Nov 9, 2008

Fire at Pyromaniacs

The following is the dialogue that took place yesterday at pyromaniacs. Seeing that several comments were deleted by Phil, I thought I would save them here. I also believe some might be interested in this exchange.

Dear Phil:

I thought that the belief that men are born again before faith, White's view, was part of Hyper Calvinism? Calvin certainly did not hold that view, nor Spurgeon.

How can we test if one is Hyper on this point? Just ask people this question - "Do you believe we are begotten by faith in the gospel?"



Razorskiss wrote:

Oh boy - Garrettisms.

But seriously - thansk for making the public clarification! As a Reformed SBCer, I'm really cringing this weekend, especially with my pastor out of town in Brazil. Gotta love Dr. Vines

I then responded by writing:

Dear Razorskiss:

You can be demeaning and throw out such sarcasms, but can you simply answer the question? It is this type of "discussion" that gives your brand of Calvinism an ugly face.



Razorskiss wrote:

"You can be demeaning and throw out such sarcasms, but can you simply answer the question? It is this type of "discussion" that gives your brand of Calvinism an ugly face."

Mr. Garrett - you apparently did not read Phil's injuction. So save it :D

Check out my blog, or Dr. White's IRC channel, if you want a debate about it. That's what they're around for.

Chad V wrote next, saying:

Stpehen Garrett

Your right, Calvin didn't hold that view but did believe that faith was only given by God to the elect. He saw faith as given first, then regeneration. Sort of a reverse order of things that were finally drawn up in the Canons of Dort, which was not a Hyper Calvinistic document. Just Calvinism.

I think you are wrong about Spurgeon on the other hand. From this sermon it looks like Spurgeon did believe that Regeneration preceded faith. Maybe I'm wrong. Phil's the real Spurgeon expert here.

Remember that Spurgeon was a subscriber to the 1689 London Baptist Confession and in Chapter 10 Paragraph 2 the doctrine that regeneration precedes faith is clearly taught. Spurgeon called this confession an "excellent list of doctrines" and had it republished for his church at New Park Street Chapel.

Most importantly the scripture says For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Rom 8:7.

If the mind cannot be subject to the law of God it cannot be convicted of sin and the need for Christ nor enabled to believe the truth. That's not Hyper-Calvinism. It's just plain old Calvinism.

The main point of distinction between Hyper Calvinism and Calvinism is that Hypers deny the free offer of the gospel to all. They deny that fallen men should be exhorted to turn to or believe in God.

Then I wrote:

Dear Chad:

There are plenty of writings around (as in my blog and Bob Ross's blog at calvinistflyswatter) that show that Spurgeon did not believe as you say. Also, the London Confession does not teach that men can be said to be born again before they come to faith. So, I will not post all the evidence here.

I believe faith is given to the elect. I am a five pointer. I am also a former Hardshell and I know Hyperism when I see it. Why do you think the Hardshells invited White to preach for them? Is it because they too believe that faith is not part of being born again?

Also, why don't you answer the question? Are men begotten by the gospel, by believing it, or not?

In your remarks you affirm that the gospel is to be preached to the dead, to those who have carnal minds, and salvation offered to them. I agree. We preach to the dead and call upon them to believe. And, when they believe, they are begotten.

The London Confession says that faith and the gospel are "means" in the new birth, and that sinners "believe TO the saving of their souls."

Spurgeon often preached to dead sinners and told them to "repent and live." Do you?



Dear Chad:


Bob Ross is also an expert on Spurgeon.



Chad V responded by saying:


Chapter 10 Paragraph 2 of the London Baptist Confession.

This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.

Sorry it does teach that. That's what it means to be quickened by the Spirit. It means to be made alive, regenerated, in order to be able to answer God's effectual call, in order to believe.

As for Spurgeon, I already said maybe I'm wrong but that sermon I linked you to sure does sound to me like he believed that men must be made alive before they can believe. It doesn't matter, Spurgeon does not define Calvinism anyway.

Your question is problematic. Men are begotten by the Holy Spirit. The gospel doesn't beget anyone. The gospel is the means, not the one performing the action. The means by which men are brought to faith is by the believing the gospel. But the ability to believe the gospel savingly requires regeneration which is wrought in the hearts of men by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit applies this truth to the hearts of men effectually. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts men of sin righteousness and judgement through the preaching of the gospel.


