Reformed Calvinists have taken a liking recently to looking at the Baptist
Faith and Message for support of their heresy that a person is born again before
he is saved. One writer on the subject has been Gene Bridges who blogs here, there, and everywhere.
(Where do you find the time, Gene?)
In this article, Brother Bob Ross conclusively refutes
this theory. The BF&M does not teach that a person is born again before
placing faith in Christ. Bob also proves that if a person believes in "born
again before faith," he cannot accept the Baptist Faith and Message as a
statement of faith! To quote Brother Bob, "if you hold to the
pedo-regenerationist theory, you do not hold the BF&M and therefore are not
a Southern Baptist in doctrine!"Where does this leave Dr.
Tom Schreiner and the other professors at The Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary who teach regeneration before faith? They are required to sign the
BF&M in order to teach at the seminary. How can they do so in good
Perhaps because SBTS has an Abstract of Principles written by James Boyce who affirmed the very things you deny, and this is *also* the document they are required to sign.
In the substance of the article Charles posts, merely enumerates Articles 2, 4, and 5 of the Baptist Faith and Message. He quotes Bob L. Ross:
Nothing in this BF&M indicates that Southern Baptists -- including
2-point Calvinist Adrian Rogers -- endorsed the theory of "born again before
faith." The 2-point Calvinist, Adrian Rogers, helped draft this BF&M, and he
was not as strong on Calvinism as 5-point Calvinist R. Albert Mohler, and Rogers
would have NEVER agreed to a statement of faith which affirmed "born again
before faith." The Founders Ministries, of all people, know this, for Rogers was
often in conflict with the Founders on doctrinal issues. Furthermore, it is
plain that the statement has "regeneration" as "part of "salvation," and it says
that "There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord."
How is this a refutation? Where his discussion of the meaning of the articles he cites, and where is his discussion of the history of the BFM?Is Charles or Mr. Ross aware that the parent document of the BFM is its 1963 and 1925 versions, and are they further aware that the New Hampshire Confession is the parent document of the BFM? Apparently not.
First of all the BFM for 2000 was designed to work like the 39 Artlcles of the Christian Religion and its function in confessional Anglican churches. If you read through the 39 Articles there are portions that are sufficiently vague such that a Calvinistic Anglican and an Anglo-Catholic can come to the Articles and see enough of a broad definition of their denominational articles to function in the same communion. In other words, it says a lot but might as well say nothing in the process, because it is intentionally vague.
The problem with Ross’ analysis of the BFM is quite simply that he locates the statements in the BFM on particular issues in the minds of Mullins, Hobbs, and Rogers. Why is this a problem? Because the statements he isolates are, in fact, drawn from the New Hampshire Confession of 1833, not the minds of those men. The NH Confession is itself, from a historical perspective, intended to reassert Calvinism over and against the rise of Arminianism. Ergo, the words in it should be read not with Arminian categories and definitions in mind, but rather with Calvinistic definitions in mind. Only by reinterpreting those terms can Ross come to his understanding that the BFM is out of step with monergistic regeneration that precedes faith.
If so, then so is the NH Confession, but the NH Confession was a response to Arminianism. History: In the 1770s Benjamin Randall, a Congregationalist, reacted against Calvinism and infant baptism and finally became a Baptist. Randall began in 1780 the religious movement which later came to be known as the Freewill Baptists. Freewill Baptists were very successful among the middle class people of New Hampshire, drawing many laymen, ministers, and churches away from the Calvinistic Baptists. The Baptist State Convention was organized in 1826. In 1833, this convention published a confession in response to the success of the Freewill Baptists. The New Hampshire Confession's doctrine of salvation was formulated in reaction to the popularity of the Arminianism of the Freewill Baptists. It is worth noting that at that time Arminian Baptist confessions always contained statements about the freedom of the will. The New Hampshire Confession goes out of its way to exclude this statement, which is the first clue as to the intent of the author. Without such a statement, it is highly doubtful that its terminology should be interpreted in Arminian categories. On the other hand, its lack of precision could also be interpreted as a way to make it more palatable to those who had left for Free Will churches, a way to woo them back to the fold. The 19th century was highly concerned with ecclesiology (in historical theology in general, not just in Baptist circles), so it is likely that was the case. Folks became less concerned with "What must I do to be saved?" and more concerned with "What is a true church?" Waning interest in soteriological doctrine, providence/concurrence, etc. and the concern to woo back those who had left could probably be construed as being involved in the formation of this particular confession, given its context in history. As a result, the NH Confession is quite controversial .
William W. Barnes wrote that the New Hampshire Confession "was so mild in its Calvinism that the five points of distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism were almost ignored." By the same token, others differ. Thomas J. Nettles writes, "Many have interpreted the contents of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith as an attempt to modify the strong Calvinism of earlier days into something more palatable to the tastes of nineteenth-century churches. It is true that it not as detailed or as lengthy as the Philadelphia Confession, but it is also true that the substance of its doctrine remains unchanged." Nettles concludes, "Rather than interpreting the New Hampshire Confession as a gradual retreat from the Calvinism of former days, it is better to see it as an affirmation of the Calvinist position on the particular issues raised by the presence and growth of Free Will Baptists in New England."
B.H. Carroll used the NH Confession for SWBTS when it was formed, probably because its ecclesiology is so limited that it suited his Landmark tendencies. Ergo, its association with the SBC began. It is no wonder Ross would think what he does of the BFM, considering that Mr. Ross is a former Landmark Baptist. You can take the Arminian out of the Landmark Baptist, but you can’t take the Landmark Baptist out of that particular Calvinist. He certainly argues like one.
So, the BFM suffers not merely from its own problems, but rather from the problems associated with Calvinism in the New Hampshire Confession, its immediate historical antecedent, whatever those problems may be. Certainly the lack of precision is one. Add to that the number of historical interpretations of the intent behind its composition, and the water gets muddy indeed. RB's historically like to use more detailed confessions like the 1689 or the 1646 or the Charleston or Philadelphia Confessions. The Abstract of Principles is based on the 1689 and Charleston Confessions. The churches that formed the SBC were all churches that affirmed the Philadelphia Confession. These are, without a doubt, more detailed confessions that articulate much more, yet SWBTS and SBTS functioned cooperatively quite well under different statements of faith, so it's hard to see how a truly clear case could be made that the Abstract and the BFM are in conflict with respect to cooperation in the SBC. So, in order to answer whether or not the two are in conflict, I would recommend folks to remember that the BFM is an umbrella document whose heritage is not simply rooted in EY Mullins, Hershel Hobbs, or Adrian Rogers. Rather it is rooted in New Hampshire Confession. If folks want to discuss "original intent" of the words, then both its history in the SBC as the BFM and the parent document, the NH Confession should be considered.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Article IV A reads:
Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers
become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the
Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in
repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith
are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin
toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire
personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.
This language was lifted from the 1963 Version:
Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers
become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the
Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in
repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith
are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin
toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire
personality to Him as Lord and Saviour. Justification is God’s gracious and full
acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and
believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer into a relationship of
peace and favor with God.
Some suggest that “to which” in the 2000 version refers to the conviction of sin, not regeneration itself. This can’t be correct for several reasons. First, notice the shift in the construction between the two versions. “Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace” has been moved to an new paragraph, speaking of regeneration. A synergist reading might be possible, through doubtful, for the 63 version, based on the positioning of this sentence. Second, the original 1925 confession states otherwise clearly. Third, both the 63 and 00 versions read that “Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace, not “calling” or “conviction” or ”nature” and the 2000 version now attaches this to the paragraph on regeneration.
Synergism places election and regeneration after conversion itself and thus outside the work of grace. Thus neither election nor regeneration is a link in a chain, resulting in a state of grace. Election and regeneration, therefore, falling outside the grace of God, do not create or contribute to a state of grace. On this view, the grace of God is limited to the work of Christ. A synergist reading of IV A would mean it is up to man in a state of nature, not grace, to respond to the Gospel of Christ, therefore, a reading of the BFM 2000 must be monergistic in order for repentance and faith to be experiences of grace, even if “to which” refers to “conviction of sin,” for one cannot call something an experience “of grace” and "part of salvation" when one is not in a state of grace when one is performing these actions!
