Friday, March 20, 2009

...we love Him because He first loved us

Why the gospel matters:

declaring the good news of the gospel of graceA Helpful Follow Up on Regeneration
When people ask me what is the heart of the doctrines of grace, I usually respond by saying one central essential thing: "salvation is of the Lord" (cp, Psalm 37:39; Jonah 2:9). That is the glory of our new life in Christ... it is all of Him; He saved us and not we ourselves. (Titus 3:5). It is all of grace (Eph. 2:8-9) for apart from we can't do anything (John 15:5); and before we are saved by His grace through faith in Christ alone, we were dead in trespasses and sin, by nature children of wrath, sons of disobedience, slaves to our own lusts, passions and desires (Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3, Rom. 3:10-18).

John Hendryx has done an amazing, concise work on the two views of regeneration. I hope this will encourage you in the greatness of our Lord's saving work for His elect and that it would cause you to glory afresh in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

Defining the Terms
Monergism: The doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration - that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration. Monergism is when God conveys that power into the fallen soul whereby the person who is to be saved is enabled to receive the offer of redemption. It refers to the first step (regeneration) which has causal priority over, and gives rise to, the spiritual ability to comply with all the other aspects of the process of being united to Christ, (i.e., the ability to apprehend the Redeemer by a living faith, to repent of sin and to love God and the Mediator supremely) It does not refer to the whole process that it gives rise to (justification, sanctification), but only the granting of the spiritual capacity to comply with the terms of the covenant of grace.

Synergism: "...the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory accordingly holds that the soul has not lost in the fall all inclination toward holiness, nor all power to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives." This unscriptural view is the greatest threat to a true understanding of salvation in the Church today.

The following comparison highlights some of the major points of difference in these systems:

Two Views of the Cause of Regeneration
Faith is the cause that triggers regeneration

Faith and affections for God are produced by the old nature.

God and Man work together to produce the new birth. God's grace takes us part of the way to salvation, man's unregenerate will must determine the final outcome.

God is eagerly awaiting the sinner's will.

The persons of the Trinity have conflicting goals in accomplishing and applying salvation: The Father elects a particular people; The Son dies for a general people and the Holy Spirit applies the atonement conditionally on those who exercise their autonomous free will.

Restoration of spiritual faculties comes after the sinner exercises faith with his natural (innate) capacities. Has the ability to see spiritual truth even before healed. (see 1 Cor 2:14). Has spiritual capacity to receive the truth, prior God's granting any spiritual ability.

Regeneration is the cause of faith. (has causal priority)

Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature. It is the immediate and inevitable product of the new nature.

God, the Holy Spirit, alone produces regeneration with no contribution from the sinner. (A work of God)

God effectually enables the sinner's will.

The persons of the Trinity work in harmony - The Father elects a particular people, Christ dies for those the Father has given Him and the Holy Spirit likewise applies the benefits of the atonement to the same.

"Light" itself is not enough for a blind man to see, his vision must first be restored. (John 3:3,6). Needs spiritual ability to receive truth prior to receiving it.

Two Views of Humanity
The fallen sinner has the ability and potential inclination to believe even prior to the new birth

The Gospel is an invitation

Christ died for all our sins except unbelief

There is enough good left in fallen man to turn his affections toward Christ.

Sinner needs help, is spiritually handicapped.

Natural man is sick and disabled like a drowning man so God would be unfeeling if He didn't help by casting a rope.

Needs salvation from the consequences of sin - unhappiness, hell, psychological pain

The natural man is sovereign over his choice to accept or reject Christ - God conditionally responds to our decision.

Some fallen men either created a right thought, generated a right affection, or originated a right volition that led to their salvation while some other fallen men did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith that God required of them to obtain salvation. Therefore salvation is dependent on some virtue or capacity God sees in certain men.

Man's nature & affections do not determine or give rise to his choices. He can still make a saving decision prior to the new birth while still in his unregenerate state. In this scheme God gives enough grace to place man in a neutral position which can swing either for or against Jesus. (An act of chance?)

The fallen sinner has no ability or inclination to believe prior to the new birth.

The Gospel is not merely an invitation but a command (1 John 3:23)

Christ died for all our sins including unbelief

Fallen Man has a mind at enmity with God; loves darkness, hates the light and does not have the Holy Spirit. "There is no one who seeks God" (Rom 3:11); Sinner would never turn to God without divine enablement and new affections.

Spiritually dead sinner needs new nature (mind, heart, will), regeneration.

Natural man is spiritually impotent and morally culpable for both original sin and actual sins committed. Our inability is not like a physical handicap or a drowning man for which we would not be culpable but, rather, it is like a man who cannot repay a squandered financial debt. Inability to repay, therefore, does not relieve us of the moral responsibility to do so.

