Before or After

My blog runneth over. What all started at Jesus the Hyper-Calvinist, has burgeoned into L is for Effectual, Joey the Arminian, Whodunit, Santa the Arminian, Guess Who, Guest Post, You Might Be Arminian If…, What is an Arminian?, and No Creed But… And still it’s not enough — I get pleas for more!

I have created a new category of “Calvinism/Arminianism” to tag all of these.  And if I’ve learned one lesson from all of this, it is that People Love to Debate Calvinism!  (A truth surpassing People Love to Debate Theonomy!, and on par with Germans Love David Hasselhoff).  Therefore, I will not even present my own ideas, but simply lob a question which is critical to the debate, but which (believe it or not) has been almost entirely overlooked in this pantheon of threads (panthreadon?).

Which comes first: the born again (regeneration) or the faith?

This was one of the most surprising truths I learned from my Reformed church; that one is not born again as a result of faith (as I had always assumed growing up), but faith is made possible (and certain) only after Holy Spirit regeneration elevates you from your state of total depravity.  I think this question might be the most succint way to understand Calvinism (regeneration comes first) vs. Arminianism (faith comes first).

So what do you think?  More importantly, what does the Bible say?


36 Responses

  1. Greetings. Faith coes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. This isn’t an answer to your question; it’s just a truth. Thanks for sharing your thought and thinking on the things of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  2. since dead men can’t do anything, Jesus points out that we must be born again.

    Imagine going to a graveyard and yelling at the graves that you’d give them life-giving serum if they would just step forward and receive the gift.

    How many corpes would walk down the aisle? None.

    No, we would actualy have to take the corpse in our hands and administer the life-giving serum to the corpse ourselves.

    Likewise, the dead sinner cannot come forward and receive Christ by faith until Christ has made that sinner alive through the regenerating work of the holy spirit.

    That’s my two-cents, anyway.


  3. oh, btw, it follows from the above that since not all men are regenerated, and it’s not something we can do, Jesus chooses who he’ll regenerate, and regeneration is a necessary precondition to glorification. IOW, what we have in the Bible is nothing short of full-fledged Calvinism. :-)

  4. hey, i am no anti-itellectual (i had to deliberately wrestle my way out of secularism and then out of evangy’ism and finally found my home in the confessional-reformationism…it’s been a long haul, folks), but when do we say, “enough debating. the truth has been decided. now let’s move toward being nurtured in it.” i mean, to me, at some point, it’s almost like debating the resurrection or the color of the sky. my liberal dad keeps asking me about “just how true is this resurrectionn thing?” oy, dad, i don’t know what else to tell you, dude! it’s the same with these evangy’s and their arminianims-born-again-decisionism-blahblahblah.


    same for any opposed to calvinism or whatever.

    i say to my fellow reformed augustinian-calvinists…let them go! they don’t buy it. get on with nurturing yourself and your own in the truths of God and quit worrying about how many non-calvinists there are in the world. it really gets to be off-putting to me.

    sorry for that vent, rube. i know this is your home and i don’t want to be rude (well, maybe a little in order to get people’s attention), but that is just how i see it. i just wish we confessionalists would quit acting like fundy’s and be more interested in nurture than battle for its own sake.


  5. Regeneration precedes faith, yep.

  6. Forced regeneration sucks.

  7. I’ll be back in a few. I am going to an oral surgeon who is going to extract my tongue from my cheek.

    This issue brings up my (nearly) number one pet peeve. Christian elitism: you know (-2) Christian; (-1) born-again Christian (0) spirit-filled born-again Christian.

  8. Faith comes by hearing yes; and Jn 8:47 “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

  9. @zrim: “when do we say, ‘enough debating. the truth has been decided'”

    We have not reached a point where there is a consensus about the truth, and probably never will. I think the more relevant question is “when do we say, ‘enough debating. we both properly understand what each other are saying, and we will never agree'”

    My ultimate goal is for Albino to engage the Arminian label. As a pastor, it is at best disingenuous, and at worst dishonest, to say “I reject the labels Calvinist and Arminian”, when–to all appearances–the shoe labeled Arminian fits like a glove. If Albino can explain which parts of the Articles of Remonstrance he disagrees with (or provide some other credible definition of Arminian, and show how he disagrees with that), then I will stop labeling him an Arminian.

    In any case, with Albino on vacation for a week or so, it looks like the Arminians have left the building!

  10. rube,

    well…i guess my point is simply that i feels like an awful lot of head banging to get a guy like albino to do what you want. i understand your desire. but can’t we, as calvinists, say that he is an arminian despite his refusal to take the name? everything you say above is completely true about his being disingenuous, etc.

    but, when i found the reformation years ago, and went running to my REF pastor…well, you can imagine what i got. i was being quite naive and immature. it was so liberating to be able to realize that they do/think/say what they do/think/say because they have a very real and definite tradition.

    i mean, might not one walk down to the local RCC and tell the priest to re-think the Mass or papal authority? i mean, come on. albino is being true to his tradition in some ways: it’s part of a non-confessional/evangelical ethic to NOT want to be nailed down. in some ways, they love the antagonism because it fuels their conviction that they are “the real jesus people.” their template is experiential. so the more you push them to be confessional the more they get re-energized. they guy loves it. it’s like opposite magnets.

    the real remonstrants of old were confessional types. they had no problem fighting it out.

    today’s arminian beast is much more wily in this way. he refuses to be nailed down, no matter how much everything he says is arminian!

    i just wonder how much you may be missing this element of evangy’s by pushing him. they are not confessiuonal. they are the bible people. granted, they don’t realize that even mormons believe the bible! “the demons know Him and shake.” his “bible believing” you might as well be asking him whether he has stopped beatin ghis wife…he thinks your questioning is just dumb by its very nature. again, i am with you on the conclusions, etc., etc. we beging with very different assumptions when we deal with these types. i say shake the sandals off your feet, but do what you have to, guy. my money is on him never answering you the way you want him to. and he’s loving it for very understandable reasons.

    for what it’s worth,


  11. Zrim,

    Re: 11

    That’s a good point. A very good point.

