Regeneration Precedes Faith

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Lee's picture

...we got that settled in only 1 minute and 3 seconds.  If I had known it took only that little bit of time I would have saved some money on a few credit hours studying the ordo salutis.

Lee

G. N. Barkman's picture

Steve, am I mistaken about your being Presbyterian?  This is standard Presbyterian doctrine.  Indeed, it is standard reformed doctrine.  It is the dividing line between Calvinism and Arminianism.  And yes, it is taught in the Bible in a number of passages.  However, past experience has demonstrated that those who do not believe this will not be convinced by scripture, so there may not be much profit in listing some of the pertinent texts.

But, I'm willing to try.  Let's take a look at I Corinthins 2:14.  Natural men (unregenerate) cannot understand the truth of God.  Spiritual men (regenerated) do.  So how does ANYONE understand?  They must be constituted spiritual (regenerated) first before they are able to understand.  Regeneration precedes faith.

G. N. Barkman

Joe Whalen's picture

Is Paul addressing the order of salvation in 1 Cor 2?  Or is he contrasting godly wisdom with worldly wisdom? 

Is 1 Corinthians 2:14 a strong verse for the order of events in salvation?  Is it even a verse touching on the teaching of regeneration?

I always thought Paul was teaching the church that his teaching is not according to worldly wisdom and is giving a reason why the lost will not receive it.   Am I mistaken on Paul's message of 1 Cor 2? In reading the passage, it seems as if he is simply explaining why the world at large has rejected the Gospel and what God has given to those of us the world considered fools.  

Is 1 Corinthians 2 teaching on how anyone came to be believer?  Does it touch on the order of salvation for believers?

I think I am willing to be taught by Scripture, but I fear this is not where, if anywhere, Scripture is teaching on the order of salvation.   Am I mistaken?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Yes and no.  This passage does teach why the world rejects the gospel.  And the reason is because the natural man (unregenerate person) does not, will not, and cannot understand spiritual truth.  The only ones who understand it are spiritual men  (regenerate people).  So once again, how does ANYONE believe?  Only those who are changed by the Spirit of God from natural to spiritual men are able to understand, and therefore believe.

The truth is hiding from you in plain view.

G. N. Barkman

Steve Davis's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Steve, am I mistaken about your being Presbyterian?  This is standard Presbyterian doctrine.  Indeed, it is standard reformed doctrine.  It is the dividing line between Calvinism and Arminianism.  And yes, it is taught in the Bible in a number of passages.  However, past experience has demonstrated that those who do not believe this will not be convinced by scripture, so there may not be much profit in listing some of the pertinent texts.

But, I'm willing to try.  Let's take a look at I Corinthins 2:14.  Natural men (unregenerate) cannot understand the truth of God.  Spiritual men (regenerated) do.  So how does ANYONE understand?  They must be constituted spiritual (regenerated) first before they are able to understand.  Regeneration precedes faith.

Brother Barkman,

Funny. I don't ever recall being mistaken for a Presbyterian. My background is firmly Independent Baptist and although no longer IFB I remain baptistic. But I do have a masters degree from RTS, studied under Sinclair Ferguson et al. Also, I did say "maybe." I've never been convinced of the formulation that regeneration precedes faith but I;m open. As I said, I understand the logic of it, dead people can't believe, etc.

I do not consider that it constitutes the "essence of reformed theology." I'm not a Calvin expert but in my French copy of his Institutes, Book 3, chapter 3, he has a heading, "Que nous sommes régénérés par la foi (That we are regenerated by faith). Maybe I'm missing something in the context but it seems to me that at least young Calvin did not hold that regeneration preceded faith. Of course there is something that takes place for someone to believe since faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, no one seeks God on their own, God always takes the initiative, the necessity of the work of the Spirit of God, etc. It seems to me that Scripture equates regeneration with salvation (Titus 3:5). Could we say a person is saved (regenerated) in order to believe? I'm sure proof texts can be lined up on both sides of the issue. But as formulated by Sproul (for whom I have great respect and don't want to speak ill of the departed) it appears to reverse "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Of course, no one believes apart from the work of the Word and the work of the Spirit which grants life and forgiveness. I would not call that work regeneration. Is a person regenerated in order to place faith in Christ or regenerated at the moment when Spirit given faith is exercised. I lean toward the latter, In the end, it remains an epistemological issue. People can say they believe that regeneration precedes faith. I'm not convinced that they can know that or that it is even a concern of the authors of Scripture. I don't place everything I don't understand in the "mystery" bag but in this case I remain agnostic on the question. I am content to preach the gospel freely and trust God to do what only he can do.

