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Nov 07, 2014

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Andrew Barker

But is Sproul correct in his analysis of Jesus' teaching to Nicodemus? Is the commenter correct in suggesting Jesus meant in John 3:3 that, apart from regeneration, "no one can see, perceive, understand, act towards, believe, exercise faith, concerning those

Peter, my careful look at this verse (Strongs/Thayers) has led me to the conclusion that the word 'see' means to see as in experience. So I think you could re-write the verse as a "no one can experience the Kingdom of God unless he is born again." It puts quite a different complexion on it but whether or not it stands scrutiny I'll wait for others to judge. :-)

peter lumpkins

Thanks Andrew. I surely think attempting to view "see" exclusively as a visionary nuance alone as Sproul has done, suggesting the inability to "see" is because the spiritually "dead" corpse of Eph.2:1 is incapable of "seeing," hardly does justice to Jesus' meaning, especially in light of v.5 when Jesus repeats almost verbatim His former words but substitutes "enter" the Kingdom instead. Rogers seems to be on the right notion when he concludes seeing the Kingdom "says nothing to indicate that one must be regenerated in order to exercise faith, but rather it places regeneration as an essential to becoming a citizen of the kingdom, experience salvation."

Don't overlook Rogers' footnote on this section (#2), for he concludes similarly to you and quotes both Kittel and Reformed commentator, Wm. Hendrickson to substantiate his findings.

Alex Guggenheim

Sproul, much like Calvin, is a rationalist first and an exegete second in spite of their stated belief in grammatical historical hermeneutics which, at times, they do practice. However, first and foremost rationalism drives their theology which is precisely how they wind up at these kinds of points where even elementary contexts and exegesis easily overwhelm their lengthy theological rationalism. Yes, they are sincere but in error.

Louis

Great post.

I still think it's all a tempest in a teapot. It is important, I agree. But it may just be beyond our reach to categorize things so finely.

God obviously gives gifts so taht people may believe. Eyes, ears, a healthy mind, a spirit. I do believe that people are spiritually blind and cannot understand without God enabling them.

But must this be the same thing as regeneration?

I don't think so.

May it be?

Possibly.

Does anything I say or think about it change anything?

No.

Having said that, I am glad for posts like these and for theological engagement.

I am just not hardcore enough, I suppose.

Alex Guggenheim

Calling this issue a tempest in a teapot is to either ignore or be unaware of the enormous theological (thus, practical) implications. The damage it forces on so many readings/ interpretations of Biblical texts is not a minimal and isolated damage but one that ultimately leads to a misunderstanding of God's person.

Lydia

"Calling this issue a tempest in a teapot is to either ignore or be unaware of the enormous theological (thus, practical) implications. The damage it forces on so many readings/ interpretations of Biblical texts is not a minimal and isolated damage but one that ultimately leads to a misunderstanding of God's person"

Bingo.

peter lumpkins

Louis,

I appreciate your frequent insightful commentary and contributions on this site and others. Much of it I often find myself agreeing. I also appreciate your amenable spirit you almost always bring to the table. On this one, however, I'm afraid you're way out of focus. Both Alex and Lydia are correct.

R.C. Sproul does not for naught repeatedly insist in his numerous writings that *the* keystone notion of Reformed theology is regeneration precedes faith. In fact, he lays so much stress upon the notion that Reformed theology is essentially reduced to regeneration precedes faith. While not all Reformed theologians might simplify their theological trajectory so, Sproul does and remains an important thinker/influencer at least among Neo-Calvinists.

For Calvinists like Sproul, regeneration preceding faith is a natural, undeniable deduction from their non-negotiable theological presuppositions (i.e. TULIP). It perfectly fits their literal insistence that salvation is "from beginning to end" all God. Now understand: I affirm without reservation salvation "from beginning to end" is, without qualification, all God. The problem is not qualification but definition. For Calvinists like Sproul, ultimately, salvation is, in every meaningful aspect, passive in nature. If this is so, for my part, it's very hard to dismiss one of the classic objections against Calvinism--human beings are ultimately nothing more than puppets on a string...powerless, helpless pawns in the hands of an All-Powerful Deity.

No, I'm afraid you're wrong on this, Louis. By the way, it's not historically clear that Baptist Calvinists widely held the regeneration precedes faith doctrine. James Boyce may very well be the exception rather than the rule as many of today's Calvinists would like us to think.

With that, I am...
Peter

Andrew Barker

Louis: It's part of the same reasoning that tries to view faith as either meritorious or worse still a 'work'. Throughout the whole of the Bible, I cannot recall one incident where somebody is criticised for exercising 'their' faith. Plenty of people are commended for exercising it though, including Abraham.

Reformed theology attacks the truth of the Bible by declaring that faith (and therefore salvation) is a gift, that a person cannot understand salvation before they are regenerated and that any attempt on their part to exercise faith would be seen as them contributing to their salvation and therefore would be considered a 'work'.

This is no 'storm in a tea-cup' but rather a ripple which spreads across the whole of the pond.

(please excuse the change of metaphor but being UK based we have storms in our tea-cups, not tempests!)

Louis

Peter:

Thanks for the nice comments and the reply.

I am often wrong!

Alex, Lydia and Andrew, thanks for your comments.

I am sure that R.C. Sproul thinks it is a big deal. I have met him and have heard him speak. I believe that I have read a book of his.

But I wonder if just because Sproul and other Reformed theologians think it is such a big deal that it really is a big deal?

It is a big deal in their system.

But what if you do buy all of their system?

Apparently, early SBC Reformed thinkers did not, if Peter is correct.

Our church is not thoroughly Reformed, but lots of people think we are.

My pastor has preached for 21 years at our church, and I have never heard him preach about the necessity of regeneration preceding faith or that it is an important issue.

