Banner

"...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)

Contributors

  • Rev. John Samson
  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

    top250.jpg

    Community Websites

    Monergism Books on Facebook

    Blogroll

    Latest Posts

    Categories

    Archives

    Ministry Links

  • « Discussing Reformed Theology | Main | A True Work of Art »

    Q&A Regarding Regeneration

    Visitor: You can't randomly redefine Biblical terms. Regeneration is not a supernatural change in a man to enable him to believe. Regeneration occurs when Jesus Christ comes to live in a man's heart to give him the gift of eternal life. When Jesus was telling Nicodemas about the new birth, the discussion goes beyond verse 8. Jesus tells Nicodemas the coming of God's gift of eternal life parallels Moses lifting the serpent in the wilderness, when people were dying from the snake bite, they looked to live. And in the same way the Son of Man had to be lifted up, so that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life.

    There are not two additional kinds of life to receive after the life given in the flesh. (Men are not given one sort of 'spiritual life' to enable them to believe and then after they believe then they receive eternal life.) There are only two births. There is the life given in the flesh and the life given in the new birth, which is eternal life. That life is given to us when Jesus Christ comes to dwell in our hearts. Only the ones who have the Son have the life (1John 5:11, 12). Jesus tells Nicodemas He came to give men eternal life and salvation (John 3:15-16). Men were not indwelt by the Lord Jesus Christ before His resurrection. At just the right time Jesus was sent by the Father to redeem them from the Law so that they could receive the adoption as sons (Gal 4:4). Men needed to be set free from the Law before they could be joined to Christ (Rom. 7:4). Redemption is through His blood (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14). Only after men are redeemed and receive the adoption as sons does God send the Spirit of His Son into their heart (Gal. 4:4-6) to give them the gift of eternal life, and the gift of salvation in the new birth. Faith precedes Christ coming to dwell in our hearts, the gift of eternal life, and salvation-- all of which we are given in the new birth. Faith precedes the new birth.

    Reformed Theology is built upon an unbiblical definition of regeneration. Additionally, faulty presuppositions require an unbiblical 'new birth' to enable men to believe clear back in Genesis: at least the time of Abel, since Abel was commended for his faith (Heb. 11:4). Reformed Theology is also dependent upon many erroneous interpretations using the redefinition of "regeneration": interpreting many critical verses in the book of John as though men were already being born again. But nobody was "born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" before Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Nobody had been born again in the book of John (except Christ being the firstborn out of the dead). Therefore it can be objectively proven that these verses are erroneously interpreted. In addition, the verses used to establish "total depravity" have also been taken out of their context and given an erroneous interpretation. You can't build a true doctrine upon unbiblical definitions, erroneous interpretations, and faulty presuppositions (i.e. slavery to sin = bondage of the will.... and as we see, no man was set free from slavery to sin until they were united by baptism (given by Jesus Christ, not water) into Christ's crucifixion and death).

    How do you place regeneration before the resurrection when Peter tells us clearly that men are born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?

    Why do you neglect the entire context of John 3 (vs. 9-18) when you teach about the new birth?


    Response:

    Actually, John 3 demonstrates the necessity of regeneration to enter the kingdom. Read it again. No one can either see or enter the kingdom unless they are first born again.

    All men are required to believe the gospel. God commands everyone to repent and believe the gospel. A command (imperative) does NOT tell us what man can do but what he ought to do. John 3:19, 20 puts it all in perspective. Men are required to believe BUT men love darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out (wrought) in God."

    Are you going to honestly tell me that a person can obey the command to believe the gospel apart from any grace... apart from the work of the Holy Spirit? Because this is what you are, in fact, doing.

    Also as for the timing of regeneration, all people in both old and new Testaments were saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To declare otherwise is to trust in human merit and achievement as if salvation occurred differently in old and new Testaments. One by works and the other by grace. But the Bible declares that the gospel was preached to Abraham beforehand (Galatians 3:8). And God explicitly declares in the book of Deuteronomy the necessity of regeneration by the people of the Old Testament to obey him. "...And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." (Deut 30:6) Notice clearly the order. Circumcision of the heart comes prior to obedience and life.

    Lastly, I would challenge you to interact with the clear declarations of Jesus that regeneration precedes faith.

