Chapter 40 -- Biblical Regeneration
I introduce this chapter with these insightful words of the great "Campbellite" and "Hardshell" killer, H. Boyce Taylor.
"Both Campbellites and Hardshells are heretical on the new birth; and since men cannot be saved without the new birth neither Campbellism nor Hardshellism, in their unadultered form, ever saved any sinner. Men are not saved by the Spirit without the Word nor by the Word without the Spirit. They must be born of the Word and the Spirit, if they would enter the kingdom of God. Hardshellism has no place for any such Scriptures because it denies that the Word has anything to do in the salvation of the lost."
What is the correct view of "regeneration" and the "new birth? What is the nature and characteristics of the "change" effected in a person by the Spirit of God? Neither Hardshells nor Campbellites can answer this question scripturally. Our Baptist forefathers, however, who wrote our confessions of faith, gave scriptural answers to these questions. I plan to take up those confessions, in future chapters, and look at what the Hardshells have had to say about those confessions.
I have also completely overthrown the Hardshell view of "regeneration" which makes it a "bunch of nothing," a "no change" experience, a "Hollow Log" phenomena. I have shown how their "dividing asunder" "regeneration" from "conversion," things which God has "joined together," has been a "slippery slope" that has led to numerous other errors in doctrine. In separating "repentance" and "faith" from "regeneration," they have again attempted to "put asunder" what God has "joined together."
I have also shown how they are against the teachings of both Scripture and Baptist history in their denial of the use of means, the means of gospel truth, to effect the regeneration of a soul. I have taken many of their "arguments" and shown them to be false, examples of faulty Hardshell "logic." I have shown how the Scriptures clearly establish that regeneration includes conversion and that it is that which is brought about by the Spirit's use of the truth of the gospel. I will in upcoming chapters look at "Hardshell Proof Texts," and show how they must twist scripture, or read into them (eisogesus), their heresies.
I will also be having more to say about the "Twins," the Hardshells and the Campbellites, looking critically at their similarities and differences.
I believe that the following words by J.M. Pendleton are appropriate to cite at this juncture. He writes under the heading, "Regeneration, With Its Attendants, Repentance And Faith," saying:
"It is evident that the Scriptures refer to a great change in all who become Christians--a change denoted by such forms of expression as the following: "Born again," (John 3:3); "Born of the Spirit" (John 3:5); "Born of God" (John 1:13); "Created in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:10); "Quickened together with Christ" (Eph. 2:5); "A new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17); "Renewed after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:10); "Dead unto sin,...alive unto God." Rom. 6:11. This change is, in theological writings, usually called Regeneration, and it is inseparable from "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:21. For this reason the heading of this chapter has been selected, and I purposely present in closest connection Regeneration, Repentance, and Faith. Nor is it my intention to dwell on what has been termed "the order of time." Indeed, if the view of Calvin and Jonathan Edwards is correct, regeneration and repentance are in substance the same so that the question as to order of time is ruled out. Calvin says:
"In one word, I apprehend repentance to be regeneration, the end of which is the restoration of the divine image within us; which was defaced, and almost obliterated by the transgression of Adam."
The words of Edwards are these:
"If we compare one scripture with another, it will be sufficiently manifest that by regeneration, or being BEGOTTEN or BORN AGAIN, the same change in the state of the mind is signified with that which the Scripture speaks of as efffected by true REPENTANCE, and CONVERSION. I put repentance and conversion together, because the Scripture puts them together (Acts 3:19), and because they plainly signify much the same thing."