P.S. I have no idea who Bob Ross is.

Then Chad V wrote:


Yes, of course, men are saved by believing the gospel and that is the only way men are saved. But the difference between who believes upon hearing it and who does not is that the Holy Spirit regenerates the elect and passes by the reprobate. Mere mental assent to the facts of the gospel does not cause men to be saved. There are many hypocrites in the church who believe the gospel facts but do not have faith. They have not been born again.

Next there is a comment by Chad V that was deleted by Phil.

Chad wrote:


I noticed something in your blogger profile. You say that you are fighting the "he false Calvinistic view that avers that one is born again before and apart from faith." Well, that's the problem. You're making an erroneous distinction. No one is born again apart from faith. No one who is born again can lack faith. That's what the new birth does. When men are regenerated they are given saving faith. So men are born again before faith yes, but apart from faith? No. They always go together. You never get one without the other.

I then responded with my analysis of the London Confession (which I posted here yesterday), but which Phil thought ought to be deleted! But, I will not post it here again.

Next Phil deletes my comment that said:

Dear Chad:

About Dortian Calvinsism, Bob Ross just posted this on the subject.


I have noticed the use of the term "Dortian" by some critics of the Founders Ministries in reference to the "Calvinism" advocated by the Tom Ascol--led group. Actually, the type of "Reformed" theology held by the Founders and some others is post-Dort in its development.

While I have been an outspoken critic of the Founders, I do not believe the Founders are representative of the views expressed in the Canons of Dort (1619) but advocate a post-Dort view on "regeneration" which alleges that "regeneration precedes faith."

If one is going to use a term for Founders' theology, I think it would be more appropriate to use "Turretinism" after Francis Turretin (1623-1687).

The Canons of Dort

The Canons of Dort (A. D. 1619), published in response to the "five points" of the Arminian Remonstrants, insist that "What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law could do, God performs by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the word or ministry of reconciliation: which is the glad tidings concerning the Messiah, by MEANS whereof it hath pleased God to save such as believe, as well under the Old as under the New Testament" (III and IV Heads, Article VI, Schaff's Creeds of Christendom, Vol. III, pages 588, 589).

Article XI of the same section says that God "causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by His Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God;" (Schaff, ibid, page 590).

And Article XVII unmistakably states: "As the almighty operation of God whereby He brings forth and supports this our natural life does not exclude but require the USE OF MEANS by which God, of His infinite mercy and goodness, has chosen to exert His influence, so also the aforementioned supernatural operation of God by which we are regenerated in no wise excludes or subverts the use of the GOSPEL, which the most wise God has ordained to be the SEED OF REGENERATION and food of the soul." (Schaff's Creeds of Christendom, Volume 3, page 592).

It apparently, therefore, was a post-Dort development among Pedobaptist Calvinists, who did not ahdere to this view on regeneration, and was incorporated in an "ordo salutis" (order of salvation) which has regeneration preceding faith in Christ. This is the theory which has become prevalent among many post-17th century Reformed theologians, and is admittedly a departure from earlier Calvinists and the Puritans.

W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Volume 2, pages 492-494:

The divines of the seventeenth century very generally do not distinguish between regeneration and conversion, but employ the two as synonyms. Owen does this continually: On the Spirit, III. v. And Charnock likewise: Attributes, Practical Atheism. The Westminster [Confession] does not use the term regeneration. In stead of it, it employs the term vocation, or effectual calling. This comprises the entire work of the Holy Spirit in the application of redemption. . . . But this wide use of the term regeneration led to confusion of ideas and views. As there are two distinct words in the language, regeneration and conversion, there are also two distinct notions denoted by them. Consequently, there arose gradually a stricter use of the term regeneration, and its discrimination from conversion. Turrettin (XV. iv. 13) defines two kinds of conversion, as the term was employed in his day. . . . After thus defining, Turrettin remarks that the first kind of conversion is better denominated 'regeneration,' because it has reference to the new birth by which man is renewed in the image of his Maker; and the second kind of conversion is better denominated 'conversion,' because it includes the operation and agency of man himself. . . . We shall adopt this distinction between regeneration and conversion. . . . Regeneration is a cause; conversion is an effect."

