Dec 28, 2008

Questions on Regeneration

Dear Sir

"I just ran across your comments in your bio. Am attaching an illustration of salvation as I understand it. It is proper to say "believe ..and you will be saved". It seems to me to be un-Biblical to say believe and you will be regenerated. It is Biblical to say repent and you will be saved. Unbiblical to say repent and you will be regenerated."

Dear Cap:

The "hermeneutic" propositions you give are not to be found in the Bible. Where does the Bible give these premises? Did you look at all the places in the Bible where "saved" is used and come to this conclusion? Or, did you come to believe your propositions on the "ordo salutis" and then take them to the Bible? There is no scripture that commands men to believe for the new birth?

I am going to suppose that when you say "it is PROPER to say," or not to "say," that you include what we as evangelists are to "say" to the dead alien sinners? To the totally depraved and unregenerate sinners?

If what you say is true, then are you guilty of affirming that only the regenerated are commanded to believe and repent for "salvation"?

You are also guilty of affirming the non-Biblical premise that says "every aspect of salvation, except regeneration, is commanded of men to obtain by faith."

Thus, with these unbiblical man-made premises in your head, you go to the Bible, and "hook or crook," make them "square with" your premises.

Thus, if you read a passage where a person is said to be "saved" or receive a blessing for "believing" and for "repenting," you conclude that it cannot be connected with "regeneration" or the "new birth," and you therefore make it something, regardless of context, to do with a post regeneration experience, in sanctification, justification, or perseverence.

Your faulty premises also make you to affirm that no one is commanded to be regenerated and renewed, or to do anything to be regenerated, and yet the scriptures are replete with such commands.

I believe it is "biblical" to say "believe and live"! And, "repent and live," or words of similar import. Let me give you some examples.

"Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18: 31 KJV)

"Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." (Deuteronomy 10: 16 KJV)

"Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings." (Jeremiah 4: 4 KJV)

"For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!" (Ezekiel 18: 32 NIV)

"When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (Acts 11: 18 KJV)

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1: 12 KJV)

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3:19 KJV)

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3: 26 KJV)

"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians 3: 2 KJV)

"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,." (Ephesians 1: 13 KJV)

"And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." (John 5: 40 KJV)

You then asked me about some wording in some confessions.

You asked:

"As to the new birth not preceding repentance and faith, how do you understand the New Hampshire confession chapter "Of grace in regeneration, where the proper evidence of the new birth appears in the holy fruits of repentance and faith and newness of life?"

Are you saying that these brethren advocated the idea that men were "regenerated" who lacked faith and repentance?

Can a man be said to be regenereted who is dead? Well, the confession says that "life" itself is a "fruit" of regeneration, meaning what is a constituent part of it. As one cannot be said to be "regenerated" who lacks the fruit of a "new life," then also one cannot be said to be "regenerated" who lacks the fruit of "faith" and of "repentance."

Besides, "repentance" is all the same as "regeneration" or "conversion." These terms, as Jonathan Edwards taught, were all virtually words denoting the same experience of grace.

Regarding the London confession see my entry here

You then write:

"Or article 4a of the BFM as the "new which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?"

On this see my entry here

You then cite the "third article of the Arminian Remonstrance." I am not familar with this document but would assume it is not affirming that one can be born again who is in unbelief.

You then write:

"Not knowing you, I am not trying to argue, just to see how you would deal with these sources if you have the time.

I attended NOBTS in the late 1980s and the Greek professor ,who appeared to be Pelagian, admitted that John 1:13 was ep exegetical to verse 12, i.e. explains that those who believe are those who have been born of God."

John 1:10-13 destroys the "born again before faith" view. I have written on this passage numerous times, but see here.

Am I blind or does the apostle not say that Christ is received and believed in prior to becoming the children of God? What is said in verse 13 only states that the believing and receiving were all the same as their being begotten. "They receive/believe to become the children of God" compared with "they were begotten to become the children of God."

Some of the "born again before faith" group will attempt to say that the "becoming sons (children) of God" by faith, in verse 12, is the already regenerated person becoming a child of God by adoption. But, this cannot be the case. For, had John "adoption" in mind, he would not have used the Greek word "teknon" "children," which he did, but would have used the word "huios" (adolescent "sons") instead. So, we become the children of God by receiving Christ, which receiving is equated with believing and with being begotten.

Yours in Christ,



Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen,

I have seen your comments around here and there and thought I would visit your blog.

I also am a 5 point Calvinist and I am trying to find the catalyst behind your writings.

Is it fair to say that your issue with Calvinism or Calvinists per se is found in the particular issue of whether or not faith precedes regeneration or if one must be regenerated before they have faith?

I may not have worded that well, but I hope you get my question.

You may also correctly assume that I am trying to by-pass all the reading on your blog to get at what drives you. Feel free to say "Read my blog!". :)

Sorry. And I will try to read a bit and see what I can learn.



Stephen Garrett said...

Dear A;

I do not know what you mean by "catalyst." A certain kind of "cause"? Are you asking about my purpose in writing here? Why I write so much against the "born again before faith view"? Why I oppose placing regeneration before justification?

I desire that all Baptists be as Spurgeon in being evangelistic and non-hyperist five point Calvinists.

I see the Calvinistic Baptists who promote the "born again before faith view" to be nothing but neo hardshellism.

I have written much the past year or so in response to what I have seen written in blogs that promote the five points and the "born again before faith" view and the debate has sickened me.