"Without fully endorsing the view of these great men, I may say that if regeneration and repentance are not identical, they are so closely connected that it is not worth while to inquire whether the one precedes or follows the other. As to regeneration and faith, a plausible argument may be made in favor of the priority of either. For example, if we turn to John 1:12, 13 it seems natural to suppose that those who believed in Christ were those who had been born of God. So also according to the correct rendering of I John 5:1, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is (has been) born of God." Some use this passage as it reads in the Common Version, "is born of God," to prove that faith is prior to regeneration because the means of it; but the argument fails in view of the fact that not the present, but the perfect, tense is used in the original--"has been born of God." But if we turn to Galatians 3:26, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," the obvious view is that we become God's children by faith, or, in other words, that faith is instrumental in effecting regeneration. We see, therefore, that there may be a plausible argument on either side of the question. It is, perhaps, in view of this fact, wisest and safest to consider regeneration and faith simultaneous, or so nearly so that the question of precedence should not be considered at all. The adoption of this theory will save us from perplexities which will otherwise annoy. For instance, those insisting on the precedence of regeneration are not a little perplexed when asked if there can be a regenerate unbeliever, and those taking the opposite view are eqaully perplexed when asked if there can be an unregenerate believer. That regeneration and faith are not separable in point of time is, all things considered, the most satisfactory position. One thing is certain--wherever we see a regenerate person, we see a believer in Christ; and wherever we see a believer in Christ, we see a regenerate person." ("Christian Doctrines," pages 256-58)
Pendleton was very insightful and true to Holy Scripture and historic Baptist teaching in his remarks above. For instance, he says:
"For this reason the heading of this chapter has been selected, and I purposely present in closest connection Regeneration, Repentance, and Faith. Nor is it my intention to dwell on what has been termed "the order of time."
Yes, I agree that this whole discussion about "ordo salutis" has been a plague to the classical "theologians." It is absurd and fraught with all kinds of theological difficulty to separate the elements of regeneration and the new birth as though one may exist without the others. He says truly, that
"...regeneration and repentance are in substance the same so that the question as to order of time is ruled out."
That is why, as I have said, that the holy scriptures do not strictly follow an "ordo salutis," respecting the essential elements of "regeneration." To argue over "which comes first," faith or repentance, assumes 1) that one may in fact precede the other (when they cannot), and 2) that the scriptures always present the terms in the same order (when they do not), and 3) that one must be a cause of the other (when they can be, and are, both effects of the same cause); And, to argue over "which comes first," regeneration or conversion, is also to "strive about words to no profit," and evinces a purpose to separate what God has joined together. Such "vain reasonings" and "human logic" (or perhaps, "Greek Speculative Theory") applied to the metaphysical understanding of what is called "regeneration" or the "New Birth," is about as profitable as to asking these questions:
1. Which comes first, regeneration or the new birth?
2. Which comes first, creation in Christ Jesus or the new birth?
3. Which comes first, living or hearing the voice of Christ?
4. Which comes first, coming to Christ, or life?
5. Which comes first, being freed from sin or freed to Christ?
I think it is obvious that the people asking such questions are wrong in that they fail to realize that these various terms are but descriptions of the same experience, but viewed from different perspectives or from various relations. I have already mentioned Hebrews 6:9 where the writer speaks of the "things (plural) that accompany salvation." To have salvation is to have its essential elements, its rudimental graces and fundamental gifts. Repentance and godly sorrow, with faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel, with a spontaneous confession of the same with the heart and lips, with love for God, are integral elements of what it means to be saved, born again, regenerated, renewed, quickened, created, etc.
"...the same change in the state of the mind is signified with that which the Scripture speaks of as efffected by true REPENTANCE, and CONVERSION. I put repentance and conversion together, because the Scripture puts them together (Acts 3:19), and because they plainly signify much the same thing."
Brother, that is the truth of the matter and one in keeping with the historic Baptist faith. He says further, however:
"It is, perhaps, in view of this fact, wisest and safest to consider regeneration and faith simultaneous, or so nearly so that the question of precedence should not be considered at all."
"...the question of precedence should not be considered at all."
Amen brother! It is sad that men have substituted the clear teachings of the Bible with their "vain speculations."
I agree wholeheartedly that this debate over the "Ordo Salutis" has not been productive. The voice and words of Brother Pendleton need reverberating throughout the theological world.
The Campbellites and the Baptists split over the "order of salvation," disagreeing over the relationship of "baptism" and "good works" to "salvation."
J. P. Boyce, in writing upon "Regeneration" and "Conversion," says:
"At the outset of a discussion of these two subjects we are met by the question, whether they are not one and the same thing. They are unquestionably so intimately associated that it is difficult to separate them and point out the distinctions between them. The Scriptures connect the two under the one idea of the new birth, and teach that not only is regeneration an absolute essential in each conversion, but that in every intelligent responsible soul conversion invariably accompanies regeneration. It is not strange, therefore, that they are often confounded. Yet, after all, the Scriptures also teach that regeneration is the work of God, changing the heart of man by his sovereign will, while conversion is the act of man turning towards God with the new inclination thus given to his heart."
