Regeneration Precedes Faith

In post 7 of the thread titled http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-does-regeneration-precede-faith]Does Regeneration Precede Faith? I wrote:

Quote:
I intend to write an article for my blog on the subject of regeneration preceding faith. I will start a new thread on SI to discuss my article as well as post a link to that article here.

I have titled my article http://canjamerican.blogspot.com/2010/02/regeneration-precedes-faith.html Regeneration Precedes Faith . This paragraph explains my purpose:

Quote:
My purpose in writing this article is to show that regeneration, as it is understood by Calvinists, must precede faith. To that end, we will first look at the Canons of Dordt, specifically the section presenting man's spiritual depravity. Following that, we will see from the writing and preaching of selected Calvinists that they affirm the idea of regeneration preceding faith. This article will conclude with a look at the story of the raising of Lazarus from John 11. In my opinion, it is one of the best illustrations of regeneration preceding faith.

I do not moderate comments on my blog so feel free to post comments there or here, whether you agree or disagree.

Here are links to archived SI discussions on the same subject.

http://20.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t=7755]What is first – repentance or belief?

http://20.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t=1738]Which came first -- Regeneration or Faith?

http://20.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t=2844]"That Spurgeon's sermons teach that regeneration precedes and gives rise to faith is impossible to deny."

The link in the first post has changed to http://sharperiron.org/spurgeons-sermons-teach-regeneration-precedes-and...this but Mike Riley’s link has expired.

If you would like to have a PDF of my article you may email me.

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JohnBrian's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:
Yet Calvinists try to make this narrow distinction to the word regeneration that most people do not carry with them when they use the word regeneration.
So you understand how Calvinist's use the term - that's good - as most of the critiques of the position (at least that I have encountered) miss that understanding. Their criticism is then based on their usage of the term rather than the Calvinist usage of the term.

Whether Calvinist's should use the term in the way we do - "to express the initial divine act" (Hodge) - is a fair question. Should we use a different word, and/or is there a word that would better express our understanding of that "act"?

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Kevin Miller's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
Kevin Miller wrote:
Yet Calvinists try to make this narrow distinction to the word regeneration that most people do not carry with them when they use the word regeneration.
So you understand how Calvinist's use the term - that's good - as most of the critiques of the position (at least that I have encountered) miss that understanding. Their criticism is then based on their usage of the term rather than the Calvinist usage of the term.

Whether Calvinist's should use the term in the way we do - "to express the initial divine act" (Hodge) - is a fair question. Should we use a different word, and/or is there a word that would better express our understanding of that "act"?


It would certainly be less confusing if a different word was used. The average Christian uses regeneration in the same way they would use "born again" which is typically used as a synonym for salvation. I suppose "illumination" doesn't go far enough, since that just means "to shine light on," but perhaps Calvinists could declare that "illumination" means more than light shining and actually means "the initial divine act." I suppose I could do with a little further understanding of the "act" itself in order to come up with a word for it. Do Calvinists believe that this "act" is when the Holy Spirit indwells the person? If that is the case, then "indwelling" could be used, and then we would have the conversation about whether indwelling precedes faith.

JohnBrian's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:
I suppose I could do with a little further understanding of the "act" itself in order to come up with a word for it.

These verses describe it:

Ezekiel 36:26 wrote:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Acts 16:14 wrote:
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

It is the act of God opening the eyes of the spiritually blind, opening the ears of the spiritually deaf, raising the spiritually dead to life. In all of these God is the SOLE cause of the sight, the hearing and the life (I thought to write FIRST cause, but that would indicate that there is at least a SECOND cause).

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Kevin Miller's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
Kevin Miller wrote:
I suppose I could do with a little further understanding of the "act" itself in order to come up with a word for it.

These verses describe it:

Ezekiel 36:26 wrote:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Acts 16:14 wrote:
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

It is the act of God opening the eyes of the spiritually blind, opening the ears of the spiritually deaf, raising the spiritually dead to life. In all of these God is the SOLE cause of the sight, the hearing and the life (I thought to write FIRST cause, but that would indicate that there is at least a SECOND cause).


First off, are you saying that the opening of Lydia's heart is the same as getting a "new heart"? I suppose one could tie those together, but there does seem to be a semantic difference between an "open" heart and a "new" heart. Luke 24:44-45 says, 44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. In this passage, the disciples had their understanding opened. Does this mean that the disciples did not have a new heart until Luke 24? I'm just wondering if having one's understanding opened is really exactly the same as getting a new heart and new life. After all, they didn't even have the indwelling of the spirit yet.

In post 36, you stated, "I had not actually thought about the work of conviction and illumination. Reading McMahon's article I think that he is saying that both of those come before regeneration, as part of the process of leading individuals to salvation."
You also said, "The conviction and illumination may take some time, and might be different for every believer. There is a point in the conversion process when the Holy Spirit takes away the blindness and the individual expresses faith."
So is the Calvinist idea of regeneration that of a "process" which may take time between the illumination and the coming to faith? That is what you seemed to say in post 36.

Also, I have a question about Lydia. She was someone who "worshipped God" before she even heard Paul. Was her worship of God completely worthless before hearing Paul? Were people in the Old Testament who worshipped God doing so while completely blind, deaf, and without life? Did sight and hearing and spiritual life only come to people after Christ's death, thus making regeneration a term that should be used only for New Testament saints? I'm just curious about that.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Caleb S wrote:
[

Also, how would you define "emotions"?