The only person who ever brought it up was the teenage daughter of a homeschool, Reformed family, whom I am told made a big point of it in a girls small group Bible study. The adult leader said that point was really not central to the discussion and really did not need to be resolved. The mother of the teenager called the youth pastor to complain about the adult leading the Bible study to say that she needed to be more developed theologically.

Well, nothing changed with our small group study, and we proceed along.

I may be wrong, but from where I live and minister, this issue does not have much appeal or significance.

Again, I admit that it does have significance to many, and that it can be a hill on which to die for many. But it doesn't have to be so.

I really appreciate you all bearing with me and showing how this issue can be important, and is important to a great many.

Lydia

"Again, I admit that it does have significance to many, and that it can be a hill on which to die for many. But it doesn't have to be so."

I am wondering if we should be more circumspect about how we present the Character of God. If Jesus Christ is the full representation of God then we have a problem presenting Him as Yahweh in the Flesh practicing/teaching regeneration before faith.

It tends to make Jesus out to be a bait and switch con man. Why would He tell people to 'repent and believe' if He already knew some COULD NOT because He would not be regenerating them first?

There are too many instances of Jesus presenting truth in a way that makes it obvious He believes people had not only input into their behavior but a choice. Wouldn't He have known who was going to be regenerated or not? Of course, so why the con game? In fact, thinking about it, wouldn't that make His coming in the flesh a moot point? So what was the point since it is all a done deal anyway? (I believe his actual life as the perfect Isrealite should have consideration here)

I think this issue goes to the basic character of God. It presents Him as more of a Greek Pagan god who is arbitrary and plays mind games.

Dan

Thus far, I don't see anyone pointing out that before we arrive in the 3rd chapter of John's gospel, we must first deal with John 1:11-13. If we must elevate the will of the flesh above the will of God in the order of salvation, we must first deny John 1:13. What would you say about that Peter?

Louis

Lydia:

That is an excellent point. That is the trap of that kind of system. Jesus certainly sounds like he wants to be understood. But there is the passage about him not wanting some to understand and repent. And Romans 9 is a problem.

I know there have been thousands of pages written about this, and there are explanations. The ones I have read are not all that convincing of fully explaining things.

A related argument to this, in my view, is the matter of prayer.

Do human beings because they pray, or pray really hard, have the power (or leverage God's power) to change things? If so, do all these bad things happen because we don't pray hard enough? etc.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Alex Guggenheim

The will of the flesh refers to man being able to construct his own system or means which meets the approbation of God as opposed to the system or means God constructed which is the grace system of the nonmeritorious act of simply believing the gospel thus, God's will is that we believe as opposed to man's will which is some form of self-righteous merit system.

What many Calvinists do is overreach in their reading of the John text and include the view that any exercise of the will cannot be part of the process of salvation when it is limited to exercising the will with respect to determining the means and/or construct of how man will be saved, i.e. saving himself by himself through self-determined means.

Max

"Calling this issue a tempest in a teapot is to either ignore or be unaware of the enormous theological (thus, practical) implications. The damage it forces on so many readings/ interpretations of Biblical texts is not a minimal and isolated damage but one that ultimately leads to a misunderstanding of God's person."

Alex Guggenheim, have you ever thought about running for SBC President? Your words serve as a warning - it is dangerous ground to misrepresent the character of God.

Speaking of SBC Presidents, there is an interesting comment posted over at SBC Voices indicating that SBC's first president, William Bullein Johnson, was clearly not a 5-Point Calvinist. The comment (by Robert Hutchinson) contains an excerpt from a sermon by Rev. Johnson - he would be branded as a "Traditionalist" if he preached like that today! A one-liner from that sermon: "Now, Now, O fellow sinners, you have it in your power to place yourselves under influences that are spiritual and saving; or under influences that are carnal and damning."

The sermon excerpt is a good read. Scroll down to the last entry in the comment thread before comments were closed. http://sbcvoices.com/is-namb-planting-vast-numbers-of-calvinistic-churches-by-william-thornton/

Lydia

"Jesus certainly sounds like he wants to be understood. But there is the passage about him not wanting some to understand and repent. And Romans 9 is a problem.'

And I now think that comes from all the Gnosticism that has permeated Christianity for a millennia or so. It comes from our filters. I don't see Romans 9 as a problem because I don't read determinism (or as a treatise on individual salvation) into it anymore. I read it as Paul explaining the whole Jew/Gentile dichotomy that was most likely a glaring problem in the Roman church when the converted Jews were coming back to Rome after being banished. One can imagine the havoc that must have been causing.

I also think that we must interpret Paul through Jesus Christ. I think a big problem is too many ignore that Jesus is the full "representation" of God. The perfect human as we are to be perfect humans. ( mature, fully developed, etc)

"A related argument to this, in my view, is the matter of prayer.

Do human beings because they pray, or pray really hard, have the power (or leverage God's power) to change things? If so, do all these bad things happen because we don't pray hard enough? etc."

This is one of my pet peeve issues. How many groups have you sat in where people say to a suffering person: I will pray for you? Ok, fine. But what a cop out for the body of Christ. I can imagine God thinking, "well, do something, too! I gave you brains, resources and ability for a reason!" We may not be able to cure the cancer but we can make the suffering less by "doing" many things for the person and their family. It seems that many churches have become another institution that just needs our money and demand we believe specifically what the guru tells us to believe.

I just do not ascribe to the pixie dust prayer meme anymore. Can God intervene? Of course but it seems that is all we hope for and I am seeing that now as a big cop out and passing the buck, so to speak.

We are definitely told to pray for Wisdom and wisdom is a constant theme from Genesis to Revelation. But while we are praying for wisdom (and others) should we not be encouraging each other to find cures for cancer, do justice, help the oppressed, develop services and products that improve lives, etc, etc?