Needs salvation to remove the offense we've made against a holy God and from the power and bondage of sin.

The natural man can contribute nothing towards his salvation. Faith is a response rendered certain following the efficacious work of the Holy Spirit.

We respond to God's unconditional decision. (Acts 13:48)

No Fallen man will create a right thought, generate a right affection, or originate a right volition that will lead to his salvation. We would never believe unless the Holy Spirit came in and disarmed our hostility to God. Therefore salvation is dependent on God's good pleasure alone (Eph 1:4, 5, 11), not something He sees in us.

Man's nature determines his desires/affections and give rise to the choices he makes. "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit." Luke 6:43 Only Christ can "make a tree good and its fruit will be good."
(Also see John 8:34, 42-44; 2 Pet. 2:19).

Two Views of the Gospel
Sinners have the key in their hands. Man's will determines whether or not Christ's death is efficacious.

It would be unjust of God to not give everyone an equal chance.

After God makes one's heart of stone into a heart of flesh the Holy Spirit's call to salvation can still be resisted.

Salvation is given to fallen sinners (unregenerate) who choose and desire Christ of their free will.

The grace of God is conferred as a result of human prayer

God has mercy upon us when we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, apart from his regenerative grace.

Commands to repent and believe the gospel imply the ability of the sinner to do so.

God helps those who help themselves.

Unregenerate man contributes his little bit.

Repentance is considered a work of man.

One of the greatest gifts God gives humans is to never interfere with their free will.

With Man's will salvation is possible.

God has the key in his hand. God's eternal counsel determines to whom the benefits of the atonement apply.

If God exercised His justice then none of us would stand since each of us has rebelled against an infinitely holy God. He owes us nothing and is under no obligation to save any person. Regeneration is, therefore, an act of pure, undeserved mercy because the justice we deserved, He poured out on His Son (thereby turning His wrath away from us).

After God makes one's heart of stone into a heart of flesh, no person wants to resist. By definition our desires, inclinations and affections have changed so we willingly and joyfully turn in faith toward Christ.

Apart from grace, there is no fallen sinner (unregenerate) who fits that description. A desire for God is not part of the old nature.

It is grace itself which makes us pray to God (Rom 10:20; Isa. 65:1)

To desire and seek God prior to the new birth is an impossible supposition. (Rom. 3:11; 1 Cor 2:14) It is the infusion and quickening of the Holy Spirit within us that we even have the faith or the strength to will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock and believe in the finished work of Christ.

The Command toward sinners to repent and believe does not imply ability. Divine intent is to reveal our moral impotence apart from grace (Rom 3:20, 5:20, Gal 3:19,24). The Law was not designed to confer any power but to strip us of our own.

God only helps those who cannot help themselves. (John 9:41)

Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling.

Repentance is a gift of God. (2 Tim 2:25)

The greatest judgment which God can inflict upon a man is to leave him in the hands of his own free-will. If salvation were left in the hands of the unregenerate sinners, we would indeed despair of all hope that anyone would be saved. It is an act of mercy, therefore, that God awakens the dead in sin to life since those without the Spirit cannot understand the things of God at all. (1 Cor 2:14)

With man's will salvation is impossible but with God all things are possible. (Matt 19:26; Rom 9:16; John 6:64,65) "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:6)

Note: God acts unilaterally, taking the sole initiative in a free act of sovereign grace toward the sinner—grace that is altogether prior to, and effectually produces, justifying faith. The response of faith from the sinner is penultimate as it stands next to the ultimate sovereign grace of God in Monergism. As the first act of a newborn baby is to breathe, so the act of faith is the first act of the regenerated sinner, in his/her new birth in Christ.


Bhedr said...

Cool! I live an hour and a half north of Greensboro. maybe I can go to this. In fact I delivered in Greensboro today. I wonder what put this place on the map?

Jeremy Weaver said...

Good read,Bro!
I think you lined it all out there pretty good.

What are Mohler and Patterson going to debate now?;-)

Bhedr said...

It was laid out good Doxo, and it would seem true to me, but for the text, "I would and ye would not."

Truly the quickening power comes from God and we did not choose Him and dead men can't walk therefore they must be regenerated to have faith but regeneration cannot exist without faith. This is not to say that I believe in synergism but to simply say I don't fully understand. I stand by what I have come to: that regeneration and faith occur at the same time *but* not as any result or effort of man.

You see dwelling in regeneration prior to faith has left many to come up with ideas the get regeneration rolling(i.e-padeo baptism or covanental inuendo whatever form is masked there). Regeneration is an inner working of the Spirit alone by His word and faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God alone. The play doesn't start until the ball snaps. Having said heart beats and I breath within the sphere of God's will alone. I would have nothing were it not given to me from above and so my faith comes from Him alone and not me, but as soon as I came alive my faith was alive as well. You see regeneration is faith. Hows that for wordsmithing:-) ? But its true! Dig deeper folks.

