Theological Terminology Thursday:
The Study of Specialized Words Relating to Theology

Conversion and Regeneration

April 19, 2012

By Ron F. Hale.
He has served as Pastor, Church Planter, Strategist (NAMB), Director of Missions, Associate Executive Director of Evangelism and Church Planting for a State Convention, and now in the 4th quarter of ministry as Minister of Missions.


A Personal Application of the Words

I was born into a lost and sinful world; weren’t we all!

Sin messed up the world after the fall of Adam and Eve, and the mess has been growing like a blazing inferno. Sin’s power to destroy, distort, and devalue will never change. It is seated in the very soul of sinners. Immorality and corruption, prejudice and pride, iniquity and evil, out of which grow wars and rumors of war will continue unless the hearts of men are changed.

By the age of nineteen, I was the youngest man in my state to acquire a license to sell alcohol and was part-owner and manager of a 500-seat nightclub in my hometown. The business grew. It was sort of the happening place in our city and the largest dance club between Memphis and Nashville. I was messed up and helping people make a bigger mess of their lives.

Something happened to me that changed the course of my life, family, and the lives of others. According to John 3:3 and 2 Corinthians 5:17, I was born again by the regenerating power of God; the old was gone and the new had come! In Christ, He brought about a new spiritual, volitional, moral, and intellectual change. Thirty-five years later, God continues cleaning up the mess in my life through His life-changing power.

How did this change come about in my life? Did God zap me with a bolt and jolt of regenerating power? Did I say the right words of righteousness or do something to gain God’s favor? Was it God? Was it me? What happened?

Prior to salvation, I had been reading and studying the Word of God. I had been attending church with my wife and hearing the gospel in Sunday School and church. People were praying for me. Several people had shared the gospel with me. Most of all, the Holy Spirit was convicting me (Ps. 51:3, John 16:8-11) of my messed up life (my sin) and pointing me to Jesus Christ and His saving power. Finally, one Sunday morning everything came together in one holy moment as I called on Jesus to forgive me and save me. My life changed that day because of an encounter with the living Lord! God took the initiative; I merely responded through repentance and faith. As sinners, God’s Word summons us to repent and believe, but we are never summoned to ‘redeem’ or ‘justify’ or ‘regenerate’ or ‘adopt.’ These are things only God can do!

Salvation is God’s answer to our mess! This brings me to the two theological words in the scope of salvation: conversion and regeneration. Here we will see the relationship of the lost man to his sin and the relationship of the sinner to a saving God.

Conversion Defined

Dr. Kenneth Keathley (SEBTS) defines conversion:

It is made up of two distinguishable yet inseparable parts: repentance and faith. True repentance and true faith are like the two sides of a coin – it is impossible to have one without the other. Repentance and faith are the conditions for salvation. They occur simultaneously, and taken together they make up the act of conversion.[1]

 

Keathley says of conversion, it is something we do, that is, God does not repent and believe for us.[2] Over and over, the Bible shows God calling the sinner to repent and believe. This personal response is a “turning from” and a “turning to.” The sinner is convicted to turn from his sin (godly sorrow) and turn to a Holy God (faith). The Holy Spirit is working to bring conviction of the sinner’s sin, of the righteousness of Christ, and a coming judgment (John 16:8-11).

Jesus said that He has come to seek and to save that which was lost. At the age of twenty-three, the Lord Jesus invaded my world with His Spirit convicting me, His Word teaching me, His preacher pointing me to the gospel, His people praying for me and the Spirit of God bringing me to a point of either rejecting or receiving. Only by God’s help did I reach out to repent and receive.

Repentance and faith do not constitute two independent acts; they are merely the negative and positive views of the same experience. If it were possible to have one to the exclusion of the other, we would end up with an oxymoronic mix up of impenitent believer or penitent unbeliever. When one turns from sin, he automatically turns to God. One turning is not possible without the other.[3]

Dr. C. E. Autrey once said,

Man in his natural world is committed to it and moves with the impulses of that world. God must come into man’s world and get his personal response. We have seen how God by the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ has entered the world and offered man a new life. It now becomes man’s responsibility to accept or reject.[4]

 

So when the sinner acknowledges his or her guilt before a Holy God and looks to Jesus like a drowning man accepting a lifeline, or a poor man allowing a generous benefactor to pay his debt – the sinner is converted! In conversion, we see the synergistic work of God drawing, wooing, and convicting with the sinner freely responding by “turning from” and “turning to.” Regeneration is the other side, and it is all (100%) God’s doing.

