Regeneration Precedes Faith Temporally (In Time)?

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Alexander, Aug 5, 2017.

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  1. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Of course.
    When u say, 'save', thats needs qualifying; read up on the order of salvation.
  2. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    They would need to have God grant them saving faith though still as you see it, correct?
  3. kainos01

    kainos01 Puritan Board Senior

    David, knowing some of your background, which you have shared here, I have an idea that this will be another area where you may be surprised to learn that there are those whose views don't fit the typical, broadly evangelical theology. (I know this, because I, too, come out of a broadly evangelical, SBC background).

    I don't want to high-jack this thread, so I encourage you to start a new one if you wish to pursue this line of thought, but the common idea of an "age of accountability" is not biblical. Even babies are sinners, justly condemned apart from saving grace. Further, there is quite an historic debate in Reformed circles as to whether all infants dying in infancy are saved (and, therefore, elect - see Hodge) or whether only elect infants (and, to carry out the logical inference: not non-elect infants) dying in infancy are saved.

    Again, if this is not an idea with which you are familiar, I would suggest you start a new thread exploring it. (If, on the other hand, my assumptions are unfounded, I apologize! In that case, disregard this post... and carry on.)
  4. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I do not hold that infants are not under the Fall if Adam and have Original Sin, and born as sinners, but so tend to see this as Hodge did, as God choosing to elect all of them into Christ, and to be saved by the atonement of the death of Jesus on their behalf. Where I might differ is that I see that as an act of God, and not infants putting saving faith in Jesus.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
  5. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Absolutely. No one is saved apart from faith.
  6. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    In the cases of infants dying in infancy, it is God bringing both, the inward and external call unto regeneration and conversion.
  7. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    So the big question would be then does God choose to save all of them, or just the children of saved parents?
  8. kainos01

    kainos01 Puritan Board Senior

    This is not really germane to the OP - that is why I suggested that you start a new thread if that was an issue you wanted to explore.
  9. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    The issue comes down to elect infants only-are all babies that die in infancy elect or is it just *elect* babies and then the other perish. I used to hold to only elect infants. Now, I see that the camp is split on the issue and the arguments for 'all' infants dying in infancy are elect are good arguments as well. So this is one of those things we leave to God.

    One of the issues w/ me was the flood. The scriptures tell us that all in the flood perished. It would be hard to imagine God rescuing infants from the flood being that the scriptures tell us that all perished. But hey, who am I to say?
  10. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    We began (or I got into the discussion) with the proposal that there is a common regenerated condition which is absent a living faith; and further, this condition is of indeterminate length sometimes associated with the baptism of infants, and the implanting of faith in seed form. This latter association was expressed so closely, that I assumed in essence the two ideas (regeneration & planting) were being presented as one.

    Now with respect to adults, and entirely apart from any baptismal interest, in the third place--in terms what may have come first in the discussion and devolved backwards into the infant connection-- we had introduced on the basis of regeneration-precedes-faith (a sturdy Reformed concept) the proposal that some (many or few) are spiritually alive and carrying on (for a long time or a short time; it is deliberately left adiaphora) while living faith is absent. Until conversion, and then faith comes alive.

    My issue was, and is, to challenge that adiaphora contention. The point seems to be that because regeneration is distinct from faith (or conversion) and precedes it necessarily, that the two may be also separated--not causally and absolutely, but temporally (minimizing proximate significance) and making regeneration functionally independent of faith.

    If regeneration can exist for any meaningful length of time apart from faith, then it is a functionally independent condition. That faith cannot be independent of regeneration is outside the debate; but the debate is on whether regeneration as a fully defined existent can go on existing if faith does not sustain it. We should oppose this idea, thereby raising our estimation of the indispensability of faith to the regenerated condition.

    And not simply the "presence" of faith, which is to say the "potential" of faith in a seed-form. This is not faith ALIVE. And if not faith alive, then it has no sustaining power for maintaining the divinely imparted life of regeneration. We are left with some sort of suspended-animation state of regeneration; or else the moment-by-moment divine miracle of regeneration maintenance which might on the theory last anywhere from three days to three decades (just picking numbers).

    The importance of conversion has been raised. I've not called the subject or its importance into question, by an emphasis on the active, living presence of faith even down to the spiritual motions of regenerated infants in the womb. Regenerated people believe (as I've stated repeatedly) as a matter of course; what I distinguish here I do not separate in any way/shape/form.

