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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « From the Mind of Dave Hunt | Main | Images of the Savior (6 – His Turning Water to Wine) »

    Three Views on Man's Condition

    It is vital that each of us gains a biblical understanding of God and the Gospel. Unfortunately, the feedback I receive from people who are new to these issues is that they have an extremely difficult time following some of the discussions we have simply because they come across so many theological buzzwords, which are often left unexplained. (I believe the reformed faith could really be furthered if there was much more material available written for people without any theological foundation). These issues are extremely important ones and are things that every Christian needs to understand. Here then is a brief explanation of some of the terms you will come across as you study the issues:

    1. PELAGIANISM - Salvation is all of man (human monergism - monergism means "one power working")

    BELIEF: MAN IS WELL

    Named after the British monk Pelagius (354 - 418 A.D.) Pelagius believed that Adam's sin affected no one but himself. Those born since Adam have been born into the same condition Adam was in before the Fall, neutral towards sin. Human beings are able to live free from sin if they want to.

    This is a humanistic, man centered teaching and while it is very positive, it limits the nature and scope of sin and flatly denies the necessity of God's grace. This view was condemned as heresy by the Church, as it has no basis in Scripture.

    2. SYNERGISM (through the actions of more than one - cooperation)

    BELIEF: MAN IS SICK, EVEN MORTALLY SICK

    Observing that if man was as healthy as the optimists say, then surely war, disease, starvation, poverty and such problems we face today would have been eliminated by now. Since such problems have not been fixed, Synergists conclude that something is basically wrong with human nature. Yet, they contend that the situation is not hopeless. Its bad, perhaps even desperate, but not hopeless. We haven't blown ourselves off the planet yet so there's no need to call the mortician yet.

    In this scheme, human nature has been damaged by the Fall. The will is NOT enslaved to sin, but is capable of believing in Christ, even prior to regeneration (although not entirely apart from God's grace). Every sinner retains the ability to choose for or against God, either cooperating with God's Spirit unto salvation or resisting God's grace unto damnation.

    Election is conditional, determined by individual choice: the only people God has chosen are those whom He already knew would believe. The faith He forsees is not exclusively a divine gift but partly a human decision. Therefore, the ultimate cause of salvation is not God's choice of the sinner but the sinner's choice of God.

    Under this broad heading of synergism, we have two basic schools of thought:

    A. SEMI-PELAGIANISM - which teaches that man initiates, God helps.
    "... Divine grace is indispensable for salvation, but it does not necessarily need to precede a free human choice, because, despite the weakness of human volition, the will takes the initiative toward God." R. Kyle (Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

    B. ARMINIANISM - which teaches that God initiates by offering grace, and that mankind either does or does not cooperate with that grace. This belief, though quite popular in our day, would still be classed as synergistic because salvation takes place through the cooperation of man with God's grace.

    3. AUGUSTINIANISM (Reformed) - God saves by His Divine power alone (Divine monergism)

    BELIEF: MAN IS DEAD

    Each of the members of the Trinity are at work in the salvation of sinners. God the Father elects a people for salvation, Jesus the Son redeems them in His atoning work on the cross, and God, the Holy Spirit, regenerates them, bringing them to life. Lazarus, being a lifeless corpse in the tomb, did not cooperate with Christ with regard to his own resurrection. Jesus simply cried out "Lazarus come forth!" and this call was powerful and sufficient in and of itself to bring dead Lazarus back to life. Christ did not interview the dead man Lazarus and ask if he would like to be resurrected, and once he got the "all clear" went ahead with his plan, now having obtained Lazarus' permission and assent. Nor did Lazarus, once brought back to life, immediately take Jesus to court in attempt to sue him for violating his free will - his libertarian rights as a dead man to stay dead! No, for the rest of his earthly life, Lazarus was deeply grateful for the unspeakable mercy he had received from the Master.

    This is a beautiful picture of what God does in our regeneration from spiritual death. Man, once receiving this grace of regeneration, then infallibly responds in faith to the effectual call of God.

    I believe this is the biblical description regarding the state of man before he is regenerated. He is "dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph. 2:1).