"From the Scriptural teaching we see that the whole work of Regeneration and Conversion is included under the one term regeneration."
"It is true that but few of the passages refer to anything save the work of God; yet these few sufficiently teach the use of the word in regeneration to lead us not to reject, as a part of it, that result of God's act which, in connection with the word, leads to the full union of its subject with Christ through repentance and faith."
"The whole work is thus spoken of, however, because God is operative from the beginning to the end, but this does not prove that he does not operate differently in one part from what he does in the other."
The above citations of Boyce clearly show that he believed, as did the truly Old Baptists, that the new birth was not accomplished in one who did not come to faith and repentance. It is clear that he believed that this was accomplished through means and that he rejected the Hardshell "Spirit Alone" view of "regeneration."
Some have cited from this same section of Boyce's "Systematic Theology," on "Regeneration and Conversion," wherein he seems to deny what he said in the above citations, and seems to accept "Hardshellism" rather than opposing it. What can we say about this? First, let me cite the words of Boyce that supposedly show him accepting the "Pre-Faith" view of "regeneration." Then I will cite the insightful remarks of Brother Ross relative to what Boyce was really teaching and communicating in that section. Lastly, I will add a few remarks of my own on this seeming contradiction in what Boyce wrote and taught on the subject.
Boyce a Hardshell?
"V. The relation of regeneration to conversion will, therefore, appear to be one of invariable antecedence.
Wherever the appropriate truth is at the time present its relation is almost that of producing cause, for the prepared heart at once receives the truth. Hence, as this is so generally the case, they have been usually regarded as contemporaneous and by some even as identical. But that regeneration is the invariable antecedent is seen,
1. From the fact that the heart is the soil in which the seed, the word of God, is sown, and that seed only brings forth fruit in the good soil. The heart is made good soil by regeneration.
2. Regeneration (as in infants) MAY exist without faith and repentance, but the latter cannot exist without the former. Therefore, regeneration precedes.
3. Logically the enabling act of God must, in a creature, precede the act of the creature thus enabled. But this logical antecedence involves actual antecedence, or the best conceptions of our mind deceive us and are not reliable. For this logical antecedence exists only because the mind observes plainly a perceived dependence of the existence of the one on the other. But such dependence demands, if not causal, at least antecedent existence. Here it is only antecedent.
VI. There is not only antecedence, but in some cases an appreciable interval.
1. This is true even of conversion regarded as a mere turning to God. Between it and regeneration must intervene in some cases some period of time until the knowledge of God's existence and nature is given, before the heart turns, or even is turned towards that God.
(1.) This must be true of all infants and of all persons otherwise incapable of responsibility, as for example idiots.
(2.) There is no reason why it should not be true of some heathen. The missionaries of the cross have been sought by men, who knew nothing of Christianity, but whose hearts, unsatisfied with the religion of their fathers, were restlessly seeking for what their soul was crying out.
2. It is still more manifestly true of full Christian conversion.
(1.) The Scriptures teach this in many examples of persons pious, holy, and fearing God, yet unacquainted with the full truth which secures union with Christ.
Ethiopian Eunuch: Acts 8:26-40.
Paul: Acts, chapter 9, 22 and 26. Galatians, chapters 1st and 2d.
Cornelius the Centurion: Acts 10:2.
Lydia: Acts 16:14.
(2.) The experience of ministers in all ages with persons seeking and attaining salvation confirms this idea. The attainment of conversion may be marked by stages. The sinner is at first totally indifferent. The word produces on him no effect. Then (1.) There is an evident willingness to give serious attention to the truth of God. God has opened the heart as he did that of Lydia. (2.) There is conviction of sin, sense of its vileness, and of its dangerous effects. (3.) The soul, oppressed by these, strives to do something by which to attain salvation, but finds all in vain. (4.) At last accepting the truth of God's word it rests in trust of a personal Saviour.
VII. The term conversion is not technically applied to any change, except that which follows upon regeneration, and consists in the Godward turning of one heretofore turned entirely away from God. The return of men who have backslidden, or fallen into grievous sin, is also called "a return to God," and such a return is possibly what is called "conversion" in Peter's case. Luke 22:32. But conversion is theologically used exclusively of the first act."