Instead of constantly telling young people what worms they are and how totally "unable" they are, why aren't we telling them we are to reflect Jesus Christ back out into our little worlds by working to redeem what we can of our corners of the world? This is not "earning" salvation, it is living it out.

I now believe that what we "do" here as believers will or will not transfer to the redeemed earth. That causes me to totally rethink everything I do and say. It causes me to view justice in a totally different way and to see people in a totally new way.

You know, the fact that God came as a human should tell us how valuable "humans" are. Humans choose to devalue themselves by doing evil. Even kids on the playground understand the concept of "fairness". We are without excuse. But it is much easier to simply believe that God is controlling all of it --including the evil. The dualism of the Greek pagan gods who are also believed to be arbitrary and random.

The difference in our views is as simple as the difference in our view of human ability. I am often accused of putting humans above God. A silly charge since God's intention from day one was a "relationship" with His creation where He would lead them to be wise and mature.

Max

"I also think that we must interpret Paul through Jesus Christ."

Amen Lydia! The YRR put way too much emphasis in cherry-picked passages from Paul's epistles. It's as if there are only two books in their Bible: Romans and Ephesians. I listened to sermon podcasts from a local SBC church plant for over a year. Not one single sermon was based on passages from the Gospel books with words in red. Sadly, the young reformed pastor's Easter message skipped the Cross and continued his sermon series through Ephesians without missing a beat! If you read Paul first, you might read Jesus wrong. But if you read Jesus first, the writings of Paul come into perspective.

Romans 9 is not a problem; the teachings of men regarding it is the problem. The Truth (Word of God) + the Spirit of Truth (Holy Spirit) = Revealed Truth. Unfortunately, Southern Baptists have grieved and quenched the Holy Spirit by our theological wrangling to the point that revelation is not coming forth ... and so, with our pea brains, we fuss over interpretation. It's not human intellect, but spiritual revelation, that we need. And you won't get that if you exclude Jesus while you pursue Paul.

Max

While this may be off topic a bit, I wanted to add to an earlier comment I posted regarding W.B. Johnson, SBC's first president. In that role, Johnson helped found Furman University, which became Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859, based in Greenville, South Carolina. SBTS moved to Louisville in 1877. Thus, SBTS had a prominent founder who preached an SBC "traditional" view of salvation.

Max

What must I do to be saved?!

This essentially was a question from a seeker in West Africa posed to the YRR lead pastor from an SBC church plant in my area. The church had sent a team to an SBC West African mission field. A young man approached the pastor in a village gathering - he carried a Bible given to him by another missionary. He had been reading it and asked the pastor to explain the way of salvation: "What must I do?" The pastor's response "You don't have to 'do' anything. God's grace has been extended to you." What?! No repentance, no profession of faith in Jesus, no words of belief, no accepting Jesus into your heart, no sinner's prayer?! Just showing up in a gathering of the elect was evidence enough that the young man was saved?!!

Please tell me that this was an anomaly in reformed evangelism. I realize that the Calvinist mind is opposed to the thought of salvation through works ... "Traditional" Southern Baptists are too! But humbly bowing a knee, repenting of sin, saying a sinner's prayer, and turning to Christ in faith is not a "work" ... and for a Believer to assist someone to "do" that is not heresy.

Dan

Alex, how do you distinguish between the different descriptors represented in John 1:13?

John makes a clear point. We are born again:

1. not of blood
2. not the will of the flesh
3. not the will of man
4. but of God

He seems to emphasize the sovereignty of God in salvation by making it apparent to everyone by his four different descriptor phrases.

Once again, I invite Peter to weigh in on this one without avoiding the issue.

peter lumpkins

Pardon me, Dan, but I'm not ignoring anything. To the contrary, it's you who has blatantly ignored the question in the OP--Did Jesus tell Nicodemus he must be born again in order to believe the gospel?--by attempting to make the story of Nicodemus contextually dependent upon John's introductory remarks in the first chapter. Nice try but fundamentally irrelevant to question on the floor.

Alex Guggenheim

Max

Your words are thoughtful and may it be the the SBC leadership is soon inundated with men who are committed to sound exegesis. May I suggest Peter Lumpkins for SBC President.
AG

Dan

Peter, hermeneutics matters. We must interpret difficult passages and questions by the context and surrounding context within the same book. So, I was attempting to look at John's earlier teaching to help shed light upon the context of what's taking place two chapters later.

However, another question I would set before you is this:

From John 3, what does Jesus intend to teach us by His statement in John 3:7-8?

The text reads: "Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ [8] The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

To be born again seems to be something that God does - by the Holy Spirit - which cannot be manipulated or controlled by man (hence the wind illustration). What would you say Jesus intended by the wind analogy?

James Thomas

Dan, thank you for your point. I tend to agree. The text says that we are not "born again" by the will of man. How can people continue to build their theology upon the idea that it's "free will" or the "will of man" that is ultimately responsible for their salvation? Sure sinners must repent in order to be saved, but the real question to be considered is this - "How can a person dead in sins repent without God doing something first?"

peter

Please Dan. My response to you implied improper hermeneutics or inconsequential hermeneutics in what way exactly?

Nor do I accept your presumption that Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus constitutes what is normally meant by 'difficult' passages of Scripture. For heavens' sake, if John 3:1-21 qualifies for a 'difficult' passage, what on earth we'll call Hebrews 6 or Rev 20 I cannot fathom.

Now how about answering the OP's question rather than ignoring it.

With that I am...
Peter

Andrew Barker

Dan: " How can people continue to build their theology upon the idea that it's "free will" or the "will of man" that is ultimately responsible for their salvation?

