Infant Salvation & Ordinary Salvation

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nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
The WCF teaches that elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated. I do know that the "ordo salutis" says that regeneration precedes faith and repentance. However, none of us would affirm that any adult individual in the world will be regenerated/converted without actually hearing the gospel. So how can these concepts be reconciled? How can we affirm we believe that elect infants who haven't heard the gospel will be saved...but that none of those adults in the world who don't hear the gospel will be saved? Does this "special case" of regeneration just apply to infants/young-children?

(This is NOT a thread to debate the salvation of infants dying in infancy but only to reconcile these ideas)
 
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Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
I'm likely in the minority here, but I DO believe that adults can be saved apart from hearing the gospel. Of course I don't think this is the normal means by which the Spirit works in someone's heart, but I believe it can happen. I believe the Spirit is just as capable of regenerating a man as He is an infant, and that in some cases it actually happens.

You're asking a good question. Is the hearing of the gospel absolutely necessary for salvation? No. The only thing that is absolutely necessary is the working of the Spirit in one's heart.

And just to be clear, again, I'm not suggesting this is the normal means by which men are saved. God plainly says that we are to preach the gospel so that others may hear.

One thing we can all agree upon is that God absolutely saves everyone He intends to save.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Does this special case of regeneration just apply to infants/young-children?
There is no "special case" for salvation. Salvation is in Christ. Those who are united to Christ in His death and resurrection are saved. I think faith is too often seen (as the Arminians do) as some sort of work that is accomplished by the believer that God looks at and, upon that basis, a person is saved. Faith is the instrumental cause of salvation by which we mean that faith is that which lays hold of Christ but it is Christ's propitiation and His obedience which save. Many also tend to see faith as belonging to some intellectual category alone but cognition is not eqivalent to faith. We leave the hidden things to God but the Holy Spirit regenerates according to His Sovereign will. If a child is regenerated it not because the Holy Spirit foresees or responds or is dependent upon the cognitive capacity of the person regenerated. Rather, a new nature is created in the person regardless of age and this new nature then naturally clings to Christ. In a mature, normal mind this will be seen in different ways than a mind that is not yet mature. Consequently faith is not going to manifest itself the same way in each case and we err if we assume that the evidence of faith that we can detect as men is coextensive to the faith that is actually wrought in a person.

I'm likely in the minority here, but I DO believe that adults can be saved apart from hearing the gospel. Of course I don't think this is the normal means by which the Spirit works in someone's heart, but I believe it can happen. I believe the Spirit is just as capable of regenerating a man as He is an infant, and that in some cases this is what actually happens.
Upon what basis do you believe this? Speculation? May I remind you of Deut 29:29. What may be the case but hasn't been revealed is not the basis for dogma.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
Upon what basis do you believe this? Speculation? May I remind you of Deut 29:29. What may be the case but hasn't been revealed is not the basis for dogma.

Yes, speculation and reason. Who said anything about dogma?

No need to remind me of Deuteronomy 29:29. I recognize that some things are not revealed, and this would fall among those things.
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
There is no "special case" for salvation. Salvation is in Christ. Those who are united to Christ in His death and resurrection are saved. I think faith is too often seen (as the Arminians do) as some sort of work that is accomplished by the believer that God looks at and, upon that basis, a person is saved. Faith is the instrumental cause of salvation by which we mean that faith is that which lays hold of Christ but it is Christ's propitiation and His obedience which save. Many also tend to see faith as belonging to some intellectual category alone but cognition is not eqivalent to faith. We leave the hidden things to God but the Holy Spirit regenerates according to His Sovereign will. If a child is regenerated it not because the Holy Spirit foresees or responds or is dependent upon the cognitive capacity of the person regenerated. Rather, a new nature is created in the person regardless of age and this new nature then naturally clings to Christ. In a mature, normal mind this will be seen in different ways than a mind that is not yet mature. Consequently faith is not going to manifest itself the same way in each case and we err if we assume that the evidence of faith that we can detect as men is coextensive to the faith that is actually wrought in a person.

