Faith is the Condition of Salvation and Grace is the Work of Salvation | Part One

October 7, 2015

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

Calvinists take solace in the claim that they believe salvation is totally a work of God (unconditional election, man’s passiveness until selective regeneration, regeneration prompting faith, etc.,), while oftentimes either implying or explicitly accusing those who make salvation conditioned upon man exercising faith (exercising faith in response to hearing the gospel prior to regeneration or forgiveness) as being less than a total work of God or stealing some of God’s glory in the work of salvation. According to Calvinists, this conditional nature of salvation (as opposed to monergism and man’s total passiveness prior to regeneration) is supposed to emanate from, at best, a lesser view of salvation by grace and God’s sovereignty, which results in some sort of communal glory or credit between man and God for one’s salvation. Fortunately, Calvinism’s final conclusion is reasoned from Calvinism rather than Scripture.

The Bible is unmistakably lucid that salvation is totally a sovereign work of God and a reflection of His omnibenevolence. According to the unbeclouded teaching of Scripture, from conception to completion, God alone did the work of salvation and superabundantly provided everything necessary so that salvation could be unconditionally offered to each and all. Accordingly, the work of salvation is not conditioned upon faith, but rather it is more precise to say that the personal reception of the free and full salvation that God has wrought is what is conditioned upon faith. Even the act of faith is grace enabled—as opposed to somehow originating outside of God’s design in either created or fallen man. To wit, no outside force influenced either the development or procurement of God’s plan of creation or redemption.

That is to say, by grace God bounteously provides every essential for a person to be able to walk in relationship with Him. This includes opportunity, necessary understanding, and a freed will to act. The basis for every sovereignly necessitated condition lies in and emanates from the grace of God rather than the merit, virtue, or otherwise contribution of man (Romans 3:21—31; 4:1—16). Thus, both the conditions and the ability to meet said conditions exist because of what is in and provided by God rather than what is in or deserved by man.

God then graciously bestows these so that man’s freedom of otherwise choice is simply an outcome of His sovereignly chosen and enabled precondition for enjoying His full fellowship. This is as true of Adam prior to the fall as it was of fallen Adam and his progeny after the fall. That a choice to receive God’s blessings and walk in them is always conditioned upon faith is the pervasive and coherent teaching of Scripture. What changes from prior to the fall, to after the fall, and then ultimately after glorification is what grace works God must accomplish and provide in order to make such blessing actually available and accessible.

For example, God created Adam, placed him in an environment that was conducive for Adam to walk with Him, while concomitantly being sufficient to provide Adam with the choice to cease to walk with God. We can understand this as creative grace enablement. That is the option that God laid before Adam, (Genesis 2:17—18). Hardly anything could be more clear (Genesis 1 & 2). When Adam and Eve chose to use their God-given creative ability to walk away from God and go their own way (Genesis 3:1—6), the opportunity for them to walk with God ceased to be available based upon God’s creative grace work. Unless God’s eternal creation plan comprehended such an eventuality, and accordingly incorporated additional grace provisions, man would never have the opportunity to walk with God in the same way that Adam did, even though all of man’s sensibilities regarding God were not obliterated by the fall (Genesis 3:8—13; Romans 1:18—32); thus, the opportunity Adam and Eve had prior to the fall ceased to exist.

Thankfully, we all know that God did not leave those He created irrevocably captive to their condign punishment. He always knew man would misuse his freedom, thereby eternally sequestering himself and his posterity from an intimate walk with their Creator. Correspondingly, God had eternally overcome such an egregious misuse of grace and freedom through His eternal coextensive creative/redemption plan, which included not only creative grace but redemptive grace as well. This becomes immediately evident (Genesis 3:21) and is encapsulated in His initial expression regarding the grander redemptive plan designed for all of mankind (3:15), which, other than God Himself, becomes the theme of Scripture.

Man’s freedom to exercise otherwise choice is a created force (libertarian free will); therefore, God is sovereign over it, and He can contravene it at any time, as He can any force. Consequently, whether this force is used for holiness or sin, it will not and cannot thwart His ultimate will, as is seen in Genesis in that God was neither surprised nor ill-prepared. This force is neither foreign nor supplemental to His will or salvation plan (as is sometimes understood or portrayed by Calvinists), but rather it is an inextricable component of His creative plan of making man in His very own image unto His glory alone!

Genesis, as well as the rest of Scripture, teaches that God desired to create man with such power, rather than limiting man to merely choosing what he only could choose through compatible freedom or being microscopically scripted by the precise decree of God. It seems that God’s creation of man with otherwise choice is the most obvious and unencumbered message of Genesis two and three if read without theological importations. Additionally, rather than this clear genesiacal message evanescing with God’s unfolding revelation, it actually becomes a supercolossally captivating theme of Scripture.

To wit, God placing a choice before man between two accessible options and then either blessing or judging man corresponding to the choice he makes is so omnipresent in the Scripture that it appears that one would have to write a myriad of books, create all kinds of biblically foreign concepts, interpret simple verses in light of complicated ones rather than the reverse, and develop unduly narrow definitions in order to convince even a few that such is not the case; further, to do so transmogrifies what began as “revelation” into a “veiling” only to be revealed by a few to a few.

Part Two Coming Soon!