Regeneration Defined

Regeneration is the act of God whereby the Holy Spirit imparts eternal life to the believer.[5] The Dictionary of Everyday Theology and Culture says of “regeneration,”

When humans are born, they possess bios, or biological life. But believers in Jesus who are born of the Holy Spirit possess z?e, or new spiritual life. This explains why, in the same conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). Unlike conversion, humans don’t have a part in regeneration; it’s a supernatural work of God alone.[6]

 

While conversion is a graciously enabled action, it still is a decision made by the hearer of the gospel. Only by the grace of God is a person truly converted. In contrast, regeneration is entirely a work of God. Conversion is something we do; regeneration is a work accomplished in us by the Holy Spirit. Just as we did not birth ourselves, we do not enact our new birth either. We convert; God regenerates.[7]

Jesus seeks to teach a very smart man named Nicodemus that the natural man cannot be a part of God’s Kingdom without a complete spiritual change (John 3:3). The Greek word an?then could also be translated “from above” thereby showing the source of this rebirth or regeneration.

Regeneration a radical change – resulting in a new beginning of character. This is not talking about our old lives being reformed, reconditioned, or reinvigorated. The new Child of God is no longer focused on self and sin but in Christ (John 3:9).

Regeneration is essential to salvation – Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again (John 3:7). Only the person experiencing the “new birth” can enter into the Kingdom of God. No amount of good deeds or religious acts can help us acquire salvation.

Regeneration is a work of God – wrought by the Holy Spirit! “3 Jesus replied, ‘I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ . . . 6 ‘Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit’” (John 3:3, 6). The Holy Spirit is the direct and personal agent effecting this regeneration.

Regeneration is not the result of water baptism – the New Testament points to baptism as a testimony or sign of the new birth (Rom. 6:3-5). Christian baptism takes for granted that the new birth has already happened.

Regeneration should not be joined to infant baptism – Keathley shares how certain Reformed and Presbyterian churches teach that regeneration precedes conversion chronologically and a number of covenant theologians connect regeneration with infant baptism. He shows that W. G. T. Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology (vol. 2) believes that New Testament baptism equates with the Old Testament rite of circumcision, that both are signs that one has been born into the covenant, and that just as the male children of a Hebrew family were circumcised as infants, so today the children of believers also should be baptized. Shedd says, “The infant of the believer receives the Holy Spirit as a regenerating Spirit, by virtue of the covenant between God and his people.”[8]

Regeneration does not precede conversion – Keathley gives three arguments for this. First, the Bible gives many appeals calling sinners to respond to the gospel, thereby, implying that conversion results in regeneration. The Scriptures are presented as the seed the Spirit of God uses to bring about new life (1 Peter 1:23, James 1:18, 21; and 1 John 3:9). Secondly, the Bible presents conversion as the condition to salvation, not the result of being saved. The apostles repeatedly promise their hearers that if they will repent and believe, then they will be saved (Acts 2:38, 16:30-31). Faith is presented as the condition to becoming a child of God (John 1:12-13). Third, Norm Geisler (Systematic Theology, 475-77) makes the point that if regeneration is prior to conversion, then salvation is no longer by faith. If one is already regenerated before he believes, then faith is not a condition to salvation but the evidence of having been saved.[9] Reformed writers James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken would not agree, as they say, “People only believe because God has quickened them. If they fail to believe, it is because God has withheld that special, efficacious grace that he was under no obligation to bestow. In other words, new life comes before saving faith; it is never the other way around.”[10] I would kindly disagree.

In closing, I was saved as God’s Spirit powerfully worked in my life. I became a child of God through His regenerating power as I repented and called on Jesus (Romans 10:13). God’s Spirit assured me of His salvation after a short struggle with doubt and confusion brought by other well meaning Christians who felt their church was the one true church on the planet. God kindly assured me that salvation was “in Christ,” and no amount of water, worry, or works can save.


[1] Kenneth Keathley, “The Doctrine of the Church,” in A Theology For The Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville, B&H, 2007), 728.

