Gordan Takes Another Shot at John 5:40

Some of you may remember a short debate I had with Gordan from over at Reformed Mafia concerning the implications of John 5:40 with regards to the Calvinist understanding of the ordo salutis [Gordan Gives Me Props And Rebukes At Reformed Mafia]. Well, it seems that since the first “hit” was unsuccessful; Gordan has reloaded his Tommy-Gun for another go at me. He fires off plenty of rounds but still manages to miss his intended target (probably because he is too busy repeatedly shooting himself in the foot). Below is his latest unsuccessful attempt to wack me out.

His comments are in blue:

Recently, I was in a discussion with a friend (who claims to hate me, in a good natured- way, of course) who proposed that John 5:40 is the death knell of Calvinistic soteriology. I mentioned this claim in an earlier post.

I did not say that John 5:40 was the death knell of Calvinism. I do believe that it is one of many passages which destroy the Reformed view of the ordo salutis. The question being addressed is whether the Calvinist claim that regeneration precedes faith is Biblical or not.

[For the record, I do not hate Ben (Kangeroodort) although I do have a big, big problem with his anti-biblical soteriology, and I in fact pity him for his choice of NFL teams.]

For the record, I do not hate Gordan either. In fact, I think I have told him that I love him on more than one occasion (as a brother in Christ of course). Likewise, I obviously have a problem with his approach to soteriology and find it to be based more on the necessary implications of a theological system than on sound exegesis. As for the football comment, all I need to say is that both the Steelers and Cowboys have 5 championships to their credit (though it took the Steelers less trips to the Superbowl to gain theirs); the Steelers are 2-1 against the Cowboys in the Superbowl, beat the Cowboys the last time they played each other (with a rookie Ben Roethlisberger at the helm), and have a more recent championship to their credit….‘nough said.

Here is the verse in the NKJV: “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (This is Jesus speaking to the Jews who sought to kill Him.)

Ben says this proves Calvinism is wrong. He is fairly certain that the “life” mentioned there must necessarily include Regeneration. He thinks that if I would simply read the text, I’d see that as an inescapable conclusion.

Spiritually dead people have to come to Jesus (i.e. believe in Him) in order to be regenerated. Ben sees that as straightforward, if only we Calvinists would read what the Bible says there.

But after pondering this for some time, both during and since our discussion at his blog, I am left where my objection began. That is, what is the textual evidence for the notion that the “life” of John 5:40 includes Regeneration? (And right here is where we may need a whole ‘nother discussion on what constitutes evidence…)

There are other options for what “life” might mean. It may be synonymous with “salvation,” which I think is not uncommon in John’s writings. Or, it may have to do specifically with “eternal life,” the glorified life post-resurrection.

In fact, I’d propose that this latter idea is suggested strongly by the context of the rest of John 5. (See especially verses 24-26, and 29.) In fact, in the verse right before the one in question (v. 39), it is “eternal life” that is expressly mentioned as that which the Jews have missed in their rejection of the Scriptures teachings about Jesus.

This does no harm to Calvinism. Every Calvinist would say that a person has to believe in Jesus in order to have eternal life.

There is a lot to deal with here. Gordan has been fair enough in representing my view that the “life” spoken of in John 5:40 must at least [if not primarily] include regeneration. Let’s take a look at the passages that Gordan cites in defense of his claims. It should be noted that I was the first one to refer to these passages in our discussion because I believed they further supported my interpretation. Gordan now brings them up as an attempt to bolster his own view.

But Ben’s contention is that regeneration must be included in that concept because it is the starting point of eternal life. Can’t have the everlasting life in heaven without first being regenerated, after all. So, then, you have to come to Jesus to be regenerated, since it is the beginning point of eternal life.

Before looking at these passages (5:24-26 and 29), something must be said concerning his comment that, “[life] may be synonymous with ‘salvation,’ which is not uncommon in John’s writings”. I agree completely. This is probably the biggest difference in our views. Arminians do not see regeneration as a means to an end (the ability to put faith in Christ), but as the ends itself. Regeneration is the beginning of the new life (which is the eternal life that is found in Christ alone). It is, therefore, the beginning of “salvation”, which Gordan admits is synonymous with “eternal life”. For Calvinists, the purpose of regeneration is to enable (more properly, “cause”) faith in the individual which leads to salvation (i.e. eternal life). The Calvinist, then, sees things like this: life–> faith–> life [eternal life, salvation]. The Arminian sees things like this: faith–> life [eternal life, salvation, which begins at regeneration].

The text in question says, “But you are unwilling to come to Me that you may have life.” Gordan believes that there must be another “life” hidden in between the “unwilling” and “come”. The “unwilling” necessitates a need for “life” so that one can “come” to have “life”. For him we should understand Jesus to really mean: “Because you do not have life, you are unwilling to come to Me that you may have life”. I am arguing that Jesus has given us enough information without needing to insert a separate sort of “life” in between the “unwilling” and “come”. I think that Jesus is quite plainly telling the Jews that they must come to Him in order to have “life” (which begins at regeneration).