Rich, I agree there is no "special case" for salvation. What I'm trying to get at is how to reconcile infant salvation (regeneration without hearing the gospel) with normal, adult salvation (where none are regenerated without hearing the gospel). If someone can argue, "Well, infants dieing in infancy can be regenerated, so what's keeping the native in the Amazon from being regenerated without hearing the gospel?"...then does that not tend towards hyper-calvinism and the neglect of the duty of missions? How can I reconcile these things? That is the main point I'm getting at.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Upon what basis do you believe this? Speculation? May I remind you of Deut 29:29. What may be the case but hasn't been revealed is not the basis for dogma.

Yes, speculation and reason. Who said anything about dogma?

When you said "I DO believe..." you were setting forth dogma. Speculation and reason is not the basis for belief when the Scriptures lay out clearly the boundaries by which we might apprehend God's specific special revelation. There is very much a reason to remind you of Deut 29:29 because you are stepping into a labyrinth when you speculate about God's inscrutable ways without the thread of Scripture to guide you. I also would remind you that if you desire to participate on this board you will refrain from violating this command here.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
There is no "special case" for salvation. Salvation is in Christ. Those who are united to Christ in His death and resurrection are saved. I think faith is too often seen (as the Arminians do) as some sort of work that is accomplished by the believer that God looks at and, upon that basis, a person is saved. Faith is the instrumental cause of salvation by which we mean that faith is that which lays hold of Christ but it is Christ's propitiation and His obedience which save. Many also tend to see faith as belonging to some intellectual category alone but cognition is not eqivalent to faith. We leave the hidden things to God but the Holy Spirit regenerates according to His Sovereign will. If a child is regenerated it not because the Holy Spirit foresees or responds or is dependent upon the cognitive capacity of the person regenerated. Rather, a new nature is created in the person regardless of age and this new nature then naturally clings to Christ. In a mature, normal mind this will be seen in different ways than a mind that is not yet mature. Consequently faith is not going to manifest itself the same way in each case and we err if we assume that the evidence of faith that we can detect as men is coextensive to the faith that is actually wrought in a person.

Rich, I agree there is no "special case" for salvation. What I'm trying to get at is how to reconcile infant salvation (regeneration without hearing the gospel) with normal, adult salvation (where none are regenerated without hearing the gospel). If someone can argue, "Well, infants dieing in infancy can be regenerated, so what's keeping the native in the Amazon from being regenerated without hearing the gospel?"...then does that not tend towards hyper-calvinism and the neglect of the duty of missions? How can I reconcile these things? That is the main point I'm getting at.
I do not know that I would say that infants are saved apart from hearing the Gospel. Why can't we just trust God according to what he's revealed regarding the fact that He accompanies His means and leave it at that? We only run into problems when we start to speculate on a mechanism which God leaves to His inscrutable ways. That we know that He works through means does not give us insight into how this is accomplished. In John 3, Jesus makes it clear that none of us can comprehend the Spirit's operation but only can see His effects.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
When you said "I believe" you were setting forth dogma. Speculation and reason is not the basis for belief when the Scriptures lay out clearly the boundaries by which we might apprehend God's specific special revelation. There is very much a reason to remind you of Deut 29:29 because you are stepping into a labyrinth when you speculate about God's inscrutable ways without the thread of Scripture to guide you. I also would remind you that if you desire to participate on this board you will refrain from violating this command here.

I'm confused on the command you say I am violating.

Are we not to use "I believe" statements about something unless it is explicitly spelled out in Scripture? Is it better to say "in my opinion"? I'm not trying to be disagreeable--just seeking clarity.