[2] Ibid., 728.

[3] William W. Stevens, Doctrines of the Christian Religion, (Nashville: Broadman, 1967), 219. Dr. Stevens was chairman of the Division of Religion, Mississippi College, and he earned a Th.M. and Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Seminary.

[4] C. E. Autrey, Basic Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 24. Autry served as Professor of Evangelism, Southwestern Baptist Seminary and served in evangelism leadership at the Home Mission Board, SBC.

[5] Keathley, 739.

[6] Bruce Demarest and Keith J. Matthews, eds., Dictionary of Everyday Theology and Culture (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2010), 326.

[7] Keathley, 728.

[8] William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scrbner’s Sons, 1891), 576; quoted in Keathley, 742.

[9] Ibid., 743.

[10] James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2002), 149.

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available

volfan007

Ron,

Great word, Brother. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

David

    Ron Hale

    David,
    Thanks for the good word. It was also good seeing you at our recent luncheon and thanks for being a great sport about your “baptism experience.”

    Where can we find that very special baptism happening on youtube?

    Blessings!

      volfan007

      Ron,

      I’m not sure that I should tell where to find it….lol. Naw, you can find it on Youtube, and look under “Memorable baptism.” Then, you’ll see it….look for the big fella in a white robe with a baptistry painting of a river on the wall behind our baptistry.

      It was good seeing you and all the fellas today….I really enjoyed that.

      David

        volfan007

        Ron,

        Here’s the hot link.

        http://youtu.be/D3h7y8tLdF8

        David

          Les

          David,

          I saw this. Very funny, but you were a real sport.

          BTW, thanks for continuing to dialogue on the “Things That Bear Watching” post from the other day. Not sure anyone is still reading that one.

          volfan007

          Usually, after 2 or 3 other posts go out, the older ones are forgotten…it seems to me. I guess everyone’s just ready to move on.

          Usually, I’m very, very careful about walking into the baptistry, because its so slick. But, the one time I’m not being careful….woooosh….splash! lol

          David

    Ron Hale

    Dear Readers:

    I have a “typo” in the first reference box on Dr. Keathley … it should say “without” instead of “with” … it should read:

    “It is made up of two distinguishable yet inseparable parts: repentance and faith. True repentance and true faith are like the two sides of a coin – it is impossible to have one WITHOUT the other. Repentance and faith are the conditions for salvation. They occur simultaneously, and taken together they make up the act of conversion.[1]

    Thanks to Kevin (see below) for pointing that out. Blessings!

      Ron

      The SBC Today Tech guy …changed my typo in block one. Thx a million!

      Ron

      The tech corrected my typo …many thx

Mike Davis

I enjoyed reading your powerful testimony. While we may disagree on some things like monergism vs synergism and the logical (though not necessarily chronological) order of regeneration/conversion, I definitely agree with you that true saving faith includes repentance.

    Ron Hale

    Thank you Mike for your gracious comment and many blessings to you as we week to share the Good News!

      Ron

      “work” to share the Good News

Les

Ron, I loved your testimony of salvation.

I was tracking with you until

“Regeneration should not be joined to infant baptism – Keathley shares how certain Reformed and Presbyterian churches teach that regeneration precedes conversion chronologically and a number of covenant theologians connect regeneration with infant baptism. He shows that W. G. T. Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology (vol. 2) believes that New Testament baptism equates with the Old Testament rite of circumcision, that both are signs that one has been born into the covenant, and that just as the male children of a Hebrew family were circumcised as infants, so today the children of believers also should be baptized. Shedd says, “The infant of the believer receives the Holy Spirit as a regenerating Spirit, by virtue of the covenant between God and his people.”

Well, I still track with you here some. Let me state what I agree with first on this paragraph.

I agree that “Regeneration should not be joined to infant baptism.” That is, I agree that infant baptism does not regenerate. Orthodox Presbyterian and Reformed also agree that infant baptism does not regenerate.

I agree that “certain Reformed and Presbyterian churches teach that regeneration precedes conversion chronologically.” And, I agree that is the case.

I agree that Presbyterian and certain Reformed churches believe “that New Testament baptism equates with the Old Testament rite of circumcision, that both are signs that one has been born into the covenant, and that just as the male children of a Hebrew family were circumcised as infants, so today the children of believers also should be baptized,” though it is not a one to one equation.

