Nov 2, 2008

Yarnell on "Ordo Salutis"

I received the following email from my friend Ian and wish to share it here. Thanks Ian for sharing this with us.

"I came upon this Q & A at the Baptist Theology website (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) and though both of you might enjoy reading it. In response to a question of whether regeneration precedes conversion, Malcolm Yarnell says neither precedes the other, that they are concomitant.

Just think of how many needless discussions and debates might be ended if the Reformed groups and Arminian groups heeded Yarnell's word on this matter and about ordo salutis! We would have a point of agreement rather than dissension and argument.

With regards,"

(emphasis mine)

Q: Greetings in the name of Christ, Do you teach that regenration precedes conversion at SWBTS...Do respond in detail...thanks and GOD bless you!!

A: The administration has forwarded your request for information to me. I am the Director of the Center for Theological Research and an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology here at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Although I do not speak in an official capacity for the entire seminary (only our President may do that), I can respond as a typical professor to your question.

Your email stated the following:

“Greetings in the name of Christ, Do you teach that regenration precedes conversion at SWBTS...Do respond in detail...thanks and GOD bless you!!”

In my systematic theology lectures on soteriology, I discuss this issue, which comes under the general heading of the order of salvation (ordo salutis). First of all, please realize that most discussions of the ordo salutis are highly speculative and quickly become independent of divine revelation as they flee toward human speculation and philosophy. This includes both the Calvinist (Synod of Dort) and Arminian/Wesleyan systems. I teach my students to reject both systems as human innovations and stick strictly with Scripture.

Let us focus upon John 3 as an example of how this works. In verses 1-18, both regeneration and faith are discussed by the One who saves us. Faith, as you know, is one side of the coin of conversion, and indicates full trust in God; repentance is the other side of that coin. Regeneration means to be born again, or to be born from above. Let us discuss both faith and regeneration from this passage.

Regeneration is a sovereign, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit (vv. 5-8), yet Jesus says it is required for our salvation (v. 3). This means that we are dependent upon God for our salvation. Salvation is truly a divine work of grace, from beginning to end. Without regeneration, there is no salvation.

Nicodemus was confused by this and queried Jesus for further information. Jesus proceeded to speak to him about faith.

Faith, or believing in the sense of full trust, is required as well if we are to be saved. The world is facing judgment and the only way to escape that judgment is if one will believe in Christ and what He came to the world to do through His incarnation, death, and resurrection (vv. 16-18). Without faith, there is no salvation.

Jesus, however, did not stop with faith. He also proceeded to speak of the redeemed life.

Faith, if it is true faith, will issue forth in a changed life, or Repentance (vv. 19-21). If we are of the Light and welcome in the kingdom of Light than we will practice deeds of Light. In other words, repentance, or the changing of our life to follow Christ, is part and parcel of faith! (Indeed, one may not claim to know God’s grace without being a disciple who seeks to obey His Lord in all things. Saying “Jesus is Lord” is the basic Christian confession, so salvation without lordship is nonsensical. Indeed, anyone who says they have Jesus as savior without having Jesus as Lord is deceived and deceiving.)

We are not done, so hold on to your seat. Regeneration, a work of God, is required of us for our salvation (John 3:1-8). Faith, our personal response to Christ and his cross, is required of us for our salvation (John 3:9-18). And repentance, our personal following of Christ and taking up our own cross, is integral to our salvation, too (John 3:19-21). Now, Jesus did not treat these as part of an order, but as descriptive of a single and profoundly momentous, and indeed the most important, event in a person’s life. Regeneration and conversion (which includes faith and repentance) are two different ways to speak of what is required for salvation. One emphasizes divine action; the other emphasizes human action. Yet, even the human action that is required is also a gift, for faith and repentance are the gifts of God, too!

Regeneration is required for salvation (John 3:3). Regeneration is a gift of God (John 3:5-8).

Faith is a human duty (Mark 1:14). Faith is a divine gift (Eph. 2:8-9). Repentance is a human duty (Matt. 4:16, Acts 17:30). Repentance is a divine gift (John 16:8-10).

When Jesus and the apostles talk about the great and beautiful truth of salvation, they describe something so great that it is beyond our capability and comprehension. And yet, God demands of us to exercise all that he gives us to exercise in faith and repentance.

My friend, Regeneration is required and is a gift; Faith is required and is a gift; and, Repentance is required and is a gift. And nowhere in Scripture is there any indication that any of these things are prior to the other. REGENERATION AND CONVERSION ARE CONCOMITANT ACTIONS OF GOD THAT ALSO DEMAND HUMAN RESPONSE!

This is why our denomination’s confession treats regeneration neither as prior to or subsequent from conversion. Rather, it treats regeneration and conversion as concomitant realities of the one moment we understand to be the beginning of salvation. Separating salvation into four moments (regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification), article IV of the Baptist Faith and Message treats regeneration and conversion as part of one moment: Regeneration is “a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” And Southern Baptists believe this because they follow the Jesus Christ of the Bible, and although they respect John Calvin and Jacob Arminius, they will walk with those two only insofar as they follow the Bible. Baptists are Biblicists: no more, no less.

Or, if you want a simple answer to your simple question, “Does regeneration precede conversion?” The answer is, “No, but neither does conversion precede regeneration.” Calvinists and Arminians would respond that they are not speaking of a temporal order but a logical order, and I would respond that if one deigns to speak of a logical order from eternity apart from divine revelation, then one speaks with both ignorance and arrogance.

May I ask you a question, good sir? Have you responded to the free offer of God’s grace in Christ Jesus? God sent His only begotten Son to become a human being, to die upon a cross to atone for the sins of the world, and to rise from the dead so that those who believe in Him might also have eternal life. Jesus died on the cross for your sins; Jesus rose from the dead for your resurrection. Do you know Him as your personal Lord and Savior? Have you been born again? Have you repented and believed? If not, I beg of you to follow Jesus, who came preaching, “Repent and Believe in the Gospel!”

Malcolm Yarnell

I disagree with but a few things Yarnell has here said.

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