Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pre-Faith or Post-Faith Regeneration

When does the light get turned on?
I've had a bit of a break over the last week because the ministry Doctrinal Statement is being reviewed by other leaders and I am not leading the ministry Bible study this week. It's almost like a vacation! So with some free CPU cycles and a few moments of time what is the first thing I want to post about? Calvinism. Can you believe it? I'm surprised, but my tone ought to be much more relaxed as I'm dealing with a much less contentious issue than I was dealing with last year.

Recently I was at a men's Bible study with a man who preaches the Gospel with great fidelity but whom believes that Regeneration precedes faith and that faith is a gift. This doctrine often leads to serious error which changes the Gospel, but I can honestly say that I don't believe it does with this Brother. He wouldn't claim the name Calvinist but he does admit that he is Calvinistic in his thinking.

I've been enjoying speaking with this man because though he titles his views with terms that Calvinists use, his actual positions are not at all like Reformed Theology. We spoke about this for a while and practically we agree - no one comes to God unless the Holy Spirit convicts and convinces them. I think he terms this work as the New Birth, which I think is in error BUT he doesn't appear to hold to the inability to believe view. We spoke about Eph 2:8-9 and shared with him my findings based on extensive study and what William Wallace says in his Greek Grammar. He had absolutely no issue with this view, which I found absolutely fascinating.

As we were running out of time he explained that his view that faith is a gift and that regeneration precedes faith based on a passage that I would use to show that regeneration is conditioned on faith and so cannot precede it.

John 1:10-13
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
We did not have time to discuss it fully but he said that Vs 13 is the primary reason he believes these things.

It seems to me that when we speak to Calvinists about when Regeneration happens and we talk about this verse that the Calvinist (or one who sounds like one) often changes the discussion from a timeline to a discussion of who's will is involved. Then we get wound up and end up in a debate about something that wasn't even the point of the conversation.

Clearly Vs 12 gives us the timeline. To those who received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God. They received Him BEFORE they were born again as Children of God. There can be no further debate, the Holy Inspired Word of God tells us that unregenerate people receive Christ.

But what about the issue of the will? The Calvinist will argue that if an Un-Regenerate Person can "choose" God then they are exercising their will and God is subject to their will. Well, here is a portion of the CEM document which is still a work in progress entitled "The Doctrines of Evangelism" on the subject of the New Birth.

The New Birth: Being “born again” is the gracious act of God in conferring upon those who believe, the nature and disposition of “children of God” imparting to them spiritual life. (Adapted from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words) In order for fallen, depraved, man to have fellowship with Holy God we must be “born again” or “regenerated.” This new birth happens upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is accomplished by God the Holy Spirit and coincides with His in-dwelling of the Believer. The New Birth is not a gradual process nor is it reversible. It is instantaneous and permanent. 
 The New Birth is not accomplished by or in accordance with the will of man but is according to the will of the God, brought about by God by conviction of the Holy Spirit. Man does not choose to be born again, but God gives the right to be born again to those who believe in Christ.  It is at this point that the person becomes a New Creation, where as he or she now possesses not only their own fallen (Old/Adamic) Nature but also the perfect (New/) Nature of Christ. This New Nature desires the things of God and wars with the Old Nature as described in Para 8. D.  It is this new birth, and new nature of Christ (based solely on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ) that allows us to fellowship with God, not the performance of works.

Jn 1:10-13; Jn 3:1-21; Jn 3:36; Jn 5:24 Jn 6:40; Rom 3:20-26; 2Cor 5:17-21; 2Cor 6:14,19; Gal 6:12-15; Eph 1:13-14; Col 1:13-14; 1Pet 1:3,13-25; 1Jn 5:1

This wording hasn't been officially approved by the ministry yet, but the overall Soteriology has been. This description demonstrates that there is no conflict between the timeline given by Scripture and the statement that the New Birth is according to the will of God.

Both statements in this short passage can be read in a plain fashion and believed literally without conflict, and without Calvinism.


Alex Guggenheim said...

Good work here. I am always perplexed by the argument that the exercise of the Human will denies God's person, sovereignty particularly. This stems from a faulty view/definition of divine sovereignty as control and with Calv/Reformed "absolute control" instead of rule. Thus, this assumption affects their approach and ultimately puts them at grammatical and logical odds with various texts they are forced to explain away with laborious apologies as to why what is clear is not so clear.

Kevl said...

Hi Alex,

I've never understood the Ref/Cal need for God to be involved in absolute determinism (everything happens because He decides and acts) in order for Him to be "sovereign."

You are correct in saying this view forces them to abuse many passages and abandon the Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic here and there.

Of course your last sentence speaks volumes to me, and the issue is compounded when they claim that "Calvinism IS Christianity."

I'm pretty much done arguing with Reformed people, but I do want to continue to interact with the views.