But, I disagree IF you are trying to make the case that Shedd taught regenerational baptism of infants when he said, “The infant of the believer receives the Holy Spirit as a regenerating Spirit, by virtue of the covenant between God and his people.”

Shedd also said as quoted from Akin, “The baptism of the infant of a believer supposes the actual or PROSPECTIVE operation of the regenerating Spirit, in order to the efficacy of the rite…The actual conferring of the Holy Spirit may be prior to baptism, or in the act itself, or subsequent to it.” (emphasis added) from Daniel Akin, A Theology of the Church.

Clearly Shedd did not believe nor teach that baptism regenerates. He did indicate that regeneration COULD happen at baptism. Certainly if one believes that man is passive in regeneration (as I do) and that we would not be conscious of it until after it occurred (as I do) and that it can take place in infants as well as adults (as I believe), then it could happen anytime. Shedd is simply stating that possibility, and I agree with him. Heck, regeneration COULD happen at a credobaptism. I know for a fact it happens AFTER credobaptism. It happened to me after my Baptist immersion. So on that point, Baptists can agree that regeneration can happen after baptism, just as Shedd says.

Last, I would agree with Boice and Ryken, ““People only believe because God has quickened them. If they fail to believe, it is because God has withheld that special, efficacious grace that he was under no obligation to bestow. In other words, new life comes before saving faith; it is never the other way around.”

Shedd sheds some light on this process from a Reformed perspective:

“What is man’s relation to regeneration? The answer is that his agency is not in regeneration itself, but in the work of conviction which is preparatory or antecedent to regeneration.

The term preparative as used by the Augustinian and Calvinist is very different from its use by the Semipelagian and Arminian. The former means by it conviction of sin, guilt, and helplessness. The latter employs it in the sense of a preparative disposition or a favoring state of heart. This is referred to in Westminster Confession 9.3: “A natural man is not able to convert himself or prepare himself thereto.” The tenth of the Thirty-nine Articles also excludes the Semipelagian “preparatives” to regeneration: “We have no power to do good works acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a goodwill and working with us when we have that goodwill.” In Semipelagian use, a “preparative” denotes some faint desires and beginnings of holiness in the natural man upon which the Holy Spirit, according to the synergistic theory of regeneration, joins. Having this sense of the term in view, Witsius (Covenants 3.6.27) says: “Let none think it absurd that we now speak of means of regeneration, when but a little before (3.6.10, 12) we rejected all preparatives for it.” Owen, on the other hand, denies “means” and asserts “preparatives” of regeneration. Yet Owen and Witsius agree in doctrine. In the Calvinistic system, a “preparative” to regeneration or a “means” of it is anything that demonstrates man’s total lack of holy desire and his need of regeneration. It is consequently not a part of regeneration, but something prior and antecedent to it. There is a work performed in the soul previous to the instantaneous act of regeneration, as there is a work performed in the body previous to the instantaneous act of death. A man loses physical life in an instant, but he has been some time in coming to this instant. So man gains spiritual life in an instant, though he may have had days and months of a foregoing experience of conviction and sense of spiritual death. This is the ordinary divine method, except in the case of infants.”

Good article altogether.

Les

    Ron Hale

    Les,

    Thanks for your lengthy comment (but break it up next time, please :). Also, thanks for agreeing with me in some areas.

    Regeneration should not be joined to infant baptism – I still stand by that point and I think we agree with Dr. Keathley that certain Reformed and Presbyterian churches teach that regeneration precedes conversion chronologically and a number of covenant theologians connect regeneration with infant baptism. Upon further review of Dr. Keathley’s writing on Shedd, he earlier said … W.G.T. Shedd is careful not to attribute regenerating power to the rite of baptism, but he does consider baptism to be a sign that the infant has been regenerated. He states, “The baptism of the infant of a believer supposes the actual or prospective operation of the regenerating Spirit, in order to the efficacy of the rite …The actual conferring of the Holy Spirit may be prior to baptism, or in the act itself, or subsequent to it.” So … I don’t want to say that he equates the two. But … let me ask you Les …if Dr. Shedd doesn’t believe in regenerational baptism of infants, then what is Shedd describing when he says, “the infant receives the Holy Spirit as a regenerating Spirit ….?”