An important question, then, resolves around whether or not the “life” spoken of in 5:40 has any reference to regeneration (the new birth where life begins). I believe that it must, and found evidence for this in the same passages Gordan now refers us to (John 5:24-26, and 29):

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (verse 24)

Look at that last phrase, “but has passed out of death into life”. Doesn’t that sound like the language of regeneration to you? A transition from death to life is a perfect way to describe regeneration, and many Calvinist have described regeneration with that exact same language. Another favorite metaphor for regeneration is “spiritual resurrection” which is just another way of saying that one has passed from [spiritual] death to [spiritual] life. This is the imagery that Jesus now turns to in describing the life spoken of in this context:

“Truly, truly, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the Son of God, and those who hear shall live.”

Here Christ speaks of a spiritual resurrection for those who hear the voice of the Son of God. The previous verse [24] reminds us that hearing unto life includes believing, “…and believes Him who sent Me”. So what have these passages taught us? They have taught us that Jesus is describing the need for these spiritually dead Jews to experience a transition from death to life: a spiritual resurrection! Well what about verses 28-29? Don’t they have reference to the final resurrection? Yes they do, but we must let the context determine Christ’s purpose in looking forward to the resurrection event.

Jesus anticipates that the Jews will object that He has the power to grant new life. Jesus tells them plainly that He does have this power (verse 21, 24, 26) and that not only can He bring about a spiritual resurrection in those who believe in Him, but He will one day call the dead from their graves as well. However, Jesus is speaking not of a specific resurrection to life of believers in verses 28-29, but the general resurrection of the dead. The point Christ is making is that they should not be surprised at His claims to be able to grant life to those who believe since He will one day raise all of creation from the dead in order to judge them (verses 28-29). If He has been given the authority to do that, then surely He has been given the authority to give spiritual life to those who come to Him in faith.

Therefore, I think it is self evident that the context Gordan mentions actually argues against his position while lending further weight to my initial interpretation of the passage in question. Gordan has much more to say on this issue, however, so let’s hear him out:

[A few quick points here before moving on. Gordan has now correlated “eternal life” with “the glorified life post-resurrection” and “everlasting life in heaven”. While these are not improper ways to understand “eternal life”, the gospel of John does not view eternal life primarily in an eschatological sense. John primarily sees and describes “eternal life” as the present possession of those who are “believing”. This is true of John’s epistles as well (see especially 1 John 5:11-13 which is tremendously helpful in understanding how John uses “life” and “eternal life” interchangeably as a present possession). Perhaps he is uncomfortable with how this passage could favor my interpretation if eternal life is viewed as a present possession for those who believe, and therefore opts to define “eternal life” in a way rarely used by John.]

A couple of problems with that:

1. It still doesn’t answer the question, Who will come to Jesus to be regenerated? How does a spiritually dead person decide to get resurrected? Ben believes in the doctrine of Total Depravity. I think he’d say, no spiritually dead person would choose to believe. But as an Arminian, Ben believes in Prevenient Grace. According to this doctrine, before any sinner may savingly believe in Christ, God must first grant a gift of grace that allows that sinner to overcome his totally depraved nature and make that decision from something like neutral ground.

In short, Arminian Ben sees the same dilemma the Calvinist does, in that no carnal man will or can receive the things of the Spirit (specifically, the Gospel of Christ.) Where the Calvinist solves this dilemma with the doctrine of Regeneration, the Arminian solves it with resistible Prevenient Grace. The two doctrines accomplish the same thing: they allow the sinner to obey the demands of the Gospel.

Now, here’s the catch for Ben. If John 5:40’s “life” must include Calvinistic regeneration (since that is the starting point of life in Christ) then why does Prevenient Grace get a pass? Doesn’t the Arminian process of receiving eternal life in Christ begin with Prevenient Grace? If so, then it is just as rightly included in the “life” of John 5:40 as the Calvinist’s doctrine of Regeneration. That is, they both stand at the beginning of the sinner’s experience of new life in Christ.

So, if John 5:40 means that you have to come to Christ to be regenerated, then it must also mean that you have to come to Christ to receive Prevenient Grace.

