Is the “New Heart” of Ezekiel 36:26-27 a Reference to Regeneration Preceding Faith?

Calvinists will often quote Ezekiel 36:26-27 as a proof text for regeneration preceding faith.  The Calvinist doctrine insists that one must be given a new heart before that person can believe the gospel.  For that reason, Ezekiel 36:26-27 is often called into service to demonstrate this principle.  Below is the passage with verse 25 included:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)

Does this passage give the Calvinist what he needs to defend his doctrine?  Does it truly demonstrate that regeneration precedes faith and that God must give a sinner a new heart before he or she can believe unto life?

As with many Calvinist proof texts, this passage does not give them all that they need to establish their doctrine.  In order for this passage to fit the bill, it must teach that God gives one a new heart and fills that person with His Spirit unconditionally.  The text does not teach that.  It is a mistake to assume that whenever a condition is not stated it therefore means that the actions being described take place unconditionally.  A promise stated without explicit mention of a condition does not necessitate the conclusion that said promise is unconditional.

While we can find promises in Scripture that are unconditional and promises in Scripture that are made without immediate reference to a condition, one will look in vain for a single passage regarding conversion that states that one gets saved unconditionally.  Such a passage does not exist, and this is big trouble for the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.  But the Bible everywhere describes faith as the God ordained condition for receiving salvation, and this condition must then be assumed even in places where no condition is stated.  Indeed, the context of such passages usually implies the condition of faith even if it is not expressly stated.

With that in mind, let’s examine the text in question.  It is widely held that this passage looks forward to the new covenant that God will make with His people.  This new covenant was fulfilled in the New Testament through the shed blood of Christ.  One comes to participate in this new covenant through faith in Christ’s blood (Rom. 3:25).  The text of Ezekiel 36:25-27 describes those who will come to participate in the new covenant.  First, the passage tells us that God will cleanse those who participate in the new covenant:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.

In the new covenant, this would have reference to the cleansing of Christ’s blood.  His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness and we are forgiven from our past sins on that basis (Heb. 10:18-22, esp. verse 22 as compared with Ezekiel 36:25, 33; 1 Pet. 1:2, 22, 23; 2 Pet. 1:2-9; 1 John 1:7-9; Rom. 3:25).  The Bible is clear that forgiveness is a primary element of justification.  No one can be justified in God’s sight and declared righteous prior to the removal of sin.  No one can be justified while still under God’s wrath for past sins.  Justification is impossible to separate from the cleansing of forgiveness, just as the passage says, “you shall be clean from all your uncleanness.” (cf. Ezekiel. 36:33)  Already we see a problem with the Calvinist interpretation of this passage.  The passage cannot be teaching a cleansing unto faith since the New Testament is adamant that one is forgiven and justified “by faith”.  God forgives and justifies (makes righteous) in response to faith and repentance:

Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

…being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith…that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus…for we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:24-28)

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. (Romans 4:5)

Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:1, 9)

But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Romans 6:22)

[All Scriptures taken from the NASB- emphasis mine]

Passages like these could be easily multiplied.  One need only read Galatians to see that justification comes by faith.  In fact, Galatians and Romans are very much concerned with how one comes to participate in the new covenant.  Justification, regeneration, sanctification and adoption are all benefits of the new covenant.  All of these spiritual blessings become ours when we come to be united to Christ through faith (Eph. 1:3-13, esp. verse 13 which says that we are sealed in Christ upon believing the gospel).  The benefits of the new covenant are represented as the “promise” given to Abraham and his descendents, and this promise is received by faith (Rom. 4; Gal. 3).  With the promise comes adoption as children of God and the reception of the Holy Spirit, all of which are received by faith:

Therefore, the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ…And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:24-29)

This one thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  (Gal. 3:2)

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are the sons of Abraham. (Gal. 3:7)

…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Gal. 3:14)

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6; cf. Rom. 8:14-17)

…so that Christ might dwell in your hearts through faith… (Eph. 3:17; cf. 2 Cor. 13:5; Rom. 8:9)

…to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith. (Acts 26:18)

[All Scriptures taken from the NASB- emphasis mine]

There is no question when we compare the promise of New Covenant blessings described in Ezekiel 36 with the fulfillment of those blessings in the New Testament, that all of these new covenant blessings are received by faith.  The cleansing described in verse 25 is by faith and the reception of the Holy Spirit described in verse 27 is by faith.  Even the promise of a new purified and circumcised heart is by faith (Acts 15:8, 9; Col. 2:11-13; Heb. 10:18-22).  But the “new heart” described in Ezekiel 36:26 has primary reference to a heart that is dedicated to God and empowered to obey His law through the indwelling Holy Spirit:

And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

It is only through participation in the new covenant and reception of the promised Holy Spirit that the believer is enabled and empowered to please God, fulfill His law of love, and put to death the deeds of the flesh (Heb. 8:7-12; 10:10-18).  Paul powerfully describes this aspect of the new covenant promise in Rom. 8.  Through the power of the indwelling Spirit (received by faith) the believer can now put to death the misdeeds of the flesh and live according to the Spirit:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you…So then brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. (Select verses from Rom. 8:2-14- emphasis mine)

Through the working of the Spirit within us, our desires are turned away from the flesh to the ways of God.  The Spirit regenerates and re-orientates our being so that we are now devoted to pleasing God rather than our fleshly passions.  The Spirit of God gives us the desire and power we need to overcome the flesh and live for God (Gal. 5:17-26; 6:7-9).  This is the fulfillment of the promise given in Ezekiel 36:26-27, and the fulfillment of that promise is dependent on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is received by faith (Gal. 3:14).

Conclusion:  We can therefore conclude that Ezekiel 36:26-27 fails as a proof text for the Calvinist doctrine of regeneration preceding faith.  Ezekiel 36 looks forward to the time of a new covenant effected by Christ’s blood through which believers are cleansed of sin and made new in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; cf., Eph. 2:8-10  ).  It tells us that those who will participate in the new covenant (through faith in Christ) will receive the promised Holy Spirit, through whom the new covenant believer will be empowered to live for and please God by overcoming the passions and desires of the flesh.

When we compare the promise of Ezekiel 36:26-27 to the fulfillment of that promise in the New Testament, we find that all of the promises and benefits described in Ezekiel 36 are conditioned on faith.  Therefore, it is impossible to construe this passage in such a way as to teach that one receives a new heart empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit prior to putting faith in Christ. Rather, the passage is in perfect harmony with the New Testament (and Arminian) teaching that the promises and benefits of the new covenant (which includes a new heart and the reception of God’s Spirit) are received by faith.

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69 Responses

  1. It is clear from the context that this particular part of scripture is a prophecy SPECIFICALLY addressed to ISRAEL. It is not a general statement to be plucked out of context to support Calvinist (or anyone elses)doctrine.

    Why not refer to the passage with verses 22 through to 24 included instead of starting at verse 26 or even verse 25?

    —-

    22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.

    24 ” ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.

  2. Hello Ben,

    Great comments good job!

    One question: doesn’t alot of what you say here clearly point to the fact that faith PRECEDES REGENERATION?

    Robert

  3. What is this section of scripture in Ezekiel about in its context?
    To whom is the prophecy addressed?

    It is clearly addressed to Israel and refers to specific dealings that God has/will have with Israel.

    I suggest that the WHOLE of this prophecy be read and applied and not the few verses that suit a particular doctrinal view (Calvinist, Arminian or any other).
    —-

    I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

    “The deliverer will come from Zion;
    he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
    And this is my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”

  4. A great and concise exegesis … come at the Calvinist logic with this and approach it from their imputed righteousness position and even the children at their tables could see plainly the truth of what you have presented.

  5. onesimus,

    Without getting into a lot of detail, the prophecy extends beyond ethnic Israel. It has reference to the new covenant that both Israelites and Gentiles can partake of. The true Israel is made up of those who are united to Christ, the covenant head, in faith (Rom. 11:16-24). So this is more than an application to ethnic Israel. It is not unlike the promise of Messiah that was made to Israel, but extended to all the earth, including the Gentiles who would receive the Jewish Messiah by faith. Even the section you quote in Romans has reference to the restoration of Israel through the new covenant in Christ’s blood, for there is no other way for Israel to be restored. The prophecy looks forward to a new covenant and a new people of God, the true Israel made up of believers (both Jew and Gentile) in Jesus Christ. You will see from my references to Hebrews that the writer of Hebrews recognizes that these prophecies have reference to the new covenant and applies them as such (Heb. 8-10).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  6. One question: doesn’t alot of what you say here clearly point to the fact that faith PRECEDES REGENERATION?

    Yes. I pointed this out in various places, including the conclusion. Faith unites us to Christ through whom all the blessings of the new covenant become ours (Eph. 1:3-13).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. Hello Ben,

    “Yes. I pointed this out in various places, including the conclusion. Faith unites us to Christ through whom all the blessings of the new covenant become ours (Eph. 1:3-13).”

    I just wanted to bring out this point, so no one could possibly miss is, 🙂 because I thought your article made this really, really clear.

    Regarding faith uniting us to Christ and **then** the blessings coming, this is a very important point neglected or at least it seems as if it if downplayed or deemphasized by calvinists.

    Calvinists ironically because they are so committed to “monergism” end up downplaying the role of faith. So for example with the atonement they conflate the provison and application of the atonement making statements that we were saved at the cross, that the atonement covered our sins and involved nothing we do whatsoever [which would include our having faith!] etc. While the cross is the ground of our justification, this is only appropriated when the person has saving faith. It is only through union with Christ (which occurs through faith) that the atonement is then applied to an individual.

    Robert

  8. Well then, thanks for further highlighting the point!

    God Bless,
    Ben

  9. Let me underscore Ben’s point yet again, which eliminates the Calvinist use of this text and actually shows the text to support the A position of faith being prior to regeneration, putting it slightly differently. The Old Testament promise of regeneration is for the New Covenant community. And one only becomes a member of the New Covenant, and therefore enjoys its promises and blessing, by faith! The OT promises regeneration to those in the New Covenant. But one only enters the New Covenant by faith.

    I have long found Calvinist appeal to this passage strange. This passage probably serves as background to Jesus’ treatment of the New Birth in John 3 as some Calvinists like to point out. Unfortunately for their position, this undermines the Calvinist position and bolsters the Arminian position.

    Good post Ben, as usual.

  10. Arminian,

    Thanks for the excellent elaboration. It has been my experience again and again that the primary proof texts put forward by Calvinists actually serve to undermine their position and support Arminianism when carefully examined.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. The prophecy is centred on the land of Israel and promises associated with that land. But forget about all of that and skip to the part that supports what we choose to say at a particular time and apply it in such a manner that it supports our chosen theology.

    The Calvinist can use it to support his view merely because he concentrates on TWO verses out of the whole prophecy.
    Adding a verse or two to support an “Arminian” theology still doesn’t address what the WHOLE of the prophecy is saying.

    It is NOT a general discourse on how and when regeneration occurs – it is a prophecy about Israel’s restoration as a physical nation (when they do not deserve it) and their ultimate restoration to fellowship with the God of Israel (AFTER they have been restored to the land, AFTER they have been taken from the nations, AFTER they have been gathered from all the countries).
    All of this is NOT for Israel’s benefit but to show the holiness of God’s great name.

    “Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken and I WILL do it.”
    That rebuilding and replanting that will be recognised by the surrounding nations has not yet taken place. Will the Lord do it as He said? Or do we “spiritualise” those promises and make them mean what WE want them to mean?

    Proof texting is the lifeblood of human theology. Consider scripture according to its intended context and theology will be less prone to error.

    Read and consider the WHOLE of the prophecy given in Ezekiel 36 – not just the verse or two that can be manipulated to suit a theological argument

  12. For me, the water that wets the fire cold comes from a “Jew” among a few “circumcised Jews” tell it like it is.

    He might have had those verses in mind when he said these things? But, what is clear from what he said and what Ezekiel addresses, is Salvation is for those who believe. My position is, first regeneration to believe, second, believing because of regeneration to believe:::>

    Act 10:44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.
    Act 10:45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
    Act 10:46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared,
    Act 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

  13. yay! I hope the “I have forgiven you without you doing anything/sacrifices” proof text will be next.( I think its somewhere in Isaiah)

  14. We had a nice discussion going on this, and unfortunately Michael, aka “natamllc” the calvinist troll who posts these strange and hard to decipher messages has now posted.

    Natamllc wrote:

    “My position is, first regeneration to believe, second, believing because of regeneration to believe:::>”

    Natamllc/Michael:

    WHERE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT IS THERE ANY BIBLE VERSE THAT SAYS THAT REGENERATION CAUSES OR PRODUCES FAITH???

    There is none.

    This is a calvinistic theological fiction which has no basis in any biblical text.

    The fact is, is that there are very few New Testament references to regeneration and in none of those passages does it say that regeneration causes or produces faith.

    It isn’t there unless you start reading between the **paragraphs** and injecting and inserting the calvinistic ideology that regeneration precedes faith and regeneration produces or causes saving faith.

    Robert

    PS- and there is no bible verse that says that faith produces or causes regeneration either (though faith appears to precede regeneration or occur simultaneously with it).

  15. The prophecy is centred on the land of Israel and promises associated with that land. But forget about all of that and skip to the part that supports what we choose to say at a particular time and apply it in such a manner that it supports our chosen theology.

    Onesimus, did you look at how the writer of Hebrews applies such prophecies directly to the new covenant (compare Eze 36:25 with Heb. 9:13-15 for example and carefully read Heb. 8-10)? Did you notice how he sees our eternal inheritance as the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of God to give the Israelites rest (in the Promised Land, cf. 9:15, etc.)? Did you notice the parallel between the inheritance of the Promised Land for Israel and the inheritance of eternal life for believers?