 

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Edward Chapman

Grace is not a work. It’s a gift. The Holy Spirit works.

norm

Thank you, Ronnie, for this article so brilliantly written that I had to wear two pair of sunglasses. In fact, electrical power service was interrupted in my neighborhood a bit ago, so I opened your article on my iPad to light up my house and cook breakfast.
But seriously, your missive puts the rest of us armchair theologians in our place — mostly with our faces in the dictionary, first, and then in the Word. (And I just knew you would somehow get that word ‘transmogrify’ in there. Nice goin’, Bro.)
Your missive throughout is cogently reasoned and cohesively written. I was especially taken by the descriptively accurate concluding paragraph, as well as the penultimate one with its resident phrase “… if read without theological importations.” That brief phrase well-embodies a more familiar one: Sola Scriptura. Oh, that we would obey that phrase more often.
I am grateful, Ronnie, that, as a former Calvinist, you demonstrate a deep passion for theological/soteriological accuracy. You have invested valuable time and mental energy to encourage so many of us, and have challenged others regarding Calvinistic views of soteriology. — Norm

    Ronnie W Rogoers

    Good morning Norm, and it is always a joy to hear from you. Thank you for your encouraging words, and yes, there seems to be no evanescing of the number of transmogrifications on the horizon.

Dennis Lee Dabney

Excellent article.

Preach!

Andy

1. It appears, Edward, that you have responded only to the title…and even there, have misunderstood it. The point of the title, even excepting the rest of the article, is that God has done all the work necessary for salvation, that the grace he gives us as a gift, He has provided through his own works. So yes, the Holy Spirit works, the Son works, the Father works…and the result of that work is that God can gift too us: Free grace. A gift, that is not worked for, but does need to be recieved by faith.

2. Ronnie: “It seems that God’s creation of man with otherwise choice is the most obvious and unencumbered message of Genesis two and three if read without theological importations…. …it appears that one would have to write a myriad of books, create all kinds of biblically foreign concepts, interpret simple verses in light of complicated ones rather than the reverse, and develop unduly narrow definitions in order to convince even a few that such is not the case; further, to do so transmogrifies what began as “revelation” into a “veiling” only to be revealed by a few to a few.”

–> I would simply say that there ARE other passages that, when read simply, without any theological importations, seem to say that God chooses those who will be saved, or that left to themselves, man will not choose God…and further, that many people, when first beginning to think through the issues of Election and predestination and God’s soveriegn control, will say something like, “I see this ALL OVER scripture now!” The point being that some see free will all over scripture, and some see meticulous predestination all over scripture…the fact is both seem to be there, hence the disagreement. Some people really DO simply read the bible and see Predestination.

3. In general, I think you’ve made a good case for God giving Human beings real choice, without that somehow taking away from his glory and sovereignty. A.W. Tozer would be proud.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Andy

    Your response to Edward is precisely correct. Thanks for the helpful clarification.

    You said, “I would simply say that there ARE other passages that, when read simply, without any theological importations, seem to say that God chooses those who will be saved, or that left to themselves, man will not choose God”

    Please notice that I made my comment specifically regarding Genesis. I said, “It seems that God’s creation of man with otherwise choice is the most obvious and unencumbered message of Genesis two and three if read without theological importations” This is not a denial of election…passages in the Scripture, but rather it is a statement that says if one reads Genesis 2-3, one cannot deny actual otherwise choice, which is in the final analysis what Calvinism, Compatibilism, denies. I think the task is to interpret such as you mention congruently with otherwise choice. Calvinism actually does not do this. Unconditional election becomes the program running in the background for interpreting the clearest verses in the Scripture (such as Genesis 1-3).

    Further, I argued that this pattern does not change as one progresses through the Scripture, i.e. we do not see a lessening of otherwise choice in the rest of Scripture, but rather a continuance. I do not think anyone can legitimately deny its pervasiveness.

    You said, “ The point being that some see free will all over scripture, and some see meticulous predestination all over scripture…. hence the disagreement.”

    Of Course, I see all of the predestination, election…passages as well. However, I do not believe understanding them so as to remove actual, in the moral moment, otherwise choice is in anyway supportable by Scripture, which is what Calvinism and compatibilism necessitate. I actually believe every Scripture regarding predestination….but I do reject unconditional election becoming the interpretive grid through which they and the simple and clear verses that “without theological importation” teach otherwise choice.

    I believe that predestination, foreknowledge, election etc. are congruent with otherwise choice, which is precisely what Calvinism rejects. Therefore, I am not disagreeing with your points that those things are there or that some see it everywhere. Rather, I am denying that it is biblically legitimate to reduce man’s choice to a choosing that flows freely from determinative antecedents, which means that the choosing, in the moral moment could not have been different. That is simply, without theological importation, unsupportable. That is my view.

    You said, “In general, I think you’ve made a good case for God giving Human beings real choice, without that somehow taking away from his glory and sovereignty.” Thanks Andy!

      Bill Mac

      Ronnie: I want to ask a question that may sound like a gotcha question but honestly isn’t. I’ve asked it before and I don’t think I’ve heard a satisfactory answer (not that there isn’t one). Doesn’t the idea of otherwise choice suggest that a human being could theoretically choose not to sin every single time? Or would you suggest that some sins aren’t a matter of a conscious choice? Thanks

        Ronnie W Rogers

        Hello Bill

        I do not take it as a “gotcha question,” but one that surely deserves our attention. Thanks for asking it, and I hope my suggestions do help.

        You said, “Doesn’t the idea of otherwise choice suggest that a human being could theoretically choose not to sin every single time?”