    "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." (John 6:37)

    No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. (John 6:44)

    It is the Spirit who gives life (quickens, regenerates); the flesh is no help at all. ..."This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:63, 65)

    Simply put, no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it and all to whom He grants it will believe. The Spirit quickens [regenerates], the flesh counts for nothing. See my essay here on these verses in John 6 which demonstrates that regeneration is intimately tied to (and the direct cause of) faith and that salvation is by Christ alone, utterly abolishing any remote possibility of synergism. Christ not only commands us to believe but gives us what He requires of us: a new heart to believe. The reason why one person believes the gospel and not another is not because one person was more prudent or wise but because of the grace of God in Jesus Christ alone.


    Posted by John on October 15, 2011 11:33 AM

    Comments

    Is it just me? I never tire of this sort of response!

    My flesh profits nothing from it so maybe that is why?

    Your response underscores again the meaning of the words "Elect" and "Election".

    No dead person can elect them self to this Eternal Glory in Christ taking that honor and proudly wear it.

    Mat 22:10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
    Mat 22:11 "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.
    Mat 22:12 And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless.
    Mat 22:13 Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
    Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen."

    John,

    To begin, I agree that the Holy Spirit and the supernatural Word of God are active in a person’s heart and mind prior to his coming to faith in Jesus Christ. The importance of the Word of God is pointed out by Jesus when he tells us that the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts so that they will not believe and be saved (Luke 8:12). Our primary point of difference is whether God’s first work which occurs in a man, prior to placing his faith in Christ, is Biblically called “regeneration”. The evidence from the Scripture points to the fact that regeneration is God’s saving work when He sends the gift of His Son Jesus Christ to dwell in a man’s heart to give him His life, which which is God’s gift of eternal life and God’s gift of salvation. Jesus in us literally saves us.

    "SAVED by regeneraion" -Tit.3:5
    "SAVED by His life" - Rom. 5:10
    "made alive with Jesus Christ, YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED" - Eph. 2:5

    On the other hand, Reformed authors/preachers say that regeneration is a work of God to change a man to enable him to believe. They often give these details:
    **Regeneration gives a man a new spiritual nature so that he can perceive and understand spiritual truth.
    **Some would add it gives him “eyes to see” and “ears to hear”.
    **The new birth gives him a new heart so that the man will desire the things of God.
    **In regeneration the “bound will” of man is set free so that the man can make spiritual choices.
    **And a gift of faith is given in regeneration with which the man can believe.

    HOWEVER, Reformed proponents are careful to note that God does not make the man respond in faith. God just makes it possible for man to have the response. Placing faith in Christ is a volitional choice of the man once he is regenerated. The Canons of Dort, The Westminster Confession of Faith, and Reformed Theology books all say that a man will receive eternal life and be saved after his volitional choice to place his faith in Jesus Christ. I have not seen a Reformed Theology book teach that Jesus Christ comes to dwell in a man’s heart in regeneration, or that a man receives the gift of eternal life in regeneration, or that a man is saved by regeneration.

    "Jesus dwells in our hearts THROUGH FAITH" (Eph. 3:17)
    "We receive the promise of the Holy Spirit THROUGH FAITH" (Gal. 3:14)
    "saved THROUGH FAITH" (Eph. 2:8)
    "BELIEVE ON HIM to life everlasting" (1Tim. 1:16)

    Because of this inconsistency, I have some questions regarding your view of regeneration which I feel need to be clarified before interacting with the rest of your post.

    A) The Bible says that we are saved by regeneration in Titus 3:5. Does a person need to be saved by regeneration before he can even perceive or understand the gospel message? (Remember, in the article on John 6 which you referenced, you state that the unregenerate are “unable to understand spiritual things”.)
    B) The Bible says that when a man is made alive with Jesus Christ, he has been saved (Eph. 2:5). Does Jesus Christ come and dwell in a man’s heart, and give him the gift of eternal life and salvation to enable him to have faith?
    C) Did the Holy Spirit regenerate the Philippian jailor to give him a desire and the ability to ask, “Sirs what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:31) And if he was already made alive together with Jesus Christ (Jesus dwelling in Him) in order to give him a desire for spiritual things (salvation), then what was it that saved him after he put his trust in Jesus Christ? On the other hand, if he wasn’t regenerated before he asked the question then how did he have the spiritual perception and desire for such a significant spiritual act?
    D) In your article on John 6 you also stated, “…in their fallen state, they can do nothing spiritual”. Did Cornelius receive a new heart and have his “bound will” set free by regeneration to enable him to both desire and to do the things that pleased God before the angel’s visit? Was Jesus Christ already dwelling inside of Cornelius when Cornelius offered the prayers and gave the alms which came up as a memorial to God, prior to the day that the angel announced to Cornelius that Peter would preach words whereby he would be saved? (Acts 11:14; 10:1-6), If Jesus was dwelling in Cornelius’ heart prior to Peter’s visit, then what did God do to Cornelius that saved him after he responded to Peter’s preaching with faith?
    E) Why does Peter say it is “repentance into life” (or “repentance that leads to life”) as opposed to saying God granted Cornelius life so he could repent? (Acts 11:18)
    F) Did you notice the order in Deut 30:6? Quoting you: “Circumcision comes prior to obedience and LIFE”. Are you equating regeneration to the circumcision of the heart or the giving of life?