Historically, the antecedent confession, the BFM of 1925 makes its meaning clear and unambiguous: Regeneration or the new birth is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit, whereby we become partakers of the divine nature and a holy disposition is given, leading to the love and practice of righteousness. It is a work of God’s free grace conditioned upon faith in Christ and made manifest by the fruit which we bring forth to the glory of God. We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour.
Does Mr. Ross agree with the Second London Baptist Confession?
CHAPTER 10; OF EFFECTUAL CALLING
Paragraph 1. Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call,1 by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ;2 enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God;
3 taking away their heart of stone, and giving to them a heart of flesh;4 renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ;5 yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.6
1 Rom. 8:30, 11:7; Eph. 1:10,11; 2 Thess. 2:13,14
2 Eph. 2:1-6
3 Acts 26:18; Eph. 1:17,18
4 Ezek. 36:26
5 Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:27; Eph. 1:19
6 Ps. 110:3; Cant. 1:4
Paragraph 2. This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature,7 being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit;8 he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead. 2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 2:8 8 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:5; John 5:25 9 Eph. 1:19, 20
This confession clearly states that when a man is effectually called, he is regenerated, raised to newness of life, and that enables him to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in the call of the gospel. Just to make this clear, it is stating that regeneration precedes faith!
The First London Confession is also quite clear:
V. All mankind being thus fallen, and become altogether dead in sins and trespasses, and subject to the eternal wrath of the great God by transgression; yet the elect, which God hath26 loved with an everlasting love, are27 redeemed, quickened, and saved, not by themselves, neither by their own works, lest any man should boast himself, but wholly and only by God of28 his free grace and mercy through Jesus Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that as it is written, He that rejoiceth, let him rejoice in the Lord.
Here is what it says about the relationship between faith and regeneration:
That Faith is the gift of God wrought in the hearts of the elect by the Spirit of God, whereby they come to see, know, and believe the truth of85 the Scriptures, and not only so, but the excellency of them above all other writings and things in the world, as they hold forth the glory of God in his attributes, the excellency of Christ in his nature and offices, and the power of the fullness of the Spirit in its workings and operations; and thereupon are enabled to cast the weight of their souls upon this truth thus believed. Those that have this precious faith wrought in them by the Spirit, can never finally nor totally fall away; and though many storms and floods do arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon, but shall be kept by the power of God to salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being formerly engraven upon the palms of God's hands. XXIV. That faith is ordinarily begot by the preaching of the Gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to88 any power or capacity in the creature, but it is wholly89 passive, being dead in sins and trespasses, doth believe, and is converted by no less power,90 than that which raised Christ from the dead.
Again, it affirms that regeneration precedes faith
This, Charles; this, Mr. Ross, is what the Particular Baptists believed. This is not the Hardshell doctrine. It is a doctrine of regeneration that leads to faith via the preaching of the word of God. It is simply an affirmation of monergism, and I defy you to find me articles that I have written or that the folks at Founders have written espousing the Hardshell doctrine of regeneration. Is it *not* the doctrine of the Hardshells. There is *no* affirmation of Hardshell doctrine in this at all, and the doctrine of mediate regeneration is not being affirmed by those at Founders or at SBTS. How many times do we have to repeat this for you understand it?
It is *also* what Charles Spurgeon believed. He said:
“COMING to Christ” is a very common phrase in Holy Scripture. It is used to
express those acts of the soul wherein leaving at once our self righteousness,
and our sins, we fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive his righteousness
to be our covering, and his blood to be our atonement. Coming to Christ, then,
embraces in it repentance, self-negation, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,
and it sums within itself all those things which are the necessary attendants of
these great states of heart, such as the belief of the truth, earnestness of
prayer to God, the submission of the soul to the precepts of God’s gospel, and
all those things which accompany the dawn of salvation in the soul. Coming to
Christ is just the one essential thing for a sinner’s salvation. He that cometh
not to Christ, do what he may, or think what he may is yet in “the gall of
bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.” Coming to Christ is the very first
effect of regeneration. No sooner is the soul quickened than it at once
discovers its lost estate, is horrified thereat, looks out for a refuge, and
believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and reposes in him (emphasis
mine). Where there is not this coming to Christ, it is certain that there is as
yet no quickening; where there is no quickening, the soul is dead in trespasses
and sins, and being dead it cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
So, Mr. Ross, in denying that regeneration precedes faith, you have set yourself against Dr. Spurgeon, the very one whose works you have maintained for us. A person believes as a result of regeneration. It is the very first effect. This doess not differ with the confessions, nor does it differ with what James White, Tom Ascol, or the others at Founders believe.
You have also set yourself against Scripture. I have written a paper on this, and in it I deny the Hardshell doctrine of regeneration, but I affirm monergistic regeneration. Do either of you even understand the difference? Here is a sample:
Does regeneration precede faith? The alternative is that regeneration occurs after faith. The way this question is answered and that fact that there is an alternative is proof positive that, while they essentially arrive at the same destination, non-Reformed and Reformed soteriology approach this issue from two completely incompatible directions. If one is true, the other is automatically false. How then shall we address this issue? We will look first at points of agreement between the two camps, then at the points of divergence, then take a brief look at what John has to say about the logical causal relationships involved.
First, let us remember, the issue is the logical, not necessarily the temporal order. Both Arminians and Calvinists agree that they are so close in time as to be considered simultaneous. Also, we all agree that the "believing" in 1 John 5 is a reference to saving faith as well as the faith by which we live each day. We all agree that faith is the agency of salvation. We both agree that regeneration is defined as "the new birth/being born again."
In your work you wrote:
The pre-17th century Calvinists such as Stephen Charnock and Thomas Watson
taught that Effectual Calling was by BOTH the "Word" and the "Spirit."The latter
view teaches that regeneration is by a "direct operation" of the Spirit apart
from the Word's being involved as an "instrumentality," and that one is
therefore "born again" prior to faith.
The latter view teaches that regeneration is by a "direct operation" of the Spirit apart from the Word's
being involved as an "instrumentality," and that one is therefore "born again"
prior to faith.
and then you wrote:
I strongly suspect that the real problem Mr. Ross has here is with Paedobaptism. He needs to admit this. As we shall see he has distorted what Sproul in particular affirms about monergistic regeneration and the instrumentality of the Word.
When we put this statement beside the pedo-regeneration theory of Shedd,
Berkhof, and Sproul, THERE IS NO COMPARISON!
These Pedobaptists have BABIES REGENERATED by a "Direct Operation" of the Spirit without the use of
Truth as a "Means," and before the babies are even capable of "understanding"
and "believing" in Christ.
Really? Is this RC Sproul' s theory? Let's see:
Sproul does speak of regeneration being the direct act of the Holy Spirit. However he says,
"God's call is made effectual by the Word and the Spirit. It is important to
see that the Word and the Spirit are here conjoined as two vital factors of
regeneration. The Holy Spirit is not working apart from the Word or
against the Word, but with the Word. Nor is the Word working alone
without the presence and power of the Spirit.
The call referred to in effectual calling is not the outward call of the gospelWill you please explain exactly how Dr. Sproul has divorced regeneration from the Word of God and the gospel in teaching that regeneration precedes fatih, when in the two paragraphs above he clearly denies that?
that can be heard by anyone within range of the preaching. The call referred to
here is the inward call, the call that penetrates to and pierces the heart,
quickening it to spiritual life. Hearing the gospel enlightens the
mind, yet it does not awaken the soul until the Holy
Spirit illuminates it and regenerates it. This move from ear to soul is made by
the Holy Spirit. This move is what accompanies God's purpose of applying the
benefits of Christ' work to the elect. (Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed
Theology, p.190 -91, 2000 edition).
