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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James K's picture

Much of Calvinist thought today is a reflection of John Owen calvinism, which was barely not hyper calvinism.

The text speaks for itself. If he didn't want help, he wouldn't have been there to get the help. He said no one had helped him. That could only mean that he wanted it.

A person can desire help from their current spiritual condition and still not make a move toward God. They just move away from God in a different direction.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Jim C's picture

JohnBrian,
I am hoping in this context you will answer some questions. I did post this earlier, but it seems to have been overlooked.

You stated, "the Father gives 'hearing ears' leading to belief." And, " hearing the Word is a prerequisite to believing." You then go on to expain "who is captable of hearing" - those who have been regenerated. Here is the context of those quotes from post #9.

Quote:
In John 5:24 we see a process, which begins with hearing and ends with eternal life. There is no everlasting life prior to believing “in Him who sent Me,” and hearing the word is a prerequisite to believing. Hearing precedes believing and believing precedes eternal life. What verse 24 does not address is the whom that is capable of hearing. For that we must go back to verse 21.

John 5:21 NKJV wrote:
For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.

Here we note that the Father raises the dead and gives life to those He has raised. So the order of this process is – Father raising the dead to life, those now raised hear the word, believe, and are promised everlasting life. The phrase “passed from death into life,” summarizes the process. Those who were once spiritually dead have been raised by the Father, which provides them with hearing ears, leading to belief and eternal life.

Are you contending that there is a difference in the "capacity to hear" between the unregenerate and the regenerate?

Can the unregenerate man spiritually perceive the truth of the gospel?
Can an unregenerate man "hear the gospel"?
Can an unregenerate man understand the gospel?

Is "hearing the gospel" a necessary component for an individual to come to Jesus Christ in faith? If so, how much of the gospel must one "hear and understand"? What is the essential basics of the gospel which must be "heard" and understood?

Then, you seemed to change your message in the same post. You stated later in post #9,

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I believe that regeneration and faith are simultaneous activities, with regeneration being the cause and faith being the effect, I don’t believe an individual can be regenerated and them sometime later exercise faith.

And in post #10 you added to this concept:

Quote:
I don’t know any monergist who would say that an individual can be regenerated without simultaneously expressing faith. There is no time gap between regeneration and exercise of faith

If, as you contend, 'the dead' need to be raised to life to obtain the capacity to "hear the Word", and if that newly raised person is expressing faith the instant that he is regenerated, then did he ever "hear" any of the gospel?

Is the message of the gospel really important? Or, is the gospel just a vehicle for God to use to give a gift of saving faith, and a vehicle to use to call the unregenerate into a state of instantaneous believing?

Is this new believer actually trusting in a message that he didn't even have the capacity to hear just a moment before?

Is everyone regenerated during a gospel presentation? If not, did they ever "hear" the gospel before they are simultaneously born again believing?

My former Reformed pastor said he first placed his faith into Jesus Christ when he was all by himself, locked in a bathroom. Is that really possible? Where was the "Gospel call"? If it is possible, then when did he "hear the gospel", if one can't "hear" until he is regenerated? How was "hearing the Word" a prerequisite to believeing?

This view seems to have many incongruities. I hope you will answer my questions.

Thanks,
Jim C

JohnBrian's picture

Alex wrote:
The death of Lazarus was for the purpose of God the Son’s glorification which results in the glory of God.

Agree

Alex wrote:
The context of this event is quite clear, to record the demonstration of our Lord that he was the Messiah and that from this sign of resuscitating Lazarus back to life he indeed was the one with power of life and death.

Agree

But not only does He have power over physical life and death, He also has power over spiritual life and death, which is a more lasting power. Lazarus had a 2nd physical death, but those who have been raised to spiritual life will never experience a 2nd spiritual death.

Alex wrote:
Therefore we must categorically reject its use as an intended parallel or analogy of part or all of the process of one’s regeneration at the new birth on context alone.

Disagree

There is no demand in the text to reject physical resurrection as parallel to spiritual resurrection.

Alex wrote:
…one might argue that while explicit statements or the context is not about the order or regeneration, we might observe certain things and project from them valid principles. And this is true, if the context were about the issue being raised. Here it is not.

Disagree

The context is about Christ raising Lazarus from physical death. A parallel to that is Christ raising the spiritually dead to spiritual life.

Alex wrote:
These two events, Lazarus resuscitation and our regeneration, while containing an element or two that are similar, differ fundamentally in their substance.

Disagree

They are similar in that there is a resurrection. In Lazarus case it was physical, in the case of the unregenerate it is spiritual.

Alex wrote:
If we are making an analogy, the use of walking in Scripture does not pertain to a context of when one is regenerated but the process of maturity in the Lord

I referred to the walking out of the tomb as a parallel to the exercise of faith. The command of Christ was to “come out.” Since he walked out as opposed to being carried out, he had to be alive prior to that walk. The maturity would more closely parallel the participation in the community of the living after Jesus commanded those present to unbind him.

