Dec 31, 2011

Edwards Misrepresented?

In a posting titled Garrett's Misrepresentation of Jonathan Edwards, Jason Brown, Hardshell apologist, said:

"Garrett has argued that Edwards viewed regeneration and conversion as synonymous terms."

"Certainly the quotations of Edwards that Garrett offers show that Edwards linked the two inseparably, and used them as approximately synonymous. However, Garrett has misrepresented Edwards to argue that he made no distinction between them."

But, Garrett never affirmed that Edwards saw "no distinction" between the various terms used to describe the initial Christian experience.  Regeneration, conversion, repentance, begetting, quickening, resurrection, created, etc., are all terms that speak of the one and the same saving experience.  In other words, a regenerated man is a converted man, and vice versa.  A begotten man is a quickened man.  Etc.  So, even though the words are distinct words, standing for distinct concepts, yet they each are describing the same experience!  That is what Edwards taught and is what is denied by Hardshells and Hyper Calvinists. 

Brown wrote:

"Garrett even quotes a crucial passage from Edwards and neglects to give the entire quote, which shows not only that Edwards did not view the terms as completely synonymous but that Edwards viewed the mind as passive in regeneration. There is no doubt from the passivity of the mind in regeneration that Edwards logically (like James White, for example) placed regeneration preceding faith."

Edwards did not, of course, view the terms regeneration, begetting, conversion, resurrection, the ones he used in the citations, as denoting separate experiences, but of one singular experience.  Brown is attacking a straw man.  We have simply affirmed that Edwards saw regeneration, conversion, and repentance as different words that denote the same experience.  Brown affirms that Edwards says that the terms are used as synonyms in scripture, interchangeably, but not exactly synonymous!  Is that what we are arguing about?  Whether the various terms used to describe the Christian salvation experience were synonyms or almost synonyms? 

Brown then attempts to use Hardshell "logic" on the words of Edwards regarding the "passivity" of the mind in regeneration.  He deduces his proposition and then ascribes it to Edwards!  What is his false conclusion?  It is this - "regeneration logically precedes faith."  His argument looks like this:

1.  The mind is passive in being changed in regeneration
2.  The mind cannot be passive in believing
3.  Believing (faith) is not part of the passive changing of the mind in regeneration

But, Edwards did not divorce being convicted of the truth from that "change of mind" that resulted from the work of God, as do the Hardshells.  Also, Edwards did not exclude the activity of the sinner in his regeneration.  The sinner was both passive and active in regeneration.  Just like regeneration is a work accomplished both mediately and immediately. 

But, we have already shown how Edwards, like Calvin, equated "regeneration" with "repentance."  Both terms spoke of one and the same experience, of initial Christian "transformation." 

The "repentance" of Edwards did not exclude faith, for he also uses it synonymously with "conversion" as well as "regeneration."  Brown and the Hardshells will sometimes argue that "faith is given in regeneration," and then argue with those who make faith a integral element of regeneration.  Ironic isn't it?  The plain fact is, Edwards did not believe than anyone was "regenerated" who was not converted.  Arguing over "which comes first" in regard to all the elements of the new birth is like arguing over whether my feet or hands came first into being.  It is like arguing about those "things which accompany salvation" in relation to which "things" came first? 

Even though theologians have put the experience of regeneration under a microscope and dissected it, with the purpose of discovering process and the links in the chain of causes and effects, nevertheless, all the primitive Calvinists did not teach that regeneration or new birth was completed until one believed, repented, and was converted.  According to such men as Calvin and Edwards, and according to the authors of the London Baptist Confession of 1689, the bible never designates anyone as regenerated who was not a convert to Christ. 

Brown then cites these words of Edwards that I originally cited:

"If we compare one scripture with another, it will be sufficiently manifest that by regeneration, or being begotten or born again, the same change in the state of the mind is signified with that which the Scripture speaks of as effected by true repentance and conversion. I put repentance and conversion together, because the Scripture puts them together (Acts iii. 19), and because they plainly signify much the same thing.'"

