Thursday, July 13, 2006

More Confusion from the Calvinist Flyswatter

I see that Bob L. Ross has taken the bait. I have to thank Mr. Ross for this. How predictable.

I have consistently stated that the theologians he cites do believe in means associated with regeneration in adults. I even provided a plethora of quotes to prove it.

He then quotes from those theologians referring to the narrow meaning of regeneration as being the work of the Holy Spirit apart from means, and he fails to deal with the actual quotes I provided for him, and then he runs off to talk about infant regeneration.

In fact, when he introduces the topic of infant regeneration, he is simply replying to me with an armload of caveats that were not in the material of his own that I was critiquing.

My last reply was tailored to reply to a specific allegation of his:

This is the same "direct operation" palabber taught by the pedo-regenerationist theologians Shedd, Berkhof, and R. C. Sproul, and other preachers such as James White, Scott Morgan of the Founders, Gene Bridges, Tom Schreiner of the Southern Seminary, and others who advocate "Reformed" theology according to the Berkhof theology book.

None of them has given evidence that they believe that the Word of God is an instrumentality in the "quickening" work of the Spirit in regeneration or the New Birth, contrary to the Creedal Calvinism of all the Calvinistic Confessions of Faith.

His stated complaint was that Sproul, White, Schriener, et. al. have given "no evidence" that we affirm instrumentality. The quotes I provided plainly contradict him. This exposes his complete disregard for the truth. I ask again, how is stating:

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 gospel
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.
a denial of instrumentality? Ah, but Sproul affirms infant regeneration, so he's contradicting himself, right? No, because, in Sproul's view, that is the exception to the rule, not the rule, and those who are so regenerated either die in infancy (the majority of said infants) or are converted by age 3 or 4 at the most (the vast minority of said infants, and, then, Sproul calls even that "speculative", and moreover, the means of grace, including the gospel are necessary for them to be converted, and God ensures that this instrumentality is involved. These are not heathen children, these are, in his theology, children reared in believing homes and evangelical churches. Do I agree? No, I think children converted at that age are regenerated at that age. On the other hand, I have a good friend converted @ that age but who did not experience a great crisis and has never had an spiritual problems with his faith since. Likewise Ruth Graham cannot even remember when she was converted. I think that this position is an abstract possibility, but even then, how does this disprove anything Sproul says regarding regeneration preceding faith in non-infants, the vast majority of the population?

And how is stating:

The ordinary means (that for adults and children of competency in understanding) always is via the accompaniment of the Word of God and the calling to mind of other circumstances. I agree with Boyce on this, except in his third and possibly his second limiting case.


Regeneration is attended by the Word of God and gospel truth in all those not dying in infancy.

a denial of means? I plainly state there that I affirm infant regeneration in infants dying in infancy, not in others, except as an abstract possibility, and I further limit my own limiting cases to those offered by Boyce, and I explicitly state my belief in means, which I name, the Word of God. So, Ross, to even insinuate that I am affirming anything about infants regenerated and walking around unconverted, especially into adulthood is a lie. For Charles to assent to it, is to assent to Ross' lies, and that, my friends makes them as guilty of lying as it did the scribes and Pharisees of murder for boasting that they built the tombs of the prophets whom their fathers killed.

This is plainly incompetent and shows the weakness of his hand. It shows he does not understand the language of regeneration used in modern theology nor the history of this language. It speaks to how bankrupt his hand is that he has to go off to talk about infant regeneration , which is the exception to the rule and said to be very rare, in order to discuss adult regeneration / non-infant regeneration, which is spoken of as God's most common and ordinary way of acting.

As I have explained to him many times, in modern theological language within the Reformed community, regeneration is spoken of in two senses. Not only this, but this language goes back as far as Francis Turretin, and it has been accepted since the 17th century, the time when the confessions were written, and the only record of persons disputing its legitimacy as an expression of the confessions at this time is Bob L. Ross. Since when did Bob L. Ross become the defining voice of confessional Calvinism?

All of this is to refute the statement, "Regeneration precedes faith."

Ross insists that to affirm that regeneration precedes faith is always to affirm that there is a time frame involved by which the individual walks around while being regenerate while having not yet believed and to deny means. That is, as he correctly notes, "Hardshell Doctrine." But this is not the position of the men who articulate this position today, especially me, and I have consistently told him that what I personally am affirming is that the relation is logical and causal, not temporal. I agree with Charles Hodge and A.A. Hodge who wrote:

"The very first conscious exercise of the renewed soul is faith; as the first conscious act of a man born blind whose eyes have been opened is seeing." (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, 41).