    Look at Romans 4:13-18 for example. The “promise” given to Abraham is received by faith in Jesus Christ. You will see the same thing in Galatians 3 and in many other NT passages. But weren’t those promises initially given only to Abraham and his physical descendents? Is Paul “spiritualising” and “proof texting” when he applies such things to believers in the new covenant?

    I didn’t make this up to support Arminianism. The writers of the NT are the one’s who see such OT promises fulfilled in the new covenant through faith in Christ. All of the promises of God to Abraham, and by extension Israel, are summed up in Christ, and attained by all those who trust in Him (Gal. 3:7, 14-29, esp. compare vs. 16 with vs. 29). If you have an issue with that, you should take it up with them.

    The Calvinist can use it to support his view merely because he concentrates on TWO verses out of the whole prophecy.
    Adding a verse or two to support an “Arminian” theology still doesn’t address what the WHOLE of the prophecy is saying.

    I didn’t add a verse or two to support Arminian theology. I mentioned verse 25 because it looks ahead to the new covenant (how else do you think Israel will receive forgiveness of sins) and contradicts the Calvinist ordo salutis in putting regeneration before justification (and forgiveness). The passage is primarily about the benefits of the new covenant promise, but it has implications that bear on the question of the ordo salutis. I didn’t need to “add” any verses since the passage is plainly referring to the new covenant.

    It is NOT a general discourse on how and when regeneration occurs – it is a prophecy about Israel’s restoration as a physical nation (when they do not deserve it) and their ultimate restoration to fellowship with the God of Israel (AFTER they have been restored to the land, AFTER they have been taken from the nations, AFTER they have been gathered from all the countries).
    All of this is NOT for Israel’s benefit but to show the holiness of God’s great name.

    There is no need to discount any of this, but there is more than just this application as I noted above, and as the NT writers make clear. Ultimately, the promised inheritance for Israelites is realized in being joined to Christ under the new covenant. Have you not noticed how NT writers recognized deeper implications in such prophecies concerning Israel as applying to Christ (e.g. “out of Egypt I have called my Son”, etc.)?

    “Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken and I WILL do it.”
    That rebuilding and replanting that will be recognised by the surrounding nations has not yet taken place. Will the Lord do it as He said? Or do we “spiritualise” those promises and make them mean what WE want them to mean?

    No need to “spiritualise” anything, just look at how the inspired NT writers understood such passages as being fulfilled in Christ.

    Proof texting is the lifeblood of human theology. Consider scripture according to its intended context and theology will be less prone to error.

    Consider prophecy in light of the NT revelation of Christ and you will be less prone to error.

    Read and consider the WHOLE of the prophecy given in Ezekiel 36 – not just the verse or two that can be manipulated to suit a theological argument

    Again, I would urge you to consider how the NT writers apply prophecy given specifically to Israel to Christ and see how often they apply certain aspects while ignoring the rest. Why do they do this? Are they just guilty of wild proof texting, or do they see a deeper fulfillment of all prophecy in the revelation of Jesus Christ?

    You seem to be approaching these passages from a dispensational approach (though you would not call it that, since you don’t like labels, etc.). Do you not realize that the dispensational approach employs a hermeneutic that takes double meanings out of prophecies probably more than any other method of interpretation? Why then do you have a problem with it here? And why do you not have a problem with it when the NT writers see double meanings in numerous passages of Scripture just like this one?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  16. Compare Ezekiel 36:25-27 with Jeremiah 31:31-33 and see how the writer of Hebrews applies Jer. 31 to the new covenant in Christ’s blood (Hebrews 8:6-9:28; 10:10-22).

  17. Kangaroodoort said:
    You seem to be approaching these passages from a dispensational approach (though you would not call it that, since you don’t like labels, etc.). Do you not realize that the dispensational approach employs a hermeneutic that takes double meanings out of prophecies probably more than any other method of interpretation?

    — —-

    You are right that I would not call my approach “dispensational” but it has nothing to do with a dislike of labels.
    Dispensationalism is merely another SPECIFIC man-made theological system based on isolated texts taken from their context and interpreted to suit a preconceived viewpoint.

    In the application of prophecy it is wise NOT to ignore the primary intention of the prophecy, particularly when that prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. Any “double meaning” within a prophecy is not something open to personal interpretation: however this has obviously occurred in the example here – considering two different theological systems are interpreting these same verses to support their own considerably different theological viewpoints.

  18. You are right that I would not call my approach “dispensational” but it has nothing to do with a dislike of labels.
    Dispensationalism is merely another SPECIFIC man-made theological system based on isolated texts taken from their context and interpreted to suit a preconceived viewpoint.

    Onesimus, you really need to get beyond this. Dispensationalism is simply an interpretation of various passages of Scripture which looks to draw a strong distinction between Israel and the church. You may not want to admit it, but you are employing a dispensational hermeneutic in interpreting these passages.

    It is strange that the moment an interpretive approach gets labeled you suddenly see it as a “man-made theological system”. Perhaps you think that your specific method of interpretation and the theology that results from it is the only non-man made theology going. But all we would need to do is give your interpretation and method of interpretation (and you do have a method) a label and, according to you, it would suddenly become a “man-made theological system.”

    In the application of prophecy it is wise NOT to ignore the primary intention of the prophecy, particularly when that prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. Any “double meaning” within a prophecy is not something open to personal interpretation: however this has obviously occurred in the example here – considering two different theological systems are interpreting these same verses to support their own considerably different theological viewpoints.

    We are just going to have to agree to disagree here. You just keep making the same assertions without acknowledging or interacting with the Biblical evidence I have presented in support of my interpretation. Did you bother to look at Hebrews yet? Did you compare Eze. 36 with Jer. 31 and note the way that the writer of Hebrews interprets Jer. 31? Did you look at the way that Paul continually teaches that the covenant promises given to Abraham and Israel are fulfilled in Christ and received through faith in Christ? Apparently not, since you just keep saying the same thing over and over.

    In light of such Biblical testimony, I am content to accept the interpretation of the inspired NT writers concerning such covenant promises and prophecies. You are welcomed to ignore such evidence and cling to your rigid dispensationalism, but I hope you will take some time to investigate the evidence I have presented. Either way, it is a minor disagreement and I will still consider you a brother in the Lord who just interprets these passages according to a different hermeneutic.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  19. Onesimus,

    I will not be approving your latest comment since you continue to just assert that you are right without dealing with the Biblical evidence that I have presented several times on this thread. If you want to engage what I have actually written then we can continue to discuss it. If not, then we will just need to agree to disagree and move on. I find it troubling that someone who does not want to be labeled is so quick to label the beliefs of others.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. That’s fair enough.

    But where have I labelled the beliefs of others?

    It seems that people are more than willing enough to accept labels for themselves: Calvinist and Arminian for example.

    As for “asserting” I am right “without dealing with the Biblical evidence ” – I have actually been pointing directly to the biblical evidence and what scripture ACTUALLY says IN CONTEXT without embellishing it with my own assertions and without trying to use it support a particular theological viewpoint.

    The only assertion I want to make is to stick with what scripture ACTUALLY SAYS and don’t use out of context portions of it to support a viewpoint that is not evident in the context of the portion of scripture being used.

    The example in this thread shows that the same out of context portion of scripture can be used to support totally opposite beliefs – depending on what a person wants it to say, and depending on which surrounding parts of scripture are ommitted.

  21. That’s fair enough.

    But where have I labelled the beliefs of others?

    In your last comments which I did not approve. You wrote:

    But a church devoted to replacement theology has to ignore that and therefore projects alternative emphases onto the prophecy. (emphasis mine)

    You wrote:

    It seems that people are more than willing enough to accept labels for themselves: Calvinist and Arminian for example.

    If the label basically fits your beliefs, then why not? I already covered this ground with you here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/10/14/why-i-am-not-a-calvinist-tim-pierce/#comment-3477

    As for “asserting” I am right “without dealing with the Biblical evidence ” – I have actually been pointing directly to the biblical evidence and what scripture ACTUALLY says IN CONTEXT without embellishing it with my own assertions and without trying to use it support a particular theological viewpoint.

    The context has reference to a new covenant where God will change the heart of His people and fill them with His Spirit, so that they will walk in His ways. This is the same thing being discussed in Jer. 31:31-34 and finds fulfillment in the NT as the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 8-10) and Paul (Rom. 4 and Gal. 3, etc.) makes clear as has been pointed out to you many times. All of the promises to Abraham and Israel are summed up in Christ and received through faith in Christ.

    The only assertion I want to make is to stick with what scripture ACTUALLY SAYS and don’t use out of context portions of it to support a viewpoint that is not evident in the context of the portion of scripture being used.

    It is evident. It speaks of a new covenant and that covenant is fulfilled in Christ. You seem to think that this prophecy was fulfilled when Israel became a nation again. Look carefully at the full context and see if such a view truly fits all the data as you suggest. Is the nation of Israel now following the Lord’s statutes? Is the nation of Israel filled with the Holy Spirit? Have they been cleansed from their sins apart from faith in Christ? None of these things can happen outside of the new covenant in Christ’s blood and no one, Jew or Gentile, can be filled with the Holy Spirit apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

    The example in this thread shows that the same out of context portion of scripture can be used to support totally opposite beliefs – depending on what a person wants it to say, and depending on which surrounding parts of scripture are ommitted.

    Not at all. The example in this post shows that the Calvinist understanding of this passage is incorrect when New Testament fulfillment is considered.

    So again, you have not grappled with the Biblical data concerning the fulfillment of these prophecies in the new covenant. You have not grappled with the parallel between Eze. 36 and Jer. 31. You have not grappled with the way that the writer of Hebrews applies such prophecies to the new covenant and sees the promises of an inheritance to Abraham and Israel as being fulfilled in the eternal inheritance received by all believers through faith in Christ. You have not grappled with the fact that Paul says that promises given to Abraham (the promises of descendents and an eternal inheritance) are fulfilled in Christ and received by faith. Until you want to engage those issues, I will ask you not to further comment in this thread. I know where you stand and we disagree. We can either discuss the NT evidence regarding the fulfillment of such promises or we can just agree to disagree.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  22. Neither Ezekiel 36 or Jeremiah 31 are giving a general account of the new birth.
    Both are prophesies regarding the future of a literal and physical Israel and their eventual involvement in the new covenant.

    Hebrews is addressed to Jewish believers who, as Christians, are suffering persecution. The suffering makes it tempting to revert to their former religion which at that time was accepted by Rome and therefore free of the persecution directed towards Christians. The writer to the Hebrews references the OT prophecies about the New Covenant to demonstrate the futility of turning back to the old covenant.

    Salvation is ONLY through relationship with Jesus. I have never said or inferred otherwise.

    Everything I have written here as been about context. It is about considering the full text of a particular writing and not using a select verse from here and a select verse from there to support a desired doctrine.

    You pointed out the error of the Calvinist in trying to use a couple of verses from Ezekiel 36 to prove a particular belief about regeneration. I agree with your assessment that those verses do not prove that view of regeneration. However I also say that those verses say NOTHING AT ALL about the general nature and timing of regeneration. To use them for that purpose is a misuse of scripture – utilising select verses as proof-texts for our own purposes instead of accepting their intended contextual purpose.

    By misapplying a couple of verses from Ezekiel (or Jeremiah, or Hebrews) the emphasis is taken from Israel’s future and applied elsewhere. These OT prophesies show that God has not and will not abandon Israel.

    Ben referred to Jeremiah 31:31-34 but did not mention verses 35 and 36 which are part of the same context.

    35 This is what the LORD says,
    he who appoints the sun
    to shine by day,
    who decrees the moon and stars
    to shine by night,
    who stirs up the sea
    so that its waves roar—
    the LORD Almighty is his name:

    36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”
    declares the LORD,
    “will the descendants of Israel ever cease
    to be a nation before me.”

    What a promise of God’s faithfulness!
    Despite the unfaithfulness of Israel.

    THAT is the message of those prophecies.

  23. Neither Ezekiel 36 or Jeremiah 31 are giving a general account of the new birth.

    That is not the only concern, but the new birth and participation in the new covenant are certainly being emphasized (see Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, which deals with how the Jews, who believed they would automatically inherit the Messianic kingdom by simply being a descendent of Abraham, must first be “born again” before inheriting the kingdom).

    Hebrews is addressed to Jewish believers who, as Christians, are suffering persecution. The suffering makes it tempting to revert to their former religion which at that time was accepted by Rome and therefore free of the persecution directed towards Christians. The writer to the Hebrews references the OT prophecies about the New Covenant to demonstrate the futility of turning back to the old covenant.

    But it is much more than this. The writer demonstrates how the promises in Jer. 31 are fulfilled in the New Testament community of believers in Christ. The inheritance of the Promised Land is seen as fulfilled in the eternal inheritance that all believers possess in Christ. You are ignoring much of the subject matter of Hebrews in order to maintain your point (the very thing you accuse me of doing with regards to Ezek. 36 and Jer. 31). This is the same thing that Paul spoke of in Rom. 4 concerning the application of the promises made to Abraham to all believers,

    “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendents that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith…For this reason it is by faith, that it may be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendents, not only to those who are of the Law [the circumcised Jews], but also to them who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all [who are believers]…In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father to many nations, according to that which was spoken, ‘So shall your offspring be.’…Now not for his sake only was it reckoned to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be reckoned, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead… (Rom. 4:13-24- emphasis mine)

    All of the promises given to Abraham concerning a Land and his descendents are ultimately fulfilled in Christ and the eternal inheritance that believers have in Him.

    Everything I have written here as been about context. It is about considering the full text of a particular writing and not using a select verse from here and a select verse from there to support a desired doctrine.

