Friday, July 27, 2007

Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

Which comes first, faith or regeneration? That is indeed the question. I cannot think of a more important theological issue with respect to the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism. It is the defining feature concerning the question of whether or not God's saving grace is irresistible. Calvinist James White would seem to agree,

"The question is: Does [God raise sinners to life] because men fulfill certain conditions, or does He do so freely, at His own time, and in the lives of those He chooses to bring into relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ? The question is normally framed in the context of the relationship of faith and regeneration. Do we believe to become born again [regeneration], or must we first be born again before we can exercise true, saving faith?" [Debating Calvinism, pg 198]

Many Arminians choose to focus on the proof texts offered by Calvinists in order to deal with their claim that God's grace is irresistible. While this is a noble approach (and one we will deal with in a future post) it is far more effective to examine the Biblical evidence which directly addresses the question of priority. Does the Bible tell us anything about this subject, or must we rely on the prior claims of a theological system as James White implies,

"Objections to irresistible grace are, by and large, actually objections to the previously established truths of the doctrines of grace [i.e. Calvinism]. Obviously, if God is sovereign and freely and unconditionally elects a people unto salvation, and if man is dead in sin and enslaved to its power, God must be able to free those elected people in time and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ, and that by a grace that does not falter or depend upon human cooperation." [ibid. 198]

James White seems to freely admit that the claim that regeneration precedes faith is not primarily derived from Scripture, but upon a prior commitment to the Calvinist understanding of unconditional election and the deadness of man in sin. He seems to be saying that the case for irresistible grace is Biblically weak unless one first adopts the Calvinist theological system that necessarily leads to it. If that is what James White is implying [and he would likely object] then I completely agree.

There are several problems with the belief that regeneration precedes faith:

1) It does not theologically comprehend the nature of justification.
2) It does not theologically comprehend the correlation between regeneration and sanctification.
3) It is not sufficiently "cross-centered" or "Christocentric".
4) It actually downplays the seriousness and nature of man's deadness in sin.
5) It does not seriously consider the necessity and implications of union with Jesus Christ with regards to all spiritual blessings.

The Bible is clear that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Not even Calvinists will argue with that. One only needs to read Rom. 3:21-5:21 and Gal. 3 to plainly establish that God justifies on the basis of faith. What is comprehended in justification? Justification is the act of God by which he forgives us of our sins and declares us righteous. This forgiveness and righteousness rests solely on the merits of Christ's blood, and is enjoyed only by those who come to be in union with Him. Consider the following passages,

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." [Rom. 5:1,2 NIV]

"Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" [Rom. 5:9, 10 NIV]

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood." [Rom. 3:22-25 NIV- emphasis mine]

"Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession- to the praise of his glory" [Eph. 1:13, 14 NIV- emphasis added]

"..so that Christ might dwell in your hearts through faith." [Eph. 3:17 NIV- emphasis mine]

These passages teach us much regarding the nature of justification. Prior to being justified God's wrath abides on us (5:9). We can only be at "peace" with God after we have been justified (5:1). We can only be justified by coming to be in union with Jesus Christ through faith, and it is only through this union that the soul cleansing blood of Christ is applied (Eph. 1:13; 3:17; Rom. 5:2, 9, 25).

To claim that regeneration precedes faith, is to claim that God can bestow life apart from the blood of His Son. It is to claim that God gives life prior to the removal of sin. Since it is sin that causes spiritual death, our sin must first be removed through Christ's blood before God can give us life. As long as sin remains, death remains. If God can bestow life (regenerate) apart from the the application of Christ's blood, then the atonement becomes less than the necessary means by which a holy God reconciles sinners to himself (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-23). For this reason, the Calvinistic doctrine of irresistible grace is not sufficiently Christocentric, does not theologically comprehend the nature and necessity of justification, ignores the necessity of union with Christ for salvation, and downplays the seriousness of sins deadly effects.

The Bible is clear that the new life belongs only to those who have been justified through saving union with Christ. Look again at Rom. 5:10,

"For if when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" [ NIV- emphasis mine]

It is only through union with Christ, wrought by the reconciliation of His blood, that we can experience regeneration. Only when we come to be "in Christ" can we experience the life that flows from Him, and this union results from faith (Eph. 1:13; Rom. 5:1). Consider Col. 2:12,

"...having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead." [NASB- emphasis mine]

While Paul mentions baptism, our baptism is nothing more than a public display of what God has already done in the heart. According to this passage, we are raised to life "through faith" in the "working [or power] of God". The context also makes it clear that this spiritual resurrection is the result of being "in Christ" (verses 6-13).

Paul tells us in Galatians that the life of Christ that dwells within him is "by faith in the Son of God" [2:20]. He also proclaims in Ephesians that all spiritual blessings, including being made "alive together with Christ" [2:5] and being "raised up with Him" [2:6] are "by grace...through faith" [2:8- emphasis mine].