    I am looking forward to your response to these clarifying questions. I also look forward to answering the questions that you posed.

    By the way, did you ever listen to the 3 month series of sermons by John Piper on the New Birth which were later put into his book “Finally Alive”? In these messages John Piper makes the case that there was no regeneration prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I will include some pertinent quotes:

    “New birth happens, you remember, in union with the incarnate Christ, not simply the spiritual Son of God” (John Piper sermon 1/6/08- “Receive with Meekness the Implanted Word”).

    “If there is no incarnation, there is no union with the Son or with the Father, and no regeneration and no salvation.” (John Piper sermon 12/23/07-“The Reason the Son of God Appeared Was to Destroy the Works of the Devil”)

    “The second objective historical event that had to happen for us to be born again with eternal life was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (“Receive With Meekness the Implanted Word” 1/6/08).

    “The new birth is something that happens in us when the Holy Spirit takes our dead hearts and unites us to Christ by faith so that His life becomes our life, so it makes sense that Jesus must be raised from the dead if we are to have new life in union with Him.” (ibid. 1/6/08).

    “The new life we get in the new birth is the life of the historical Jesus. Therefore, if He does not rise from the dead, there is no new life to have”. (ibid. 1/6/08)

    “The incarnation is necessary for the new birth because the life we have through the new birth is life in union with the incarnate Christ…that life that we have in union with Christ is the life that Jesus obtained for us by the life that He lived and the death that He died in the flesh.” (“The Reason the Son of God appeared was to Destroy the Works of the Devil” 12/23/07)

    “No incarnation. No regeneration.” (ibid 12/23/07).

    In Christ,
    “Visitor”

    Melani

    Thank you for your response, but there is no indication anywhere in scripture that regeneration and indwelling are identical. In fact there are numerous very scholarly works out there which forcefully demonstrate that they are different blessings the spring from the work of Jesus Christ.

    Perhaps you have misunderstood. Regeneration does not precede faith in in a temporal sense. It precedes faith causally. i.e. regeneration causes faith because opens blind eyes, unplus deaf ears and gives a new heart. When one has eyes he sees, and when one has a heart he lives. You cannot separate the two. Regeneration and Faith actually occur simultaneously, like fire and heat or when one object in motion strikes another. They both strike at the same time but only the movement of one causes the other to move. Like a pool ball for lack of a better illustration.

    Your example of Cornelius needs to take into account that it appears he he was already a gentile convert to Judaism. Like I said in my response to you, OT believers were saved by Christ and not by anything else. He was "the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev 13:8) The old testament was a time of promise and the NT one of fulfillment. But OT saints were saved by the long shadow of the cross which stretches back to the beginning of time. The blessings of spiritual circumcision in Deuteronomy cannot be separated from Christ and his incarnation and the OT saints union with him. If you believe the OT saints were saved any other way then you clearly believe some OT people can be saved apart from Jesus Christ. I think the Bible forcefully says otherwise.

    In other words, you are reading into the Bible and even what appears to be John Piper's meaning of Christ in history. Of course I agree that there is no regeneration apart from Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection. But somehow you think God is bound by our view of time, which is simply false. There is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ from the time of the promise in Genesis 3:15 to the end of the world. We reject dispensationalism and its strange unbiblical bifurcation of OT and NT saints as does Paul in Ephesians 2"

    "Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ ... So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord."

