevenience and preeminence of grace forms common ground between Arminianism and Calvinism. It is what makes Arminian synergism ‘evangelical.’ Arminians take with utmost seriousness the New Testament’s emphasis on salvation as a gift of grace that cannot be earned (Eph. 2:8). However, Arminian and Calvinist theologies—like all synergisms and monergisms—diverge over the role humans play in salvation. As Wiley notes, prevenient grace does not interfere with the freedom of the will. It does not bend the will or render the will’s response certain. It only enables the will to make the free choice to either cooperate with or resist grace. COOPERATION DOES NOT CONTRIBUTE TO SALVATION, as if God does part and humans do part; rather cooperation with grace in Arminian theology is simply nonresistance to grace. It is merely deciding to allow grace to do its work by laying down all attempts at self-justification and self-purification, and admitting that only Christ can save. Nevertheless, GOD DOES NOT MAKE THIS DECISION FOR THE INDIVIDUAL; it is a decision individuals, under the pressure of prevenient grace, must make for themselves” (“Arminian Theology,” page 36).
As Olson tells us above, Arminians and Calvinists differ with regard to what the human does in salvation. Calvinists say that the process of salvation is ALL GOD—God does all of the work (monergism, from the Greek words “monos” and “ergo”; means “to work alone”). God overrides the human will such that the person HAS NO OTHER CHOICE BUT to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Arminians believe that God does not override the human will—rather, God works WITH the human will (this is known as “synergism”; the word comes from the Greek words “sun” and “ergo,” meaning “to work with”).
Now the Arminian believes that God works with the human will, not against it or over it; but, does this mean, then, that faith is a WORK? According to Olson, it doesn’t. In his words,
“…cooperation with grace in Arminian theology is simply NONRESISTANCE TO GRACE. It is merely deciding to allow grace to do its work by…ADMITTING THAT ONLY CHRIST CAN SAVE” (36).
When a person professes faith in Christ, they are not DOING the work—instead, they are confessing that CHRIST DID THE WORK for them when He died for their sins on a cross at Calvary. They are confirming the work that was already done by Christ.
Romans chapter 10 discusses the concept of faith as confession, which is not a work. Read the following:
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: ‘The one who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that COMES FROM FAITH SPEAKS like this: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. On the contrary, what does it say? THE MESSAGE IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED. With the heart one believes, RESULTING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, and with the mouth one confesses, RESULTING IN SALVATION. Now the Scripture says, ‘No one who believes on Him will be put to shame…” (Romans 10:4-11, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
The “righteousness that comes from faith” is different than “the righteousness that is from the law.” Why? because the righteousness of faith doesn’t DO anything, doesn’t perform works to receive it…instead, it simply admits that it is unable to do anything to merit the righteousness.
So, the Arminian and Calvinist differ over the role of humans in salvation. But there's one thing that both know for sure: that is that Christ came to save us over two thousand years ago; and all we have to do is acknowledge our filthiness and lostness before God in order to be saved. The debt is paid—and all we have to do is accept the payment.