    Regenerated people also repent, because that's what truly converted people do. They repent according to the sin of which they are cognitively made aware. This is why discussion of repentance in the West.Stds. ever takes place in the immediate context of Sanctification. Repentance is to one degree or another tied to the will and affections. We speak about a "heart of repentance" (see Dt.30:10; 1Ki.18:37; 2Ki.23:25; Jol.2:12f), a disposition to forsake one's own will (the thoughts of his heart, Act.8:22) and have God's instead.

    If a very young child has been regenerated, and has a living faith so that we should say he is converted, then he also has a heart that has been given the ability to repent. This is not a natural disposition; we're taught, "the sorrow of the world worketh death," 2Cor.7:10. This child will evidence his disposition to give up his will to God's; but it will not be immediately evident to parents or others, any more than his faith is evident. Putting the religion he is taught into expressions of his own cognitive apparatus, and which others can cognitively recognize, takes the time of development.

    This is why we do not admit a baptized child to the Lord's Supper until he has made his own profession of faith. With that profession, and lack of scandal (not lack of sin), with some demonstrated awareness of repentance as a way of life, he is ready to take a seat with the rest of them who show the capacity to discern the Lord's body. It is not when he experienced regeneration and conversion, but that he is converted. He is now believing, now repenting, daily.

    John the Baptist did not merely have a seed of faith with the potential to believe. I'm not saying his case was not extraordinary (it was); but the text (Lk.1:44) is plain that he rejoiced. His faith came alive; his seed was germinated. He had a disposition toward his God and Savior (and not away from him), and that necessarily implies he was converted in the womb. I don't know if this has ever happened otherwise in all human history. But that does not concern me. JtB's infant-faith was primitive, his repentance was possibly more so. But that child was spiritually alive then, not at age 5yrs or some such.

    These issues about the moment a child's faith could possibly be germinated seem to distract from the primary issue. Except for the contention that conversion in its very nature is a matter of the intellect. I am saying: this is not fundamentally the case; but it is a matter of degree, suitable to the individual. Which is why considering the cases of all persons "incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word" is germane.

    We do not have to think in spiritual terms of the infant or the handicapped adult exclusive of conversion. In fact, we should contemplate the mystery of how God does in fact regenerate and convert such people. We don't have to arrive at certainty as to how he does his work; but we can rest in the assurance that he does for them by means suitable to them. Please, let's not think of them as unconverted, due to their cognitive limitations!

    Conversion guarantees the existence of spiritual capacities in a man, capacities lacking in the unconverted. How well they are exercised in a given individual is a effect of providence. But he is not prepared for eternal life without conversion. And being converted, he has living faith in the Person of trust. And has such repentance as is meet for him in his capacity.

    Regeneration issues in faith (alive), which is constituent of conversion. Faith (alive) sustains the state of regeneration. This was illustrated above by my car-key, engine-running analogy. Get ignition and the engine comes alive; it continues in the live state by "breathing." Cut off the air, and the thing dies. No one is questioning the proper ordo. It is regeneration, followed by faith. I object to the functional independence of regeneration, as though the state can exist (apart from ongoing supernatural intervention) if faith does not follow as a matter of course.

    Late-conversion for mature minds with ordinary faculties requires all the exercise of a developed cognitive apparatus, an actuated conscience, together with all the divinely supplied capacities without which no true spirituality is possible. There is no debate here. The issue continues to be creation of some "gap" between regeneration and the faith required to sustain it.
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  11. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Thanks for you thorough response. The faith the infant has is alive-it is in seed form. Conversion waters it and assist the growth.I never said the faith that an infant has is 'dead'. I don't believe any scinetist would say that a seed is dead, per se.

    'Seeds are plant embryos that will stay alive as long as they can on the nutrition stored in the endosperm until which time they are stimulated to germinate, or they run out of nutrients. Seeds are 100 % living while grains are the seeds that hav lost their viability and are dead.'
  12. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I'm pretty sure no one in the ancient world (or pretty much up through the 18thC) would have thought of an ungerminated seed as living. But as potential life. It is the "death of potential" that makes Paul's seed analogy work in 1Cor.15:36. If that seed died in a material sense, nothing would arise from that death.

    Seed-of-faith planted in baptism sufficed for some of the early reformers to explain why many should--but not all would--come eventually to a living faith. The equality of baptism implied equal potential for all recipients; the mystery of election explained why some seeds did not germinate.

    I have no delight in contending here for contending's sake. But for our active-faith sustaining the divine gift of life (in regeneration) I feel the importance of defending that clear teaching of Scripture.

    You are a dear brother.
  13. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Thank you for your patience and kind words. If you wouldn't mind, I am doing more research and will get back to you shortly as I would like to continue this conversation if you would allow me that grace?
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