It is fascinating to me that Jesus, once he learned of Lazarus sickness (John 11:3) stayed where he was. There is no doubt that Jesus could have come immediately and healed Lazarus of his sickness, but the entire point of the raising was for the glory of God (John 11:4). Surely God is glorified in raising sick people to life but how much greater is God’s glory when He raise the dead to life. There is a parallel to raising not just spiritually sick people (synergism) but spiritually dead people (monergism) to life. Does not God receive greater glory when he raises the spiritually dead to spiritual life which is eternal!

The physical resurrection of Lazarus parallels the monergistic view of spiritual resurrection as that view insists that Adam’s sin caused immediate spiritual death.

Genesis 2:25 NKJV wrote:
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 3:7 NKJV wrote:
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

What happened between these 2 verses was spiritual death, even though physical life continued, and all Adam’s descendants are born spiritually dead.

Romans 5:12 NKJV wrote:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…

I see an additional parallel in the story. Lazarus could not will himself to come back to life, as his physical death was complete. Christ did not say “Lazarus, if you will, come forth.” The unregenerate are completely dead and cannot will themselves to life. Life can only be restored by the One who has not only power over physical death, but also spiritual death.

John 3:6 NKJV wrote:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Flesh can only give birth to flesh, it cannot give birth to spirit. The unregenerate causing his spiritual birth by his choosing, is the equivalent of Lazarus causing his physical resurrection by his own choosing.

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JohnBrian's picture

Jim C wrote:
I would add, Jesus had the power of life, the power over death and corruption. This demonstrates that God will have no problem raising corrupted bodies to life without corruption/decay one day in the future.

And if Christ can raise physically dead people to life without asking their permission, why does He not have the same authority over spiritual death.

Jim C wrote:
I really like the point that you made that Lazarus did not receive the uncorrupted Spirit as we do in regeneration

I don’t believe that I posited that Lazarus was raised spiritually at this resurrection. I did posit that his physical resurrection parallels Christ raising the spiritually dead.

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JohnBrian's picture

James K from post 92 wrote:
This is all still so random. Picking the story of Lazarus as the proof of regeneration prior to faith begs the question of why the other stories don't also contribute to illustrating how salvation works.

James K from post 132 wrote:
Those who have argued regeneration preceding faith have simply presented a position, and then found an example (a bad one at that).

James K from post 149 wrote:
Alex has demonstrated that Lazarus is a poor example of proving regeneration prior to faith. This text however meets the necessary requirements to give an accurate picture.

John 5:6-7

John 5:6-7 NKJV wrote:
[sup ]6[/sup ]When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” [sup ]7[/sup ]The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

James, Thank you for bringing up this story as I have been thinking about in relation to this thread.

A casual look at this story would suggest that Jesus is asking this man for permission to heal him. In the synergistic view, the man is the final determiner of whether or not he is healed. Jesus is able and willing to heal the man BUT the man has the right to refuse the healing and his refusal cannot be overridden by Jesus. If the man answers in the negative, Jesus must walk away sorrowful that the man has rejected the healing.

Is that what this story is teaching? I don’t believe so and here is why.

1. I do not recall another incident (and have not taken the time to look through the 4 Gospels to see) of Jesus asking permission to heal people, so this could possibly be the only time it appears that Jesus is doing so.

2. If Jesus is in fact asking for permission, the man’s answer is unusual. The answer should be YES or NO!

Instead, the man talks about his lack of ability to get into the pool. Jesus did not ask him if he wanted help getting into the pool, so the question seems to be more about the man realizing who Jesus is than about the man giving permission to Jesus to heal him.

The synergist insists that man is only desperately sick spiritually and just needs help “getting in the pool,” if only someone would http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Throw_Out_the_Lifeline ]throw out the lifeline , so they can “grasp it today.”

The unregenerate man, because of his spiritual deadness, doesn’t comprehend his infirmity, so in this regard the unregenerate has no similarity to the physically infirmed man. He is man who recognizes his physical need, but is looking in the wrong place for a solution.

I affirm that recognition of spiritual need comes as a result of God creating/resurrecting one’s spiritual nature. Just like the deaf, the blind, the leper, the woman with the issue of blood, who all are aware of their ailment, when God restores spiritual life, that person becomes aware of their spiritual infirmity and turns to the Healer. In this man’s case, the command of Jesus was the CAUSE of his healing, not his giving permission (which the text never declares).

This miracle does not refute the monergistic view of regeneration prior to faith!

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JohnBrian's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:
So in John 5:6-7. was the man able to have the desire to be helped before Jesus helped him? According to Calvinist thought, he wouldn't even be able to recognize his hopelessness before the healing.

Just to re-emphasize – the man DID recognize his physical hopelessness before the healing. Jesus was not asking for permission to heal him, He was forcing the man to recognize that there was never going to be healing in the pool.

John 5:8-9 NKJV wrote:
[sup ]8[/sup ]Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” [sup ]9[/sup ]And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

Thirty eight years looking in the wrong place for his healing, and in a moment restored to full health at the irresistible command of Jesus. Physical infirmity cannot resist the healing command of God and neither can spiritual death. All those whom God commands to life and health MUST obey.