I suspect that the vast majority of us would be with you on this one Dan. Rom 10:13 whoever will call (that is invoke, call for aid) on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Quite how that could be misconstrued as 'saving oneself' or "being responsible for their salvation" I don't know but you guys seem to want to believe that. Then you come out with the line "How can a person dead in sins repent without God doing something first?" Have you missed the plot or something? God has done something first. We have forgiveness through the death of Jesus. What more does God have to do for you??

Luke 5:32 Jesus said "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance". Note, he didn't say I have come to call the 'regenerated' or 'those whom I have elected only' but sinners! I think these are your people who are indeed described as "dead in sins" and that's the way Jesus loves them because he can deal with them that way!

Mary

Andrew, I think people miss the big divide between Calvinists and nons is Calvinists don't believe that the work of the cross is enough for salvation - there is still a work God needs to perform. But those of us who reject Calvinism believe Jesus Paid it All and when He said IT IS FINISHED HE meant that it was finished. All the "Work" of salvation was accomplished at the cross. And no don't anybody be an idiot and come back with some stupid "YOU'RE a UNIVERSALIST" comment. Faith is not a work is not a work is not a work. Calvinists think faith is a work.

James Thomas

Mary,

I happen to be a Calvinist. I reject your assumption that I reject the idea that the cross of Jesus is enough. For what Calvinist of world history would believe that? Can you show me one Calvinist who embraces that type of thought?

The work of Christ is enough to atone for our sins, but Ezekiel 36 along with Ephesians 1-2 (specifically chapter 2 with the word "dead") is still in the Bible.

Does "dead" indicate "sickness" or "standing in need of a crutch for the will of man to use to hobble down the road to salvation"? Could it be that Ephesians 2 uses the word "dead" to indicate spiritual death?

No matter how you try to evade the definition of "dead" you must still answer this question: Before you were saved, did the Holy Spirit need to convict you of your guilty standing before God prior to your repentance? If you answer yes, is this another "work" as you have implied above?

Andrew Barker

Mary: It seems to me that while we are constantly informed by our Reformed brethren that their theology is full of intellectual rigour it does, to use a biblical analogy, exhibit 'feet of clay'.

I started looking into Reformed theology about 3 years or so ago, so I'm a relative new comer. (That's when I came across this blog). Lately, I have noticed the concerted effort to redress the imbalance within the ranks of the SBC regarding doctrine so that the Calvinist propaganda machine is not left to run unchecked.

The areas where Reformed theology which need to be and thankfully are being addressed are:
1. Election: God choosing who is/isn't elect clearly compromises God's character
2. Regeneration: The only place that regeneration precedes faith is in the pages Reformed theological textbooks.
3. Faith: Is neither a work or a gift.
4. Atonement: Is not limited in its scope but is for whoever believes.
5. Grace: Is exactly that .... gracious! It does impose itself on unwilling participants

It is rather telling that the Calvinists' dig themselves into a hole regarding the cross. If Jesus paid it all then as you say the act of regeneration must be included in the work of the cross. Which is of course a nonsense. But this then leads to further error such as John Piper who teaches that faith was purchased on our behalf at the cross. He has no scriptural support for this view needless to say, but that never seems to deter him.

We need to keep chipping away at those feet of clay. The system will crumble again at some point!

Mary

James, if God has to first bring someone back from the "dead" before they are capable of exercising faith then that is indeed an additional work. Christ Alone through Faith Alone. Calvinists actually believe that unbelievers are sooooo dead that they are beyond the reach of God until God first performs a miracle of bringing them back to life so they can then hear the Gospel. After the fall when Adam was walking in the garden the Bible says Adam "heard" God - not Adam didn't hear God and God had to zap Adam so God could carry on a conversation with him. God speaking to people has never been seen as any kind of work. Now James perhaps you believe that dead means dead and so as a Christian since you are now dead to sin you no longer sin. I don't happen to believe that dead is the same as physically being dead.

And James again as Peter pointed out the people guilty of evasion in this thread are the Calvinists who continue to evade the question of the OP. If you want to ramble on about "dead" you should search Peter's site here where the topic as been discussed ad infinitum.

A simple yes or no will suffice - Did Jesus tell Nicodemus he must be born again so he can believe the Gospel? Born again before you can be born again?


Andrew, you're still a baby at this. We came across the stealth Calvinists about 10 years ago now. The internet was the wild west in those days. The Calvinists used to host all the blogs and they were mean and nasty with it. People wander around today and pull all this "why won't you leave the Calvinists alone they never bothered anyone." not understanding the history of the SBC over the last 20 years where the Calvinists have come in and stealthily taken over. Most of us were content in our churches until the Calvinists moved in and started changing everything and telling us we "lost the Gospel" and only those with "correct doctrine" were qualified to do all the work we'd been doing for years. We were supposed to hand over the keys and the money to "young leaders" who knew more about the Bible than us - we could still bring the Crock Pots for Potluck along with our money of course, but we needed to stay in our pews and remain silent while they told us what idiots we were.

James Thomas

Hey Andrew, instead of talking about "feet of clay" and providing your opinion, why not deal with the text. From what I see - the non-Calvinist (often closet 4 point Arminian) refuses to deal with the text of Scripture. Why are the non-Calvinists avoiding Dan's questions about THE TEXT? Strange if you ask me.

Alex Guggenheim

Dan


I apologize for the delayed responses, my time during the autumn seems always to be heavily taxed.

Per John 1:13 and your observation:

"John makes a clear point. We are born again:

1. not of blood
2. not the will of the flesh
3. not the will of man
4. but of God"

The expressions are understood as negatives in comparison to the real source of our regeneration.

Not of blood - (technically plural, "bloods")that is, by means of biological inheritance or lineage. This was a very critical point regarding the Jews with some misunderstanding their blessings from God based on their genetics (i.e., being a Jew) included the promise of eternal salvation merely by being born a Jew. But as well, this includes any human pedigree being negated if, being a Gentile, one imagines their human royalty is of some aid in the cause of God regenerating them.