A further problem that the Calvinist insistence that regeneration precedes faith fails to address is the theological correlation between regeneration and sanctification. F. Leroy Forlines observes,

"...justification must be prior to regeneration [because] regeneration is the beginning of sanctification." [Quest for Truth, pg. 260- emphasis his]

He goes on to quote Calvinist Louis Berkhof who says, "regeneration is the beginning of sanctification." [ibid. 260]

...and concludes by stating,

"If indeed it is true that regeneration is 'the beginning of sanctification' (Berkhof, a major Calvinist theologian), and if indeed it is true that God cannot enter with His sanctifying grace until the guilt problem is solved by justification (Haldane, one whose Calvinistic credentials are not in question), Calvinism is in trouble with its view of having regeneration prior to justification." [ibid. 261]

It is absurd to believe that God can begin to make us holy [i.e. sanctify us] while we are still under God's wrath and dead in sins. God must first reconcile us through Christ's blood [justification] before he can give us life and make us holy.

We could state the Arminian case as follows:

1) One cannot experience justification or regeneration apart from union with Christ.
2) We come to be in union with Christ by faith.
3) Therefore, faith precedes justification and regeneration.

or...

1) We cannot experience life (regeneration) while still in our sins.
2) We remain in our sins until we are justified on the merits of Christ's blood.
3) We are justified by faith.
4) Therefore, faith precedes regeneration.

I believe that the reverse of what James White said above equally holds true. Since it can be Biblically demonstrated that faith must, and in fact does, precede regeneration, then we have every reason to reject the Calvinistic system that necessitates such an unscriptural conclusion as the doctrine of regeneration preceding faith.

37 comments:

Classical Arminianism said...

Another home run. I am glad that you took your time through this subject. You certainly did not short-change anyone.

I had never considered the thought that "Regeneration preceding Faith" actually down-plays the seriousness of sin's effects. That was awesome.

I'm lovin' this blog!
Billy

Classical Arminianism said...

I only got in to about two chapters of "The Potter's Freedom" by James White before becoming so irritated by the way in which he handled the Word (as most Calvinists do), that I put it away, refusing to pick it up again.

The Seeking Disciple said...

Great post and great to find another Arminian blog. Keep up the good work.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Excellent post. The doctrine of regeneration preceding faith is a major Achilles' heels of Calvinism. It has no real scriptural support, and effectively denies that spiritual life comes through believing on the name of Christ.

Turretinfan said...

Ben,

Thanks for providing a detailed post on the subject. I've begun a response, but I'm juggling it amidst several other projects, so it may take a while for me to complete.

May God's blessing rest on you,

-Turretinfan

Bob said...

Nice blog, I will come by more. I of course disagree with your arminianism but I like that you want to talk about these things. Just a few thought on this post, it seems like you are trying to attack the Reformed position based upon the order of justification and sanctification. To a certain extant I really think this is rather moot...sure sanctification begins when you are regenerate, but I would say that that is when a sinner is justified as well. So I see them as beginning simultaniously as God graciously acts on a sinner.

The issue for me is the age old why do YOU believe and Mr.X who sat through the same prayer meetings and sermons rejected the Christian message? You both had the same Spirit "drawing" so why do YOU believe and he does not?

The problem for you is that you put YOUR choice ahead of regeneration so the reason for why you believe and Mr.X does not resides in YOU and not in God. You made yourself to differ by choosing to be born again where Mr.X was to dumb or hard to make that choice.

kangeroodort said...

turretinfan,

Take your time and make it good. There is no hurry, I will still be here. You may have to be very patient with any response I may give as well, as I do not have a lot of time to devote to this either.

kangeroodort said...

Bob,

Thanks for stopping by. I left a comment on your Babylblog concerning the "Secret". Last I checked you had not responded. Maybe you didn't notice it.

You said...

"...you are trying to attack the Reformed position based upon the order of justification and sanctification. To a certain extant I really think this is rather moot...sure sanctification begins when you are regenerate, but I would say that that is when a sinner is justified as well. So I see them as beginning simultaniously as God graciously acts on a sinner."

Actually I am more concerned with the order of regeneration and justification. Since you said "sanctification and justification" I assume you would agree, however, that regeneration is the beginning of sanctification. Is that the case?

Anyway, it seems that you are saying that sanctification, regeneration, and justification happen simultaneously. If that is the case, then you must also believe that all three of these works of God are "by faith" [since justification is clearly by faith] which would mean that, logically speaking, faith must precede all three works of God. Is that what you believe?

As far as the other question, I have much to say on that, but for now I would just ask you if you are saying that some philosophical argument about two people responding to God's grace in different ways should take precedence over what the Bible seems to plainly teach regarding the condition of faith needing to be met before one can become justified, regenerated, and sanctified?

Bob said...

"As far as the other question, I have much to say on that, but for now I would just ask you if you are saying that some philosophical argument about two people responding to God's grace in different ways should take precedence over what the Bible seems to plainly teach regarding the condition of faith needing to be met before one can become justified, regenerated, and sanctified?

(chuckle) Well, whether or not libertarian free will is the "plain teaching of the Bible" is the issue at hand it would seem. As far as being purely philosophical I disagree, the Bible teaches that salvation is by grace and is a gift(Rom 3:24). The issue then is that if this gift is open to a libertarian "whosoever" then what makes those who posses the gift to differ from those who have chosen to reject it?

I think you avoided this because you don't really have an answer...honestly no synergist does. Given your soteriology you have to say that YOU made yourself to differ, you were either smarter, less hard hearted, more humble, than mr.X who rejected the same message. It isn't really a hypothetical at all, it is a real life illustration.

The issue for you is that this of course sounds rather meritorious, you have done something Mr.X could have but didn't and that is why you are saved and he is lost.

kangeroodort said...