    According to this passage we Gentiles now partake of the same promises and are no longer strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, but citizens of it. Notice the clear reference to Jesus Christ as the true Israel, and this includes are all who are joined to His body. Let’s have a closer look: Verse 12 "alienated from the commonwealth of Israel" Paul now joins Gentiles to (vr. 19) "you are no longer strangers and aliens". No longer aliens to what? No longer aliens to the commonwealth of Israel. That means that Gentiles who are in Christ are now "citizens" (v. 19) of Israel built as a house with Christ as the chief cornerstone. In other words, Jesus Christ is the True Israel of God (its fulfillment and foundation) as are all who are joined in union to Him. To say it another way, both OT and NT saints who are in union with Christ are now citizens of Israel. Likewise According to Ephesians 3: 4-6, God made known a mystery to Paul "...the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
    Partakers of what promise? The promises given to Israel to Abraham of course. Did not God promise to Abraham that through him all the nations would be blessed? And since the Paul elsewhere asserts that the gospel was preached to Abraham beforehand (Gal 3:8), the OT and NT saints were both saved by the same grace in Christ and are members of the same body .... partakers of the same covenant promises. The difference is simply (if you think about it organically) that one was a mere seedling or imature branch and the other a fully mature fruit-bearning tree, but both are part of the same tree. The OT saints saw Christ from a distance in promises and shadows, yet in God's economy those regenerate were, even then, united to Christ, part of the same body and saved by the same blood ... the blood which the signposts of the temple sacrifices pointed to.

    The Text of Scripture is not Israelocentric but Christocentric. Jesus himself bore witness to this: "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me." (John 5:39) Jesus was speaking these words to people prior to his resurrection.

    Shalom
    John

    John,

    Are you trying to tell me that a man can be regenerated apart from receiving eternal life?’
    The essential element of regeneration is life, not ‘some other blessing that springs from the work of Jesus Christ’.

    Jesus told us about 2 births. The life given in the first birth is in our flesh. The life given to us in the second birth is eternal, and it is given to us by the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ. The Biblical evidence is overwhelming. “Christ is our LIFE” (Col. 3:4). Only those who have the Son have the LIFE, he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1John 5:12). Paul stated, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ LIVES in me” (Gal. 2:20). Paul was crucified with Christ to put to death the body of Paul’s flesh (Rom. 6:6). Buried with Christ Paul received a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ (Col. 2:11). A death in conjunction with Christ always precedes being made alive in conjunction with Christ. Paul is regenerated when he is made alive with Christ, and he is saved (Eph. 2:5).

    Jesus tells us another very important fact about the births. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” But, as Jesus Christ baptizes a man into His body (1Cor. 12:13), he baptizes the man into His death (Rom. 6:3), and the man’s flesh is crucified with Christ, and circumcised by Christ, and removed by Christ.) Then, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Paul declares, “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, IF INDEED THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS IN YOU.” (Rom. 8:9). We are not in the Spirit if the Spirit of God does not dwell in us. In fact Paul explicitly states that if a man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:10). For extra good measure Paul adds, “If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin.” Did you note what died? The Body is dead because of the sin which lived in it. (God sent His Son to condemn sin in the flesh— Jesus gave it a death sentence Rom. 8:3. The death sentence is carried out as a man is brought in to Christ.) There is a death in the flesh before Jesus gives us His life. Note the completion of this verse, “IF CHRIST IS IN YOU, the body is dead because of sin, and THE SPIRIT IS LIFE because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10).

    Christ is our life (Col. 3:4)
    Those who have the Son have the life (1John 5:12)
    The Spirit is life (Rom. 8:10)

    Those who do not have the Son do not have the life (1John 5:12)
    If a man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

    If you do not accept that Christ is our gift of eternal life given in regeneration, then you need to supply me with the Scripture that you use to teach about a 3rd kind of life.

    You seem to want to correlate regeneration to ‘the blessing of spiritual circumcision’ (paragraph 3). It seems like Reformed proponents like lifting a phrase up out of its context, and then giving the phrase a “Reformed interpretation” while ignoring the context. I don’t suppose you were referring to the circumcision where God calls the people to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart and be no more stiff necked” (Deut. 10:16). Is God calling the people to regenerate themselves? I suppose you were really referring to the passage where Moses tells the people, “…the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul” (Deut. 30:6). Is that the spiritual circumcision you referred to in Deuteronomy? Is that what you equate to regeneration? Have you looked at the context of this passage? Beginning in Deut 3:1, Moses is giving a very specific time: When all of these things have come upon you (see previous chapter)…then the Lord will restore you from captivity…and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you…God will gather you…God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed...and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. (now the verse) Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, IN ORDER THAT YOU MAY LIVE.” (Duet. 30:1-6). Did you see that the circumcision of the heart doesn’t give the life. It is not the regeneration. The circumcision precedes the giving of life. God circumcising a heart does not equal regeneration.