Some suggest it could refer to the various sacrifices, pre-Christ, and if this be correct it still stands as a testament that it is only by means of Christ's righteousness and not the former sacrifices. I believe this is the weakest of the interpretations but still, I mention it just to cover the base and ultimately does not steer either of us in another direction since this is not the disputed portion.

Not of the flesh - this has been and still is, widely accepted with respect to its use in the Bible and outside of the Bible in contemporary literature of the period, a reference to life being the result of sexual intercourse. In other words, one is not born of God by means of human procreation, it is something greater and outside of that (which lays to rest the idea that babies are born regenerated and only die spiritually and gain a sin nature after they willfully sin at some point past their birth).

Included in this is the propensity among the Patriarchs to have many wives thus, increasing their seed and enlarging their covenantal benefits which our Lord is passively addressing that while they might have succeeded in doing so via human procreation for geographical, political and agricultural blessings, the blessing of the covenant of eternal life will not and cannot come by this means.

Not by the will of man - interestingly the Greek word here for man is andros and not anthropos. Anthropos refers to all human kind (in general) without respect to gender which is not used here, rather, andros is the word used which is definitively for males. Why? What was our Lord referring to here?

He was addressing the view of the Jews and society which understood it was the husband, the authority, who headed both the home and social structure. It was via the male authority that children were conceived, received, circumcised, given social status, and decreed what they will be with respect to their family and society.

In other words, while human authority could and did decree many things, this event, regeneration, will not and cannot come by way of human authority or human decree.

Ultimately God is rebutting all human efforts which might claim the ability to regenerate one's self or claim/decree such.

Thus, this reference to the, "will of man", grammatically is disqualified from referring to all human kind (anthropos) since its grammatical property (alone) and contextual use is limited to males and with respect to their role as authority.

Thus, your use here is invalidated since how you are using it is with respect to all humankind and the exercise of their will in believing the gospel which would not only require anthropos but as well, a different context and never minding what I just presented, the use of andros which is limited in its grammatical property and further, its contextual use which ultimately nullifies your interpretation and application which, again, would require anthropos.

Now, to the regeneration, itself.

Regeneration is from the Greek word, palingenesis, which I am sure you know. And it is not merely the spiritual enlivening or resurrection of the human spirit but it is also the sanctification or washing from sin (Titus 3:5) by God the Holy Spirit. And this comes, how?

From believing the gospel as Acts 16:31 says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved..."

So in one sense you are right. Our regeneration is not by our will, that is being born again. No one is arguing with that. God, through his third person, God the Holy Spirit, washes us and enlivens us by resurrecting our spiritual state lost in Adam from which we are born congenitally dead until we believe and are born again.

However, God regenerating us and our believing are not synonyms though they are very closely related in chronology and one is the consequence of the other. Here, Christ is speaking of the regeneration process itself, not why one believes. That is another issue and not contained in what Christ addresses and is only imposed or imported via eisegesis.

Andrew Barker

James: "Does "dead" indicate "sickness" or "standing in need of a crutch for the will of man to use to hobble down the road to salvation"? Could it be that Ephesians 2 uses the word "dead" to indicate spiritual death?"

You are a victim of your own terms. While you are questioning Mary's definition of the term 'dead' in Eph 2 you yourself cannot define spiritual death in any meaningful way. James, can you explain exactly what a dead spirit is or looks like? And can you provide a verse which uses the term 'spiritual death'. Verses with spirit and dead in them are not acceptable. It has to be the term 'spiritual death' that is mentioned. (PS I've found it once, in a bad translation)

You also use the phrase "crutch for the will of man to use to hobble down the road to salvation" to mock the idea that a 'dead' person can respond to the quickening power of the Gospel. But the very same verses in Eph 2: talk about the dead walking and being indulgent, in all the wrong kind of activity of course, but they are obviously very much alive!! So just what is it James that you think 'dead' means in these verses.

It seems to me James, that you want to eat your cake and have it. You want to use the non-biblical term 'spiritual death', for which you cannot provide any biblical support when it suits your purposes and yet you want to disallow the use of the term 'dead' when it quite clearly is being used to convey the concept of being in a state of separation from God.

So don't hold back James. What does 'spiritual death' mean and what does the word 'dead' mean when being used in Eph 2:1-3 ?



Lydia

"Faith is not a work is not a work is not a work. Calvinists think faith is a work. "

Mary, it took me a while but I finally figured out they really do see "repentance" as a work, too. In fact, humans are not involved at all, including living out the fruit of salvation. It is all a big cosmic puppet show.

So perhaps the cross is not enough for them but the resurrection is totally ignored.

Andrew Barker

James: If I haven't answered you adequately regarding Dan's question about the text it's probably because I feel that it has already been answered by somebody else? But I do note that you seem very reluctant to answer quite straight forward questions yourself.

So come on James. What does spiritual death look like and where do you find this term 'spiritually dead' in the Bible? And when you've finished that one, please come up with a better interpretation of the word 'dead' as used in Eph 2:1-3 other than the state of being alienated and/or separated from God which is what I think most non-Calvinists would take it to mean.

Lydia

James, the question to ask when pointing to a proof text is if we use the determinist filter or not.

Andrew Barker

Lydia Mary: Regarding faith not being a work, the nearest I've come to finding a verse which links faith or believing as a work is this John 6:29. Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

I'm not sure if Jesus was allowed a wry sense of humour, but he seems to be making a statement by stating the opposite of what the people would have believed? The idea that faith could be considered a work was nonsense to them. It seems our Reformed brethren are the only ones who have a problem in this area!

Dan

Alex,

So, according to your response, the way in which John uses "will of the flesh" should not be taken as a text directed at all of humanity - but only a select group of Jewish males? Is that correct?