Bob,

You said,

"I think you avoided this because you don't really have an answer...honestly no synergist does.

You got me Bob. I was up all night tossing and turning, hoping you wouldn't call my bluff. Just kidding, of course. I will deal with your question in a momment, but I want to remind you that you have not yet answered my question. Lets not get into the same kind of debate that we got into over original sin where I answer all of your questions and you ignore most of mine.

Your question:

"Given your soteriology you have to say that YOU made yourself to differ, you were either smarter, less hard hearted, more humble, than mr.X who rejected the same message. It isn't really a hypothetical at all, it is a real life illustration."

Now I am in no way comparing myself to Jesus, but I think we can learn from him that sometimes the best way to answer a question is to ask one. So please think about this for a momment and see what you come up with.

Are we indebted to God's grace as much after we believe as before? Are we saved by grace while in sin, but not after? The problem is that Christians are given grace to ovecome sin, yet they do not always do so. One Christian may overcome temptation and another will fail in the same area. Why? 1 Cor. 10:13 says,

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Now if grace is the only factor, and we can only act as acted upon, then why is it that some Christians yield to temptations while others do not? Both were provided a way out. Both were given the power to stand up under it. What made the difference? Can you answer this question? Look at James 4:6-8,

"But he gives more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded."

Again, James 4:6 says that God gives us sufficient grace to humble oursleves, submit to God, and resist the devil. He gives us sufficient grace to draw close to God and deepen our relationship with him. Why then do some resist the devil better than others? Why do some draw closer to God than others? Why do some seek God for hours a night, while others are content to watch the Simpsons? They are both given sufficient grace so what is the difference? Can the one believer boast over another that they are more intelligent, humble, etc., and that is why they better resisted temptation, and drew closer to God? Can you answer this question? If it is all God's grace and has nothing to do with how we respond to it as persons capable of genuine choice, then it is hard to make sense of these passages. If your assumptions are true then there should be no difference between believers. We should all act just the same, for God has given each of us sufficient grace.

Let me also remind you that you have not yet dealt with my original question. I will repeat it so you do will not need to scroll back.

I asked,

"Anyway, it seems that you are saying that sanctification, regeneration, and justification happen simultaneously. If that is the case, then you must also believe that all three of these works of God are "by faith" [since justification is clearly by faith] which would mean that, logically speaking, faith must precede all three works of God. Is that what you believe?"

Bob said...

"Lets not get into the same kind of debate that we got into over original sin where I answer all of your questions and you ignore most of mine."

Yeah lets not do that again...I think it was more of an issue of snide comments like this and the fact that we were talking about the fate of dead 6 months old and other purely speculative matters that caused me to bail out on that discussion.

"Are we indebted to God's grace as much after we believe as before? Are we saved by grace while in sin, but not after? The problem is that Christians are given grace to ovecome sin, yet they do not always do so. One Christian may overcome temptation and another will fail in the same area. Why?

If you are implying by "fail" to be lose their salvation I do not agree, they never were Christians if they do not persevere. As far as christians who are under the sanctifying influence of the Spirit, I don't think the Spirit of God is this impersonal force that just dispenses X amount of ounces of grace per day per believer, but moves and influences believers affections as God has ordained.

So when you ask:

"Now if grace is the only factor, and we can only act as acted upon, then why is it that some Christians yield to temptations while others do not?"

Well grace isn't the only factor we do have wills. The issue is that WITHOUT God's grace we will ALWAYS will to sin. Now as far as Christians living less holy lives than others, that is completely owing to their own choices (which God has allowed them to make) while those who are living at a greater sanctity are living such because the chose to and that due to the grace of God.

So in light of the sovereignty of God I would say that God is also sovereign over the sin in those being sanctified and is working it for their ultimate good...though it is still sin and brought about by their choice. So yes as you point to James, it is our role to plead for grace in our pursuit of holiness. This isn't some sort of formula for how we are saved or regenerated or anything, rather it is an exhortation to believers to earnestly seek the Lord.

So when you say:

"He gives us sufficient grace to draw close to God and deepen our relationship with him. Why then do some resist the devil better than others? Why do some draw closer to God than others? Why do some seek God for hours a night, while others are content to watch the Simpsons? They are both given sufficient grace so what is the difference?"

This is assuming that all people are beneficiaries of an equal "sufficient grace".

""Anyway, it seems that you are saying that sanctification, regeneration, and justification happen simultaneously. If that is the case, then you must also believe that all three of these works of God are "by faith" [since justification is clearly by faith] which would mean that, logically speaking, faith must precede all three works of God. Is that what you believe?"

No I believe faith is a product (fruit) of being regenerated. Once one has been born again faith, justification and sanctification begin. My simple point was that once one has been that regeneration is needed for faith in Christ, however drawing sharp sequential lines of the order are rather superflous because the events occur nearly simultaniously. Again, the issue is who initiates or rather who is free in the process of deciding who is regenerated...the sinner or the Spirit.

kangeroodort said...

Hey Bob,

You said,

"I think it was more of an issue of snide comments like this"

I wasn't trying to be snide. I was just reminding you that if you wanted me to answer what you believed to be an unanswerable question, it was only fair that I should expect you to answer mine, which to that point you had not. I would also suggest that some people might find comments like "(chuckle)...I think you avoided this because you don't really have an answer...honestly no synergist does" to be a bit on the snide side as well.