    Augustinianism is named after Saint Augustine of the 6th Century A.D.. As far as his relationship to God is concerned, man is a lifeless corpse, unable to make a single move toward God, or even respond to God, unless God first brings this spiritually dead corpse to life. Although spiritually dead, it is a strange death since he is nevertheless up and about actively practicing sin. He is what horror stories call a zombie - dead but walking around. This is a fair description of what Paul says about human nature in its lost condition. Apart from Jesus Christ, these sinning human corpses are the living dead. Man's will is enslaved (John 8:34).

    Man has a will, most definitely, but this will never wants God (Rom 3:11; Rom 8:7), without the direct and gracious intervention of God. The sinner actively practices evil. He is also by nature an object of God's wrath (Eph 2:3). BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy.... even when we were dead... made us alive (by grace you have been saved)... (Eph. 2:4, 5)

    This truth is demonstrated in many passages in scripture, but perhaps the clearest is Ephesians 2:1-10.

    1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
    2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
    3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
    4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
    5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
    6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
    7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
    9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
    10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

    Colossians 2:13 also states, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him..."

    Notice that both in Ephesians 2:5, and Colossians 2:13, it was when we were dead that God made us alive. Not one mention is made of our role in all this, such as, "when you were dead, you decided to cooperate with God's grace, and He then raised you..." I don't know how the Apostle Paul could have taught Divine monergism more clearly. It was when we were dead that God made us alive.

    Augustinianism removes all ground for boasting, demolishes all human pride and exalts God's grace as the sole efficient cause of a sinner's salvation. As Jonah 2:9 says, "Salvation is of the Lord." Therefore the glory for it goes to God, and to God alone.

    So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. Romans 9:16

    Posted by John Samson on September 15, 2006 12:18 PM

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    Comments

    Very useful, but it would be interesting to see the scriptural justification of the proponents of Pelagianism, Synergism and Arminianism. In other words, what is their defense?

    Yes. I would like to ask the same question as Ted above. How does the reformed doctrine answer such passages as Mark 10 - Jesus and the children, and others?

    What about this one? -Isaiah's prophecy about Jesus.

    Isa. 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.[h] 15He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.

    V 15,16...when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good,...

    Although, this passage is about Christ, we know that he put on man's likeness (Heb. 2:9,14-18). Does this infer an age of accountablity?

    Hi Ted,

    The Pelagian would not appeal to scripture as a foundation for his beliefs for the simple reason that there are none that he can turn to that would affirm man's inherent righteousness. There is no scripture that says that man is good and can come to God without the aid of Divine grace.

    So rather than making an appeal to the Bible, the Pelagian would appeal to a philosophical assumption instead; namely that because God commands man to do something, man therefore has the ability to do what God commands, without the need for God's grace, or else God would not be just in giving the command. They would say that because, for example, God commands all to be perfect even as God Himself is perfect (Matt. 5:48), man must have the ability to do this or else God would not be just in giving this command. This seems to be a legitimate argument until we understand two things which are clearly taught in scripture:

    1. Man's dreadful spiritual condition
    2. God's motive in giving the law
    According to Romans 3:20, the law was given to reveal sin (bring it out into the open), and not to affirm man's righteousness, so that he might cry out for a Savior. The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.

    Historically, Pelagius recoiled in horror when he read Augustine's famous prayer: "Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire." The prayer seemed harmless enough, but it outraged Pelagius. He vehemently opposed the idea that a divine gift (grace) is necessary to perform what God commands. For Pelagius and his followers, responsibility always implies ability: if man has the moral responsibility to obey the law of God, he must also have the moral ability to do it.

    On the opposite side in this debate was Augustine, who was equally determined to counter Pelagius' teachings, knowing that Scripture shows clearly that Divine grace is indeed necessary to empower us to do what God has commanded. The heated debate ended, at least officially, when the Church condemned Pelagius as a heretic. Augustine's doctrine of grace had triumphed. However, Pelagianism did not just go away, and indeed it will always have its adherents in every generation, for mankind is man-centered by nature.

    Regarding Arminianism and Semi-Pelagianism, I believe a brief way to summarise their belief system (hopefully, without distorting their position) is to talk about Divine foreknowledge. Both of these systems would appeal to an understanding of foreknowledge that says that God's choice of His elect is based upon what He sees man doing and choosing as He looks from eternity through the corridors of time. If he sees (ahead of time) a person choosing Christ and therefore cooperating with the grace which is equally bestowed on all people, then this person is elected by God and predestined for salvation. They would use scriptures such as Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:1, 2 to substantiate their claim because these passages show that predestination is based on foreknowledge.

