first saw this mistaken theory crop-up in Sproul's publications several years
ago when an article was published in his magazine, "Tabletalk," May 1993, page
15, written by J. Ligion Duncan III. The article clearly taught the
neo-Pelagian logic that "You must be alive before you can believe"
(page 17). I wrote to Sproul and Duncan, objecting to the theory then, and I
still object to it now. It is not true to Calvinist confessions of faith.
[See my article, REGENERATION IN RELATION TO FAITH IN CALVINIST THEOLOGY --
What is the Confessional View?]
The true Calvinist creedal
position is not that "before the sinner believes" he is already born
again and "alive," but rather that he is "dead in trespasses and sins,"
and the "dead hear the voice of the Son of God and live" (John 5:24-29).
This is the true "monergism," if Sproul prefers that term.
Just as the
physically dead will eventually hear the voice of the Son of God and rise up out
of their graves at the coming resurrection, so it is with sinners, dead in
trespasses and sins, when the Gospel is preached to them. The dead hear
the voice [Gospel] of the Son of God and live.
This is not
"logical," of course. We know the dead cannot hear. Right? We know a corpse
cannot rise up simply when ordinary words are spoken. Right? But this is why the
New Birth is a miracle performed by the Holy Spirit's using the Word of God
in the spiritual realm (John 3:1-7). The spiritually dead hear,
believe, and live.
It is like dead Lazarus being brought to life
by the word of Christ, "Lazarus, come forth." The dead heard and came forth
It is like the dry bones in Ezekiel responding to the
preached word of the prophet (Ezekiel 37:1-10). The dry, dead bones heard, began
to move, and lived.
The "logic" of Sproul and others who follow this
erroneous "Reformed" view held by some of the post-seventeenth century Reformed
seminary teachers leads them to the same position as the Pelagians --
that the sinner is alive and "able" to believe before he actually believes.
These Reformed writers therefore make faith less than the divine
work that it is. Instead of faith's being the creation of the Spirit
by the Word in the dead sinner, they make it a "fruit" or "result" of a
previously imparted life -- basically the same view of the Pelagians who say the
sinner is alive and able to believe before he believes.
"After a person is regenerated, that person cooperates by exercising
faith and trust." This would mean that the sinner is a born again
unbeliever, having spiritual life before and without love for and faith in
the Son of God. This is scripturally impossible.
It is simply not
scripturally possible to have spiritual life and not have those elements which
constitute spiritual life, such as faith and love. When the Holy Spirit blesses
His Word to lost and dead sinners, He produces both faith and love and a
union with Jesus Christ.
And Sproul need not be concerned about
"synergism," or the "cooperation" of the sinner. The New Birth is a
creative work by the Holy Spirit's efficient power alone in His use of
the Word to bring the dead sinner to faith in Christ. No one ever believes but
by the efficient application of the Word of God by the Holy Spirit (John
6:63-65). The Gospel comes not "in Word only, but in power, and in
the Holy Ghsot" (1 Thessalonians 1:5). No man can say that Jesus is Lord but
by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 12:3).
Sproul need never worry about
calling upon dead sinners to believe, to accept Christ, to receive
Christ, or anything of that sort as being in any sense "synergistic," for
no one ever believes on the Son of God except as the Holy Spirit
blesses the Word of God and thereby produces repentance, faith, and love in
the sinner. This work by the Spirit brings the sinner life, for it unites him
to the Son who is our life.
He that has the Son has life, and he
that has not the Son does not have life (1 John 5:12).
The fact is,
Sproul is advocating a "tradition of men," introduced by the Reformed
Pedobaptist theologians who introduced the post-seventeenth century so-called
"ordo salutis" which departs from Scripture to follow the reasoning of
human "logic." -- Bob L. Ross
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