    However, how did you discover reformation truth? You didn’t always believe it, so how did you come to believe it? Someone, somewhere refused to give up on you, and eventually you realized that it was true.

    You’re right, though. How effective can it be to tell the guy, hey, you’re wrong? But let’s remember that it didn’t begin that way.


  12. No one doubts that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ, that is the Scriptures, is that correct?

    So it is not possible for anyone to have faith without hearing the Scriptures preached to them, is that also correct according to Romans 10? (I don’t mean to get hung up on the definition of preaching here, only that someone has to proclaim to you the Word before you can have faith.)

    So hearing the Word MUST be prior to faith.

    But how come everyone who hears the Word doesn’t have faith? What’s different about those in whom the Word produces faith?


  13. I purposely started a new post, to distinguish the argument from its support, to make it simpler.

    Francis Turretin writes:

    …here pertain the various passages of Scripture in which grace is proposed as necessary for the reception of the Word; as when the psalmist seeks “that his eyes may be opened, that he may behold wondrous things out of the law” (Ps 119:18) and Paul prays for the Ephesians to be given “the Spitit of wisdom and revelation”; to wit, that the eyes of the understanding may be “enlightened,” that they may know “the hope of his calling,” and the “riches of the glory in the saints” (Eph 1:17,18). Christ is said “to have opened the understanding of the disciples, that they might understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:45). He is not said to have only “explained the Scripture” as he did to the disciples at Emmaus (v32) which belonged to external preaching; but to have “opened their understanding,” which implies the power and efficacy of the Spirit operating within and illuminating the understanding. God is elsewhere said “to open the ear” (Is 48:8; 50:5) for those whom he disposes to hear the Word preached and see miracles, unless God gives eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand (Dt 29:3,4). In the same sense, God is said “to have opened the heart of Lydia, that she might attend unto the things which were spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). From this it is clear that the opening of the eyes and of the heart is set forth as a means to attention or understanding of the Word and to obedience of faith, without which they could not be obtained. For if the heart ought to be opened to attend to the Word, it could not therefore be opened by the Word, but ought to be opened antecendently to the reception of the Word. The nature of the thing itself demands this; for since attention to the Word cannot be in a closed but in an open heart, it must necessarily be supposed to be open in order to attend to it. Nor can that opening be secured only by the Word, since it could not secure that except as received into the heart by attention (which already supposes the opening). Therefore since that opening signifies the removal of all the obstacles which hinder the ingress and fruit of the Word (which occur in the understanding and will, as well as in the affections), it ought necessarily to be made by grace as distinct from the Word.

    Vain is the objection urged here by the Remonstrants that this opening of the heart could be made also by the Word, as elsewhere Paul is said “to have been sent to the Gentiles to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18). And thus it does not differ from attention, but is used for one and the same thing. Thus God is said to have opened their heart when they attended to the words of Paul. Nothing else is meant than that the preaching of Paul was efficacious and that the praise of this efficaciousness should be ascribed to God, the prime mover of all things. For although the opening of the heart is objectively asceibed to the Word also in its own manner (inasmuch as it can be done by a moral cause because it usually takes place not without the Word, but at its presence) and is ascribed to the ministers of the Word instrumentally because they are the instruments employed by God in this work, still it cannot be brought about simply by the Word or by the Word presented by men of God, unless the Word approaches with the internal power of the Spirit distinct from the Word (by whose intervention the Word presented from without to the mind may be received by it with faith). Luke distinctly declares this when he says that Lydia first “heard Paul” (i.e., was present at his preaching and received his word into her ears). For the orator would strike the ears in vain unless the Creator would unlock the heart. In vain would the Word beat at the door of the heart closed by unbelief and ignorance, unless it were opened by the grace of God working the very thing which it enjoined. On this account, he adds that God opened her heart that she might attend to the things taught by Paul, marking the end and effect of that opening. And thus three things are here distinctly enumerated as occurring in effectual calling: (a) the action of Paul preaching; (b) the action of God opening the heart; (c) the action of Lydia with opened heart embracing the Word by faith. These three flow spontaneously from the words of Luke, so that we are not to have recourse to the figure hendiadys – that the opening of the heart and the attention are used for one and the same thing (which everyone can see would be forced and unsuitable to the words of Luke). If elsewhere man is commanded to open his heart (Rev 3:20), this is to denote his duty, not his strength. Again, it properly relates to those already called. Third, it is not done without the grace of God, which as it knocks acting objectively, so it opens the heart for itself working subjectively.

    He goes on to discuss “passages in which the power of the Spirit is distinguished from the Word.” 1 Thess 1:5, 1 Cor 3:6-9. He cites Calvin: “God works in two ways in his elect, externally by the Word, internally by the Spirit.”

    He then goes on to discuss “passages which speak of the internal action of God.”

    He then talks about why this (that the action of God in the heart – regeneration – must precede the hearing of the Word that results in faith) is both necessary and possible.

    Finally he discusses “absurdities” that result from adopting the opposite view. I would type some of it in for you, but this section is like 4 pages.


  14. hey, echo.

    you asked:

    “However, how did you discover reformation truth? You didn’t always believe it, so how did you come to believe it? Someone, somewhere refused to give up on you, and eventually you realized that it was true.”

    i suppose i am something of an exception. no, there was nobody who “didn’t give up on me.” i grew up secular, converted in college, married and “discipled into” REF (revival-evangy-fundy) or an IFCA church.

    granted, my initial and more general conversion came at the very awkward hands of a guy i worked with who was quite REFy/willow creek (as much as i disdain that stuff now, they must be given their props).

    no, the deliberate move to reformation was “all me,” so to speak. nobody helped me one iota. my biological family was mainline/secular an dmy extended family was REF and thought i had gone over to the dark side (still do, even though we maintain very good civil relations). when i found the rformation i went running to my REF pastor. he said of grace, “Yeah, yeah, i now all about that. give them an inch and they will take a mile.” that said it all and i said, “see ya round, pastor,” figuratively speaking.

    nobody helped me, nobody engaged me, nobody fought with me. guess it was all God’s doing, eh?


