Dec 4, 2008

Schwertley's Reformed Regeneration

Reformed apologist and pastor, Brian Schwertley, gives the various "stages" view of "regeneration," and verifies what I have been affirming here in this blog for a long time. Hyper Calvinists among those who call themselves "Reformed" are adopting the multiple "stage" model of the "new birth." How can modern "Reformed" folks, like James White, say that this is not essentially what they teach? If men like White are honest, they will admit that this paradigm of the "new birth" is more in keeping with their views. Schwertley denies means in the first stage of "regeneration," just like John Hendryx of

Schwertley wrote:

"The answer lies in the simple fact that regeneration is viewed in Scripture from two different perspectives. Many passages discuss what Reformed theologians call the first stage of regeneration. During this stage “There is no co-operation of the sinner in this work whatsoever. It is the work of the Holy Spirit exclusively, Ezek. 11:19; John 1:13; Acts 16:14; Rom. 9:16; Phil. 2:13.” The Holy Spirit comes to a man who is dead, blind and deaf to spiritual truth and quickens him, implanting new life into the dead heart. The inner disposition of the soul is renewed and made holy. “In this act of God the ear is implanted that enables man to hear the call of God to the salvation of his soul. This is regeneration in the most restricted sense of the word. In it man is entirely passive.” During the first stage of regeneration the Holy Spirit works without means; that is, He works directly upon the soul apart from the preaching of the Word.

The second stage of regeneration, spoken about by Peter (1 Pet. 1:23), describes the point in time when regeneration issues forth into conversion. “Having received the spiritual ear, the call of God in the gospel is now heard by the sinner, and is brought home effectively to the heart. The desire to resist has been changed to a desire to obey, and the sinner yields to the persuasive influence of the Word through the operation of the Holy Spirit. This is the effectual calling through the instrumentality of the word of preaching, effectively applied by the Spirit of God. This effectual calling finally secures, through the truth as a means, the first holy exercises of the new disposition that is born in the soul. The new life begins to manifest itself; the implanted life issues in the new birth. This is the completion of the work of regeneration in the broader sense of the word, and the point at which it turns into conversion.” Thus, the first stage of regeneration can be compared to the implantation of a seed, and the second stage could be compared to giving birth. During the second stage God employs means: the preaching of the gospel.

The idea that regeneration occurs in two stages is both scriptural and logical. The Arminian or semi-Pelagian view of regeneration, which has man begetting himself by cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s influence during the preaching of the gospel, is a complete denial of the doctrine of man’s total depravity and inability as a result of the fall (cf. Jn. 5:42; Rom. 3:9-18; 7:18, 23; 8:7; 2 Tim. 3:4). Man is spiritually dead; therefore, regeneration logically proceeds or is coterminous with the preaching of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel, which can only work upon man’s conscious mind, has no persuasive power over a corpse. But once God opens the heart through regeneration, the regenerated person can and will believe the gospel. “The Lord opened her [Lydia’s] heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Furthermore, if regeneration can only occur through the preaching of the gospel, how then are elect infants who die in infancy saved?

It is obvious from 1 Peter 1:23 itself that Peter rejects the concept of decisional regeneration. There are two elements spoken of: the incorruptible seed which is implanted in the soul by the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God which is the instrumental means for the second stage of regeneration—conversion. “Those who believe in His name...were born [aorist passive indicative], not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13). Since Peter “refers to regeneration in a broad sense, then the passage offers no difficulty whatsoever in connection with the matter under consideration.”

If you do not believe what the Bible teaches regarding the new birth, then you must repent and submit to Christ’s teaching. If you have changed your view of the new birth and yet find yourself in a church that rejects the Bible’s teaching in this area, it’s time for you to find a new church. Jesus Christ clearly implied that men who did not understand this doctrine where not fit to be teachers of His people (cf. Jn. 3:10)."

From a footnote he wrote:

"The word “regeneration,” which literally means “to beget again,” has been used by orthodox Protestant theologians in different ways over time. The older usage in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries included the Holy Spirit’s implantantion of new life in man’s heart as well as conversion (repentance and faith) and sanctification. In order to avoid confusion Reformed theologians eventually narrowed their usage of the term regeneration to its strict biblical usage alone. “In present day Reformed theology the word ‘regeneration’ is generally used in a more restricted sense, as a designation of that divine act by which the sinner is endowed with new spiritual life, and by which the principle of that new life is first called into action” (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949], p. 467). Passages such as 1 Pet. 1:23 and Jas 1:18 discuss the regenerated heart as it comes in contact with the Word of God, “in which the new life first becomes manifest” (ibid., p. 475). Because most of the biblical passages which deal with regeneration define it in its strictest sense as solely an act of God, this narrow definition is used throughout this booklet (cf. objection 4, p. 15)

("The New Birth" By Brian Schwertley

See here

Westminster Presbyterian Church of Waupaca County, WI. Rev. Schwertley was a founding member of the Westminister Presbyterian Church in the United States in January 2006, the only indigenous Presbyterian denomination in the United States that has full subscription to the original Westminster Standards.

See here

Schwertley's view is not the traditional or historic view of the first Reformers. But, he is incorrect to state that the modern Reformers are more in line with how scripture uses the terms "regeneration" and "beget" (or its various synonyms and forms of usage), for the Bible writers used the term for "conversion," and did not divide up "regeneration" into "stages."

Is not Schwertley more consistent in denying means in regeneration than those, like James White, who say they believe in regeneration through the means of the gospel, but who, if pressed, will no doubt argue as did Schwertley?

Hendryx, also a "Reformed" Presbyterian, wrote:

"I. Regeneration is described as a spiritual new birth.

1. This is affirmed in the following New Testament passages: John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; I Corinthians 4:15; Philemon 10; James 1:18; I Peter 1:3,23; I John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18.

2. The embryonic stage of regeneration is what is called "quickening", and it is the work of the Holy Spirit alone.

3. The final stage of regeneration is delivery or birth, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit in dependence upon the Word as a means."

See here

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