Would you agree that "faith" is more than just volition and cognitive knowledge?

Before defining emotions please allow me to ask, are you seeking a simple answer such as a one or two word synonym or a comprehensive definition?

As to "faith" I am assuming we are talking about faith with respect to the Bible. And my first response would be to have anyone arguing that faith requires emotions, to demonstrate where in Scripture this is asserted. I do not believe it is.

Faith, per the Scriptures, is believing and this involves our comprehension and acceptance as true, that which is stated in Scripture. As far as the human element is concerned, yes, I would limit it to cognitive functions and our wills. Now it is clear that we are not merely, as humans, a cognition and volition. We also have accompanying these exercises (cognition and volition) things such as emotions, respiratory functions, circulatory functions and so on. For example, I cannot believe something if I do not have my circulatory system functioning. When the blood flow to the brain ceases I immediately become unconscious and begin dying. But the Bible does not include this as a necessity for me to believe, yet it is. Why? Because such things are understood to be present, yet though present they are not what is in view when and where the Scriptures address believing, itself.

Emotions are no different. It is generally understood that emotions are going to be present. In fact, it is understood so much that language is used in describing our responses that reflect its presence. The question is not, are emotions present? Yes, they are, rather, are emotions required for one to believe?

Again, I submit that emotions, while real and with a purpose in mind just as our nervous system enables our brain to function, our respiratory system and circulatory systems enables us to be animated, are not essential to believing. And those asserting emotions are necessary to believing the gospel, I would challenge to provide a prescriptive argument that this is always and exhaustively essential.

Now, let me say something. I am quite aware that emotions, in their role, do enhance the experiences of people with regard to their cognitive process. That is a person may recognize their embarrassment but then experience from that cognitive conclusion an emotional response that makes them more aware, possibly greatly aware, of their faux pas. And because of the discomfort of the heightened stimulus he or she may be prompted to more carefully audit the situation and form a more proper evaluation of who, what why and how.

And this may be true of our guilt of sin and the process of a man or woman becoming aware of their position before God as condemned and in need of salvation. But remember, the embarrassment or the awareness is a cognitive conclusion. The emotions that follow act as enhancers but they are not "determiners" or "thinkers", they do not provide a platform for evaluation, only for stimulation. The "feelings" or emotions that the person experienced were not a cognitive process, rather they were based on a cognitive process.

But even with severe emotional responses, such a man or woman is still free to throw off all their previous considerations and simply reject what even their mind concluded to be true and their emotions responded to.

But what I also know happens is that a man or woman hears the gospel and does not consider his or her emotional response. They may have one but their emotions are tepid, they are not a source of motivation for them. They consider the facts and respond.

The two constants in both cases and in all cases are:

Recognition of the truth through the exercise of the mind.
The exercise of human volition to accept as true that which they have considered and upon which they have made a conclusion.

And these two constants are, what I believe, always reflected in all calls in Scripture for us to believe. These are the two constants and the fundamentally essential elements with regard to faith and the human ingredient that must be present. All other elements may or may not be present at varying times but are not essential to belief.

Now, do understand that as we speak we are speaking only in the context of the operation of the human being without consideration as to the other element in the exercise of our faith, namely the Spirit of God. I am sure you know this but for anyone reading I wanted to make sure this qualifier is included.

JohnBrian's picture

Alex from post 58 wrote:
Your quote is out of context. I was responding to an assertion by Snoeberger and my response was not attempting equate regeneration (an element of salvation) and salvation (the comprehensive term or what Snoeberger called the "package-term").

I understood the following words to be your own, and that your counter argument to Snoeberger was that believing precedes salvation.

Alex from post 54 wrote:
In other words, both logically and chronologically they position believing before being saved which is why being saved, in these passages, is in the future tense.

If my understanding was correct then you are arguing a point that all are in agreement on:

Belief precedes salvation

The issue (which was the point of my article) is that such statement (for the Calvinist) is NOT equivalent to:

Belief precedes regeneration

The quotes (in post 56) from my article distinguish between regeneration and salvation. If one understands the Calvinist argument, then an objection would focus on WHY Calvinists cannot identify "the initial divine act" (Hodges) as regeneration.

Paul S in post 53 disagrees with the Calvinist use of regeneration by affirming that the word is directly equivalent to conversion.

Quote:
I find it untenable on this issue, the use of the term regeneration to explain the spiritually dead coming to faith. I believe the new birth is the spiritual regeneration of the spiritually dead. And faith in God's truth precedes that regeneration. (John 1:12, 13.) As I understand regeneration (born of God) it is the conversion.

I agree with Paul here:

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I believe the new birth is the spiritual regeneration of the spiritually dead.

I disagree with Paul here:

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And faith in God's truth precedes that regeneration.

I did not indicate that you affirmed my position.

Alex wrote:
So no, I would not be affirming your position.
I did indicate that you "affirmed the entire point of my article."

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Alex Guggenheim's picture

John,

I am not clear what you are saying but let me be clear.

1. Salvation is not a precise synonym for one of its elements, namely regeneration.

2. However, salvation always has in view or included regeneration (one of its elements), though it may not be the emphasis of its contextual use in a certain passage, it is not apart from its presence. An example is the human body. I may refer to the human body which includes the human arm. I may not identify a specific part of the body called the arm but when I refer to human body it includes the arm.

