Does regeneration precede faith?

This article is a response to a posted by Leighton Flower’s on his Soteriology 101 facebook page dated 9/15/2018.

Soteriology 101

ORDO SALUTIS: Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

This post
After quoting Tit 3:5, Leighton Flowers says:
regeneration is the washing or cleansing of our hearts from sin. It is not some supernatural, inner working that irresistibly causes people to believe truth.
1. Flowers seems to have a penchant for semantic fallacies. His implicit argument appears to be that because an English translation uses “regeneration” in a different sense than how it’s used in Reformed theology, this text disproves Reformed theology.
Stop to consider what a fallacious inference that is. “Regeneration” is a English word based on a Latin derivative. It’s used in some English translations to render the Greek original.
In Reformed theology, “regeneration” is a technical term. The fact that an English translation employs the same word in a less specialized sense than Reformed usage is beside the point. Flowers is trading on the connotations of an English word, but Paul didn’t write in English.
2. Paul is using the metaphor of rebirth. Metaphors tend to be open-textured. What they mean in a sentence is context-dependent.
3. The fact that Paul may be using the metaphor in Tit 3:5 in a different sense than Reformed theology doesn’t contradict Reformed theology. Rather, Paul isn’t speaking to that issue one way or the other. Silence is not a denial.
4. As commentators like Marshall and Towner explain, Tit 3:5 attributes the entire result to the prior intervention of the Spirit. If anything, that’s a monergistic prooftext. The Spirit is the agent of spiritual rebirth and renewal.
5. That said, it’s striking that Flowers quoted v5 but ignores v3:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another (Tit 3:3).

Compare that to other Pauline passages:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts (Eph 2:1-3).
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed (Eph 4:17-19).
How can people in a state of psychological bondage be receptive to the Gospel? Given their psychological condition (dead in sin, enslaved to passion, under occult bondage), they will be ill-disposed to accept the message. So what overcomes their antagonism?

After quoting Acts 15:8-9, Leighton says:

God knew their heart and bore witness of what He knew. He did not determine it. And the heart is cleansed by faith. The heart isn’t cleansed or washed (regenerated) to cause faith.
1. The text is alluding to the evangelization of Cornelius, not unconverted sinners generally. Cornelius was an intellectual convert to Judaism. He worshipped Yahweh. He wasn’t a pagan. This isn’t starting from scratch.
He’s in the same boat as believing Jews who need to make a transition to the new covenant. Jews who need to learn about the Redeemer in the person of Jesus.
2. What does the gift of the Spirit mean in Acts? Does it denote regeneration? Were the Eleven unregenerate prior to Pentecost? In some contexts, it confers a kind of spiritual empowerment–resulting in visible miracles.
The scope of the gift might vary according to the recipient. If the recipient is a believing Jew or Godfearer, the gift may confer charismata. If, on the other hand, the recipient is a raw pagan, then the invention of the Spirit may need to go back a step to do something more radical.
3. Then there’s Leighton’s fallacious argument from silence. He acts as though, since Acts 15:8-9 doesn’t say God determines conversion/salvation, therefore Acts 15:8-9 is inconsistent with God determining conversation/salvation. But that inference is invalid. Consider two different propositions:
i) A Bible verse doesn’t say if X is the case
ii) A Bible verse says X is not the case
But (i) doesn’t imply (ii).
For instance, in Acts 2:22, Peter says Jesus is a “man attested by God”.

By Leighton’s logic, since Peter doesn’t say Jesus is God Incarnate (in Acts 2:22), that’s equivalent to Peter denying that Jesus is God Incarnate.

4. Does the God of freewill theism know the heart? Does Flowers believe humans are free in the sense that our thoughts are uncaused? If so, how is God in a position to know an uncaused event? If there are uncaused events (whether mental or physical events), then the event could be anything. What’s the object of knowledge if the object could be anything? How does Leighton’s God know what we’re about to think from one moment to the next? If our thoughts are uncaused, then it’s discontinuous with past thoughts.

If, on the other hand, our thoughts are caused, then how can we be free to think other than what we were caused to do? Or does Flowers have a different definition of libertarian freedom?

This article was originally posted by Steve Hays on the “TRIABLOGUE”  blog- HERE

Read more about Leighton Flowers – HERE

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1 Comment
  1. Bob Weigel 4 years ago

    Ridiculous question. God spends a volume of scripture telling people to believe. Why would he waste the words if we can’t believe without something else happening first…..

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