So I might not have pure reformed credentials and might have to remain reformish. I do find your comment interesting on people not convinced by Scripture. It really cuts both ways. 

BTW, I hesitated to comment since these threads rarely go anywhere. However, I find the question more interesting than discussions of BJU and bluegrass.

Have a great day in the Lord's house tomorrow. I don't know if I'll get a chance to respond. I leave for Cameroon tomorrow evening to teach pastors in two cities. 

Blessings,

Steve

 

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Yes, that's the logic of it.  It's also what Scripture teaches.  

G. N. Barkman

Ken S's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Yes, that's the logic of it.  It's also what Scripture teaches.  

It's what you believe scripture teaches. There are others who disagree. 

Kevin Miller's picture

Can a person feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit without being regenerated first?

Jim's picture

Can all agree on this?

  • Philippians 1:29,  "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake"
  • Acts 11:18, "When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."
  • Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

God grants repentance and faith!

TylerR's picture

Editor

My soteriology is Reformed. I agree with Sproul, here. I knew this thread would eventually generate some response! Heh, heh ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Steve Davis's picture

TylerR wrote:

My soteriology is Reformed. I agree with Sproul, here. I knew this thread would eventually generate some response! Heh, heh ...

There are all these pesky verses that seem to indicate that belief leads to salvation: John 20:31 "But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." If only he had reversed that like Sproul did, it would be so much clearer: "But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by having life you might believe in his name."  Many Reformed theologians admit that regeneration before faith is the logical order but not the temporal order and that they regeneration and faith occur simultaneously. I think it's a serious mistake to make this the essence of Reformed teaching. I always thought it was justification by faith alone

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Steve wrote:

There are all these pesky verses that seem to indicate that belief leads to salvation

Yes, they certainly say that. No doubt about it. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

BTW, I hesitated to comment since these threads rarely go anywhere. However, I find the question more interesting than discussions of BJU and bluegrass.

You mean we still haven’t solved that issue yet? Good thing I just made more popcorn...

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

G. N. Barkman's picture

Steve, I doubt that this is the defining doctrine that divides Calvinists and Arminians.  I am under the impression that Arminians generally assert belief in justification by faith alone .  But the order solutis is a clear dividing line.

We are justified by faith, but we are not regenerated by faith.  We are regenerated so that we can exercise the faith that justifies.

G. N. Barkman

Steve Davis's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Steve, I doubt that this is the defining doctrine that divides Calvinists and Arminians.  I am under the impression that Arminians generally assert belief in justification by faith alone .  But the order solutis is a clear dividing line.

We are justified by faith, but we are not regenerated by faith.  We are regenerated so that we can exercise the faith that justifies.

Sorry if I wasn't clear. I didn't mean justification by faith is the divide between Calvinists and Arminians but as the essence of Reformed teaching (if there is an essence). Sproul claimed the essence of Reformed teaching is that regeneration precedes faith. I think he's wrong on the teaching and the essence.

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

At the time of the Reformation, justification by faith alone was one of, if not the most important teaching in opposition to errors of Rome.  However, regeneration preceding faith was also a big issue.  Martin Luther's "The Bondage of the Will" was written to refute the error that man has a will that is able to choose Christ without a prior enlivening by the Holy Spirit.  So a pretty good case can be made for Sproul's assertion from the standpoint of Reformation history.

However, if Sproul was speaking of contemporary issues, his statement has even stronger support.  Arminianism teaches that faith precedes regeneration, whereas Reformed doctrine teaches the exact opposite.  Man does not believe because he cannot believe.  "No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father"  (John 6:65)

 

G. N. Barkman

Steve Davis's picture

Certainly the Father draws, the Spirit works, etc. I still don't see regeneration. It's the wrong word. See above. I don't think Calvin believed it. Many Calvinists might believe it. But Calvinism does not hold exclusive claim to Reformed teaching. I'll take the simplicity of the gospel."Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."

Anecdotally I asked two Westminster-trained Reformed friends to define the essence of Reformed teaching. Neither mentioned regeneration precedes faith and neither believes it. Even if Sproul were right on the teaching, which I don't concede, he's wrong on the essence. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

I hope you will break this to them gently, but if your friends do not believe that regeneration precedes faith, they are not reformed, no matter what they may call themselves.

As to Calvin, I'm positive he did believe this.  However, I'm on vacation, and away from my library, so can't document that at the moment.

It's not surprising that those who do not believe regeneration precedes faith also don't believe it's the essence of reformed doctrine, especially if they consider themselves reformed.  But I believe that R. C. Sproul is more knowledgeable about this than the average person.

