Dr. David L. Allen, 2013 John 3:16 Presentation, Part 1/3

May 15, 2013

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.

 

Introduction

            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.”[1]

“A man is not regenerated because he has first believed in Christ, but he believes in Christ because he has been regenerated.”[2]

“We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again that we may believe.”[3]

“Faith is the evidence of the new birth, not the cause of it.”[4]

“. . . regeneration is the necessary precondition and efficient cause of faith in Jesus Christ.”[5]

“the revived [regenerated] heart repents and trusts Christ in saving faith as the only source of justification.”[6]

Some Calvinists believe that regeneration can occur in infancy and remain inactive until faith years later.[7] Other Calvinists reject the notion that regeneration precedes faith.[8]

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.

The phrase “regeneration precedes faith” is fraught with ambiguity. What does one mean by “regeneration”? What does one mean by “faith”? What does one mean by “precede” (logically or temporally)? Are we talking about mediate regeneration (by means of the Word of God) or immediate regeneration (no use of means, but the Holy Spirit acts directly and immediately on the person to effect regeneration)? Part of the confusion over this issue is a failure to carefully define terms and draw careful distinctions.

 

Key Distinctions Concerning Regeneration and Faith

Most Calvinists say there are three things that must be distinguished when it comes to the issue of regeneration preceding faith. The first distinction is between temporal and logical order. A majority of Calvinists argue that temporally, regeneration and conversion are simultaneous events. But they often see a necessary logical order. For example, Sproul says:

“. . . when Reformed theology says regeneration precedes faith, it is speaking in terms of logical priority, not temporal priority. We cannot exercise saving faith until we have been regenerated, so we say faith is dependent on regeneration, not regeneration on faith.”[9]

John MacArthur states: “From the standpoint of reason, regeneration logically must initiate faith and repentance. But the saving transaction is a single, instantaneous event.”[10] I agree with the later part of this statement, but why must the former be the case? Notice MacArthur’s use of the terms “reason” and “logically.”

Concerning the phrase “when we were dead” in Eph 2:5, Sproul remarks: “Dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.”[11] But this only adds to the confusion. How can an effect be logically prior to its cause? How can an effect be temporally simultaneous with its cause? It would appear Sproul’s use of the word “first” indicates temporal priority. What sense does it make to say that something is “logically” prior but not “temporally” prior? Sproul is assuming his definition of what it means to be “dead.” Wayne Grudem stated: “Yet there are several passages that tell us that this secret, hidden work of God in our spirits does in fact come before we respond to God in saving faith (though often it may be only seconds before we respond).”[12] If regeneration occurs “seconds before we respond in saving faith,” then there is both a logical and a temporal precedence for regeneration. Notice the contradiction between what MacArthur says and what Grudem says about the temporal aspects: things cannot be “instantaneous” and yet be separated even by “only seconds.”

A second distinction made by most Calvinists is between regeneration and conversion. Some suggest conversion follows regeneration. Salvation is by faith, but not regeneration, according to some Calvinists. Others argue that regeneration and conversion occur simultaneously, but causally regeneration is “prior” to conversion. For the Calvinist, one can only respond in repentance and faith after God has given new life. But again, it makes no sense to speak of a logical priority if one can only speak of faith as occurring after God gives new life.

For example, Hoekema states: “When Nicodemus and the jailer believed the gospel message, they came to realize that God had given them new life in regeneration. They became aware of their regeneration through its results.”[13] But at this point one must ask how this is not both temporal as well as causal? Hoekema attempts to explain the problem by using an illustration of a water faucet. The turning of the faucet handle immediately releases the flow of water. The two events are simultaneous but the turning of the handle was causally prior to the flow of water. But imagine for a moment that we have a see-through glass faucet. Can the water get past that internal mechanism which releases the water without the knob being turned? If the water cannot run first or simultaneously, then there is an actual chronology to the event and not just a logical order. As we will see below, salvation and regeneration appear to be inseparable in Scripture.