  15. Check out my post on atheist eschatology,

  16. Zrim,

    So you’re saying you didn’t read a book or anything, you just one day became reformed, like spontaneous combustion?


  17. hey, echo.

    no, no, that is not what i am saying…of course.

    my ongoing point simply is that i have come to the place where i have understood that the best of the CRO (confessionally reformed orthodoxy)tradition i smuch different han that of the REF or evangelical one. the former understands nurture while the latter understands battle. what i intuit from our tradition is much more concerned with knowing that we have the truth, that we must seek to hold to it, that we must resist all that comes against it, that we seek to engender the faith to the next generation, etc. the REF tradition doesn’t understand this ethic very well at all. it very much tends to do bare-knuckled battle, places little value on nurture for the sake of gaining converts, starting from scratch. i think this is why the CRO tradition tends to alwyas maintain strong figures since it focuses on nurturing its own, while REF doesn’t. REF has fifures on its front lines that tend to have been converted “a week ago,” whereas COR’s leaders are ones who were born, baptized, catechized and basically nurtured to the Lord’s table their whole lives.

    when COR’s begin to ape REF’s in attempts to appease the predominant emphaises on evangelism, missiology, etc. i find it quite pathetic and sad. this is not at all to take anything away from a proper and well-tutored sense of missiological endeavor, etc. however it is to say we ought to recognize what our tradition emphasizes. when we begin to act like REF’s is when i think we see what Clark has called “reformed jerks.” we have the truth hands down. if we don’t appreciate things in the way i suggest (albeit very feebly, i admit!) we tend to offend unnecessarily and get not a little bit haughty–and i think you know exactly what i am talking about.

    hey, when someone outside COR engages me i will admit i get cast as a jerk simply for witnessing to the truth. it is what it is, friend (see mu comments above about what i figuratively say to my liberal father). there is nothing wrong with passion for the truth either.

    for what it is worth,


  18. Zrim,

    Well, I know what you mean.

    Everyone on this blog that disagrees with me detests me because I say, “This is what the Bible says…” and anyone who says different is wrong.

    Well, of course they detest me for it. I’m telling them they’re wrong. They consider it a personal attack. It can never be about ideas. It cannot be about whether election is true or false, it has to be about whether I’m being judgmental. It’s completely irrational and emotional, and I can’t wade my way through it.

    The sky is red.



    “The doctrine of justification itself, as preached by an Arminian, is nothing but the doctrine of salvation by works…” — C.H. Spurgeon

    Praised by many evangelicals as a great preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon is considered a successful and “safe” example of a “non-theological” ministry. His works are recommended as a means to lead many aspiring pastors into developing their own successful ministries. His Lectures to My Students are often used for this purpose, emphasizing the “practical” aspects of evangelism. But while the form of Spurgeon’s successful preaching is often studied by would-be pastors, the content of this Christian giant’s preaching and teaching is often ignored. Rather Spurgeon is popularly thought to have heartily approved of the same theology that is presently dominating American culture: Arminianism.

    Many Christian leaders, for instance, like to point out Spurgeon as one who also had no formal college training. They ignore the fact that he had a personal library containing more that 10,000 books.1 It is further argued that the success of his ministry in the mid-to-late 19th century was due to his anti-intellectual piety, “his yieldedness to the Spirit,” and his Arminianism. The fact is, Spurgeon was not anti-intellectual, nor did he entertain delusions of being so holy that he could allow God to work only if he was “yielded.” Most importantly, he was not an Arminian. He was a staunch Calvinist who opposed the dominant religious view of his day (and of ours), Arminianism.2 Even toward the end of his life he could write, “From this doctrine I have not departed to this day.” 3 He was grateful that he never wavered from his Calvinism.4 “There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrine of grace than do I…”5 Reading Spurgeon’s beliefs, one will see that this tremendously fruitful ministry was built upon the preaching of the biblical gospel.

    In his work, “A Defence of Calvinism,” he states unequivocally: [T]here is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation

    Here Spurgeon affirms his agreement with what are usually called “The Five Points of Calvinism.” Spurgeon’s own summation was much shorter: A Calvinist believes that salvation is of the Lord.7 Selections from his sermons and writings on these subjects make his position clear.

    Regarding Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace:
    When you say, “Can God make me become a Christian?” I tell you yes, for herein rests the power of the gospel. It does not ask your consent; but it gets it. It does not say, “Will you have it?” but it makes you willing in the day of God’s power….The gospel wants not your consent, it gets it. It knocks the enmity out of your heart. You say, I do not want to be saved; Christ says you shall be. He makes our will turn round, and then you cry,”‘Lord save, or I perish!”8

    Regarding Unconditional Election:
    I do not hesitate to say, that next to the doctrine of the crucifixion and the resurrection of our blessed Lord–no doctrine had such prominence in the early Christian Church as the doctrine of the election of grace.9 And when confronted with the discomfort this doctrine would bring, he responded with little sympathy: “‘I do not like it [divine election],’ saith one. Well, I thought you would not; whoever dreamed you would?”10

    Regarding Particular Atonement:
    [I]f it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has he been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood.11

    He has punished Christ, why should He punish twice for one offence? Christ has died for all His people’s sins, and if thou art in the covenant, thou art one of Christ’s people. Damned thou canst not be. Suffer for thy sins thou canst not. Until God can be unjust, and demand two payments for one debt, He cannot destroy the soul for whom Jesus died.12

    Regarding the Perseverance of the Saints:
    I do not know how some people, who believe that a Christian can fall from grace, manage to be happy. It must be a very commendable thing in them to be able to get through a day without despair. If I did not believe in the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort.13

    The selections above indicate that C. H. Spurgeon was without a doubt an affirmed, self-professing Calvinist who made his ministry’s success dependent upon truth, unwilling to consider the “Five Points of Calvinism” as separate, sterile categories to be memorized and believed in isolation from each other or Scripture. He often blended the truths represented by the Five Points, because they actually are mutually supportive parts of a whole, and not five little sections of faith added to one’s collection of Christian beliefs. Spurgeon never presented them as independent oddities to be believed as the sum of Christianity. Rather, he preached a positive gospel, ever mindful that these beliefs were only part of the whole counsel of God and not the sum total. These points were helpful, defensive summaries, but they did not take the place of the vast theater of redemption within which God’s complete and eternal plan was worked out in the Old and New Testaments.