    Everything you have said has essentially straight-jacketed this passage into a single application (which is not normally how prophecies are understood in Scripture), and emptied it of the new covenant meaning that the apostles themselves (and even Jesus in John 3) give to it.

    You pointed out the error of the Calvinist in trying to use a couple of verses from Ezekiel 36 to prove a particular belief about regeneration. I agree with your assessment that those verses do not prove that view of regeneration. However I also say that those verses say NOTHING AT ALL about the general nature and timing of regeneration.

    Well, I think you are wrong, and I think the weight of Biblical scholarship is against you on this point. That might not matter to you, but you should at least consider why so many Biblical scholars see new covenant implications in these passages and see obvious connections to the fulfillment described in the New Testament.

    To use them for that purpose is a misuse of scripture – utilising select verses as proof-texts for our own purposes instead of accepting their intended contextual purpose.

    I was just reading a commentary on Ezekiel last night where the commentator paid very close attention to the context and historical situation, but still recognized the application to the new covenant and the advent of the Messianic kingdom. This is a rather standard view in scholarship. It isn’t an either or thing as you keep trying to make it.

    By misapplying a couple of verses from Ezekiel (or Jeremiah, or Hebrews) the emphasis is taken from Israel’s future and applied elsewhere.

    As I pointed out above, the writer of Hebrews sees a direct fulfillment of these passages in the Messianic age that began with Christ’s coming and death and resurrection. Are you saying that he is misapplying these passages? Am I misapplying these passages because I agree with the writer of Hebrews?

    These OT prophesies show that God has not and will not abandon Israel.

    Correct, all Israel will be saved because Israel, the true descendent of Abraham and heirs to the promises, joint heirs with Christ and the promised seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16, 29), are all believers who come to be in union with Christ through faith (Jew or Gentile).

    Ben referred to Jeremiah 31:31-34 but did not mention verses 35 and 36 which are part of the same context.

    35 This is what the LORD says,
    he who appoints the sun
    to shine by day,
    who decrees the moon and stars
    to shine by night,
    who stirs up the sea
    so that its waves roar—
    the LORD Almighty is his name:
    36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”
    declares the LORD,
    “will the descendants of Israel ever cease
    to be a nation before me.”

    Your point about Jeremiah only strengthens my view (in fact, I almost brought it up myself earlier). There was more to the prophecy in Jeremiah than just a reference to the New Covenant, but that didn’t change the fact that there was a very real application to the New Covenant that all believers partake of in Christ (as the writer of Hebrews makes plain). In the same way, there is a definite application in Ezek. concerning the new covenant community, though that is not all that is being discussed.

    But you will still notice that the promises given to Israel are only ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Ethnic Israel can only participate in the new covenant and receive the promises through faith in Christ. The new earth and the new Jerusalem is not given to ethnic Israel, but to all believers (Jews and Gentiles). They are the true Israel since they receive the promises by faith and they will exist forever as the people of God. This is the eternal inheritance that the writer of Hebrews speaks of when applying these prophecies. He is not speaking of ethnic Israel being restored to Canaan and remaining there forever.

    Compare this to Jer. 33:14-26 and see how these prophecies are fulfilled in Christ. Notice how the LORD says that for as long as there is day and night, so shall there be Levites to minister sacrifices before the Lord. The writer of Hebrews again sees this fulfilled in Jesus the Priest King who permanently fulfills the office of Priest unto God. Now if you do not think this is appropriate to the context, then please explain how it is that there have been no Levites ministering to the Lord since the destruction of the Temple? Have the promises of God failed, or have you missed the point that they were all fulfilled in Christ (the descendent of David referred to in this very chapter, see esp. verses 20-23)?

    The problem is not that I pay no attention to context. The problem (as I see it) is that you have tunnel vision that essentially makes prophecies and promises such as these null and void outside of the context of their new covenant fulfillment in Christ.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  24. You have still not addressed the REST of Ezekiel 36 (in other words the CONTEXT).

    That context refers to a very physical, geographical people being brought back to a very physical and geographical piece of land, after which they will be brought back into relationship with their God.

    Either we cut those references out of the bible (which IS effectively being done when they are ignored) or we recognise that they provide a very important context to those favoured verses being misapplied when addressed in isolation.

    And I have not been discussing the new heaven and the new earth. The issue is the current earth and the prophesied earthly reign of Christ over the nations from a restored Israel which will precede the new heaven and new earth. (As prophesied by almost ALL of the prophets).

  25. Tim,

    We just keep going round and round here. You say,

    You have still not addressed the REST of Ezekiel 36 (in other words the CONTEXT).

    This is a strange claim on your part since you failed to address much (if not most) of what I have said to this point. I made it very clear that there is more than one application for this prophecy, just as there is for the parallel prophecy in Jeremiah which I addressed above. In case you missed it, I will paste it in here:

    Your point about Jeremiah only strengthens my view (in fact, I almost brought it up myself earlier). There was more to the prophecy in Jeremiah than just a reference to the New Covenant, but that didn’t change the fact that there was a very real application to the New Covenant that all believers partake of in Christ (as the writer of Hebrews makes plain). In the same way, there is a definite application in Ezek. concerning the new covenant community, though that is not all that is being discussed.

    We also see portions of these prophecies that we must admit have not been fulfilled (the promise of priests ministering before the Lord for as long as there is day and night, Jer. 33:18), unless we understand them in the context of NT fulfillment in the person of Christ (the Priest King in the order of Melchizedek). Are you suggesting that God will restore ethnic Israel to their Land and re-institute the sacrificial system that has been done away with in the sacrifice of Christ, and somehow be pleased with the fact that they are offering burnt offerings which can never take away sins (Hebrews 10:4-11)?

    Notice in Jer. 33:15 that God correlates Israel’s restoration with the coming of Christ (not the second coming, or the millennial reign, however you might understand that). It tells us that “in those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth.” The judgment may have reference to eschatological judgment, but the “springing forth” has reference to Christ’s coming into the world. In that case, we would see that the inauguration of the new covenant and Israel’s restoration begins with Christ’s coming, and the blessings of the new covenant are realized by all believers from that point on (which includes the indwelling Holy Spirit changing the hearts of believers so that they can live for God, cf. Jer. 31:31-33; Hebrews 8:8-13).

    Notice also how in Hebrews it is said that the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s (and Ezekiel’s) prophecy in Christ (concerning a new heart, etc.) is the new covenant that makes the old covenant obsolete (verse 13). Look at Hebrews 9:14 where the writer of Hebrews says that the result of Christ’s sacrifice is the cleansing of our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Do you really believe that this is in no way a fulfillment of Jer. 31:33 and Ezekiel 36:25-27? Can you really continue to ignore the Biblical evidence here in order to maintain your tunnel vision approach to these prophecies? Is that the price you are willing to pay to cling to your strict dispensationalism?

    Again, we are simply not going to agree here. If you want to deny the NT application of these prophecies to the new covenant community, then you are welcome to your opinion. Suffice it to say that I am certainly not the only interpreter of Scripture to disagree with you. I will ask you kindly to stop re-asserting your position on this thread. I know your position and I disagree. If anyone wants to get your take on things, they can visit your blog and read your posts.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  26. Do with this whatever you will…

    Ben said:
    “This is a strange claim on your part since you failed to address much (if not most) of what I have said to this point. I made it very clear that there is more than one application for this prophecy”.

    But surely whatever application you consider to be valid (and you have shown that different theologies place different and CONTRADICTORY applications on those same isolated verses), it should NOT be at the expense of the original contextual application which addresses a literal physical Israel. And if you disagree with that literal application you are NOT reading the context of the Ezekiel prophecy which is clearly written to address a physical nation.

    Ben said: “Notice also how in Hebrews it is said that the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s (and Ezekiel’s) prophecy in Christ (concerning a new heart, etc.) is the new covenant that makes the old covenant obsolete (verse 13).’

    But Ben I have not been addressing the issue of the Old covenant vs. the New Covenant. I have tried to make that clear – that Israel WILL come under the new Covenant through the recognition of their Messiah. That is the as yet unfulfilled future. But that is what that prophecy is about. It predicts that Israel will return to their God through recognition of Messiah.

    I have not been advocating the dispensationalist view of Israel one day being accepted by God under the Old Covenant.

    You point out the repetition of what I’ve said – but it is clear that you have missed my point and have projected another application upon my words. And I would like to state that what I have said has only ONE application. I have been saying that the selected verses taken from Ezekiel 36 are NOT giving a general description of the nature and timing of regeneration. That is NOT an attempt to dilute the very real importance of regeneration – I am pointing to what those verses ARE saying about regeneration IN THEIR CONTEXT. That context is God’s relationship with literal physical national Israel and where that is headed.

    There needs to be an end to applying scripture according to our own will and our own preferred doctrine. You opened this thread with the example of how Calvinists are doing that very thing. And yet you resist and object to me pointing out that those verses are part of a larger and very important context that MUST be taken into account if we are to understand what God is revealing through that passage of scripture.

  27. Onesimus,

    This is becoming a very frustrating conversation as you continue to side step and seemingly ignore much of what I am writing.

    You quote me saying,

    “This is a strange claim on your part since you failed to address much (if not most) of what I have said to this point. I made it very clear that there is more than one application for this prophecy”.

    And then respond with,

    But surely whatever application you consider to be valid (and you have shown that different theologies place different and CONTRADICTORY applications on those same isolated verses), it should NOT be at the expense of the original contextual application which addresses a literal physical Israel.

    I never said it should be at the expense of the original context. I only said that there is more than one application. You admit below that the Jews will need to come under the new covenant in the same way as the Gentiles. That means that they will become a part of the new covenant community just as the Gentiles do through faith. Since only those who partake of the new covenant through faith receive regeneration and a new heart through the indwelling Holy Spirit, then it follows that faith precedes regeneration and the receiving of a new heart. It is not that complicated. You can think what you want about the other implications of the passage regarding ethnic Israel, but the fact remains that it makes reference to the new covenant community and that community is made up of both Jews and Gentiles through faith in Christ. Therefore, this passage is not being misused. This is further evidenced by the parallels I keep repeating and you keep ignoring. Let’s compare a few so it is easy to see:

    Eze. 36:25-27:

    Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

    Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

    I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

    Jer. 31:33

    But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

    Now you will notice that just like in Ezekiel, this promise is directed to the people of Israel. However, the writer of Hebrews quotes this passage and applies it directly to the new covenant community of believers he is writing to (Hebrews 8:7-13)

    He makes a further application that perfectly parallels Ezekiel 36:25-27 in Hebrews 9:14-15,

    how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

    For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were {committed} under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

    Do you see that? It is only through the blood of Christ that one is cleansed and enabled to serve the living God. This is the exact thing that Ezekiel 36:25-27 is looking ahead towards, and this is expressed in numerous places in the NT (as in Rom. 4, 8, and Gal. 3, as I pointed out in the post). Notice also that the writer of Hebrews looks ahead to the receiving of an eternal inheritance for believers. He correlates this inheritance to the “rest” which the Israelites were denied due to their failure to enter Canaan.

    Regardless of what is being said concerning Israel returning to their Land (even if you want to understand that as ethnic Israel being restored to the physical Land of Canaan, rather than the true Israel [i.e. all believers] receiving an eternal inheritance and entering the “rest” that the disobedient Israelites were denied), the references to new covenant cleansing and a heart empowered to live for God are being directly applied to the new covenant community. I have made this point again and again, and you just continue to ignore it with your tunnel vision.

    But Ben I have not been addressing the issue of the Old covenant vs. the New Covenant. I have tried to make that clear – that Israel WILL come under the new Covenant through the recognition of their Messiah. That is the as yet unfulfilled future. But that is what that prophecy is about. It predicts that Israel will return to their God through recognition of Messiah.

    This undermines your whole argument. If the Jews will come under the new covenant in the same way as the Gentiles (through faith) and the result of the new covenant to all believers is a new heart empowered by the Holy Spirit to obey and live for God, then it follows that the promises of new covenant blessing being described in Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31 are applicable to the church just as well as the nation of Israel (as the writer of Hebrews and Paul make perfectly clear). So your charges that I am misusing and misapplying these passages are proven entirely false.

    I have not been advocating the dispensationalist view of Israel one day being accepted by God under the Old Covenant.

    That does not necessarily characterize the dispensational view. But this puts you on the horns of a dilemma with regards to Jer. 33:18-20 because you either need to see this as referring to God finding favor with future Israel under the Old Covenant by way of sacrifices that the writer of Hebrews says can never take away sins and have been fulfilled in Christ; or you need to see this as fulfilled in the new covenant in the person of Jesus Christ (the Priest King in the order of Melchizedek). If you see it as fulfilled in Christ and applicable to the new covenant community then your whole tunnel vision hermeneutic that you are trying to apply to Ezek. 36 and Jer. 31 goes out the window.

    You point out the repetition of what I’ve said – but it is clear that you have missed my point and have projected another application upon my words. And I would like to state that what I have said has only ONE application.

    The point about the new covenant blessings applies to all of the new covenant community. This plainly includes Gentiles who receive the gospel and make Christ their Messiah. The only way to get around this is to say that the new covenant blessings described in Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31 are only true of ethnic Israel (i.e. only ethnic Israel will receive a new heart empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to obey and live for God). But that is plainly ridiculous. All believers today are empowered by the Holy Spirit to obey and live for God and all believers today are cleansed and forgiven by the blood of Christ. Not to mention the fact (yet again) that the NT writers continually affirm that these OT promises have been fulfilled in Christ and those who come to be in union with Him. Indeed, the writer of Hebrews quotes most of Jer.31 in order to make that exact point!

    I have been saying that the selected verses taken from Ezekiel 36 are NOT giving a general description of the nature and timing of regeneration. That is NOT an attempt to dilute the very real importance of regeneration – I am pointing to what those verses ARE saying about regeneration IN THEIR CONTEXT. That context is God’s relationship with literal physical national Israel and where that is headed.