Brown then comments:

"However, Garrett omits the next two sentences that show that Edwards distinguished regeneration from conversion:

"I put repentance and conversion together, as the Scripture puts them together, Acts iii. 19, and because they plainly signify much the same thing. The word metanoia (repentance) signifies a change of the mind; as the word conversion means a change or turning from sin to God. And that this is the same change with that which is called regeneration (excepting that this latter term especially signifies the change, as the mind is passive in it), the following things do show…."

Not only are they distinct in magnitude, as regeneration is represented by Edwards here as especially indicative of change, but they are distinct in that while conversion involves the intellect, regeneration does not - man is wholly passive in it! How could Garrett miss that? This misrepresentation should make a person wonder how many of Garrett's quotes and historical representations have been pulled out of context on the pretext of support for his views."

A "change of mind" does not involve the "intellect"?  That is just laughable.  If a man changes his mind, he does it without his brains?  Without cognition?  Without understanding? 

When Edwards said  that regeneration "especially signifies" the "passive change of mind" he does not exclude the term "regeneration" being applicable to other aspects and powers of the soul and spirit being aslo regenerated and transformed, only that it is the "mind" which is especially the object of regeneration.

It is ironic that Brown would say that my citations from Edwards and my comments upon them are a "misrepresentation" of Edwards because the evidence given already proves that it is actually Brown who "misrepresents" Edwards!  Further, the additional evidence that I will shortly present from the writings of Edwards, also will further prove it.

Brown wrote that my gross "misrepresentation" of the words of Edwards "should make a person wonder how many of Garrett's quotes and historical representations have been pulled out of context on the pretext."

What is odd about Brown's words are that they apply to him!  Not, to me!  He says that I misrepresented Edwards because I said that he said that the various terms dealing with the initial Christian saving experience all signified the same experience.  But, let us here cite more from Edwards, from the same section we have both cited. 

Edwards wrote:

"The change the mind passes under in repentance and conversion, is that in which saving faith is attained. Mark i. 15, " The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." And so it is with a being born again, or born of God, as appears by John i. 12,13: " 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, which were born, not of blood, &c, but of God.""

Could anything be more clear?  Being "born again" is the same as that "change of mind" and "is that in which" one comes to "saving faith,"  when one is "converted." 

Edwards also wrote:

"Many other things might be observed, to show that the change men pass under in their repentance and conversion, is the same with that which they are the subjects of in regeneration. But these observations may be sufficient.

II. The change which a man passes under when born again, and in his repentance and conversion, is the same that the Scripture calls the circumcision of the heart."

Does Brown not know what is meant by "is the same with that" means?  Brown is condemning me for saying that Edwards said that regeneration and conversion were "the same" and yet this is what Edwards says!  Who is misrepresenting Edwards?  Is it not Brown?

Edwards wrote:

"Regeneration is that whereby men come to have the character of true Christians; as is evident, and as is confessed; and so is circumcision of heart; for by this men become Jews inwardly, or Jews in the spiritual and Christian sense (and that is the same as being true Christians)...That circumcision of the heart is the same with conversion, or turning from sin to God, is evident by Jer. iv. 1—4."

Again, notice that "regeneration" is "the same with" both "circumcision of heart" and "conversion."  "THE SAME WITH"!

Edwards wrote:

"III. (This inward change, called regeneration and circumcision of the heart, which is wrought in repentance and conversion, is the same with that spiritual resurrection so often spoken of, and represented as a dying unto sin, and living unto righteousness.)

In which place also it is evident, by the words recited, and by the whole context, that this spiritual resurrection is that change, in which persons are brought to habits of holiness and to the divine life, by which Dr. Taylor describes the thing obtained in being born again."

"That a spiritual resurrection to a new divine life, should be called a being born again, is agreeable to the language of Scripture, in which we find a resurrection is called a being born, or begotten.

So that' I think it is abundantly plain, that the spiritual resurrection spoken of in Scripture, by which the saints are brought to a new divine life, is the same with that being born again, which Christ says is necessary for every one in order to his seeing the kingdom of God."

"IV. (This change, which men are the subjects of when they are born again, and circumcised in heart, when they repent, and are converted, and spiritually raised from the dead, is the same change which is meant when the Scripture speaks of making the heart and spirit new, or giving a new heart and spirit.)"