J. I. Packer :

Many seventeenth century Reformed theologians equated regeneration with effectual calling and conversion with regeneration . . . LATER REFORMED THEOLOGY has defined regeneration more narrowly, as the implanting of the "seed" from which faith and repentance spring (I John 3:9) in the course of effectual calling.

Louis Berkhof:

"It is true that some Reformed authors have occasionally used the term 'regeneration' as including even sanctification, but that was in the days when the ORDO SALUTIS was not as fully developed as it is today" (Systematic Theology, page 468).

The Founders' leadership has followed the "Turretinism" as advocated by Shedd and Berkhof. This view is also followed by Iain Murray, R. C. Sproul, Tom and Bill Ascol, James White, Tom Netlles and others so are known to advocate that "regeneration precedes faith," or a person is "born again before faith."

Berkhof is promoted by Iain Murray -- who is the virtual "godfather" of the Founders due to Murray's influence on Founders founder Ernest Reisinger -- as "expounding Christianity according to the historic Reformed position." (Banner of Truth 2002 catalog, page 19).

It is highly significant that Berkhof acknowledges that his view on regeneration and conversion differs from Luther, Calvin, the Canons of Dort and several seventeenth century writers (which would include Puritan Stephen Charnock) (page 466, 470, 476).

I do not understand the Founders and other modern Pedobaptist Reformed theologians to properly reflect the view of the Canons of Dort on regeneration, therefore are not "Dortian" in their view. See my article at --



Next Gene Bridges "jumps in" and writes:

Of course, what Stephen and Mr. Ross both consistently don't tell their audiences is:

1. The language with respect to the concept of "regeneration" has been refined since 1646. It isn't as if we stopped doing theology in the 17th century.

2. The concept is spoken of in the modern period in a narrow sense - a person is regenerated in order to believe, and this is a logical, not temporal order, and in a wider sense, the person believes and is considered "regenerate."

What's the problem? The problem only exists in the minds of those who deny this is the case.

As to Spurgeon, how many times does one have to quote him saying that faith is the effect of regeneration in order for you guys to get it? He said, plainly, "Coming to Christ the very first effect of regeneration.”

How does Bob answer this? He tries to blunt that with other quotes - but he doesn't deal with that one. Instead he goes running off to accuse Baptists of consorting with baby baptizers, denying means, etc - all of which are false charges - ironically where this thread began, with a false charge laid at the feet of Dr. White. How ironic that Bob Ross' name is mentioned in the combox.

I then wrote:

Dear Gene:

Archibald Alexander answers your question. Regeneration includes the "effect"! It is not defined by the "cause" alone!

I am glad you admit that the dividing of regeneration from conversion is a post reformation addition!



Next, Mike Riccardi "jumps in" and writes:

"...a person is regenerated in order to believe, and this is a logical, not temporal order...

This is the deal-breaker. Mr. Garrett refuses to acknowledge this distinction, though it's been offered to him many times, and so he'll go on grinding his ax as long as someone will listen to him.

If you fellas are going to continue, you have to recognize that he defines things a bit differently than the rest of us. This'll make the conversation go much more smoothly.

- Arminian: What the rest of the world knows as a Semi-Pelagian.
- Calvinist: A classical Arminian.
- Hyper-Calvinist/Hardshell (note: these used interchangeably): A Calvinist with an orthodox ordo salutis.

Anyway, James White deals with this wonderfully and simply in this video on YouTube. Start it at 12:36 and run it till about 17:26, though the whole thing is good, especially if you'd like to know where Bob Ross is coming from.

I then wrote:

Dear Mike:

You said:

"...a person is regenerated in order to believe, and this is a logical, not temporal order..."

And, I have responded previously how you ADMIT THAT, LOGICALLY SPEAKING, you have a REGENERATED UNBELIVER! Yes, yes, I know you say you do not believe that there is, TEMPORALLY SPEAKING, any such thing, but you do admit that you do have, logically speaking, such a character!

Can we at least get you to admit that you have, logically speaking, a regenerated unbeliever?

Your words here are silly, and is evident to all but Hypers as yourself. If there is no temporal separation between faith and regeneration, then why all the insistence on the logical order?

You then said:

"This is the deal-breaker. Mr. Garrett refuses to acknowledge this distinction, though it's been offered to him many times, and so he'll go on grinding his ax as long as someone will listen to him."

Yes, and so did the first "Reformers" too! They also refused "this distinction"!