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Kevin Miller's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
Kevin Miller wrote:
So in John 5:6-7. was the man able to have the desire to be helped before Jesus helped him? According to Calvinist thought, he wouldn't even be able to recognize his hopelessness before the healing.

Just to re-emphasize – the man DID recognize his physical hopelessness before the healing. Jesus was not asking for permission to heal him, He was forcing the man to recognize that there was never going to be healing in the pool.

John 5:8-9 NKJV wrote:
[sup ]8[/sup ]Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” [sup ]9[/sup ]And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

Thirty eight years looking in the wrong place for his healing, and in a moment restored to full health at the irresistible command of Jesus. Physical infirmity cannot resist the healing command of God and neither can spiritual death. All those whom God commands to life and health MUST obey.


I just want to be clear about whether you think the infirm man is or is not a good illustration of salvation. He was recognizing his hopelessness for 38 years before he was healed, so what is the timeframe of "regeneration" in the account of the infirm man?

JohnBrian's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:
I just want to be clear about whether you think the infirm man is or is not a good illustration of salvation. He was recognizing his hopelessness for 38 years before he was healed, so what is the timeframe of "regeneration" in the account of the infirm man?
It IS a good illustration of salvation, but I don't know what the timeframe of regeneration is, and am not sure that is even important. Any and all healing is a sign of regeneration, whether it is deafness, blindness, raising of the dead, curing leprosy. God has the power over sickness, disease, death and exercises that power without requiring the permission of the one receiving the miracle.

The synergistic view, while acknowledging that God has all power, insists that God is limited to doing what man is willing for Him to do.

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Kevin Miller's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
Kevin Miller wrote:
I just want to be clear about whether you think the infirm man is or is not a good illustration of salvation. He was recognizing his hopelessness for 38 years before he was healed, so what is the timeframe of "regeneration" in the account of the infirm man?
It IS a good illustration of salvation, but I don't know what the timeframe of regeneration is, and am not sure that is even important. Any and all healing is a sign of regeneration, whether it is deafness, blindness, raising of the dead, curing leprosy. God has the power over sickness, disease, death and exercises that power without requiring the permission of the one receiving the miracle.

The synergistic view, while acknowledging that God has all power, insists that God is limited to doing what man is willing for Him to do.


I'm not sure I would go so far as to say that "any and all healing is a sign of regeneration." What about Luke 6:17-19? Those verses say:
17 And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases, 18 as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. 19 And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.

Would you say that all the people who were healed in this account were also all regenerated? Can we use all of Christ's healings as pictures of regeneration? It seems to me that people often followed Christ just for the healings or the feedings but their hearts had not really been changed.

JohnBrian's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:
Would you say that all the people who were healed in this account were also all regenerated?
That's what I get for writing so fast to catch up!

I should have used the word illustrate. Healing illustrates that God has power over the physical.

Kevin Miller wrote:
Can we use all of Christ's healings as pictures of regeneration?

Let me again define the way in which I am using the term regeneration:

Regeneration is the initial act of God by which He restores to spiritual life the one who is spiritually dead. That one has to be "born again" since Adam (and his posterity) died spiritually after his sin.

We can use Christ's healings to illustrate that God alone has the power to restore to physical life and wellness those who are either physically dead or ailing. If He has the power over the physical, He also has the power to restore to spiritual life (I would deny that man is just ailing spiritually).

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JohnBrian's picture

...that C Michael Patton would stop getting ideas for his articles from reading my blog[/sarcasm ]

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/02/regeneration-prcede-faith ]DOES REGENERATION PRECEDE FAITH?

Quote:
How can anyone be expected to receive the Gospel, which is spiritual, in an unconverted state? The person must first become spiritual—the person must first be regenerated.

Quote:
A good illustration to describe this way of thinking is physical birth. As a baby cries out only after it is born, so also believers cry out in faith only after God has regenerated them.

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Kevin Miller's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
...that C Michael Patton would stop getting ideas for his articles from reading my blog[/sarcasm ]

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/02/regeneration-prcede-faith ]DOES REGENERATION PRECEDE FAITH?

Quote:
How can anyone be expected to receive the Gospel, which is spiritual, in an unconverted state? The person must first become spiritual—the person must first be regenerated.

Quote:
A good illustration to describe this way of thinking is physical birth. As a baby cries out only after it is born, so also believers cry out in faith only after God has regenerated them.

JohnBrian,
This post here is a good opportunity to ask you about another illustration of regeneration besides the actual birth itself, as your quotation used. Would it be legitimate to use conception as an illustration of regeneration as long as you stipulate that there is NOT a nine month spiritual gestation between conception and the actual birth. That is, take the temporal element out of it for the sake of the comparison. We usually think of conception as the initial act by which God imparts life to a baby, and the baby grows only after it is conceived. We discussed earlier which terms I might like better than regeneration to describe the initial act of God, since regeneration is so often spoken of in terms of the entire salvation experience itself. I think spiritual "conception" would work, since conception is when life is given.

