Below is a portion of a March 21-22, 2013 John 3:16 Conference presentation.
Read the Baptist Press article about the conference here: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=39992
A free e-book containing the 2013 John 3:16 Conference presentations is scheduled to be released at SBC Today on May 30, 2013.
Does Regeneration Precede Faith?
David L. Allen, Ph.D.
Most Calvinists believe that regeneration precedes faith. Consider the following statements:
“A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved.”
“A man is not regenerated because he has first believed in Christ, but he believes in Christ because he has been regenerated.”
“We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again that we may believe.”
“Faith is the evidence of the new birth, not the cause of it.”
“. . . regeneration is the necessary precondition and efficient cause of faith in Jesus Christ.”
“the revived [regenerated] heart repents and trusts Christ in saving faith as the only source of justification.”
Why do most Calvinists believe regeneration precedes faith? There are two reasons. First, most Calvinists define total depravity to mean total inability in the sense that a person cannot exercise faith unless regenerated. Second, appeal is made to key Scripture passages such as John 1:12-13; 3:1-16; Eph. 2:1-10; and 1 John 5:1. We shall consider these reasons in a moment.
Does Regeneration Precede Faith?
*As this is a summary of Dr. Allen’s manuscript, some footnotes that would normally appear may have been omitted.
“Most Calvinists believe that regeneration precedes faith,” said David Allen at the March 21-22 John 3.16 Conference held at North Metro First Baptist Church outside Atlanta, Ga.
Allen cited Boettner, Pink, Sproul and Piper to support his statement, but he later cited other Calvinists who hold a different position, or are ambivalent on the issue – even Calvin himself in his commentary on Eph. 2.
Many Calvinists base their view of regeneration preceding faith on their view of total depravity as equivalent to total inability and on interpretations of verses including John 1:12-13; 3:1-16; Eph. 2:1-10, e.g.
“The phrase ‘regeneration precedes faith’ is fraught with ambiguity,” Allen said, asking “what is meant by the words regeneration, faith, and precede, and whether precede means to precede logically or temporally.”
“This is currently the burning question in Southern Baptist life: ‘For whose sins did Jesus die?’”
Dr. Jerry Vines — organizer of the John 3.16 Conference held at North Metro First Baptist Church March 21-22 – was the conference’s initial plenary speaker.
“I want to attempt to answer the question biblically.… I want to know — what does the Bible say? To be sure I am interested in what Christian history has to say. I want to know what theologians have to say. But, ultimately, what does our inerrant Bible say? For Bible believing people, this will settle the matter. Jesus said, ‘Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.’(John 5:39).”
Vines said the question was “no small, minor, or secondary question,” and noted it is answered in two prominent ways: 1) Jesus died for the sins of the elect only (limited atonement or particular redemption); or, 2) Jesus died for the sins of all humanity (universal atonement).
“The correct answer to this question is crucial,” Vines said. “The answer impacts missions and evangelism, our church life, our preaching and how we live our life.”
Salvation in the eyes of the local church
Dr. Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell College — addressed issues surrounding varying understandings of salvation within SBC churches, particularly in the discussion of Calvinism. He stated that the understanding of salvation impacts the local church and its effectiveness in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Because of the many differences that create what Caner referred to as “quiet revolutions” in churches today, it is necessary for the leaders of these churches to be clear about their theological beliefs. This prevents theological confusion in the congregation and solidifies the church’s ability to accomplish its purpose.
Caner stated four areas of theological transparency for the church: biblical exposition or hermeneutics, theological issues, church polity or ecclesiology, and evangelism/discipleship. Within these categories he cited theologians, gave general definitions, and prescribed questions to be asked by pastoral search committees of their candidates.
In the weeks preceding this year’s John 3.16 Conference (see ad to right), SBCToday will post interviews with each person scheduled to speak at the Conference. The following interview is with Dr. Steve Gaines — pastor of the famed Bellevue Baptist Church outside of Memphis, Tenn., — who succeeded Dr. Adrian Rogers in 2005. To learn more about Dr. Gaines and Bellevue, go to www.bellevue.org.
1. How has the invitation to speak at the conference impacted you?
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at the conference. Regardless of where a person lines up concerning Calvinism, we should all seek to be biblical in our convictions. I am hopeful that the popular inclination on the part of some within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to recoil from the concept of praying a “sinner’s prayer” can be alleviated as we analyze and understand what Scriptures say about: 1) God’s desire to transform the sinful heart of man, 2) God’s desire to indwell our bodies with the Holy Spirit, and 3) man’s need to repent of sin, believe in Jesus, and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior by calling on His name in prayer.