    The problem with this understanding is that it is the sinner's choice of God that is the deciding factor, not God's choice of the sinner; and secondly, and very importantly, this definition of foreknowledge is not at all accurate biblically. I deal with this in an article posted back on November 14, 2005 which you will find here: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2005/11/foreknowledge_by_pastor_john_s.php

    Its important to realize too that if God were to base His election of an individual on what He saw them doing/choosing as He looked from eternity through the corridors of time, no one would be elected. Why is that? Because all God would see would be spiritually dead people who had no interest in accepting a mere offer of God's grace. God's grace would need to be so effective and so powerful that it would raise a person from spiritual death, giving them a new heart, before they would ever have an interest in Christ.

    1 John 5:1 says, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God." The verb tenses are very revealing. As Dr. John Piper points out, a literal translation reads: "Everyone who goes on believing (pisteuon, present, continuous action) that Jesus is the Christ has been born (gennesanta, perfect, completed action with abiding effects) of God." Faith is the evidence of the new birth, not the cause of it. Since both repentance and faith are possible only because of the regenerating work of God, both are called the gift of God."

    Hopefully that's a help.

    Tiffany,

    Perhaps you could help me by clarifying your question about Mark 10 with Jesus and the children. I am not entirely sure what you are asking here.

    Many thanks,

    I love posts like this. We live in a generation that needs to have old truths defined once again for them since there has been a few generations go by where there has been a "famine" of teaching.

    Thanks for the very informative post.

    I am not an Arminian, or Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian, or Augustinian. I am a Chrsitian who believes the Bible is the infallible and innerrant Word of God.

    With that being said, I did go to an RC Sproul conference this weekend in Houston. And it was very informative.

    I wanted to get a reformed perspective on the following verses:

    Luke 5:31-32 "And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

    So sinners are also called sick in the Bible as well as dead.

    I side on this matter most closely to Millard Erickson who has written in his sytematic theology that faith precedes regeneration.

    I believe the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and then we repent and put our faith in Christ and then we are regenerated. Please see the following verses: John 16:8-11, Acts 16:31, and Ephesians 1:13-14.

    I am interested to see your thoughts on this.

    To God be the Glory.

    Thanks.

    Russ

    Deuteronomy 29:29

    29" The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law."


    A wonderful post.

    Russ,

    Of course, we all desire to be known as Christians who believe the Bible... the question is, what do we believe the Bible to be teaching? As Spurgeon said so well, ""There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer - I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it." - C. H. Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism

    According to your comments above Russ, you hold to an entirely Arminian understanding of regeneration, whether or not you wish to be called an Arminian.

    Regarding Jesus' words in Luke 5, speaking of man being sick, I believe the context would point to Jesus talking of coming for those who recognize their need (the sick) - in other words, those who recognize they are sinners, not those who think they can get by without Him. The righteous don't need a Savior, sinners do. Of course, all men are sinners, but not all men recognize this.

    I had an Uncle who used this verse to suggest that according to Jesus, not everyone needs a Savior.. the righteous don't need one, only sinners do. He thought he was a good righteous man and had no need for a Savior. How very sad, because as Romans 3 makes clear, "there are none righteous, no not one."

    Jesus is the Savior of sinners... not the Savior of righteous people. Righteous people don't need a Savior.. and according to Scripture, there are none who fit in this category.

    I don't believe we can take these words to mean that Jesus denied the deadness of man in sin... but through the analogy He was using He was making it clear that He came for those who recognized their true spiritual condition. Just as a sick person seeks a physician, so those who recognize their true condition should seek the Savior.

    In your Arminian system Russ, you have people entering the kingdom BEFORE they are born again (regenerated). Jesus made it perfectly clear that non born again people CANNOT enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). Unless a man is born again he cannot enter or even see the kingdom of God.

    John, thanks for your reply.

    However, I must respectfully disagree to your post.

    I believe the special or effectual calling is different from that of being regenerated.