    In a kind way I want to ask, “Do you really stop to think about what you repeat from others?” You stated, “Regeneration does not precede faith in a temporal sense. It precedes faith causally.” Reformed Doctrine teaches that there is no spiritual perception before regeneration, no ears to hear a spiritual message, a lack of understanding of spiritual things, and before a new heart is given there is no desire for spiritual things. And unless the will is freed there is no freedom to respond. Now, you might like to say that regeneration and faith are simultaneous. But I would like to know when does the person perceive the truth of the gospel? How much of the gospel does he have to hear with his new spiritual ears? Using his new spiritual understanding, how much of the gospel does he have to understand before he has enough information to volitionally choose to trust in Christ? Wayne Grudem states, “Anyone who comes to Christ for salvation must have at least a basic understanding of who Christ is and how he meets our needs for salvation. Therefore an explanation of the facts concerning salvation must include the following: 1)All have sinned. 2) the penalty for sin is death. 3) Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins.” (Grudem’s Systematic Theology, pg. 694). Are you truly wanting me to believe that a person is getting a new nature, a new heart, his will freed, new eyes and ears and a gift of faith at the exact instant the man is exercising faith, even though there has been no time to hear or come to an understanding of the truth of the gospel? Why, even if faith were the gift, then the giving of faith would precede the exercise of that faith temporally.

    I like the Scripture’s explanation better: Some sow, and some water. And in time someone altogether different may be involved in bringing forth the harvest. And when the person has come to an understanding of the facts of the gospel, his need, and how Jesus Christ meets those needs, and when he chooses to call upon the name of the Lord to
    be saved, then in that instant he is saved by regeneration.

    Again I would ask, Cornelius, was he regenerated before he did the things which pleased God prior to the angel’s visit? Or was he regenerated after Peter preached words to him whereby he would be saved?


    Your sister in Christ,
    Melani

    Melani

    It seems that you have somehow wrongly deduced my position to believe that a person can be regenerate and not understand the gospel or that a person could be regenerate and not have eternal life, or that a person can be regenerate and not believe. You are wrong on all accounts - no one here has ever believed this or anything remotely similar. I would encourage you to spend you time more wisely on discussing what people actually believe.

    Eternal life is given at the same time as regeneration. They cannot be separated as heat cannot be separated from fire. Regeneration and justification are distinct but not separate. We cast the seed of the gospel indiscriminately to gospel hearers and the Spirit germinates it in whom He will, according to his sovereign good pleasure. Let me be as plain as possible. Regeneration does not occur apart from the hearing of the gospel. "... you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." 1 Peter 1:23

    A person can understand the gospel intellectually prior to being regenerate. But regeneration opens his heart in such as way that he now can sees the beauty, truth and excellency of Christ in the gospel for the first time.

    John 6:63 & 65 Jesus teaches that the Spirit regenerates, but the flesh counts for nothing ... and that is why no one can come to Jesus unless God grants it." In plain words Jesus here teaches that no one will come to Christ unless God grants it through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. i.e. regeneration has causal priority to faith.

    Hope this helps. I wish I had more time, but I am quite busy, so may not be able to spend more time dialoging about this.

    Solus Christus
    John

    John,

    Those are some great concessions. Now do you also agree that Jesus comes to dwell in us to give us eternal life, and those who do not have the Son do not have the life? Do you agree that regeneration the work of God to save us—when Jesus Christ comes to live in us, giving us eternal life, then we are saved?


    You stated that a person can understand the gospel intellectually prior to being regenerate. (Perhaps your “spiritually dead man” isn’t quite so dead after all this was a smiley face)


    However, the Reformed description of the spiritually dead man does not allow for hearing or for understanding anything spiritual. This is a partial description of the “spiritually dead”:

    INABILITY TO HEAR
    “His ear is deaf to any word from heaven; his eye is blinded to the glory from on high. He lives as a walking cadaver in a spiritual graveyard…” (R. C. Sproul, “The New Genesis” - http://www.the-highway.com/genesis_Sproul.html)

    That is why the spiritually dead man needs to be given new ears to hear. The new ears are given before the ability to hear is present)

    INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND
    “By contrast Paul tells us,’The man without the Spirit (literally, the “natural man”) does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THEM, BECAUSE THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED” (1Cor. 2:14) He also says of people apart from Christ, “NO ONE UNDERSTANDS…’” (Rom. 3:11) (Wayne Grudem, “Systematic Theology” page 703)

    “He is INCAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING much less doing the things of God” (Loraine Boettner, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” pg. 67).