When he says that infant regeneration occurs, he seems to infer that as soon as the child is able, the child repents and believes. To my knowledge, he holds this out as an abstract possibility and calls all notions of infant salvation "speculative." In this, he is agreement with James Boyce himself. He appeears, along with many Presbyterians to emply this to explain the phenmenon of persons like Mrs. Billy Graham who testify to having no memory of their conversion, yet they have, by their own account, for all intents and purposes believed in Christ. We cannot deny that God regenerates any infant who dies and enters heaven without denying the one way of salvation. Likewsie, we cannot deny that, in some very rare circumstances, there are those who have no memory of a time when they were unconverted.
Is this a post-17th century development? Not at all. For Turretin wrote in the 17th century:
XII. It is one thing to praise God subjectively and formally from knowledge
and affection; another to praise him objectively and materially. Infants are
said to praise God in the latter, not in the former sense (inasmuch as God, in
the care and preservation of them, wonderfully manifests his own glory, Ps.
XIII. Second proposition: "Although infants do not have actual faith,
the seed or root of faith cannot be denied to them, which is ingenerated in them
from early age and in its own time goes forth in act (human instruction
being applied from without and a greater efficacy of the Holy Spirit within)."
This second proposition is opposed to the Anabaptists, who deny to infants all
faith, not only as to act, but also as to habit and form. Although habitual
faith (as the word "habit" is properly and strictly used to signify a more
perfect and consummated state) is not well ascribed to them, still it is rightly
predicated of them broadly as denoting potential or seminal faith. Now by "seed
of faith," we mean the Holy Spirit, the effecter of faith and regeneration (as
he is called, 1 Jn. 3:9), as to the principles of regeneration and holy
inclinations which he already works in infants according to their measure in a
wonderful and to us unspeakable way. Afterwards in more mature age, these
proceed into act (human instruction being employed and the grace of the same
Spirit promoting his own work by which that seed is accustomed to be excited and
drawn forth into act).
XIV. The reasons are: (1) the promise of the covenant
pertains no less to infants than to adults, since God promises that he will be
"the God of Abraham and of his seed" (Gen. 17:7) and the promise is said to have
been made "with the fathers and their children" (Acts 2:39). Therefore also the
blessings of the covenant (such as "remission of sins" and "sanctification")
ought to pertain to them (according to Jer. 31 and 32) and are communicated to
them by God according to their state. In this sense (as some think), the
children of believers are called "holy" by Paul (1 Cor. 7:14). This may with
more propriety be referred to the external and federal holiness which belongs to
them, according to which (because they are born of covenanted and Christian
parents—at least of one) they are also considered to be begotten in "holiness"
(i.e., in Christianity, and not in heathenism, which was a state of uncleanness
[akatharsias] and impurity).
XV. (2) The kingdom of heaven pertains to infants (Mt.19:14), therefore
also regeneration (without which there is no admittance to it, Jn. 3:3, 5). Now
although Christ proposes this to adults for an example of humility to show that
they ought to be like children in disposition in order to enter the kingdom of
heaven, still he does not exclude (but includes in that promise) infants
themselves, from whom it commences.
XVI. (3) There are examples of various infants who were sanctified from
the womb (as was the case with Jeremiah and John the Baptist, Jer. 1:5; Lk.
1:15, 80). For although here occur certain singular and extraordinary things
(which pertained to them alone and not to others), still we may fairly conclude
that infants can be made partakers of the Holy Spirit, who since he cannot be
inactive, works in them motions and inclinations suited to their age (which are
called "the seed of faith" or principles of sanctification).
XVII. (4) Infants draw from natural generation common 4. notions
(koinas ennoias), and theoretical as well as practical principles of the natural
law; and if Adam had continuedinnocent, the divine image (which consists in
holiness) would have passed by propagation to his children. Therefore what is to
prevent them from receiving by supernatural regeneration certain seeds of faith
and first principles of sanctification, since they are not less capable of these
by grace than of those by nature?
XVIII. Although there seem to be in infants no marks from which we can
gather that they are gifted with the Holy Spirit and the seed of faith (because
their age prevents it), it does not follow that this must be denied to them
since the reason of their salvation demands it and the contrary is evident
from the examples adduced.
XIX. As before the use of reason, men are properly called rational
because they have the principle of reason in the rational soul; thus nothing
hinders them from being termed believers before actual faith because the seed
which is given to them is the principle of faith (from which they are rightly
denominated; even as they are properly called sinners, although not as yet able
to put forth an act of sin).
XX. If any of our theologians deny that there is faith in infants or
that it is necessary for their salvation (as is gathered from certain passages
of Peter Martyr, Beza and Piscator), it is certain that this is meant of actual
faith against the Lutherans, not of the seed of faith or the Spirit of
regeneration (which they frequently assert is ascribed to infants). Peter
Martyr, after saying that the Holy Scriptures do not say that infants believe,
adds: "I judge that it is sufficient that they who are to be saved be determined
by this—that by election they belong to the property of God, they are sprinkled
by the Holy Spirit, who is the root of faith, hope and love, and of all the
virtues, which afterwards it exerts and declares in the sons of God, when their
age permits" (Loci Communes, Cl. 4, chap. 8.14 , p. 826). Thus Calvin:
"Yet how, say they, are infants regenerated, having a knowledge neither of good
nor of evil? We answer, the work of God, even if we do not understand it, still
is real. Further infants who are to be saved, as certainly some of that age are
wholly saved, it is not in the least obscure were before regenerated by the
Lord. For if they bring with them from their mother's womb innate corruption,
they must be purged from it before they can be admitted into the kingdom of
heaven, into which nothing impure and polluted enters" (ICR, 4.16.17, p. 1340).
This he fully discusses in the following sections.
When Paedobaptists affirm this, they affirm that children can be filled with the Spirit of God from the womb, just as John the Baptist was in their view. They *also* affirm that if a child dies in infancy and said child goes to heaven, it most certainly is not because it was morally innocent, but rather it is there because God regenerated its soul and brought it into glory. Moreover, they afffirm that the normative method is for God to wait until later in life to regenerate anybody. Infant regenreation is a possibility but rare, in this view. The Princeton Theologians are saying nothing Turretin did not say. Moreover, some Baptists in SBC history agreed in the 19th century. In the case of infant mortality, elsewise, Charles / Bob, you wind up affirming that babies in heaven are there because of their righteousness and not the righteousness of Christ.
Now, does Berkoff state that his view difers from that of the Puritans? Yes, but not in their doctrinal reasons for affirming what they affirm. Rather, the difference lies here, according to Gerstner:
There is an interesting difference between the Scottish Presbyterian
Princetonian tradition and the English Puritan tradition concerning the subject
of baptism, particularly infant baptism. While both traditions were Reformed
and, paedo-baptistic, there was a subtle difference in the way in which the two
traditions viewed the baptized infant of the covenant. Neither tradition
affirmed baptismal regeneration, nor even the inevitable regeneration of the
infant, nor were they even unanimous on the matter of all children dying in
infancy being elect. Though each tradition agreed that the infant of a
believing parent or parents should be baptized, and was not thereby regenerated,
or even presumptively elect, one tradition tended to assume the ultimate
regeneration of children, unless there was overwhelming evidence to the
contrary, while the other tradition seemed to presume the non-regenerate
condition of the infant, unless there was overwhelming evidence to the
Peter De Jong is conscious of this difference in his Decline of the Idea of
the Covenant in New England Theology and tends to blame Jonathan Edwards
particularly for the Puritan position. His basic complaint is that the New
England Puritans treated the baptized infants as if devoid of covenantal
promises. That is, they treated the child as if it were not a child of the
covenant. The viewpoint of Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield was essentially the
same as De Jong. They too felt that Edwards and the New Englanders devaluated
the importance of the covenant for infants.
Baptists in the Reformed tradition, including those affirming James Boyce's views view children as unregenerate and hold out the possibility of inant regneration as a means to explain the salvation of those who die in infancy. Presbyterians simply look at their children as elect. We Baptists disagree from them. However, we agree that regenration precedes faith in all cases, regardless of the positons we stake out on infant regeneration and/or covenant children.