    Certain that the Cross was an offense and stumbling block, Spurgeon was unwilling to make the gospel more acceptable to the lost. “The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, is the truth that I must preach today, or else be false to my conscience and to God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine.”14 Elsewhere he challenged “I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible….Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be heresy…”15 Spurgeon believed that the price of ridicule and rejection was not counted so high that he should refuse to preach this gospel: “[W]e are reckoned the scum of creation; scarcely a minister looks on us or speaks favorable of us, because we hold strong vies upon the divine sovereignty of God, and his divine electings and special love towards His own people.”16

    Then, as now, the dominant objection to such preaching was that it would lead to licentious living. Since Christ “did it all,” there was no need for them to obey the commands of Scripture. Aside from the fact that we should not let sinful people decide what kind of gospel we will preach, Spurgeon had his own rebuttals to this confusion:

    [I]t is often said that the doctrines we believe have a tendency to lead us to sin….I ask the man who dares to say that Calvinism is a licentious religion, what he thinks of the character of Augustine, or Calvin, or Whitefield, who in successive ages were the great exponents of the systems of grace; or what will he say of the Puritans, whose works are full of them? Had a man been an Arminian in those days, he would have been accounted the vilest heretic breathing, but now we are looked upon as the heretics, and they as orthodox. We have gone back to the old school; we can trace our descent from the apostles….We can run a golden line up to Jesus Christ Himself, through a holy succession of mighty fathers, who all held these glorious truths; and we can ask concerning them, “Where will you find holier and better men in the world?”17

    His attitude toward those who would distort the gospel for their own ideas of “holiness” is clear from the following: No doctrine is so calculated to preserve a man from sin as the doctrine of the grace of God. Those who have called it ‘a licentious doctrine’ did not know anything at all about it. Poor ignorant things, they little knew that their own vile stuff was the most licentious doctrine under Heaven.18

    According to Spurgeon (and Scripture as well), the response of gratitude is the motive for holy living, not the uncertain status of the believer under the influence of Arminianism and its accompanying legalism. “The tendency of Arminianism is towards legality; it is nothing but legality which lays at the root of Arminianism.”19 He was very clear on the dangerous relationship of Arminianism to legalism: “Do you not see at once that this is legality–that this is hanging our salvation upon our work–that this is making our eternal life to depend upon something we do? Nay, the doctrine of justification itself, as preached by an Arminianism, is nothing but the doctrine of salvation by works….”20

    A status before God based upon how we “use” Christ and the Spirit to feign righteousness was a legalism hated by Spurgeon. As in our day, Spurgeon saw that one of the strongholds of Arminianism included the independent churches.21 Arminianism was a natural, God-rejecting, self-exalting religion and heresy.22 As Spurgeon believed, we are born Arminians by nature.23 He saw this natural aversion to God as encouraged by believing self-centered, self-exalting fancies. “If you believe that everything turns upon the free-will of man, you will naturally have man as its principal figure in your landscape.”24 And again he affirms the remedy for this confusion to be true doctrine. “I believe that very much of current Arminianism is simply ignorance of gospel doctrine.”25 Further, “I do not serve the god of the Arminians at all; I have nothing to do with him, and I do not bow down before the Baal they have set up; he is not my God, nor shall he ever be; I fear him not, nor tremble at his presence…The God that saith today and denieth tomorrow, that justifieth today and condemns the next…is no relation to my God in the least degree. He may be a relation of Ashtaroth or Baal, but Jehovah never was or can be his name.”26 Refusing to compromise the gospel in any way, he soundly refuted and rejected common attempts to unite Calvinism and Arminianism into a synthesized belief. Nor would he downplay the importance of the differences between the two systems:

    This may seem to you to be of little consequence, but it really is a matter of life and death. I would plead with every Christian–think it over, my dear brother. When some of us preach Calvinism, and some Arminianism, we cannot both be right; it is of not use trying to think we can be–‘Yes,’ and ‘no,’ cannot both be true.Truth does not vacillate like the pendulum which shakes backwards and forwards….One must be right; the other wrong.27

    Alan Maben


    1. Walter A. Elwell, ed. Evangelical Dictonary of Theology (Grand Rapids,
    Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984), s.v. “Spurgeon, Charles Haddon,” by J. E. Johnson. 2. From sermon cited in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon, 2d ed., (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986), 52. 3. “A Defense of Calvinism,” by C. H. Spurgeon, in C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, eds. S. Spurgeon and J. Harrold, Rev ed., vol I, The Early Years 1834-1859 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1976: reprint), 165. 4. J. E. Johnson, 1051 5. Spurgeon, “A Defense of Calvinism,” 173. 6. Ibid. 168. 7. Ibid., 168. 8. As cited in Murray, 93. 9. From a sermon cited in Murray, Ibid., 44. 10. Ibid., 60. 11. Spurgeon, 172. 12. From a sermon cited in Murray, 245. 13. Spurgeon, 169. 14. Ibid., 162. 15. Ibid., 168. 16. Murray, 168. 17. Spurgeon, 174. 18. Ibid. 19. Murray, 79. 20. Ibid., 81. 21. Murray, 53. 22. spurgeon, 168. 23. Ibid., 164. 24. Murray, 111. 25. Ibid., 68. 26. Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 6 (Baker, 1989), p.241 27. Murray, op. cit., 57.

    Recommended Works:

    Murray, Iain. The Forgotten Spurgeon, 2d ed. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986; reprint. Spurgeon, Charles H. “A Defence of Calvinism” in C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography. Edited by S. Spurgeon and J. Harrald. Rev. ed. Vol I, The Early Years 1834-1859. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976; reprint. Spurgeon, Charles H. New Park Street Pulpit. A collection of his sermons. Spurgeon, Charles H. Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. A collection of his sermons.