    Do you reject the use of these verses (1Cor. 2:14; Rom. 3:11) to describe the “spiritually dead”? These verses are commonly used to describe the “spiritually dead” in Reformed writings.


    In part, don’t Reformed proponents teach that the unregenerate need…
    …to be given new ears BEFORE he can hear?
    …to be given a new nature BEFORE he can understand?
    …to be given the new heart BEFORE he will have the desire for spiritual things?
    …to have the will freed BEFORE he can activate that will to choose spiritual things?
    …to be given the gift of faith BEFORE he can exercise that faith?


    If you were to divide an instant into one thousand bits, then a person must be given the new ears and a new nature both causally and temporally in one micro-instant before the individual has an ability to even hear or understand. What he is first given by God, he must then exercise. The Counter-Remonstrance states men are regenerated and renewed IN ORDER TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST AND CONVERT THEMSELVES TO GOD” (see point 6). The Canons of Dort states, “God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will consent to the terms of salvation, and actually believe in Christ…” (Canons of Dort Section III & IV, Article 14). Wayne Grudem concurs nearly 500 years later. “This new birth is viewed by Scripture as something that God does within us in order to enable us to believe” (Grudem, pg. 703). And then on page 712 he states, “I must make a decision of my will to depend on or put my trust in Christ as my Savior”. Now, there could be no decision of the will to trust Christ until that will had been set free in regeneration, and then after the decision of the will comes the actual acting of placing faith in Christ. The fact that the enabling work of God must be temporally before the work of man was recognized by John Piper, who also makes this quite clear. “And so when we hear the gospel we will never respond positively unless God performs the miracle of regeneration. Repentance and faith are our work, but we will not repent and believe unless God does his work to overcome our hard and rebellious hearts. This divine work is called regeneration. Our work is called conversion.” (John Piper, “Desiring God”, pg. 49).


    However you are making the case that both regeneration and faith happen in the same micro-instant. This view makes it difficult to understand when a person actually “hears” and “understands” the gospel, let alone have the time to process thoughts of deciding to put ones trust in God, and then taking the action to do it. This view also requires 3 elements which all must occur at the very same micro-instant. The gospel must be in the process of being preached (the gospel call), regeneration, and conversion. However, not everybody puts their trust in Christ when the gospel is preached. The Bereans heard the gospel preached and they were considered more noble because they searched the Scriptures daily to see whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed” (Acts 17:11,12). My husband sat up all night on a pier, wrestling with God, after hearing the gospel preached. He gave into the claims of the gospel, and submitted his life to Christ in prayer as the sun came up, calling on the name of the Lord to be saved. There was no preacher present. Do you remember Gregg Harris? In his testimony he heard the gospel preached on the beach. It was some hours later that he locked himself in a bathroom where he prayed to receive Christ. There was no preacher of the gospel present. I would be willing to wager that there are many testimonies of people who come to Christ at a time where no gospel is being preached.


    What would you say happens in those instances? Were they regenerated much earlier during the gospel presentation, but there was some delay before they put their faith God? Are there times when a person receives eternal life in regeneration well before they exercise their gift of faith and place their trust in Christ?


    Are people given the gift of eternal life to enable them to believe?
    The Bible, the Canons of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Wayne Grudem all specifically place faith prior to receiving the gift of eternal life. (Quotes abound if you need them.) This poses no conflict for them, because they have not come to understand that eternal life is the life given in regeneration. Rather they see a distinction between the life given in regeneration and eternal life, calling it “new spiritual life”, a “life principle”, or some such thing.


    Regarding your continued reference to John 6. Please do not neglect the context.