Jim C's picture

JohnBrian,
You stated,

Quote:

Let me again define the way in which I am using the term regeneration:
Regeneration is the initial act of God by which He restores to spiritual life the one who is spiritually dead. That one has to be "born again" since Adam (and his posterity) died spiritually after his sin.

Have you considered the fact that the Bible teaches us about another “spiritual death”? I am quoting several prominent teachers to demonstrate that I am not the only person talking about this death. I chose John MacArthur because he has an easily accessible system to access all of his messages. I have also included Wayne Grudem, and I have similar quotes available from John Piper. Please note that each quote clearly places faith prior to our being put to death with Christ.

Quote:

“We’ve been learning that when you place your faith in Jesus Christ, you are united with Christ, you die with Christ a real spiritual death… Better to put it in the Greek, “Ye were put to death,” and a violent word for death is used. You were violently put to death… And so we died in Christ by the mysterious miracle of our union with Him by grace through faith. And we rise to walk in newness of life.” (John MacArthur, message: Romans 7:1-6)

“John says five times in 1John, “We must be born of God.” And James says, “We have been begotten by God according to His will”. That’s a New Testament principle. We must be recreated. And that’s what happens when we receive Christ, the old man dies, the new man rises. “I am crucified with Christ”, That’s one ego dead, “nevertheless I live” that’s a new life” (John MacArthur, message: “The New Birth” John 3:1-10).

“Romans 6:1-11, and Colossians 2:11-12 place a clear emphasis on dying and rising with Christ (Wayne Grudem, Sytematic Theology, pg. 969)

“Paul sees this present death and resurrection with Christ as a way of describing and explaining the change that the Holy Spirit brings about…It is as if the Holy Spirit reproduces Jesus’ death and resurrection in our lives when we believe in Christ… Here Paul’s references to baptism and faith indicate that our dying and raising with Christ occur in this present life, at the time we become Christians.” (Wayne Grudem, Sytematic Theology, pg. 842).

.
Are you aware how significant this death with Christ is? What do you know about our death with Christ? Why is it essential? What does it do for us?

Is this the scenario from your understanding? Remember I still have the previous questions about whether it is crucial for a person to hear the gospel or not!

“spiritual death” * “God causes regeneration to change many facets of man" * (man needs to "hear the gospel"???) * man now able to exercise free will, is converted" * “put to death with Christ in baptism- crucified with Christ, dead with Christ, buried with Christ”… * (What comes next???)

If a person is “made alive with Jesus Christ" in regeneration (new birth), then what is the source of life that is given after a person is put to death with Christ? Where in the scenerio is a person given eternal life? When in the scenario is the person given the Holy Spirit? When in the scenario is a person given the indwelling of Jesus Christ? One last question: Was there regeneration and eternal life given to OT believers in their lifetime?

Oh yes, and how do you square the declaration of the Sciptures which proclaims that by grace we have been saved when we were made alive with Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:5)? That places salvation prior to faith in that scenerio. Is that Biblical???

Alex Guggenheim's picture

While it appears to be quite theological untenable and contextually implausible to offer the resuscitation of Lazarus as an intended analogy of the rebirth or process of regeneration, there is a parable that does provide and opportunity for some insight, one I have personally exegeted rather extensively and one that (apart from the interpretation that cannot be sustained exegetically that only one of the four were actually saved) provides just what we are looking for in both analogy and the presence of our Lord (though we should never consider any portion of Scripture any less Divine, perfect and so on, I cite this because of the earlier context that also involved our Lord Jesus). So let's take a ramble down parable road and go to the address of Luke 8:4-15.

Here we have our Lord telling a parable of the sower and his seed. And of course we learn that the seed is "the gospel". This is indisputable. Jesus says it is so. And in the story there are 4 classes of recipients to the gospel. Now, as I said there is another issue that is debated and I do not want to get into that issue particularly, which is whether one or three of the four were saved, rather we need to focus on what causes them to "come to life" or "phuo".

Remember, the seed is the gospel. It is thrown to the ground and the varying places it is thrown on the earth, we later learn are conditions of the heart. In other words, the earth represents the human heart.

So far we have a sower and the seed (the gospel) and the ground upon which it is thrown (considered the heart which is verified in verse 15 where Jesus calls the ground, the heart). What happens next?

The seed is thrown. In one place it is removed so that the person cannot "believe and be saved" which prevents him from.... coming to life! That's right, had he believed he would have come to life or phuo, sprang up The ground is called "the way side" or the least prepared kind of soil. The result of this is that the seed is vulnerable to being removed and as is described, the birds come and take it away. This is explained by our Lord as the Devil doing this. The devices and means of the Devil are not brought out by our Lord but as we learn in Scripture, they are many.

The First Thing to Note:

Notice what is not attributed to the "not believing". Jesus says nothing by way of explanation that these people did not believe either because the Father had not elected them or, as we are discussing, because they failed to phuo (come or spring to life). Rather, they failed to spring to life (this is what we call regeneration) because they did not believe. What was it that was going to give life? The gospel, the seed. Upon its reception it could have given life. It is quite clear here that the absence of life is from not believing, not due to a lack of election or failing to come to life so that one might believe which is exactly backwards in the parable's order.