Millard Erickson pointed out how Calvinist John Murray, who strongly affirms regeneration precedes faith, appears to entangle himself in contradiction when he stated: “The faith of which we are now speaking is not the belief that we have been saved, but trust in Christ in order that we may be saved.”[14] If “trust in Christ” is necessary “in order that” one may be saved, how can it not be a logical necessity, if not also a temporal necessity? Salvation by faith cannot be reduced to mean only “justification by faith” because biblically salvation by faith entails more than justification.

Moderate Calvinist Bruce Demarest feels this pinch when he said:

Faith does not appear to be an effect of regeneration. Clear biblical texts suggest that the act of faith logically precedes regeneration. John 1:12-13 – receiving Christ in faith results in the new birth. John 7:37-39 – faith precedes the gift of the Spirit in regenerating power. 1 John 5:1. The notion that God regenerates prior to the sinner’s response of penitent faith (chronologically or logically) appears to be biblically unwarranted.[15]

A third distinction made by most Calvinists is that of initial regeneration and final or complete regeneration. In early Reformed theology, regeneration was viewed in a wider sense than it is often viewed by Calvinists today. Calvin himself used the term “regeneration” to describe one’s total renewal, including conversion. Thus for Calvin, there is no distinction between regeneration and conversion. Later Reformed theologians began to distinguish between regeneration in a narrower sense and a broader sense. When they do this, there is usually no Scriptural evidence cited for this distinction. Where is the Scriptural justification for this distinction?[16]

Those who affirm such a distinction expand the definition of regeneration to include any work of God in the sinner’s life before he believes the gospel. In initial regeneration, humans are totally passive. This would be “initial” regeneration.[17] Complete regeneration is said to occur at conversion where the first evidences of the implanted new life appears. But where is the Scriptural evidence for this distinction? This is an assertion Calvinists make based on theological deduction rather than Scripture.

Most Calvinists seem to argue that regeneration in the narrow, initial sense is brought about by the immediate act of the Holy Spirit, but regeneration in the broad sense is brought about mediately by the Word of God. By the “immediate” act of the Holy Spirit is meant the notion that God acts monergistically to bring about the new birth and hence man’s faith cannot enter into the picture at this point.

It might be helpful to note the differing interpretations of the relationship between regeneration and effectual calling among Calvinists themselves. Here there are three distinct views. Some, such as Berkhof, distinguish the two and place calling after regeneration.[18] Others, such as John Murray, distinguish the two and place calling before regeneration.[19] Still others, like Hoekema, combine the two as one.[20] This illustrates once again the fact that Calvinism as a system is not monolithic and the fact that the Scripture cannot be sifted and shaken to yield a clear ordo salutis.

Demarest demarcates two broad approaches to the subject of regeneration among the Reformed. He speaks of “Presumptive and Promissory Regeneration” as advocated by those in Covenant Reformed theology and “Regeneration a Work of God in Response to Faith” as advocated by those he calls “Reformed Evangelicals.” In the system of Covenant Reformed theology, infants of believing parents are baptized not to become regenerated but because in some important sense they already posses the seeds of faith and regeneration. Baptism is a sign of the promise the covenantal grace God is working in the elect, including infants. Virtually all reformed covenant theologians affirm the logical priority of regeneration preceding faith.[21]

There is more diversity on the issue among Reformed Evangelicals. Some view regeneration as logically prior to conversion while others place conversion as logically prior to regeneration. For example, A. H. Strong understood regeneration and conversion to be chronologically simultaneous, but logically, regeneration precedes conversion.[22] Millard Erickson views faith as preceding regeneration. According to him, temporally, conversion and regeneration occur simultaneously. Logically, faith is the condition of regeneration.[23] This is also Demarest’s view:

In order to safeguard the truth that holistically depraved sinners come to Christ only by the divine initiative, many Reformed theologians place regeneration before conversion in the ordo salutis. The preceding Scripture texts indicate that effectual calling is conceptually distinct from regeneration. The power that brings sinners to Christ inheres in the Spirits effectual call rather than in the new birth itself. That is, the Spirit’s effectual call is a movement preliminary to regeneration; it stops short of effecting in believers a radical re-creation, whereby the latter participate in the divine nature. Logically speaking, the called according to God’s purpose convert, and so are regenerated. Not only is this position biblical, but we avoid the difficulty of positing, logically at least, that regeneration precedes personal belief in the Gospel, repentance from sin, and wholehearted trust in Christ.”[24]