And the reason I questioned your mention of "dogma" because I didn't claim any of what I said to be authoritative. I have no expectation for others to agree with me.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
If I remember correctly the confessions always locate this idea within the covenant of grace, that sort of grounds all the speculation. The dying infants of elect parents are always in view but there is mystery here and we ought not to speculate about things that God has not revealed to us (and this is one of them).
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
I do not know that I would say that infants are saved apart from hearing the Gospel. Why can't we just trust God according to what he's revealed regarding the fact that He accompanies His means and leave it at that? We only run into problems when we start to speculate on a mechanism which God leaves to His inscrutable ways. That we know that He works through means does not give us insight into how this is accomplished. In John 3, Jesus makes it clear that none of us can comprehend the Spirit's operation but only can see His effects.

Rich, I agree that it is not wise to delve into the matters that aren't revealed to us (Deut 29:29), but I don't think I'm doing that so much as I'm trying to reconcile the clear teaching of the WCF that "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit..." with what I know from Scripture on the matter of regeneration, faith, etc. The Scriptures they cite for this statement are Gen 17:7, Luke 18:15-16, Acts 2:39, John 3:3, I John 5:12. Would this part of the WCF apply to those who die in the womb? In that case, those would not seem to have heard the gospel. Or were the westminster theologians thinking more specifically of infants (those outside the womb) who can sit under the preaching of the word? (Maybe I have been slightly misunderstanding this statement) Thanks for your help in this discussion!

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The dying infants of elect parents are always in view but there is mystery here and we ought not to speculate about things that God has not revealed to us (and this is one of them).

James, you said the "dying infants of elect parents" are what is in view in the WCF statement. But were they saying "elect" infants in the sense that out of all infants, the ones God has elected regardless of who their parents are...OR all infants of elect parents? I guess my understanding has been the first of those thoughts.

I'm curious how, based on the cited Scriptural support for the WCF statement, the WCF theologians worked from passages about God's covenant...to "elect infants dieing in infancy" without, as you said, "speculating about things that God has not revealed to us." (Like I said in the OP, I'm not starting this thread to argue about infants' salvation BUT I'm just saying here in this post that specifically based on the texts they cited, it seems like speculating to arrive at the formulated statement)
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
When you said "I believe" you were setting forth dogma. Speculation and reason is not the basis for belief when the Scriptures lay out clearly the boundaries by which we might apprehend God's specific special revelation. There is very much a reason to remind you of Deut 29:29 because you are stepping into a labyrinth when you speculate about God's inscrutable ways without the thread of Scripture to guide you. I also would remind you that if you desire to participate on this board you will refrain from violating this command here.

I'm confused on the command you say I am violating.

Are we not to use "I believe" statements about something unless it is explicitly spelled out in Scripture? Is it better to say "in my opinion"? I'm not trying to be disagreeable--just seeking clarity.

And the reason I questioned your mention of "dogma" because I didn't claim any of what I said to be authoritative. I have no expectation for others to agree with me.
Dogma is defined as that which is true. When you say: "I DO believe X" then you are saying that X is true. Now you may want to say that this is true for you and you may not expect anyone else to believe it but then the problem is that we're not discussing what our favorite color is. We're discussing matters of salvation where Romans 10 clearly expounds the necessity of the preaching and hearing of the Gospel.

Even if you stated, "...it is my personal opinion that someone can be saved apart from the Gospel..." then we're still dealing with the issue that you are holding to something where special revelation gives you no basis upon which to hold. At a minimum, it is dogma for you and you place enough confidence in your own speculation to express your conviction regarding things which belong to the inscrutable ways of God.

Either way you are on un-Scriptural ground. If you want to dogmatically hold to a view of God's salvation that is only true for you then you're engaging in a denial of God's sovereignty to define truth for all. If you're dogmatically holding to something that is true and others should believe then you're building that dogma upon a foundation which God has clearly forbidden in Deut 29:29.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
WCF X

III. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and therefore can not be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.

Nathan, I think the simple answer is that God's providence doesn't interfere with the fulfillment of the purpose of election. God has chosen a particular person, for instance, the child of David and Bathsheba; but that child dies in infancy, incapable of being outwardly called by the word. Has God accidentally failed in His decree of election because of His providential decree as to the length of that person's life? No. God regenerates sovereignly, working when, where, and how he pleases. The death of an infant or the death of a person with mental and developmental deficiencies so severe that he is incapable of being called outwardly do not restrict God's ability to save. It's setting out that effectual calling is correlated exactly to election.