Let's look now at what Scripture says about regeneration preceding faith, beginning with 1 John:
Look at 2:29.
"If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practicesNow, we're not Catholic, and, consistently, we all agree that righteousness is a product of the new birth, e.g. regeneration results in righteousness in the life of the believer. This means that in 1 John 5:1, "believing" in Jesus as the Christ is the result of being born of Him. Why? Because it is inconsistent to say otherwise. Why reverse the logical order? Nothing in the text demands it. In order to reverse the order and argue for an asymmetrical parallel, one must find something within the text that would lead one to do that. That evidence simply is not there. Let's look more closely at the grammatical constructions of the two clauses under our scrutiny:
righteousness is born of Him."
2:29 b "everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him."
5:1 a "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."
Every one practicing righteousness has been born of Him (God)
Every one believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God (Him).
paV o pisteuwn oti IhsouV estin o cristoV ek tou qeou gegennhtai
See the grammatical parallel is exactly parallel. In Greek it is also exactly parallel. Therefore, we are certainly and undeniably dealing with one of John's parallel statements.
The verbal constructions are exactly parallel. Again, going back to the Greek, we can see that "everyone who practices righteousness" is a present participle. In 5:1, the one believing is also a present participle.
So we have:
Every one practicing righteousness
has been born of Him (God)
Every one believing that Jesus is the Christ
has been born of God (Him)
Thus, as you can see, we have different verbs, same verb forms.
In both passages the same verb for "to be born," gegennhtai is used and the form is the exact same form, perfect passive . (In fact, exegetically, this is the very reason we teach from this verse that righteousness is a result of being born again).
So we have:
Every one practicing righteousness
has been born of God (Him)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves (Greek: pas ho agapwn) is born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
Do you agree that there is sufficient textual warrant for concluding that the person that loving (every one who loves) does so, because one is born of God and knows God? By definition, "regeneration" itself is defined as "being born again, being born of God." I know of no text in systematic theology that defines it otherwise. If you are going to say that there is insufficient textual evidence that John's intent is not to teach that regeneration does not precede faith, you must also conclude from all these texts: There is insufficient textual evidence to conclude that
It would be meaningless for us to say, "They hear because they are of God but being of God is not logically antecedent to hearing. It would be meaningless for us to say, "They practice righteousness because they are born again, but regeneration is not antecedent to practicing righteousness. It would be meaningless for us to say, "They love because they are regenerate, but there is not logical/temporal order to loving the brethren and regeneration. It would be meaningless to say "They believe because they are born again," but the logical and temporal relationships are inverse. It would reverse the meaning of 6:44 to say they are drawn because they come. Why be drawn if they can come and are coming? Causal relationships depend on their logical / temporal order. Exegesis determines this order for all of these. There is no reason to draw one conclusion from three of these but not the fourth, unless you have a theological tradition you are trying to satisfy.
Therefore, , there is a causal relationship between regeneration and practicing righteousness, loving the brethren, and believing. Regeneration precedes and is the cause each activity. Works does not result in regeneration. Love is the result of regeneration, and believing is the result of regeneration. Regeneration precedes faith. 1 John 5:1 is clear.
God is creating a people for himself by calling them out of darkness into His light by enabling them to believe the Gospel. The passage shows that the new birth (regeneration) both enables and precedes faith. The verb tense, as viewed from the original Greek, make's the apostle' s intention unequivocal: Every one who goes on believing [present, continuous action] that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God [perfect, completed action with abiding effects]. So faith is not the cause of, but the evidence of the new birth.
You also associate Shedd with the denial of means in regeneeration. However here: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/Shedd_Regeneration.html
He writes n this manner,
prayer for the instantaneous gift of regenerating grace harmonizes with the
gospel-call to immediate faith and repentance. Faith and repentance naturally
arid necessarily result from regeneration. Whoever is regenerated will
believe and repent.1 To pray therefore for instantaneous regeneration is,
virtually, to pray for instantaneous faith and repentance, and vice versa.
Moreover, gentlemen, he writes that in the midst of discussing prayer and preaching!
True, he did write this:
the regenerate child, youth, and man, believe· and repent* immediately. The
regenerate infant believes· and repent· when his· faculties will admit of the
exercise and manifestation of faith and repentance. In the latter instance,
regeneration in potential or latent faith and repentance.
But that is a far cry from the Hardshell doctrine of mediate regeneration. The question you need to answer is "Why does Shedd say this?" Is he referring to persons who grow up and walk around regenerate for years before they repent after discerning they have a warrant to believe, or is referring to those who, when they are able to understand, believe at a very early age; or is he referring to infants who die and go to heaven? If he is referring to the one in the middle, how are means not involved, since Shedd *also* clearly affirms faith and repentance will occur and those acts cannot occur apart from the means of the Word? You never, in all your rambling and mostly incoherent writing consider these issues, do you?
In fact, Shedd tells us what he means elsewhere:
You say mediate regeneration is part of A.A. Hodge's theology. Then, why does he write:
15. What is the nature of that conviction of sin which is the attendant of regeneration?
Spiritual illumination immediately leads to the perception of the righteousness,
goodness, and exceeding breadth and exactness of God's law, and by contrast of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin in the abstract, Romans 7:7, 13; and above all
of his own sin thus revealing, in contrast to the divine purity and
righteousness, the pollution of his own heart, his total ill desert, and his
entire helplessness in all his relations to God. Job 13:5, 6. This is a
practical experimental knowledge, produced by the wrestling e]legcov, of the
Holy Ghost (John 16:8) of guilt, of pollution, and of helplessness.
13. What is the nature of supernatural illumination?
The soul of man is a unit. A radically defective or
perverted condition of any faculty will injuriously affect the exercise of all
the other faculties. The essence of sin consists in the perverted moral
dispositions and affections of the will. But a perverted condition of these
affections must affect the exercises of the intellect, concerning all moral
objects, as much as the volitions themselves. We can not love or desire any
object unless we perceive its loveliness, neither can we intellectually perceive
its loveliness unless its qualities are congenial to our inherent taste or
dispositions. Sin, therefore, is essentially deceitful, and mall as a sinner is
spiritually blind. This does not consist in any physical defect. He possesses
all the faculties requisite to enable him to see the beauty, and to experience
the power of the truth, but his whole nature is morally perverted through his
evil dispositions. As soon as these are changed he will see, and, seeing, love
and obey the truth, although no constitutional change is wrought in his nature,
i.e., no new faculty given, but only his perverted faculties morally rectified.
This illumination is called supernatural,1st, because, having been lost, it can be restored only by the immediate power of God.2nd. In contradistinction to the maimed condition of man's present depraved nature. It, however, conveys no new truths to the mind, nor does it relieve the Christian, in any degree, from the
diligent and prayerful study of the Word, nor does it lead to any fanciful
interpretations of Scripture foreign to the plain sense of the letter; it only
leads to the perception and appreciation of the native spiritual beauty and
power of the inspired word, and the truths therein revealed.
14. How may it be proved that believers are the subjects of
1st. It is necessary. 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians
3:14; 4:3; John 16:3. From the constitution of our nature we must apprehend an
object as lovely before we can love it for its own sake.
2nd. The Scriptures expressly affirm it. "To know God is
eternal life." John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 2:12, 13; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians
1:18; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 3:10; 1 John 4:7; 5:20; Psalm 19:7, 8; 43:3,
As the soul is a unit, a change in its radical moral
dispositions must simultaneously modify the exercise of all its faculties in
relation to moral and spiritual objects. The soul can not love that the
loveliness of which it does not perceive, neither can it perceive the loveliness
of an object which is totally uncongenial to its own nature. The first effect of
regeneration, or a radical change of moral disposition, in the order of nature,
therefore, is to open the eyes of our understandings to the excellency of divine
truth, and the second effect is the going forth of the renewed affections toward
that excellency so perceived. This is what Pres. Edwards ("Religious
Affections," Pt. 3., sec. 4) calls "the sense of the heart."