Also, I may refer to the human arm and apart from exceptional circumstances such as a case when it has been severed which would normally be presented with this context being clearly the case, when I refer to the human arm I do so, not apart from the human body but with the human body.

3. Therefore regeneration, an element of salvation, may be used with special reference to that element of salvation. However its reference is not used with the idea that it is apart from salvation.

There is no part of personal salvation that occurs before one believes (with respect to the context of our discussion). This includes regeneration. Snoeberger was attempting to justify the position that believing must occur through regeneration. Obviously I reject that.

Additionally, he and you assert that faith precedes salvation, no one I know of has gone so far as to say salvation occurs before one believes, though I believe the argument itself, that one is regenerated before believing, is exactly that. So if it is "faith preceding salvation" and that alone to which you are referring then yes, we agree.

But where you and I and Snoeberger and Barrett and whomever else, and I, depart is the view that believing requires or involves an element of salvation, namely regeneration. And your article, to me, seemed to have this theme as its thrust, hence I did not view myself as affirming the article. Now, whatever it is I am missing here I apologize and it would not be redundant to point it out. I am as susceptible as anyone else to missing things from time to time.

JohnBrian's picture

Kevin wrote:
First off, are you saying that the opening of Lydia's heart is the same as getting a "new heart"?...

I'm just wondering if having one's understanding opened is really exactly the same as getting a new heart and new life.

The point is that God DID SOMETHING to Lydia that caused her to “heed the things spoken by Paul.” In her natural state (that of an unregenerate person) she could not “pay attention” (Acts 16:14 ESV). The synergist affirms that man HAS the ability in his natural state to do what this Scripture states that God did.

John R. Rice in his http://swordbooks.com/hyper-calvinsimafalsedoctrine.aspx ]Hyper-Calvinism: A False Doctrine on page 3 writes:

Quote:
The hyper-Calvinist says sinners are totally depraved and so incapable of repentance except as God calls some selected individuals, and leaves others He has predestined for Hell, unable to repent.

Now the doctrine that all are sinful, incapable of being saved or doing good without God’s help, is true. But it is certainly not true that some never could repent, that God leaves some intentionally without light or calling. Consider these Scriptures:

a. “God… now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30) Can anyone accuse God of commanding people to do what He has made it impossible for them to do?

Setting aside the fact that he incorrectly identifies as hyper those who hold to five-point Calvinism, he speaks of God in effect causing the inability, and then insists that God cannot hold people accountable for something He caused. What he fails to recognize is the effect of Adam’s sin on all of his descendants – spiritual death. God must restore ability, and it is that restoration that Calvinist’s call regeneration

Kevin wrote:
So is the Calvinist idea of regeneration that of a "process" which may take time between the illumination and the coming to faith?
No, regeneration is a spiritual event. The process leading up to that event is the 1 Cor. 3:6-8 “planting and watering,” with the “increase” being regeneration.

Kevin wrote:
Was her worship of God completely worthless before hearing Paul?
Worship would most likely fall under the planting and watering phase.

Kevin wrote:
Did sight and hearing and spiritual life only come to people after Christ's death, thus making regeneration a term that should be used only for New Testament saints?
No, since I affirm that faith follows regeneration as a natural consequence, anyone who expressed faith in the OT, did so because God first DID SOMETHING.

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Kevin Miller's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
The point is that God DID SOMETHING to Lydia that caused her to “heed the things spoken by Paul.” In her natural state (that of an unregenerate person) she could not “pay attention” (Acts 16:14 ESV). The synergist affirms that man HAS the ability in his natural state to do what this Scripture states that God did.
Yes, I think that God does SOMETHING. but I really am trying to figure out if regeneration has to be the SOMETHING as opposed to SOMETHING like illumination, which would give one the ability to see.

Quote:
What he fails to recognize is the effect of Adam’s sin on all of his descendants – spiritual death. God must restore ability, and it is that restoration that Calvinist’s call regeneration
The way I understand it, spiritual death would not simply indicate "lack of ability." Spiritual death is actually separation from God. Therefore, spiritual life would be full and complete union with God, as opposed to just a restoration of some ability to understand. Are Calvinists defining the "initial act of God" as regeneration=restoration-of-ability instead of regeneration=gaining-of-spiritual-life? If regeneration is being accomplished by God to counter the effects of man's "natural state," that is, being dead in sins, then it would have to mean more than just an initial restoration of ability.

Quote:
Kevin wrote:
So is the Calvinist idea of regeneration that of a "process" which may take time between the illumination and the coming to faith?
No, regeneration is a spiritual event. The process leading up to that event is the 1 Cor. 3:6-8 “planting and watering,” with the “increase” being regeneration.
Since regeneration is the "initial act of God," then the process of planting and watering must be taking place in the life of an unregenerate person without any act of God accompanying it, right? So what exactly can get planted and watered in a dead person who is unable to understand anything? Does the Word of God have some sort of an effect on people even before they can understand it? What kind of effect would that be? Would people be able to respond in some way to that effect?

JohnBrian's picture

Alex wrote:
I did not view myself as affirming the article.

I did not say that you affirmed my article. I did say that you affirmed THE POINT of my article.

So what was the point of my article?

Every critique of regeneration preceding faith that I have seen, has INSISTED that regeneration MUST MEAN salvation. You also make that argument.