"If you are implying by "fail" to be lose their salvation I do not agree, they never were Christians if they do not persevere."

No, I was not implying that if a believer fails to resist temptation, and sins, he has immediately lost his or her salvation. Neither would I suggest that if a believer sins, it proves that he or she was never a Christian to begin with. Is that what you believe?

Bob: "Well grace isn't the only factor we do have wills. The issue is that WITHOUT God's grace we will ALWAYS will to sin."

I agree. Hence the doctrine of prevenient grace.

Bob: "Now as far as Christians living less holy lives than others, that is completely owing to their own choices (which God has allowed them to make) while those who are living at a greater sanctity are living such because the chose to and that due to the grace of God."

When you say things like "God has allowed", you are using the language of libertarian free will. I thought you rejected that view.

When you say "while those who are living at a greater sanctity are living such because the chose to and that due to the grace of God" I think you have effectively answered the unanswerable question you posed. One gets saved, and the other does not, because as a creature made in God's image, and capable of genuine choice, one chose to submit to God's grace, and the other did not. Since you seem to see no merit within the context of how Christians respond to God's grace differently, then I am unsure how you can assign merit when one unbeliever responds differently to God's grace than the other. Please explain.

Bob: "So in light of the sovereignty of God I would say that God is also sovereign over the sin in those being sanctified and is working it for their ultimate good."

When you say that God is sovereign over sin, do you mean that he caused that sin? It would seem so considering your next comment:

"though it is still sin and brought about by their choice."

Now I know you added this little tid-bit to try to get God off the hook for sovereignly causing sin, as your previous comment implies; however, the only way you can succeed here is by viewing "choice" in a libertarian sense. So, are you a libertarian or a compatibilist? Please explain.

Bob: "This is assuming that all people are beneficiaries of an equal "sufficient grace".

If the grace is "sufficient" it doesn't matter if it is "equal" now does it?

Bob: "No I believe faith is a product (fruit) of being regenerated. Once one has been born again faith, justification and sanctification begin. My simple point was that once one has been that regeneration is needed for faith in Christ, however drawing sharp sequential lines of the order are rather superflous because the events occur nearly simultaniously. Again, the issue is who initiates or rather who is free in the process of deciding who is regenerated...the sinner or the Spirit."

Bob, did you read my post? When you say, "Once one has been born again faith, justification and sanctification begin." You are also saying that God can give life to someone before they are justified (forgiven, made righteousness on the merits of Christ blood). Until we are justified, we are still in our sins. How can we have life while still in the sins that cause death?

You also said,

"My simple point was that once one has been that regeneration is needed for faith in Christ, however drawing sharp sequential lines of the order are rather superflous because the events occur nearly simultaniously."

Faith cannot be the result of regeneration if one cannot have life until the sin is removed (justification). Since justification is "by faith", then faith must precede regeneration. You may think the sequential order is superflous, but tell that to your Calvinist heritage that has always made a big deal of the "ordo salutis". The issue is not whether or not the events happen "nearly simultaneously". Even without any temporal consideration, the logical order is very important. See my post for details.

MICKY said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MICKY said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bob said...

"No, I was not implying that if a believer fails to resist temptation, and sins, he has immediately lost his or her salvation. Neither would I suggest that if a believer sins, it proves that he or she was never a Christian to begin with. Is that what you believe?

Not at all. I believe if someone who once professed to be saved and then after some time walks away and denies Christ that person never was saved. We don't step in and out of salvation like the hokey pokey, if you are a new creation you will persevere, that is the evidence that you are saved, perseverence.

"And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope." (Heb 3:6)

The structure of the sentence leaves little to doubt. We "are" (present tense) His house (Christ's, and therefore saved) if we hold fast our confidence to the end. In other words to say it negatively, you are not Christs house presently if you do not hold fast to the end.

"When you say things like "God has allowed", you are using the language of libertarian free will. I thought you rejected that view."

Well, I say allowed because sin is of course repugnant to God. Yet, he is sovereign over our sinning.

"When you say "while those who are living at a greater sanctity are living such because the chose to and that due to the grace of God" I think you have effectively answered the unanswerable question you posed. "

Not at all, we are talking about apples and oranges here. Sanctification and regeneration are not the same thing. I say when God calls a sinner He does so effectively, and the fact that there are people who say "Yes" to the call of God is because they are called and those whom God calls WILL COME. So this is monergistic, regeneration is a gift. It is this gift that gives birth to our affirming choices of Christ, not the other way around.

On the other hand the sanctification is different. All the passages you are using are dealing sanctification, I have no problem talking about people "fighting" sin and mortifying the deeds of the flesh and making real choices, that's not the issue at all. The issue is that God has enabled us to make those choices by blessing us with new birth and His Spirit.

You are saying we need to make a choice prior to the new birth and the indwelling of the Spirit, in effect the "call" of God is only effective IF man says "yes". Well again why do some say yes to the call and others say no?

That seems drastically in conflict with what the Bible says about the call of God, I humbly submit Christs teaching in John 6 which angered many:

"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." (Jn 6:39)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me--
(Jn 6:44-45)

My point in submitting these passages is that Christ saw the call of God as effectual, it does not fail to bring those on whom it is bestowed into the kingdom. To say otherwise is to in effect say that Christ failed to fulfill the will of the Father in v39.

