Some Basic Thoughts on “Decisional Regeneration” From An Arminian Perspective

Someone asked a while back in a comments thread what I thought of “Decisional Regeneration”. Since this is a rather new label being thrown around mostly by Calvinists in a seeming attempt to mock a view of salvation conditioned by faith, it is important to address.  Rather than write a new post I will just quote my initial response to the question below:

I think “decisional regeneration” is a hard phrase to pin down and is just thrown around as a slander by Calvinists towards those who do not believe that regeneration precedes faith or that regeneration is irresistibly and unconditionally given to the “elect” alone. But there can be much more to it and so I wanted to be clear as to what your specific concern was.

One side would seem to be challenging the idea that one can be regenerated based on a decision. Well, I think that is false. It is certainly a decision to put faith in Christ and faith in Christ will certainly result in regeneration. So in that way, I do not have a problem with “decisional regeneration” since it is Biblical (though the phrase is not, and, again, seemingly intentionally phrased in such a way as to try to paint as negative the view that faith precedes regeneration, or that salvation can be conditioned on faith in Christ).

I also do not really have a problem with people being challenged to “accept Christ”. Again, the phrase may not be perfectly Biblical, but I do not see much of a difference between accepting Christ and receiving Him by faith (John 1:12, 13, which BTW is an excellent text showing that faith precedes regeneration). Truly, the Jews that Peter preached to in Acts 2 and 3 were being challenged to “accept” Jesus as their long awaited Messiah and repent on the basis that He was who Peter claimed Him to be, though Peter never used the phrase “accept Christ”. The Bible plainly condemns those who reject Christ and the truth of His gospel, so why would we have a problem with challenging people to accept Christ and His gospel?

The broader concern is with churches who simply ask for decisions and ask people to sign decision cards and assume that such people are necessarily saved or will remain saved based on a one time “decision”. I do think it needs to be emphasized that our initial act of faith in Christ is just the beginning and this should be followed up by strong discipleship. Christ told us to make disciples and not just get “decisions”. So I agree that the form of evangelism in many churches and among many Christians is woefully inadequate and as a result largely ineffective. I think the church needs to make changes in this area and the cost of following Christ should be emphasized and discipleship must be strongly practiced. But it is not at all unbiblical to believe that the decision of faith results in regeneration and salvation, nor is it unbiblical to entreat unbelievers to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, etc.

What is strange is that Calvinists make such a big deal out of this. Can a faulty presentation of the gospel prevent the elect from becoming regenerated unto faith? Why should we be concerned with “false conversions” if Calvinism is true? If such people are reprobates, no amount of perfect gospel presentations can bring them to salvation and if they are elect then no amount of false teaching or less than perfect gospel presentations can prevent them from coming to salvation. Calvinists often boast that, unlike the Arminian, they do not need to be concerned with the “presentation” or worry themselves that they might not be convincing, since God will work regeneration in His elect despite such imperfections or short comings on the part of the one sharing the gospel. But then they turn around and criticize those whose gospel presentation they believe to be less than perfect as if damage can be done to the church as a result. But God’s church is made up of the unconditionally elect in Calvinism and that number of elect can never change. So what damage can possibly be done to the church in such a view? Everything is proceeding according to plan and God cannot fail to save all of His elect (as if the “elect” were ever in any real danger of anything anyway since they were chosen for salvation unconditionally before the creation of the world; i.e. what are they “saved” from really?).

Every faulty gospel presentation has been decreed by God to be presented just as it is and could not have possibly proceeded in any other way. Our every thought and action is predetermined so why should we be upset about what God irresistibly causes people to do in perfect accordance with His irresistible and unchangeable eternal decree? But then again the Calvinists getting upset and sounding the “alarm” is equally decreed and they do such things in accordance with God’s irresistible and unchangeable eternal decree as well. So God is always fighting with Himself and arguing with Himself and giving Himself a hard time through us. Such are the absurdities of Calvinist theology.