Jan 16, 2009

New Birth = Faith (Luther)

The following information regarding the views of Martin Luther on "regeneration" and its relation to faith is taken from schaff's encyclopedia.

"The Reformation restored to regeneration its firm connection with God's act of salvation in Christ. In the forgiveness of sin man finds the basis of a new existence. The faith that receives this blessing is the immediate reality of a new life. Faith itself is, according to Luther, the new birth. In faith we are both justified and sanctified. This view was not affected by Luther's association of regeneration and baptism. He assumed even the difficulty of the idea of faith in infants in order to maintain the same saving operation in children and adults. The same intimate connection of justification and new life is found in Melanchthon's Loci of 1521 and in the Apology. The latter does not limit the term "justification" to the conception of a mere declaration of being just, but unhesitatingly denotes "justification" as "regeneration" and faith as the "rightness of heart" demanded by God as "obedience toward the Gospel." Justification included moral renewal and the endowment of the Spirit. This merging was due to the apprehension of justification not as a transcendent act of God but as a human experience; but in the commentary on Romans (1532) Melanchthon began to connect more strictly the judgment of God declaring man as just with Christ's work of atonement and to exclude from it every reference to the transformation of man that begins with faith. Calvin conceived regeneration as "penitence" and restricted it to the moral act of the mortification of the old man and the generation of the new. The Formula of Concord (q.v.) left the conception of regeneration vague, while it, on the other hand, clearly defined justification, thus exposing the relation of faith to morals, now excluded from justification, to neglect. The period of the Reformation left to later theology a number of unsolved questions regarding regeneration (I don't agree with this - SG), such as the relation of the Spirit to the individual. The Augsburg Confession (q.v.) states that the Spirit effects faith (Art. 5) and that faith conditions the possession of the Spirit (Art. 20). These statements are not contradictory if by the Spirit that effects faith is understood the Spirit of God incorporate in the Word and the congregation, -and by the Spirit that is imparted to faith the individualized spirit dwelling in the believer. But as this distinction was generally unobserved, there resulted a different interpretation of regeneration in the process of salvation. If Luther's conception of regeneration as the "gift of faith" was to be adhered to, it must neccessarily be considered as the presupposition of the life of faith in general and consequently as preceding justification. But if one holds the idea that only the individual possession of the spirit effects regeneration, then regeneration is the consequence of the sonship attained in faith. In the latter instance regeneration is reduced to a secondary position but receives a richer ethical import. Still more important for the later development of the doctrine was the question in regard to the relation of regeneration to baptism. Some dogmaticians adhered to the bold thesis of Luther that the baptism of infants and the regeneration of adults by faith in the Word were essentially the same process. But the later theologians taught in connection with the doctrine of baptism a regeneration which was not at the same time a renovation of life, but communicated to the soul chained by hereditary sin the capacity to believe. In this way the conception of regeneration was considerably emptied 'and placed where it could no longer serve as an expression of the experience of salvation.

There is no reason to break with the view offered by the Reformation in connecting regeneration with the origin of faith, or as Luther has it, that the new birth is faith. By faith not only is the divine judgment of justification appropriated but a union is effected with Christ transforming the believer into a new person. Faith has thus not only a religious but an ethical meaning, in that it represents a receptive attitude toward the vivifying and determining influence of the Redeemer. Man's relation to God cannot be measured by the diagnosis of the state of his own soul, but merely by the worth of Christ, the object of his faith; hence the certainty of salvation is not jeopardized. Owing to the condition of appropriation by faith, it is impossible to ascribe to the baptism of infants unconditionally the effect of regeneration; for the realization of the state of grace offered in baptism is not completed with that act. The advent of a new personality can only proceed in the light of self-consciousness. Moreover, the conceptions of regeneration and conversion form an indivisible unity; they denote the same beginning of a new life, only that regeneration characterizes it as an act of God and conversion, as a new tendency of life assumed by the believer."

See here

These views of Luther go contrary to those who promote the "born again before faith" error.

Thus, from what I have shown during the past month, in this blog, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Archibald Alexander, Charles Spurgeon, Abraham Booth, and Martin Luther, great lights in historic creedal Calvinism and biblical predestination, all taught against this view. Ironically, those today, like John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, James White, Tom Ascol, et als, claim to present the "reformed" faith! Will they come forward and sign propositions about what the Bible and the great lights of Calvinism have historically taught?

I have been asking these questions, along with Bob Ross and others, for a long time and all we get is the ire of the Hyperists, but no rebuttals to our writings!

For almost three years now I have asked simple questions all over the Calvinist blogosphere that no one has dared to answer! Why? Because to answer them would uncover their Hyper Calvinism and neo Hardshellism!

Here are two of those simple questions. I will call them "Hard Nuts for the neo Reformed Calvinist."

1. Does begotten by the gospel not mean all the same as begotten by believing it?
2. How is the gospel a means in regeneration if one must be regenerated before faith?

Will any come forward now and answer them? If not, why not?

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