        I written an article published on this site, “Can Man Endowed with Libertarian Free Will Live Righteously Forever in Heaven?” which can also be found on my blog ronniewrogers.com, in which I explore this more fully.

        First, I assume that you are referring to pre-fallen man since I believe such is impossible for fallen man, given the fact that man is depraved and such is not totally eradicated until glorification. Second, I do not believe that it is merely theoretically possible, but that it will be the actual realization of heaven. I also believe that has been and always will be God’s desire for every person, as it was Adam and Eve, which necessitates that they were endowed with libertarian freedom (otherwise choice).

        The essence of libertarianism is this. The person can act or refrain. That given the same past he/she can choose to…or choose not to…, and whatever he did choose, he could have chosen otherwise. What changes is the range of options from which one can choose. Adam had options that fallen man does not (walk with God without redemption). As we pass through different seasons of life our options change, but the reality of having libertarian freedom is not affected by the change in the range of options. I do not have the range of options that someone who grew up privileged does, but I do have otherwise choice. This is what compatibilism denies. Compatibilism is the idea of freedom, given the same past; one cannot choose other than one did in fact choose in the moral moment of decision.

        The problem is often stated conversely to how you have stated it, is it possible for God to create a truly otherwise choice human being who will never choose to sin, and if it is possible, then why did He not so create Adam and Eve, which would have avoided sin and its consequences.

        My answer is, I would suggest that it may be impossible to guarantee that a created libertarian free human being with otherwise choice who does not have experiential knowledge (either through personal experience or observation) of sin, will never use his freedom to sin provided that such choices are within his range of choices as was clearly the case with Adam.

        This is precisely where Satan tempted Adam because while he had faith knowledge of sin and otherwise choice, he lacked experiential knowledge of sin (Genesis 3:5). Even if the previously mentioned impossibility is the case (and I believe that it is), God’s coextensive creation/redemption plan assures that the redeemed in heaven will not be susceptible to the temptation to which Adam succumbed.

        The redeemed in heaven will have experiential knowledge of sin and the consequences of sin, but they will have been redeemed from that and transformed by glorification. Thus, it appears that the redeemed and glorified man will have what is necessary to live forever and only use his freedom to choose righteousness. Of course, much could be said also about God’s other protective promises and power (John 10:29, 11:25-26; Ephesians 4:30), range of options in heave etc., which I believe are sufficient in and of themselves for living eternally with otherwise choice and always choosing righteousness.

        Therefore, can man always choose to not sin today, I believe it may be theoretically possible but not actually achievable—I take the consequences of the fall very seriously both prior to and subsequent to salvation. Will there come a time when man can actually do so? Yes, and that is the fruit of God’s coextensive creation/redemption plan that overcomes the otherwise impossible. The plan of salvation is not complete in our lives until glorification.

        Thanks Bill

          Bill Mac

          Thanks Ronnie,
          Although I wouldn’t consider myself a Calvinist any longer, I still have a hard time rejecting compatibilism completely. I agree we have choices, but it is hard for me to see how someone might make two different choices in identical circumstances. It seems to me to make a different choice, something in the circumstances has to be different. We have reasons for our choices, and so it would seem that we would need stronger reasons to make a different choice. But I won’t rehash all that argument here. Thanks again.

            Robert

            Bill Mac,

            “I still have a hard time rejecting compatibilism completely.”

            Compatibilism involves determinism and in all forms of determinism there is some necessitating factor that necessitates that we make a particular choice ( our genes, our brain, our environment, our “strongest desire” our ‘strongest reason”). As long as you are ensnared in this kind of thinking your deterministic concepts will take precedence over your actual experience in choosing.

            “I agree we have choices, but it is hard for me to see how someone might make two different choices in identical circumstances. It seems to me to make a different choice, something in the circumstances has to be different.”

            Why?

            If I go to the Baskins Robbins 31 flavors ice cream store’ sample some new flavors I have never ever had before. My favorite, the choice that I most often make is chocolate/flavor Y. But say the sample is really good, call it flavor X. I now have a choice (to keep it simple say it is only X or Y). My usual choice is Y/chocolate, but Y seems really good. I have differing reasons associated with each choice (Y = is my favorite, I am going with something I know/familiarity, etc.; Y = it is new and different, sometimes it’s good to try something new and different, it is on sale at 50% off the price of chocolate). There are good reasons for either choice, neither choice is unreasonable or foolish. These reasons are not necessitating factors, it is not as if the “it is my favorite flavor” reason just dominates all other reasons and the moment it is present in my mind all other reasons are displaced, ignored, or wiped out!

            We know that WE choose which reasons we will act upon: the reasons do not determine our choice, WE choose which reason to act upon and which reason we will not act upon.

            It is precisely because these reasons do not make the choice, do not force the choice that we have the feeling/thought/intuition that we could have done otherwise. The circumstances do not have to be different for me to make another choice instead of the one that I end up making. In the same circumstances I could choose X or choose Y, because I decide which reasons I will act upon.

            It is a mistake to speak of reasons as if they have actual weight and force and so compel our choices: they do not.
            We say to a criminal who commits a crime (who had the choice to commit the crime or refrain from the crime): “you should not have done that, you should have chosen not to do that”. If their actions were determined, if there were a necessitating factor then it is foolish to speak of “should not have done that” because whatever you do you could not help it, you had to do it, the necessitating factor forced you to do that.

            “We have reasons for our choices, and so it would seem that we would need stronger reasons to make a different choice.”