    Also … is Shedd’s connection of baptism with circumcision supported by the N.T.? And as a former Baptist … do you really believe infants can be saved?

    Les, maybe you don’t want to answer this one now … but do you think the New Calvinists in the SBC will identify more and more with your Reformed views of Baptism (infants, sprinkling, pouring) and the Lord’s Supper? As a former ordained Southern Baptist Pastor … do you have a take on the path forward for those that have been turned toward the TULIP?

    Thanks for your comments!

      Les

      Ron,

      Sorry for the long response. I didn’t think it had gotten that long. Before you know it…well.

      So this one may be a bit long in light of what you asked at the end. So, I have soem Grateful Dead on the iPad from Wolfgang’s Vault. Good stuff.

      “Regeneration should not be joined to infant baptism…” Well, as I will note shortly, that depends.

      “I think we agree with Dr. Keathley that certain Reformed and Presbyterian churches teach that regeneration precedes conversion chronologically [AGREE]and a number of covenant theologians connect regeneration with infant baptism.” Again, what do you mean by “connects?” I have said it COULD be connected to (at the time of the) infant baptism.

      “let me ask you Les …if Dr. Shedd doesn’t believe in regenerational baptism of infants, then what is Shedd describing when he says, “the infant receives the Holy Spirit as a regenerating Spirit ….?””

      I don’t know where that sentence of Shedd’s fits with the other things he said. It is obvious from the other citations he doesn’t believe in regenerational baptism. So w/o the context of paragraph and chapter, I cannot guess at what he means. I’ll have to find that passage in his dogmatics to get a better idea.

      “Also … is Shedd’s connection of baptism with circumcision supported by the N.T.?”

      Paedobaptists get that connection from Col/ 2:11 ff. That could be a lengthy discussion, but that is the NT passage where paedobaptists get that.

      “And as a former Baptist … do you really believe infants can be saved?””

      Whether I am or was a Baptist is not really an issue on infant regeneration. But, yes I do think they can be regenerated. John the Baptist in Luke 1, for example. Baptists Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur also believe that infants can be regenerated.

      If I believe that regeneration is monergistic and precedes conversion, and I do believe that, then an infant and an extremely mentally impaired person CAN be regenerated. For such an infant who lives into youth and adult, conversion would follow later. For infants dying in infancy and the severely mentally impaired, there would never be a conscious conversion.

      “but do you think the New Calvinists in the SBC will identify more and more with your Reformed views of Baptism (infants, sprinkling, pouring) and the Lord’s Supper? As a former ordained Southern Baptist Pastor … do you have a take on the path forward for those that have been turned toward the TULIP?”

      First, I am still an ordained SB pastor who is not currently serving in a SB church. I’m a bit unusual in many ways I guess, but on baptism for instance, I can affirm both the legitimacy of paedobaptism and credobaptism. I don’t think either one is THE necessary way to do it.

      But no, I don’t think most of the so-called YRR will identify with infant baptism via sprinkling, etc. However, I do think more and more younger SB pastors will cooperate across denominational lines than maybe their predecessors did. i.e. I think they will find much more in common with say the PCA than pastors did 20-25 years ago did. But I don’t see them changing their practice on mode and timing. maybe some will try to go the Piper attempted route though, and be willing to admit members who have been sprinkled. I don’t know.

      Last, “…do you have a take on the path forward for those that have been turned toward the TULIP?”

      Not sure what you’re asking. I do think the rhetoric and vitriol on both sides needs to be tempered. If things don’t cool down, the SBC may see a defection, likely of the YRR and other Calvinists. There seems to be way more non-Calvinists, so i don’t see them leaving. But you may see the Calvinists just move on to become non-denominational (like MacArthur) or join up with some other group (who? I don’t know).

      Each side, it seems to me, believes the other side has it in for them. Either to take over or to rune the other side out. That doesn’t bode well.

      I know there are some YRR out there who have been caustic and even mean-spirited. But so have some of the non-Calvinists. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

      Grateful dead still going strong!

      Les

        Ron Hale

        Thanks Les … we’ll talk more later (maybe tomorrow).