    Well, as I have stated many times, your tunnel vision view of these prophecies puts you at odds with NT revelation concerning Christ and His people.

    There needs to be an end to applying scripture according to our own will and our own preferred doctrine. You opened this thread with the example of how Calvinists are doing that very thing. And yet you resist and object to me pointing out that those verses are part of a larger and very important context that MUST be taken into account if we are to understand what God is revealing through that passage of scripture.

    I never suggested that context should be ignored. I only pointed out that the promises of the new covenant described in Ezek. 36:25-27 are received by all those who put faith in Christ and therefore become a part of the new covenant community. This is true of ethnic Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 1:16-15). The entire NT bears this out.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  28. Ben,

    You have done a great job showing how Exek 36:26-27 applies to the New Covenant and the Church against Onesimus’ objections. The essence of God’s prophetic address to Isarel was not so much to them as an ethnic group but as the covenant people of God, which is what the Church is. His point about Calvinists and Arminians coming to different conclusions about the passage showing they both miss the right interpretation and context does not follow in the least. There are all sorts of passages interpreters disagree about even though they view it from a basic common scheme. It is more a matter of payinmg attention to exegetical details. And you showed how Calvinists do not pay close attention to the exegetical details of this passage as they relate to the timing of the promise it holds out.

  29. Another example of a champion Arminian defeating the ridiculous assumptions and hermeneutical deficiencies of Calvinist interpreters. Ben, the more I read your insights, the more I like you. Truth is immortal!

  30. Marvin,

    I hope this doesn’t mean I am destined to end up on your “My Heroes” list.

  31. Lol! You could never qualify.

    Ben, I would never do that to you. Even in disagreement, you are respectful and decent in your attitude. The obvious concern and regard you have toward others means I could never disrespect you in such a way. My list is obviously a sarcastic jab at Calvinist, uh, adherents…and since I genuinely like you, I won’t be subjecting you to public ridicule.

    You are far above the scale of such Pharisees as Calvin and Alford. I think Piper is a genuine fellow, and Svoboda has inklings of authenticity, but MacArthur is a smug lunatic. Each of em, though, refuses to acknowledge that Christ died for the whole world. That means they must pay the price for egotistical elitist leanings.

  32. Ben it may be frustrating.

    But as long as people continue to USE isolated scriptures to prove their point instead of recognising and accepting the context of scripture there will always be that frustration.

    Arminain said:
    The essence of God’s prophetic address to Isarel was not so much to them as an ethnic group but as the covenant people of God,

    And there is the result of considering individual verses out of their context and giving it a different application to that given in its context.

    EVERYTHING about the prophecy from Ezekiel is clearly addressed to a specific ethnic people. It describes the experiences of that people. It describes the land of that people and it makes a promise to those people that one day THEY (that specific ethnic people) will be part of a new covenant.

    That is the point I have been making and that point has now been proven. You ignore context and apply whatever meaning to isolated verse that YOU choose to apply just as the Calvinist uses the same out of context verses and applies whatever meaning supports HIS theology. Two contradictory meanings can be supported by the application of the same verses because those verses are considered according to your own theology instead of according to clear and simple context of the whole prophecy.

  33. Onesimus,

    Obviously the frustration I was speaking of had reference to the fact that you do not even interact with 90% of what I say while continuing to re-assert your already refuted claims. You don’t even seem to fully grasp what I am saying (which is obvious in that you keep saying I ignore context, as if you didn’t read anything in my last post). You ignore the numerous problems I have pointed out with regards to your tunnel vision approach and the fact that much of what you say undermines your own position. All of that is what is frustrating, but you turn it into a rhetorical device in order to re-assert your false accusations that I am isolating a text for the sake of supporting my theology.

    I have asked you more than once not to comment further unless you were willing to engage what I was writing. You have yet to do that and still you continue to post (which shows me that you don’t have much respect for me or my blog). I am not saying you can’t continue to post here, but if you continue to ignore the things I am writing which I have spent a lot of time carefully explaining to you, and just blindly go on re-asserting your position as if nothing was said, then I will ask you once more not to bother commenting further here. Like I said, people can visit your site to read your opinion on the matter. I am content at this point to leave it up to anyone reading this exchange to decide for themselves. I think it will be obvious to anyone that you have not engaged the issues I continually bring up in my posts; nor have you dealt with the numerous problems with your tunnel vision approach to these passages. This is turning into a waste of time and I really don’t have the time to waste.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  34. Still your biggest fan, Ben!

  35. Ben,

    I want to point out that the Calvinist argument that regeneration precedes faith is a logical argument and has nothing to do with reference to time. Calvinist believe that regeneration and faith actually happen at the same moment in time, like Arminians believe (I think???)

    In my understanding of Calvinism, regeneration must logically precede faith because of man’s natural condition: dead in sin.

    Arminians would agree that man is “dead in sin” and that there must be some kind of initial, God starting work in the life of a sinner. Does that work happen at the cross, and thus everyone as sufficient (previent) grace? Or must God, in addition to the cross, “grace” each individual in a special way when savlation is being applied to that person’s heart?

    In either case, Calvinism and Arminianism, it seems to me that God starts salvation. The way he starts in Calvinism (excluding election) is through regeneration. The way he starts it for Arminianism is through preveient grace, and/or some other specific individual gracing that I am not aware of.

    My point is that Calvinism saying regeneration preceding faith is an attempt to give God the glory for initiating salvation.

    As a Calvinist I would not say that biblically speaking regeneration precedes faith. I would say that regeneration has to precede faith because man cannot exercise faith until he is regenerated. However, biblically, faith and regeneration happen at the same time. So as a Calvinist, I would not use Ezekiel as a proof text for regeneration preceding faith because this is a logical inference, not a biblical one.

    My concern is that many Arminians want to “attack” Calvinist doctrine of the ordor salutis of regeneration preceding faith, when Calvinist say that they happen at the same time. Let’s not argue about a particular ordo salutis that is built on logical constructs.

    Dan

  36. Dan,

    You are right that the issue has to do with logical and not temporal order. I was not arguing for temporal order in this post. We could put it like this:

    Calvinism: The moment one is regenerated that person puts faith in Christ

    Arminianism: The moment one puts faith in Christ that person is regenerated

    Still, the logical order matters and many Calvinists think their appeal for the need for regeneration to precede faith is their strongest argument for Calvinism. I encounter such arguments all of the time. For example, you wrote:

    In my understanding of Calvinism, regeneration must logically precede faith because of man’s natural condition: dead in sin.

    For several “logical” and “theological” reasons why Arminians believe that faith must precede regeneration, see here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/the-arminian-and-calvinist-ordo-salutis-a-brief-comparative-study/

    You make a great point and that is that one cannot really find the priority of regeneration in Scripture (though one can easily find the priority of faith). For the Calvinist it is based on inference and I submit that that inference is inaccurate (based largely on a wrong understanding of what it means to be “dead in sin”).

    Now you may have concerns with Arminians “attacking” the Calvinist ordo, but I have concerns that Calvinists use their ordo as a primary tool for indoctrinating people into Calvinism. So it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Biblically, the evidence for the Calvinist ordo is non-existent in my opinion and I am glad that you recognize that Eze. 36 is useless as a proof text for the doctrine. Still, prominent Calvinists like James White, R.C. Sproul, and John Piper still appeal to this passage as a proof text for regeneration preceding faith.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  37. Ben,

    Can you confirm something for me about Arminianism…. Is there a person-specific grace that God gives to an individual. In other words, in Calvinism, God regenerates specific people. In Arminianism, God gives prevenient grace (which is based on the death of Christ). But when God actually saves a particular person, is there any kind of special grace that he gives to them? I’m thinking the answer is no.

    You said:

    “Still, the logical order matters and many Calvinists think their appeal for the need for regeneration to precede faith is their strongest argument for Calvinism.”

    Please give me some bullet point reasons of why the logical order matters. As a Calvinist I do not think that making regeneration logically precede faith makes or breaks Calvinism; it’s not crucial to the system. Still, you cannot change the logical order of Calvinism because then it might become the logical ordo salutis of Arminianism which would take away the differences between the two systems. Simply put, regeneration logically preceding faith is NOT the strongest argument for Calvinism. Do me a favor and sight some prominent theology that thinks it is, and we’ll both have a word for him.

    You said:

    “You make a great point and that is that one cannot really find the priority of regeneration in Scripture (though one can easily find the priority of faith).”

    I don’t think you can make the case that faith biblically precedes regeneration just as much as you can’t make the case that regeneration biblically precedes faith. If it were so clear, I think there wouldn’t be so much disagreement. But when it comes down to it, both are logical deductions. I know you think not, so please give me some biblical evidence for faith preceding regeneration. I don’t know of any passage that you could possible make that claim. (Also on this note: as a Calvinist I don’t think faith and repentance are “gifts,” biblically speaking. I do think they are “gifts” for logical reasons. This is another area where I think many non-Calvinist get hung up on Calvinism, but it doesn’t make or break the system. Ultimately everything comes from God, including faith and repentance, so in this way, faith and repentance are gifts.)

    You said:

    “Now you may have concerns with Arminians “attacking” the Calvinist ordo, but I have concerns that Calvinists use their ordo as a primary tool for indoctrinating people into Calvinism.”

    How do Calvnist indoctrinate people with their ordo? My argument would be that the logical order, though interesting, does not make or break Calvinism. The ordo is just preserving the fact that God starts salvation, which both Arminian and Calvinism believes. (Which is why I believe that Arminianism is a theology of grace just as much as Calvinism.)

    Dan

  38. Dan,

    I have much to say concerning your response but I am out of time for today. I only have the internet at work so I won’t be able to respond till sometime next week. I hope you will check in again then. Providing the documentation you ask for won’t be a problem.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  39. Dan,

    You wrote,

    Can you confirm something for me about Arminianism…. Is there a person-specific grace that God gives to an individual. In other words, in Calvinism, God regenerates specific people. In Arminianism, God gives prevenient grace (which is based on the death of Christ). But when God actually saves a particular person, is there any kind of special grace that he gives to them? I’m thinking the answer is no.

    Special in what way? Salvation is certainly a gracious gift from God, so I am not sure what you are getting at. The difference is that the Arminian sees the grace of God which enables and leads to salvation as resistible. Its resistible nature does not make it any less gracious and it does not make it any less special. Neither does it make it any less a gift.

    You said:
    “Still, the logical order matters and many Calvinists think their appeal for the need for regeneration to precede faith is their strongest argument for Calvinism.”
    Please give me some bullet point reasons of why the logical order matters.

    Did you read the post I directed you to on the Ordo Salutis? I think that gave many reasons why the logical order matters. I could refer you to other posts and articles if you like.

    As a Calvinist I do not think that making regeneration logically precede faith makes or breaks Calvinism; it’s not crucial to the system.

    It may not break it, but it sure can “make” it. The implications should be obvious. If faith is only possible in those God regenerates and regeneration inevitably leads to faith (i.e. no one who is regenerated can resist putting faith in Christ), then it follows that God must unconditionally elect some for salvation while denying many others that opportunity or possibility. The moment one holds that regeneration precedes and necessarily results in faith, he must also accept unconditional election. That is why so many embrace Calvinism based simply on slick arguments regarding the priority of regeneration in the ordo salutis (and those arguments usually play on the Biblical meaning of “dead in sin”). Once you accept the priority of regeneration, unconditional election naturally and necessarily follows.

    Still, you cannot change the logical order of Calvinism because then it might become the logical ordo salutis of Arminianism which would take away the differences between the two systems.

    I’m not looking to change anything. I am looking to be honest with Scripture and when I do that I come away with faith preceding regeneration.

    Simply put, regeneration logically preceding faith is NOT the strongest argument for Calvinism. Do me a favor and sight some prominent theology that thinks it is, and we’ll both have a word for him.

    It may not be. That would depend on what people are convinced by. In my experience in conversations with Calvinists, when their backs are against the wall, they always come back to the priority of regeneration. That says something to me. However, as I mentioned previously, numerous Calvinists lay great stress on the doctrine and the necessary implications involved. For example, R.C. Sproul writes,

    “A cardinal point or Reformed theology [Calvinism] is the maxim: ‘Regeneration precedes faith.’ Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order to believe.” (Chosen By God, pg. 72)

    Maybe I am wrong but “cardinal point” seems pretty important to me. Such an emphasis on the priority of regeneration is fundamental to Calvinistic monergistic theology. Without it monergism as Calvinists define it falls, and without monergism there is no Calvinism.

    You said:
    “You make a great point and that is that one cannot really find the priority of regeneration in Scripture (though one can easily find the priority of faith).”
    I don’t think you can make the case that faith biblically precedes regeneration just as much as you can’t make the case that regeneration biblically precedes faith. If it were so clear, I think there wouldn’t be so much disagreement.

    People disagree for all kinds of reasons and it is not always based on an issue of clarity. I think that the Bible is clear that regeneration is the beginning of spiritual life and the Bible no where describes anyone receiving spiritual life prior to faith in Christ. Yet the Bible always speaks of life resulting from faith.

    But when it comes down to it, both are logical deductions. I know you think not, so please give me some biblical evidence for faith preceding regeneration. I don’t know of any passage that you could possible make that claim.

    Any passage that speaks of receiving life by believing or through faith (or through repentance). Take your pick.

    You said:
    “Now you may have concerns with Arminians “attacking” the Calvinist ordo, but I have concerns that Calvinists use their ordo as a primary tool for indoctrinating people into Calvinism.”

    How do Calvnist indoctrinate people with their ordo? My argument would be that the logical order, though interesting, does not make or break Calvinism. The ordo is just preserving the fact that God starts salvation, which both Arminian and Calvinism believes. (Which is why I believe that Arminianism is a theology of grace just as much as Calvinism.)