Now to the Others

As I said I am not going to belabor the other issue of who was saved and who was not, rather I am going to skip numbers 2 and 3 (but will point out for the record that Jesus only identifies one and one only who did not believe and be saved and the 3 others are described identically as having been phuo(ed) or springing up with the third one using the term sumphuo).

Let's go to number 4, the one that everyone agrees described someone believing and being saved. Here it is says:

Quote:
8And other fell on good ground, and sprang up (phuo), and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Interpretation
Quote:
15But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Now what happens here? The gospel is sown into the ground and from that ground something springs up. Here we have a definite order, gospel sown into the grown and from it life comes. The seed generates and the plant life arises and in our case the gospel regenerates our spirit. There is no mistaking the order. Gospel sown and life results from gospel reception.

Other Things to Note

So our Lord Jesus gives a parable that clearly, I concede, does not have as it primary objective his relating the order of our regeneration with respect to our believing but as part of its construct, does contain this very thing. One must stop and ask themselves where does regeneration before faith or regeneration in order that one may believe, fit into this parable, particularly to the construct our Lord provides?

Now for me I find some glaring problems with attempting to continue the regeneration before faith position in light of this and such a description is as generous as I can be.

Why didn't our Lord make it clear that it wasn't the gospel that gave life but life was given that the gospel might...give life? I mean if you believe in regeneration before faith this is what you are left in describing or interpreting this parable, that life was given so that the gospel could be received so it in turn would give life which makes no sense at all. The absence of some kind of generation or regeneration before the gospel is sown in the construct of our Lord is a rather lethal blow.

And how do proponents or regeneration before faith explain such a gaping theological hole in our Lord's deliberate construct?

But never minding those question, the most simple observation makes it clear that it is the gospel and its reception (believing) that causes one to "phuo" or spring to life and not the other way around and I doubt we can believe our Lord meant to construct it as such here, rather plainly, and then intimate otherwise in other places.

P.S. Forgive the limited editing...time constraints.

Jim C's picture

Alex,
I appreciate you pointing out the fact that Jesus says that the devil steals the seed of the Word so that people will not believe to be saved (Luke 8:12). Adding to the evidence that you presented to demonstrate that faith comes before new life, I would like to build upon this theme.

There is another very important fact about seed: it needs to die before it brings forth new life. Jesus vividly instructs us in John 12:24. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.” Paul reiterates this, “You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1Cor. 15:36). Jesus had to die before He was raised with a life that would never die again. Paul adds, “The Last Adam BECAME the life giving Spirit” (1Cor. 15:45). (If men were already receiving “new spiritual life” by regeneration and the gift of “eternal life” in the OT as Reformed Doctrine teaches, then what other kind of “life” does the Last Adam, who becomes the Life Giving Spirit, give to men? How many different kinds of “life” are there in the Bible: Life in the flesh, new spiritual life given in regeneration, eternal life which some believe were all given in the OT, and then another kind of life given by the Life Giving Spirit? Is this number of different “kinds of life” Biblical? No. There are only two births.) Jesus was the Seed who had to die so that He could become the source of “zoe” life (eternal life) for us. And when Jesus indwells the hearts of men, Jesus is our life, God’s gift of eternal life (Col. 3:4; 1John 5:11, 12). If a man does not have Jesus living inside of him, he does not have life (“zoe”). Jesus told men that He came that they might have life (“zoe”) (Jn 10:10). But first He would give His life (psuche- the kind of life we have in our flesh) for the sheep (Jn 10:11); He would lay down his life (psuche) for the sheep (Jn 10:15, 17). After that Jesus gave men eternal life (zoe) (see Jn 10:28 and more) when He dwelt in their heart.

In the same way, we die with Christ before Christ comes to live in us to give us His life. Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ… Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). “We have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). “The old man passes away… (2Cor. 5:17). “If Christ be in you, the BODY IS DEAD because of sin” (Rom. 8:10). How do we die? Jesus Christ baptizes us into His death (Rom. 6:3). Please refer back to post #163 for some important questions I have asked about this “spiritual death”. (i.e. Why are we made to die with Jesus Christ? What is the significance of this death? These are important truths which seem to be overlooked in the Reformed system.) Also, please note in post #163 well known Reformed teachers proclaim that faith comes before our death with Christ. According to these men, we believe, then we are baptized by Jesus Christ into His death. We are made to die with Christ, before Jesus Christ comes to live in us to give us new spiritual life, God’s gift of eternal life in regeneration.

Men had faith long before Jesus Christ became the Life Giving Spirit.
Faith comes before Christ dwells in our hearts (Eph. 3:17)
Faith comes before men receive eternal life (lots of verses), the life given in regeneration.
Faith comes before salvation (lots of verses) and we are saved when Jesus Christ comes to dwell in our hearts to give us eternal life in regeneration.