From a Southern Baptist perspective, it is interesting to note that the Baptist Faith and Message treats regeneration neither as prior to or subsequent from conversion. Rather, it treats regeneration and conversion as concomitant realities of the beginning of salvation. Separating the broad biblical concept of salvation into the four categories of regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification, article IV treats regeneration and conversion as part of one event. Regeneration is “a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” What is the antecedent of “which”? Most likely it is “conviction of sin,” the nearest phrase. Regeneration does not precede conversion and vice versa.

The Scripture itself does not set forth a clear ordo salutis (“order of salvation”) with respect to all of the terms that are used to describe salvation. Thus, speculating an ordo salutis is always problematic and should be avoided. The first generation of reformers refused to speculate in this area and even warned about such speculation. Later generations of the Reformed showed a willingness to seek, in the name of systematic theology, to pull back the curtain on that which God has not chosen to reveal in Scripture. As Malcolm Yarnell once said to me, “If one deigns to speak of a logical order from eternity apart from divine revelation, then one speaks with both ignorance and arrogance.”

David L. Allen
Dean, School of Theology and Professor of Preaching
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas


                  [1]Lorainne Boettner, Predestination (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1936), 101.

                  [2]Arthur W. Pink, The Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), 55.

                  [3]R. C. Sproul, Chosen By God (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1986), 73.

                  [4]John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 63.

                  [5]Robert Reymond, New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 708.

                  [6]ESV Study Bible, 2531.

                  [7]See, for example, J. P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Louisville, KY: Charles Dearing, 1882), 381; and with reference to Abraham Kuyper, see E. Smilde, Een Euew van Strijd over Verbond en Doop (Kampen: Kok, 1946), 105-06.

                  [8]See, for example, Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway); 264-65; and Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 944-59.

            [9]R. C. Sproul, What is Reformed Theology: Understanding the Basics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 195.

                  [10]John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 255.

                  [11]R. C. Sproul, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1994), 105.

                  [12]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 702.

                  [13]Anthony Hoekema, Saved By Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 111.

                  [14]John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 136. See M. Erickson, Christian Theology, 945.

                  [15]Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 264-65.

                  [16]Grudem informs us that there are “several” passages that indicate regeneration precedes saving faith, but only lists John 3:5 (a passage we will address below). He then proceeds to list other passages to support the notion that “our inability to come to Christ on our own, without an initial work of God within us. . . ,” is not possible, a point all non-Calvinists agree with. But these verses he cites don’t teach that regeneration precedes faith. That is Grudem’s deduction. See Grudem, Systematic Theology, 702.

                  [17]See L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), 465-69; and Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 93-94.

                  [18]Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 470-72.

                  [19]John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 104; 119-20.

                  [20]Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 106.

                  [21]Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 285-87; 289-91.

                  [22]A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1889), 793.

                  [23]Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 944-47.

                  [24]Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 227.

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Steven R. Owensby

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for your blog which helps to elucidate the many streams of thinking which flow in reformed circles, of which I am a partial.

I do want to ask, however, in article IV of the BF&M if we have not created our own Baptist ordo saludis. The first category, regeneration appears logically and temporally prior to the other three. Further, though we do not seperate conversion and faith into independant categories, we have stated that regeneration is a work in which God the Spirit’s activity to save logically and temporally precedes man’s response in repentance and faith. For Baptists then, these two activities in and through a man constitute regeneration: the monegistic activity of God to bring us to respond in faith. Baptist could not affirm a regeneration that did not produce some sort of concious human response since we do not affirm the legitimacy of infant baptism for this very reason. An infant cannot choose to be baptized, or exercise his faith as a member of a local church. Baptists must understand regeneration in this manner to maintain believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership.

Have I correctly understood what I read? If so, then it seems that we have fallen into the same “error” of the reformed thinkers when we seek to put into an order with our Baptist words what God has revealed. I appreciate your feedback and thoughts: Prov. 27:17.