Alex wrote:
...no one I know of has gone so far as to say salvation occurs before one believes, though I believe the argument itself, that one is regenerated before believing, is exactly that.

You believe that the Calvinist is making the argument that salvation precedes faith.

[B ]WE ARE NOT![/B ]

And that is THE POINT of my article!

So you are affirming THE POINT of my article.

No Calvinist will ever say that Salvation precedes Faith, or that Salvation precedes Belief. That is because we do not view the terms "regeneration" and "salvation" as synonymous.

You referred to regeneration as "an element of salvation." We agree, and see it as the element that causes the other elements. Since we affirm that man's depravity includes spiritual inability, we insist that something must happen to man to restore the lost ability. We use the word regeneration to identify that restoration. Since the synergist denies that depravity includes spiritual ability, he sees no need for restoration, and thus affirms belief as the first element of salvation

Quote:
But where you and I ...depart is the view that believing requires or involves an element of salvation, namely regeneration.

Yes, that is where we depart, because we insist that the restoration of spiritual ability is essential and causes believing.

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JohnBrian's picture

Kevin wrote:
Yes, I think that God does SOMETHING. but I really am trying to figure out if regeneration has to be the SOMETHING as opposed to SOMETHING like illumination, which would give one the ability to see.
So you affirm the concept of regeneration but would prefer for it to be called something other than regeneration?

Kevin wrote:
Spiritual death is actually separation from God. Therefore, spiritual life would be full and complete union with God, as opposed to just a restoration of some ability to understand.
Again, let me use Lazarus resurrection as an example. Christ command to him to come forth was the power that stopped and reversed the natural process of decay. He came to life inside the tomb. BUT, his union with Christ, his sisters, and the living community was not complete UNTIL he exited the tomb. It was not enough for him to be alive in the tomb, the tomb is for the dead, not for the living. He had to DO something AFTER he returned to life - exit the tomb.

Kevin wrote:
Are Calvinists defining the "initial act of God" as regeneration=restoration-of-ability instead of regeneration=gaining-of-spiritual-life? If regeneration is being accomplished by God to counter the effects of man's "natural state," that is, being dead in sins, then it would have to mean more than just an initial restoration of ability.
I think it includes both! Man is spiritually dead. God gives him spiritual life. His eyes and ears are open, and he embraces the One who has given him the life. The complete process is salvation.

Kevin wrote:
...the process of planting and watering must be taking place in the life of an unregenerate person without any act of God accompanying it, right?
No. God is actively engaged in all aspects of the salvation of the elect. Everything that involves salvation is instigated by and sourced from God.

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I don't want to put words in JohnBrian's mouth, but I think one point is missing in his and Kevin's discourse. I don't believe there is a perceptible time lapse between regeneration, faith, and salvation. As was stated earlier in the thread, in a timeline these events occur essentially simultaneously. What is being argued is the logical order of events - the cause and effect in salvation.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Pastork's picture

Jack,

I was finally taking some to look through this thread again today and only just saw that you had criticized my earlier post. I am sorry it took so long to respond. I assure you I wasn't avoiding you. I have also paid attention to what some others have said to you here about having already answered the criticism you put to me. This led me to do a search in which I discovered this thread: http://www.sharperiron.org/forum/thread-ephesians-28-what-gift

Having briefly read through that thread, I discovered that your criticism had indeed been fairly well addressed already. But since you put it to me here, I will offer a brief reply of my own.

Quote:
Pastork, what you say did not even address the main issue. Let us look at the verse in question and the one which follows it:

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:8-9).

Here the "gift" is said to be "not of works." Are we supposed to believe that Paul is here refuting the idea that "faith" can be had by doing works? Of course that is not the error which Paul is trying to correct. There is nothing in the Scriptures that even hints that anyone was ever teaching a false doctrine that "faith" can be obtained by doing works. That is because that makes no sense at all!

The error which he is correcting is the idea that "salvation" can be obtained by "works." That has been a false teaching since the beginning so it was this idea that Paul was refuting when he said that the "gift" was "not of works."

The main issue of my post was to discuss the proper antecedent of the pronoun toúto, and since the antecedent in this case must precede the pronoun rather than follow it, I of course dealt with the preceding statement in order to try to ascertain the best likely candidate. I concluded that, no matter how we take it, faith was necessarily included as that which was considered by Paul as a gift of God, whether as a gift in itself or as a part of the whole of salvation by grace through faith. I also gave a number of Scriptural arguments to demonstrate that understanding Paul in this way is perfectly in line with the teaching of Scripture as a whole.

I do not disagree that Paul's words, "Not of works, lest any man should boast," should be taken to refer to more than just faith as a gift. I think it best to understand these words as pertaining to the preceding statement as a whole. You seem to want to take these words as referring to the term "gift" in particular, and then argue that it makes no sense to say that it pertains to faith itself as that gift. However, I do not grant your premise here, namely that these words must refer only to the term "gift" rather than the whole preceding statement.

So, although I think the antecedent of toúto is best construed grammatically as referring particularly to faith (allowing also that it may refer to salvation by grace through faith as a whole, inclusive of faith), I see no reason to restrict the referent of the words "Not of works, lest any man should boast," as you have done. I just don't think you are recognizing the difference between deciding the referent of a particular pronoun versus the referent of an entire clause within a particular context.