Moving on,
"When you say that God is sovereign over sin, do you mean that he caused that sin? It would seem so considering your next comment:

"though it is still sin and brought about by their choice."


How do you get that I think God causes in out of that? I am honestly rather baffled. My point is that God's activity in regards to sin is ALWAYS restraint, without His restraint men would dive head first into sinful actions. So, all He does is leave us to our free will, that I think is the "hardening" of Pharoah the Bible speaks of, he left Pharoah to his "free will".

"You are also saying that God can give life to someone before they are justified (forgiven, made righteousness on the merits of Christ blood). Until we are justified, we are still in our sins. How can we have life while still in the sins that cause death?"

In one word, grace. You see when we are born again we are not "dead in sins" anymore but are alive and able to see. Where once God seemed annoying and dull, He now (by regeneration) is lovely and desireable. On that basis we choose Christ. You want to make the choice in effect meritorious. This is simply the order of entering the kingdom Christ Himself lasy out:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (Jn 3:5)

The straitforward understanding is that we need to be regenerated in order to even enter the the kingdom, or have any positive volition towards it (choose). That said what you said above is not a prper description, we are not talking about people dead in their sins choosing Christ (that is Arminianism) we are talking about regenerated people on the basis of the Spirit's work turning to Christ and becomming justified.

"Faith cannot be the result of regeneration if one cannot have life until the sin is removed (justification). "

Where do you get that from? Justification is a legal declaration before God, it is the Spirit that gives life not declarations in the tribunal of heaven.

Taken as a whole you argue:

"Faith cannot be the result of regeneration if one cannot have life until the sin is removed (justification). Since justification is "by faith", then faith must precede regeneration."

That really doesn't make any sense, you seem to be smushing justification ond regeneration together. Again Christ taught the new birth preceeds entering the kingdom. Also, justification is a legal declaration before God, it is not the life giving change the Spirit brings about, nor does it necessarily preceed the life giving work of the Spirit. You can only reach that sort of a view if you view Christ's work as only potentially effective. Whereas, the Reformed view is that the Spirit is now merely applying the blessings Christ has purchased for us.

"You may think the sequential order is superflous, but tell that to your Calvinist heritage that has always made a big deal of the "ordo salutis". The issue is not whether or not the events happen "nearly simultaneously". Even without any temporal consideration, the logical order is very important. See my post for details."

I agree, this isn't superflous, the order of justification and regeneration is what seperates theology that attributes all glory for salvation to God and that which has man as the final arbiter of salvation.

Bob said...

uh oh another blog succumbs to the beast of "moderation"...I have a feeling I know where this is going...

kangeroodort said...

Hey Bob,

I am away at training all week and will not be returning to work (the only place I have internet access) until Mon. I am at a library right now and was just checking to see if any comments were left. I will respond to your recent comments sometime next week.

It has been my goal to never use comment moderation. Unfortunately, a certian very strange fellow began to become very disrespectful and insulting in my comments section. He refused to stop dropping comments and the contents of his comments were very inappropriate. None of them were in any way related to the subject matter of my posts. For this reason, I have activated moderation. You said,

"uh oh another blog succumbs to the beast of "moderation"...I have a feeling I know where this is going..."

Not sure what you mean by this comment, but I assure you that I will always post your comments. I am not trying to hide from anything.

See ya next week.

Ben

If you want to get a better feel for why I activated moderation, look at the comment section in "Is Arminian Theology Synergistic" and the last few comments of "Does John 6:44 teach irresistible grace?" The comments are by a guy named "Micky".

Bob said...

Hey thanks, for the reassurance, what are you training for anyway?

kangeroodort said...

Hey Bob,

Sorry for the delay. I had to get caught up on some things, and wanted to get a new post up before doing anything else.

You said,

"Well, I say allowed because sin is of course repugnant to God. Yet, he is sovereign over our sinning."

Again, words like "allowed" imply libertarian free will. Please explain how you define the word "allowed" in the context of determinism.

You said,

"Not at all, we are talking about apples and oranges here. Sanctification and regeneration are not the same thing. I say when God calls a sinner He does so effectively, and the fact that there are people who say "Yes" to the call of God is because they are called and those whom God calls WILL COME. So this is monergistic, regeneration is a gift. It is this gift that gives birth to our affirming choices of Christ, not the other way around...You are saying we need to make a choice prior to the new birth and the indwelling of the Spirit, in effect the "call" of God is only effective IF man says "yes". Well again why do some say yes to the call and others say no?"

The reason you see apples and oranges is because you have already presupposed the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity, and defined it in such a way that one cannot believe the gospel unless irresistibly regenerated. That is a rather clear case of begging the question.

My view is that man can indeed respond to God’s grace even in his sinful state. The reason for that is because God graciously enables the bound sinner to respond. That is what prevenient grace means. Once a sinner is enabled by God’s grace, he can either submit to the Spirit’s conviction and exercise saving faith or he can resist the Spirit’s conviction and continue in his bondage. The one who exercises faith has no more room to boast over the other, than a believer has room to boast over a fellow believer who does not submit to God’s grace to the same degree. The believer also has no room to boast because of the nature of saving faith itself (see my post “The Nature of Saving Faith”).