Letting the Shepherd Lead,
Steven R. Owensby

Ron F. Hale

Thank you Dr. Allen for your scholarship in this needed area! I look forward to your other articles. Blessings!

David R. Brumbelow

Dr. Allen,
Great, needed article. Thanks.

So, if I understand it right:
A lost sinner, from his heart, prays the Sinner’s Prayer and he gets saved.

It’s not so hard to understand after all!

Seems like Paul and Silas understood it as well in Acts 16:31.
David R. Brumbelow

volfan007

I agree with Ron Hale, Dr. Allen. Good stuff.

David

volfan007

Amen, David B.

David W.

Max

“If one deigns to speak of a logical order from eternity apart from divine revelation, then one speaks with both ignorance and arrogance.”

And everybody said AMEN (or should). Yep, looks like we have an outbreak of intellectual ignorance in SBC ranks these days, with a hefty dose of arrogance to go with it. A stark reminder that education does not produce one ounce of revelation! Truth needs the Spirit of Truth to come alongside it for it to become Revealed Truth. Unfortunately, the intellect of men appears to be trumping the presence of the Holy Spirit in our ranks. We need the Holy Spirit to lead us to truth, but He appears to be keeping His distance while men try to figure it out.

At the foundation of this debate is a battle for the mind … the minds of the next generation of SBC pastors … a battle we appear to be losing. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? But God …

Thank you Dr. Allen for your contributions to this discussion.

    pastorsro

    Brother Max,

    To whom are you referring? Such charges certainly seem to deem substantiation. Call a wolf a wolf if he be a wolf (Acts 20). To not do so is to neglect the shepherding of God’s flock. Even this can be done with grace.

    For any person caught in some transgression, we should lovingly seek to restore him even in public (since this is a public forum). Galatians 6:1 commands those who are spiritual to engage one another for the sake of restoration and unity. Also as we take this task we should do so with care since we too may be tempted with foolish controversies and quarelsomeness instead of gentle correction. (2Timothy 2:22-26)

    Perhaps the Spirit of Truth keeps his distance because so many refuse to lovingly and biblically engage in a battle for the hearts and minds of others. How will they hear the Spirit call without a preacher? (Romans 10:14-17)

    Letting the Shepherd Lead,
    Steven R. Owensby

      Max

      “To whom are you referring?”

      To those referred to in Dr. Yarnell’s quote who “speak of a logical order from eternity apart from divine revelation.” Perhaps you don’t have any of those folks where you live, but they are spreading like wildfire over my way.

Stephen R. Jones

Thank you, Dr. Allen. Great teaching. And another “amen” to David B.

    Stephen R. Jones

    And amen to the Malcolm Yarnell quote.

Jim P

Great article.

I’d like this to consider: it is not what man believes or doesn’t that is the source of the problem in is man’s will.

Instead of God giving faith, God overcomes man’s will to the point he will believe. An Example is Paul the persecutor of the faith becomes Paul the champion of the faith.

    pastorsro

    Brother Jim,

    I think you have a good point, but the language in which you phrased it confused me a bit. I’m sure you did not mean to make it seem that Eph. 2:8 was in error since it refers to faith being a gift of God.

    That being said, consider the conversion of Lydia in Acts 16:14. Luke records for us that The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul said. Her beliefs do change, but her willingness to hear occurs both logically and temporally first. We recognize that paying attention to Paul’s words engages her mind, however The Lord through the Holy Spirit must covince her heart to hear and heed the gospel call. Does this accurately reflect your point? God Bless!

    Letting the Shepherd Lead,
    Steven R. Owensby

      Jim P

      Hello Steven,

      Thanks for the response. Your post reflects the dilemma the article is trying to address.

      If you would look at Eph. 2:8 again and see if not salvation is the gift it if referencing and see it from that perspective and why that does not make good sense. That is what I’ve come to understand.

      Regarding Lydia, to pay attention or ‘to be opened’ is not giving faith. It seem more parallel with the ‘will’ understanding again.

      I find it too contrary to believe God condemns people for not believing when it is in His power to give them faith while the entire time commanding all to believe.