However, as the next section makes clear, this doesn't mean that regular people are randomly being saved by their own efforts. If you are capable of being called outwardly by the word, and you do not profess the Christian religion, there is no hope of your salvation. The confession categorizes Daniel's view as being "very pernicious."
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
The Scriptures they cite for this statement are Gen 17:7, Luke 18:15-16, Acts 2:39, John 3:3, I John 5:12. Would this part of the WCF apply to those who die in the womb?
These statements apply to any child to whom these statements belong. The WCF quotes a few things that are true for anyone who is to be saved:
- John 3:3 teaches that a person cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.
- 1 John 5:12 teaches that whoever has the Son has life and whoever does not, does not have life.

What the WCF framers are including from Gen 17:7 and Luke 18:15-16 is where the Canons of Dordt point out that believing parents ought not doubt the salvation of those dying in infancy. God has promised to be God to our children and we have no basis upon which to speculate that they are outside of the Kingdom of God when we have no basis upon which to know that they are. It is best simply to trust where God has promised in His covenant.

That's as far as I can reasonably take it. I cannot state with any Biblical foundation that God saves apart from normal means in any particular circumstance. I do know that God creates life in the womb and the child of a believer is set apart covenantally and is present in and among God's people during worship and the preaching of the Word. I do not need to posit dogmatically that God is working apart from visible means in the regeneration of infants nor do I need to assert that I know that he is working apart from visible means.
 

saintandsinner77

Puritan Board Freshman
Sorry if I am asking a question that has already been covered, but does not our Sovereign God have the ability to preach the gospel into the hearing of an infant and to create saving faith in them prior to death? Just because we don't know the mechanics of how that can happen (like the Incarnation), does not preclude our God's ability to even save elect infants through faith:

Psalm 22:9 "But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts."
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Sorry if I am asking a question that has already been covered, but does not our Sovereign God have the ability to preach the gospel into the hearing of an infant and to create saving faith in them prior to death? Just because we don't know the mechanics of how that can happen (like the Incarnation), does not preclude our God's ability to even save elect infants through faith:

Psalm 22:9 "But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts."
Using this example from Psalm 22, we can see the Providence of God at work. I love reading Augustine's Confessions regarding his infancy because he doesn't limit the operation of God being at work on him to when he could cognitively understand and express what was going on. He extols God's goodness in providing milk in his mother's breasts and the nurture of his upbringing.

We creatures cannot even really understand how it is that language and understanding form in our minds. I think many of us think along the lines of an age of accountability where full awareness is present but the Psalmist declares a kind of hope and trust in the Lord that exists in an infant. We claim to know too much of ourselves very often when God even tells us in Jeremiah that, even as adults, our own hearts are beyond our comprehension but the Lord alone knows the heart.

Even now, as my son is being knit in Sonya's womb, he hears Sonya's voice. He hears her confession of the goodness of God. He hears her sing and speak of the grace of God. He is in and among the worship of God's people and the preaching of the Word. I do not know (nor can I understand) whether his heart is worshipping God. I don't even know that for sure of my other children. I neither doubt not presume upon it but leave it to the Lord and pray earnestly for them all.
 

saintandsinner77

Puritan Board Freshman
Sorry if I am asking a question that has already been covered, but does not our Sovereign God have the ability to preach the gospel into the hearing of an infant and to create saving faith in them prior to death? Just because we don't know the mechanics of how that can happen (like the Incarnation), does not preclude our God's ability to even save elect infants through faith:

Psalm 22:9 "But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts."
Using this example from Psalm 22, we can see the Providence of God at work. I love reading Augustine's Confessions regarding his infancy because he doesn't limit the operation of God being at work on him to when he could cognitively understand and express what was going on. He extols God's goodness in providing milk in his mother's breasts and the nurture of his upbringing.