You then said:

"If you fellas are going to continue, you have to recognize that he defines things a bit differently than the rest of us. This'll make the conversation go much more smoothly."

I define things just as the bible defines them. I define them as did Calvin and the pre-17th century "neo reformed." I define "regeneration" as did A. A. Alexander and include the effect as part of the defintion!

You then say:

"Anyway, James White deals with this wonderfully and simply in this video on YouTube. Start it at 12:36 and run it till about 17:26, though the whole thing is good, especially if you'd like to know where Bob Ross is coming from."

All James White can do is slander Bob Ross! All he does is make "ad hominem" attacks! Great debater there! Why does he not just debate Bob on the topic? Oh yes, he can "debate" the Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Muslims, but not Bob Ross! And why? Because of Bob Ross's character (which White unmercifully assassinates)? What about the character of the Muslims he "debates"?

I have challenged White to debate it and I guess he thinks my character too is worse than the Muslims he debates?

I think he just wants to run for he knows he cannot uphold his "born again before faith" view by going to the scriptures, the confessions, or to our great Baptist forefathers.



I then wrote:

Dear Gene:

One other thing. "Life" is an "effect" of regeneration, is it not? Yet, you would NOT say a man is "regenerated" who had no "life," correct? Well, the same thing goes for faith and repentance! So, why do you say a man is "regenerated" before he has faith and repentance?



P.S. This little discussion brought you out of your blog "sabbatical," hey?

I then wrote:

Dear Chad:

I forgot to respomd to one thing you said.

You wrote:

"If the mind cannot be subject to the law of God it cannot be convicted of sin and the need for Christ nor enabled to believe the truth. That's not Hyper-Calvinism. It's just plain old Calvinism."

So, "conviction" of sin is now an evidence of "regeneration"? How many Calvinistic writers of the past can you cite to prove that?

In conviction, does the Holy Spirit not convict a man of his lost condition? If you say yes, then you are charging the Holy Spirit with convicting a man of a lie! The Spirit convicts a man, telling him he is lost and unregenerated, and yet this is not the case! You make the Holy Spirit convict a man of a falsehood!



Then Phil gets back in and writes:

"To all: please see the final paragraph of my post. Your debates about the ordo salutis are off topic.

Cut it out.

And to Stephen Garrett:

It is never acceptable to cut and paste someone else's blogpost in the combox here. Bear that in mind in the future, please.

I then wrote another comment which was deleted. It read as follows:

Dear Phil:

Okay, I will stop! Let all know that Phil cut off good debate!

Phil thinks that the idea that men can be born again before faith is "off topic"! It has nothing to do with Hyper Calvinism!

I have seen others copy and paste. I hope you keep this rule intact for all topics and all people in the future!



Then Phil writes again:

Stephen Garrett:

This is your final warning. Don't test me. The subject is off topic because I said IN THE POST ITSELF I don't want to discuss it here.

Incidentally, I'll open this subject up again in a future post sometime soon. I've been planning to post about it for some time, because most of the disagreement between people posting here on the regeneration-before-faith question is rooted in a naive and fairly easy-to-correct misunderstanding of how certain terms are used, especially by older writers.

Specifically, regeneration was used differently prior to the twentieth century. It described an extended process that began with effectual calling. Modern Calvinists tend to use the word as a synonym for effectual calling.

Sort that out, and all Spurgeon's supposed contradictions make perfect sense. In short, he absolutely DID teach that faith is the result of God's quickening work in the believer, not the cause of it.

More on the issue when I blog about it. But I get to have the last word here, because it's my blog and it really annoys me that someone came and spammed my comment-thread with confusing and misconstrued teaching AFTER I had asked to keep the subject out of the combox--and then challenged me on the question of whether it's off topic.


Next person to comment in this thread about Calvinism, hyper-calvinism, the ordo salutis, or any related topics gets banned.

Let's get back to the real topic: James White's hats.

Then a brother named David Milton wrote:

"First, I've become forever irked with anyone signing off with a "Blessings" in their close.

Here is the supposed precept of Phil that I violated by asking my initial question about White's Hyper Calvinism.

PS: We're not going to use the meta of this post to debate the pros and cons of supra- and infralapsarian, the question of God's demeanor toward the reprobate, or the question of whose flavor of Calvinism is better. So save it. We'll do that another time, perhaps, but not today. I'm already busy.

Well, what can we say after all this discussion?

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