      Thank for your note,
      Jim Poulos
      Reply

        pastorsro

        Brother Jim,

        I am familiar with the problem in our English translations of Ephesians 2:8. Prounoun and antecedant agreement always provides a challenge so the general rule is to always go back to last noun in Greek with the same case, gender, and number.

        In this passage neither grace, nor salvation, nor faith have the same grammatical gender as the pronoun that. Grace and faith have a differnt grammatical case than the pronoun. I agree with you that the greek participle salvation happens to be the best candidate for the antecedant. With that said, I also want to make it clear that the Greek here does no allow for us to consider salvation without the modifying prepositional nouns. This is a special kind of salvation, “by grace, through faith”.In essence we must understand the sentence to read “your salvation-by-grace-through-faith is the gift of God.” Please forgive me for not expounding this clearly in my first comment.

        As to your second point, I did look back both at the text and my comment. I did not say that God gave to her faith in the opening of her heart. Lydia expressed faith once her mind was opened. This seems to be the correct biblical example for the BF&M’s statment about regeneration. The Holy Spirit works supernaturally to change our heart as He did with Lydia so that we pay attention to God’s gospel message and gospel truth. At that point the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin as he did with Lydia. Lydia expresses faith, but this faith is not in and of herself. It is a faithfulness to The Lord who has worked for her. Without knowing of The Lord into who should she believe? She even asks Paul if she has proved faithful in The Lord in verse 15.

        Proverbs 27:17! Thanks brother.

        Letting the Shepherd Lead,
        Steven R. Owensby

          Bob Hadley

          Stephen,

          This is a special kind of salvation, “by grace, through faith”.In essence we must understand the sentence to read “your salvation-by-grace-through-faith is the gift of God.”

          I have no problem with this statement however grace and faith are the means that make salvation the gift of God. The text does not dictate a faith is a gift of God as is salvation. This is reading more into the text than the text itself presents.

            pastorsro

            Brother Bob,

            Can we understand grace as a gift of God? If so, what prevents us from naming one means of salvation (by means of grace) as a gift of God apart from another means of salvation (through means of faith)? Linguistically the dative by grace modifies the periphrastic “are being saved” just as much as the prepositional phrase through faith. Proverbs 27:17! Thanks brother.

            Letting the Shepherd Lead,
            Steven R. Owensby

          Bob Hadley

          Stephen,

          Unfortunately this lone comment was the only one I could make yesterday. I tried several times to comment to this and to others to no avail.

          Dr. Allen answers your question in today’s article where he writes:

          Philosophically, a “principal” cause is an efficient cause which produces an effect by virtue of its own power. An “instrumental” cause is an efficient cause which produces an effect by virtue of the power of another cause.[17] When it comes to salvation in Eph 2:8-9, the Scripture indicates that grace is the principal cause and faith is the instrumental cause of salvation.

          Grace is therefore the principal cause and faith is the instrumental cause of salvation which is itself the gift of God.

Jim P

Hello Brother pasotorsro,

Thanks for the response. Your post reflects the dilemma the article is trying to address.

If you would look at Eph. 2:8 again and see if not salvation is the gift it if referencing and see it from that perspective and why that does not make good sense. That is what I’ve come to understand.

Regarding Lydia, to pay attention or ‘to be opened’ is not giving faith. It seem more parallel with the ‘will’ understanding again.

I find it too contrary to believe God condemns people for not believing when it is in His power to give them faith while the entire time commanding all to believe.

Thank for your note,
Jim Poulos

volfan007

Steve,

We all believe that the Holy Spirit has to work in the hearts of unBelievers to bring them to salvation. Non Calvinists in the SBC believe that the Holy Spirit has to convincew and convict and persuade the person to be saved…or, like Lydia…open her heart to the Gospel….but, that still doesnt mean Calvinism is taught in the conversion of Lydia…nor does the BFM2K mean that regeneration precedes faith.