The call has to go out for us to respond to the Word of God and so many feel they are Arminian when they do, but after crossing that threshold they see themselves to be Calvanistic. This is why I think it unfair to accuse those of being Arminian who call with that voice. We are told to compell those to come into the Kingdom.


Ah well I talked to my pastor today and he may let me go to this debate with him. I hope so.

Steve can you speak to doctor Mohler and ask him to choose me so I can attend, and then maybe doc Patterson can call me:-)? I'm so close to the Kingdom on this one, living near Greensboro.

My pastor used to live there, but I suspect other men in the church will want to attend once he anounces this publicaly and later ask him and then they will probably get to go as he may be forced to choose. Ah well anyway I can hope and pray.

Will you intercede for me so that I can be one of the chosen thereby overuling all of this and opening a way for me to this debate:-)?

I am making a serious joke. I really want to go though and you are in a preisthood type of position that will open the door if you wish to become an intercessor. By the way is anyone catching how important prayer is?

The whole world is groaning for redemption and cries because of sin and even Sodom and Gomorrah had a cry. Who will stand in the gap? Abraham? The prayer came to late as Lot perhaps neglected this duty. Would that we would all pray as He would have all men to be saved, but do we share His burden? He has offered his Son to this whole world. Who will go? Who will pray? Oh that all men would make us uncomfortable as Keith Green did and as Steve Camp is doing. Then perhaps he would regenerate more and more as He has given us this gift of faith for this reason. Unfortunately he has to judge others to wake us up to this truth. He has no pleasure in this and weeps as he wept over Israel even though His wrath burned against her as it does the world *except the elect.* Praise be to God to never have to face this wrath. Oh praise God! May we smell His furnace though and compell others to avoid it.

Bhedr said...

BTW in saying that the whole world cries out I am not saying they are willing to know God. No man seeks God or desires him. You see even though Israel cried out because of their bondage, it still didn't mean they wanted to know God. Very few had true faith: Joshua and Caleb being among that small number. These are mysteries indeed,and God is the Gospel. May those of us who are not offended by this weep and pray for those who are.

Bhedr said...

Well I've thought it over and I agree with your baby being born and breathing analogy only I wish to add a caveat. As soon as the Doctor spanks the bottom the baby is breathing:-)
There is indeed a milisecond of nuerons interacting and I guess I quibble over that.

Shawn said...

Steve Camp,

On a personal note do you remember about 10 years ago in 1995 (I was 20 years old) at Promise Keepers in Colorado where it was raining and you preaching up a storm and it was some of the best preaching I had heard at the time as I was so happy you were there because it was a such a great time of growth in the Lord for me. I wonder have you been asked to Promise Keepers since?

I was thinking about this and how your songs have helped me come to a biblical view on things and I remember always liked to hear your concerts as they were different in the gospel presentation.

Have you explained your own journey to biblical understanding on the doctrines of Grace, etc. I was only exposed to it from you about 5 years ago and then others

Also you introduced me to Sproul/MacArthur and Piper when I hadn't heard of them before and an interest in the reformation.

Have you always been a reformed baptist? I know that you have great parents who trained you up in the Lord.

Paul Wilkinson said...

First, I thought it curious that the synergism position statements contained only one scripture reference while the monergism position statements were packed with them. Was that intentional? I'm sure people from both sides of this have their supporting references.

Second, I couldn't help but think that this is simply Calvinism vs. Arminianism being debated using different words. Irresistible grace vs. free will. And doesn't that pendulum eventually come to rest somewhere in the middle?

Third, what about that "God-shaped vacuum" we hear so much about? There are stories of people who embarked on a very definite "God quest" who were "seeking with their whole hearts."

I remember a Christian singer who sang, "When I say 'I found the Lord' here is what I mean/ I was a lost and lonely sheep, I guess the Lord found me." I love the imagery, but find it all too simple. The prodigal son's dad was ever scanning the horizon and ran to meet his son; but the son had to commence that journey at some point.

Is all this just words?

Anonymous said...

I think Luther was right in his work, 'The Bondage of the Will.'

Our free will is not the IS the problem!

But you can build great big churches on that tiny patch of 'free will'.

We just do not want to give an inch when it comes to letting God be God. We WILL not to.

- Steve Martin San Clemente, CA

Stephen Garrett said...

This "pre-faith" view of "regeneration" is not biblical nor Baptistic.

You seem to hold to a a model of the new birth that has "stages" or "steps" in it.

I have written on both these things in my blog.

Blessings in Christ,


The Seeking Disciple said...

So if faith is a gift from God for the elect, how can God justly condemn the lost for their lack of faith (Mark 16:16; John 3:18,36)? And is justification unto faith or by faith (Romans 5:1)?