    See above. The difference is the irresistible nature of regenerating grace in the Calvinist system which inevitably causes faith and logically leads to unconditional election- the foundational salvation doctrine of Calvinism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  40. Ben,

    It’s me again. Hey, thanks for taking the time to respond and interact with me; I think this discussion is helpful for us and those that read your blog and comments.

    I want to respond to things you in your last comments to me, as well as add one more point.

    Regarding my question about “special grace,” never mind, I think I know the answer to what I was getting at.

    Regarding why the logical order matters, yes, I did read your post on the ordo salutis. I think we’re quivering over something small here, about the weight the logical order carries. I just think that in the grand scheme of things, the weight that the logical order carries in the arguments is small compared to other issues, like is election conditional or unconditional.

    Regarding the ordo salutis “making” Calvinism, your comments were helpful and I see a little more now of why the ordo salutis does matter.

    When I said:

    Still, you cannot change the logical order of Calvinism because then it might become the logical ordo salutis of Arminianism which would take away the differences between the two systems.

    I wasn’t saying you were trying to change the ordo. I meant to say, “Still ONE cannot change…” Sorry for the confusion.

    Regarding the “strongest argument” comments, you are right, it does depend on what is convincing for specific individuals. I guess, for me, I’m personally not convinced of Calvinism because of the logical priority of regeneration. I guess I would have to disagree with R.C. Sproul and you that regeneration logically preceding faith is a “cardinal point.” But something for me to think about further….

    You wrote:

    “I think that the Bible is clear that regeneration is the beginning of spiritual life and the Bible no where describes anyone receiving spiritual life prior to faith in Christ. Yet the Bible always speaks of life resulting from faith.”

    I agree with the first part of the first sentence; I don’t agree (or disagree) with the second part of the first sentence. But again, you did not give me a biblical text that shows that faith logically precedes regeneration. Again, I would say that it is a theological/logical construct. But I’m open to correction. (You can just reference the text; don’t have to cite it.)

    Regarding the “indoctrinating” comment. I guess I just took objection to the word “indoctrination.” This word seems negative to me. In this way, Calvinist, at least me, don’t try to “indoctrinate” others into my system, any more than you try to “indoctrinate” others into your system (Arminianism) by showing that faith logically precedes regeneration. Both rational and godly Calvinists and Arminians try to convince others of what they believe to be the biblical understanding of doctrine, particular soteriology.

    Now for the “one more point.” I see one additional problem with your blog post on Ezekiel. The first problem is not with what you said, but with what you didn’t say. You made it clear to me in a comment that you weren’t arguing for temporal order, but logical order, but you didn’t make this clear in your blog post. I know that many who are read in Calvinism/Arminianism would probably know that you were not talking about temporal order, but those who aren’t read in the issues probably didn’t. And so the reason this becomes a problem is that people assume you are talking about temporal order. And no person will think that regeneration temporally precedes faith. But many, upon learning of Calvinism, reject it because they think that regeneration preceding faith has to do with temporal order. But this is absurd. Both Calvinism and Arminianism teach that faith and regeneration happen at the same moment in time. When you are not clear, it causes people to be confused and that doesn’t help either side. You very well know that the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism, though distinct, are sometimes very precise and so accuracy is essential. I believe it was Wesley himself who said that his theology was only a “hand-breadth” away from Calvinism. Thank you though, for allowing comments (which I hope people read) which allow others, especially me as a Calvinist to bring correction and clarification to the system you refute. So consider this comment in that way.

    Don’t want to prolong this discussion any longer. Thanks for your blog. I’m sure I’ll be reading it again and bringing my “Calvinist perspectives” to it 

    Dan

  41. Dan,

    Thanks for the follow-up. You wrote:

    Regarding why the logical order matters, yes, I did read your post on the ordo salutis. I think we’re quivering over something small here, about the weight the logical order carries. I just think that in the grand scheme of things, the weight that the logical order carries in the arguments is small compared to other issues, like is election conditional or unconditional.

    Well, I will just have to disagree. If the logical order did not carry any weight then Calvinists would not write hundreds of articles on the issue. As I said before the logical necessity of regeneration in the Calvinist scheme leads to unconditional election, and many people have been persuaded to embrace unconditional election for that reason (e.g. How can one dead in sin hear and believe the gospel? He must first be raised to life so that he can hear and believe, etc.).

    I wonder if you are a supralapsarian? Many Calvinists seem to reject that view because it has very unpleasant theological implications. The difference between supra, infra, and sub- lapsarians is an issue of logical, not temporal, order in the decrees. Likewise, the logical order of the Calvinist ordo leads to numerous theological absurdities which I have outlined in the post I directed you to, as well as in many others.

    I am not saying this is what you are doing, but I have often noticed that Calvinists tend to push the logical priority of regeneration, but when challenged they will quickly retreat to the “it doesn’t really matter” posture, or go on about how we are not talking about temporal order, etc. But prior to being challenged on their ordo they seemed to think it was very important.

    Still, if you do not think it important, that is your prerogative. I am concerned with those many Calvinist who do see it as important and write numerous articles, chapters in books, posts, etc. on the topic and often appeal to the priority of regeneration as necessary proof for the doctrine of unconditional election.

    Regarding the ordo salutis “making” Calvinism, your comments were helpful and I see a little more now of why the ordo salutis does matter.

    Glad I could help.

    Regarding the “strongest argument” comments, you are right, it does depend on what is convincing for specific individuals. I guess, for me, I’m personally not convinced of Calvinism because of the logical priority of regeneration. I guess I would have to disagree with R.C. Sproul and you that regeneration logically preceding faith is a “cardinal point.” But something for me to think about further….

    To each his own I guess.

    You wrote:

    “I think that the Bible is clear that regeneration is the beginning of spiritual life and the Bible no where describes anyone receiving spiritual life prior to faith in Christ. Yet the Bible always speaks of life resulting from faith.”

    I agree with the first part of the first sentence; I don’t agree (or disagree) with the second part of the first sentence. But again, you did not give me a biblical text that shows that faith logically precedes regeneration. Again, I would say that it is a theological/logical construct. But I’m open to correction. (You can just reference the text; don’t have to cite it.)

    Do you really need references to passages of Scripture that speak of believing unto life or repenting unto life; or passages that speak of adoption or the receiving of the Spirit as resulting from faith? O.K., here are a few: John 1:12, 13 (cf. vs. 4- those who receive Christ and believe on Him are given power to “become children of God”); 3:15-16, 36; 5:21-26 (notice that Jesus specifically uses the language of regeneration: “passed out of death unto life” and the dead “hearing” unto life, etc.), 40; 6:35, 40, 53-57 (notice that Jesus says that unless they eat and drink of Him [through faith] they “have no life” in them); 7:37, 28 (one must “come” and “drink” in order to receive living water); 12:36 (one must “believe in the light” in order to become “sons of light”) 15 (only those connected to the Vine are nourished by His life); 20:31 (through “believing” we have “life in His name”); Acts 11:18 (“repentance unto life”); The Spirit of Life and adoption is received by faith: Acts 5:32 (Spirit given to those who “obey Him”); Gal. 3:2, 5, 7, 14, 26 (“sons of God through faith”).

    Much more could be added, but I think that is sufficient.

    Regarding the “indoctrinating” comment. I guess I just took objection to the word “indoctrination.” This word seems negative to me. In this way, Calvinist, at least me, don’t try to “indoctrinate” others into my system, any more than you try to “indoctrinate” others into your system (Arminianism) by showing that faith logically precedes regeneration. Both rational and godly Calvinists and Arminians try to convince others of what they believe to be the biblical understanding of doctrine, particular soteriology.

    Point taken, but people generally don’t really need to be “indoctrinated” into Arminianism as most people who become Christians come to Arminian conclusions quite naturally by just reading the Bible (e.g. God’s love for the world and desire for all to be saved, etc.). Most people who “become” Calvinists are convinced to become such from a more Arminian theology. I have also spoken to X-Calvinists who describe their coming to Calvinism as “indoctrination”.

    As for the clarity of my post, I suppose I could have made it very clear that I was not speaking of a temporal order. But Calvinists rarely make that point in their articles on the priority of regeneration either. In fact, there are some Calvinist out there who do hold to (or do not object to) a temporal span between regeneration and faith. Also, I have written many posts on the issue and didn’t feel the need to keep re-emphasizing the point. Most people who are interested in this topic are familiar with the idea that the ordo is concerned more with logical order than temporal. It is my opinion though that it is just as “absurd” for the Calvinist to insist that regeneration logically precedes faith as it is to suggest that it temporally precedes faith. The Biblical record is clear: faith results in life and not the other way around, regardless of whether or not it is a matter of logical or temporal order.

    Don’t want to prolong this discussion any longer. Thanks for your blog. I’m sure I’ll be reading it again and bringing my “Calvinist perspectives” to it.

    Please do.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  42. Ben,

    O.K., you got me. I told myself after my last post, “Just end it and leave this guy alone.” But I can’t help it; this is too much fun. And you’re great to interact because you actually interact with me (something a lot of people don’t do), and are clear in what you write. So here goes…

    You wrote:

    “ If the logical order did not carry any weight then Calvinists would not write hundreds of articles on the issue.”

    I did not say that regeneration logically preceding faith did not hold ANY weight. My point was that taking all the arguments for Calvinism into view, there are bigger questions that must be asked, like the whether or not election is conditional or not. And speaking of election, I don’t logically “back my way into” it. I hold to election because of my exegetical understandings of the biblical texts. I agree though, that some Calvinist might hold to election because of the logically priority of faith, but as you know, for me this holds no weight in respect to me embracing unconditional election.

    You wrote:

    “In fact, there are some Calvinist out there who do hold to (or do not object to) a temporal span between regeneration and faith.”

    If a Calvinist actually believes this, he is not holding to a traditional Calvinist view on this matter.

    Thanks for citing the verses. Before I can interact with these verses you cited, I think there is a bigger question that we have to answer: the nature of regeneration. Have you written, or could you point me to, an Arminian understanding of the nature of regeneration? I think this understanding of the nature of regeneration would be determinative for the logical order question, and will inform how I interpret the texts you cited.

    You asked about whether or not I was a supralapsarian. I will have to say that I somewhere between infra and sub. My position on the extent of the atonement is nearly identically with that articulated by Bruce Ware, who, as you may know, as been labeled a 4 point Calvinist by his Calvinist brothers. Whether the label is correct or not (I happen to believe it is not), this is the one area (the extent of the atonement) that would push me to a more sublapsarian view. But, and a big but, the order of decrees in my mind is like the order of salvation. Both are built on theological and logical constructs, and I would argue that the order of decrees even more so. The order of decrees is really bodering “speculative” theology, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it naturally will be discussed in the larger discussions of Arminianism and Calvinism.

    Well, I’d like to respond to the verses that you cited, because I see some problems in you using these verses to “prove” faith logically precedes regeneration, but I will wait to hear from you about the nature of regeneration from an Arminian perspective, if you so care to continue this conversation. If not, like I said, I’ll check your blog again.

    Thank you for acknowledging that you could have been more clear in your Ezekiel post.

    Dan

  43. Dan,

    I am glad you are having fun. I am not sure how much more time I can devote to this, but I will certainly try to keep up with it as long as possible. You wrote:

    I did not say that regeneration logically preceding faith did not hold ANY weight. My point was that taking all the arguments for Calvinism into view, there are bigger questions that must be asked, like the whether or not election is conditional or not.

    Fair enough, but I think it generally holds much more weight among Calvinists than you are giving it credit for.

    And speaking of election, I don’t logically “back my way into” it. I hold to election because of my exegetical understandings of the biblical texts.

    Likewise, I reject unconditional election based on my exegetical understandings of the biblical texts.

    You wrote:
    “In fact, there are some Calvinist out there who do hold to (or do not object to) a temporal span between regeneration and faith.”

    If a Calvinist actually believes this, he is not holding to a traditional Calvinist view on this matter.

    And what do you base this claim on? There are some Calvinists who would go so far as to say that the priority of regeneration cannot even be found in traditional Calvinism. So I guess it can be tough to define what is “traditional” among Calvinists. However, I don’t think the difference between a temporal or logical view of the priority of regeneration is an essential feature of what it means to be a Calvinist. One can hold to all of TULIP and still maintain that there is a temporal period between regeneration and faith.

    Thanks for citing the verses. Before I can interact with these verses you cited, I think there is a bigger question that we have to answer: the nature of regeneration. Have you written, or could you point me to, an Arminian understanding of the nature of regeneration?

    I will just give you my view, which I think comports with the general theological consensus on the matter. Regeneration is the beginning of spiritual life. It is the “new birth”. It is also the moment we become a child of God since it is the moment we are born of God.

    Now I think I know where you will head with many of my references. Many of my references speak of eternal life. Some Calvinists will try to draw a distinction between eternal life and regeneration. I agree that there is a distinction, but that distinction is not really important with regards to those references. Regeneration is simply the beginning of spiritual life. The description “eternal life” simply describes what sort of life begins at regeneration. It is a description of the quality of that new life the believer receives upon being united with Christ through faith (at which point only the life that resides in Christ alone is communicated to the believer). I think it is special pleading of the worst sort for Calvinists to insist that there is some other sort of life that precedes faith (regeneration) and then another sort of life that comes after (eternal life). There is no Biblical warrant for such a distinction. Truly, I do not believe that anyone just reading their Bible would come away with the idea that the new birth precedes and causes faith. Nor would they come away believing that the life of the new birth was a different sort of life than “eternal life”. It is one of those things people need to be “indoctrinated” into believing.

