Feb 17, 2009

Dr. Grudem's Errors

I have previously discussed the errors of Dr. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, relative to his Hyper Calvinism, and his promotion of the "born again before faith" heresy, and of his nonsensical "regeneration."

See here

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Wrote Dr. Grudem:

"Using the verses quoted above, we have defined regeneration to be the act of God awakening spiritual life within us, bringing us from spiritual death to spiritual life. On this definition, it is natural to understand that regeneration comes before saving faith. It is in fact this work of God that gives us the spiritual ability to respond to God in faith. However, when we say that it comes "before" saving faith, it is important to remember that they usually come so close together..." (Systematic Theology By Wayne A. Grudem - page 702)

See here

Error # 1 - Narrow Definition

Dr. Grudem errs in defining "regeneration" or the "new birth" to what is strictly an "act of God," to the "cause" alone, to the exclusion of the "effect," an error that Dr. Archibald Alexander, famous founder of the Princeton Seminary and school of Calvinism, pointed out.

Wrote Dr. Alexander:

"Sometimes regeneration is considered distinctly from the acts and exercises of the mind which proceed from it, but in the Holy Scriptures the cause and effect are included..."

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And what is the "effect" of this "act of God"? Why the sinner himself is regenerated! Regeneration is something that sinners experience, not what God experiences. Regeneration is activity by definition. Coming to life is activity, and though caused by God's "act" in efficiently producing it, yet it is the activity of the dead sinner to actually "come to life."

Dr. Grudem's "definition" is not scriptural nor even sensical. It is this type of "definition" that makes the "drawing" of John 6:44 to be regeneration, rather than being the "cause" of regeneration. The "coming" to Christ, who is Life, is the sinner's "coming to life," or regeneration, and so the "drawing" cannot be the regeneration. They cannot both be "regeneration." In other words, if the "drawing" is regeneration, then the "coming" cannot be. Likewise, if the "coming" is regeneration, then the "drawing" cannot be. The "drawing" is the "cause" whereas the "coming" is the "effect," but if we, as Dr. Alexander said was the scriptural way, define "regeneration" as including the "effect," then a man is not regenerated till he has "come" to Christ, which is, in the chapter, equivalent to believing on and receiving Christ.

Error # 2 - Metaphysical "Life"

The Hyper Calvinist has a very narrow definition of what is spiritual "life." The kind of "life" and "regeneration" they describe is best described by Alexander Campbell, who battled such definitions of the Hyper Calvinists in his day, as being a "metaphysical regeneration," or "metaphysical life." It is what cannot be adequately described, being nondescript. If one questions the Hyper Calvinist on what change constitutes the new birth, you will not get anything but a metaphysical description that will clear up nothing, or make nothing plain. Their favorite way to describe the experience is by the use of the word "deposit." The one who is "regenerated" has "life" suddenly "planted" or "deposited" within the "soul" or "spirit" or "heart" of the sinner. What is this "deposit"? How is this "deposit" received by the sinner? What are its causes and effects? What is the soul or heart? Does it include the mind and the understanding?

How can "regeneration" and "new birth" be defined if one affirms that many of the elect are "regenerated in infancy"? Must it not then be something totally separate from conversion, and its constituents, namely faith and repentance? Yea, from the conscious mind itself? If such a "regeneration" involves no change in the "thinking" (false beliefs), nor any change in the affections or will of the sinner, then has it not been made impossible to "define" what is "regeneration"? Has it not been made, by the Hyper Calvinist, into some invisible change in the substance of the soul that no one can understand, make intelligible, or give a clear definition to? Let them come forward and give us a definition of "regeneration" and spiritual "life" that is understandable, and in keeping with the scriptures, which do not distinguish between the "cause" and the "effect" and between "regeneration" and "conversion."

What kind of "definition" is it, especially by a learned "doctor" of theology, to say that "regeneration" is "coming to life" and vice versa? All he is saying is that these two terms denote virtually the same thing. But, given this "definition" of the two terms, has he really "defined" what is the experience of regeneration or the constituent elements or characteristics of the "life" of Christ?

Grudem says "regeneration" is coming to "life" from the "dead." Then, he says that this proves that regeneration must precede faith! Huh? How can it prove such if regeneration and coming to faith are essentially the same experience? In such a case, Grudem would have us believe that "regeneration precedes regeneration" or "faith precedes faith," which are examples of reductio ad absurdum.

Noice how Grudem's "definition" of "regeneration" and of spiritual "life" excludes faith and repentance as essential elements of it! If he believed that faith and repentance were essential elements of spiritual "life" in Christ, then he would not think of saying "regeneration BEFORE faith."

This "deposit" is stated to be the giving or implanting of either "life" or "ability." But, is that not a "metaphysical" definition that explains nothing of the experience? Is receiving new birth like receiving a "virus"?