Gordan is really reaching here. His argument simply does not follow and seems to be based on a gross misunderstanding of how Arminians view prevenient grace. I do not believe that prevenient grace must be included in “life” as he contends. The new life cannot be given until one exercises the God ordained condition of faith. This is the order presented to us by Jesus in John 5:40. The “come” of 5:40 is synonymous with faith, just as the “come” of John 6:44 is synonymous with faith. Jesus is therefore saying that one gains life through faith. Prevenient grace comes before saving faith and therefore cannot be part of the “life” that results from faith. Prevenient grace is described in John 6:44 as a drawing. The Arminian then sees the ordo salutis as: draw [prevenient grace] –> come [in faith] –> life [regeneration, i.e. the beginning of eternal life and salvation]. This order is supported by comparing John 5:40 with John 6:44 [which is what initially provoked this debate]. The fact that one must first come before one can attain life in John 5:40 makes it impossible for us to understand the drawing of John 6:44 as regeneration. It must, therefore, have reference to prevenient grace as Arminians have always contended. Gordan has done nothing to prove otherwise. He has only succeeded in strengthening the Arminian interpretation by drawing (no pun intended) our attention to John 5:21-24, and 26.

Prevenient grace does indeed “stand at the beginning of the sinner’s experience of new life in Christ”, but that grace is not the same as regeneration. Prevenient grace enables the sinner to believe unto life. John 5:40 tells us that coming must precede life, and John 6:44 tells us that drawing must precede coming. That is exactly what Arminians believe concerning the ordo salutis and Gordan’s statement that, “…if John 5:40 means that you have to come to Christ to be regenerated, then it must also mean that you have to come to Christ to receive Prevenient grace” is a painfully obvious case of non-sequintur.

2. Another problem with saying that Regeneration has to be included in any thought of eternal life, is this: why stop there? I mean, why not go back farther? You have to be alive in the flesh before you can be alive in the Spirit, right? So why not include fleshly life in the “life” of John 5:40? You can’t enter into eternal life by faith while you’re physically dead any more than you can believe without being regenerated. So, surely physical life stands just as vitally at the starting point of life in Christ as Regeneration does. Why include one and not the other, aside from the fact that it seems to help your argument?

And I thought Gordan was reaching with his last comments. This argument barely deserves an answer. All we need to do is look at the context to understand what kind of life Jesus is referring to in John 5:40. We have done that above, and I am confident that any unbiased reading of the text would reveal that Jesus is speaking of a transition from spiritual death to spiritual life: a spiritual resurrection [i.e. regeneration]. Trying to bring physical life into the text is a desperate attempt to salvage an indefensible interpretation.

Or why not go all the way back to God’s foreordination before the foundation of the world?

And now Gordan has really given up the ghost.

Calvinists would say Regeneration only happens because Predestination has already happened long ago, so why not extend the line back to the real, genuine beginning of life in Christ? So then, Jesus would be saying, “You refuse to come to Me, that you may be predestined.”

Is Gordan really contending that “real” and “genuine” regeneration in Christ begins at some eternal decree? Wouldn’t that make the elect eternally regenerated? Is this really where Gordan is willing to take us in order to preserve his doctrine? Look at this statement again and let the absurd implications sink in:

Calvinists would say that Regeneration only happens because Predestination has already happened long ago, so why not extend the line back to the real, genuine beginning of life in Christ?

Surely Gordan misspoke and didn’t think very carefully about what he was saying since I am quite confident that he doesn’t believe the elect have been regenerated from eternity. I think that it is only fair that we give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

So this is what I see as the conclusion of the matter, though I am certain others will disagree with me.

While Gordan’s statement is plainly and painfully ridiculous, he is actually on to something very important when he says, “life in Christ”. It is undisputable that spiritual life resides only in the person of Jesus Christ (John. 1:4; 5:26; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6; 1 John. 1:2; 5:11; Col. 3:3, 4). It is just as certain that we come to be in union with Christ through faith (Eph. 1:13; 3:17). The born again believer is truly a “new creature”, but only “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17). Gordan’s belief that regeneration precedes faith puts him into the absurd theological position of explaining how someone can be given new life outside of union with the only source of life- Jesus Christ. He must also affirm that a holy God can give life to sinners before the blood of Christ has been applied, since he believes that regeneration precedes justification. His theology forces him to accept the unbiblical view that one can be born again before being forgiven (which is part of what it means to be justified). For more on this please see my post: Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

…including, I think, most Calvinists.

As a Calvinist, nothing that John 5:40 says conflicts at all with what I believe is Biblical soteriology.

…which only further demonstrates that his theology controls his exegesis and not the other way around.

I believe you must come to Jesus to have life. And, ta-da! I remain a five pointer.

…albeit a theologically confused and inconsistent five-pointer.

The only way this text is a challenge to Calvinism is if you force two things into the text: First, you must force it to include Regeneration when it speaks of eternal life.

No need to force it, just allow the text to speak for itself as has been demonstrated above.

The problem is that there is no good reason to force it that way, and no reason to stop there and not include earlier necessities like Predestination. It can be read in a perfectly harmonious, straightforward manner without that. Second, I think you must conflate Regeneration and Justification. If the two are separate things, this supposed hurdle for Calvinism proves to only be about ankle-high.