From the above, the words of Boyce seems to echo the words of the Hardshells. It is, sadly, a view that the founders.org group is trying to promote as being the historic teaching of the Baptists. What about these words of Boyce? Are they like the words, often cited from Gill, that alledgedly prove he also denied, like Boyce, the use of means in regeneration, or that regeneration did not include conversion?
I will be dealing with the case of Gill in an upcoming chapter, but let me first deal with Boyce.
A writer on Boyce has well said:
"Like Spurgeon, Boyce often lamented the inroads that Arminianism was making on Baptist life. He saw the fate that awaits the Church when it trades the sovereignty of God for the sovereignty of man. Boyce also warned against the dangers of hyper-Calvinism that had taken root among Baptist in the south in the form of Primitive and Hard-Shell Baptists. He was a Calvinist who was so committed to evangelism that he offered the Seminary grounds to D.L. Moody when he brought his tent to Louisville."
Here is what Brother Bob Ross wrote in regards to the views of J. P. Boyce, who sometimes made statements, which taken out of context, would imply that he believed in pre-faith regeneration.
"James P. Boyce clearly cannot be put into the "born again before faith" category."
"If one reads what Dr. Boyce says in the first paragraph on page 375 of his Abstract of Systematic Theology (Christian Gospel Foundation reprint of 1887 edition), it is hardly possible to lump Boyce with the "no means" theologians such as Shedd, the Hodges, Frame, and Berkhof on this matter. He refers to the Word as "part" and "in connection with" the "work of God" in production of the "result," the New Birth.
Boyce was educated at Princeton Seminary under the Presbyterian scholars, particularly Charles Hodge, and some of his nomenclautre might at first appear to some as at least consistent with Hodge's view. If Boyce indeed held that view, I would suspect he imbibed it from his Princeton Pedobaptist teachers, or had it further developed in his thinking under them. This theory certainly derives from the Pedobaptist Hybrid Calvinists.
However, I do not really find any explicit denial by Boyce of the "use of the Word" in the act of regeneration itself, and this strikes at the heart of the pedo theory, for this theory rests on the very foundation that "regeneration" is an act which takes place apart from the necessary use of means as the instrumentality.
In fact, in Boyce's statement on page 375, he indicates there are passages of Scripture which "sufficiently teach the USE of the word IN regeneration" (page 375). He cites some of these verses in the next few paragraphs.
That God does a pre-faith work or activity in the heart, we certainly believe, and Boyce teaches this. But that this early preliminary work constitutes the New Birth is "too much too soon," NOR DO WE FIND BOYCE TEAChING THAT.
Rather, Boyce sets forth two inseparable categories (regeneration and conversion) which he places under ONE IDEA AS THE "NEW BIRTH" (Abstract of Theology, pages 373, 374).
He says: "They are unquestionably so intimately associated that it is difficult to separate them and point out the distinctions between them. The SCRIPTURES CONNECT the TWO under THE ONE IDEA of the NEW BIRTH, and teach that not only is regeneration an absolute essential in each conversion, but that in every intelligent responsible soul conversion invariably ACCOMPANIES regeneration."
So, with Boyce, I hardly see how it could be said that the sinner undergoes the "NEW BIRTH" BEFORE he has experienced repentance and faith, which according to Boyce constitute conversion.
If we follow Boyce's line of thought, consider the following:
If (1) "regeneration" and (2) "conversion" are "TWO under the ONE idea" of the "NEW BIRTH," then it could hardly be said that the sinner has been BORN AGAIN, or has experienced the NEW BIRTH, unless he simultaneously has experienced repentance and faith which constitute "conversion." Boyce says the "TWO" (regeneration and conversion) go under "ONE IDEA" -- THE NEW BIRTH.
(1) Regeneration and Conversion (repentance and faith) are TWO under ONE idea.
(2) The one idea is called the "NEW BIRTH."
(3) Therefore, a sinner has not experienced the "NEW BIRTH" until he has experienced conversion (repentance and faith).
It is clear that all Boyce is teaching is that when (1) the Gospel is preached, (2) the power which regenerates "in connection with the Word" is the power of the Holy Spirit, and (3) whenever He uses the Word to generate repentance from sin and faith in Christ the sinner is born again, and (4) these combined elements -- (a) the power of the Spirit and (b) the Word-generated repentance faith -- constitute the NEW BIRTH.