Ron Hale

Les,
Thanks for your comment. Just to be clear — Dr. Akin is the Editor of the A Theology For the Church. Dr. Kenneth Keathley is the author of Section 6, Chapter 12 on the Doctrine of Salvation (The Work of God: Salvation). He deals with the teachings of Dr. Shedd on p. 742 and when I get a chance later today, I’ll do an extended quote on Dr. Keathley’s work. I feel that he is fair in his research.

Blessings!

    Les

    Thanks Ron. I could only find part of the book online and I saw Dr. Akin’s name listed first. I’m sure he fairly deals with Shedd. I wasn’t implying otherwise.

    My point was to show that Shedd does not equate infant baptism with regeneration, which the quote I supplied shows.

    Thanks,

Joshua

Ron,

I enjoyed the article and how the Lord delivered you and continues to this day. All praise be to Him!

You state: “…we are never summoned to ‘redeem’ or ‘justify’ or ‘regenerate’ or ‘adopt.’ These are things only God can do!”

Do you believe some Christians believe this or is this just a hypothetical without a referent?

    Ron Hale

    Joshua,

    The last time we engaged in blog bantering back and forth … you took our little conversation, copied it, and posted it on your personal blog and held me up to scorn. You have also done that Dr. Hankins and others.

    I have decided “not” to answer any of your comments (you may have noticed this lately). I do not trust you.

    2 Tim. 2: 23 and 24 says, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” The surrounding verses of these two are very important.

    I haven’t always lived up to God’s instructions. Sometimes it is easy to believe that “blogging” is not real life, therefore, I can say anything I wish. It is real life.

    Blessings!

      volfan007

      Ron,

      That’s one of the reasons I quit going to SBC Voices….because of the way some of the leaders of that blog acted.

      David

      Joshua

      Ron,

      I am not sure what “holding you up to scorn” means. I did share the conversation since it is a public dialogue and you dodged repeated direct questions before Pastor David Worley jumped in and went ad hominem calling me a Calvinist fool.

      I am not sure how posting a public dialogue makes me untrustworthy or dishonest. I posted the conversation in full. Anyone can go right now and read it on this website. Perhaps you are ashamed of the way you treated me and didn’t like your behavior being exposed. I am lost at how posting a public conversation is dishonest. The same goes for the words of Eric Hankins.

      I will refrain from interacting with you, thought I do desire honest and respectful discussion. Blessings to you!

        volfan007

        Joshua,

        I never called you a “Calvinist fool.” That is just not true.

        David

          volfan007

          I think every honest person, who read SBC Voices, could tell us, who truly was the mean spirited people over there.

          David

          Joshua

          Oh really?

          So jumping into a conversation quoting Proverbs 72:12 is a loving exhortation?

          “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, Rather than a fool in his folly.”

          volfan007

          Did I call you a Calvinist fool? No. Foolishness can be because of the way one argues and has a mean spirit about them.

          Also, I’m not doing this dance with you, anymore, Joshua. That’s one of the reasons I’ve quit going to SBC Voices. There were 4 or 5 over there, who were constantly challenging my motives, falsely accusing me of things, dissecting every word and phrase, and calling me names. So, I’m done with that.

          That’s why I’m coming here to discuss things concerning the SBC, and why I’m going to other blogs now. It’s been a lot nicer, friendlier day in my world.

          David

          Joshua

          David,

          No dancing…we are Baptists. ;)

          volfan007

          Joshua,

          I believe I have told you that I am not anti-Calvinist. I have told you this many, many times. I have many Calvinist friends, whom I love very much.

          I am not a fan of the New Calvinists. Aggressive Calvinists, who have such an obsession with Calvinism, who make it a matter of fellowship, are not my favorite people. I do think they are caught up in extremes of doctrine and attitude. Their “folly” is being aggressive, mean spirited, dogmatic, and arrogant in thier views of Calvinism. They are definitely not the kind of Calvinists that I have a good relationship with, in many, many friendships.

          David

          Joshua

          David,

          I don’t see myself as a New Calvinist. I read people like Boyce and Dagg.

          Maybe I am not understanding what New Calvinism is. Can you explain the differences between the Calvinism of Boyce, Dagg, Broadus, etc. and New Calvinism?

          volfan007

          I believe I already did….in my comment above.

          David

          Joshua

          David,

          So this is your definition of New Calvinism?