The only one who is forcing things into the text is Gordan. The fact that Gordan has to resort to statements about including physical life in the context of John 5 and the absurd idea of eternal regeneration is sufficient proof of that. There is, furthermore, no hint of conflating regeneration and justification in anything I have said. It is true, however, theologically speaking, that justification must precede regeneration. If that were not the case we would have sinners enjoying the new life prior to being forgiven. This may not be the “death knell” of Calvinism, but it should certainly be the “death knell” of the Calvinist doctrine that regeneration precedes faith.

(Go to Part 3)

Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

Does John 6:44 teach Irresistible Grace?

Does Jesus Teach That Regeneration Precedes Faith In John 3:3, 6?

I appreciate the fact that Gordan and I may never see eye to eye on this subject, but I hope that he will at least admit that his initial charge that my understanding of John 5:40 was not based on sound exegesis was without foundation.

Recommended for further reading:

Fletcher on Being Dead in Sin: Part 1 and Part 2

The Order of Faith And Election in John’s Gospel: You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not My Sheep [off site]

39 thoughts on “Gordan Takes Another Shot at John 5:40

  1. Gordan’s problem is most Calvinists’ problem: equating the “totally depraved” nature of sinful mankind to a corpse. He wrote, “1. It still doesn’t answer the question, Who will come to Jesus to be regenerated? How does a spiritually dead person decide to get resurrected?”

    Even Calvinist A. W. Pink said that a corpse is a poor analogy of the (spiritually) “dead” man. For, although a corpse cannot receive Christ, he cannot reject Christ either. A corpse can do no good thing, i.e. “ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins,” AND a corpse can do no bad thing, i.e. reject Jesus.

    “Dead,” in Jewish culture, could also mean “separated;” something which Calvinists, as a whole, ignore. The Prodigal Son was not physically dead (Luke 15.32), and though I would agree he was spiritually dead, I would argue more that he was “separated” from union with his father — dead, cut off from relationship, as in, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59.2, TNIV).

    As long as the Calvinist contends that “dead” means “corpse,” he will continually argue that regeneration must precede faith; not because he finds such in the Bible, but because his presuppositions demand it!

    Way to go Roos. Way to knock another one out of the park. Your logic and theology are spot on!


  2. To say that regeneration precedes faith is valid even if you are Arminian. It looks different than the Calvinist view of it only in that it can be resisted. The problem is most Calvinist do not view regeneration the way that Arminius did. Too Arminius regeneration was a gradual process that is not accomplished with a one time act. If you read his writings you will see him say that the person’s heart is in a state of transformation and that the sinner then is put in a state of life, granted just the beginning of it. Reading Arminius one gets the view that without God enabling the sinner by that initial change in his heart, mind and spirit then the sinner would have no chance of salvation.

    This of course goes against the Calvinist view of regeneration being a one time event.

  3. Anonymous,

    Charles Spurgeon: “If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate . . . Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” (“The Warrant of Faith” [No. 531, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit], page 532)

    Do you think Spurgeon believed that regeneration preceded faith?


  4. Charles Ryrie comments: “God regenerates (John 1.13) according to His will (James 1.18) through the Holy Spirit (John 3.5) WHEN a person believes (John 1.12, emphasis mine) the Gospel as revealed in the Word (1Pet. 1.23).

    “In the Reformed statement of the ordo salutis [the order of salvation], regeneration precedes faith, for, it is argued, a sinner must be given new life in order to be able to believe. Although this is admittedly stated only as a logical order, it is not wise to insist even on that; for it may as well be argued that if a sinner has the new life through regeneration, why does he need to believe?

    “Of course, there can be no chronological order; both regeneration and faith have to occur [within] the same moment. To be sure, faith is also part of the total package of salvation that is the gift of God (Eph. 2.9); yet faith is commanded in order to be saved (Acts 16.31). Both are true” (Charles C. Ryrie, “Basic Theology,” p. 376).

  5. Will,

    I too have read that quote of Arminius about a somewhat progressive regeneration.

    Arminius was just as negative about man’s free will as was Calvin and Beza when he wrote, “It follows that out will is not free from the first fall; that is, it is not free to good unless it be made free by the Son through His Spirit” (“Works,” Vol. II, 194).

    But freeing a man’s will in order for him to respond to God’s Spirit by expressing faith in Christ is quite different from regenerating the man “in order for him to believe” in Christ. Thus, the Calvinist insists that the “purpose” of regeneration is for one to believe. We would argue the contrary: The Spirit frees a man’s will, being hampered by sin, to freely choose Christ (or not), and if he does, then the Spirit regenerates him, i.e. makes him into a new creature (which is what regeneration is).