I never thought that when I left hardshellism, by coming to see how the Bible ascribes the new birth to the means of the preached word, and the idea that men could be born again apart from faith, that I would find "means Baptists," or "missionary Baptists," who professed a belief in means in the new birth, but who preached the same thing as the Hardshells, that one is born again before he can hear, understand, or believe the gospel. How can the gospel be a means in regeneration if one must be regenerated before the gospel can avail anything?

These "reformed" brethren were teaching basic hardshellism. Oh yes, most of them will say - "oh we believe men are begotten by the gospel," but then they say, "one must be begotten before they can believe."

Many see the contradiction and argue for a "two stage regeneration process," men like John Hendryx of, and like many of the first hardshell Baptists and old Regular Baptists.

They will argue that the first stage is without means but the second stage is by means. Well, they are half hardshell.

Yes, these will argue that all who are begotten instantly believe in Jesus. Well, how was the word a means in the actual begetting?

I have never, in two years of asking these "reformed" brethren, obtained answers to some simple questions.

1. Since the scriptures say we are "begotten by the gospel" (I Cor. 4: 15) and "by the word" (I Peter 1: 23, James 1: 18), how can this be so unless it is first believed? Is not begotten by the gospel all the same as begotten by believing it?

2. If one must be regenerated before he can believe the gospel, how then is the gospel the vehicle for regeneration?

There are some of these neo hardshells who do put a gap in time between regeneration and the new birth, while others will argue that all who are regenerated instantly believe.

I believe like Calvin, Edwards, Gill, and A. Alexander, and others, that regeneration and conversion are the same in the NT.

We come to Christ for life, or we believe to regeneration. John 5: 40. God creates the faith and the faith instantly justifies, sanctifies, and renews or births one. It is all done at once. When God creates faith, he creates life at the same time.

I do plan to read less of these "reformed" blogs and devote more time to completing my books.

Yes, do read in my blog. You will find articles dealing with things other than the ordo salutis debate.



Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen,

I did not mean to make you write so much. :) I apologize.

I also didn't mean anything by "catalyst". I sincerely and simply just wanted to see if this was indeed the issue with you that caused you to write. You answered that and more.

I am not sure I disagree with anything you wrote. But, if I were to be honest, I haven't given a great deal of thought to the "what came first" debate. I think I have always assumed it happened simultaneously.

I do disagree with you here a bit:

"God creates the faith and the faith instantly justifies, sanctifies, and renews or births one. It is all done at once. When God creates faith, he creates life at the same time."

I would say that sanctification is a life long process. I think you probably agree with that and I think I know what you mean anyway.

If I can, let me throw this at you just to hear your thoughts as it seems you have studied this much especially compared to me.

What do you think about Romans 8:8? The fact that we can't please God in the flesh but we in fact not only please Him in the flesh we do the ultimate act of pleasing Him when we choose Him. This seems to go against the grain here. Can we do this choosing if we are not yet regenerated?

Please know that I have not thought about this deeply so I am certain to learn a little more just from your thoughts.

Thanks and take care.


You can call me SL1M. You may not have seen my comments before but this means Security Level 1 Missionary. Or you can call me "A". :)

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear SL1M:

I am scheduled to deal with the issue of total depravity in my next chapter on "Hardshell Proof Texts," and will deal with the passage in Romans 8, I Cor. 2: 14, and other passages, and how they relate to the ordo salutis, and to faith and regeneration, more fully then.

But, for now I will simply state that Paul equates coming to faith with coming to Christ and coming to life, or coming to be in Christ.

So, the transformation of a man from spiritual death to spiritual life is also his going from unbelief and impenitence to repentance.

The verses on total depravity simply say that man, unaided by the Spirit and the word of God, left to himself, cannot bring himself out of being in the flesh to being in the Spirit. What is impossible with men is possible with God.

Compare this verse with Hebrews 11: 6. Those in the flesh cannot please God. Those without faith cannot please God. To be in the flesh is to be without faith. To be in the Spirit is to possess faith.

Can we please God by regeneration alone and without faith?

God bless,


Stephen Garrett said...

Dear SL1M:

Yes, we are sanctified progressively after our initial sanctification in regeneration, and by faith. This aspect of our sanctification involves initial cleansing by the washing of regeneration. A man is sancified when he believes the gospel.

So too is regeneration or transformation viewed as being progressive, like sanctification, in the scriptures, perhaps too some aspects of justification.

God bless,


Stephen Garrett said...

Dear SL1M:

Did you think my questions to the "born again before faith" or "reformed" advocates, on means, are out of line, or hard to answer?



Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen,

You are going to have to really walk me through this slowly until I get up to speed.

Are you referring to these two questions?

1. Since the scriptures say we are "begotten by the gospel" (I Cor. 4: 15) and "by the word" (I Peter 1: 23, James 1: 18), how can this be so unless it is first believed? Is not begotten by the gospel all the same as begotten by believing it?

2. If one must be regenerated before he can believe the gospel, how then is the gospel the vehicle for regeneration?

If these are the two questions you are referring to, I am still a little too fuzzy on the matter to give good advice here.

It seems the questions are fair and they don't seem overly difficult to grasp on the surface.

To me, at this very early stage of studying, it still seems as though one can be:

1. Regenerated by God to be able to have faith,

2. And then have the subsequent hearing of the Word be meaningful to him when it wasn't meaningful before.

When I consider how "supernatural" the conversion experience is anyway, it doesn't seem a stretch to me to consider the above steps happening all at once or in relative succession.

I'm not saying I necessarily believe this, I am just thinking outloud as I write.

Happy New Year if we don't dialogue again until then.