    I think this understanding of the nature of regeneration would be determinative for the logical order question, and will inform how I interpret the texts you cited.

    I look forward to seeing how you interpret the texts I cited. I am familiar with most tactics, but maybe you will offer something new.

    You asked about whether or not I was a supralapsarian. I will have to say that I somewhere between infra and sub. My position on the extent of the atonement is nearly identically with that articulated by Bruce Ware, who, as you may know, as been labeled a 4 point Calvinist by his Calvinist brothers. Whether the label is correct or not (I happen to believe it is not), this is the one area (the extent of the atonement) that would push me to a more sublapsarian view. But, and a big but, the order of decrees in my mind is like the order of salvation. Both are built on theological and logical constructs, and I would argue that the order of decrees even more so. The order of decrees is really bodering “speculative” theology, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it naturally will be discussed in the larger discussions of Arminianism and Calvinism.

    I agree. It is highly speculative. The point was that the logical order is very important to many Calvinists based on the fact that changes in the logical order can lead to doctrines which many people (even many Calvinists) find repulsive. So we need to be careful not to downplay the importance of logical order in such theological discussions.

    BTW, in this post you will notice that the NT is adamant that the “promises” of the new covenant are received by faith. Are you suggesting that spiritual life is not one of those new covenant promises received by faith?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  44. Ben,

    You wrote:
    “I am not sure how much more time I can devote to this, but I will certainly try to keep up with it as long as possible.”

    Thanks for keeping up thus far. I know you have a blog to which you contribute on a regular basis, in which, it sound like, you have a pretty substantially “fan” following. But since you did ask some direct questions in your last comments, and you’re curious as to how I would handle your cited texts, I will continue…

    Your wrote:
    “Fair enough, but I think it generally holds much more weight among Calvinists than you are giving it credit for.”

    I don’t think so. Self called Calvinist like Millard Erickson and Bruce Demarest believe that faith logically precedes regeneration. (They can do this by making a distinction between “effectual calling” and regeneration. They put effectual calling before faith/repentance and faith/repentance before regeneration.) So to my point, there is debate about the logically priority of regeneration among Calvinist, but there is no debate about things like unconditional election, total depravity, and irresistible grace.

    You wrote:
    “And what do you base this claim on? There are some Calvinists who would go so far as to say that the priority of regeneration cannot even be found in traditional Calvinism.”

    My basis is the Canons of Dort, but this basis is from silence: the Canons don’t speak of timing. So I supplement this basis with recognized Calvinist theologians (e.g., Anthony Hoekema).

    You wrote:
    “There are some Calvinists who would go so far as to say that the priority of regeneration cannot even be found in traditional Calvinism.”

    Again, who are the “some Calvinists”? A “Calvinist” can believe anything he wants, but does that make him a Calvinist? One is hard-pressed to read the Canons of Dort and not come away with the idea of priority of regeneration preceding faith. But this is assuming (which I think is a good assumption) that the Canons of Dort represent “traditional” Calvinism.

    In addition, when I asked you for an Arminian understanding of the nature of regeneration, although you gave me “your” view, I’m assuming your view lines up with “traditional” Arminianism, as you even say, “which I think comports with the general [Arminian?] theological consensus on the matter.”

    Now to my “tactics”….

    You are right to some extent that I make a distinction, but more so between regeneration and adoption, although I do also make a distinction between regeneration and “eternal life”. Adoption is legal (and could be said to be a positive fruit of justification); regeneration is natural, albeit, supernatural. So one is a “child” by regeneration, but this is not what Paul is talking about in Galatians. He’s talking about adoption; he’s talking about legal status. Justification by faith alone is Paul’s theme in Galatians. It’s about legality. So, since this is the case, the Galatians passages are not about regeneration.

    In addition, the verses in Galatians that talk about receiving the Spirit, I think we have to distinguish the work of the Spirit in an unbeliever before salvation, and what the believer gets at salvation, namely, the Spirit of promise. The Galatians passages are talking about reception of the Spirit, not regeneration (i.e., the work of the Spirit before salvation).

    John 1:12-13, I just disagree with you about these verses. Those in v. 12 who became children of God are the ones who have been “born” of God (v. 13). Which came first? Well, it seems to me that v. 13 explains v. 12. In addition, John 3:1-15 explains what be “born” of God means. You have to say that in John 3, there is a difference between “regeneration,” what Jesus teaches Nicodemus and “eternal life” found latter in John 3:15ff. Why is “regeneration” in 3:1-15 contextually before believing and “eternal life” in 3:15ff? Why doesn’t Jesus say in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that whoever believes in him will be “born again?” You’re actually suggesting that the text says this?

    In John 5:21-26, 40; 6)35, 40, 53-57; 7:37, 28; 12:36, 15; 20:31 you have to ask the question again, is Jesus talking about regeneration or eternal life? Is there a distinction? I think you have to make the distinction. To claim that it is “special pleading” by a Calvinist to make the distinction is an excuse not to take the details of God’s word into view. (BTW, you’ve said elsewhere that the Bible never uses the illustration of “dead” people to talk about total inability. Doesn’t John 5:21 talk about this: “For the Father raises the dead…”)

    What I’ve said above really applies to the two passages in Acts as well.

    I will agree though, that “eternal life” is a gift for those who “believe” and in this sense comes logically after belief. But I think the distinction from regeneration must be maintained. Does this mean I believe like Erickson or Demarest? Possibly. So it comes down to what I think the nature of regeneration is. I think if we were to continue this conversation, we will really have to address the question: Can a distinction be made between regeneration and eternal life (or should it be made is possibly a better question)?

    I know that this isn’t really any new “tactics” for you, but I wanted to interact.

    Now all this has gotten us far off track from the topic of your original blog post.

    You wrote:
    “BTW, in this post you will notice that the NT is adamant that the “promises” of the new covenant are received by faith. Are you suggesting that spiritual life is not one of those new covenant promises received by faith?”

    This is a huge question. It assumes that I believe the New Covenant is currently in force, and if so, to what degree. And if agree with your position on the New Covenant, I would say that yes, “life” (and the Spirit) are promises of the NC received by faith. Does this then say that “regeneration” happens after faith? Well, if you define regeneration very ambiguously and largely as you did, sure. However, I don’t think you’ve capture the biblical nature of regeneration, and with that, we will disagree. If we want to continue this dialogue, we have to deal with more deeply with the nature of regeneration, and more deeply with the question about distinguishing regeneration and “eternal life.”

    Thanks for your interaction. For me, I cannot devote much more time to this either. We can ask specific questions (which you did at the end), but these questions always have a larger context, and context that we cannot discuss in several blog comments online.

    Blessings as you serve Jesus!

    Dan

  45. I will leave Ben to answer you generally. But I wanted to address your argument concerning Jn 1:12-13, because I think those verses are especially clear that faith precedes regeneration. You say that,

    “Those in v. 12 who became children of God are the ones who have been “born” of God (v. 13). Which came first? Well, it seems to me that v. 13 explains v. 12.”

    The insurmountable problem for your interpretation is the very fact you point out–v. 13 explains v. 12. Being born of God clearly parallels becoming a child of God. These expressions describe the same basic reality. Indeed, it would be nonsensical to say that one can be born of God and yet not be his child. If anything, one is a parent’s child before actually being born. But I don’t think that John is being so rigid to the physical picture that serves as the basis of this metaphor as to draw any distinction between being born and becoming a child. Becoming God’s child is to be born of God — to be born of God is to become his child. The fact that v. 13 explains v. 12 really backs this up. It tells us of those who became God’s children, and then describes to us the nature of their becoming God’s children: it is being born of him, an act pefomed by God (it is God who regenerates). And so the passage presents faith very clearly as prior to regeneration. The one who believes then becomes something that he was not, born of God/God’s child. God alone regenerates those who believe in Jesus.

    I really don’t think Calvinists have any leg to stand on for denying that faith precedes regeneration when it comes to John 1:12-13.

  46. Dan,

    This will likely be my last response. You wrote,

    I don’t think so. Self called Calvinist like Millard Erickson and Bruce Demarest believe that faith logically precedes regeneration. (They can do this by making a distinction between “effectual calling” and regeneration. They put effectual calling before faith/repentance and faith/repentance before regeneration.) So to my point, there is debate about the logically priority of regeneration among Calvinist, but there is no debate about things like unconditional election, total depravity, and irresistible grace.

    But there really isn’t much debate. The vast majority of Calvinists see regeneration as prior to faith. It is interesting that you mentioned only TUI as those elements in Calvinism that there is no debate about. Plainly that is because you are a 4-point Calvinist, as is Erickson, and so you would not define limited atonement as one of the non-negotiables of what characterizes Calvinism. Of course, many, many Calvinists would disagree with you and insist that limited atonement is a necessary feature of Calvinism. Likewise, many, many Calvinists would disagree with Erickson on the priority of regeneration as well. Again, my main concern is with those Calvinists who do see the priority of regeneration as extremely important and Scriptural (and I am certain that is the majority). It seems that you also see it as Scriptural, and at least important enough to devote time to this discussion (though you do not think it is as important as other areas of Calvinist theology).

    You wrote:
    “There are some Calvinists who would go so far as to say that the priority of regeneration cannot even be found in traditional Calvinism.”

    Again, who are the “some Calvinists”? A “Calvinist” can believe anything he wants, but does that make him a Calvinist? One is hard-pressed to read the Canons of Dort and not come away with the idea of priority of regeneration preceding faith. But this is assuming (which I think is a good assumption) that the Canons of Dort represent “traditional” Calvinism.

    Fair enough, but you are a 4-point Calvinist and I am sure that many Calvinists would suggest that Dort implies limited atonement at least as much as it implies the priority of regeneration, correct?

    In addition, when I asked you for an Arminian understanding of the nature of regeneration, although you gave me “your” view, I’m assuming your view lines up with “traditional” Arminianism, as you even say, “which I think comports with the general [Arminian?] theological consensus on the matter.”

    Actually, I did not write “Arminian” for a reason, because the basic definition of what regeneration is transcends the debate. I was speaking of theology and theologians in general since I think there is general agreement (in both camps) that regeneration is just as I described it, and my description was only of what it is, not what its function may be or its rightful place in the ordo.

    You are right to some extent that I make a distinction, but more so between regeneration and adoption, although I do also make a distinction between regeneration and “eternal life”. Adoption is legal (and could be said to be a positive fruit of justification); regeneration is natural, albeit, supernatural. So one is a “child” by regeneration, but this is not what Paul is talking about in Galatians. He’s talking about adoption; he’s talking about legal status. Justification by faith alone is Paul’s theme in Galatians. It’s about legality. So, since this is the case, the Galatians passages are not about regeneration.

    I think you have much to prove with regards to these assertions. On what basis do you distinguish between being born of God and adoption as sons? So one can be born of God and yet not formally belong to Him? I would basically agree that Paul is speaking about legality, but he is speaking about the legal ramifications of being children of God (what does it mean for them? What are the benefits?), and not suggesting that there is a difference between being born of God and getting adopted. At the moment of the new birth we become one of God’s adopted children, and this through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit received by faith. Otherwise, you have children of God logically prior to being indwelt with the Holy Spirit, while Paul says that those without the Spirit do not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9).

    Again, this highlights the many theological absurdities that result from trying to defend the Calvinist ordo. We have sinners being born of God outside of union with Christ and without the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have people becoming “children” of God, while not yet having the “legal status” of children of God. We have people possessing life prior to the righteousness of justification, while Paul says that life results from the righteousness of justification (Rom. 8:10, 11, cf. Gal. 3:21-22).

    In addition, the verses in Galatians that talk about receiving the Spirit, I think we have to distinguish the work of the Spirit in an unbeliever before salvation, and what the believer gets at salvation, namely, the Spirit of promise. The Galatians passages are talking about reception of the Spirit, not regeneration (i.e., the work of the Spirit before salvation).

    But this is just begging the question. The only reason we would need to make such a “distinction” is because it is necessary to salvage your ordo, and not because the Bible makes such claims (and are you now suggesting that regeneration is not a primary element of salvation?). The Spirit of promise is among those new covenant blessings received by faith. So now you also have those being born of God logically prior to receiving the promise of the new covenant. So you now have children of God who are not a part of God’s covenant people. Children of God logically prior to partaking of the blood of the new covenant that cleanses them of sin and makes new life possible. Children of God logically prior to being forgiven on the merits of Christ blood. The absurdities just keep multiplying.

    John 1:12-13, I just disagree with you about these verses. Those in v. 12 who became children of God are the ones who have been “born” of God (v. 13). Which came first? Well, it seems to me that v. 13 explains v. 12.

    I think “Arminian” answered you well enough on this passage already. Being born of God and becoming His child is the same thing and such is the result of believing on Christ and receiving Him. Yet you have people being born of God logically prior to receiving Christ and somehow becoming God’s children while not belonging to Christ (according to your interpretation of Gal. above).

    In addition, John 3:1-15 explains what be “born” of God means. You have to say that in John 3, there is a difference between “regeneration,” what Jesus teaches Nicodemus and “eternal life” found latter in John 3:15ff. Why is “regeneration” in 3:1-15 contextually before believing and “eternal life” in 3:15ff?

    If you want to see why I think you are very wrong about this, please see this post which gets into the detail of that passage.

    Why doesn’t Jesus say in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that whoever believes in him will be “born again?” You’re actually suggesting that the text says this?

    There would be no reason to say this. Eternal life begins at regeneration, so to say that one who believes receives eternal life implies that one who believes “begins to receive that [eternal] life” and the beginning of spiritual life is the new birth. And we already learned from John 1:12-13 that one is born of God/becomes His child through faith.
    In John 5:21-26, 40; 6)35, 40, 53-57; 7:37, 28; 12:36, 15; 20:31 you have to ask the question again, is Jesus talking about regeneration or eternal life? Is there a distinction? I think you have to make the distinction. To claim that it is “special pleading” by a Calvinist to make the distinction is an excuse not to take the details of God’s word into view.