    I believe I can disagree with Arminius on this point about “progressive regeneration,” IF that is what he meant, and still honor and respect the man. After all, he is my Church father hero. 🙂


  6. Please forgive me for this long quote by Roger Olson:

    “Calvinists . . . believe that in order for salvation to be completely of grace, as Paul asserted in Ephesians 2, it must be a gift not received ‘freely’ in the sense of contingently. In other words, if the person receiving the grace unto salvation could do otherwise, then in accepting it that person is doing a ‘good work,’ earning a part of salvation, and thus able to boast [never mind that this does not happen practically]. That also implies a Pelagian-like ability to contribute to one’s own salvation, so monergists claim.

    “Arminius’s solution to this thorny problem lay in the key concept of ‘prevenient grace.’ Arminius was always cautious to attribute all of salvation to grace and none of it to good works. Typical of this concern is the section on grace and free will in his Letter Addressed to Hippolytus A Collibus:

    “‘That teacher [of theology] obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to Divine Grace; provided he so pleads the cause of Grace, as not to inflict an injury on the Justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.’ How is this possible, though? Arminius explained:
    “‘Concerning Grace and Free Will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: — Free Will is unable to begin or to perfect any true spiritual good, without Grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word ‘Grace,’ I mean by it that which is the Grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration:

    “‘I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is the grace which . . . bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires.

    “‘This grace . . . goes before [prevenient], accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world, and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory . . .

    “‘This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it. I confess that the mind of . . . a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins.’

    “The grace Arminius described in that rather lengthy statement is prevenient grace. It is the grace God offers and extends to everyone in some degree, and it is absolutely necessary for fallen sinners — dead in sins and in bondage of the will — to believe and be saved. It is the supernatural, assisting and enabling grace of Jesus Christ.

    “But as prevenient (going before) grace, it is resistible. So long as one does not resist it but allows it to work in his or her life by faith, prevenient grace becomes justifying grace. That change is ‘conversion’ and is not a good work but simple acceptance.

    “This is where Arminius’s synergism appears. The human will liberated by prevenient grace (an operation of the Holy Spirit within a person) must cooperate by merely accepting the need of salvation and allowing God to give the gift of faith. God will not impose it. Neither can the sinner earn it. It can only be freely accepted, but even the ability to desire and accept it is made possible by grace.

    “The concept of prevenient grace allows Arminius’s soteriology to be synergistic (involving both divine and human wills and agencies) without falling into Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism. Unlike the latter, Arminius’s synergism places all the initiative and ability in salvation on God’s side and acknowledges the human person’s complete inability to do anything whatever for salvation apart from the supernatural assisting grace of Christ.

    “Clearly then Arminius rejected not only supralapsarianism but also any monergistic view of salvation. He denied at the very least unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace”
    (Roger Olson, “The Story of Christian Theology” [Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1999], 469-471).


  7. Billy,

    Granted Arminius is not the easiest to read, but I believe that an honest reading of his work will clearly show that he did believe and teach progressive regeneration. Arminius saw that in order for man to respond to the call that man must first be regenerated & renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers in order to be qualified to rightly understand, esteem, consider, will and perform whatever is truly good. So to Arminius it was this softening of the heart of stone to a heart of flesh that enabled the sinner to come to Christ. The Calvinist would see it as man getting a new heart and new nature and with that is able to respond, but that the sinner is unable to resist this. Since Arminius viewed it as progressive regeneration then he is able to say that the sinner can reject/resist the Spirit at that time and that if rejected/resisted then the process of regeneration would not be completed.

    It strikes me as odd that you would say that you reject that part of his teaching because to me that is where the fundamental differences between the two sides originates. To me it seems that this takes care of many issues that one would otherwise have to deal with if one does not view it as Arminius taught it. One such problem that arises and that you would have to defend is that a natural man can come to God when the Bible expressly teaches against that. I understand that you would answer it by pointing too prevenient grace, but that still would not solve the problem. If on the other hand you see it as Arminius, that man is totally depraved and unable to respond to Christ unless the Holy Spirit begins the work of regeneration in him and in so doing it enables man to respond because he is in the process of getting a new nature to use to respond to the call of the gospel, then such difficulties vanish. Without that change or that process than we would all be doomed, because natural man does not come to Christ.

    Perhaps you could elaborate on why you are against progressive regeneration?

  8. Do you think Spurgeon believed that regeneration preceded faith?

    Perhaps if you read Spurgeon in context you would not ask such foolish questions

  9. Anonymous,

    Well, you’re link was not exactly helpful.

    Which sermon, out of the very many listed on that page, was the one you were referring to?

    Plus, what does Spurgeon have to do with this matter? Is he the “end all” on this subject? Did God anoint him as infallibly inspired? I’m sure you could clear this up.


  10. Will,

    The issue of “progressive regeneration” that is perhaps confusing to me is that regeneration is to make someone into a new creature. How can this be done progressively?

    I would like to read some material on this in order to get a better understanding. Does the Spirit of God give the not-yet-justified sinner “just enough” renewal in order to aid him in making a free choice to choose Christ?