7. What is the common doctrine held by evangelical
1st. That there are in the soul, besides its several
faculties, habits, or dispositions, of which some are innate and others are
acquired, which lay the foundation for the soul's exercising its faculties in
some particular way. Thus we intuitively judge a man's moral disposition to be
permanently evil when we see him habitually acting sinfully, or to be
permanently good when we see him habitually acting righteously.
2nd. These dispositions are anterior to moral action, and
determine its character as good or evil.
3rd. In creation God made the disposition of Adam's heart
4th. In the new creation God recreates the governing
disposition of the regenerated man?s heart holy.
It is, therefore, properly called a "regeneration," a "new
creation," a "new birth."
8. When it is said that regeneration consists in giving a new heart, or in implanting a new principle or disposition, what is meant by the terms "heart," "principle," or "disposition"?
President Edwards says, "By a principle of nature in this
place, I mean that foundation which is laid in nature, either old or new, for
any particular kind or banner of exercise of the faculties of the soul. So this
new spiritual sense is not a new faculty of understanding, but it is a new
foundation laid in the nature of the soul for a new kind of exercise of the same
faculty of understanding. So that new holy disposition of heart that attends
this new sense is not a new faculty of will, but a foundation laid in the nature
of the soul for a new kind of exercise of the same faculty of will." Edwards on
"Religious Affections," Pt. 3., sec. 1.
The term "heart," signifying that prevailing moral
disposition that determines the volitions and actions, is the phrase most
commonly used in Scripture.Matthew 12:33, 35; 15:19; Luke 6:43, 45.
9. How may it be shown that this view of regeneration does not represent it as involving any change in the essence of the soul?
This charge is brought against the orthodox doctrine by all
those who deny that there is any thing in the soul but its constitutional
faculties and their exercises. They hence argue that if anything be changed
except the mere exercises of the soul, its fundamental constitution would be
physically altered. In opposition to this, we argue that we have precisely the
same evidence for the existence of a permanent moral quality or disposition
inherent in the will, as the reason why a good man acts habitually righteously,
or a bad man viciously, that we have for the existence of the invisible soul
itself, or of any of its faculties, as the reason why a man acts at all, or why
his actions are such as thought, emotion, volition. It is not possible for us to
conceive of the choice being produced in us by the Holy Spirit in more than
three ways:"First, his direct agency in producing the choice, in which
case it would be no act of ours.Second, by addressing such motives to our constitutional and
natural principles of self love as would induce us to make the choice, in which
case there would be no morality in the act.Or, thirdly, by producing such a relish for the divine
character, that the soul as spontaneously and immediately rejoices in God as its
portion as it rejoices in the perception of beauty."
"If our Maker can endow us, not only with the general
susceptibility of love, but also with a specific disposition to love our
children; if he can give us a discernment and susceptibility of natural beauty,
he may give us a taste for spiritual loveliness. And if that taste, by reason of
sin, is vitiated and perverted, he may restore it by means of his spirit in
regeneration." Hodge's Essays.
10. In what sense may the soul be said to be passive
Dr. Taylor maintains that regeneration is that act of the
soul in which man chooses God as his portion. Thus, the man himself, and not
God, is the agent.
But the Christian church, on the contrary, holds that in
regeneration the Holy Ghost is the agent, and man the subject. The act of the
Holy Spirit, in implanting a new principle, does not interfere with the
essential activity of the soul itself, but simply gives to that activity a new
direction, for the soul, though active, is nevertheless capable of being acted
upon. And although the soul is necessarily active at the very time it is
regenerated, yet it is rightly said to be passive with respect to that act of
the Holy Spirit whereby it is regenerated.
1st. The soul under the conviction of the Holy Ghost, and in
the exercise of merely natural feelings, regards some aspect of saving truth,
and strives to embrace it. 2nd. The Holy Ghost, by an exertion of creative
power, changes the governing disposition of the heart in a manner inscrutable,
and by an influence not apprehended by the consciousness of the subject. 3rd.
Simultaneously the soul exercises new affections and experimentally embraces the
11. What is the difference between regeneration and
The term conversion is often used in a wide sense as
including both the change of nature and the exercise of that nature as changed.
When distinguished from regeneration, however, conversion signifies the first
exercise of the new disposition implanted in regeneration, i.e., in freely
turning unto God.
Regeneration is God's act; conversion is ours. Regeneration
is the implantation of a gracious principle; conversion is the exercise of that
principle. Regeneration is never a matter of direct consciousness to the subject
of it; conversion always is such to the agent of it. Regeneration is a single
act, complete in itself; and never repeated; conversion, as the beginning of
holy living, is the commencement of a series, constant, endless, and
progressive. "Draw me, and I will run after thee." Canticle 1: 4. This
distinction is signalized by the divines of the seventeenth century (Turretin,
50. 15, Ques. 4, ?13) by the phrases "conversio habitualis seu passiva," i.e.,
the infusion of a gracious habit of soul by God, in respect to which the subject
is passive; and "conversio actualis seu activa," i.e., the consequent acts of
faith and repentance elicited by cooperative grace and acted by the
12. How can it be proved that there is any such thing as that commonly called regeneration?
1st. By those Scriptures that declare such a change to be
necessary.John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15.
2nd. By those passages which describe the change.Ephesians
2:5; 4:24; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23.
3rd. From the fact that it was necessary for the most moral
as well as for the most recklessly sinful. 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians
4th. That this inward change is not a mere reformation is
proved by its being referred to the Holy Spirit.Ephesians 1:19, 20; Titus
5th. From the comparison of man's state in grace with his
state by nature. Romans 6:13; 8:6?10; Ephesians 5:8.
6th. From the experience of all Christians, and from the
testimony of their lives.
Hodge does write:
Infants, as well as adults, are rational and moral agents, and by nature
totally depraved. The difference is, that the faculties of infants are in
the germ, while those of adults are developed. As regeneration is a change
wrought by creative power in the inherent moral condition of the soul,
infants may plainly be the subjects of it in precisely the same sense as
adults; in both cases the operation is miraculous, and therefore
The fact is established by what the Scriptures teach of innate depravity, of
infant salvation, of infant circumcision and baptism. Luke 1:15; 18:15, 16; Acts
When discussing the regeneration of infants, we find that Dr. Hodge was, in point of fact, discussing children who die in infancy, not the doctrine ofregeneration whereby they grow up and late in life believe and repent. If he does this is unclear. He elucidates in his commentary on the WCF10:
Section III: Elect infants and others not capable of being called by the gospel
are to be saved, they must be regenerated and sanctified immediately by God
without the use of means. If God could create Adam holy without means, and if he
can new-create believers in righteousness and true holiness by the use of means
which a large part of men use without profit, he can certainly make infants and
others regenerate without means. Indeed, the natural depravity of infants lies
before moral action, in the judicial deprivation of the Holy Ghost. The evil is
rectified at that stage, therefore, by the gracious restoration of the soul to
its moral relation to the Spirit of God. The phrase "elect infants" is precise
and fit for its purpose. It is not intended to suggest that there are any
infants not elect, but simply to point out the facts --
(1.) That all infants are born under righteous condemnation; and
(2.) That no infant has any claim in itself to salvation; and hence
(3.) The salvation of each infant, precisely as the salvation of every adult, must have its absolute ground in the sovereign election of God. This would be just as true if all adults were elected, as it is
now that only some adults are elected. It is, therefore, just as true, although
we have good reason to believe that all infants are elected. The Confession
adheres in this place accurately to the facts revealed. It is certainly revealed
that none, either adult or infant, is saved except on the ground of a sovereign
election; that is, all salvation for the human race is pure grace. It is not
positively revealed that all infants are elect, but we are left, for many
reasons, to indulge a highly probable hope that such is the fact. The Confession
affirms what is certainly revealed, and leaves that which revelation has not
decided to remain, without the suggestion of a positive opinion upon one side or
What is wrong with this? Are you suggesting, Gentlemen, that infants are not born imputed guilty with the sin of Adam and are not born corrupt from birth and sinful and in need of salvation? If so, then why do they die, and how is it that they go to heaven?