          “Aggressive Calvinists, who have such an obsession with Calvinism, who make it a matter of fellowship, are not my favorite people. I do think they are caught up in extremes of doctrine and attitude. Their “folly” is being aggressive, mean spirited, dogmatic, and arrogant in thier views of Calvinism.”

      Joshua

      Ron,

      I forgot that I am not the first person you have squabbled with over quoting your comments.

      For those interested: http://hereiblog.com/ethics-dont-quote-me-bro/

Kevin

Ron,

Enjoyed reading this. But should not the quote by Dr. Keathly read…

“…it is impossible to have one WITHOUT the other…” ?

    Ron Hale

    Kevin …

    Thank you, thank you …. Yes … The first quote of Dr. Keathley should read:

    It is made up of two distinguishable yet inseparable parts: repentance and faith. True repentance and true faith are like the two sides of a coin – it is impossible to have one WITHOUT the other. Repentance and faith are the conditions for salvation. They occur simultaneously, and taken together they make up the act of conversion.[1]

    Thanks for your help on this!

    I appreciate your attention to details! Blessings

Les

Ron,

One other thing we Calvinists affirm along with non-Calvinists. You quoted, or paraphrased, Kenneth Keathley,

…:says of conversion, it is something we do, that is, God does not repent and believe for us.[2] Over and over, the Bible shows God calling the sinner to repent and believe. This personal response is a “turning from” and a “turning to.” The sinner is convicted to turn from his sin (godly sorrow) and turn to a Holy God (faith). The Holy Spirit is working to bring conviction of the sinner’s sin, of the righteousness of Christ, and a coming judgment (John 16:8-11).”

“it is something we do, that is, God does not repent and believe for us.[2] Over and over, the Bible shows God calling the sinner to repent and believe. This personal response is a “turning from” and a “turning to.” The sinner is convicted to turn from his sin (godly sorrow) and turn to a Holy God (faith). The Holy Spirit is working to bring conviction of the sinner’s sin, of the righteousness of Christ, and a coming judgment (John 16:8-11).”

We agree. In conversion the person is participating in what God is doing, unlike regeneration where the person is passive. Roger Nicole, Reformed Baptist now with the Lord said,

It is clear that faith does not arise by the initiative of sinful human beings. This glorious flower does not grow on the dunghill of human depravity and rebellion. The Confession states this truth in five ways: (a) Faith is called a grace; (b) the elect are the ones who exercise saving faith; (c) they are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls; (d) it is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart; and (e) three passages of Scripture are listed: 1 Corinthians 12:5, Ephesians 2:8, Hebrews 12:2.

It’s also clear that this blessing that originates in God’s plan is connected with the ministry of the Word and the administration of the means of grace. God is the formal cause and these are often instrumental causes.

In light of this, it is important to recognize that the new Christian is not passive in the act of faith but actively exercises the new powers established by accepting the truth. Faith involves the whole person‹body and soul; mind, heart and will. It is not God who believes through us, but in faith we respond; the first act of a freed slave. (Jn 8:32­36)

That a believer is personally active in faith is clear from the fact that the verb “believe” occurs in the imperative (e.g. Mk 5:36; Jn 10:38; 14:2; Acts 16:31) God commands us to do something that requires our participation, at least to some extent. God never says “Be born” or “Be born again,” for these acts are clearly outside our reach. But “repent,” “believe,” and “obey” include our activity even though we are helpless to do this if God does not enable us by his spirit.

He says of repentance, “As with faith, repentance, too, is not purely passive but must act in response to God’s command.”

FYI, another area of agreement!

    Les

    Oops, sorry for the double citation.

    Ron Hale

    Les,

    Are you sure we agree?

    I do not believe that regeneration precedes faith (conversion). I would have thought you believe the sinner is first regenerated in order to believe/repent.

    Les

    Ron,

    I know we disagree on the priority of regeneration. What I was pointing out is our agreement that conversion does in fact involve man’s participation. I was agreeing with you, Keathley and Reformed Baptist Nicole. I DO in fact believe that the sinner is born again first, then conversion.

      volfan007

      Les,

      You believe a man is “born again first” then “conversion?” What? So, you believe that a person has to be saved in order to get saved?

      If a person is regenerated before getting saved, then….well, why would they need to get saved? They are already regenerated….