    I’m not sure I would make this matter on regeneration the crucial point on if I followed Arminius. As much as he loved Calvin, he certainly differed greatly from the theologian’s exegetical interpretations on many points.

    Tell me more about progressive regeneration. What might that look like in the heart/mind of a sinner. I have not yet grasped the concept, but am open to what others think on this issue.


  11. I pointed to Spurgeon’s sermon titled Free Will — a Slave because he goes in depth on John 5:40 and that is what was being discussed. While he may not be the “end all” he is a much more credible source than this site and its author.

  12. Anonymous,

    Well, thank you for the link. The first time I went to it, my computer did not show all of the material available.

    Spurgeon wrote, “This is one of the great guns of the Arminians, mounted upon the top of their walls, and often discharged with terrible noise against the poor Christians called Calvinists.

    “I intend to spike the gun this morning, or, rather, to turn it on the enemy [I DID NOT REALIZE THAT ARMINIANS AND CALVINISTS WERE ENEMIES — I THOUGHT JESUS CHRIST MADE US BROTHERS, NOT ENEMIES!], for it was never theirs; it was never cast at their foundry at all, but was intended to teach the very opposite doctrine to that which they assert.

    “Usually, when the text is taken, the divisions are: First, that man has a will [Which even Calvinists assert].

    “Secondly, that he is entirely free [No Arminian I know of believes that sinners are “entirely free.” Thank you, Spurgeon, for misrepresnting us].

    “Thirdly, that men must make themselves willing to come to Christ, otherwise they will not be saved [absurd!].”

    It is not, regrettably, rare to read such ignorant comments from other Christians concerning Classical Arminianism. He may be describing some liberal form of Arminianism, but most certainly NOT the sentiments of Arminius (if he ever read Arminius at all).

    And Calvinists would be outraged if we were to use such calumny, charging them with hyper-Calvinist epithets.

    Thank you for reminding me why I do not read Spurgeon. I’ll trust the authors of this blog over him.


  13. Billy,

    Arminius viewed prevenient grace as the beginnings of the regenerating process. To Arminius the idea that regeneration necessitates that a person believes was the wrong way to view it. He viewed it more in line with restoring man to his pre-fall state. The beginning of regeneration is what illumines the mind of the sinner to be able to respond to the message of the Gospel. Without the softening of the heart from stone to flesh man would be unable to come to faith and repentance. Again, Arminius viewed that regeneration is not completed in one moment; instead it was an ongoing process that could either lead to regressing or daily increase on a regular basis.

    I think that Arminius saw that if man is totally depraved and that in his natural state unable to respond to the Gospel that this progressive regeneration would allow man to come to saving faith. Without that initial work of the Spirit inside the inward part of man, then we would have no shot at salvation. He differed with his Calvinist brothers in that this can still be rejected.

    This is one of the big reasons that most of the time Arminians and Calvinist can not see eye to eye. We use the same words, but they have different meanings. If one does not realize that at the beginning it would be better to talk to a wall. It would achieve the same results.

  14. Will is correct about Arminius’s understanding of progressive Regeneration.

    One would have to look at Augustine’s and Thomas Aquinas’s ussage of the word as well, since he was a reader of them both. IF Arminius had the same understanding as Augustine then the Calvinists would be the ones with a “new” understanding of that word.

    I think in the mind of Arminius “Prevenient grace” was the beginning of regeneration.

    As “”Godismyjudge”” said on another blog

    “”Arminius taught that regeneration is a process, not a one time event. Prevenient grace is the beginning of regeneration, but regeneration is not completed with respect to its essential parts (mortification and vivification) till after one comes to faith.””

    This is the link to the article he wrote.


    I found it very informative. In reading the works of Arminius you will see him use “regeneration” as something that preceeds faith, but his ussage of it is the same as his ussage of “Preventing/preceeding grace”

    You will also see him talk about regeneration as being a process.


  15. Hey, Ben, here I was bracing myself for what you called “rougher” rhetoric, and you weren’t bad at all. I love you, too, by the way…in that totally manly Christian love.

    I don’t have time to respond in detail now, but you did misunderstand me if you think I argued for eternal regeneration (not blaming you for the misunderstanding, just sayin’.) I don’t believe in anything like that.

    Hopefully, after the weekend, some stuff will slow down and I’ll come back and interact with you some more on this.

    Later, man.


  16. jnorm,

    I was aware that Aquinas held similar views, but I did not know of Augustine. Could you direct me to where I could read about that?

  17. “Perhaps if you read Spurgeon in context you would not ask such foolish questions”

    No kidding! Someone almost got me with that once. He probably ripped that straight from some Arminian website that in turn ripped it from another. Anyone who reads Spurgeon won’t be fooled by that! LOL!!