REGENERATION is an act of God originating by a new creation a new spiritual life in the heart of the subject. The first and instant act of that new creature, consequent upon his regeneration, is FAITH, or a believing, trusting embrace of the person and work of Christ. Upon the exercise of faith by the regenerated subject, JUSTIFICATION is the instant act of God, on the ground of that perfect righteousness which the sinner’s faith has apprehended, declaring him to be free from all condemnation and to have a legal right to the relations and benefits secured by the covenant which Christ has fulfilled in his behalf. A.A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, Chapter 34.

I'd add that James Boyce himself, whom I have quoted many times already stated that regeneration precedes faith, when he wrote:
"The relation of regeneration to conversion will, therefore, appear to be one of invariable antecedence."

Notice that one of the men he criticizes, WGT Shedd, states,
"The regenerate child, youth, and man, believe· and repent* immediately. "

Hardshell doctrine is that the soul is so utterly passive that the person is regenerated and unconscious of it and can live far into adulthood and never repent or believe until a very late age. But how is Shedd affirming Hardshell doctrine? After his discussion of the use of means (prayer, the Word of God, etc), he states clearly, ""The regenerate child, youth, and man, believe· and repent* immediately." Only with infants does he state otherwise, but that is a separate issue. As I stated beforehand, Mr. Ross needs to separate the issues, because to "refute" this, he has to run off to talk about infant regeneration, but how does this refute what Shedd said about non-infants?

As to means, I have soundly shown already that the very individuals that Mr. Ross criticizes all affirm the use of means: See here. One would have to be illiterate or willfully ignorant not to see that this is an explicit affirmation of means by all the persons listed.

Mr. Ross then quotes what they say when they speak of the actual work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration as if this refutes what they go on to state about means. However is this true? Are they referrring two contradictory notions?

No. Because what they are doing is speaking of regeneration in a narrow sense, and regeneration in a broad sense.

Narrow sense: The work of regeneration itself is the work of the Holy Spirit alone. This expresses the actual phenomenology of God Himself regenerating, God’s own work defined as resurrecting the lost soul to life.

Broad sense: The entire process leading up to a saving profession of faith and even continuing on (as a person is considered to be regenerate). Thus, this broader view is, functionally, the view that all of the effectual call and everything leading up to conversion is "regeneration." But even on that view, because the effectual call precedes conversion, regeneration still precedes faith. This expresses the broader psychology of the person, the object of God’s regenerating work. This usage may encompass all that leads up to the actual moment of conversion, or it may include that which follows (the fruits of regeneration itself, e.g. a regenerated person is a regenerate person; we know he is regenerate because of the fruit his life shows).

This is what Boyce is stating in his comments in his Abstract when he states:
It is true that but few of the passages refer to anything save the work of God; yet these few sufficiently teach the use of the word in regeneration to lead us not to reject, as a part of it, that result of God's act which, in connection with the word, leads to the full union of its subject with Christ through repentance and faith.

The whole work is thus spoken of, however, because God is operative from the beginning to the end, but this does not prove that he does not operate differently in one part from what he does in the other.

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.

1. He operates immediately upon the heart to prepare the way for the truth.

(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. John 1:13.

2. The Spirit acts mediately through the word.

Yet, he states,
"The relation of regeneration to conversion will, therefore, appear to be one of invariable antecedence."

Berkhof, one of his constant targets in his prattling, even states:
The word 'regeneration' is not always used in the same sense. Our Confession uses it in a broad sense, as including even conversion. At present it has a more restricted meaning. In the most restricted sense it denotes that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy. In a slightly more comprehensive sense it designates, in addition to the preceding, the new birth or the first manifestation of the new life." (Summary of C. Doctrine)
James A. Boyce makes this same distinction in his Abstract of Theology!

So, in order to deny that what they say about the broad sense is even in their writing, Mr. Ross has to appeal to what they say about the narrow sense.

When they say that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit alone, they are speaking of the actual divine agency of God to show that no amount of study, prayer, etc., is effectual on the soul; it is merely an external call with it. That's the point. The Holy Spirit's grace underwriting that means is what makes the call effectual. This is why Berkof, whom Mr. Ross insists denies means states,
"The internal call is really the external call made effective by the operation of the Holy Spirit. It always comes to the sinner through the Word of God, savingly applied by the operation of the Holy Spirit, I Cor . 1:23, 24." (
At the same time, Berkhof states, regeneration in the narrow sense is, "
that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy.'"
The actual work of the person being raised to spiritual life is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. In that narrow sense, regeneration is only His work. In the broader sense, the entire conversion process is in mind. The narrow sense does not occur, in all but infants, without the effectual call. The order is effectual call (regen. in broad sense), regeneration (narrow sense), immediate faith and repentance (conversion), justification. Then we say that the person is regenerate/regenerated. Again, if Mr. Ross would actually pay attention to what these texts state, he would know that.