            Now we may speak of having “stronger reasons” for choosing X/the new flavor (it was on sale for 50% off) than choosing Y/the old favorite chocolate as a figure of speech. But if we look at our reasons and choosing process critically we realize that reasons do not have force, they are not heavier and lighter, like a bigger cannon ball and a smaller canon ball. There is no such thing as “stronger” reasons to make one choice over another, there are only different reasons associated with each particular choice. Choosing to act upon one set of reasons, does not mean that we could not have chosen to act upon the other set of reasons instead.

            Regret is impossible if all is determined because in having regret you know it could have been otherwise, you know that you could have/should have chosen otherwise, but you didn’t. If our choices were as determined as a chemical reaction, we would know that we could not have done otherwise, that is just the way the reasons/desires/brain/environment/etc. forced us to go.

            Responsible and mature persons take responsibility for their choices. They know what they did and why they did it. When they make wrong choices they realize this and (not believing their choices are all determined) make different choices the next time. One of the biggest problems we have today is that many people do not want to be responsible for their choices, they want to put the blame somewhere else, and so they readily posit some sort of determining factor that caused them to make their choice: NOT THEM! The Bible places responsibility squarely and repeatedly on the individual soul not on some necessitating factor. This is why at the final judgment each person stands alone and is responsible for his/her own choices.

            Ronnie W Rogers

            Bill
            Just a couple of comments

            You said, “I still have a hard time rejecting compatibilism completely. I agree we have choices.” Actually, by your agreement that we have choices (if you mean otherwise), you have rejected Compatibilism because there is never even one otherwise choice in compatibilism, when properly understood. It is as deterministic as raw determinism (it just argues that determinism and moral responsibility are compatible, which homogeny is achieved by redefining freedom). I believe the reason so many feel comfortable with compatibilism is because they either do not understand or live and speak consistently with its unyielding determinism.

            You said, “It seems to me to make a different choice; something in the circumstances has to be different. We have reasons for our choices, and so it would seem that we would need stronger reasons to make a different choice.”

            The thing that makes the difference is the libertarian free being created in the image of God. Compatibilism allows for voluntariness but not origination, which exists in libertarian freedom. That is to say, the person is the originator of the subsequent sequence of events rather than the merely determined consequence of the past. We all know choices cannot be merely reduced to reasons; actually, sometimes we do the unreasonable.

            We call the individual so endowed as the “efficient cause” or refer to “agent causation” which all, if properly understood, highlight the point that the thing that makes the difference is the agent rather than merely a set of circumstances, past, a set of reasons (even if they are the most logical, and we all do the illogical many times). One need look no further than the individual for the choice made (this is not to deny influences, but rather it is a denial that they are causative).

            Have a good day!

          Robert

          Ronnie,

          Excellent answer to Bill Mac’s question. Very clear and very accurate and true. Good post!

          Lydia

          “This is precisely where Satan tempted Adam because while he had faith knowledge of sin and otherwise choice, he lacked experiential knowledge of sin (Genesis 3:5). ”

          This is such a great point. They lacked any experience of the horrible consequences.

volfan007

That last paragraph is a gem.

David

Andrew Barker

One of the things which strikes me is the way the theological terminology eats away at the truth of scripture bit by bit. It does it slowly and often without a great deal of fuss so that we become inured to its effects. The term ‘regeneration’ is one such example. Regeneration itself, is not a scriptural concept but it is/has been used by theologians to define the process or part of the process by which we are saved. None of the main passages dealing with salvation use it (I will deal with Titus 3:5 later.) and we would be wise to ditch it from our vocabulary!

The problem is, the way use the word regeneration in general conversation has too many incorrect connotations and these get in the way of the truth of scripture. We talk about inner city ‘regeneration’ where deprived neighbourhoods are given a cash injection and revitalized; we regenerate old cars and lovingly restore them back to life and if you’re a Doctor Who fan, well he’s been regenerated some 12 times! But he’s not what the Bible has in mind as a ‘new person’. There’s nothing wrong in this regeneration per se, but I do have an issue with comparing this to what happens in salvation. All these regenerations take the old and change it to make it newer. They take the old and update it. They transform it so it looks brand new. But they all still include the old. The old is still part of the ‘new’ structure. Is that what the Calvinist’s are settling for?

Our salvation is made of better stuff. The whole thrust of salvation is that we are not merely made better, although that would be good. We are not just made newer, that would be better still. But we are new creations. All of the salient passages in the New Testament which deal with salvation use phrases like born again; new birth; new creation. The old has gone and the new is here. This is so much better than regeneration!!

Some might argue that so long as we define what we mean by regeneration it’s OK to use it. I’m not so sure about this. For example, Calvinists talk about regeneration preceding faith. Is this an argument worth having? Well many of us have been down that pathway. I’ve done it myself. But while it may seem reasonable to have a discussion about whether or not regeneration precedes faith, it’s immediately obvious that a discussion about creation or new birth before faith is not worth the candle. Using the correct term helps to highlight defective thinking.

The Calvinist may well argue that regeneration has to happen before faith and then insist that the non-Calvinist position is that regeneration has to happen after faith. They may then say there is little difference between the two positions and it’s simply a matter of timing! But this is a false comparison. There is no such thing as regeneration after faith, be it Calvinist or non-Calvinist. What there is, is new birth, new creation a brand new person in Christ. I sincerely believe that this is clear message from scripture and this is what we should be defending.