    “And this is the will of him that sent Me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him may have everlasting life and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:43) Jesus said that he is the bread of God who gives LIFE to the world (6:33). I am the bread of LIFE (6:48). If anyone eats of this bread, he SHALL LIVE forever; and the bread which I give for the life of the world is my flesh” (6:51). “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood, you have NO LIFE in yourselves” (6:53) He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day (6:54). As the Living Father sent Me, and I LIVE BECAUSE OF THE FATHER, so he who eats Me, he also SHALL LIVE because of Me.” (6:57).

    Where is Jesus when he raises up people on the Last Day (which he states several times)? How are men going to go to the place where Jesus is? On their own power? No, the Father will draw them. (It might look similar to Jesus ascending to the Father.)

    Melani,

    You said "How are men going to go to the place where Jesus is? On their own power? No, the Father will draw them." Correct and further in verse 37 it explicitly declares that all whom God draws to Christ will believe in Him - without exception. "All" is a universal positive. "All that the Father gives me WILL COME TO ME". This demonstrates beyond question that the grace which saves a man is efficacious. Jesus leaves no room for your synergism here. Not just my theology. Jesus plain unambiguous words.

    You said, "You stated that a person can understand the gospel intellectually prior to being regenerate. (Perhaps your “spiritually dead man” isn’t quite so dead after all this was a smiley face)"

    On the contrary, there are two conditions of post-fall/pre-glorified man in the Scripture: Spiritual and Carnal. Spiritually dead, by definition, means that he is dead to SPIRITUAL things but ALIVE to carnal things. In other words, his understanding of the words of Christ in the Bible is one of enmity... he hates them. He is not dead to the world, but dead to Spiritual things ... hostile to them when he reads them. Unable to understand or see the beauty and excellency and truth of what is written in the gospels. Man sees what the words say... but his heart does not understand the truth in them. He only sees it as folly. As Jesus himself says, such a person loves darkness and hates the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20). When he saves us he opens our understanding by disarming our hostilities toward Christ and the gospel.

    Concessions? Hardly. If you review all of the writings on Monergism.com these ideas are consistently and frequently proclaimed. Nothing novel here.

    You said, "However, the Reformed description of the spiritually dead man does not allow for hearing or for understanding anything spiritual."

    Melani, your flippant caricatures are grossly inaccurate. No Reformed believer affirms anything close to the picture you are attempting to paint of them. Your declarations are filled with straw men and half-truths. I suppose, for synergists the only way you can defeat their opponent's views is by misrepresenting them to their people. If you love your brothers in Christ then I would encourage you to stop misrepresenting their (and my) position.

    A non-believer has plenty of time while unregenerate to process the hearing of the gospel. The gospel seed has been cast into his heart and he can ruminate on it for month or years, but the hostility toward this truth remains and troubles him unless God is merciful to him turns his heart of stone to a heart of flesh so he will hear and embrace the things spoken to him. The Lord opened a person's heart to pay attention to what is said in the gospel. (Acts 16:14)

    It is not a thing that belongs to natural reason, to see the beauty and loveliness of spiritual things.

    The unbeliever's opposition to spiritual truth is moral, for the Bible declares that even the Atheist knows God (Rom 1:21), but suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). He knows it all too well, but opposes it in his heart. In other words, he does not understand it as truth but as falsehood. Which demonstrates that he does not understand spiritual TRUTH. Again, man's opposition to God and lack of understanding is moral as John 3:19, 20 demonstrates. Believers through the ages have always affirmed this.

    Lastly, we all know and understand that one must believe the gospel to have eternal life. The real question, it seems, that you need to wrestle with are the countless texts of Scripture which also demonstrate that moral capacity to believe the gospel itself requires a prior work of grace in the soul of fallen man as well. Yes, unless someone believes hey don't have eternal life, but likewise unless God does an effectual work of grace in the soul, no one believes. And as the Scripture I have provided (ex John 6:63-65 & 37) demonstrates, this work of grace infallibly brings that sinner to Christ. God's love is not conditional for those he has set his affection on. He gets the job done. What parent would require his child to meet a condition first if he wanted the parents' help when his life was in imminent danger? If a child were to be run over by a car would a good parent simply stand at the sidelines telling the child to use his will to get out of the way. Or would thhe parent run out into the street to make certain his child was safe, regardless of what the child wanted at time. Like human parents, God knows better what is good for us?

    But you seem pretty set in your ways regardless of what the Bible has to say ... so I suggest that we end the conversation here. I believe there is little value in continuing the back and forth.

    Thank you and may the Lord richly bless you as you continue on life's journey.

    This post is closed.