Sent: Saturday, July 23, 2005 4:48 PM
Subject: SPROUL'S ERROR ON THE NEW BIRTH [07/23--2005]

I have previously and frequently mentioned that some of the post-seventeenth century "Reformed" Pedobaptist writers departed from the prevalent Puritan and Confessional view on the subject of Regeneration or the New Birth, especially in regard to the necessary use of the instrumentality of "means" (the Word or Gospel) in bringing lost and "dead in sin" sinners to Christ.

W. G. T. Shedd and Louis Berkhof are two of the greatest offenders in this regard. Both Shedd and Berkhof reveal that they depart somewhat from the confessions and 17th century writers on regeneration. For instance, see Berkhof on pages 466, 470, 476. Systematic Theology; Shedd, Vol. 2, pages 492, 493.

Some of our modern "Reformed" brethren follow this theory, and R. C. Sproul is one of that number. My attention was once again called to Sproul when a Pedobaptist minister recently asked to be removed from my list, and he was offended by my criticism of Sproul's view. I suppose he must think that if we differ with Sproul, who is critical of Baptist views, we perhaps have the right to differ with him, but we should not say so publicly. But if Sproul chooses to publish views which undermine the Baptist view, we do not feel that there is anything necessarily wrong with our offering our reasons for differing with him.

Sproul acknowledges that he imbibed this theory on the New Birth from his Pedobaptist theology teacher when he was in Seminary, according to his piece, "Regeneration Precedes Faith," which appears on the Internet: "
One of my professors [a Pedobaptist] went to the blackboard and wrote these words in bold letters: 'Regeneration Precedes Faith.'" ><

I 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 (John 11).

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.

Sproul says, "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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