John 1:9-13: The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. [11] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. [12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

It seems that by use of "world" and other references, John didn't have just Jewish males in mind when he was writing this text. Just my own limited way of examining the surrounding context to interpret it properly.

Just to clarify, I do believe that it is our responsibility to repent and turn to God for salvation. I'm not arguing for some salvation that bypasses repentance and faith. I do however believe that we are born again by a work of God that brings us to the point of repentance and faith. To argue in the other direction seems to make God the One who responds to man rather than man responding to God's call to the faith (by the Holy Spirit and the power of the gospel).

Mary

Dan you seemed to be confused. No one here is suggesting that it is man who makes the first step toward God. You seem to agree that God first makes man "born again" so as to make him "born again, again" It's not born TO repentance and faith but born AFTER repentance and faith. You've got one person having to go through multiple births - born to repentance and faith and then born into the kingdom. If we use the analogy of giving birth repentance and faith is the labor part (and the analogy falls apart here because the labor of salvation was done by Jesus not by us so we're like the father who didn't actual do anything in childbirth but is still a parent), but the child isn't actually born until it leaves the body and enters the world.

The order of salvation is thus - Holy Spirit convicts, man responds by either rejecting or accepting, God stamps the accounts of those who accept as paid (paid by the work of the cross, man brings nothing because remember faith is not a work, it's the cross that purchases our salvation - we don't get to point to our faith as anything but Christ work as what purchased our salvation) and then God regenerates those who've accepted the gift of salvation. There is no work involved as it's already been completed and now the power of the Gospel which is rooted in the work of the cross is being shared and shone through the world by the Holy Spirit. Jesus came to be the light of the world and the Holy Spirit is left in the world so as to continue shining the light and leading men and women to the truth.

Andrew Barker

Dan: "I do however believe that we are born again by a work of God that brings us to the point of repentance and faith."

Which goes to the crux of the matter. You believe we are born again before repentance and faith but you can't substantiate this from scripture. What you are describing here is the work of the Spirit which is to bring about conviction of sin in the individual. But this should not be equated with being born again. There are plenty of people who are brought to a position of conviction of sin. Sadly, not all respond positively, but that is what happens if God gives mankind the ability to choose and make decisions.

The Bible is quite clear (I think) that repentance belief and faith come before being born again. Acts 16:31 is just one good example.

Paul N

Dan, if I may butt in?

If one is born again, isn't that one saved?

peter lumpkins

How amusing Dan invited me above "to weigh in on this one without avoiding the issue" while the issue is whether Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus he must be born again in order to believe, an issue Dan continues to ignore, an expectation Jesus most certainly did not insist to the seeking Pharisee. The truth is, according to Dan's paradigm, Nicodemus may very well already have been born again before Jesus even instructed him about being born again! After all, Nicodemus was seeking Jesus, something about which an unborn again person is supposed to incapable.

Even more, according to Dan's theological maxim--"we are born again by a work of God that brings us to the point of repentance and faith"--there is such a spiritual condition as being a born again unrepentant unbeliever, a condition that is hardly teased out anywhere in the NT.

Finally, I find Dan's theological maxim grossly misleading. First, Calvinism never suggests a person is born again by a work of God that brings him or her to the point of repentance and faith. Nor is that maxim a non-Calvinistic maxim so far as I know. Calvinism does not embrace a person is born again by a work of God that brings him or her to the point of repentance and faith. Instead, strict Calvinists teach a person is born again by a work of God that irresistibly draws him or her to repent and believe. In other words, a born again person does not come to a point of belief. Rather, a born again person cannot not believe. He or she must believe. That's Calvinism.

Second, try as one may, no where in the NT is there the slightest usage of "born again," "born from above," "regeneration" or any other verbiage indicating the new birth which implies that it is a work of God that brings a person to the point of repentance and faith. Nothing. Not one thin line. And, if Dan or another can produce it, then correct me. If not, the debate is over. Either produce the goods or concede the point.

Better still Dan can help us all if he will answer the question I originally asked: Did Jesus tell Nicodemus he must be born again in order to believe the gospel?

With that, I am...
Peter

Lydia

"The truth is, according to Dan's paradigm, Nicodemus may very well already have been born again before Jesus even instructed him about being born again! After all, Nicodemus was seeking Jesus, something about which an unborn again person is supposed to incapable. "

Yeah, that has most certainly been the missing piece in this dialogue. My view is that Calvinists don't really understand what they believe because they rarely take it to its logical conclusions.

Yeah, old Nic was dead. He was totally unable to seek Christ. So Jesus lies to him about having to be born again making him think he has some part in it---yet in the grand cosmos He was actually pulling the irresistable puppet strings but keeping that fact from old Nic. Wonder if old Nic turned out to be elect?

One would think Jesus just would have told Nic if he was elect or not.

Dan

Lydia,

The fact is, Jesus never commanded Nicodemus to be born again. That's a strange way of looking at the text, and quite laced with error. If you're not careful, you can imply something that Jesus never said.

John 3:7 - Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

True, Jesus had said that it's a fact that in order to see the kingdom of God, a person must be born again. However, how is that a command? He made that statement in verse 3.

In verse 7 quoted above, "be born" is the verb (γεννηθῆναι) and it's in the passive voice. It's also in the infinitive form which functions like a verbal noun.

I'm not sure how good you are with the Greek language, but in the original we have zero imperative verbs related to the "born again" text from John 3. Imperative is the command to "do it" or "will it" and Jesus simply doesn't say that. In fact, He does the exact opposite by pointing to the wind analogy.

Even in our good English translations, if we slow down and read it properly, we don't see Jesus commanding Nicodemus. Instead, we see Jesus explaining what must happen to Nicodemus. Once God acts upon Nicodemus, he will then exercise faith and repentance, but not prior to God's work of regeneration.