Made alive with Jesus Christ by grace YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED (Eph. 2:5)
He SAVED US BY the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5)
SAVED BY His life (Rom. 5:10)

In Christ,
Jim C

P.S. I am still hoping that people will answer the questions in post #163.
P.S. As a side note:
A critical question in the arsenal of Reformed proselytizers is “Why do some people believe while others do not?” To all of the men who have used this line I would ask: “What seed have you ever sown that brings forth a harvest the day that it is planted?” In this analogy we simply need seed sown into the ground (the hearts of men). Seed does what God designed it to do. (“My Word will not return unto Me void, without accomplishing what I desire” Is. 55:11). Therefore the enemy tries to steal away the Word so that it will not do what God designed: that they should believe and be saved (Luke 8:12). “How shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without regeneration? No! That’s not what the text says. Rather, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14).

Paul builds upon this analogy. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1Cor. 3:6). Jesus adds, “One sows and another reaps” (John 4:37). So there is the Seed (The Word), the sower, those who water, and God causing the growth, and eventually a reaper. In this analogy, the gospel could have been preached months, weeks, or even days before, a person places their trust in Jesus Christ. A person can be completely alone when they place their trust in Jesus Christ, as a good friend of mine did alone one night on a pier. Or in a car as C.S. Lewis did:

Quote:

“CS Lewis tells the story of his own conversion: “I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in though. Nor in great emotion” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pg. 702)


In contrast, if Reformed assumptions are true, then everybody could only come to faith in Christ during a gospel presentation (If the Gospel Call=the vehicle for irresistible grace=regeneration).

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Jim C wrote:

P.S. I am still hoping that people will answer the questions in post #163.

Jim,

Thanks for your response. What you recognize and what others recognize is the contradictory or irrationality of the "rationalism" of the system (and its subsets) we are discussing. That is, while it advances itself primarily in a philosophical/rationalistic framework, often arguments (particularly with respect to what is known as the TULIP doctrines and related doctrines or its interaction with those doctrines) become irrational or contradictory when faced with having to prescriptively harmonize its tenets with the rest of Scripture. And here, with the parable of the sower, we have a good case of this inability to prescriptively harmonize one (or more) of these tenets. We have the Gospel before life. It is plain and simple. The construct which our Lord Jesus uses is indisputable, it would seem.

But to the student and Teacher of such a system, prima facie rarely actually confronts their doctrinal schematics. This is because its use of rationalism (primarily or essentially that upon which Augustinian/Reformed/Calvinistic systems base their views and then engage in proof-texting and exegesis to validate their views) offers such construct which permits the view that so long as one can respond, no matter how seemingly irrational or contradictory, they have fairly maintained their position. And clearly not every response is contradictory or irrational, that is not being asserted nor to what degree they are made in this manner, rather I am making a point here with this parable, because this really is where one ends up if they insist life or regeneration occurs before the seed (the Gospel) is planted and life occurs from it. No where in the parable is there life before the seed (the Gospel) gives life. Again, this position would require the following interpretation: "God gives life to the ground so that it may receive the seed in order to have life". Obviously ludicrous. But it will be argued and no doubt has in many places, ultimately denying what is prima facie or plain as a desert sun in the parable and ultimately forcing the person holding to the objectionable position to contort the text or deny its fundamental properties and context.

As to the last point, just a short note. I am not sure the predominant (but not exclusive) Reformed assumption would strictly require the view that someone can only come to faith in Christ during a gospel presentation, even with the position that the Gospel Call is the vehicle for their doctrine of irresistible grace which as you cite, equals regeneration. I do agree that this Reformed formula does need qualifying by those who use it in light of this but I imagine their response would be that the Gospel Call, which is regeneration first, can happen some time later after they have heard the Gospel and as they recall it in their mind they are regenerated and then believe. Of course I don't buy that but I am just suggesting how they may respond. But this is not my main objective in responding.

JohnBrian's picture

Jim C in posts 138 wrote:
I have always wondered…
Can an unregenerate man spiritually perceive the truth of the gospel?
Can an unregenerate man “hear the gospel”?
Can an unregenerate man understand the gospel?

No, no, and no!

1 Cor.2:13-14 NKJV wrote:
[sup ]13[/sup ] These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. [sup ]14[/sup ] But the 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.

Jim C in post 138 wrote:
Is hearing the gospel really necessary for an individual to come to Jesus Christ in faith?

Yes!

Romans 10:14-15, 17 NKJV wrote:
[sup ]14[/sup ] How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? [sup ]15[/sup ] And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
[sup ]17[/sup ] So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Jim C in post 138 wrote:
If regeneration is necessary to bring forth the hearing, but if at the exact same moment a person is regenerated he is expressing saving faith, then did the individual actually hear any of the gospel?

The message is the means of regeneration. The unbeliever can hear the words, but cannot understand them as they are “foolishness” to him. At regeneration (brought from a dead spiritual state to an alive spiritual state) he has “ears that hear,” “eyes that see,” and a spirit that comprehends his sinfulness, and Christ’s mercy and forgiveness.

Jim C in post 138 wrote:
Is the message of the gospel really important?

Yes, without the message there is no salvation.

Jim C in post 138 wrote:
Or, is the gospel just a vehicle for God to use to give a gift of saving faith, and a vehicle to use to call the unregenerate into a state of instantaneous believing?