The Calvinist view that being “dead in sin” means that one cannot even respond to God’s grace is an overstraining of Biblical metaphor. I agree that a person who is dead in sins can only respond to the influences presented to him. If God did not intervene, then the one dead in sin could respond only to his sinful nature, and the influences of Satan and the corrupt world. Those would be his only choices.

However, when the Spirit of God begins to work in the sinner’s heart there begins a new influence to which he can then respond. There is no reason to believe that the grace of God cannot override the sinful nature without first regenerating the sinner. I think reformed thinkers are very inconsistent in the way they view Biblical metaphors. They insist that being “dead in sin” and a “slave to sin” means that a sinner cannot possibly respond to God’s grace, while at the same time affirming that the believer who is “dead to sins” and a “slave to righteousness” can certainly respond to his sinful nature and to satanic influence. Why the inconsistency?

Look at it this way:

The unregenerate sinner “dead in sin” and a “slave to sin”, though crippled by sin, can still respond to the Holy Spirit (prevenient grace) through divine enablement.

The regenerate believer “dead to sin” and a “salve to righteousness”, though empowered by the Holy Spirit, can still respond to the sinful nature.

You said,

"That seems drastically in conflict with what the Bible says about the call of God, I humbly submit Christs teaching in John 6 which angered many:

"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." (Jn 6:39)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me-- (Jn 6:44-45)"

I humbly submit that you have misapprehended Jesus’ words in John 6. If

You are right to connect John 6:44 with 45. However John 6:45 teaches that it is not only those who are “taught” by the Father, but also those who “listen” and “learn” from the Father, who “come” to the Son. This illustrates the “influence and response” nature of the “drawing” in John 6:44.

The “drawing” of these passages cannot have reference to irresistible regeneration. If that were the case then Jesus would be saying in essence that no one can “come” to Him unless they are first given life [drawn]. That is what you seem to believe Jesus is saying. If that is the case then regeneration [drawing] is the cause, and “coming” to Jesus is the result of being regenerated. What then do you make of John 5:40? “…you refuse to come to me to have life.” Here it is quite clear that “come” is the necessary condition for attaining life. One must first come before they can have life. This is the opposite of what you believe Jesus is teaching in Jn.6:44; that one must first be given life before he can come. This is a clear indication that the drawing of John. 6:44 cannot possibly be a reference to irresistible regeneration. When you insist that regeneration must precede “coming”, you are stating exactly the opposite of what Christ taught in John 5:40. However, if the drawing of John 6:44 is a reference to resistible prevenient grace, then there is no conflict. For more deatil see my posts on Jhn. 6:44 and John 12:32.

You said,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (Jn 3:5)

"The straitforward understanding is that we need to be regenerated in order to even enter the the kingdom, or have any positive volition towards it (choose). That said what you said above is not a prper description, we are not talking about people dead in their sins choosing Christ (that is Arminianism) we are talking about regenerated people on the basis of the Spirit's work turning to Christ and becomming justified."

Please see my post on John 3:3,6 for an alterantive exegesis.

You said,

"That really doesn't make any sense, you seem to be smushing justification ond regeneration together."

No, I am not smushing them together. What I am saying is that one must be justified before they can be given new life. If you read my post then I think you would understand why I believe that. I also believe that justification is more than just a "Justification is a legal declaration before God...in the tribunal of heaven." That is rather simplified. Justification also involves forgiveness as the blood of Christ is applied to the sinner. Py point is that no one can have new life before the sin problem is dealt with.

You said,

"I agree, this isn't superflous, the order of justification and regeneration is what seperates theology that attributes all glory for salvation to God and that which has man as the final arbiter of salvation."

Of course I do not agree with this characterization. God is the one who sovereignly decided that he would save believers. He is the determiner of salvation. We merely decide if we will submit to the God ordained condition of faith.

My training was for ACE, a Christian education curriculum.

I didn't address your comments on perseverance because I didn't want this discussion to branch out into too many directions. I will evetually write some posts on that subject and you are more than welcomed to challenge my conclusions then.

God Bless,
Ben

1 Conservative Voice said...

I enjoy reading your posts. They are thoughtful and informative. I look forward to each post.

kangeroodort said...

1 Conservative Voice,

Thanks for the compliment. I am very happy to hear that you have gotten something beneficial from my posts.

God Bless,
Ben

Anonymous said...

I faith precedes regeneration than does that mean that a person can believe in Jesus and be condemned?

That would go counter John 3:18 which says that He who believes in Him is not condemned.

If one is not condemned then one is saved? If that then is true then how can I be saved without being regenerate/reborn?

kangeroodort said...

"I faith precedes regeneration than does that mean that a person can believe in Jesus and be condemned?"

No.

"That would go counter John 3:18 which says that He who believes in Him is not condemned."

Only if the answer to the first question was "yes".

"If one is not condemned then one is saved?"

Yes

"If that then is true then how can I be saved without being regenerate/reborn?"

You can't. Not sure what any of this has to do with my post. I have never maintained that one can be saved apart from the new birth. I have only argued that Scripture is quite clear that God regenerates the sinner only after he has met the God ordained condition of faith. When I say "after" I am speaking of logical and not temporal sequence. That is usually how Calvinists view the ordo salutis as well [though some believe that one can be regenerated for a period of time before believing].