Dan

Peter,

I am not ignoring you, but my day job keeps me busy and I don't have the luxury of checking this site often.

The facts remain - God must work before man can will. His will is not free. Adam and Eve once upon a time enjoyed such freedom, but Peter, you and I know better. We have never once tasted of that unrestrained free will that you often cling to. Your will, along with my will, has always been constrained under the bondage of sin until such time that Jesus made us free (John 8).

Regarding your challenge to "produce the goods or concede the point" I direct you to the following:

1. Faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). I know you will reject that and try to explain it away, but it's in the Bible.

2. Repentance is a gift of God (2 Timothy 2:25). The text reads, "correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth." Paul is instructing his son in the faith to respond to opponents (those outside of the faith) with gentleness, in order that they would hear the truth and then it clearly says, "God may perhaps grant them repentance." God is the One responsible for the gift to repent. Furthermore, the context is clear that this is speaking of salvation, because it goes on to say "leading to a knowledge of the truth" which is often a phrase that is used to describe the act of being born again.

Lydia

Dan, this is why it is so hard to talk to determinists. that is your only filter to understand anything.

you have completely missed the point. of course Jesus did not command him to be born again. why would he do that when Nicodemus is totally unable. Dead. Right? So, Jesus plays a con on him. Leading Nicodemus to think he has some choice and responsibility in the process. When, according to Calvin, we know that is not true.

You forgot your TULIP when exegeting this passage.

peter lumpkins

Dan,

I am not ignoring you., but my day job keeps me busy and I don't have the luxury of checking this site often. I don't think you're ignoring me nor have I indicated such. As I have indicated, however, you are ignoring the question the post asked--"an issue Dan continues to ignore..."; namely, did Jesus tell Nicodemus he must be born again in order to believe? Your former attempt to cite John 1 and now John 8, Eph 2, and 2 Tim 2 are indicative of more dancing around the question.


The facts remain - God must work before man can will. His will is not free. Adam and Eve once upon a time enjoyed such freedom, but Peter, you and I know better. We have never once tasted of that unrestrained free will that you often cling to. Your will, along with my will, has always been constrained under the bondage of sin until such time that Jesus made us free (John 8). First, who, please tell us, implies God does not have to work before man can will? Not me. I have not indicated such and would think virtually every orthodox Christian would affirm such a statement as utter nonsense.

Second, the question is not whether God must work, but what constitutes the necessary and sufficient work God must do in order for fallen human beings to gain everlasting life. And, what you mean by "God must work before" is not what I mean nor do I think it's what the Bible teaches. By "God must work" you mean God must regenerate us before we can will--regeneration precedes faith. That's you're Calvinism speaking for you. The Bible doesn't say this. You say this. Instead Scripture says if we believe, we receive eternal life. You've over layered your theological presupposition upon the text of Scripture. Theology precedes exegesis. That's Calvinism.

Second, what you mean by "unrestrained free will" I haven't a clue. Who embraces this understanding of human free will, Dan? Please explain. Nor is it clear that just because we are in "bondage to sin" that that bondage is exhaustive in nature. In other words, does "bondage" as employed by the NT authors imply inability to believe the gospel? That's a question theologians debate. However, the Bible actually says no such thing explicitly (though admittedly some passages could teach it implicitly). Almost everywhere one turns in Scripture, when the gospel was preached, the text appears to imply the recepients could believe or not believe. Paul would say it like this--I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it [the gospel] is the power of God unto salvation unto everyone who believes..." No hint whatsoever is implied that believing hearers were prohibited from receiving the salvation God offers. Yet you want to say, but they must be born again first! Frankly, that's nonsensical. What you have is what B.H. Carroll called a "born again unbeliever"! This is theological hullabaloo, Dan.  Sorry. It's just not in the NT.
Regarding your challenge to "produce the goods or concede the point" I direct you to the following: Actually my challenge was as follows:



"no where in the NT is there the slightest usage of "born again," "born from above," "regeneration" or any other verbiage indicating the new birth which implies that it is a work of God that brings a person to the point of repentance and faith. Nothing. Not one thin line. And, if Dan or another can produce it, then correct me. If not, the debate is over. Either produce the goods or concede the point. 

You then cite Eph 2:8-9 and 2 Tim 2: 25 as evidence of the "goods" I asked you to produce. Yet neither of the passages says anything at all about being born again, born from above, or regeneration. hence, how either text is supposed to be indicative of you producing the goods you'll have to explain. That either faith or repentance is a "gift" that is necessarily connected in the text with regeneration is exegetically clear in what way exactly, Dan?

1. Faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). I know you will reject that and try to explain it away, but it's in the Bible. First, please check some of the major commentaries on this text. You'll envitably find that faith is definitively not the gift in this passage but the entire scope of salvation is the gift. Think Romans 6:23--"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (italics mine). Second, I'll have you know, Dan, I'm not in the habit of rejecting Scripture nor do I want to "explain it away." I've been a student of Scripture since 1977. I started pastoring my first church in 1981. For you to implicate me in "explaining it away" is arrogant, presumptive, and frankly insulting. I'm almost 62 years old. I've lived well beyond over half my life. Please know if you can't persuade someone with your arguments it may not be because the other person is stupid or dishonest. Rather it could be because they find your interpretations hardly convincing.

