Friday, February 25, 2011

Born Again before Faith?

Does Regeneration Precede Faith? is the latest from C Micheal Patton at Parchment and Pen. Yes, I know, I share a lot of his writing, but it's only because he does such a good job of presenting and teaching. I have truly been blessed by listening to The Theology Program he created. I've only listened to the free audio, though I would love to purchase the entire series. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a desire to gain a deeper understanding of what we claim to believe.

OK, back on topic. The issue is whether a person is born again (regenerated) before or after trusting in Christ (faith).This is a difficult subject in which the flesh and the spirit war against each other. We like to be in control. We like to think that we have the final say, the choice in everything. For us the most acceptable order of the events of salvation (ordo salutis) would be first, we make the choice to place our faith in Christ, and then, God regenerates us because of our decision.

Here is the chart in which C Micheal Patton uses to illustrate this ordo salutis.
(click image to enlarge)

Now, why would anyone think that regeneration comes first? The issue is whether or not a person even has the ability to have faith before regeneration.

Ephesians 2:1-5, states that before we were saved, we were in fact dead in our sins. We were spiritually dead and the dead can't respond to the gospel.
    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
(Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV)
This is the doctrine of total depravity. Man is unable (and unwilling) to respond in saving faith. God must first do a work in man, before he can repent and believe.

Here is another chart.

(click image to enlarge)

It is helpful to note that the order of events is logical and not temporal.
As stated above, most Reformed theologians believe that regeneration necessarily precedes faith. They would not, however, make the sequence a temporal one, but logical. Temporally, it may be stated that all of the events in the ordo salutus stated above happen at the same time. But Reformed theologians would see a necessary logical order in these components of salvation. John MacArthur put it this way: “From the standpoint of reason, regeneration logically must initiate faith and repentance. But the saving transaction is a single, instantaneous event.”

So which is it?

I tend to agree with new birth before faith. It seems to be the most biblical. But don't take my word for it. Check out the article for yourself and see what you think. Don't forget to read through the comments. The discussion often continues there.
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