    Please see the quote from Millard Erickson's Systematic Theology below:

    "The conclusion here, then, is that God regenerates those who repent and believe. But this conclusion seems inconsistent with the doctrine of total inability. Are we torn between Scripture and logic on this point? There is a way out. That is to distinguish between God’s special and effectual calling on the one hand, and regeneration on the other. Although no one is capable of responding to the general call of the gospel, in the case of the elect God works intensively through a special calling so that they do respond in repentance and faith. As a result of this conversion, God regenerates them. The special calling is simply an intensive and effectual working by the Holy Spirit. It is not the complete transformation which constitutes regeneration, but it does render the conversion of the individual both possible and certain. Thus the logical order of the initial aspects of salvation is special calling-conversion-regeneration."

    You may label me what you desire, and that is your choice.

    But when discussing view points, instead of jumping to conclusions about what you think others have said, wouldn't it be preferable to engage in a cordial dialogue and ask about what statements I specifically stated? I think that very few people would claim that Millard Erickson is an Arminian.

    Did not Paul write in Romans 12:3:

    For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

    and in Ephesians 4:29

    Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

    I did not post on this blog with the intention of disparaging the reformed view of theology. I consider y'all to be brothers and sisters in Christ of mine.

    Again as Paul states in Romans 14:10:

    But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

    In conclusion, I think this blog provides a wealth of biblical information.

    I will have to say my Christian brother that I will have to agree to disagree with you on this point.

    May God continue to bless you in all that you do.

    Russ

    In essentials unity,
    in Non-essentials, Liberty
    in All Things, Charity

    Rupertus Meldenius

    Hi Russ,

    I am not sure where you found my post to be less than cordial. I simply categorized your original comments under the Arminian category. Can you see why I would suggest this?

    You have clarified your thoughts further and I appreciate you doing that. I am not that familiar with Erickson's work.

    You quote Romans 12:3 above, though I wonder why because clearly the "everyone" who has received a measure of faith is spoken of in the context of "every man among you" not everyone in the world. "Not all have faith" as 2 Thess 3:2 states. Were you attempting to suggest otherwise?

    I would want to point out that there is a major difference between seeking to categorize someone's theological position and judging them. I made no judgment of you as a person, nor did I show you contempt. Therefore, I don't see how your quote of Romans 14:10 is relevant to our discussion, nor why you felt the need for the reminder of Eph. 4:29.

    I certainly wish you well Russ and am glad you are enjoying the blog.

    Interesting discussion - having used Erickson's text in seminary, I am quite familiar with it. And, I dare say, I find him to be no advocate of reformed theology. Surely, his quoted "faith precedes regeneration" position is proof enough that he isn't.

    Any position which advocates faith preceding regeneration is also affirming that faith is produced by our unregenerated human nature. To make such a claim is to affirm that a NATURAL person has the moral capacity and understanding to see the goodness, beauty and truth in Jesus Christ, apart from the Holy Spirit.

    And this in the face of insurmountable Biblical evidence to the contrary.

    John 6:65 says that no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it. This text is stated in light of John 6:63 which says that Spirit gives birith to Spirit and flesh gives birth to flesh. Jesus says "THAT IS WHY I said to you that no one can come to me unless God grants it." That man cannot believe apart from the new birth is Jesus' plain speech here... (also see John 1:13, John 3:3, 6, 1 John 5:1, Rom 9:16)

    Believing in Jesus Christ is the immediate result of being born of the Spirit. Any other position is to seperate the work of Christ from man's belief.. that natural man can go it alone. If calling does not include the work of the Spirit changing the hostile disposition of man, he simply will not believe. A natural man does not understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14).

    A claim that the unspiritual man can understand spiritual thing is to deny the clear words of the Text. He gives us understanding and the mind of Christ THAT WE MIGHT UNDERSTAND

    we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,

    i,.e the Gospel. The gift of the Spirit is the only way to understand spiritual realities.

    Erickson's position is to believe a person can understand spiritual realities APART from the Holy Spirit.

    Also, to clarify, Erickson's position is not Arminian ... it is synergistic however.

    Hello,
    I'm interested in hearing some opinions regarding the state of man and these passages.
    Mark 10: 14-16
    14But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
    I'm trying to understand this passage in view of the Elect. Are all children elect? Does this passage say that all children are saved? Does this imply an "age of accountability" (children being pure until they're no longer children)?