We creatures cannot even really understand how it is that language and understanding form in our minds. I think many of us think along the lines of an age of accountability where full awareness is present but the Psalmist declares a kind of hope and trust in the Lord that exists in an infant. We claim to know too much of ourselves very often when God even tells us in Jeremiah that, even as adults, our own hearts are beyond our comprehension but the Lord alone knows the heart.

Even now, as my son is being knit in Sonya's womb, he hears Sonya's voice. He hears her confession of the goodness of God. He hears her sing and speak of the grace of God. He is in and among the worship of God's people and the preaching of the Word. I do not know (nor can I understand) whether his heart is worshipping God. I don't even know that for sure of my other children. I neither doubt not presume upon it but leave it to the Lord and pray earnestly for them all.

Good thoughts brother, I give my hearty AMEN!
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
James, you said the "dying infants of elect parents" are what is in view in the WCF statement. But were they saying "elect" infants in the sense that out of all infants, the ones God has elected regardless of who their parents are...OR all infants of elect parents? I guess my understanding has been the first of those thoughts.

I'm curious how, based on the cited Scriptural support for the WCF statement, the WCF theologians worked from passages about God's covenant...to "elect infants dieing in infancy" without, as you said, "speculating about things that God has not revealed to us." (Like I said in the OP, I'm not starting this thread to argue about infants' salvation BUT I'm just saying here in this post that specifically based on the texts they cited, it seems like speculating to arrive at the formulated statement)

I would say no for this reason. The confession is respecting God's mystery in light of his revealation. So God has revealed to us the normal and ordinary means by which he works. Look at baptism the confession states that God does work through the sacrament but his working is not bound to the "time or place" and that he only works for the benifit of the elect. In a nutshell the confession is saying "I don't know" to questions of speculation that Lutherans and Roman Catholics have posed over this issue. In this same way they ar esaying that God can and does act freely for his own glory but that despite that mystery he has bound himself by way of covenant to his promises to us and how he ordinaraly does things.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
John the Baptist was regenerate in the womb.

Can God regenerate the hearts of those without physically hearing the word? Yes. The Confession says "the grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word..."

John the Baptist is a case of it not being ordinary. No one spoke the Word to him. Adults can be the same way and this is why...


The Holy Spirit is the one who works the Word and is the Revealer of the Word. Ephesians 6, the 'sword of the Spirit is the Word of God'. Spirit often times in Scripture is connected with the Word, and He wields that sword of the Word. So can someone be saved without physically having the Gospel preached to them by another, ordinarily no. But as John is our example, the Holy Spirit may (rarely) reveal and work effectually the Word in someone's heart to save them.
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rich and Ruben, thank you very much for your input and discussion!

I've been thinking over your posts. Would it be correct to say that regeneration (the Spirit granting us life, new hearts, a new nature) never happens apart from the hearing of the gospel (the outward call which is responded to with faith and repentance after the work of regeneration)...such that even an infant in the womb, in some mysterious way, does hear the gospel and does respond, in some mysterious way, by trust and faith? (I definitely agree with your statement, Rich: "I cannot state with any Biblical foundation that God saves apart from normal means in any particular circumstance.")

I think I was misreading the WCF statement before assuming it was saying regeneration could happen for infants in the womb (for some reason, I only read it as talking about them and not also infants outside of the womb)...which I also assumed were those who do not hear the gospel at all in any way. I see the error in my assumptions now. Ruben, that was helpful in you pointing out the context of the following WCF statement and the importance those two statements have together. I appreciated your comment: "If you are capable of being called outwardly by the word, and you do not profess the Christian religion, there is no hope of your salvation."

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Can God regenerate the hearts of those without physically hearing the word? Yes. The Confession says ordinarily it comes through the hearing of the Word.