    Alan Maben is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach and Simon Greenleaf School of Law

    1992, 1999 Reprinted by permission of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, 1716 Spruce Street, Philadelphia PA19103.

  20. I liked that article, thought I’d share it with ya’s.


  21. i hate making sore souls feel any worse than they do, but you two seem to make my overall case with regard to the delicate balance between nurture and battle.

    there is a time for battle (and place, BTW, an di have yet to be convinced the internet, cyber space, etc., etc. is the place for such exchanges), and for nurture.

    it’s not that i have anything against battle; paul is clear about that as well as the christian tradition. but in my read of good confessionalism we ought to be much more characterized by nurture, nurturiin gour own.

    certain doctrines, etc. ought to be views as settled and woven into our nurturance. for example, we should be more about weaving our deeply nuanced and carefully worked out confession into our children, rather than broadly making arminians calvinists, so to speak. arguing in order to be right seems quite left of center; arguing in order to settle a matter and then nurture it seems more fitting in the confessional tradition.

    having no idea if these sorts of ideas take for anyone out there,


  22. Zrim,

    Re: 43,45

    I don’t get it. Resay what you’re saying in different words.

    You say there’s a time for battle and a time for nurture. Define battle, define nurture, define the difference between the two, and explain why these are the only two options. Further, what doctrines are “settled” when Christians don’t all agree on just about every doctrine? Even the divinity of Jesus Christ isn’t settled if you’re talking to a Unitarian. Granted, this is no longer a Christian, but still, what exactly DO we consider to be “settled”? True, arguing only to be right is evil, while arguing for the purpose of convincing, helping, etc is good, but the line between the two is so fine that it is easily crossed, because we are wicked and idolatrous. Everything we do is tainted with sin. So what do you mean?

    Further, what do you mean that you wonder about cyber repentance and forgiveness? Do you wonder about cyber arrogance? If I act arrogantly on this blog, can I only confess that in person? The arrogance here is real; can’t the confession be as well? What do you mean by saying, here I am, and yet you can see some benefits? What are you trying to say, that you don’t like blogs? I’m not sure why you would say that on a blog. Or maybe you’re saying that you like it and yet you don’t like it. I don’t know what to tell ya in this regard. I don’t know quite what you mean anyway.


  23. You say there’s a time for battle and a time for nurture. Define battle, define nurture, define the difference between the two, and explain why these are the only two options
    Zrim: well, I am not so sure I mean to say these are the only two options. But they seem pretty dominant. We live in a context, it seems to me, dominanted by Evangelical categories and ethics…and this at the expense of what I consider the best of a confessional ethic. Battle is contending for the truth claims of CRO. It most certainly must be done. And we most certainly must be about resisting the onslaughts that come against it (Liberalism, Evangelicalism to name but only two out of oh, so many). While I would not be caught dead back in my Evangy circles, I have little need to show them where they are wrong or to witch hunt them. I will engage them when prompted, etc. But I don’t go looking for an Arminian to pounce on (My whole extended family are Arminian Evangy’s!); rather I wish to seek the nurture of the good confessional faith. When we battle Arminians, for example, we are acting from an Evangy ethic, one that emphasizes battle. In the best of CRO I find an emphasis on nurture. We must choose our emphasis (contra the idea that we can do both equally—that is BS). You have heard the charge, for example, that we Calvinists are really pretty bad at evangelizing? That problem is laid at the feet of our calvinism (election, predestination, etc.) That is hogwash. We are pereceived as being bad at it because 1) it is usually a charge brought against us by Evangy’s who emphasize evangelism and 2) CRO emphasizes nurture of its own. We are not “bad at evangelism.” Because we do it from a CRO perspective the case could be made that we do it better. That we don’t do it like Evangy’s doesn’t mean we do it badly. And so what do you see CRO’s doing so often? You see them pathetically hurrying about, trying to appease the evangy’s charge that we don’t have a good missiological sense: “Oh no, let’s start filling up stadiums, get out the mega church play books, we gotta show them we care about evangelizing…you go out on the street corner and you start bugging everyone at work and you start….” pathetic.
    Further, what doctrines are “settled” when Christians don’t all agree on just about every doctrine? Even the divinity of Jesus Christ isn’t settled if you’re talking to a Unitarian. Granted, this is no longer a Christian, but still, what exactly DO we consider to be “settled”?
    Zrim: What I mean by ‘settled,’ I suppose, is all that we find in CRO (confessional Reformed orthodoxy). The 3 forms of unity, for example. If you deny what is put forth you are wrong. We can and must find solace in our assertions of the truth. Want to know whatthe nature of faith and grace is? Look to the canons. What we say there is the final word because it faithfully exposits scripture. The divinity of Christ IS settled, there are no more arguments to be entertained. The Unitarian can bicker all he wants, but he is wrong, and no amount of fighting with him will change it. We have a radical intolerance for cultic truth. This may sound quite arrogant, but I have no conflict with whatever conclusions some might have. This is not to say we cannot engage and do battle. But at some point we must shake the dust from our sandals.
    True, arguing only to be right is evil, while arguing for the purpose of convincing, helping, etc is good, but the line between the two is so fine that it is easily crossed, because we are wicked and idolatrous. Everything we do is tainted with sin. So what do you mean?
    Zrim: very good point and one that goes to another I wish to make. What I am saying itself isn’t perfect! And if we were to employ what I am saying, which is basically saying we have to pick our emphases, we will do so very imperfectly.
    Further, what do you mean that you wonder about cyber repentance and forgiveness?
    Zrim: your previous display above which lays out your soul publically over some things you said/tones you employed/implications you made. You won’t like this, but we don’t need to see that, do we? Would it not be enough to have more decorum and simply apologize?
    Do you wonder about cyber arrogance? If I act arrogantly on this blog, can I only confess that in person? The arrogance here is real; can’t the confession be as well?
    Zrim: Well, I am also thinking out loud here, echo, and this is a whole different dimension from the nurture/battle questions I raise. I wonder about acting in ways in cyber space that are only appropriate in person, yes. Your acceptance that what happens here is “real” discomforts me, yes. Do you have any sort of intuition for how odd it is for persons to be represented in a one-dimensional blog or comment section?
    What do you mean by saying, here I am, and yet you can see some benefits?
    Zrim: I am taking note of my apparent hypocrisy! I am saying that blogosphere seems to have its benefits yet also its weirdness to it, don’t you think? By benefits, I mean I can get some good info, etc. Don’t you ever find that you are completely misunderstood by what you write and try to shove into a comment section? I mean, this isn’t me! I have been interepreted at times to be a real SOB; I put that up against my multi-faceted experience in the real world and go, “whoa! I didn’t think I was such a jerk!”
    What are you trying to say, that you don’t like blogs?
    Zrim: um, in some sense, yes. I find almost more problems with it than benefits.
    I’m not sure why you would say that on a blog.
    Zrim: good one. me neither. Are you beginning to “feel me”?
    Or maybe you’re saying that you like it and yet you don’t like it. I don’t know what to tell ya in this regard. I don’t know quite what you mean anyway.