G. N. Barkman

Steve Davis's picture

On one thing we agree. Sproul IS now much more knowledgeable than the average person. Whether he WAS right about this is another question. I've been in and around Reformed circles enough to know you don't get to decide who is and who isn't Reformed based on this question. On board and heading out. Enjoyed the interaction.

Paul Henebury's picture

"This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" - Gal. 3:2

The answer is "neither" if you follow Sproul.  You received the Spirit and THEN got the hearing of faith.  Why?  Because you deduced that a dead man cannot do anything, as if a lifeless corpse is analogous to spiritual deadness.  It isn't.  Spiritually dead men do respond by suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. (Rom. 1:18) 

Paul asserts in Gal. 2 that one must exercise faith in order to receive the Spirit (i.e. be regenerated).  This corresponds to Rom. 1:16; Jn. 5:24, etc.  Also, if regeneration precedes faith then you cannot be justified by faith ( as was Abraham e.g. Rom. 4:3), since being regenerated is the sign of acceptance with God, vis a vis, justification.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Steve's comment reminded me of something Dr. Larry Oats always said in systematic theology class: "He's dead now, so his theology has been straightened out!" 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

I was just curious enough to google this, and here is the result I found:

(1) Total Depravity—Man in his natural state is dead in trespasses and sins.

It is the ancient conviction of the Christian church that man—being dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1, 5)—cannot save himself. Yet how often man has tried to do something to bring about his own salvation! But Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). It is for this reason that the Bible says that God alone is the author of man's conversion. Any man who hears the gospel is commanded by God to accept it. He is free to accept it. But—and this is the whole trouble—he is not able to accept it, because he does not have the holy desire or will to do so. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil" (Jer. 13:23).

Man's sinful nature, and this alone, makes it impossible for him to do anything to bring about his own salvation. As Jesus once said, "With man this is impossible ..." (Matt. 19:26). It is impossible for those who are dead in sin to receive Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel. How thankful we ought to be, then, that Jesus went on to say, "... but with God all things are possible."

The Reformed faith teaches that man's ability has suffered drastic change as a result of his fall into sin. He was originally both free and able to do the will of God. But "by his fall into a state of sin," he has "wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto" (WCF, IX:3; italics added).

God did not take away from man the liberty to do good. So far as God is concerned, man is still free to do good. But he is not able to do good; in fact, he is "utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil" (WCF, VI:4). This is what the Scripture teaches, when it says, "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so" (Rom. 8:7). Man's depravity, in other words, is total by nature.

Doesn't seem like the OPC takes a position like the one Sproul does, probably because it doesn't really need to.  There's interplay there, but in my opinion it's like trying to separate out yellow pigment from blue pigment in already mixed up green paint.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Kevin Miller's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

Can a person feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit without being regenerated first?

I don't see any comments specifically about "conviction," so I'll ask the question in a more specific manner. In Acts 2, Peter preaches a sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Verse 37 says When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

So if these spiritually dead people were "cut to the heart," does that mean they were already regenerated before they asked "What shall we do"? I've always understood "cut to the heart" to be a phrase indicating conviction, but that they weren't saved until they followed Peter's directions.

G. N. Barkman's picture

One of the problems with these type discussions is the imprecise way we customarily used the word "saved."  Think about this statement.  "I have been saved.  I am being saved.  I shall be saved."  Each phrase is an accurate statement, yet the word "saved" has many different meanings.  So to say, "I must believe in order to be saved" means exactly what?  I must believe in order to be regenerated?  I must believe in order to be justified?  I must believe in order to be sanctified?  I must believe in order to go to heaven?  Calvinists agree with all but the first statement.  I'm afraid we are talking past each other much of the time.  We must be more precise about which aspect of salvation we have in mind.

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

I agree with GNB that the usual Calvinist position is that regeneration precedes faith.  However, not all Calvinists held to that view.  Moreover it seems to contradict the Scriptures I quoted above.  Another passage it collides with is John 9:38-39:

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture

Editor

The tension between systematic theology and exegesis of individual texts ... 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Lee's picture

Does leprosy in Scripture consistently illustrate sin and the cleansing of leprosy consistently illustrate salvation?

 

Lee

Kevin Miller's picture

Lee wrote:

Does leprosy in Scripture consistently illustrate sin and the cleansing of leprosy consistently illustrate salvation?

 

I'm not sure it does in every instance, but there is a strong pattern. Do you think the accounts of the cleansing of leprosy relate to the order of faith and regeneration?

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