So does this apply to the native in the Amazon...? Why does he need a preacher if he may be saved in some extraordinary way?
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
God works in mysterious ways Nathan. He regenerated John the Baptist in the womb, but ordinarily this is not what happens.

Does this apply to the native in the Amazon? If the Lord through the Spirit chooses to regenerate their heart without sending an earthly proclaimer, then yes; if not then no.

Why does he need a preacher if he may be saved in some extraordinary way?

Because He commands it to be done. How many times in the Psalms does it say that the people (seeing who God is and what He has done) will give glory to God and tell of His deeds among the people? Many. Why? Because He commands you to, and ordinarily this is the way it happens.
 

Weston Stoler

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't think I have enough information to prove that any infant goes to heaven or hell. I just know that God is good and just and will do with infants what he sees fit in his good and righteous judgment.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
I don't think I have enough information to prove that any infant goes to heaven or hell. I just know that God is good and just and will do with infants what he sees fit in his good and righteous judgment.

That's why the Westminster divines say, "All elect infants..."
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
We have the evidence that very young infants can be saved, even in the womb in, e.g.. the case of John the Baptist, so that is enough for the Confession and us to say it's possible.

How God does it - apparently without the Word written or spoken - is a mystery.

Does this apply to the native in the Amazon? If the Lord through the Spirit chooses to regenerate their heart without sending an earthly proclaimer, then yes; if not then no.

We don't have any evidence of what happened to John the Baptist being applicable to the heathen, although some would extend it from elect infants to elect adults who have infantile minds.

The heathen had the Gospel once - viz. their garbled stories about the Flood and great Sky Gods - and lost it.

God has ordinarily linked salvation to special revelation, except in the case of (some) infants and (some) adults with infantile minds.

Much is not revealed and is just, hopefully evangelical and Reformed, sentimental speculation.
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
God works in mysterious ways Nathan. He regenerated John the Baptist in the womb, but ordinarily this is not what happens. Does this apply to the native in the Amazon? If the Lord through the Spirit chooses to regenerate their heart without sending an earthly proclaimer, then yes; if not then no.

Andrew, I know faith and repentance proceed from a regenerate heart. God's Spirit creates a new heart in us, and from that, we respond in faith and repentance to the Gospel. I know this is speaking hypothetically and is a mysterious matter, I'm just having a hard time practically seeing how a person could be regenerated by God's Spirit yet not even have heard of Jesus, the Bible, etc. (Maybe it's because I was raised in an Arminian background which sees faith/repentance preceding regeneration...and this is just the weeding out of those wrong understandings for me) But maybe it's not so hard to imagine if some native in the Amazon was regenerated by God and then missionaries come 2 years later, and he instantly responds to the message (or even eventually responds). Regeneration and Faith/Repentance do not have to be simultaneous. Is that your understanding?

(I guess the "mysterious" element of the Spirit is brought out in John 3:8)
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Would it be correct to say that regeneration (the Spirit granting us life, new hearts, a new nature) never happens apart from the hearing of the gospel (the outward call which is responded to with faith and repentance after the work of regeneration)...such that even an infant in the womb, in some mysterious way, does hear the gospel and does respond, in some mysterious way, by trust and faith?
I don't think anyone could give a definitive answer to that. The Confession clearly places infants in the category of those incapable of being called outwardly by the word; at the same time it affirms that God can regenerate infants. The mechanism of regeneration, always mysterious to us, is shrouded even more heavily here. I don't think it's necessary to speculate about whether God advances their mental capacities or gives them faith that is somehow independent of knowledge.

So does this apply to the native in the Amazon...? Why does he need a preacher if he may be saved in some extraordinary way?
No. God can do whatever he pleases, but Paul raises the rhetorical question how they can believe without hearing, and how they can hear without a preacher. The rhetorical question loses its point if people are being regenerated without exposure to the word. God has appointed an end (salvation) and he has appointed means: sanctification by the Spirit and belief of the truth. God is not limited in how far he can extend those means; but he has told us that it is his good pleasure to make those means indispensable to salvation.
The fact that we are not told about salvation of distant persons without the word might be reason enough to reject the possibility, at least as having any relevance for us. But we also have the mass of Scriptural data on the indispensability of the means.