    Zrim: come on, echo. You’re a smart guy. Ugh…see this is why I hate blogs


  24. some more ruminations on this whole idea of the confessional ehtic as it emphasizes nurture:

    “Christianity of the evangelical variety has historically struggled with the question of succession. How does the conversion experience become a model for nurture? Countless evangelical converts, having left behind a life of sin and irreligion, face a difficult task when thinking about passing on the faith to their offspring. Do they encourage their children to pursue the life they did, one of rebellion followed by the ecstasy of regeneration, so that their sons and daughters will come to genuine faith? Not likely. Much more common is the decision to rear their children in the beliefs and practices of the faith, even when such instruction and nurture flatly contradict the model of the conversion experience. After all, turning to God’s mercy is much easier after a life of drugs and sex than it is after a wholesome upbringing of church attendance, family devotions and Bible memorization.” DG Hart, Deconstructing, Evangelicalism, page 109.

    There is always the question of the perpetuation of the faith. The sky is blue, two and two are four and people pass down their systems of belief—be they sacred or secular—to their children, to subsequent generations. This phenomenon is natural and programmed into the human condition.

    Hart recognizes the problems in the Evangelical ethic in this regard, that is, how the system is passed down to younger generations specifically. However, I think it would be worth while to plot out the differences generally between the confessional and the Evangelical ethic when it comes to the perpetuation of faith.

    Very often, the Reformed are accused of not being particularly strong when it comes to evangelism. This is usually laid at the doorstep of our Calvinism, the doctrine of predestination or election, the denial of a free will, up-playing the work and sovereignty of God, etc. This, I think, is a great miscalculation. It is certainly very easy to see how this mistake is made: why do anything when it is all God’s work? Further, I am not beyond admitting that a wrong-headed application of Calvinism to missiological endeavor can happen. However, it seems to me that if the accusation is to make sense it must be laid squarely at the feet of that great error called hyper-Calvinism, which is decidedly rejected by the best of our Reformed tradition and properly marginalized by the large majority.

    No, there is something else at work with regard to our perceived “weakness” in terms of evangelism or missions. It isn’t our Calvinism. That’s a very superficial read that is overly preoccupied with the five points or other finer points of soteriology. What divides the Reformed from the Evangelical is not merely the Canons, as if one were to say that once that issue is resolved good Reformed Calvinists would be content—because we wouldn’t. What is actually going on here is a difference in how we perceive the faith being perpetuated. We have an ethic that knows an inherited faith, one that is handed down, one that is couched in a covenant theology. It begins with covenant baptism of children. From there, the faith is more handed down from within than it is propagated amongst the outside world. This would force another take on the term “weakness.” It is not a weakness if we truly understand this dimension of a confessional tradition. That it is a perceived as a weakness per se is to reveal an underlying Evangelical ethic, which is itself informed by many non-confessional tributaries, including a hard-edged individualism.

    This is not to say that the Evangelical has no consciousness toward his children any more than it is to say that the confessionalist has none for evangelism or missions. Reformed evangelize and Evangelical teach their children. But it is a matter of emphasis because of the set of assumptions informing how the faith is perpetuated.

    But let’s come back to the category called the perpetuation of the faith. The confessionalist is more in line with the natural order of things as mentioned above. Look around any church of any tradition and the Evangelical ethic quickly falls apart. Most heads in pews are there because they have indeed inherited the faith of their forebears. Most are not, in point of fact, made up of converts from the outside the group, no matter what religious tradition. Indeed, even outside any cultic activity, cultural systems are primarily handed down. I would hazard to guess that most Americans were born such and not made up of those from other countries (I could be wrong, I don’t have hard, brute facts but it sure seems common sense to assume as much). These things, cultic or cultural, are handed down, nurtured, perpetuated by a younger generation that begins by mimicking the elder generation and then internalizing that system through a natural human maturing. The Evangelical finds such a passive and corporate ethic rather distasteful and not conducive to good individualized and privatized faith. He may allow for an American father to produce an American son; he may allow for that same son to ape his father’s politics, for example, at a very young age, even when the son has no conception of what he speaks. Not so in the cultic sphere. A son parroting back catechatical answers to questions is seen as stifling and an obstacle to an inward, personal, individualized and untouchable faith. It must bubble up from within the purity of the child and not be merely handed down and injected into from the outside a sinful creature. When the confessionalist is comfortable with the notion that a child of the covenant imitates his father’s faith or the idea that “the father believes for the child and thereby teaches the child what belief is” it makes the Evangelical positively bristle.