Quote:
It makes no sense whatsoever to argue that Paul was saying that "faith" is not of works because no one in their right mind would ever argue that "faith" can be obtained by doing "works" of one kind or another. So when you say that you believe that the "gift" is faith then you must argue that Paul was refuting the idea that "faith" can be obtained by doing "works."

Is that what you think?

No, what I think was made clear in my post, namely that I think people can try to make faith itself out to be a work. And I think Paul says that no part of salvation - not even faith - can be conceived of as a work in the sense that he uses the term, i.e. as a meritorious contribution by man to his own salvation. This is why I quoted Jerome as I did (in obvious agreement with him):

Quote:
The early church father Jerome (c. A.D. 347-420), commenting on the words, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,” rightly concludes: “Paul says this in case the secret thought should steal upon us that 'if we are not saved by our own works, at least we are saved by our own faith, and so in another way our salvation is of ourselves.' Thus he added the statement that faith too is not in our own will but in God's gift” (ACC, Vol.8, p.).

JohnBrian's picture

Chip wrote:
I don't believe there is a perceptible time lapse between regeneration, faith, and salvation.

...cause and effect

Thank you for reminding us.

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Paul S's picture

Regeneration is the new birth (John 1:13. 1 John 5:1)

What takes place before faith is repentance which God gives (Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, Acts 16:14, 2 Timothy 2:25.)

And faith comes through hearing God's truth (Romans 10:17. John 17:17.)

And God's grace is received through faith (Ephesians 2:8.) And that faith is not of ourselves but by reason of God's truth.

So faith does precede regeneration. But God's intervention precedes our faith, in God giving us the ability to accept the truth so to repent to believe.

The only true God is, who is, the only self evident truth not contingent on any thing else.

"[There is] no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD." -- Proverbs 21:30.

Kevin Miller's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
Kevin wrote:
Yes, I think that God does SOMETHING. but I really am trying to figure out if regeneration has to be the SOMETHING as opposed to SOMETHING like illumination, which would give one the ability to see.
So you affirm the concept of regeneration but would prefer for it to be called something other than regeneration?
Honestly, I'm not exactly sure that I affirm the concept of regeneration as the initial act, even if called something else. After all, the "something else" would have to mean "to give life" or it wouldn't even be the same concept as regeneration. As I said, I affirm illumination, but illumination is not the same SOMETHING as regeneration. I affirm a "drawing" as in John 6:44. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." One could be drawn toward God without being life/unification with God, so I don't think "drawing" is the same SOMETHING as regeneration. One could be given some sort of enabling grace without being given life/unification with God. You see, there are a number of SOMETHINGS God could do, which could give man the ability to have faith without having to be given life/unification first.

Quote:
Kevin wrote:
Spiritual death is actually separation from God. Therefore, spiritual life would be full and complete union with God, as opposed to just a restoration of some ability to understand.
Again, let me use Lazarus resurrection as an example. Christ command to him to come forth was the power that stopped and reversed the natural process of decay. He came to life inside the tomb. BUT, his union with Christ, his sisters, and the living community was not complete UNTIL he exited the tomb. It was not enough for him to be alive in the tomb, the tomb is for the dead, not for the living. He had to DO something AFTER he returned to life - exit the tomb.
Okay, this example of Lazarus allows me to ask you some questions about the life that is produced by regeneration. I see three distinct stages in the example.
1. Lazarus comes to life in the tomb. (What kind of life is this? In the account, it is physical life, but you are using this account as an illustration of the gaining of spiritual life. So is it spiritual life that he gains in the tomb?)
2. Lazarus exits the tomb. (I take it that this DOING of something is meant to be analogous to faith, right?)
3. Lazarus experiences a "complete" union with Christ, his sisters, and the living community. (Does this mean that his regeneration that he experienced in the tomb was "incomplete" in some way? Is there such a thing a partial regeneration?)
I recognize that you are desiring people to recognize that there is a distinction to regeneration as the initial act of God and that we should not look at regeneration as simply a synonym for salvation itself. What I need to know is if there are some distinctives to this distinction that make regeneration different from salvation itself. Your example of Lazarus makes it look as if you are teaching a logical order of regeneration, then faith, then full regeneration. I could completely understand that logical order if the initial act of God was a restoration of ability rather than a full union with Christ. That is why I asked you specifically, "Are Calvinists defining the "initial act of God" as regeneration=restoration-of-ability instead of regeneration=gaining-of-spiritual-life?" The answer you gave me made it seem as if you yourself are defining regeneration as synonymous with salvation itself. You stated, "I think it includes both! Man is spiritually dead. God gives him spiritual life. His eyes and ears are open, and he embraces the One who has given him the life. The complete process is salvation."
So this is the question to which I need an answer: When is regeneration, which is the giving of spiritual life, logically complete? Is it complete at the initial act, or is it only complete after faith?

JohnBrian's picture

Paul S wrote:
Regeneration is the new birth (John 1:13. 1 John 5:1)

Agree.

The verses you reference show that God is the cause of the new birth. In posts 2 and 3, I provided links to discussions of 1 John 5:1. Post 7 also references that passage. The new birth is the beginning step in the process.