You see this type of "metaphysical" gobbledygook, and "Greek" speculation and theorizing, this theological "hair-splitting," carried on by these religious "metaphysicians" and "doctors of divinity," such as Grudem, that really say nothing concrete or comphehensible about the experience of the new birth. Their "definitions" besides being grossly unscriptural, are really nothing but smoke and wind, without substance. Thus you can often hear these metaphysicians justify their infant and metaphysical "regeneration" argue thusly - "if infants can experience degeneration, then they can experience regeneration." And, if one accepts their "logic," then one will end up narrowing down the definition of both words, degeneration and regeneration, like the words "life" and "death," so that they become unconscious experiences, that make no immediate visible impact, like the receiving of a virus or other germ (seed). Thus, as "degeneration" (spiritual death) is narrowly defined, in order to include infants and embeciles, and even heathens, to mean "principles of corruption," like a leavening agent, then likewise "regeneration" (spiritual life) is narrowly defined to mean "principles of incorruption" or holiness. Thus, an infant can have both the "principles of corruption" (degenerate nature) and the "principles of holiness" (regenerate nature), and if such be the case, then both terms must be defined purely "metaphysically." I use "metaphysical" in the sense of what is "highly abstract, subtle, or abstruse."

But, interestingly, "regeneration," in scripture, is compared to what we call "germination." When a seed is "planted," and the conditions are right, then "germination" will take place, and this is also termed "coming to life" or a resurrection, in the scriptures.

But, if we define "regeneration" as "giving ability," then regeneration must precede germination, which would make it to precede itself.

Besides, the descriptions of the unregenerate, are generally descriptions of non-infant sinners, involving their thinking, feeling, and course of conduct. So too with the descriptions of the regenerate.

Besides, who said that it must be true that if infants can be said to be "degenerate" that they must be also able to be called "regenerate"? Who said that they must be exact in this respect?

Is "regeneration" the "giving of ability" to "come to life"? Is it the "giving of ability" to be born again? Does it take "ability" to be born again? If "regeneration" is the "giving of ability" to believe, then is "degeneration" the mere "giving of ability" to disbelieve?

Error # 3 - Circular Reasoning

Grudem said:

"It is in fact this work of God that gives us the spiritual ability to respond to God in faith."

Why does Grudem not apply his own logic to the context of "the spiritual ability to respond to God in regeneration"? Does Grudem's "definition" of "regeneration" exclude ANY "response" in the dead sinner? Is not "coming to life" a "response" of the dead?

This kind of "logic" creates what is called in logic, a "circle" with no escape, seen in "circular fallacies" such as in "circular reasoning" or "begging the question." Here is an example in the context of our discussion of the term "giving ability to."

...ability to be regenerated, then regeneration, then ability to believe and repent, then faith and repentance, then ability to do good works and be justified and adopted, then ability to persevere and be finally saved, then ability to live above sin, then ability to be happy forever...

You see the circular nature of this kind of reasoning.

I re-emphasize how Grudem's "ability to respond" must include regeneration, if we define "regeneration" as also being a kind of "response"; And, that this kind of definition involves one in absurdities and contradictory statements. Also, if Grudem's logic proved anything, it would "prove too much" for it would prove that, logically speaking, not even God can regenerate, unless he first "give ability" to be regenerated, and thus keep one keeps "backing up" regeneration to a point where it becomes, by definition, a "bunch of nothing."

Error # 4 - Doublespeak

Grudem said:

"...when we say that it comes "before" saving faith, it is important to remember that they usually come so close together..."

Many of those who promote the "born again before faith" error will ofen say that they believe that regeneration only "logically" precedes faith, although not "chronologically." I have numerous writings here in this blog against this kind of "doublespeak." This is humorous and ironic because 1) They are thus admitting that, logically speaking, they create a "regenerated unbeliever," the thing they decry being a just consequence of their doctrinal position, and 2) They insist that getting the "logical order" correct is tremendously important, although only logically important, though not practically, and 3) They are taking the means of the gospel out of the regeneration equation.

Grudem does what few Hyper Calvinists are willing to do openly. He avows that the experience of regeneration and conversion (coming to faith) does not always occur simultaneously! He says that they "usually" go together, not always! Thus, his definition of "regeneration" and spiritual "life" is purely metaphysical and creates a literal, and not just a logical or hypothetical, "regenerated unbeliever."

I have also pointed out in previous reviews of Grudem's audio internet sermon on "regeneration" how he put a gap in time between "regeneration" and "coming to faith."

In summation, I affirm that Grudem is a Hyper Calvinist in that he denies the instrumentality of the gospel in regeneration, and creates the unbiblical character of a "born again unbeliever."


arminianperspectives said...


Just a quick comment to say thanks for listing me as a blog that you follow. I appreciate that, especially coming from someone who has had more than a few disagreements with me. :-)

God Bless,

The Seeking Disciple said...

Excellent post. Your understanding of Grudem is incredible. Few know his theology well.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Ben:

I consider you a brother in Christ despite any disagreements. We both love the Lord and are jealous of his glory, grace, and sovereignty.

Dear Seeking:

Thanks so much. I enjoy reading your blog writings.

God bless


Ian D. Elsasser said...


Wayne Grudem is not the only one to admit of time sequence between regeneration and conversion. Recently a Baptist Pastor who is a Calvinist admitted it which I have pointed out on the Reformed Flyswatter.

In my autobiographical comment prompted by one of your blog articles and featured as an article on the Reformed Flyswatter, "Sproul's influence," I point out a Calvinist of the "born again before faith" view that acknowledged one is saved before conversion (see comment). The other comments in the comment stream may be of interest to you and your readers.

May God give you wisdom and strength to continue your tireless efforts to expose the error of this teaching.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Ian:

Yes, I read that and recommend all to read it. I appreciate your's and Bob Ross's stand on this issue.

God bless