Jan 14, 2013

Dagg on Regeneration

John L. Dagg wrote the following on "Regeneration" (Section IV in his "Manual of theology," Volumes 1-2 - See here).  In his analysis of the biblical teaching on this subject he rejects the "word alone" view commonly taught by the Campbellites, and the "Spirit alone" view commonly taught by the Hardshells.  The following are some of his comments (emphasis mine - SG).

"Various forms of expression are employed in the Scriptures, to denote the change of heart; and they signify it with various shades of meaning. It is taking away the heart of stone, and giving a heart of flesh; giving a new heart; putting the law in the heart; quickening or making alive; a resurrection from the dead; an illumination; a conversion, or turning back to God. So great is the change produced, that the subject of it is called a new creature..." (pg. 277)

"The change is moral."

"The production of love in the heart by the Holy Spirit, is the regeneration, or the new birth."

"We know, from the Holy Scriptures, that God employs his truth in the regeneration of the soul. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." Love to God necessarily implies knowledge of God, and this knowledge it is the province of truth to impart."

"The term regeneration is sometimes used in a comprehensive sense, as including the whole formation of the Christian character. At other times it is used for the first production of divine love in the heart. In the latter sense, the work is instantaneous."

Note:  It is true that theologians make a distinction between broad and narrow regeneration, but not so in Scripture.  The Scriptures define regeneration as the same as conversion, the point where a person receives Christ and the Gospel.  It is not certain whether Dagg is affirming that the term "regeneration" is used in more than one sense in Scripture or in theological works.

"But, in his own time and manner, God, the Holy Spirit, makes the word effectual in producing a new affection in the soul: and, when the first movement of love to God exists, the first throb of spiritual life commences."

"Faith is necessary to the Christian character; and must therefore precede regeneration, when this is understood in its widest sense. Even in the restricted sense, in which it denotes the beginning of the spiritual life, faith, in the sense in which James uses the term, may precede. But a faith which exists before the beginning of spiritual life, cannot be a living faith."

Note:  It seems that Dagg, like others, would say that faith and regeneration are concurrent and that it is of no use to argue which is first, seeing one cannot exist without the other.

"This change, by which true love to God is produced, results from the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, accompanying his word, and making it effectual."

Note:  Here Dagg appropriately argues that the work of regeneration is both immediate and mediate. 

"The doctrine of the Holy Spirit's direct influence, is a fundamental truth of the gospel dispensation. That Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and completed the great work for which he assumed our nature, is a truth that lies at the foundation of Christianity. The gospel reveals to us the Spirit as well as the Son. When about to leave the world, Jesus promised another Comforter, who should dwell with his disciples for ever. The Holy Spirit, as God, had always been in the world: but he was now to be present by a peculiar manifestation and operation. This manifestation and operation attended the ministry of the Word on the day of Pentecost, and the gospel has always been the sword of the Spirit, the instrument with which ho operates in the fulfilment of his office for which he has come into the world, in answer to the prayer of Christ." (pg. 282)

"That philosophy which shuts God out of his creation, and substitutes laws of nature for his ever-present influence and operation, stands ready to deny the doctrine of the Holy Spirit's direct influence. It admits not the possibility of any influence, but that which the means employed naturally tend to produce. But means have no natural efficiency apart from the will of God. By the will of God, the truth has its regenerating and sanctifying power; for he works in us to will and to do, according to his pleasure."

Note:  Here Dagg asserts that the "word alone" cannot regenerate but requires the power of the Spirit to make the word effectual. 

"He is pleased to work with means; and he employs the truth as his instrument of operation. This instrument he wields at his pleasure, and he renders it effectual by his divine power: "My word shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." By the ordinary providence of God, the Bible operates in the world, and influences the minds of men: but this providence equally existed in the former dispensation, in which the oracles of God were possessed by the Israelites, but held by them in unrighteousness. An influence above the ordinary providence of God is needed, to the regeneration of the soul."

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