    Not at all. There are no “details” that tell us that regeneration is the beginning of a different sort of life than eternal life. It is certainly special pleading on the part of the Calvinist to make such a distinction when the Bible never does. Not only that, but John speaks of receiving eternal life as a transition from death to life in several places, and that is the language of regeneration (the beginning of spiritual life from a state of being spiritually dead).

    (BTW, you’ve said elsewhere that the Bible never uses the illustration of “dead” people to talk about total inability. Doesn’t John 5:21 talk about this: “For the Father raises the dead…”)

    Right. In fact, this passage works against any idea that being dead in sin equals inability for Jesus plainly says that the “dead” will “hear” unto life (Jn. 5:25). But this is contrary to the Calvinist insistence that one who is dead cannot “hear” unto life, but must first be given life before they can “hear”. Jesus plainly contradicts Calvinism in this passage, another great passage that demonstrates that faith precedes regeneration. The Father raises the dead in response to the hearing of faith and it is by the hearing of faith that we receive the Holy Spirit and become God’s children (Gal. 3:2-5). See how my view conforms so well with all that the Scriptures have to say on the topic, while your view creates major difficulties with numerous passages of Scripture? Since you spoke of spiritual raising from the dead as regeneration (and rightly so), we should add Col. 2:12,

    “…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead.”

    We could also add the spiritual blessings communicated through Christ to the believer in Eph. 2:4-8. One of those blessings is going from being dead in sin to being “made alive together with Christ” (vs. 5). All of which is said to be “through faith” (vs. 8). And note again the emphasis on union with Christ. We are made alive “together with Christ” and we come to be in union with Christ and enjoy all of the spiritual blessings in Him through faith (Eph. 1:3, 13).

    Possibly. So it comes down to what I think the nature of regeneration is.

    Not really. We both agree as to what it is. It is the beginning of spiritual life. It is the new birth.

    I think if we were to continue this conversation, we will really have to address the question: Can a distinction be made between regeneration and eternal life (or should it be made is possibly a better question)?

    I think it has already been addressed.

    You wrote:
    “BTW, in this post you will notice that the NT is adamant that the “promises” of the new covenant are received by faith. Are you suggesting that spiritual life is not one of those new covenant promises received by faith?”

    This is a huge question. It assumes that I believe the New Covenant is currently in force, and if so, to what degree. And if agree with your position on the New Covenant, I would say that yes, “life” (and the Spirit) are promises of the NC received by faith. Does this then say that “regeneration” happens after faith? Well, if you define regeneration very ambiguously and largely as you did, sure. However, I don’t think you’ve capture the biblical nature of regeneration, and with that, we will disagree. If we want to continue this dialogue, we have to deal with more deeply with the nature of regeneration, and more deeply with the question about distinguishing regeneration and “eternal life.”

    I am not sure what to make of some of this. Are you suggesting that the new covenant might not be in force today? And if you agree that the promises of the NC are received by faith and those promises include new life and the reception of the Spirit (which is how that life is really communicated to us) then I think you have essentially conceded my point. All you have left is the unsubstantiated claim that there is some other aspect of regeneration that is received prior to the indwelling Spirit and participation in the new covenant and the claim that the beginning of eternal life is something different than regeneration (which is the beginning of spiritual life – note again that Christ tells the Jews that unless they eat and drink of Him they have “no life” in them, none! Jn. 6:53).

    I do not think that you can possibly back these claims with Scripture nor avoid the numerous theological absurdities that naturally result from such a view of the ordo (as have been mentioned before). I think the record is plain. Life dwells in Christ and is communicated to the believer through union with Him. We come to be in Him through faith and receive the Holy Spirit as a result. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith and gives us life only as we are connected to Him (Eph. 3:17; Jn. 15). Numerous passages of Scripture speak of the receiving of life, becoming God’s children, passing from death to life, and experiencing spiritual resurrection through faith/believing. None speak of receiving spiritual life (of any kind), becoming a child of God, passing from death to life, or experiencing a spiritual resurrection prior to faith/believing. That’s pretty significant evidence against the Calvinist ordo in my opinion.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  47. Arminian,

    My point with this comment, “Those in v. 12 who became children of God are the ones who have been “born” of God (v. 13). Which came first? Well, it seems to me that v. 13 explains v. 12,” was that being a “child” is a result of being “born.” And yes, though they happen at the same time, one logically flows from the other. In this regard, I think you have to be careful when you “equate” “born” and “child.” It’s like your equating regneration and faith–though they happen at the same time, one has to logically precede the other. In this case born logically precedes child.

    And in John 1:12-13, the ones who received him are the ones who believed. This is clear. But I also think that the ones who receive/believe are the ones “born” of God. The text does not say, “To the one who received him, to them he gave right to become “born” of God.” It says, “to them he gave right to be “children” of God. “Children” is a result of being “born,” and also a result of “receiving” and “believing.”

    Does the text then distinguish a logically priority between receiving/believing and born? I’m not so sure that it does. But I do know John talks further about the concept of “being born of God” later in John 3, which I think “interprets” John 1:13.

    I know though you disagree with this because of the assumption that we can’t get “technical” with John’s metaphors. It would seem to me though, that we should; John uses metaphors for salvation throughout his letter–and for a definite purpose. The question is, how far should you go in using the metaphor? That should be determined by how far John goes in using them, a point to debate about.

    Dan

  48. Dan,

    I don’t know if Arminian will respond, but I don’t see how you have adequately addressed his point. I think his point stands that being born of God is the same thing as becoming His child. I know you want to appeal to logical order at this point, but there is not really any logical order to be discussed when being born of God and becoming His child is the same thing, and both are said to be by receiving/believing. As Arminian pointed out, one is a child even before being born, so if you want to push the logical order you would still have a problem because the text says that becoming a child results from believing. But as he also pointed out, that would be to strain the metaphor. The emphasis is on becoming something they were not through faith. They are born of God/become His children through receiving and believing in Christ (notice the deliberate parallel in the passage). Even you seem to basically say this when you write,

    It says, “to them he gave right to be “children” of God. “Children” is a result of being “born,” and also a result of “receiving” and “believing.”

    “Children” can be said to be the “result” of being born, but not in the sense of logical order. Rather, it is simply a matter of identity. When someone is born it is a child. “Child” simply describes what is born. It is not a matter of logical order (first your born and then you are a child). In fact, as already mentioned, one is really a child prior to being born.

    I know though you disagree with this because of the assumption that we can’t get “technical” with John’s metaphors. It would seem to me though, that we should; John uses metaphors for salvation throughout his letter–and for a definite purpose. The question is, how far should you go in using the metaphor? That should be determined by how far John goes in using them, a point to debate about.

    Again, if we want to get “technical” we would need to say that one becomes a child even before being born and that does not help you at all since the passage says one becomes a child by faith. You say that the metaphors should be determined by how far John goes in using them, and I agree completely. That is what I said in the post on John 3:3, 6 that I directed you to in my last comments,

    First, Calvinists lay great stress on the parallel between spiritual birth and physical birth. They will often argue that a sinner can no more decide when he will be reborn than a child can decide when he or she will be physically born. The problem with this approach is that Jesus no where says that we are to understand his words in this way. What about labor pains? What about the passage through the birth canal? What about conception? Should we also seek to draw parallels from these aspects of physical birth? If not, then why not? How do we know which parallels should be drawn, and which should not. The best approach is to let Jesus instruct us.

    But it seems to me that you are the one who is trying to squeeze far more out of these passages than was intended by Christ and the apostle John, and make unnatural distinctions for the sake of preserving an untenable ordo salutis.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  49. Dan,

    Ben has answered your response to me quite well. But I want to underscore something I said originally and that Ben has pressed in his response to you, because it addresses what is probably your main argument in response to me, your contention that one becomes a child by being born. The huge problem for your argument is that that is unquestionably false. It is rather the very opposite timing that is true, that one is a child and then becomes born. Why do you think we talk of unborn children, who are certainly alive, children of their parents, and need protection from being murdered in the womb? So your own logic of pressing the physical basis of the metaphor should lead you to concede that John 1:12-13 reveals that faith precedes regeneration.

    But as I said, I think it would be pressing the physical
    basis of the metaphor too far to insist that it implies a distinction between becoming a child and being born. They simply refer to the same thing–becoming part of God’s family/people, which places faith prior to regeneration. But if one wants to press the physical basis of the metaphor, then that strengthens the idea of faith being prior to regeneration, since one is a child before being born.

    And again, your view requires that one who is born of God can yet not be his child. But that is nonsensical. In your reading of the passage, one is born, and then one gives a response of faith, and then one gets the right to become a child of God. You can try to insist that this is all instantaneous, but that does not make alot of sense from your view. You have God performing an action (regeneration) which leads to a response of faith to the gospel, which then brings the response of God of bestowing the right to become a child of God. The Calvinist view simply does not cohere with what the text of John 1:12-13 actually says. Rather it presents faith as leading to God alone making us children/born of God in response to our faith in Christ.

  50. I think Merrill C. Tenney expresses it well in his commentary on John:

    “This provides the initial definition of ‘believe’ by equating it with ‘receive.’ When we accept a gift, whether tangible or intangible, we thereby demonstrate our confidence in its reality and trustworthiness. We make it part of our own possessions. By being so received, Jesus gives to those who receive him a right to membership in the family of God.

    ‘Become’ indicates clearly that people are not the spiritual children of God by natural birth, for we cannot become what we already are. This verb implies a change of nature. The word children (tekna) is parallel to the Scottish bairns– “born ones.” It emphasizes the vital origin and is used as a term of endearment (cf. Luke 15:31). Believers are God’s ‘little ones,’ related to him by birth.” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, pg. 32)

  51. Ben,

    You said:

    “But it seems to me that you are the one who is trying to squeeze far more out of these passages than was intended by Christ and the apostle John, and make unnatural distinctions for the sake of preserving an untenable ordo salutis.”

    If you read my posts carefully you notice that I never said that John 1:12-13 teaches that regeneration precedes faith in this passage. You mistakely think I said that because of my belief that regeration logically precedes faith.

    What I did say about this passage is this:

    “Those in v. 12 who became children of God are the ones who have been “born” of God (v. 13). Which came first? Well, it seems to me that v. 13 explains v. 12.”

    Notice in answer to my question of which came first, I said that “v. 13 explains v. 12.”

    Then latter in my response to Arminian, clarifying what I mean by “v. 13 explains v. 12” I said:

    “…being a “child” is a result of being “born.”” I was saying that being “born” results in “child.” The logical order is between these two things, not between “born” and “believe/receive” because I said to Arminian after equating “belief/receive” and “born”:

    “Does the text then distinguish a logically priority between receiving/believing and born? I’m not so sure that it does.”

    I’m not sure is a lot different from saying this passage teaches regeration precedes faith. In fact, how can you say that faith precedes regeneration in this passage? I think then it is rather you who are “trying to squeeze far more out of these passages than was intended by Christ and the apostle John, and make unnatural distinctions for the sake of preserving an untenable ordo salutis.”

  52. I’m not sure is a lot different from saying this passage teaches regeration precedes faith. In fact, how can you say that faith precedes regeneration in this passage?

    I thought that had already been explained. Verse 11 says that His own did not receive Him, but verse 12 says that as many as did receive Him, to them He gave the right to be children of God. Upon receiving Christ they were given the right to become something that they had not been- children of God, those born of God (verse 13). The right to become children of God (something they were not previously) was given only to those who received Christ and believed on His name. The passage is pretty straight forward and definitely places becoming God’s children and being born of Him logically after receiving Christ and believing on His name.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  53. Ben (and Arminian),

    I’d like to respond to your recent posts, but I cannot at this time; nor can I keep up this pace (especially when there’s two of you). I’m already “blogging” at work, something I should refrain from doing. I’ll respond in the near future.

    BTW, “Arminian” do you have a blog I could check out?

    Dan

  54. Dan seems to have completely ignored a major point that has been made in response to his argument. I am surprised that he has reasserted that people are not children until they are born, and without addressing the fact that this has been directly countered. I think this shows how weak the Calvinist argument is when facing the text of John 1:12-13. It rides on the impossible assertion that someone is not a child until born, when reality has the order exactly reversed: a person is obviously a child of his parents before being born! Hence the phrase “unborn children”, a pregnant woman referred to as being “with child”, etc. See my last post. Of course, having to resort to trying to make such a distinction between becoming a child and being born in John’s metaphorical language is a desperate expedient to try and ward off the obvious order of faith preceding regenration in John 1:12-13. But the irony is that pressing the physical basis of the metaphor strengthens the case for faith preceding regeneration.

    In any case, blessing to you brother Dan.

  55. I posted my last comment before seeing your latest Dan. I wasn’t ignoring your statement that you can’t respond right away.

    As for a blog, I don’t really have a live one. But I encourage people to go to t he Society of Evangelical Arminians (http://evangelicalarminians.org/).

  56. I’d like to respond to your recent posts, but I cannot at this time; nor can I keep up this pace (especially when there’s two of you). I’m already “blogging” at work, something I should refrain from doing. I’ll respond in the near future.

    I understand, believe me. Take as much time as you need, and don’t feel like you need to respond (though I suspect you want to). As of this weekend I will be away from the computer until at least Dec. 28th anyway.

    God bless and have a wonderful Christmas!

  57. Ben,

    I’m back. I’ll respond to you (Ben) and then Arminian, in separate posts.

    You (Ben) wrote:
    “It seems that you also see it [regeneration] as Scriptural, and at least important enough to devote time to this discussion (though you do not think it is as important as other areas of Calvinist theology).”

