IS THE SUBJECT OF "PRE-FAITH
A MAJOR ISSUE? [04/27--2005]
One of my readers
recently sent an email in which he said:
You seem to be
beating a single drum incessantly! "Regeneration precedes Faith". Seems like a
very major issue with you?!
I assume the writer understands
that I do NOT favor the idea that regeneration precedes faith, but rather
reject that teaching. I think my articles have been clear on
And it is a "major issue" with me. This is nothing new, for it has
been a major issue with me for many years, and I have often written and spoken
on the subject over the years. In the 1950s, in my early years, I saw several
young preachers in Kentucky and Ohio "go to seed" on this matter and they
ultimately woundup in the Hardshell Primitive Baptist church, a denomination
which split from Baptists in 1832 and opposed missions and evangelism to the
unregenerate. I have objected to this idea ever since the mid-1950s and try to
oppose it wherever it raises its ugly head.
The subject of Regeneration,
or the New Birth, is a major theme in our Baptist Confessions of Faith
wherein entire chapters are given over to its presentation. Differences on
the subject of the New Birth have given rise to many distinct religious
movements, not only the Hardshell movement but the Campbellite movement, the
Mormon movement, the Catholic movement, the Pedobaptist movement, the
Pentecostal movement, and others.
The "pre-faith regeneration" theory
has several inherent fallacies which militate against the Gospel of
1. This view deprives the Gospel, or Word of God, of its place in
the New Birth. Hardshells reason that if regeneration is by the Spirit alone
without the instrumentality of the Word of God, then there is no need for
preaching the Gospel in missionary and evangelistic work. Those who adopt this
theory lose all faith in the power of the Gospel to bring men to
2. This view presupposes that the sinner is in such a state that
the Word of God is powerless. The sinner is viewed as being so "dead" that the
Word of God can have no effect on him, contrary to the example of Ezekiel's dry
bones and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Thus, the sinner must be "made
alive" before anything else can be done. This makes the sinner more powerful
than the Word of God.
3. This view separates the Word of God from the
Spirit of God. Whereas the Bible teaches in several places that the Word of God
is the instrument used by the Holy Spirit to bring about spiritual life and
change, this view denies that the Word is actually the instrumental cause in the
Spirit's bringing to pass the New Birth.
4. This view is part of the
ideology which justifies the baptism of babies. Supposedly, the babies born to
believers inherit a "covenant" blessing of regeneration which is presumed to
take place very early in infancy. Infants are supposedly regenerated a good
while before they become capable of faith in Christ.
5. This view
undermines the doctrine taught in our Confessions of Faith, which always unites
the Word and Spirit in effectual calling, or the New Birth.
6. This view
gives ground to the opponents of the Baptist view of grace, as they can very
easily pit verses of Scripture against the idea that one is born again before
7. Advocates of this view often present the erroneous "either or"
proposition that the only alternative view to pre-faith regeneration is the view
of post-faith regeneration. The fact is, the Holy Spirit's creation of
faith by the instrumentality of the Word of God is what constitutes
regeneration, and regeneration is neither "pre" nor "post" faith. If one has
faith, he is born again; if he does not have faith, he is not born again. Faith
is of the very essence of being born again.
I could refer to a number of
Scriptures and to articles in our Confessions of Faith, but I am here simply
giving a basic summary of some of the aberrant concepts which are related to the
pre-faith regeneration theory, demonstrating that it is indeed a "major issue."
-- Bob L. Ross
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