You suggest that those that affirm this are not confessional Calvinists, and you affirm the 1689, but what do we find in the 1689 10.3 ?
Paragraph 3. Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ
through the Spirit;10 who works when, and where, and how He pleases;11 so also
are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the
ministry of the Word. 10 John 3:3, 5, 6 11 John 3:8
You have, in the past month, spent a great deal of time asserting without quoting in full, Berkoff, Shedd, and others on regeneration in a vain attempt to say that they denied the use of means, even in adults. When they reject the use of means, they are not rejecting regeneration with respect to the gospel and its preaching. Rather they are speaking of regeneration itself, just as Charles Hodge did. When they say that it occurs apart from means, they define their terms quite well. Shedd, in the very texts you have been citing, assumes that the person in question has heard the gospel preached. He is simply stating the obvious. No amount of prayer, preaching, study, or contemplation will in an of itself accomplish regeneration in a dead sinner. These are things that can accompany regeneration, but regeneration itself is the work of the Spirit sovereignly raising the spiritually dead person to life. Regeneration does not come by hearing the Word of God externally, it must be internal, and that is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is both immediate and mediate. You skip right over everything they say about this.
No man can study the divine word, and receive legal illumination from it,
without having some sense of danger awakened, and giving utterance to it in
prayer. Even if the prayer be only the cry of fear, and is not accompanied with
filial trust and humble submission, it is of use. The prayer, by its very
defects, prepares for the new birth by showing the person his need of it. The
person in distress asks for a new heart. The answer does not come immediately.
The heart is displeased, is perhaps made more bitter and rebellious. By
this experience, the Holy Spirit discloses to the unregenerate man more and more
of the enmity of the carnal mind, and the impotence of the self-enslaved will.
This goes towards preparing him for the instantaneous act of regeneration.
Shedd is discriminating between means as an efficient cause, and means as a preparative media. Moreover, at the time of writing, he is also likely concerned to deny the precursors to what would become the new theology of neo-orthodoxy after his death, in which Scripture is seen as a channel of revelation, since they were often writing in direct dialogue with liberals of their day.
In fact, Shedd, at the end of the text you like to cite, points his readers to the WLC 67, which clearly states:It is," says Owen (Holy Spirit, IV. iii.), "in no way
inconsistent that faith should be required previously unto the receiving of the
Spirit as a spirit of sanctification; though it be not so as he is the author of
regeneration." And the reason he assigns is, that in the instance of
sanctification prayer is a means; while in the instance of regeneration
prayer is not a means but a preparative. He discusses the point in the
following manner: "May a person who is yet unregenerate pray for the Spirit of
regeneration to effect that work in him ? For whereas as such he is
promised only to the elect, such a person not knowing his election seems to have
no foundation to make such a request upon. Ans. 1. Election is no qualification
on our part which we may consider and plead in our supplications, but is only
the secret purpose on the part of God of what himself will do, and is known to
us only by its effects. 2. Persons convinced of sin, and a state of sin, may and
ought to pray that God, by the effectual communications of his Spirit unto them,
would deliver them from that condition. This is one way whereby we ' flee
from the wrath-to come.' 3. The especial object of their supplications herein,
is sovereign grace, goodness, and mercy as disclosed in and by Jesus Christ.
Such persons cannot indeed plead any especial promise as made unto them. But
they may plead for the grace and mercy declared in the promises as
indefinitely proposed unto sinners. It may be that they can proceed no
further in their expectations but unto that of the prophet, * Who knoweth if God
will come and give a blessing?' Joel 2: 14. Yet is this a sufficient ground and
encouragement to keep them waiting at the throne of grace. So Paul, after he had
received his vision from heaven, continued in great distress of mind praying
until he received the Holy Ghost. Acts 9: 9, 17. 4. Persons under such
convictions have really sometimes the seeds of regeneration communicated unto
them, and then as they ought to so they will continue in their supplications for
the increase and manifestation of it."' When our Lord (John 14: 17) asserts that
"the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it sees him not neither
knoweth him," the reference is to the Holy Spirit as the spirit of
sanctification. Christ is speaking of him as the " Comforter" who augments
and strengthens already existing spiritual life. But if the " world," that is,
the unregenerate, are incapable of receiving the Holy Ghost in his regenerating
office, they cannot be regenerated.
There is the highest encouragement in the Word of God to
pray for the regenerating grace of the Holy Ghost. It is a duty enjoined upon
all men without exception, like that of hearing the word. " If ye, being evil,
know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your
heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him," Luke 11:14. " Thou,
Lord, art plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee," Ps. 86: 5. "
The Lord is nigh to all them that call upon him," Ps. 145 :18. "The Lord is rich
unto all that call upon him," Rom. 10:12. " Seek ye the Lord while he may be
found, call ye upon him while he is near," lea. 55:6. "I will that men pray
everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting," 1 Tim. 2:8. "
Behold he prayeth," Acts 9: 11. "Thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all
flesh come," Ps. 65: 2. These and other similar texts relate to spiritual gifts.
They invite and command men universally and indiscriminately to ask God for the
Holy Spirit in any of his operations, as the first and best of his gifts. "
Prayer, being one special part of religions worship, is required by God of all
men." Westminster Confession, XXI. iii.'
While regeneration is a sovereign act of God according to
election, it is an encouraging fact both for the sinner and the preacher of the
word that God's regenerating grace is commonly bestowed where the preparatory
work is performed. This is the rule, under the gospel dispensation. He who
reads and meditates upon the word of God is ordinarily enlightened by the Holy
Ghost, perhaps in the very act of reading, or hearing, or meditating. "While
Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the
word," Acts 10 : 44. He who asks for regenerating grace may be regenerated
perhaps in the act of praying. God has appointed certain human acts whereby to
make ready the heart of man for the divine act. Without attentive
reading and hearing of the word, and prayer, the soul is not a fit subject for
regenerating grace. By " fitness" is not meant
holiness, or even the faintest desire for holiness; but a conviction of guilt
and danger, a sense of sin and utter impotence to everything spiritually good.
Such an experience as this " breaks up the fallow ground," to employ the
Scripture metaphor. Jer. 4:3; Hosea 10:12. When the Holy Ghost finds this
preparation, then he usually intervenes with his quickening agency.
The effect of prevenient grace in conviction is commonly followed by special
grace in regeneration; the fact of the outward call is a reason both for the
sinner and the minister of the word, for expecting the inward call. Yet
regeneration, after all the preparation that has been made by conviction and
legal illumination, depends upon the sovereign will of God. "The wind
bloweth where it listeth, so is every one that is born of the Spirit," John 3:
8. Regeneration rests upon God's election, and not upon man's preparative acts;
upon special grace, and not upon common grace.
It follows, consequently, that the unregenerate man should
be extremely careful how he deals with common grace. If he suppresses conviction
of sin, and thus nullifies common grace, then God may withdraw all grace. This
was the case with some of the Jews. " For they being [willingly] ignorant of
God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, did
not submit themselves to the righteousness of God. And because of
unbelief were broken off," Rom. 10:3; 11:20. The same is true of some
nominal Christians. God has sovereignty and liberty in respect to regenerating
grace. When a person has stifled conviction, God sometimes leaves him to his
self-will forever. Yet observation shows that the Holy Spirit Buffers long, and
is very patient and forbearing with convicted men; that he does riot
hastily leave them, even when they disobey his admonitions, but continues to
strive with them, and finally brings them to faith and repentance.
Question 67: What is effectual calling?
Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God's almighty
power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and
from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he does, in his accepted time, invite
and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit; savingly
enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as
they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able
freely to Answer: his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and
This has nothing to do with an origin infant baptism (obviously a cliam derivative of Ross' Landmark background), nor does it have anything to do with a rejection of means that accompany regeneration. In fact, this is one long discussion of the instrumentality that leads to regeneration. However, the actual act of regeneration itself is up to the sovereign Spirit and God’s elective purposes, not any amount of prayer or study in and of themselves. Without the Spirit’s sovereign work, these are only preparations. This is what Shedd means when he speaks of regeneration apart from means in all but infants and idiots.