Robin said...

I am going to make an attempt to comment here, even though I feel a bit overwhelmed by the depth of this particular conversation. When I look back at my personal conversion to Christ, I remember having a desire to know and understand the "things of God." I remember sitting in my adult Sunday School class and saying to them, "You mean God really speaks to you?" Man, that's what I wanted, I wanted God to talk to me! And when I look back at my thoughts then, it helps me to see why I should be a good example of what the Christian life is all about to someone who doesn't know God. You don't "have" God without a very personal relationship with Him. So when I prayed a prayer to the God I desired to know and told Him that I agreed with Him that I was a sinner, and I needed forgiveness, and I wanted Him in my life, you are saying that FIRST the desire I had was given to me and THEN I was able to become one of God's own? That doesn't even make sense to me. Why would, then, the angels be rejoicing when someone comes to Christ? I also remember very vividly how the "veil was lifted" once I had made a decision to follow Christ. I saw and heard EVERYTHING differently than I had before. To me, that was all the proof I needed that something in me had changed, and no one told me that was going to happen....that was just part of the wonderful gift I had just received! I did absolutely nothing to get the gift of salvation except "want" it. But from what I understand of the Monergistic point of view is that God had to put the "want" in me first. It seems to me that if that is the case, then Pastors who are preaching messages of hope in Christ aren't really telling the whole story. (The whole story being "well, you can have hope but if God hasn't chosen you first to desire Him then you have no hope.")Also, doesn't faith come by hearing the Gospel? God will allow certain things to happen in our life sometimes to get us to come to an understanding that the Gospel is true. But don't we "come to the understanding" first? (He doesn't give us the understanding first, then we realize it is true.)I don't know, now I seem to be getting all tangled up! I don't think it was meant to be this complicated. There's my two cents worth for today....

Rick said...

The truth is that the work of our redemption is entirely monergistic. It is entirely God's work that he secured salvation for us and it is entirely by the merits of Christ that any of us can have eternal life. No one can claim any part in affecting their own salvation. BUT the application of this salvation is synergistic. God requires man to come by faith. The whole Bible is God's working together with fallen man and pleading with fallen man to turn from sin. He calls for the sinner's "cooperation" in order for Him to bless. This is so standard biblically that it seems silly to need proof texts. But how about 1 Tim 4:16: "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you."

There is a Biblically ordained requirement of human cooperation-- it is not human works meriting anything. When Paul says to Timothy "you will save", it is understood that he does not mean anything that would lend to merit or boasting. And when we obey the Biblical calls, neither do we place any trust in our obedience. We simply comply as the Lord and Scripture has expressed.

An unregenerate man can do nothing regarding his salvation, yet he must do something! God has told him what to do, and appointed it as a means of obtaining grace. We are not called to a passive salvation, but to work out our salvation with trembling and fear.

Stephen Garrett said...

To Seeking Disciple:

You said:

"So if faith is a gift from God for the elect, how can God justly condemn the lost for their lack of faith (Mark 16:16; John 3:18,36)? And is justification unto faith or by faith (Romans 5:1)?"

Your logic would say - "since God does not give me eternal life, then I cannot be condemned"! That is a non sequiter.

Faith is a duty for all men because all men are required to believe anything God has revealed as true. Therefore, to not believe it is sin.

Faith can be a duty and yet be a sovereign gift betowed and the fulfillment of a dutiful command at the same time. One does not exclude the other.

We are to infer that the command to believe inplies an ability to do so apart from God's power, word, and Spirit.

Justification is "because of" the death of Christ and of God's decree to justify on the basis of Christ. Justification is "by faith," not "for the sake of faith," it being the channel God has chosen to convey the benefits and fruits of Chris's atonement to the elect, or to whoever believes.

Faith is not the "efficient" cause of justification but the means of receiving it.

God is not obligated to treat all alike.

In fact, our "differences" are to be asribed solely to God, not to ourselves. I Cor. 4: 7.

I hope this helps answer your question.


Kirby L. Wallace said...

Great post! Just one request.

Could you rewrite the entire thing and remove all references to the Calvinistic doctrine of "regeneration?"

I'd like to use this article of Hendryx's as the basis for an article of my own, however I anticipate a problem with some readers objecting (and me agreeing) that I'm either poisoning the well, or stacking the deck in my favour be presuming the doctrine of regeneration in the Synergistic view.

Example: "He (the synergist) can still make a saving decision prior to the new birth while still in his unregenerate state."

Anticipated Objection: "You are putting words in our mouths. It is our position that there is no 'regenerate' state, or if there is, it FOLLOWS our act of faith, not predates it. Your argument presumes its truth before it's established."

Any thoughts on how to proceed?