Logically speaking, then, we could state the opposing views as follows:

Calvinism: The sinner believes the moment God regenerates him.

Arminianism: God regenerates the sinner the moment he believes.

The Arminian, then, does not believe that any time elapses between believing and being regenerated, only that the logical order is faith first [as the God ordained necessary condition] and then regeneration.

The Calvinist believes that regeneration not only precedes faith [logically or temporally], but causes faith as well.

Therefore, there is no such thing as a believer that has not yet [temporally] been regenerated in Arminian theology.

Anonymous said...

So if you have faith you are regenerate, you can not have faith and not be regenerate and you can not be regenerate without faith.

You are saying that faith comes first, but that no time elapses between faith and regeneration.

We may differ on this, but it is clear that we a brothers in Christ.

God Bless

mark pierson said...

Ben, I am coming from the position that the unregenerate are hostile to God. Spelled HATE. John 3:19-20 and Romans 1:18 through the third chapter speak to this matter. In fact Romans 8:7 says that the carnal mind is enmity against God, His very enemy! How does one in such a state repent and believe w/o regeneration, the new heart with new desires placed within?

kangeroodort said...

Mark,

Let me ask you a few questions about the Scriptures you reference.

John 3:19-20- what do you make of verse 21 in light of your understanding of verses 19-20?

Romans 1:18- what do you make of Rom. 2:14-15 in light of your understanding of Rom. 1:18?

Romans 8:7- Does not Rom. 8:1,9-11 imply that one can only overcome the sinful nature and escape condemnation through union with Christ and by the indwelling Spirit of Christ? Does not the Bible also plainly state that we come to be "in Christ" through faith [Eph. 1:13; 3:16]? What reason do have for believing that God cannot enable the hostile carnal mind to submit to the gospel call by way of the poweful conviction of the Holy Spirit? Why do you insist that this can only happen by way of irresistible regeneration contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture that one cannot experience life outside of union with Christ, and that one comes to be in union with Him through faith? Aren't you then limiting God by insisting He must first regenerate a sinner in order to then give him faith?

mark pierson said...

Ben, first off, check out my Sept. 12 entry at my blog.

Secondly, that first time you posted at my blog was under the "Preach Repentance" post. In that post I mention that all of what Christ accomplished on the cross is ours through the Holy Spirit, which is shed abundantly upon us because of that sacrifce. He gives us the new heart, with new desires, Ezek. 36:26. Faith is a gift, Eph. 2:8; 1 John 5:1. Repentance is a gift, Acts 5:31, 11:18; 2 Tim.2:25. All of these are bestowed on God's elect and are the result of Christ's sacrifice.

Mark

Nick said...

Ben,

Good stuff! I've really enjoyed it. If you ever have some extra time check out a debate that I had with a Calvinist brother Here. We never finished but Lord willing we will pick it up one of these days.

kangeroodort said...

Nick,

Thanks for stopping by. I have looked at your debate and am really enjoying it so far. I also like the web-site it is located at. Glad you are enjoying the posts.

God Bless,
Ben

Tom said...

kangeroodort,

Nice post although I will have to disagree with the order of salvation you set forth. It is my understanding of the Arminian position that before a person can receive the gift of faith that they must receive prevenient grace. Is that correct? Prevenient grace would then allow the person to understand and respond to the gospel. That sounds very much like regeneration to me.

By the way, thanks for stopping by my blog and posting your comments.

kangeroodort said...

Hello Tom,

Thanks for stopping by.

Nice post although I will have to disagree with the order of salvation you set forth.

Could you then explain how we can experience new life prior to being forgiven or joined [through faith] to the only source of eternal life-Jesus Christ?

It is my understanding of the Arminian position that before a person can receive the gift of faith that they must receive prevenient grace.

I believe that the sinner must hear the gospel and be convicted by the Holy Spirit before being capable of response. I believe that faith is a gift only in the sense that God must first enable the sinner to believe.

Prevenient grace would then allow the person to understand and respond to the gospel.

Yes.

That sounds very much like regeneration to me.

The difference is that the Holy Spirit can enable a faith response without regenerating the person. There are too many theological and exegetical problems with believing that regeneration precedes faith [as I described in my post].

Lydia and Cornelius serve as examples of how God can prepare the heart to respond to the gospel prior to regeneration. In Lydia's case we see that the Lord "opened her heart" to respond to Paul's message. The text does not say that the Lord regenerated her, nor does it say that He gave her a new heart. It only says that her heart was "opened" to respond. If God can open Lydia's unregenerated heart to respond to the gospel, then it follows that there is no reason to believe that one must first be regenerated in order to believe.

Hope that helps.

God Bless,
Ben

Tom said...

I believe that the sinner must hear the gospel and be convicted by the Holy Spirit before being capable of response. I believe that faith is a gift only in the sense that God must first enable the sinner to believe.

I agree with these statements. But neither helps much because there is something that must happen before being convicted. Arminians would say that it is Prevenient Grace and Calvinists would say that it is Regeneration. I know that there are some differences but I think these may be actually describing the same thing.

The difference is that the Holy Spirit can enable a faith response without regenerating the person.

How can this be? Do you believe in total depravity...in spiritual deadness? If so, then what good is faith to a spiritually dead person? Life must be restored before the gift of faith can do any good.