    Isa 7:15
    ..."the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted."
    Obviously, this is speaking of Jesus. It explains His ability to choose right or wrong and that He didn't understand right and wrong until He was old enough to understand.
    What should we interpret this verse to mean. Is it applicable only to Christ or to man as well, (knowing that Christ became fully man in order to destroy death)?

    This is such a crucial topic. It boils down to this issue. One's personal view of man's state will put you on either Arminian or Calvin's side of the fence.

    Hi John H,
    I'm wondering about your final comment re: Ericksen. If he isn't an Arminian, and if he isn't a synergist, then what theological position does he hold?

    Hi Tiffany,

    Regarding the Mark 10 passage, you ask, "Are all children elect?"

    Obviously all elect children will be saved... I am not sure this passage would substantiate the idea that all children are elect though. There's nothing in the text that says so.

    You ask, "Does this passage say that all children are saved?"

    No.

    Does this imply an "age of accountability" (children being pure until they're no longer children)?

    I don't think it teaches that all children are pure. Jesus was simply telling the adults to allow the children to come to Him... God has extended His gracious hand to children such as these. I am not sure that we can glean more than this from this passage in Mark.

    Regarding the Isaiah 7 passage you write, "Obviously, this is speaking of Jesus."

    Well, v. 14 certainly is, but I believe you will find most commentators suggest that the passage has another application also. John MacArthur writes, "Since Ahaz refused to choose a sign (vv. 11, 12), the Lord chose His own sign, whose implementation would occur far beyond Ahaz's lifetime."

    Commenting further on v. 16, he writes, "Before the promised son of Isaiah was old enough to make moral choices, the kings of Syria and Ephraim were to meet their doom at the hands of the Assyrians."

    I would agree with MacArthur here that v. 14 is a definite reference to the Messiah who would be called Immanuel, but this prophetic statement is sandwiched between references to something in Ahaz's time.

    You write, "It explains His ability to choose right or wrong and that He didn't understand right and wrong until He was old enough to understand.
    What should we interpret this verse to mean. Is it applicable only to Christ or to man as well, (knowing that Christ became fully man in order to destroy death)?"

    I think the verses do show that there comes an age in a child's life when he can differentiate between right and wrong... but that's a far cry from all the theological trappings and traditions people give to an age of accountability when they suggest that all are pure and clean before the Lord until they actively choose evil at a more advanced age.

    To quote Dr. John MacArthur once again, "children do not come into the world seeking God and righteousness. They do not come into the world with a neutral innocence. They come seeking the fulfillment of sinful and selfish desires. Although the outworking of the sin nature does not necessarily attain full expression in every person's behavior, it is nontheless called total depravity because there is no aspect of the human personality, character, mind, emotions, or will that is free from the corruption of sin."

    Where do kids get this depravity? It's not a learned behavior, but rather an inbred disposition. Kids get it from their parents, who get it from their parents, and so on, all the way back to Adam. Adam, "begot a son in his own likeness, after his image." Gen 5:3. Adam's children all bore the stamp of sin and were infected with evil desires, including, like Adam, an aversion to the things of God, who hid himself from the presence of the Lord (Gen 3:8).

    "The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth." - Psalm 58:3

    "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." - Psalm 51:5

    Todd

    Hi, and thanks for your comment. Hmmm. I believe my comments expressed that Erickson is indeed a synergist.

    He rejects monergistic regeneration so, by definition he believes that faith is produced by our unregenerated human nature. This is synergism: The unregenerate produces faith that cooperates with God's grace. The new birth is a result of our choice rather than a work of God alone. But many four-point dispensationalists like Erickson are simply inconsistent in their theology imho.

    For example. Those who believe in irresistible grace but reject limited atonement are embracing a contradiction. All redemptive blessings come from Christ. Irresistible grace is a redemptive blessing. Therefore Christ died for the elect (to secure irresistible grace) in a way He did not for the non-elect. So four-point Calvinism and faith preceding regeneration leads to many suchb errors and is filled with inconsistencies.

    John S.,
    Thanks for your reply.

    Mark 10:14
    14..."Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God."