Let’s look again at the story of Lazarus. There are 3 distinct features in his resurrection. First, the restoration of life; second, the exit from the tomb; and third, the removal of the grave clothes. Jesus commands him to come forth. The command carries with it, as the first step, the reversal of the decomposition and the restoration to life of his physical body. BUT, obedience to the command to come forth is not fully complete. It is not enough for Lazarus to be alive in the tomb – he must leave the tomb and have the grave clothes removed. The Calvinist use of regeneration refers to the first step, where the non-Calvinist use refers to the process completed.

Paul S wrote:
What takes place before faith is repentance which God gives (Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, Acts 16:14, 2 Timothy 2:25.)

Agree.

Paul S wrote:
And faith comes through hearing God's truth (Romans 10:17. John 17:17.)

Agree.

Both repentance and faith are gifts given at regeneration

1 Cor. 2:14 NKJV wrote:
But the http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-natural-man-receiveth-not-things-of-... ]natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God , for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

There are 2 options: either natural man has some inherent capability to comprehend his spiritual deadness, which this passage rejects, OR in regeneration, the Holy Spirit, by means of Gospel proclamation, introduces spiritual life to spiritually dead individuals, thus enabling them to hear (with understanding) God’s truth, which causes repentance and is exercised as faith.

The Arminian posits http://www.eternalsecurity.us/prevenient_grace.htm Prevenient Grace as a means of allowing the natural man to comprehend his need. He then can, by his own free will, respond (or not) to the claims of the Gospel.

Quote:
Fallen man has no desire to seek salvation, and cannot unless God calls him! It seems like we must accept the fatalism of Calvinism which leaves the majority in hopeless depravity while blessing a select few with a divine call which goes against the Scriptural truths that Jesus died for all men, and that the gospel invitation is for all men without exception. The other option is to go against the Scriptures just quoted about the nature of man and the call of God and deny the truth of total depravity. “To escape this consequence, certain divines have invented what they are pleased to call "natural ability." Under the old system, man has no ability whatever to repent and obey God, until he is converted. He cannot repent, even with "common grace." But the new system teaches us that he can do so of his own natural strength, without grace, and deserves to perish if he neglects it. It is assumed that he can convert himself, wake himself up, and love God with a pure heart fervently. This error plunges from one extreme to another in quick succession." It seems like our choices put us on one horn of the dilemma or the other.

Wesley however, chose a middle way between the two. Holding to Scripture on all accounts, he held to the total depravity of man and the universal call of salvation. While Wesley rejected the doctrine of a limited atonement, he did not go to the far left on the issue of free-will. It appears that he stressed free grace to avoid a gospel of pulling one’s self up by their own bootstraps. The issue of depravity and free-will seem to cancel each other out, but Wesley followed others who saw that this does not have to be a contradiction. He believed that this was accomplished through a doctrine of prevenient grace.

See also this article on Prevenient Grace by http://www.fwponline.cc/v24i2/brushharbor.html Robert L. Brush .

Those who do not wish to identify with either Calvinism or Arminianism (often preferring the label “Biblicist”) insist that depraved man can understand his spiritual need and respond in repentance.

SOTL from the Oct. 15 2010 issue in The Case Against Calvinism article

Quote:
The many commands and appeals in God’s Word for men to choose God over sin are genuine and valid because depraved men can truly repent. Certainly divine enablement is involved in saving repentance, but God’s work to produce repentance is extended to all. It is their choice that determines whether repentance happens.

John R. Rice in http://swordbooks.com/hyper-calvinsimafalsedoctrine.aspx ]Hyper-Calvinsim: A False Doctrine – (p.3)

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a. "God... now commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30). Can anyone accuse God of commanding people to do what He has made it impossible for them to do?

Paul S wrote:
And God's grace is received through faith (Ephesians 2:8.) And that faith is not of ourselves but by reason of God's truth.

Agree.

Our salvation is completely a gift from God.

Paul S wrote:
So faith does precede regeneration. But God's intervention precedes our faith, in God giving us the ability to accept the truth so to repent to believe.

Disagree/Agree. (and we were doing so well there!) Obviously disagree with your first sentence, but agree with your second. What you describe in the second sentence is what Calvinists refer to as regeneration!

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JohnBrian's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:
I affirm illumination, but illumination is not the same SOMETHING as regeneration.

Agree

But God is not going to illumine the non-elect, so illumination, if it’s a different “something,” leads to repentance and faith.

Kevin Miller wrote:
I affirm a "drawing" as in John 6:44. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." One could be drawn toward God without being life/unification with God, so I don't think "drawing" is the same SOMETHING as regeneration.

Agree

God only draws the elect, so the drawing also leads to repentance and faith

Kevin Miller wrote:
One could be given some sort of enabling grace without being given life/unification with God.

That is what the Arminian http://www.gotquestions.org/prevenient-grace.html prevenient grace is.

What is prevenient grace? wrote:
Simply put, prevenient grace is the grace of God given to individuals that releases them from their bondage to sin and enables them to come to Christ in faith but does not guarantee that the sinner will actually do so. Thus, the efficacy of the enabling grace of God is determined not by God but by man.

Kevin Miller wrote:
You see, there are a number of SOMETHINGS God could do, which could give man the ability to have faith without having to be given life/unification first.

Disagree

God makes spiritually dead people into spiritually alive people, in order that they will exercise faith.

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/packer/regeneratio... J.I. Packer – Regeneration: The Christian Is Born Again

Packer wrote:
Regeneration is a transition from spiritual death to spiritual life, and conscious, intentional, active faith in Christ is its immediate fruit, not its immediate cause.