In Lydia's case we see that the Lord "opened her heart" to respond to Paul's message. The text does not say that the Lord regenerated her, nor does it say that He gave her a new heart. It only says that her heart was "opened" to respond. If God can open Lydia's unregenerated heart to respond to the gospel, then it follows that there is no reason to believe that one must first be regenerated in order to believe.

The question becomes what was involved in "opening" Lydia's heart. If Lydia was truly spiritually dead (as all unregenerate people are) then before her heart could be "opened" it must be given life (i.e. regenerated). It is true that the text does not say that she was regenerated but it is implied.

kangeroodort said...

Tom,

You wrote:

Arminians would say that it is Prevenient Grace and Calvinists would say that it is Regeneration. I know that there are some differences but I think these may be actually describing the same thing.

They are similar only in that they are both considered a necessary work of God prior to conversion. They are very different with regards to the nature of that work.

How can this be? Do you believe in total depravity...in spiritual deadness? If so, then what good is faith to a spiritually dead person? Life must be restored before the gift of faith can do any good.

These assumptions are based on a misunderstanding of what it means to be "dead in sins". I believe in total depravity, but I also believe in the power of God's grace to overcome that depravity. See the following links for why I find the Calvinistic understanding of "dead in sin" unbiblical:

http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/09/fletcher-on-being-dead-in-sin-part-2.html

http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/09/john-fletcher-on-being-dead-in-sin.html

It is true that the text does not say that she was regenerated but it is implied.

It is only implied if one is already committed to the system of Calvinism. The Bible nowhere describes regeneration as a necessary work prior to faith. The Bible does, however, describe the new life as the result of faith as I described in my post.

The question you need to grapple with is how God can grant life [regenerate] prior to justification [forgiveness], and how God can grant life outside of saving union with Jesus Christ- the only source of life. The Bible is clear that both justification and union with Christ are "by faith".

God Bless,
Ben

Tom said...

Ben said

I believe in total depravity, but I also believe in the power of God's grace to overcome that depravity.

I agree with this. God overcomes the depravity of men by regeneration. Otherwise, it is up to the individual to overcome his own depravity. These are the only two options: either God overcomes the man's depravity or man overcomes his depravity himself.

I read your post where John Fletcher discusses being dead in sin. He makes an argument of degrees of deadness. He actually compares physical death with something that no longer functions and we describe as being dead. This is not a valid comparison. The fact that words can have different meanings depending on the contest only proves that the context must be examined.

Spiritual deadness means that the person has no ability to come to God until God restores life. There is no remnant of life.

Ben said

The Bible nowhere describes regeneration as a necessary work prior to faith.

Ephesians 2:4-5 says "(4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" This seems to be very straight forward in the description of what God does. While we are dead He makes us alive.

On a lighter side, I appreciate your willingness to discuss this (and other) issue. We may not agree but it is a fun discussion and is very helpful to me.

Tom

kangeroodort said...

Tom,

You wrote:

I agree with this. God overcomes the depravity of men by regeneration. Otherwise, it is up to the individual to overcome his own depravity.

I don't see how it follows that man must overcome his own depravity when I have clearly stated that he is dependent on God's grace. See the following quote from my last post:

I believe in total depravity, but I also believe in the power of God's grace to overcome that depravity.

You wrote:

I read your post where John Fletcher discusses being dead in sin. He makes an argument of degrees of deadness. He actually compares physical death with something that no longer functions and we describe as being dead. This is not a valid comparison. The fact that words can have different meanings depending on the contest only proves that the context must be examined.

Did you read "Part 2" where I deal with the context of these passages and the Ephesians passage you quote below?

Here is the link:

http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/09/fletcher-on-being-dead-in-sin-part-2.html

You have not yet addressed the questions I asked regarding the theological need for faith to precede regeneration. This was the topic of this post. Here is the question again from my last comment:

The question you need to grapple with is how God can grant life [regenerate] prior to justification [forgiveness], and how God can grant life outside of saving union with Jesus Christ- the only source of life. The Bible is clear that both justification and union with Christ are "by faith".

On a lighter side, I appreciate your willingness to discuss this (and other) issue. We may not agree but it is a fun discussion and is very helpful to me.

I enjoy it too, I just wish I had more time to devote to it.

God Bless,
Ben

Skandalon said...

Ben,

Great blog brother. I have enjoyed reading through this. Keep them coming!

You said that you believe in Total Depravity, but I don't think you believe it in the way a Calvinist would.

A Calvinist would say: Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not--indeed he cannot--choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit's assistance to bring a sinner to Christ--it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature.

To a Calvinist, regeneration is needed, but surely you don't believe this. Don't you believe the gospel itself is a work of the Holy Spirit? Why wouldn't that work of grace be sufficient to bring a lost man to faith?

kangaroodort said...

Skandalon,

This blog moved to wordpress some time ago. You can find it here:

http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/

Total depravity is most generally defined in terms of the corruption of Adam's sin affecting every aspect of our being (i.e. it is total in scope). Since our will is also corrupted, it cannot turn to God without God's enablement.

However, there is no need to believe that such an enablement must be equated with regeneration. This comes from an improper understanding of what it means to be "dead in sin".

So Arminians certainly affirm total depravity (all of our being is affected by the fall), but do not affirm the peculiar view of depravity that Calvinists affirm which insists that regeneration alone can serve to enable a faith response.

God Bless,
Ben