    What does the above verse say other than the kindom of God belongs to little children?

    Tiffany

    Hi Tiffany,

    Its important to draw out from the text only what we find there (what we call "exegesis") rather than reading things into the text that are not actually there (called "eisegesis").

    I believe the verse means exactly what it says. God has extended grace to give the kingdom to children such as these... but does it say God gives this grace to all children everywhere? No, that's not a concept found in the text.

    John H,
    Thanks. So, we agree! Ericksen is no Calvinist!

    I find it interesting that Erickson DOES talk about an irresistible calling from God, but he is merely concerned to separate it from the word "regeneration." Is this mere semantics? John 6 seems to indicate an entirely efficacious work, which is what Calvinists agree with. I've read a "free-grace" proponent quote Erickson approvingly to this point to try to rebut the priority of regeneration, but I feel like Erickson is merely equivocating. Why won't he allow for this pre-faith regeneration to be the first step in the process of a lifetime of regeneration such as Calvin writes about in his Institutes?

    "Now it ought to be a fact beyond controversy that repentance not only follows faith, but is also born of faith...There are some, however, who suppose that repentance precedes faith, rather than flows from it, or is produced by it as fruit from a tree. Such persons have never known the power of repentance, and are moved to feel this way by an unduly slight argument" (III, iii. 1).

    "I interpret repentance as regeneration, whose sole end is to restore in us the image of God that had been disfigured and all but obliterated through Adam's transgression...And indeed, this restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year; but through continual and sometimes even slow advances God wipes out in his elect the corruptions of the flesh, cleanses them of guilt, consecrates them to himself as temples renewing all their minds to true purity that they may practice repentance throughout their lives and know that this warfare will end only at death" (III, iii. 9).

    Calvin above is saying that regeneration (personal transformation in repentance, not in regard to forensic justification) follows faith.

    In the midst of this discussion, however, he mentions that the Spirit of regeneration is the direct cause of the conversion of the elect.

    "Indeed, God declares that he wills the conversion of all, and he directs exhortations to all in common. Yet the efficacy of this depends upon the Spirit of regeneration. For it would be easier for us to create men than for us of our own power to put on a more excellent nature. Accordingly, in the whole course of regeneration, we are with good reason called God's handiwork, created for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Whomsoever God wills to snatch from death, he quickens by the Spirit of regeneration. Not that repentance, properly speaking, is the cause of salvation, but because it is already seen to be inseperable from faith and from God's mercy" (III, iii. 21).

    Here Calvin emphasizes the role of God's grace in regeneration in the whole course of salvation, from pre-faith all the way to the end. I love his illustration of our depravity and need for regeneration when he says, "it would be easier for us to create men than for us of our own power to put on a more excellent nature."

    So, we have two distinct, though not entirely seperate understandings of regeneration in Calvin discussed within a short distance of each other. The biblical view of regeneration does not end after faith, and therefore Calvinism does not limit it to a mere faith-starter. Regeneration initiates faith and continues after faith until death. Perhaps it would be more helpful for us Calvinists to talk about regeneration preceding AND flowing from faith in the same way that Calvin does here. Maybe some Arminians and other synergists object because they think that we don't believe in the Spirit's continual regenerating work after faith.

    I think this may be Erickson's problem. He wants to emphasize the life-long regeneration that happens after faith to the exclusion of pre-faith regeneration. BUT he still wants to keep an efficacious work to draw the elect to faith. That sounds like semantics to me. How does a pre-faith effectual call keep him from being a Calvinist? Just by not CALLING it regeneration? It looks and smells a lot like regeneration.

    Jon

    I agree with you that it looks and smells a lot like regeneration and thus my point about the inconsistency. While we are all inconsistent at some level, the average Dispensationalist, I have found are inconsistent on many levels...thus the attraction by most of them to four-point Calvinism... so they are not so much wrong outright, but inconsistent, which really creates unecessary confusion and an array of doctrinal issues.

    IN this instance, if Erickson wants to keep an efficacious work to draw the elect, he, by defintion, is claiming that this drawing is done apart from the Holy Spirit doing anything to change the disposition of the sinner. It claims that the unspiritual can do a spiritual act, which is an impossible supposition, of course.

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