Kevin Miller wrote:
1. Lazarus comes to life in the tomb. (What kind of life is this? In the account, it is physical life, but you are using this account as an illustration of the gaining of spiritual life. So is it spiritual life that he gains in the tomb?)

It is physical life. It illustrates that God not only bestows physical life but also spiritual life. The story fits perfectly with John’s insistence throughout his Gospel that salvation is CAUSED by God alone.

Kevin Miller wrote:
2. Lazarus exits the tomb. (I take it that this DOING of something is meant to be analogous to faith, right?)

Yes.

Kevin Miller wrote:
3. Lazarus experiences a "complete" union with Christ, his sisters, and the living community. (Does this mean that his regeneration that he experienced in the tomb was "incomplete" in some way? Is there such a thing a partial regeneration?)

Not incomplete, he was fully alive in the tomb. But life wasn’t meant to be lived in the tomb. Spiritual life is meant to be lived in the community of faith, which is the purpose of “assembling together,” which we are instructed in Heb 10:25 not to forsake.

Kevin Miller wrote:
I could completely understand that logical order if the initial act of God was a restoration of ability rather than a full union with Christ.

Synergists insist that “regeneration” refers to full union with Christ (salvation completed). Monergists insist that the term is better used to describe the restoration of the ability that Adam lost for his posterity by his sin. Synergists also insist that that ability is not lost, so there is nothing for regeneration to restore.

Kevin Miller wrote:
"Are Calvinists defining the "initial act of God" as regeneration=restoration-of-ability instead of regeneration=gaining-of-spiritual-life?

The restoration is a restoration of spiritual life. Natural man is spiritually dead and has to have spiritual life restored in order to repent and believe. He has to be born again in order that he might see the Kingdom of heaven (John 3:3)

Kevin Miller wrote:
So this is the question to which I need an answer: When is regeneration, which is the giving of spiritual life, logically complete? Is it complete at the initial act, or is it only complete after faith?
Regeneration defined as I am defining it, is complete at the initial act. However, if it is being used as a synonym for salvation, it includes all 3 steps.

http://bit.ly/90elxM ]Canons of Dordt – Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine

Quote:
Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work
And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God has done his work, it remains in man's power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent.

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Paul S's picture

JohnBrian wrote:

Our salvation is completely a gift from God.

Paul S wrote:
So faith does precede regeneration. But God's intervention precedes our faith, in God giving us the ability to accept the truth so to repent to believe.

Disagree/Agree. (and we were doing so well there!) Obviously disagree with your first sentence, but agree with your second. What you describe in the second sentence is what Calvinists refer to as regeneration!

I think Calvinist use of the term "regeneration" is not Biblical. I suspect the disagreement is deeper that just the use of the term. Truth si the basis of any kind of faith. I believe we would agree spiritual truth the lost are blind. There are two factors, the noetic effect of the knowledge of evil. And the phenomena of the dominion of Satan over the lost (2 Corinthians 4:3,4.).

So do you believe God's word is so impotent that the spiritually dead must be regenerated to hear it?

How were the saints of the OT "regenerated" to receive God's grace? Since they were not partakers of the promise (Luke 24:49. Hebrews 11:39, 40.)?

The only true God is, who is, the only self evident truth not contingent on any thing else.

"[There is] no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD." -- Proverbs 21:30.

JohnBrian's picture

Paul S wrote:
So do you believe God's word is so impotent that the spiritually dead must be regenerated to hear it?

Exactly the opposite!

I believe the spiritually dead are so impotent that they do not have the ability to believe God's word without being made alive spiritually. The Gospel proclaimed is the MEANS the Spirit uses to regenerate the spiritually dead so that they might believe and express faith.

The synergistic view insists that man MUST be inherently capable (the free will thing), which is why in my http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-monergism-vs-synergism-%E2%80%93-part-1 ]Monergism vs Synergism article I referred to the semi-pelagian position as holding to a "mostly dead view" with regard to man's spiritual deadness.

In Part 2 of my Mon vs Syn series (which I hope to post by the end of this month) I basically show that the verses in John's Gospel which address the issue of the CAUSE of salvation all affirm the monergistic view, while the verses that show EFFECT neither affirm nor deny either position. Synergists however, view the EFFECT verses as CAUSE, since their presupposition is that God can only command something man in his natural state is capable of performing (see the Rice quote in post 78).

Paul S wrote:
How were the saints of the OT "regenerated" to receive God's grace? Since they were not partakers of the promise (Luke 24:49. Hebrews 11:39, 40.)?

I'm not sure, as I haven't studied that aspect of the issue.

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JohnBrian's picture

Paul S wrote:
How were the saints of the OT "regenerated" to receive God's grace? Since they were not partakers of the promise (Luke 24:49. Hebrews 11:39, 40.)?

This post by C Michael Patton touches on the issue of OT saints regeneration.

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/01/is-the-new-birth-in-the-ol... IS THE NEW BIRTH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT? OR WHY WAS CHRIST SO HARD ON NICODEMUS IN JOHN 3:10?

Quote:
While Christ’s rebuke of Nicodemus was harsh, it is nothing less than a rebuke for a failure to acknowledge the utter helpless condition that all of humanity faces outside of Christ. The new birth was just as necessary for people in the Old Testament is it is for all people.