David

    pastorsro

    Brother David,

    We all do believe as Baptist that the Holy Spirit works on the hearts of unbelievers to open them up to hear the gospel. Have we as Southern Baptist created a distinction without a real difference? We say the work of the Holy Spirit precedes faith. Then we go on to define regeneration differently. We say that Regeneration is the Holy Spirit’s work, and the response of man in repentance and faith. We finally say that repentance and faith are inseparable works of grace (presumably God’s grace). If this is true, then when we speak of the work of the Holy Spirit how do we do so differently than others who speak of the work of God in regeneration?

    Letting the Shepherd Lead,
    Steven R. Owensby

      Jim P

      Dear Steve,

      I appreciate your sincerity but start mixing it with some straight froward sense.

      Listen, up until the 17th Century, in general the world held to a Ptolemaic view of the solar system (sun centered). But there were so many inherent problems in it that people just simply couldn’t make it work no matter how hard they tried. Kepler comes a long and starts from scratch and uses a little common sense and says try it with the sun in the center. All of a sudden everything started to make sense, without a telescope to boot.

      The Calvinistic view of salvation is too convoluted it just doesn’t work no matter how hard one tries. It is becoming as archaic as Ptolemy’s model of the universe.

        Max

        Jim, I guess you also don’t believe in a flat earth?! Can you believe it – there is a Flat Earth Society whose members are highly intellectual folks with common sense deficit disorder. Some of the apologetics/eisegesis offered up by some in our ranks defy Biblical reasoning/exegesis and make me wonder if they would also support an earth-centered universe with a flat earth if they were so indoctrinated at certain of our SBC seminaries.

        As I mentioned in an earlier comment on this topic, the SBC is in a major battle to protect the minds of the next generation of Southern Baptist pastors, but we don’t recognize it for what it is – spiritual war! The gyrations these folks have to go through to make Scripture fit into a neat theological box should give us pause for great concern.

        Where the heck is SBC leadership on this? Agree to disagree to get along under one big tent with a BFM that allows theological wiggle room for everybody?! I’m sorry, but that doesn’t cut it when we are talking about God’s plan of salvation for ALL people on a spheroid earth in a sun-centered universe.

          Jim P

          “unless two agree how can they walk together.”

          Max, does that sum it up?

      Norm Miller

      Steven:

      Though your comment is directed to Dr. Allen, I would reply that no Traditionalist I know believes that man initiates the salvific experience. Thus, that rules out the charge Mohler insinuated toward Trads regarding semi-Pelagianism.

      I say that only to say this: Whereas we all agree the initiating work is all God, the divide comes immediately after that.

      Unless I misunderstand the Calvinists’ position, then, when God “taps you on your spiritual shoulder,” you will inexorably become a believer (and Trads would say without “choice.”)

      This Trad believes that, if God does get a sinner’s spiritual attention, then the sinner may or may not respond in a manner that leads to salvation.

      So, I suggest there is a distinction to be made, but only in what happens after the initiatory work of God, which Trads do not see as regeneration. Cals necessarily do see it as some sort of regeneration because many believe that being “dead in trespasses and sins” renders one completely unable to respond to God (total depravity).

      However, elsewhere on this blog, and also coming in part 2 of Dr. Allen’s post, is a list of verses compiled by Dr. Allen demonstrating that people who were (are) “dead in their trespasses and sins” can respond to God. They are not so totally depraved as to be totally unable to respond to God. This truth being biblically demonstrated, Trads believe that an invitation (God’s call) presupposes a response, and that response is the sinner’s to make.

      To recap: We do not differ on who does the initiating, but we do differ as to the outcome. For Cals, there can be only one outcome, salvation. For Trads also, there is but one outcome, but it is one of two, salvation or damnation. Therefore, I submit there is a distinction to be made.

      On another note, Steven, I deeply appreciate the tenor of your remarks. A very few Calvinists have entered this blog as pontifical know-it-alls. And even after being given a second chance here, they finally have been blacklisted because they seem unable to abandon their theological smuggery. And, admittedly, a few Trads also are blacklisted because they cannot seem to lay down their broad-brushing tactics. You, however, have set the example for all of us in that you have carefully and gently stated your position(s), and have done so gracefully.