",,,as has been observed of regeneration, conversion, &c, and how apparent it is from thence, that the change is the same...For it is as it were self-evident: it is apparent by the phrases themselves, that they are different expressions of the same thing."

Brown accuses me of misrepresenting Edwards in his equating regeneration with conversion, but surely he knows what is meant by "different expressions of the same thing," does he not?

Edwards wrote:

"Add to these things, that regeneration, or a being born again, and the renewing (or making new) by the Holy Ghost, are spoken of as the same thing. Titus 3: 5, " By the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

"And it is most apparent, that spiritual circumcision, and spiritual baptism, and the spiritual resurrection, are all the same with putting off the old man, and putting on the new man." 

"Here, to pass over many other evidences of this, which might be mentioned, I would only observe, that the representations are exactly equivalent. These several phrases naturally and most plainly signify the same effect."  (pages 466-470)  See Here

Brown wrote:

"Garrett would do well to research Edwards through the works of such scholars as John H. Gerstner. I recommend Gerstner's article.

Gerstner was a very highly regarded Edwardsean scholastic authority, and his published works testify against Garrett's claim that Edwards made no distinction between regeneration and conversion or that regeneration does not logically precede faith and repentance."

Gerstner is the one who misrepresented Edwards and so Brown is simply following in his footsteps. Bob Ross has written about Gerstner's misrepresentation of Edwards.  See Here

So, rather than repeating here what he has written, I simply refer Brown and the reader to Ross's post.


FolloweroftheLamb said...

What do you make of Edwards' statement regarding the Godhead in his unpublished work in the Trinity?

One particular statement he makes is:
"And this I suppose to be that blessed Trinity that we read of in the Holy Scriptures. The Father is the Deity subsisting in the prime, un-originated and most absolute manner, or the Deity in its direct existence. The Son is the Deity generated by God's understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the Deity subsisting in act, or the Divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God's Infinite love to and delight in Himself. And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are properly distinct Persons."
This can be found at:

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Follower:

It is not how I would have expressed it.



Bob Hadley said...

I clicked on the link to your article from SBC Today and have to admit, trying to read your response to someone else's response to what you originally wrote about Edwards was a little difficult to follow!

Howver, given that, you wrote the following which I am thinking is an accurate reflection of Edwards and your position regarding regeneration, faith, repentance, conversion etc...

"Edwards did not, of course, view the terms regeneration, begetting, conversion, resurrection, the ones he used in the citations, as denoting separate experiences, but of one singular experience. Brown is attacking a straw man. We have simply affirmed that Edwards saw regeneration, conversion, and repentance as different words that denote the same experience. Brown affirms that Edwards says that the terms are used as synonyms in scripture, interchangeably, but not exactly synonymous! Is that what we are arguing about? Whether the various terms used to describe the Christian salvation experience were synonyms or almost synonyms?"

If I am understanding this statement correctly, regeneration, repentance, faith and conversion are NOT separate events but rather one event all happening simultaneously right?

I have an observation and a question, relative to that statement.

First the observation: That sounds real good and certainly is a plausible attempt to side step the issue of regeneration prior to repentance and faith, can be simultaneous but I am not so sure they necessarily are... I am not so sure that repentance cannot take place and then faith to follow... never really thought about that.

Here is the question. I understand the "all in one event" BUT this does not escape the fact that God must do His part and man MUST do his. So somewhere in this process, God takes the initiative because without that Divine initiative, whatever one calls it, repentance and faith and conversion are not going to take place. In that sense, is it not at least fair to assert, that regeneration or SOMETHING takes place on God's part before repentance and faith take place on man's part? I do not see all as being one single event...

Not sure who does or does not agree in the shuffling above!

Grateful to be in His Grip!


Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Bob:

In my ongoing series on "Regeneration - Mediate or Immediate" at - I have begun to deal with that question. Classical Arminians and Calvinists all agree that God must take the initiative in salvation. The question is this - what is the nature of that first act? The Arminians will call it "prevenient grace" that stops short of regeneration. Many Calvinists also agree that such first acts are "preparatory" to regeneration. The old Calvinists saw conviction of sin as preceding regeneration, and yet saw this work as an initial act. Do you see?