At this point someone may wonder if I am contradicting myself, but I don't believe I am. I am affirming WCF X. 3 & 4, and saying that the case of elect persons incapable of being called outwardly by the word, is not parallel to the case of the person capable of hearing, but not having a preacher. That latter case is resolved when we remember God's providence over all; it is no difficulty to him to take the indispensable means to any elect person. What happens in the shadows of the womb, of the brain without normal development, God has not told us; but we have strong reason to believe that many are elected and saved. But when it comes to what happens in the day, what we have been told is that the means are indispensable.

So I can assert, with the Westminster divines, both that elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by the work of Christ, and that men not professing the Christian religion have no hope of salvation.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
God works in mysterious ways Nathan. He regenerated John the Baptist in the womb, but ordinarily this is not what happens. Does this apply to the native in the Amazon? If the Lord through the Spirit chooses to regenerate their heart without sending an earthly proclaimer, then yes; if not then no.

Andrew, I know faith and repentance proceed from a regenerate heart. God's Spirit creates a new heart in us, and from that, we respond in faith and repentance to the Gospel. I know this is speaking hypothetically and is a mysterious matter, I'm just having a hard time practically seeing how a person could be regenerated by God's Spirit yet not even have heard of Jesus, the Bible, etc. (Maybe it's because I was raised in an Arminian background which sees faith/repentance preceding regeneration...and this is just the weeding out of those wrong understandings for me) But maybe it's not so hard to imagine if some native in the Amazon was regenerated by God and then missionaries come 2 years later, and he instantly responds to the message (or even eventually responds). Regeneration and Faith/Repentance do not have to be simultaneous. Is that your understanding?

(I guess the "mysterious" element of the Spirit is brought out in John 3:8)

Like I said above, "The Holy Spirit is the one who works the Word and is the Revealer of the Word. Ephesians 6, the 'sword of the Spirit is the Word of God'. Spirit often times in Scripture is connected with the Word, and He wields that sword of the Word. So can someone be saved without physically having the Gospel preached to them by another, ordinarily no. But as John is our example, the Holy Spirit may (rarely) reveal and work effectually the Word in someone's heart to save them."

Regeneration precedes faith/repentance; they are never simultaneous though it may seem like it to us.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
I'm a big fan of what Warfield had to say about Chapter 10 of the Confession, touching on many of these matters, in his work arguing against revision of the Confession:

On the Revision of the Confession of Faith (1890)
Written by Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield in 1889 in opposition to modernists and others seeking to "downgrade" the confessional standards of the Church. In typical Warfield fashion, he provides brilliant insight into the substance of the debate and a devastating critique of the errors promulgated by Dr. Charles Briggs and others who would dilute the Westminster Standards.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Proposal to Revise the Westminster Confession
Chapter 2: What Is the "Confession of Faith"?
Chapter 3: Does the Confession Need Revision?
Chapter 4: The Presbyterian World and the Westminster Confession
Chapter 5: Confessional Subscription and Revision
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm just having a hard time practically seeing how a person could be regenerated by God's Spirit yet not even have heard of Jesus,

You don't have to have "heard of Jesus" to be saved. Most people in the OT hadn't "heard of Jesus" until the end of the OT period.

All you ordinarily need is a sure word from God by special revelation that He is willing and able to save; something solid to rest in.

You can't get this from general revelation, ordinarily anyway. Maybe never.

Maybe God used unwritten special revelation to convert John the Baptist in the womb? He was a prophet.

But again, this is speculation.
 

JoannaV

Puritan Board Sophomore
Without the Spirit even the clearest exposition of the Gospel is gibberish to man. Conversely, could not the Spirit make known the meaning of the Gospel to one who ordinarily does not comprehend language?

That's really the beginning and end of my thoughts on this.
 
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