      Thank you, Brother Steven. — Norm

        Max

        Good words Norm. You’ve reduced the recipe to its key ingredients: two choices, two outcomes. Should not all Southern Baptist pastors passionately preach the Gospel considering those two avenues (man’s responsibility) and destinies (God’s sovereignty)? Can two distinct soteriologies truly coexist in a single denomination?

          Norm Miller

          Thx, Max.

          I don’t know why they cannot co-exist, because God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are both drawn from the Bible, and therefore co-exist there, too. — Norm

            Max

            Agreed re: our part/His part. It’s the presentation of how they co-exist to a lost and dying world that is the primary underlying issue, I believe.

        Norm Miller

        Steven: Here is the list of verses Dr. Allen has gleaned that prove lost people have ability to respond to God.

        Dr. Allen writes:
        “According to the Bible, the unsaved who are spiritually dead have the ability to:
        Act in accordance with conscience (Gen. 3:7)
        Hear God (Gen. 3:10-13)
        Respond to God (Gen. 3:10-13)[10]
        Repent of sins (Luke 15:18-19)[11]
        Seek God (John 3)
        Fear God (Acts 10:2)
        Pray to God (Acts 10:2)[12]
        Had prayers and alms recognized by God (Acts 10:4, 31)
        Know the truth about God (Rom. 1:18-20)
        Perceive God’s invisible attributes (Rom. 1:18-20)”

        I think these verses give incontrovertible proof that people “dead in trespasses and sins” are not so totally depraved that they cannot respond to God. — Norm

          pastorsro

          Brother Norm,

          Responding to God’s initiative can be either positive or negative correct? Total depravity as I understand it does not negate man’s response but makes the point that man’s response does not meet God’s righteous standard without some outside influence. I understand the ouside influence to be the preaching and teaching of a God given and illuminated pattern of repentance and faith (Rom. 10:14-17).

          Without taking a great deal of time to write about each passage, from reading each one of these passages in context, I see nothing that changes my thinking about man’s ability to respond sinfully apart from the influence of a Holy God. Thanks.

          Letting the Shepherd Lead,
          Steven R. Owensby

            Norm Miller

            Thx for answering, Steven.

            Your statement: “Responding to God’s initiative can be either positive or negative correct?”

            That takes me by surprise. While you’re apparently restating my position, does the sentence reflect yours as well as all other Cals, at least generally?

            No question, rejecting Christ’s offer is a sinful, yea, damning response. Is that sinful rejection pre-ordained, or the exercise of what Ronnie Rogers calls “otherwise choice”?

            Also, do I understand that a sinful man who has been “regenerated” (in the way you posit) before exercising faith can then tell God, “No thanks”? — Norm

          pastorsro

          Brother,

          You stated “That takes me by surprise. While you’re apparently restating my position, does the sentence reflect yours as well as all other Cals, at least generally?”

          As I have said in other ways before, I am a particular Baptist not a baptistic Calvinist. While I lean towards a reformed position in my soteriology, I am a Baptist first and must think carefully before adopting any position. In any case I cannot speak for anyone else but myself.

          I understand all men to follow the pattern of faithlessness God decreed they would live in after the Fall. Basically this pattern suppresses the truth in order to disobey God. (Romans 1:18)They may be greater or lessor transgressors according to their own sinful desires (Romans 1:24-25).

          As to your second question, once a man’s mind has been truly illuminated by the Holy Spirit he cannot help but respond faithfully to that which has been revealed in Scripture. (1 Cor. 2) I believe this is the reason that the apostle Paul warns us not to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19) and why Romans 10:14-17 places such a priority on the preaching and teaching of God’s Word since this is the prime opportunity for the Spirit to illumine the Word irresistibly.

          Letting the Shepherd Lead,
          Steven R. Owensby

Don Johnson

Lydia already had faith in God, which is why Luke stated she worshiped God. Lydia like all the other OT saints was not yet born again. That happened after she heard and believed the Gospel as presented by Paul.

    pastorsro

    Brothers Don & David,

    I agree with you Don, that Lydia had faith in God generically. For us to say that her worship of God is that same as the faithfulness she expressed to The Lord afterward destroys the need for her to hear the gospel at all. Being like other OT saints would mean that mere faith in the promises of God to send a Savior would be enough to save. This does not seem to be the case since The Lord acts specifically to open her heart so that she could hear, believe and express faith. Also notice that Lydia does not speak anymore of her worship of God but faithfulness to The Lord.