2. Repentance is a gift of God (2 Timothy 2:25). The text reads, "correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth." Paul is instructing his son in the faith to respond to opponents (those outside of the faith) with gentleness, in order that they would hear the truth and then it clearly says, "God may perhaps grant them repentance." God is the One responsible for the gift to repent. Again, you assume far too much from these words. A) You assume Paul's meaning is that repentance is a "gift of God" in the exclusive sense dictated by your Calvinistic lens. That is, repentance is a sovereign gift of God given only to the elect (i.e. the "born again"). Is this not what you mean by "repentance is a gift of God" Dan? But the text says no such thing. That's your Calvinism talking; B) a perfectly good alternate reading consistent with the context is, yes God is sovereignly over repentance as He is sovereign in salvation overall, but there's no reason whatsoever to understand His sovereignty over repentance in a deterministic framework since everywhere we find prophets calling people to repentance in Scripture, the tacit assumption is, these people could repent if they would only do so. To make repentance into the wooden concept you're understanding carves it fundamentally makes every Old Testament prophet who called both Israel and the surrounding nations to repentance into mindless madmen calling people to do what God never intended them to do--repent. All, of course, except the elect. C) It very well could be that Paul is not revealing repentance itself is a gift of God but the "opportunity to repent" more captures the intended meaning. As a Handbook on Paul's Second Letter to Timothy says of  the phrase, "God may perhaps grant them repentance,": "the meaning of the expression is captured in TEV, “it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent” (Daniel C. Arichea and Howard Hatton, A Handbook on Paul’s Letters to Timothy and to Titus, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1995), 218. Hence, Dan, your understanding of this verse appears questionable at best.

Furthermore, the context is clear that this is speaking of salvation, because it goes on to say "leading to a knowledge of the truth" which is often a phrase that is used to describe the act of being born again. I'm afraid you'll have to tease that out. Where in the NT does this phrase often describe being born again? Nor does the phrase capture what Calvinists like yourself insist. Namely, for Calvinists, being born again does not merely lead to a knowledge of the truth. Rather, your Calvinism teaches you that when one is born again, one cannot not believe the truth. One must believe the truth. For Calvinism, there is no saying no. There is no mere leading to truth, knowledge or life. It's irresistible grace, remember?

peter lumpkins

What is more, Dan, I don't think you realize it, but by your own words, you contradicted your understanding of regeneration precedes faith.

Consider. You said "leading to a knowledge of the truth" is often synonymous with being born again. Let's grant your premise for argument's sake. But if being born again is synonymous with a knowledge of the truth, what does 2 Tim. 2:25  say about what leads to a knowledge of the truth? Let's quote it again--"perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth." See what I mean? By your own interpretation, repentance precedes regeneration.

With that, I am...

Peter 

Dan

Peter,

I did a poor job (or lazy attempt) of explaining the phrase "lead to a knowledge of the truth." In the case of the opposition for Timothy, (2 Timothy 2:25) it seems that Paul is not seeking to provide us with an ordo salutis, but rather to point out that repentance is a gift from God. You can't escape the language of Paul - "God may grant" is a clear picture of God sovereignly dispensing the gift of repentance. For, who could repent without a "knowledge of the truth" or the "power of God unto salvation" which is the gospel? God must awaken dead sinners to life FIRST which is exactly what He claims to do in Ephesians 2 by "quickening" us to life.

That being said, can you point me to one imperative verb in the "born again" passage of John 3? I can't find one single imperative verb related to the act of being born again.

Lydia, Jesus wasn't playing with Nicodemus any more than God was playing with Pharaoh (see Romans 9). Furthermore, Jesus wasn't playing with the crowds in Matthew 13:1-13 either. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 13:10-13 - "Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” [11] And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. [12] For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. [13] This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."

Jesus had a purpose with Nicodemus in His statements (He was teaching Him the gospel in person which is the power of God unto salvation), and He had a broad purpose to teach us as we would one day read it in His Word. Nicodemus came to faith in Christ, and many others have by reading John 3 as well.

Andrew Barker

Dan's comment on the Greek in John 3: is a classic example of how to be stupidly clever, or cleverly stupid. I'm not sure which way round is best, but I think you'll get my drift.

In verse 3 John uses the singular form for:- anyone, be born, he is able. This would confirm that salvation is an individual response to God.

In verse 7 Dan is correct in that John uses the plural form when he says "it is necessary for you (plural) to be born again." John is indicating that all have to be born again, there are no exceptions for rulers, or important people. We are all treated the same way.

So is Dan correct in saying to Lydia that she reads too much into verse 7? Well, yes and No. Earlier in verse 7 Jesus says to Nicodemus "do not wonder that I say to you (singular) ..."

So Jesus speaks to Nicodemus individually and confirms that everyone must be born again? Not quite. It is true that there is no direct command for example as in "you MUST be born again". But with reference to verse 3, nobody can see (as in experience) the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

Which is a long winded way of saying that to see (experience) the kingdom of God a person MUST be born again. Which we all agree with. So hats off to Dan for getting that bit correct. However he does go and spoil it rather. Having spent all that time getting his greek verbs etc. in order, he then proceeds with his eisegesis and somehow reads that God has to act on Nicodemus before he can exercise his faith. Where did that bit come from Dan??? Why all the care and attention to greek verbs etc. if you're going to stick something like that in with zero supporting evidence???

Lydia

Lydia, Jesus wasn't playing with Nicodemus any more than God was playing with Pharaoh (see Romans 9). Furthermore, Jesus wasn't playing with the crowds in Matthew 13:1-13 either. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 13:10-13 - "Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” [11] And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. [12] For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. [13] This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."

I don't agree with your interpretation. This passage almost convinced me of Calvinism until I started taking the historical context into consideration.

According to your interpretation (including the Pharoah ones) God would does not want them, did not choose them for whatever reason. Usually an arbitrary one. God purposely makes it so they cannot understand truth.

That is reading determinism into it. Since Jesus Christ knew their thoughts did it ever occur to you He knew what they were thinking and what they really wanted?

If I follow your god, then I have to believe he is cruel and purposely bars people from the kingdom making it impossible for them to understand truth. In your interpretation Jesus is proactively barring them from the kingdom.

No thanks. That is a pagan Greek god. Arbitrary, cruel, plays games with people, etc.

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