By defining terms correctly and refusing to enter into fruitless conversations based on incorrect assumptions much time will be saved and the rug will be pulled from under the Calvinists’ feet. They will be left defending a position which nobody wants to take in the first place, assuming that most of us prefer brand new to re-conditioned?!

We are new creations in Christ, NOT reconditioned or manufacture refurbished! :)

Final note re Titus 3:5 the word used is paliggenesia which is comprised of palin (again) and genesis (birth, beginning). While the word regeneration is used in the Bible text, I think it’s clear enough what is actually meant. So translate it as ‘regeneration’ if you must, but be aware that it’s not what most people mean by regeneration. The only other use of paliggenesia is Matt 19:28. There are no other examples (to my knowledge) of its use. Not much to build a major area of doctrine around?!

    Les

    Andrew,

    This is a good reminder that our definitions in these theological discussions are important. Thank you for bringing it up. You said near the end, “While the word regeneration is used in the Bible text, I think it’s clear enough what is actually meant. So translate it as ‘regeneration’ if you must, but be aware that it’s not what most people mean by regeneration.”

    How do you define regeneration (assuming you think it can be legitimately be used if well defined)?

    Thanks. SDG!

      Andrew Barker

      Les: If you read my piece properly, you would know that we are not ‘regenerated’ at conversion so why would I define a term I do not wish to use? :)

        Andy

        “Regeneration itself, is not a scriptural concept.”
        “While the word regeneration is used in the Bible text, I think it’s clear enough what is actually meant.”
        “we are not ‘regenerated’ at conversion so why would I define a term I do not wish to use?”

        You are confusing me. It seems that since scripture mentioned it, it is a scriptural word & concept. Why would you not want to use a scriptural word? It would seem if you think the calvinists have taken over the word and given it a false meaning, the goal should be to recover it, rather than abandon it. I don’t do away with the idea of holy spirit filling just because I think the charismatics have defined it wrongly.

        Also, the verse in question says “He saved us…by the washing of regeneration.” So how can you say we are not regenerated at conversion?

          Andrew Barker

          Andy: I don’t think you are that confused at all really, but rather you are taking quotes out of context from two separate posts in order to paint a confused picture. Bit naughty really but I’m ok with it :)

          So the question is this. How many times does the word regeneration appear in the standard biblical text? [2]
          How many of the major passages covering salvation (John3:16s etc) use the word regeneration? [none]
          Now consider what those verses which speak directly about salvation do mention. The answer is new birth, new creation, everything new.
          That leaves you with one single verse Titus 3:5 which agreed which uses the word regeneration. When you look at the underlying greek text you see the word used also means new birth. Don’t ask me why it gets translated as regeneration.

          What I think is shown by comparing these verses, and quite clearly too I might add, is that we are not regenerated at conversion. We are made new creations. In addition, your suggestion that my goal should be to recover the term is rather odd, isn’t it? The word is being used incorrectly so I’m hardly likely to want to ‘recover’ it.

          Regeneration in everyday talk means taking the old and improving, repairing and restoring it. I don’t see this as a sound basis for Christian conversion.
          That’s why I don’t believe we are regenerated at conversion. I might ask you, why and on what basis you hold that we are regenerated, if indeed you do?

            Andy

            1. I was genuinely confused, because your comments seemed to be saying 2 contradictory things.

            2. So based on your second paragraph, What we really have is LOTS of verses that link salvation with new birth, new life, new creation etc (of which regeneration is simply another word meaning close to the same thing…Greek underlying actually point to the root word of genesis: or beginning…which is of course NOT at odd with a new birth…2 ways of speaking about the same thing. Strongs actually gives 3 definitions: New birth, regeneration, renewal. (used in Matt. 19:28 by Jesus to speak of the renewal/regeneration/new birth of all things…)

            3. Why do I think regeneration is part of conversion? You are still ignoring the actual text that uses the word and links it with salvation, the text you brought up. I believe regeneration is part of conversion because of Titus 3:5. Very simple. That verse is also why every other Christian I’ve ever heard or read says the same thing. You alone have some problem with the word that you have yet to define, believing that the majority of greek experts from the KJV to the NASB have translated it incorrectly.

            4. How about this? The NIV translates it as…”through the washing of rebirth and renewal” Would you say we are re-born at salvation? Born-again? If so, we have no disagreement. I am simply using a different, biblical, historically accepted word to say the same thing. When you say “What I think is shown by comparing these verses, and quite clearly too I might add, is that we are not regenerated at conversion. We are made new creations.” –> Regeneration = new birth/new creation…It’s the same thing!

            5. “In addition, your suggestion that my goal should be to recover the term is rather odd, isn’t it? The word is being used incorrectly so I’m hardly likely to want to ‘recover’ it.” –> You have likely, like me, been annoyed that certain groups of people are using the word “Gospel” for everything now…you’ve noticed this, right? Should we then abandon the world “gospel”, merely because some are mis-using it?

              Andrew Barker

              Andy: Is Matt 19:28 speaking about becoming a Christian? I don’t think so, which is why, although I mentioned it as the other verse which uses the word regeneration, it was not included in my comments. I don’t think it adds anything to the present conversation. It is talking about the new-birth of the millennial kingdom which I guess is related to the ‘new heavens and new earth’. Not the topic for discussion at present?