    As for Cornelius, David the same principle rings true. Why would God act specifically to send two dreams, one to Cornelius and one to Peter, in order for Cornelius simply to hear the name of the one in whom he already believed? As good a question would be why God would not act specifically to allow others who believed as Cornelius to hear the same name? I do not this this point helps your case, but rather leans towards the universalism which destroys missions and the desire to preach the gospel.

    Letting the Shepherd Lead,
    Steven R. Owensby

      volfan007

      Steve,

      Cornelius and Lydia were OT Believers, who had not yet heard that Jesus was the Messiah that they were looking for. Dont forget that this was in a transition time….changing from the OT to the NT….changing from looking forward to the Messiah, who would come; to looking back to the Messiah, who did come and die for our sins. So, Cornelius and Lydia were OT Believers, who needed to put their faith in Jesus, and know that the Messiah was Jesus…He had come….He had died and rose again.

      David

volfan007

Don, yes, you are correct. It’s the same with Cornelius, the Centurion…he was already a Believer…a Believer, who had just not heard about Jesus, yet.

David

David L. Allen

Steven,

Thanks for your question. I do not think that article IV of the BF&M is best interpreted in the way you have suggested. The fact that the word “regeneration” occurs first in the BF&M statement does not support an interpretation that it therefore was considered by the framers of the BF&M to be “logically and temporally prior to the other three,” as you state. You are correct that the BF&M statement does not separate conversion and faith. Your next statement is where the big problem lies: “. . . we have stated that regeneration is a work in which God the Spirit’s activity to save logically and temporally precedes man’s response in repentance and faith.” That is not what the BF&M overtly states. That is an interpretation placed on the BF&M by you and others. Substitute “God’s enabling grace” for “regeneration” and your statement would be correct in my view. Also incorrect I think is your statement about what constitutes regeneration: “the monergistic activity of God to bring us to respond in faith.” That is what some Calvinistic Baptists believe concerning the ordo salutis, but not even all of them believe that, as, for example, Millard Erickson. Of course, all non-Calvinistic Baptists reject that understanding. Your statement that “Baptists could not affirm a regeneration that did not produce some sort of conscious human response” likewise needs to be nuanced. As you will see in part 3 of my presentation, I will note that even some Baptists believe that regeneration can occur long before conscious faith is exercised. If you mean by your statement that “eventually” some “conscious human response” will occur after regeneration, then of course all Calvinistic Baptists believe that. Finally, no doubt some Baptists create their own ordo salutis; my point is that the BF&M Article IV does not do so.

Don Johnson

Stephen,

Can you define what you mean by “generic” faith?

Don Johnson

Stephen,

“As to your second question, once a man’s mind has been truly illuminated by the Holy Spirit he cannot help but respond faithfully to that which has been revealed in Scripture. (1 Cor. 2)”

1 Cor. 2 is speaking of those who have received the Spirit (vs 12) and those who have not (vs 14). Do particular Baptists believe one receives the Spirit before they believe?

    pastorsro

    Brother Don,

    Does all of 1 Corinthians 2 describe the Spirit’s work to illumine believers? Look a 2:1-5. This part of the passage speaks of Paul’s first coming to Corinth. Due to the context I take the idea of faith resting in the power of God to indicate the necessary work of the Spirit to illumine/quicken the heart of the unbeliever so that he will express faith even at the preaching of an plain gospel.

    I understand the rest of the passage from verse 2:6-16 to together the ideas of the mysterious wisdom nascent at the Spirit’s inspiration of the Word and his current illumination of the same wisdom in the Word. The definitive mark which divides believers from unbelievers as you say by pointing out v. 12-14 is the reception and promotion of illumination from the Holy Spirit.

    Letting the Shepherd Lead,
    Steven R. Owensby

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