      David

        volfan007

        I dont see this taught in the Bible….that a person is born again before they’e born again…that a person has to be saved in order to get saved.

        David

          Les

          “I dont see this taught in the Bible….that a person is born again before they’e born again…that a person has to be saved in order to get saved.”

          I don’t see that version of it either.

        Les

        David,

        “You believe a man is “born again first” then “conversion?” ”

        Yes. Unconverted sinners are dead in their sins and do not have ears to hear. They cannot understand spiritual things until they are quickened to life.

        “What? So, you believe that a person has to be saved in order to get saved?”

        No. Well, how do you define “saved?” Most theologians recognize that “salvation” encompasses more than any one aspect of the ordo salutis. In our common speech, we say someone “got saved.” Well, we mean they were regenerated, converted, justified, adopted, etc.

        But let me be clear that in the reformed view, regeneration (coming to spiritual life, is wholly a work of God. When the sinner is awakened and can now understand spiritual things, he then exercises faith and repentance.

          volfan007

          Les,

          That sure does sound like you believe that a person has to be saved, in order to get saved…to me.

          DAvid

          Les

          David,

          I’ll say again, I believe that one has to be born again to repent and believe (conversion). Regeneration alone is not “salvation.” Conversion alone is not “salvation.”

Bill Mac

I generally think regeneration comes first. I have heard at least one Calvinist suggest that regeneration logically precedes repentance and faith but not necessarily temporally, which seems close to what I’ve seen some non-Calvinists suggesting, that all three are pretty much simultaneous.

Both sides essentially agree that it is a work of God that awakens the sinner to his/her sin and ignites the spark of faith. This is what Calvinists call regeneration.

I’m not sure I fully agree that all three components of salvation happen simultaneously, regardless of their order. I have heard testimonies that suggest that they do not, and my own testimony doesn’t (in my subjective opinion) seem consistent with that theory.

Ron Hale

Bill Mac,
I like the following verse on this subject …

John 3:36
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.

A. The one who believes
B. The one who believes in the Son
C. The one who believes in the Son HAS eternal life
D. But ..
E. the one who refuses to believe in the Son
F. will not see LIFE
G. the wrath of God remains on him…

Faith comes before “life” (regeneration).

Earlier … Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about the serpent-bitten people in the desert and God’s clear instructions to put up a brass serpent on a pole and place it in the middle of the camp. Those bitten (death sentence upon them) could receive healing and life …for a look of faith. Those who did not look … did not live. Those who looked … lived. So which came first … life? Or … the look?

Jesus taught that “in” the new birth (regeneration) the believing (the act of faith) set the stage for the spiritual birthing.

Blessings for the day!

    Les

    Ron,

    I’m wondering if you have any thoughts why some translations of “but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life” use “disobey” for “refuses to believe.”

    The KJV is “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life.”

    The ESV is “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

    NASB has “but he who does not [j]obey the Son will not see life” with a footnote saying also, “believe.”

    I have some ideas, but I’m out the door for Columbia, MO so will be minimal in commenting for a while.

    Thanks

      Bob Hadley

      Les,

      The first verb is pisteo which means Believe. The second verb is apatheo which is the negative of patheo that means to persuade. So a rendering of the passage could be “36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to be persuaded in the Son will not see or experience life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.”

      The Greek certainly renders irresistible grace suspect, especially in this passage.

      ><>”

        Les

        Bob,

        Yes, I was aware of the different Greek words. I wasn’t trying to make any Reformed point.

        Just thinking out loud on the different translations…believe and obey.

        BTW, I don’t think either one has a negative effect on irresistible grace.

    Les

    Ron,

    I don’t know if you are still looking here, but…you said,

    “Those bitten (death sentence upon them) could receive healing and life …for a look of faith. Those who did not look … did not live. Those who looked … lived. So which came first … life? Or … the look?”

    You would agree, wouldn’t you, that salvation has always been via faith. OT as well as the NT. It was not the “look” that saved someone, it was faith expressed in the “look.”

    Lots of people actually “looked” upon Jesus, in person, and were not saved. Why? No faith.

    Also, I still cannot see how that verse demonstrates your view that spiritually dead people can perform a spiritual act (faith) while still spiritually dead (prior to the new birth).

    The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
    (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available