Charles Hodge speaks of regeneration in a broad sense and a narrow sense. In the broad sense, regeneration requires the Word of God.
“Truth may accompany or attend the work of the Spirit, but it has no cooperation
in the production of the effect. It may attend it, as the application of the
clay attended the miracle of restoring sight to the blind man; or as Naaman’s
bathing in the Jordan attended the healing of his leprosy. It is, however, to be
remembered that the word “regeneration” (or its equivalents) is used, sometimes
in a limited, and sometimes in a comprehensive sense. The translation of the
soul from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, is a great
event. It involves a varied and comprehensive experience. There is much that
usually precedes and attends the work of regeneration in the limited sense of
the word and there is much that of necessity and (in the case of adults)
immediately succeeds it. In all that thus precedes and follows, the truth has an
important, in some case, an essential part in the work. In most cases conviction
of the truth and of sin, a sense of shame, or remorse, of sorrow, and of
anxiety, and longing desires after peace and security, precede the work of
regeneration, and faith, joy,hope, gratitude, zeal, and other exercises follow
it, in a greater or lesser degree. In all these states and acts, in everything,
in short, which falls within the sphere of consciousness, the truth acts an
essential part. The states and acts are the efffects of the truth attended by
the power or the demonstration of the Spirit. But regeneration itself, the
infusion of new life into the soul, is the immediate work of the Spirit. There
is no place for the use of means any more than in the act of creation or in
working of a miracle...So the truth attends the work of regeneration, but is not
the means by which it is effected. (ST, 684-85)
In other words, gentlemen, the instrumentality of regeneration, in one sense is the word of God, the gospel, and truth. It is not, however, a channel of revelation by which the Holy Spirit moves. That is Neo-Orthodoxy. Rather it is that which awakens the states of consciousness in the person and the source of the truths that inform men of sin and Christ and salvation, but regeneration, defined as the infusion of new life into the individual, itself is the act of the Holy Spirit alone. The word of God is not a Gnostic incantational text. The Spirit of God using the accompanying truth of the Word of God puts new life into the person so that they might believe. This, gentlemen, is what these theologians are teaching.
Now, what is meant in the Princetonian tradition with respect to “physical” and “moral" when discussing regeneratio, siince you have repeatedly made use of these terms. Hodge further says he agrees with Owen. He writes,
“...hence he says that in the work of conversion there is both a physical and
moral influence exerted by the Spirit. Speaking of moral suasion, he says, “That
the Holy Spirit doth make use ot it regeneration or conversion of all that are
adult, and that either immediately in and by the preaching of it, or by some
other application of light and truth unto the mind derived from the Word; for by
the reasons, motives, and persuasive arguments which the Word affords, are our
minds affected, and our souls wrought upon our conversion unto God, whence it
becomes our reasonable obedience. And there are none ordinarily converted, but
they are able to give some account by what considerations they were prevailed on
thereunto....But , we say that the whole work, or the whole, or the whole of the
work of the Holy Ghost in our conversion, doth not consist herein; but there is
a real, physical work, whereby He infuseth a gracious principle of spiritual
life into all that are effectually converted, and really regenerated, and
without which there is no deliverance from the state of sin and death which we
have described (ST.1, 686-87)
In other words, by “physical regeneration” they are referring solely to the actual physical labor of raising the dead to new spiritual life. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, but notice what accompanies it: the Word of God. That is all they mean; nothing more; nothing less. Man is not the efficient agent apart from monergistic regeneration.
James Boyce, who as I recall, studied under Charles Hodge and refers in his own writing to A.A. Hodge, put it this way in his Abstract of Systematic Theology:
The Scripture teaching is that God operates immediately upon the heart to
produce the required change, by which it is fitted to receive the truth, and
mediately through the word in its reception of that truth.
--So, from the outset, Boyce, just like the Princetonians, differentiates between the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit on the heart and the mediate work of the Spirit through the Word of God.
1. He operates immediately upon the heart to prepare the way for
the truth. This is evident
(1.) From the description given of man's spiritual
(a) As spiritually dead. Eph. 2:1.
(b) As blind. Eph. 4:18.
(c) As slaves to sin. John 8:34; Rom. 6:17, 19.
(d) As needing
deliverance from the powers of darkness. Col. 1:13.
(e) As incapable of
knowing or discerning the things of the Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:18.
(f) As incapable of changing himself. Jer. 13:23.
(g) As defiled in conscience. Tit. 1:15.
These passages show man in a condition from which he must be
rescued even to understand and appreciate the truth of God.(2.) The Scripture attributes the birth to the will of God exclusively, thus showing that
in some aspect it is not to be regarded as due to the reception of the truth.
[For sections (3), (4), (5) and (6), see Hodge's Outlines, p. 451.]
(3.) The influence of the Spirit is distinguished from that of the
word. John 6:45, 64, 65; 1 Cor. 2:12-15; 1 Thess. 1:5, 6.
(4.) A divine influence is declared to be necessary for the reception of the truth. Ps.
119:18; Acts 16:14; Eph. 1:17-20.
(5.) Such an internal operation on the heart is attributed to God.Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21; Phil. 2:13; 2 Thess. 1:11; Heb. 13:21.
(6.) The nature of this influence is evidently different from
that effected by the truth. Eph. 1:19; 3:7; 2 Tim. 2:25.
(7.) This influence is spoken of as a preparation of the heart for the truth; which, therefore, must be distinct from the truth or its reception. Luke 8:8, 15; Acts 16:14.
This preparation of the heart comes from God.1 Chron. 29:18, 19; Ps. 119:18; Prov.
16:1; Acts 16:14; Rom. 9:23.
2. The Spirit acts mediately through the word.
(1.) He inspired that word and sends it forth for the accomplishment of the ends designed. John 14:16; 2 Tim. 3:16.
(2.) He aids the ministry and others in making it known. 1 Cor. 4:7; 2
To the extent that these are his agents he uses the word.
(3.) The instrument thus used is in itself effective as truth. Heb. 4:12.
Therefore, Christians are commanded in their spiritual warfare to take the word
of God as the sword of the Spirit. Eph. 6:17. It is, however, made especially so
to the heart prepared for it by his illuminating influences, which reveal its
beauties and its suitableness, and by the aid of the memory which recalls, and
the conscience which applies, and the affections which lay hold upon it. 2 Tim.
3:15, 16, 17.
(4.) Christians are, therefore, said to be "brought forth,
(James 1:18), by the word of truth," because that is the seed sown in the
prepared ground through which they are led by repentance and faith to union with
Christ and sonship of God.
(5.) Since this use of the Scriptures is due to their own fitness to present motives to action, the Spirit of God is not limited to this word alone but uses such other truth, and such events of life as may be
effective towards the contemplated end. Thus any events in God's providence, as
afflictions, or dangers, or personal sins, or the conversion of others, or aught
else that may lead to seeking God, are used as a means of awakening, or of
giving deeper conviction, or of enforcing the Scripture truths which lead to
(6.) This is especially true of the ordinances of Baptism and
the Lord's Supper duly set forth before mankind. So far as these ordinances are
fitted to convey truth, or to impress duty, they are instrumental in
(7.) But neither of them regenerates or confers regeneration.
I. This is the result of regeneration. The
new heart is prepared to turn to God and does actually so turn. Without
regeneration, the sinfulness of man keeps him away from God, causes him to set
his affections upon self and his own pleasure, and to find gratification in
things which are opposed to God and holiness. The regenerated heart has new
affections and desires and is, therefore, fitted to seek after God and holiness.
II. It is both the act of God and of man co-operating with
1. It is the act of God. It is thus described in the
1 Kings 18:37. "Thou hast turned their heart back again."
Ps. 80:3. "Turn us again, O God; and cause thy face to shine, and we shall
Ps. 85:4. "Turn us, O God of our salvation."
Song of Sol.
1:4. "Draw me; we will run after thee."