    Just for clarity once again, I see regeneration preceding faith as “Scriptural” in the sense of being a theological/logical construct, but do not see any passage of Scripture that plainly argues for the priority of either regeneration or faith. But we’re discussing this point…

    You wrote:
    “I think you have much to prove with regards to these assertions. On what basis do you distinguish between being born of God and adoption as sons?”

    I base this on the biblical teaching of adoption in the Bible. In Gal 3:26, there is no hint of being “born.” We become sons of God through faith. Granted, a son has to be born, but in this passage (and other Galatians passages you cited) “being born” is not there. In other words, a son can be born to one family, but be adopted to another family. Legally, he’s a son of the adopted family. This is what I think Paul is talking about in Galatians. So my point is that I don’t think you can use the Galatians passages as support for faith preceding regeneration. And yes, I know I have much more to prove on this. Unfortunately, a blog post is not the place to do it.

    You wrote:
    “So one can be born of God and yet not formally belong to Him?”

    No, this is not what I’m suggesting. If I’m born of God, I “formally” belong to him. But in Galatians, I’m not “born” of God, I’m adopted by God. Adoption is what Paul is talking about. I just think you cannot import regeneration into these passages, specifically Gal 3:26.

    You wrote:
    “Again, this highlights the many theological absurdities that result from trying to defend the Calvinist ordo. We have sinners being born of God outside of union with Christ and without the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have people becoming “children” of God, while not yet having the “legal status” of children of God. We have people possessing life prior to the righteousness of justification, while Paul says that life results from the righteousness of justification (Rom. 8:10, 11, cf. Gal. 3:21-22).”

    I see your point. I’ll have to think more about this.

    You wrote:
    “But this is just begging the question. The only reason we would need to make such a “distinction” is because it is necessary to salvage your ordo, and not because the Bible makes such claims (and are you now suggesting that regeneration is not a primary element of salvation?).”

    I know you don’t think so, but I’m not making the distinction between the work of the Holy Spirit in an unbeliever and the indwelling in believer to maintain any kind of ordo, and the ordo is not my theological interpretive grid either (at least I don’t think it is, but this discussion could have brought out a “presuppisition I “unconsciously hold to). Besides, there’s more than regeneration and indwelling with the Holy Spirit’s work/role in both unbeliever and believers.

    You wrote:
    “Being born of God and becoming His child is the same thing and such is the result of believing on Christ and receiving Him.”

    See my answer to Arminian on this.

    You wrote:
    “But this is contrary to the Calvinist insistence that one who is dead cannot “hear” unto life, but must first be given life before they can “hear”.”

    The Calvinist says this because they believe God must start salvation. For them, God starts it with irresistible grace/regeneration (or just irresistible grace for some Calvinists). For Arminians it’s started with prevenient grace. Man in is naturally condition cannot “hear” in the sense that he is in bondage. The will must first be freed. What theological term we give to the will that is freed is the difference.

    Anyways, this discussion has gotten out of hand; I’ve lost track of what we’re talking about with all these rabbit trails! I agree that there are problems with regeneration logically preceding faith, but I don’t agree, yet, that biblically (not theologically/logically) faith precedes regeneration. But you (and Arminan) have given me some good stuff to think about.

    Thanks for your blog. I will check it again. I’ll leave you the last word on this blog discussion. I actually have some further questions about Arminianism, but I will ask them in your “questions” section in due time.

    Godspeed.

    Dan

  58. Arminian:

    You wrote:
    “Ben has answered your response to me quite well. But I want to underscore something I said originally and that Ben has pressed in his response to you, because it addresses what is probably your main argument in response to me, your contention that one becomes a child by being born.” And in a subsequent post: “It [the Calvinist argument] rides on the impossible assertion that someone is not a child until born, when reality has the order exactly reversed: a person is obviously a child of his parents before being born!”

    I agree that a child is a child before being born, but you have missed my general point: you can’t equate born with child. A child can miscarry in the womb and never be born, so not all “children” are born, therefore, there is a distinction. But John says that the child of God has been born. This is not to say that regeneration precedes faith or faith precedes regeneration in John 1:12-13. Remember, as I pointed out to Ben, I never said that I think John 1:12-13 teaches regeneration precedes faith. I have obviously said that I think it does not teach faith precedes regeneration. But like I’ve told Ben, you guys have given me some good stuff to think about.

    Thanks for the recommendation for the SEA site. In fact, that’s how I found Ben’s blog. In my estimate, the SEA seems to be the best of Arminian theologians/pastors on the web today. Do you guys have meetings/conferences and such. Do you think a Calvinist could come?

    Dan

  59. Dan,

    Thanks for the response. I hope you don’t mind, but I did want to take the time to address some of your points:

    I base this on the biblical teaching of adoption in the Bible. In Gal 3:26, there is no hint of being “born.” We become sons of God through faith. Granted, a son has to be born, but in this passage (and other Galatians passages you cited) “being born” is not there. In other words, a son can be born to one family, but be adopted to another family.

    True, but if one is born of God he has no need to be adopted into “another” family since he would already belong to God’s family. Are you suggesting that one who is born of God still needs to be adopted because he is not yet a part of God’s family despite being born of God? Is he part of “another family” other than God’s until adopted despite being “born” of God? Clearly, one must be born of God prior to being adopted so I am curious how the analogy of “another family” fits here. If we say rather that adoption precedes being born of God, then we must still admit that faith precedes being born of God since we are adopted (become God’s sons) by faith.

    Legally, he’s a son of the adopted family. This is what I think Paul is talking about in Galatians. So my point is that I don’t think you can use the Galatians passages as support for faith preceding regeneration. And yes, I know I have much more to prove on this. Unfortunately, a blog post is not the place to do it.

    What Paul is addressing is probably not the same sort of adoption we are familiar with, but the point at which one attains to the full rights of a son (i.e. is given an inheritance and is no longer under the control of tutors [the law], etc.). Through faith we become God’s children and all the benefits that accompany being His child immediately follow. The point is that those who have faith in God fully belong to Him and are rightly called His children, possessing all that the Father gives His children.

    You wrote:
    “So one can be born of God and yet not formally belong to Him?”

    No, this is not what I’m suggesting. If I’m born of God, I “formally” belong to him. But in Galatians, I’m not “born” of God, I’m adopted by God. Adoption is what Paul is talking about. I just think you cannot import regeneration into these passages, specifically Gal 3:26.

    See above. You seem to have made my point here. Paul’s use of adoption has reference to formally belonging to God and you admit that one who is born of God formally belongs to God (is His “legal” child). Now, it seems to me that you would want to place adoption after being born of God and say that adoption is by faith while being born of God is not. But in that case we are born of God as illegitimate children still needing to be legally placed in the family of God through faith. Is that what you are suggesting? So I think the best interpretation is according to what I already suggested in the comments you responded to above,

    *****************

    “I would basically agree that Paul is speaking about legality, but he is speaking about the legal ramifications of being children of God (what does it mean for them? What are the benefits?), and not suggesting that there is a difference between being born of God and getting adopted. At the moment of the new birth we become one of God’s adopted children, and this through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit received by faith. Otherwise, you have children of God logically prior to being indwelt with the Holy Spirit, while Paul says that those without the Spirit do not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9).”

    ******************

    You wrote:
    “But this is contrary to the Calvinist insistence that one who is dead cannot “hear” unto life, but must first be given life before they can “hear”.”

    The Calvinist says this because they believe God must start salvation. For them, God starts it with irresistible grace/regeneration (or just irresistible grace for some Calvinists). For Arminians it’s started with prevenient grace. Man in is naturally condition cannot “hear” in the sense that he is in bondage. The will must first be freed. What theological term we give to the will that is freed is the difference.

    I understand the reasons why Calvinists make these claims, but the point was that these claims are plainly contradicted by Christ’s own words (that the “dead” will “hear” unto life). That is the main point that you did not yet address. If anything this just proves that in this instance the Calvinist is more concerned with maintaining a philosophical system than submitting to the teaching of Scripture.

    Anyways, this discussion has gotten out of hand; I’ve lost track of what we’re talking about with all these rabbit trails!

    I didn’t notice any rabbit trails. The discussion began with your claim that both the Arminian and the Calvinist ordo is a result of theological deduction and not plain Biblical teaching. I denied that the priority of faith in the Arminian ordo was a matter of deduction, but insisted that the Bible speaks of new spiritual life (regeneration) coming only though faith and repentance. You challenged me to produce Scripture, which I did, and the proper interpretation of those Scriptures is what we are now discussing. As far as that goes I will conclude again as I did in a previous post:

    *****************

    “I think the record is plain. Life dwells in Christ and is communicated to the believer through union with Him. We come to be in Him through faith and receive the Holy Spirit as a result. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith and gives us life only as we are connected to Him (Eph. 3:17; Jn. 15). Numerous passages of Scripture speak of the receiving of life, becoming God’s children, passing from death to life, and experiencing spiritual resurrection through faith/believing. None speak of receiving spiritual life (of any kind), becoming a child of God, passing from death to life, or experiencing a spiritual resurrection prior to faith/believing. That’s pretty significant evidence against the Calvinist ordo in my opinion.”

    *****************

    I agree that there are problems with regeneration logically preceding faith, but I don’t agree, yet, that biblically (not theologically/logically) faith precedes regeneration. But you (and Arminan) have given me some good stuff to think about.

    Glad to hear it. You have challenged me as well and if that causes us to take a closer look at Scripture, that is time well spent.

    Thanks for your blog. I will check it again. I’ll leave you the last word on this blog discussion. I actually have some further questions about Arminianism, but I will ask them in your “questions” section in due time.

    I look forward to it.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  60. Dan said: “I agree that a child is a child before being born, but you have missed my general point: you can’t equate born with child. A child can miscarry in the womb and never be born, so not all “children” are born, therefore, there is a distinction. But John says that the child of God has been born. ”

    **** But if you insist on making the distinction, then that weakens your position all the more, for John 1:12 makes it absolutely clear that faith brings us to become children of God, and so precedes regeneration. So either way you slice it, if John parallels becoming God’s children and being born of him (pretty certainly IMO), or if he understands a distinction between them that he does not state (pretty unlikely IMO), faith precedes regeneration according to the clear implication of John 1:12-13. Again, the point is even more stongly established if one holds your position that the text assumes a distinction between being a child and being born.

    As for SEA, we do not have any conferences yet, though we are beginning to talk about such things. We have had a couple informal meetings, but they are more for talking business, the functioning the group, etc., and so would not make sense for a non-member to attend.

    God bless!

  61. Is this a Sola Fide supporting blog?

  62. I hold to salvation by faith alone, but also stand with the Reformers in acknowledging that while we are saved by faith alone, the faith that saves is never alone.

    Or did you have something else in mind?

  63. Thanks. I figured by the way things are put in your articles. I was talking about any Sola Fide position of the Reformation. There are some good things on here but I utterly reject the position of Sola Fide.

  64. Why? Are you Catholic?

  65. No, not as it would be commonly understood anyway. It is not scriptural or even traditional (apostolic era is most important to me), that is why. Scripture takes primacy for me, however, but I’m not Sola Scriptura either, especially on the issue of what makes up the Canon. But before I studied Church History at all I rejected the Faith Alone doctrine from my KJV Bible alone which is what got me started.

  66. Can you articulate your view?

  67. Isa 55:7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

    Luk 3:8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
    Luk 3:9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
    Luk 3:10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”
    Luk 3:11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
    Luk 3:12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”
    Luk 3:13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”
    Luk 3:14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

    When we come to God we can’t just come to him in trust alone for a provision. We actually have to forsake our rebellious ways and stop the sin we are doing. Also we can apostatize from God, deny Christ, not only by no longer trusting in him and his provision but by rebellious deeds too, sin.

    Tit 1:16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

    It is not just that we once we believe we should obey God if we are truly saved as evidence of our salvation. We actually have to do what God says to be saved or we won’t be, and we have to obey right from the start, not just believe only. Of course true faith cannot be separated from obedience. But this distinction needs to be made for the issue as James did.

    The faith alone doctrine comes from a misunderstanding of parts of Paul’s letters which we are warned about not to misunderstand in 2 Peter 3:15-18

    That is what I believe. The same thing every Christian pre-Nicea believed unanimously, except the Gnostics.

  68. I would say that repentance is part of what true saving faith is all about. I do not hold to the view that repentance is not necessary for salvation. You can’t turn to Christ without turning away from sin. But forsaking sin is not a one time thing. It is a lifelong process. Through faith in Christ and the empowering of His Spirit, we continue to die to ourselves as we grow in our relationship with Him. But, if one is consistently and deliberately rebellious, that person is not exercising saving faith in Christ. It is the difference between struggling against sin and, at times, failing in that struggle, and allowing it to reign in our lives, with no desire to change.

    Or we could put it this way. If we are not living our lives for God (expressed in obedience and repentance), then we are not truly trusting Him with our lives. We are still trying to do things our way instead of God’s way. In other words: we are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves in never alone (it includes obedience and repentance). I am in now way advocating a view that says that as long as one trusts in Christ, that person can then live however he or she pleases and still be guaranteed heaven.

    If you want to better understand my view on faith and repentance, I would recommend my series on perseverance:

    It starts here: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-1-definitions/

    Here is brief quote from Part 5 (which deals with Hebrews 6) on faith and repentance:

    This “repentance” has reference to a turning away from “dead works” towards God in faith. You can’t have one without the other. One cannot place saving faith in Christ while still clinging to “dead works” (which could refer either to sinful acts or attempts to earn the favor of God through obsolete Jewish rituals), and one cannot truly repent of these dead works without also turning to God in faith. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. It could be described as one motion of turning towards God viewed from two different perspectives.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/02/07/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-5-hebrews-64-9/

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