  18. Ben and J.C.

    For the record:

    I love you guys too. Of course, I mean that in a manly Christian kind of way also…

    I think we all need to start a team blog and go after something we actually agree upon. We’d be unstoppable!!! LOL!! 😉

    Happy New Years Guys!

  19. Pac Man & Anonymous,

    Then please, enlighten us as to what Spurgeon was talking about. We certainly need to know the Truth.


  20. Let me see if I got this right, u guys believe that man can be partially reborn and that it may/may not ever be complete? WOW!

    So I guess u guys are advocates for partial birth abortion, cause it sure sounds like that is what u guys preach.

    Somethin tells me that the only reason u view it that way cause u not want to be labeled Pelagian. Sad, at least be man enough to admit it.

    When u rather read these blind fools over the Prince of Preachers that tells me how depraved u guys really r.

  21. Anonymous,

    Well, I admit, your godly and encouraging tone is truly leading me to “your side” of the debate.

    But I am afraid that the “foolishness” is in your own lap for not investigating this teaching any further than the short comments you have read here.

    Moreoever, not all Arminians are in agreeement on this matter. And to say this would lead us to believe in partial-birth abortion says more about your ignorance than it reflects on us. You are simply absurd.

    Furthermore, aside from Spurgeon, you have offered NOT ONE Scripture passage in defense of regenerating preceding faith. So, have you been beneficial for the Calvinist’s view? No. All you care to do is to degrade genuine believers in Jesus Christ. Way to go.


  22. When u rather read these blind fools over the Prince of Preachers that tells me how depraved u guys really r.

    I think these guys would rather read the word of God as their main source than the so-called Prince of Preachers.

    1Jn 3:14We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

    You may want to check yourself.

  23. Dawn,

    The Pharisees and Sadducees also read Scripture and u see how far that got them. Maybe u should check yourself. Also, unless u have somethin new to say u may want to sit quitely & let the men talk.

  24. Anonymous,

    You continue to woo us toward Calvinism with you gentle and loving tone. Keep up the good work!


  25. Anonymous,

    Yeah… I have to agree with Billy. The tone and rhetoric isn’t helping dude.


    Not trying to pick a fight here, if I understand it correctly, the sermon from which your Spurgeon quote comes was against a form Hyper-Calvinism that taught the Gospel shouldn’t be preached to someone unless they had a “warrant for faith”. (Which pretty much meant they had to have signs of being Born Again already!)

    Therefore the quote in it’s proper context had nothing to do with Spurgeon teaching that regeneration preceeds faith or vice versa.

    Spurgeon was contending that a the only “warrant of faith” a person needed to have the Gospel preached to them was for the person to be a SINNER.

    We have some Primitive Baptist churches in my area who teach this very thing Spurgeon is fighting against in this sermon!

    You may examine the entire sermon here:


    Happy New Year!

  26. Rhett,

    Thanks for clearing that up. We all certainly know Spurgeon to be a proud Calvinist: i.e. “Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else,” if I remember his quote correctly lol. Thank you for the link. I will read it.

    Primitive Baptists . . . wow, I did not know they were still around. That is unfortunate. Such people give Calvinists a bad name, though some would say that hyper-Calvinism is where Calvinism inevitably leads, my (non-Calvinist) professor of History of Ideas said that Calvinists can be consistent in their theology without resorting to the hyper mode.

    Nice chatting with you Rhett.


  27. Let me add that there are a number of “Progressive” Primitive Baptist churches that are much like your average Southern Baptist Church -though a little more Calvinistic.

    Sorry for getting off topic, I didn’t want to paint with too broad a brush…

  28. I must say that was a great post. Calvinists are all too wary of the dismantling of the common proof texts that they use.
    I’ve always found that when we bring in the whole of scripture and the implications of the problematic presuppositions in their definitions (ie regeneration, eternal life), thats when they seem to shortcircuit. TULIP fits tight when the selected data is brought forth, but once we question them on their own presuppositions and the rest of scripture, thats when they seem to find out that theres “no such thing as a free lunch”.

    I’m glad to see more and more classical Arminian blogs playing offense.

  29. Rhett,

    I think we all need to start a team blog and go after something we actually agree upon. We’d be unstoppable!!! LOL!! 😉

    We could blog against things like crazy pre-trib fiction and paedobaptism. ^_^

    Though seriously, I think it’s by virtue of the fact that we do agree on so much that we can even hold a discussion like this. On a related topic, something I mentioned at the RM thread: If Calvinists believe that grace is already irresistible, then why is it so vital that the means by which grace brings a sinner to Christ be regeneration?

  30. Hey, Ben, I’ve posted a response to this response at the Reformed Mafia blog.

    Maybe there is a way we could interact that would be less cumbersome than this has already become…like a more structured cross-examination or something? Email me if you’d be interested.


  31. Anonymous,

    You said, “The Pharisees and Sadducees also read Scripture and u see how far that got them.