Furthermore, Boyce incorporates the role of MEANS in this work, for he says "The FIRST STEP here is to make known to man the GOSPEL" (page 367). If that is the FIRST STEP, then you cannot have the NEW BIRTH without the means of the GOSPEL being used as the instrumentality by the Holy Spirit.
This certainly conflicts with the Pedo view of "born again before faith," wherein "regeneration" is imagined to be a "DIRECT OPERATION" in the case of both (1) babies and (2) adults -- apart from, without, and exclusive of the necessary use of the Word as the essential means or instrumentality, and without repentance and faith (conversion) being the immediate, simultaneous necessary production by the WORD and of the SPIRIT."
It is obvious that Boyce distinguishes between how Scriptures define and use the word "regeneration," and with how the "hair-splitting" theologians have used them. He speaks of how words, like regeneration and conversion, are "technically applied" and how they are "theologically used" by "theologians," but he does not allow that such strict definitions are warranted by the Sciptures. He simply assumes the "theological definitions" of the terms "regeneration" and "conversion," for the sake of argument and convenience, and shows, by such definitions of the term, how of course "regeneration" precedes faith, repentance, and conversion, yea, even before being "born again"! But, in such reasoning, the writer is only assuming the definition of "regeneration" as being limited to the initial move of the Spirit in preparing the heart for the full birth, and yes, in such context, "regeneration" does predede faith, conviction, knowledge, love, and every other grace. But, we are not talking in context, in such cases, with the Bible, and one must wonder how much good, as Pendleton warned, has come of all this talk about "ordo salutis." Thus, such a theological definition would not equate with the term "new birth." But, both Boyce and Scripture equate them, and so the "theologians," who rather and unscripturally "narrowly define" the term "regeneration" win the day in showing that "regeneration," so defined, precedes faith and conversion. By such a definition, of course, a man is not saved when he is "regenerated" for he is not yet "born again" (by Boyce's dfeinition), and not yet possessed of any grace of the Spirit.
Boyce does what Gill did, in some parts of his writings on this subject, in which they both would sometimes 1) Speculate or suggest things without dogmatically affirming his speculations, and/or 2) Say, "If we define the term in such and such a way, then..."
Thus we find right at the outset of Boyce's treatise saying that such and such "appear to be one of invariable antecedence." Certainly things are not always what they "appear" to be. He is simply giving "logical deductions," deductions which are necessary if one accepts the premises (prior definitions).
Now, it does seem plain that "regeneration" does in fact occur prior to the new birth and conversion IF we define the term to simply mean "prior preparations" in which God works to prepare the heart and soul for the reception of life and salvation through the word.
If we equate, for instance, the terms "conviction" for "regeneration," then yes, "regeneration" precedes "conversion." But, is simply being "convicted" of sin the same as "regeneration," biblically speaking? It may be, in some "theological circles," and using "theological jargon," but not if we stay close to how the Bible defines and uses terms.
Now, I think too, that Boyce, due to his belief in the "regeneration" and salvation of infants and idiots, believed that God worked "extraordinarily," in these cases, as did the writers of the 1689 Confession, as I have shown (and will deal with again in an upcoming chapter on "Infant Regeneration"), while it was his "ordinary" way, with all others, to use the means of gospel truth. This is no doubt the most predominant view of the Baptists throughout history. Few have preached the damnation of these classes of sinners. Most have allowed that God "regenerates" these in a manner without human means. Some have confessed that they have no answer from the Scriptures, others argue that it cannot be proven that the means of applying gospel truth, to infants and idiots, is not possible, as I have shown and will enlarge upon yet.
Some of the arguments that Boyce raises relative to infants and idiots and to God's "preparatory" workings in people before they are "born again" and "come to faith and repentance," I have already addressed in previous chapters of this book. Some I will yet address in future chapters. For instance, the case of Lydia and Cornelius will be taken up, together with other arguments and cases identified by Boyce, the Hardshells, and by those who believe in "Pre-Faith Regeneration."
Biblical regeneration is well defined in Scriptures. All the relevant New Testament passages, if examined together and honestly, will give a picture of the new birth that makes the application of gospel truth an integral part of it.