    It may be of interest to point out that this writer is a former outsider who was not reared in faith. Having been largely converted at the hands of the Evangelical Willow Creek model, it might be assumed that I would have much more sympathy for the Evangelical ethic. Maybe it’s the fact that I have two children now and find myself with much more opportunity, and a stronger sense of duty, to nurture faith in my children than persuade outsiders. That is to say, even for the Evangelical, one must admit that in a given week there are twenty opportunities to nurture one’s children to every one shot at having a meaningful discussion with a whole swath of folks who could really care less. Not only that, it’s easier and more rewarding to mold pliable and willing children than to risk getting into a fight with a co-worker or alienating an unbelieving family member! Evangelicals themselves must admit that even their evangelism model, which expects high-octane witnessing in the real world, does not recognize just plain real life: most folks around us in the world simply don’t care much. Perhaps my confessional assumption that evangelism is for church officers and those ordained for such work is feeding in here as well, but my reality as I live and move in the real world is that the Gospel is not the first thing folks want to discuss. But, as Hart points out above, it is a model fraught with bad assumptions. First, it makes presumptions about non-faith being merely about immoral behavior. This is to be expected in a paradigm that embraces American notions of religion being understood in simply moral categories. The categories that distinguish between those inside and those outside are broken into simplistic divisions that make no room for the complexities of human existence. Non-Christians can be moral and Christians can be sinful. So how is that resolved? But beyond that, the Evangelical system has no good way to address the natural order of things, namely how a faith is perpetuated. And the reality of even Evangelical realities is that most are made up of those who inherited a faith. That is, their system of emphasis (evangelism of the outsider versus the nurture of the covenant child) doesn’t square well with their reality. And busy looking out the front door of the church for more newbies to join in, so to speak, one has to wonder what level of quality is given to the handing down aspect of the faith that moves beyond a sort of osmosis effect, a pick-it-up-as-you-go phenomenon assumed toward the next generation. In this way, the Evangelical ethic reflects the ability to be a better Americans than Christians.

    As Reformed Christians committed to confessionalism we ought to see that our promotion and perpetuation of the faith ought to be through churchly means. We ought not be taken with the means so popular in our day that rely on the things the world considers effective. The elements of power, influence, celebrity, sentiment, experience, moral and spiritual devotions, religiosity, politics, entertainmenrt, etc. are inappropriate and contrary to the very Kingdom of God. Paul boasted of his foolishness and weakness. The Refomeed doctrine of simplicitry ought to be captured again in how we go about both our worship and church life in general. We should not see ourselves as agents for worldly influence and change but as the light that stands in the midst of darkness. The light does not transform the darkness but simply burns in its midst.

  25. Zrim,

    Re: 50

    Oh, ok. I see your point. Good one. More confessionalism. I agree. I was beginning to think the same thing.


  26. Zrim,

    Re: 52

    I see your point, and in large part I agree with you.

    But let me ask you this: is our mission, that is, the church’s mission, to perpetuate the faith?

    Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
    Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
    Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    Here is the church’s mission. So you’re right, we have a profound obligation to nurture our children, making disciples of them. In the same way, the church is charged to make disciples out of all the flock.

    But is that all it says? Jesus also said, “Go”. Go where? To “all nations”. Spread the Word, he says, don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t neglect yourselves, nuture yourselves, but don’t keep it to yourselves.

    In other words, Jesus did not say go out into the wilderness and make communities where you are isolated from the world. Be in the world, but not only that, spread the Word. Make disciples not just of yourselves and your children – be sure to do that – but of all nations.

    Jesus does not call us to merely look inward. I agree that being raised in church is good, but I also know that being converted is good as well. Whatever we think about that, we have to ask ourselves if Arminians require conversion, or if they simply require nurturing. They are not necessarily unbelievers, though they may be, just as the reformed may be unbelievers. But they confess the name of Jesus as Savior, so we ought to give them the benefit of the doubt. Something around 95% of the pastors in the OPC were not raised reformed. Think about that. Many in the OPC were not raised reformed, but they came to escape the famine and all the nonsense out there.

    In the CRC, I know it’s different. The CRC is a Dutch thing typically, and they seem to live in enclaves, apart from the world as much as possible. I don’t think that’s necessarily the best thing to do.

    But whatever. You’re right, we don’t want to overemphasize evangelism to the exclusion of nurture, because the fact of the matter is that the VAST majority of the people in the church have been raised in church. And yeah, we need to be a witness in the community, giving people every opportunity to find us. And I am not one for street evangelism and the like. Outreach of some kind is good, but you’re right, the main means of grace are the preaching of the Word and the sacraments. The mission of the church really boils down to Word and sacrament.


  27. Zrim,

    Q62: What is the visible church?
    A62: The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion,[1] and of their children.[2]

    1. I Cor. 1:2; 12:13; Rom. 15:9-12; Rev. 7:9; Psa. 2:8; 22:27-31; 45:17; Matt. 28:19-20; Isa. 59:21
    2. I Cor. 7:14; Acts 2:39; Rom. 11:16; Gen. 17:7

    Q63: What are the special privileges of the visible church?
    A63: The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government;[1] of being protected and preserved in all ages, not withstanding the opposition of all enemies;[2] and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation,[3] and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved,[4] and excluding none that will come unto him.[5]

    1. Isa. 4:5-6; I Tim. 4:10
    2. Psa. 115:1-2, 9: Isa. 31:4-5; Zech. 12:2-4, 8-9
    3. Acts 2:39, 42
    4. Psa. 147:19-20; Rom. 9:4; Eph. 4:11-12; Mark 16:15-16
    5. John 6:37

    Q67: What is effectual calling?
    A67: Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace,[1] whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto [2]) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit;[3] savingly enlightening their minds,[4] renewing and powerfully determining their wills,[5] so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.[6]

    1. John 5:25; Eph. 1:18-20; II Tim. 1:8-9
    2. Titus. 3:4-5; Eph. 2:4-5, 7-9; Rom. 9:11
    3. II Cor. 5:20; 6:1-2; John 6:44; II Thess. 2:13-14
    4. Acts 26:18; I Cor. 2:10, 12
    5. Ezek. 11:19; 36:26-27; John 6:45
    6. Eph. 2:5; Phil. 2:13; Deut. 30:6

    Q68: Are the elect only effectually called?
    A68: All the elect, and they only, are effectually called;[1] although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word,[2] and have some common operations of the Spirit;[3] who, for their wilful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.[4]

    1. Acts 13:48
    2. Matt. 22:14
    3. Matt. 7:22; 13:20-21; Heb. 6:4-6
    4. John 6:64-65; 12:38-30; Acts 18:25-27; Psa. 81:11-12

  28. Rube,

    Maybe a new thread is in order. And maybe we could drop this Arminian business for a while. (Gospel)


  29. Indeed, I’m tired of Arminianism too (I asked Albino to post his response to the Articles as a fresh thread on his blog), and the next post in this series has been in draft for at least two weeks, and I have some new stuff to say about Theonomy…

    Oh wait, did you say something?