              So that really does leave you with one verse in Titus which as I said before is not much to base your doctrine on. But if you wish to use the word regeneration because you feel it’s exactly the same as new birth, be my guest. Your point about the word ‘Gospel’ is non sequitur. Just because people misuse the word Gospel doesn’t mean I have to justify using regeneration as a synonym for new birth as opposed to suggesting it’s best not to use it in the first place.

              There are aspects to the word regeneration which I find are not helpful in explaining conversion. Like some of the old is still present in the new. It’s just been updated. How do you suggest we describe getting rid of the old life? Do we just need a make over or what?

                Andy

                ANDREW: “So that really does leave you with one verse in Titus which as I said before is not much to base your doctrine on.”

                ANDY: Not basing a doctrine on one verse by a long shot, but also not jettisoning a word because it might be misunderstood.

                ANDREW: “There are aspects to the word regeneration which I find are not helpful in explaining conversion. Like some of the old is still present in the new. It’s just been updated. How do you suggest we describe getting rid of the old life? Do we just need a make over or what?

                ANDY: First, we can describe it in a myriad of ways, some of which the bible uses, some of which we can, without doing any injustice to scripture, use our own minds and language to describe: New life, new birth, new creation, regeneration, redemption, Conversion, being saved, etc…

                Second, you are the ONLY person I have ever heard say that the word regeneration somehow implies only a partial renewing.

                Third, and this is really changing the topic, but OF COURSE some of the old is still present with the new…Christians still have sinful desires, and often act on them, even though they shouldn’t…AND even in the new creation, some of our original self will be preserved, just not the sinful part…otherwise we would be completely different people. I have some of the same interests, personality, mind, concept of self…that I did before I was saved…and will have those even into eternity…otherwise I was not saved, simply replaced. The salvation, new birth of a sinner does not replace one person with another, it restores and renews the image of God that has always been in him/her…even though marred.

                  Andrew Barker

                  Andy: Thanks for your interesting reply. I don’t want to make more of an issue about this than necesssary so here are just a few thoughts.

                  Feel free to define regeneration any way you like. Just keep in mind that it’s your definition.

                  Quite how you can say that my definition of regeneration is of a “partial renewal” is lost on me. That’s putting words and definitions in my mouth!! A bit rich really considering you know that I would prefer not to use the word at all. That should have been clear to you if nothing else.

                  The only person with these views? I doubt it but being out on a limb has never worried me either:)

                  Your last comments are interesting to say the least. “AND even in the new creation, some of our original self will be preserved, just not the sinful part…otherwise we would be completely different people.” Not sure this fits well with your views on total depravity?

                  You say the image of God was marred and is restored in salvation. Are we no longer made in God’s image?

                  Regeneration is a much used word in theology. I would say over used given its only twice used in scripture.

          Andrew Barker

          Andy: I’ll just tag another comment onto this thread if I may. My reason for picking up on the use of the word ‘regeneration’ was that by using incorrect terminology it is easy to end up discussing points which are totally irrelevant because they are based on misunderstandings. Just recently, the truth that we are “new creations in Christ” has been much in my thinking which is why when I’ve seen the word regeneration used (not just in this particular article) I’ve pointed out that while regeneration may ‘sound’ fine, it misses the point and falls short of the whole truth.

          Dr. Rogers pointed out that …. “I believe that predestination, foreknowledge, election etc. are congruent with otherwise choice, which is precisely what Calvinism rejects.” I would add that terms like predestination, foreknowledge and election are also wrongly defined by many and hence much talk and time are wasted because people argue from an incorrect understanding.

          You quote in one of your responses …””some see free will all over scripture, and some see meticulous predestination all over scripture…the fact is both seem to be there, hence the disagreement. Some people really DO simply read the bible and see Predestination.” I would suggest that predestination is one of those terms which you are defining incorrectly, hence you will always run into conflict with those who believe that predestination does not conflict with contra-causal choice. I was raised in an environment where ‘soft’ Calvinism was sometimes suggested ie the idea that God chooses and that we also choose Him at the same time. It never convinced me then and still doesn’t.

          Predestination doesn’t conflict in any way with our choice in becoming a Christian because that’s not what predestination is all about. You cannot have it both ways. If you insist that we are predestined to believe then you cannot argue for contra-causal free will, otherwise choice or however one wishes to term it. (feel free but don’t take liberties!) I would suggest that when you see the word ‘predestination’ in scripture, you already have a mind set which views it as deterministic, so any conclusion is going to be influenced by that preconceived view. Maybe you need to reassess your viewpoint beforehand. There are no scriptures which explicitly link predestination to becoming a Christian. The link is always an assumed link. And yes, we all read scripture from an existing viewpoint, I do understand that.

      Les Prouty

      Andrew, I do realize that you do not believe that we are regenerated at conversion. But you said, “While the word regeneration is used in the Bible text, I think it’s clear enough what is actually meant. So translate it as ‘regeneration’ if you must, but be aware that it’s not what most people mean by regeneration.”

      So given that the word translated “regeneration” is in Titus, and you say the meaning is “clear enough,” could you be more specific and state what you think that meaning is?

      Thanks,

      SDG!

        Andrew Barker

        Les: You are correct. The word regeneration appears once in Titus 3:5. The greek word is paliggenesia which means new birth. This was all stated in the first comment so I can’t help you any more than that. What is it about ‘new birth’ that you don’t understand?

          Les

          Thanks Andrew. I do understand the new birth. So if I remember correctly you are in the Anglican Church. I wondered what an Anglican says about this subject. Do agree with how this Anglican described regeneration/new birth?