Yes, it is the only vehicle (means) God uses to bring the elect to repentance and faith (both the gifts of God).

Jim C in post 138 wrote:
Is this new believer, now believing the message which moments before he couldn't even perceive the spiritual truth of the message, or even really hear, or understand the message?

Yes

Jim C in post 138 wrote:
Is everyone regenerated in a gospel presentation? Is it possible for someone to be regenerated/come to faith in Jesus Christ in isolation from other people, where the gospel isn’t even present?

No, only the elect are regenerated.

Yes, God determines when He will grant regeneration to His elect.

1 Cor.3:6-7 NKJV wrote:
[sup ]6[/sup ]I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. [sup ]7[/sup ] So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

The Gospel is preached initially, it is preached again (maybe many more times), the unregenerate hears the words, but is incapable of understanding them because they are spiritual and he is not. At God’s pleasure He regenerates, understanding comes, and with it repentance and faith. I am not prepared to restrict God’s regenerating work to a specific time and place.

Jim C in post 152 wrote:
My former Reformed pastor said he first placed his faith into Jesus Christ when he was all by himself, locked in a bathroom. Is that really possible? Where was the "Gospel call"? If it is possible, then when did he "hear the gospel", if one can't "hear" until he is regenerated? How was "hearing the Word" a prerequisite to believeing?

Sure, it is possible to come to faith in a bathroom. The Gospel call came from the seed sowed and watered (the responsibility of believers), the increase came from God (His responsibility). He heard the Gospel (with understanding) when God regenerated him, opening his ears to hear, and his eyes to see. Hearing is prerequisite because the Bible says it is. God does not go around zapping the elect with regeneration, just willy-nilly like (although He could if He wanted to), He uses MEANS, the proclamation of the Gospel.

p.s. This is a great encouragement to evangelism, as we are seed sowers, and God uses the seed we sow to do His work of drawing His people to His Son.

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JohnBrian's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
So let's take a ramble down parable road and go to the address of Luke 8:4-15.

Remember, the seed is the gospel. It is thrown to the ground and the varying places it is thrown on the earth, we later learn are conditions of the heart. In other words, the earth represents the human heart.

Agree.

The question that must first be asked though is what caused the ground to be different? There is ground that cannot receive the seed in order for that seed to bear fruit. Did the good ground that received the seed cause itself to be receptive? No, obviously not. Prior to the sower coming with the seed, that ground had to be prepared to receive the seed, while the other ground was not prepared to receive seed that would produce fruit. The prior preparation would be illustrative of regeneration.

Alex wrote:
It is quite clear here that the absence of life is from not believing, not due to a lack of election or failing to come to life so that one might believe which is exactly backwards in the parable's order.

The absence of fruit is ultimately because the ground is not prepared, as the absence of spiritual life is because God has not regenerated the heart. The reason unregenerate man does not believe is because he is incapable of doing so, without the Holy Spirit first tilling the ground (regeneration).

Alex wrote:
The gospel is sown into the ground and from that ground something springs up. Here we have a definite order, gospel sown into the grown and from it life comes. The seed generates and the plant life arises and in our case the gospel regenerates our spirit. There is no mistaking the order. Gospel sown and life results from gospel reception.

A better order: ground prepared, Gospel sown, life results from Gospel reception. God first brings the spiritual dead to spiritual life so that they can receive the Gospel.

Alex wrote:
Why didn't our Lord make it clear that it wasn't the gospel that gave life but life was given that the gospel might...give life? I mean if you believe in regeneration before faith this is what you are left in describing or interpreting this parable, that life was given so that the gospel could be received so it in turn would give life which makes no sense at all. The absence of some kind of generation or regeneration before the gospel is sown in the construct of our Lord is a rather lethal blow.

Again, it is the Gospel that is the MEANS by which God gives life.

Your view, that natural man is capable of making a spiritual decision, is in conflict with many passages of Scripture, not least John 3:6

John 3:6 NKJV wrote:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit

Flesh can only produce flesh type of life, only the Spirit can produce spiritual life.

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Alex Guggenheim's picture

John,

Thank you for providing a rather precise demonstration of that to which I was referring in my preceding post. You have denied the passage's prima facie context, simply ignored the meaning of the fact our Lord clearly identified only 1 of 4 as not believing and being saved, ignored that the remaining 3 are identically described as receiving the Word and coming to life (phuo), and now introduced into the parable an element not even present with the attempt to insert the soil's preparation being that of regeneration which is not ever even remotely mentioned by our Lord, not to mention this now requires a new definition and gross departure from the orthodox definition, of "regeneration" and to boot, your system's own definition and use of regeneration! In fact I would say that your response possesses, rather amazingly, all of the outstanding elements of the irrationality (I speak about logic, not personal irrationality) and contradiction I identified in the normal response by those holding to your view that eventually ensue when normally theological harmony is no longer possible regarding biblical prescription.

As to the natural man, I invite you to read my brief article, http://thepedestrianchristian.blogspot.com/2011/02/natural-man-and-under... The Natural Man and Understanding the Gospel . It is not a thorough treatment, btw, so not every issue is covered but it does give you the information you seek which is how the natural man is enlightened as to his sinfulness and the gospel and yes, it is not accomplished naturally.

