Sunday, March 30, 2014

Regeneration Precedes Faith Redux

Four years ago I posted an article titled
Regeneration Precedes Faith.
This is a follow-up to that article.

The Calvinist statement that regeneration precedes faith tends to confuse folks, as many view regeneration and salvation as synonymous. Calvinism affirms that regeneration IS a new birth, but IS NOT completed salvation.

One writer shows his confusion by stating:
We must remember here that when [Calvinism] talks about regeneration, it is not talking about anything less than THE new birth. In [Calvinism], "regeneration" is not merely God drawing people to Christ - so that they can believe and then, at that point, be saved. No. In [Calvinism], regeneration is completed salvation. So when [Calvinism] says that regeneration precedes faith, it means salvation precedes faith. It means the new birth precedes faith.

While agreeing with him that regeneration is the new birth, or, more technically, the restoration of spiritual life lost in Adam, Calvinists would disagree that salvation precedes faith.

Here is the difference, as I understand it, between the synergistic and monergistic views:

Synergism posits that faith—sourced in man and exercised in belief—causes salvation. Some insist that repentance is required, while others insist that it is not.

Monergism posits that repentance and faith are gifts given by God—actuating in belief—causing salvation.

In Acts 11, Peter explains to the "apostles and brethren who were in Judea" that "Gentiles had also received the word of God." Their response was to glorify God because he "has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (Acts 11:18).

In 2 Thessalonians 3:2, Paul says that "not all have faith."

In 2 Peter 1:1, he addresses his letter to "those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ."

These verses establish that repentance and faith are gifts, and they are not given to every individual. They are received prior to actuation and thus are given at regeneration. God gives these gifts solely to the elect, at the time of his choosing, and they always actuate in belief.

Looking at the resurrection of Lazarus, we can see parallels in his physical resurrection and spiritual resurrection.

Physical

Life is restored. The word of God is spoken to him—"Lazarus, come forth" (v.43)—and the command not only restores life to him, but also reverses the decomposition and removes the sickness that caused his death.

Spiritual

Romans 10:14-15: the Word must be heard, as it is the means the Holy Spirit uses to regenerate the elect.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!"

Physical

Lazarus exits the tomb; being restored to life actuates in him leaving the tomb. In one sense, the command was irresistible; Lazarus had no say in his being brought back to life and could not disobey the "come forth" command. He wasn't given life so that he could decide whether or not he wanted to stay in the tomb. In another sense, his strongest desire, once life was restored, was to leave the tomb. There was a perfect coordination of the command and his desire. Notice also that Jesus did not go into the tomb to bring him out; leaving was something Lazarus did on his own, because he was restored to life.

Spiritual

Once regenerated (spiritual life restored) the gifts actuate in belief. Now that the elect has been brought back to spiritual life (lost in Adam), he believes. Regeneration unstops his ears, removes the blindness from his eyes, replaces his stony heart with a fleshly heart, and enables him to believe. Life is not restored so that man can decide whether or not he wants to actuate the gifts. He acts on his strongest desire now that life is restored.

In both cases regeneration necessarily precedes activity. In other words, those dead, whether physically or spiritually, are inactive. They must have life restored prior to any action on their part.

1 comment :

J. Brian McKillop said...

Peter at triablogue explains the logical necessity of regeneration preceding faith.