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Paul S's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
Paul S wrote:
How were the saints of the OT "regenerated" to receive God's grace? Since they were not partakers of the promise (Luke 24:49. Hebrews 11:39, 40.)?

This post by C Michael Patton touches on the issue of OT saints regeneration.

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/01/is-the-new-birth-in-the-ol... IS THE NEW BIRTH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT? OR WHY WAS CHRIST SO HARD ON NICODEMUS IN JOHN 3:10?

Quote:
While Christ’s rebuke of Nicodemus was harsh, it is nothing less than a rebuke for a failure to acknowledge the utter helpless condition that all of humanity faces outside of Christ. The new birth was just as necessary for people in the Old Testament is it is for all people.

Well being born over was the prerequisite to seeing the kingdom of God (which is in heaven). As it was OT saints would go to the upper compartment of sheol, not heaven upon death. OT saints didn't go to heaven until after Christ's ascension into heaven to be mediator.

Comment?

The only true God is, who is, the only self evident truth not contingent on any thing else.

"[There is] no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD." -- Proverbs 21:30.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Really, Paul? An upper compartment? Curious where you get this. Why not to heaven?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Paul S's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Really, Paul? An upper compartment? Curious where you get this. Why not to heaven?
Luke 16:19-31. Luke 16:31: Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalm 86:13. Abraham with Lazarus in his arms in the upper compartment with the rich man in the lower comparment were God's anger kindles a fire in the earth.

The only true God is, who is, the only self evident truth not contingent on any thing else.

"[There is] no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD." -- Proverbs 21:30.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

What about the second question - why send OT saints to a second compartment instead of directly to heaven? On what grounds were they judicially spared condemnation? Are these not the same grounds by which they are provided eternal salvation? What grounds are there for a spiritual halfway house?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Paul S's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
What about the second question - why send OT saints to a second compartment instead of directly to heaven? On what grounds were they judicially spared condemnation? Are these not the same grounds by which they are provided eternal salvation? What grounds are there for a spiritual halfway house?

The OT saved/saints were looking forward to the cross. Wasn't until Christ ascended into heaven as mediator that the OT saints and NT saints would go to heaven. Jesus who went into Paradise went into the upper compartment of Sheol/Hades. (See Acts 2:29-31. Ephesians 4:7-8.) Paul mentions Paradise in/as the third heaven. (2 Corinthians 12:2-4. cp 2 Corinthians 5:8.) Salvation in the OT was looking forward to the cross even as our salvation is looking back. Salvation has always been by grace, and the living word of God was as always leading men to repentance. (Romans 10:17. Hebrews 4:12.)

The only true God is, who is, the only self evident truth not contingent on any thing else.

"[There is] no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD." -- Proverbs 21:30.

JohnBrian's picture

Paul,

Thank you for raising the issue of OT saints and regeneration. I had not considered the issue before you raised it.

I googled the phrase "regeneration in the old testament" and these are a few of the articles I found. First, a definition of regeneration.

http://www.founders.org/journal/fj02/article2.html The Doctrine of Regeneration - Bill Ascol

Quote:
Regeneration may be defined as that supernatural work of the Holy Spirit of God which is performed in the life of a sinner whereby the sinner is given a new heart, being brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, and is made able and willing to repent of his sin before God and trust alone in Jesus Christ to be his Lord and Savior.

http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/70-12-1.htm Question put to JMac and his answer

Quote:
I don’t believe that it is possible for any person, any time, to experience a relationship with God apart from the Holy Spirit-I don’t care what dispensation you’re talking about or what era. The Spirit of God is the agent by which God moves into the heart of man.

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/OTregeneration.html Regeneration in the Old Testament - John Hendryx

Quote:
Apparently the saints of the OT enjoyed regeneration but may not have enjoyed indwelling to the extent that we do. Regeneration and indwelling are not exactly the same the same for in regeneration the Spirit works to illumine our minds and renew our hearts prior to our faith in which He comes to indwell us.

http://www.reformationtheology.com/2008/11/the_holy_spirit_in_the_old_te... ]The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

Quote:
This circumcision of the heart is really the same experience as regeneration (Rom 2:29; Col 2:11-13). Regeneration is God granting the ability to hear, understand, believe, obey and enter the kingdom (See John 3 & the entire book of 1 John).

and finally, from a preacher who insists that the terms regeneration and salvation are synonymous.

http://www.thedericksons.com/reg/one.htm regeneration

Quote:
IF the Old Testament saints were regenerated or born again, then logically speaking Christ did not have to die.

Quote:
He [God ] could not, indeed would not, give out regeneration and complete restoration from the fall, before the price was paid - that price being the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross and once for all offered in the Heavenly tabernacle.

Quote:
I believe that regeneration is the act of God that makes us a new creation, complete and ready for eternity except for death or the rapture.

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Paul S's picture

King David was saved, and had the Holy Spirit to never leave him. But David was not yet regenerated with eternal life, as evidence that he commitied murder of Uriah. (see 1 John 3:15, ". . . ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.")

The only true God is, who is, the only self evident truth not contingent on any thing else.

"[There is] no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD." -- Proverbs 21:30.

Larry's picture

Moderator

So Paul, you are suggesting that David was saved with the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit, yet was not regenerated and did not have eternal life?

If this is true, what does it mean to be saved and what does it mean to be regenerated?

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