To say that regeneration precedes faith is not to deny the immediacy of faith and repentance. It is not to deny means. For there can be no immediate turning to Christ, unless the person knows of Christ. Otherwise, where would he turn? There can be no turning from sin if the person does not know he is a sinner, and thus neither can be divorced from an external call or an effectual call, and to be effectual,the Holy Spirit underwrites the external call by striving with the soul.

At this point, Mr. Ross invariably runs off to talk about what these folks believe about infant regeneration. But infant regeneration is the exception, not the rule. How does what these men say about infant regeneration invalidate what they say about non-infants? We are not told, it simply does. Mr. Ross has made a category error, conflating the properties of one universe of discourse with another.

He never actually tells us how the exception disproves the rule. It just does. Infant regeneration is not regeneration in non-infants. The latter is the rule, the former is not the rule.
"The education of children should proceed on the principle that they are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear, in which case they should be sedulously cherished and nurtured. . . . Although the grace of God may be communicated to a human soul, at any period of its existence, in this world, yet the fact manifestly is, that very few are renewed before the exercise of reason commences; and not many in early childhood." (Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967).
John Frame, whom he has recently discussed at the Flyswatter, agrees with Vern Poythress on this. Poythress has stated that such persons are extremely rare and the age is no more than age 3 or 4. So, this is the exception to the rule, not the rule. If they affirmed (a) that these infants lived into adulthood (which is what Mr. Ross has claimed) he would have a point. Likewise, if they affirmed that all infants were regenerated or regenerated through baptism, they'd have a point, but they do not affirm baptismal regeneration and presume their infants unregenerate not regenerate, so how is this "Hardshell doctrine?" I'd further add that the only reason I quote them is because Mr. Ross consistently misrepresenting them, so for him to say that I am quoting them to support my position is disingenuous. I am merely answering Mr. Ross on his own terms of engagement. If he objects to my citing them, then he shouldn't be citing them incorrectly.

Even Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology states,
"Yes it is certainly possible for God to bring regeneration to an infant even before it is born...we must however, affirm that very clearly that this is not God's usual way for God to save people." He then goes on to state that he affirms that this is how he believes God acts when He knows that these infants are going to die.

And, lest we forget, James Boyce himself stated:

Regeneration (as in infants) may exist without faith and repentance, but the latter cannot exist without the former.

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.

Yet Mr. Ross pretends that Boyce never stated this. If the Founders is out of step with the SBC's own Founders, then Mr. Ross needs to account for James Boyce, particularly since Ross regularly criticizes Al Mohler and Tom Nettles. Telling me that Boyce affirmed means is superfluous, since I have not denied means, and since to believe regeneration precedes faith in the way that I, Dr. White, and others have stated it, is not to deny means. Quite the contrary, it is predicated on the use of instrumentality, the Word of God.

Speaking for myself, as I pointed out to Mr. Ross in the last article, I limit infant salvation/regeneration to those actually dying in infancy, and I deny that there are persons walking around in a regenerate state who have not believed. I especially deny that infants are regenerated and then live into birth. (If I affirmed that, then I agree with Ross, I would be affirming Hardshellism). I also do not deny means. For him to state that I have shown "no evidence" that I believe regeneration occurs apart from means or other such nonsense is still a lie on his part; one for which he has still not apologized, and one for which I do not expect an apology. Since he evidently has no real concern for truth, and has not apologized for his attacks on me, I can only conclude that he is a persistentl liar and a factious man. So, we're back to Titus 3, and Mr. Ross only increasing his condemnation. He needs to repent.

Mr. Ross has also stated that James White does not wish to debate him. Yet Dr. White has plainly invited Charles and, by extension Mr. Ross, to call the Dividing Line anytime. Let's see Mr. Ross have the courage of his convictions. Let's see him actually interact with James White on this on the DL instead of hiding like a roach in the darkness of the comment box of the Calvinist Flyswatter. The number is 1-877-753-3341 (Toll Free) Most Tuesday Mornings at 11:00am MST and Most Thursday Afternoons at 4:00 MST.

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