          “The early Church universally understood this (John 3 passage) to be a reference to Holy Baptism. It is in the waters of Baptism that we are born again because it is in the waters of Baptism that the Holy Spirit is given to us to unite us with Christ. Baptism is God’s action of reaching out to us, grabbing hold of us, and drawing us into Himself. Regeneration is God’s action, within our Baptism, by which He opens our hearts and unstops our ears that we might be made one with Him. It enables us to have faith because it is the bond which makes the fullness of faith possible. To be regenerated is not to be given faith per se, but to be given the possibility of actually being capable of having faith.”

          Is this quote close to your view?

          SDG!

            Andrew Barker

            Les: I attend an Anglican church, Church in Wales to be precise but this does not mean I hold to Anglican views. Its a bit like being a Christian really. I go to church because I’m a Christian. I’m not a Christian because I go to church! Our church is evangelical, which is rare in C in W, and it’s where we as a family feel the Lord would have us worship.

            For your information, I don’t enjoy liturgy, don’t like the way communion is done and don’t agree with baptising infants. But hey, there are good Christians there and we get along fine! Strange though that may seem.

            As for your comments, no. They do not represent any thing approaching what I would feel is meant by regeneration as is abundantly clear from what I said previously.

            Les

            Thanks Andrew. All very clear now.

            SDG!

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Andrew

    Thanks for you insightful comment, and I do think you have given a good reminder about care with what terms we employ. As far as I know, you are correct in the term only being found in the two instances you mention.

    I use the term in reference to the being born again, and actually prefer that term for some of the reasons you note. This is a common way that it is used in theological discussions of which I am aware. Sometimes, Calvinists use “quickening” in this sense. If they do, I will use that term so long as we are clear about our meaning.

    However, I would say that just as with Nicodemus, most people who hear that term born again do not know what it means without explanation (this is particularly noticeable in some circles outside of Baptist life). Additionally, as you well know, it is used to mean an array of things in our cultural milieu.

    You said, “There is no such thing as regeneration after faith, be it Calvinist or non-Calvinist. What there is, is new birth, new creation a brand new person in Christ.” I agree that faith precedes the new birth. However, I am ok with using regeneration to mean new birth so long as we both know what is being talked about, and I do think this is an important discussion.

    I am very engaged with Calvinists and helping others to understand Calvinism, and although I may confirm we are talking about the new birth, it would actually be detrimental to clarifying the disquieting realities of Calvinism with some of them if I never used the term they are so familiar with, or that they are going to see over and over. I often ask them if they believe God creates a new you prior to faith or subsequent (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:10).

    I did note, that A.T. Robertson, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, Dictionary of Biblical Languages and Semantic Domains, A Concise Greek English Dictionary of the New Testament, An Intermediate Greek English Lexicon, Analytical Lexicon of Greek New Testament, Kittel etc, all give “regeneration” as a definition of palingenesia, and it appears quickly apparent that both these grammatical and commentary resources refer to such as meaning the new birth.

    Thanks for your reminder, and I will try to do better.

      Andy

      This Ronnie guy is pretty sharp!

      If he would grow a big beard, get a tattoo, wear skinny jeans and a too-small plaid shirt, and make youtube videos…the Traditionalists might just take back some ground from the Young Restless & Reformed crowd!

      :-)

      Andrew Barker

      Ronnie W Rogers: Ha, I feel slightly ticked off by your last comment :) My contribution was not meant to be critical of your piece at all, but I can see it might be taken that way. I will also try to do better! It might have been my old ‘unregenerate’ self coming out ;-)

        Ronnie W Rogers

        Andrew
        My words apparently did not communicate my heart for which I am sorry and ask your forgiveness. I did not think your comments were critical of my article. Nor, did I mean by my response to be hurtful; although, I apparently am quite proficient at such. Again, please accept my apology because I would rather fail to make my point than to hurt a brother or sister in Christ.

          Les Prouty

          “I would rather fail to make my point than to hurt a brother or sister in Christ.”

          Ronnie thank you for your heart on display. Would that I and many others took this view when commenting here and trying to make our points.

          God bless.

          SDG!

          Andrew Barker

          Well no offence taken and none meant either. :)

    W.L. Talbot

    You bring up a good point that the way we use some words in everyday conversation may affect how we think of them when it comes to theological terminology. I would note two things, however. One, this necessarily varies from place to place and from time to time. In my area we do not use the word ‘regeneration’ in common conversation, at least not at this point in history. Apparently where you live this is not the case, with the word being used regularly in everyday speech, and so what you describe is a real problem in your area, albeit not in mine.Two, the use of ‘regeneration’ for theological purposes predates its use in other contexts. Consider the following etymology dictionary entry for regeneration:

    mid-14c., from Late Latin regenerationem (nominative regeneratio) “a being born again,” noun of action from past participle stem of Latin regenerare “make over, generate again,”

    from re- “again” (see re-) + generare “to produce” (see generation). Originally spiritual; of animal tissue, early 15c.; of forests, 1888.

    You rightly note that we are not regenerated in the sense of being remodeled or refurbished, but that we are made anew, born again such that we are wholly new creations in Christ. What you – and scripture – describe as being born again, is what theologians mean when they talk about regeneration. To the extent that there is misunderstanding about what regeneration means, it is because people interpret it in light of its use in everyday language. They should not do so, but should strive to understand it in its native (scriptural) context; though conversely, we also should work diligently to make it clear that when we talk about regeneration we mean something different than how it is used in everyday speech, something far grander and more glorious.