James K's picture

Excellent work Alex. I am not sure the point some monergists are trying to make. I would guess it is either or both of these:

1. to possibly try to corner the market on that term

2. define everyone else out of existence

The Lazarus story fails to communicate regeneration prior to faith as it was neither the point of the story or consistent with other texts.

Other parables and stories are offered only to be ignored or the force of them lessened by a theological grid.

I wish infralapsarians would spend more time trying to be consistent.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

JohnBrian's picture

AlexG wrote:
...introduced into the parable an element not even present with the attempt to insert the soil's preparation being that of regeneration which is not ever even remotely mentioned by our Lord,

You are correct in that Jesus does not include anything in the parable about the soils preparation. I think that is because it is evident that the good soil is good BECAUSE it has been prepared by the sower.

I'm not a farmer (never even played one on TV) but I did work for a few weeks on a farm when I was a teenager, and I have never observed a farmer planting in a ground that has not been plowed. The point is that the soil does not prepare itself to be good, that is done by the farmer choosing which portion of the land he will plant his crop in and preparing that portion of ground for planting. The preparation, in a sense, is imposed on the soil, in opposition to the idea that the soil determines which of the 4 types it will be. As I mentioned in post 168, that illustrates the monergistic view of regeneration because regeneration is not something the recipient does, but is rather something that is done to him.

In post 69 you referenced your blog article, http://thepedestrianchristian.blogspot.com/2011/02/natural-man-and-under... The Natural Man and Understanding the Gospel .

Glenn, who blogs at http://wisdomknowledge.wordpress.com ]Wisdom and Knowlege , in responding to your post, passed along a definition of Common Grace by R.B. Thieme. Prior to presenting this definition, he noted that Theme...

Glenn wrote:
used many of the same terms and doctrines that Calvinists do but he redefined them.

Glenn quoting Thieme wrote:
Common Grace is grace that the entire human race receives when God the Holy Spirit makes the Gospel message, which is a spiritual language, understandable to the spiritually dead unbeliever in order that they can make a decision to believe in Christ or reject Him for salvation. Common Grace is given to everyone in the human race.

Here is the non-redefined definition of Common Grace:

http://www.gotquestions.org/common-grace.html Got Questions :

Quote:
The doctrine of common grace pertains to the sovereign grace of God bestowed upon all of mankind regardless of their election. In other words, God has always bestowed His graciousness on all people in all parts of the earth at all time.

http://www.theopedia.com/Common_grace ]Theopedia :

Quote:
It is "common" because its benefits are experienced by the whole human race without distinction between one person and another, believers or unbelievers.

Both Calvinists and Arminians generally accept the concept of common grace in the sense of undeserved blessings which God may extend to all mankind. However, the Arminian sees this common grace including what has been termed "common sufficient grace" or the Wesleyan "universal prevenient grace" whereby the effects of the fall are offset such that all persons now have free will and the moral ability to understand spiritual things and turn to God in Christ for salvation. The Calvinist maintains that God's common grace does not improve man's depraved unregenerate nature, is exclusive of changing a person's heart, and separate from his salvific purposes.

Here is the definition of Prevenient Grace from those websites:

http://www.gotquestions.org/prevenient-grace.html Got Questions :

Quote:
...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.

http://www.theopedia.com/Universal_prevenient_grace ]Theopedia :

Quote:
Resistible prevenient grace is a doctrine concerning a type of grace that offsets the noetic effects of the Fall, restores man's free will, and thus enables every person to choose to come to Christ or not.

Clearly Thieme has redefined Prevenient Grace as Common Grace.

So let's take this common/prevenient grace and see if it fits the parable.

The first problem we encounter is the fact that Jesus notes that there are 4 types of soil. But in Thiemes view there can only be a single soil type, as the sower has prepared all the soil identically. It is left up to the soil alone to determine whether it will be the good, or one of the other 3, soils.

AlexG wrote:
You have denied the passage's prima facie context, simply ignored the meaning of the fact our Lord clearly identified only 1 of 4 as not believing and being saved, ignored that the remaining 3 are identically described as receiving the Word and coming to life (phuo),

You are correct that both the Luke 8:4-15 and the Mark 4:3-20 passage identify 3 of the soil types as having life. The synergist assumes that the life is of the same kind in all 3. The problem is that if one affirms that idea, one also has to affirm that spiritual life can be lost, as 2 of the 3 soil types did not produce lasting fruit. If one insists that spiritual life is permanent and cannot be lost (the Calvinistic Perseverance of the Saints) then the life of 2 of the soil types is significantly different from the life of the other.

An interesting aspect of the sowing is that the farmer is indiscriminate in his task. He broadcasts the seed everywhere, so that some lands in soil that will not produce a harvest. That's an encouragement to evangelism, as we (the sowers) broadcast the word, since we have no knowledge of which hearer's heart has been “tilled.” We do know that the ground (the heart) that has been prepared to receive the seed, will bring forth fruit.

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