    First, Ben et al., are FAR from being Pharisees and Saducees. There is only one person here who seems to fit the label of Pharisee, and it’s not me. 🙂

    Second, I John 2:27 tells us that we don’t necessarily “need” other men to teach us because the Holy Spirit is quite capable of doing that on His own and through His word. That is not to say that we cannot learn from men of God because we most certainly can and do as God has gifted some men to teach. We also learn from each other.

    You said, “Maybe u should check yourself.

    I do, constantly, and I’m praying for you. 🙂

    BTW, calling those with whom you disagree “fools” is hardly Christ-like.

    Also, you may want to meditate on Exodus 20:16.

    You said, “Also, unless u have somethin new to say u may want to sit quitely & let the men talk.

    New? You have not added anything “new”; rather, all you’ve done is spew ad hominem and point us to Spurgeon instead of discussing the issues intelligently and scripturally in a spirit of love.

    I think you are the one who might want to sit quietly while these men of God discuss their theology in a civil manner. You might actually learn the art of true dialogue and debate and learn to agree to disagree, as well.

    You might even learn to shed your misogynistic tendencies and become a true and godly gentleman. If that is not something you are man enough to handle, then, by all means, please ignore my comments.

  32. will,

    As far as I know I don’t think Augustine said the words “regeneration is progresive”.

    He believed in Baptismal regeneration so for adults it would of been after faith. And even in that he believed that all who were regenerate will not make it to the end.

    In order to know what he believed about the issue of regeneration in the context that we are all talking about…….then one would have to find out what he said about the grace that preceeds faith and how that affects the human being.

    It’s gonna take me some time to see what he said about the issue for he seemed to have changed his mind three times. A year or so before he died he seemed to have formed a view similar to that of a calvinist.

    Before that his views would look more like Arminianism and semi-pelagianism.

    But it all depends on what one means by the term “regeneration”

    If one means being united with Christ and having their sins washed away by the blood of Christ then Augustin would have probably used the term regeneration for that.

    But if one means having the Holy Spirit move in you and changing you from the inside so that you can believe, see, hear, and know then Augustine would have saw that as being before faith.

    So it all depends on what one means by the term “regeneration”.


  33. jnorm888,

    It seems to me that regeneration is the quickening of one’s heart, the opening of the eyes and ears for the purpose of responding to the Gospel. Without that being done then no one would come to faith in Christ. The more I read Arminius the more I am convinced that he would view it the same way. Now we differ on its effect, but up to that point I am in complete agreement with him. What Arminius viewed as a process, I view as an event. While he would say that once this happened the person could refuse I would word it differently. I would say that of course you could still reject it, but one would not reject it. I understand that you and Arminius would not see it that way and that is fine. We still believe that we are saved only by the grace of God through saving faith in Christ.

    I believe that when one comes to be united to Christ and their sins washed by the blood of Christ that is justification. It seems that our views are not as diametrically opposed as some would like to say. As for anonymous, perhaps it would be better for you to read other sites that you find to be more to your liking. For it seems to me that you have brought nothing to this conversation but animosity. To Dawn, thank you for showing kindness in the face of such vitriol and for keeping a Christian nature; I will pray that God keeps showing His mercy, kindness and love to you and that you keep growing in your walk of faith with our Lord.

  34. Dawn,

    Way to stick up for yourself, woman!

    Perhaps God was mistaken: “‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; and your sons AND YOUR DAUGHTERS shall prophesy . . . even upon My bondslaves, both men AND WOMEN, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and THEY shall prophesy'” (Acts 2.17-18).

    Perhaps Paul was not inspired when he wrote: “But every woman who has her head uncovered while PRAYING OR PROPHESYING, disgraces her head” (1Cor. 11.5).

    Oh but I bet “anonymous” is quite familiar with “Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak . . . ” (1Cor. 14.34).

    What a disappointement. God bless you Dawn.


  35. J.C.

    “We could blog against things like crazy pre-trib fiction and paedobaptism.”

    Indeed. Though I must warn you: In some churches, questioning the latter topic will get you anathematized faster than questioning the Trinity!! :p

    (Btw, read Last Days Madness by Gary DeMar. It’s eye opening!!)

    “If Calvinists believe that grace is already irresistible, then why is it so vital that the means by which grace brings a sinner to Christ be regeneration?”

    Good questions.

    Instead of giving you my armchair theology answer which you will no doubt find to be lacking in many ways, I’d rather refer you to a place you might find a decent treatment of the issues from men with a few more IQ points than I was born with:

    If you go to http://www.Monergism.com, you can search the topics and find LOTS of articles on these matters.

    (I tried to post a direct link to the regeneration page, but it wouldn’t show up.)

    Happy New Year!

  36. Thanks JC, Will and Billy.

    I’m sure anonymous had 1 Corinthians 14:34 in mind, but we’re not in church! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s