      Andrew Barker

      WLT: Agreed, it’s very easy to talk past each other while actually believing pretty much the same thing.

      “mid-14c., from Late Latin regenerationem (nominative regeneratio) “a being born again,” noun of action from past participle stem of Latin regenerare “make over, generate again,”

      I note: “a being born again” , obviously sounds fine. Not so happy with “make over” or “generate again”. Lacks a sense of newness.
      It’s me being picky maybe!

    Lydia

    “What there is, is new birth, new creation a brand new person in Christ. I sincerely believe that this is clear message from scripture and this is what we should be defending. ”

    Yes, yes, yes! What a contrasting message to being wicked worms. Be perfect like your heavenly Father is perfect. This is what we strive for as we grow and mature from our new birth.

Alan House

I found your article very helpful. It reminds me of reading Tozer. The last paragraph is a gem of lucid writing! Thanks!

Adam Harwood

Ronnie,

Thank you for this careful, peaceable, and insightful treatment on the doctrine of salvation. I look forward to reading part two.

In Him,
Adam

Dennis Lee Dabney

The treatment of this doctrinal discussion and ongoing debate by Ronnie has provided not only tremendous scholarly insight with great respect for those who have questions and concerns but also the Spirit required in doing so.

Thanks for letting our Lord use you to remind me no matter what, I am to speak the truth in love.

I repent!

Preach!

Bill Mac

By the way, I very much appreciate the author of a post who responds to commenters.

Andy

ANDREW: “Quite how you can say that my definition of regeneration is of a “partial renewal” is lost on me. That’s putting words and definitions in my mouth!!”
(TO CLARIFY,HERE ARE SOME OF YOUR RECENT COMMENTS):
a. “There are aspects to the word regeneration which I find are not helpful in explaining conversion. Like some of the old is still present in the new. It’s just been updated. How do you suggest we describe getting rid of the old life? Do we just need a make over or what?”
b. “We are new creations in Christ, NOT reconditioned or manufacture refurbished! :)”
c. “Regeneration in everyday talk means taking the old and improving, repairing and restoring it. I don’t see this as a sound basis for Christian conversion.”

ANDY: I was not accusing YOU of saying that we only get a partial renewal…no you are far from that position…but you do seem to be implying that those who use the word regeneration have that in mind; and as such, you are the only person I have heard use that argument against that view of regeneration that you seem to think others have…I’m not so sure that they do, unless it is in the sense that I described in my last post, and below…

Quite how you can say that my definition of regeneration is of a “partial renewal” is lost on me. That’s putting words and definitions in my mouth!!

ANDREW: “You say the image of God was marred and is restored in salvation. Are we no longer made in God’s image?”

ANDY: Far from it, we did, do, and always will bear God’s image, That’s exactly my point. Marred does not mean gone completely…and restored does not mean replaced. My main point is that I am ME. Sinful me has been born again, created anew, regenerated, etc…but I’m still me…AND even in eternity future when I am full sanctified, though no trace of sin is left, I will still be ME. It will not be “sinful me” replaced by “sinless someone else”. New creation does not, cannot mean total replacement, at least not for human beings with eternal souls. (As for planet earth, I suppose an argument can be made both ways :-)

ANDREW: “Not sure this fits well with your views on total depravity?”

As for MY views on total depravity, I guess it fits as well as with traditional views on total depravity, which would say, just as I did, that with sin, God’s perfect image was marred, but not totally wiped out. This is nearly everybody’s view. God’s mission is rescue, not replacement. People who are now Christian, in one sense, ARE THE SAME PEOPLE who were previously unbelievers, who believed in Christ, became a new creation, but retained their sense of self, their personality, their talents, their experiences.

Andrew Barker

Andy: I shall bring this to a stop as this is rapidly becoming pointless. Regeneration is a not the correct word to use to describe salvation because it doesn’t correctly convey the underlying spiritual truth. You’re in the same position as Nicodemus who was trying to apply physical constraints to a spiritual event. It can’t be done. The new ‘me’ did not exist before spiritual birth so it cannot be regenerated. Period. Your comments about personality and sense of self are a side show. Can you explain how you are self aware at present? Is what’s inside your brain the real you? These are all imponderable questions. Interesting to consider maybe, but they prove nothing as far as spiritual matters are concerned.

I will admit that there is a sense of me being ‘picky’ in all this, I’ve said so already to Ronnie Rogers, but I also feel there is a definite danger that people have lost some of the truth behind the new birth by constantly referring to it as a ‘regeneration’. When push comes to shove, we are new creations, not re-creations! The weight of evidence from scripture says so!

Jim P

I’d like to contribute to the discussion above revolving around ‘regeneration,’ with Andrew and Andy. I do think it is relevant. There is good reason to suggest in the conversation with Nicodemus and Christ in John 3 that there was a misunderstanding on Nicodemus’ part about the phrase ‘born again.’

First, it is something Jesus pointed out that Nicodemus should have been aware of. It is a prophesied, future work in the OT. As a ‘Teacher of Israel’ Nicodemus should have been able to connect with the discussion but he did not. Also, that the phrase ‘born again’ maybe a slightly confused way of relating ‘born from above.’ The more precise phrase would be ‘from above,’ and the confusion being almost natural on Nicodemus’ part.

I think the nuances in the two differences are relevant in the discussion. For whatever it might be worth.

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