Jer. 30:21. "I will cause him to
draw near, and he shall approach unto me."
Jer. 31:18. "Turn thou me, and I
shall be turned."
Ezek. 36:27. "And I will put my Spirit within you, and
cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
John 6:44. "No man can come to me, except the Father which sent me draw
2. It is the act of the regenerated heart actively co-operating in thus turning.
Deut. 4:30. "Thou shalt return to the Lord thy
Prov. 1:23. "Turn you at my reproof."
Hosea 12:6. "Therefore turn
thou to thy God."
Isaiah 55:7. "Let him return unto the Lord."
2:13. "Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God."
Acts 11:21. "A great number that believed turned unto the Lord."
III. The question naturally arises what is the nature of conversion. In reply it may be said that it consists:
1. Not in mere outward reformation.
2. Not in return from backsliding.
3. But in the turning of the heart to God and holiness. It is a turning of the thoughts, desires and
affections of the heart from sinful and carnal lusts and pleasures toward holy
things, and God, and Christ, and salvation. It is a turning from darkness to
light, from the power of Satan to God. [See Gill's Divinity 2:132-4.] It
consists "in a man's turning actively to God under the influence of divine
grace." [Gill 2:135]
IV. This conversion comprises:
1. A knowledge of the true God, and acceptance of him as such.
2. Knowledge of personal sin, guilt and condemnation.
3. Sorrow for sin and desire to escape condemnation.
4. Determination to turn away from sin and seek God.
5. Conviction of personal need of help in so doing.
6. Knowledge of Christ as a Saviour from
7. Personal trust in Christ and his salvation.
NOTE. A man in one sense maybe called converted as
soon as he has truly turned to God and is also seeking to know and do his
will. This is that amount of conversion which is so nearly contemporaneous
with regeneration as to be liable to be supposed to exist at the same moment
with it, and which indeed in a being capable of thought on such subjects
must be its immediate effect.
But what the Scriptures and common language comprise in this
word is repentance and trust in God's saving power, and, in connection with
Christian knowledge, trust in Jesus Christ as a Saviour. The attainment
of the fullness of such conversion is by the gradual appreciation of truth,
resulting not only from regeneration, and knowledge, but from spiritual
illumination of the mind.
V. The relation of regeneration to conversion will, therefore, appear to
be one of invariable antecedence.
Wherever the appropriate truth is at the time present its relation is almost that of producing cause, for the prepared heart at once receives the truth. Hence, as this is so generally the case, they have been
usually regarded as contemporaneous and by some even as identical. But that regeneration is the invariable antecedent is seen,
1. From the fact that the heart is the soil in which the seed, the word of God, is sown, and that seed only brings forth fruit in the good soil. The heart is made good soil by regeneration.
2. Regeneration (as in infants) may exist without faith and repentance, but the latter cannot exist without the former. Therefore, regeneration precedes.
3. Logically the enabling act of God must, in a creature, precede the act of the creature thus enabled. But this logical antecedence involves actual antecedence, or the best conceptions of our mind deceive us and are not reliable. For this logical antecedence exists
only because the mind observes plainly a perceived dependence of the existence
of the one on the other. But such dependence demands, if not causal, at least
antecedent existence. Here it is only antecedent.
VI. There is not only antecedence, but in some cases
an appreciable interval.
1. This is true even of conversion regarded as a mere turning to
God. Between it and regeneration must intervene in some cases some
period of time until the knowledge of God's existence and nature is given,
before the heart turns, or even is turned towards that God.
(1.) This must be true of all infants and of all
persons otherwise incapable of responsibility, as for example idiots.
(2.) There is no reason why it should not be true of some
heathen. The missionaries of the cross have been sought by men, who knew nothing
of Christianity, but whose hearts, unsatisfied with the religion of their
fathers, were restlessly seeking for what their soul was crying out.
2. It is still more manifestly true of full Christian
(1.) The Scriptures teach this in many examples of persons
pious, holy, and fearing God, yet unacquainted with the full truth which secures
union with Christ.
Ethiopian Eunuch: Acts 8:26-40.
Paul: Acts, chapter 9,
22 and 26. Galatians, chapters 1st and 2d.
Cornelius the Centurion: Acts
Lydia: Acts 16:14.
(2.) The experience of ministers in all ages with persons seeking and attaining salvation confirms this idea. The attainment of conversion may be marked by stages. The sinner is at first totally indifferent. The word produces on him no effect. Then (1.) There is an evident willingness to give serious attention to the truth of God. God has opened the heart as he did that of Lydia. (2.) There is conviction of sin, sense of its vileness, and of its dangerous effects. (3.) The soul, oppressed by these, strives to do something by
which to attain salvation, but finds all in vain. (4.) At last accepting the truth of God's word it rests in trust of a personal Saviour.
VII. The term conversion is not technically applied to any change, except that which follows upon regeneration, and consists in the Godward turning of one heretofore turned entirely away from God. The return of men who have backslidden, or fallen into grievous sin, is also called "a return to God,"
and such a return is possibly what is called "conversion" in Peter's case. Luke 22:32. But conversion is theologically used exclusively of the first act.
I call your attention to what Dr. Boyce wrote. Will you seriously argue that he is not representative of Southern Baptists? Please do not accuse the folks at Founders of affirming doctrines the Founders did not hold, for the above staements could not be more clear. Just as Boyce, the affirmations above speak to limiting cases, the same in the Hodges and the others.
So, we are left to believe you have set yourself against Scripture, the Confessions, Spurgeon, James Boyce, and you have misrepreseed or misunderstood the Presbyterians you have been accusing of "heresy." They are not discussing infants that grow older and believe, rather they are discussing infants who die and are saved, going immediately to heaven. Sproul directly affirms the doctrine of immediate regeneration and says plainly that it does not occur apart from means, and he further labels all theologizing about infant salvation as speculative. (Providence, Tape 10,Q&A)
Shedd simply is not as clear as Boyce or the others, and, even if he is discussing a form of mediate regeneration, then it is not regeneration that results in faith and repentance apart from means of truth. For men cannot know they are sinners and Christ is Savior apart from the Word of God.
Our outstanding theologians, however, mindful of the fact that God's "tender
mercies are over all His works," and depending on His mercy widened as broadly
as possible, have entertained a charitable hope that since these infants have
never committed any actual sin themselves, their inherited sin would be pardoned
and they would be saved on wholly evangelical principles. Such, for instance,
was the position held by Charles Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd, and B. B. Warfield.
Concerning those who die in infancy, Dr. Warfield says: "Their destiny is
determined irrespective of their choice, by an unconditional decree of God,
suspended for its execution on no act. (Boettner, Reformed Doctrine of Predestination,
Consider, Gentlemen, that if you set yourself against this doctrine, you ally yourselves with Remonstrants who maintain that regeneration is the result of faith and repentance. If you deny infants are born dead in sin, you deny total depravity, the singularity of the way of salvation, and imputation. If you affirm they go to heaven because they are morally innocent, you affirm that in heaven they will be there, not on the basis of the grace of the cross, alone, rather by their own merits. Such are the doctrines of Remonstrants and Romanists. Consider further that when you misrepresent what others have said, you violate the 9th commandment unrepentantly.
Regeneration is attended by the Word of God and gospel truth in all those not dying in infancy. It is monergistic. It precedes faith. It is attended by sorrow for sin, repentance, and faith, but these are its effects, not its efficient cause. Regeneration, the actual raising of the soul to life, is itself an act of the Holy Spirit alone, not the merely hearing, studying, or preaching of the Word of God. The hearing of the Word or reading of the Word, etc. all accompany regeneration in all but the limiting cases, but the act itself in any and all cases is the agency of God alone, as it is the infusion of new life into the soul, a divine act only He can do, akin to raising the dead to life. The theologians you cite are simply parsing the difference between the immediate Agent of regeneration, the Spirit, and His internal working in the heart of man and the accompanying mediate external agents, namely the gospel and any other means (prayer, circumstances, etc. that will apply that truth). James Boyce himself contradicts your objection to what is said of infants.