  30. Huh?

  31. hey, echo.

    good stuff. you see my point, i think.

    remember, i am not saying we ought to neglect mission. we are called to “those who are far off,” for sure.

    and remember that when Jesus is addressing “you” in His charge to make disciples He is addressing the officers of the church, thus i underemphasize the idea that laypeople are called to do the work of evangelists.

    my larger point is simply that we must choose an emphasis between nurture and (what i call for better or worse) battle. there is a reason confessional reformed are “bad at evangelism and missions.” it isn’t because of our calvinism. it is due to what we have chosen to emphasize, namely nurture–both of our children and of ourselves in general. this is why mega churches are really quite bad at nurture, because they take the cues of the evangelical ethic of mere growth. you have heard the maxim that “evangelicalism is a thousand miles long and about 1 inchh deep”? this is why. there is not much substance there once you get in the doors because the point has been to merely get you in the doors, so to speak. once in, there is simply not much to feed on. it’s why they are really good at head counts. when you think mega church you think “bigness.” when you trace back the more confessional and liturgical traditions you tend to see smallness, community, etc. this is because they value nurture not numbers. does this mean the small liturgicla churches don’t have a sense of missions or evangelism? no, they do. it’s just different though, both in style and substance (including the understanding that it is the officers of the church called to such work, not we laity, although we can’t help but have to do some sort of evangelizing).

    your take on the CRC, my denom, is interesting. i live in the cradle of the CRC, Grand Rapids and am a deacon in one of the oldest local communions. yes, the “dutchness” is not at all lost on me since i am not at all dutch but have yugoslavian blood, but mainly sort of muttish ethnically. my name stands out like a sort thumb in our directory an di have wondered about adding a Vander or a Van to it just to fit in! yes, surely this adds to my sense of being an outsider of sorts. but they are absolutely wonderful people and have no impulse to alienate us outsiders (especially add to my status as having been reared in unbelief and secularism and i am quite an outsider!!). enclaves? hmmm, i suppose. but i find the Protestant Reformed aroun dhere to fit that bill MUCH better (i live a mile down the road from their sem here in grandville) an di find them very entrenched and cliquey. the duthc CRC certainly have a good sense of self and community, no doubt. but i would hesitate considerably to give them the same “entrenched” lable i give the PRCers. CRC is very world-affirming and not at all exclusivistic…sometimes that is good, sometimes it lends to the bad stuff i see in the CRC. in my view, they are running unbridled to the stuff of evangelicalism and are not properly appreciative of their confessional treasure trove; they are smitten with the evangy fiesta and it is a very bad trend. they have very much assimilated into the amercanism their dutch ancestors feared so long ago.

    oh well. and so it goes.

    best to you, echo,


  32. Zrim,

    Right on. I just wanted to point out that your previous post seemed to be talking only about how our religion is propogated. But I wanted to point out that it’s not the religion itself that we’re concerned with, but people. We want to see people survive eternally, not a religion survive temporally. To be sure, I want to see our theology preserved, and I know it will be. But this is not all we want. I mean, I would like to see everyone on earth saved, though I know that won’t happen.

    And you’re absolutely right, the layman doesn’t need to strive to be the apostle Paul. They need to follow his example, but they aren’t called to preach anymore than I’m called to be a professional athelete. The culture of personal testimony is inferior to the cult of Word and Sacrament.

    Anyway, salvation is often a process. I mean conversion. Many who were raised in the church cannot point to a day when they were saved. I didn’t find that out until I started going to a reformed church. In the Pentecostal church, you were meant to feel as if you didn’t care about Jesus if you didn’t know the date on which you were saved, and if you were really holy, you knew the time. After all, it’s the most important moment of your life, and after that time, your life is completely changed. I never related to that mind set. For children raised in it, it often happens more gradually, and eventually they simply profess their faith in front of the congregation.

    I think the belief in an instantaneous conversion is incorrect. I think God woos you and courts you over time, softening your heart little by little, till finally one day you repent. I think some have looked at this repentance as your salvation, but I want to know what all that time before hand counts for? I mean, if God spends a couple years softening a person’s heart, and then finally they really repent and are changed, at what point did they begin to have faith? We know that when they begin to have faith they are regenerated. They must be, because faith is the result of regeneration. Regeneration is the real conversion. But repentance doesn’t necessarily happen right away. They might not begin to bear fruit right away. It takes time sometimes for faith to really take root. Anyway, if we really believe that justification is by faith alone, then we will point to someone with faith as someone who is saved, even if they are not yet bearing fruit. After all, a sapling is still a living plant, even if it bears no fruit. Fruit is the result of being mature to a certain extent. So I think that the church I grew up in sees repentance as the moment of conversion rather than regeneration, and I would disagree.


  33. FWIW, John Murray disagrees with you. In Redemption, Accomplished & Applied, he lumps Faith&Repentance into a single chapter, and very strongly asserts that they are simultaneous; that Faith without Repentance is as ungenuine as any other faith without works, and Repentance without Faith is impossible. So he would put the possible time gap between Regeneration and F/R, whereas you think of it as Regeneration/Faith, and eventually Repentance.

    Not such a big deal though.

  34. Rube,

    I’m kind of glad you bring that up. Murray, if I remember right, sees faith and repentance as the two fruits of regeneration. Some, however, say that faith is the fruit of regeneration, and repentance is the fruit of faith. I follow the latter.

    I find that there can be no repentance without faith as a precondition. After all, in order to repent, you must already believe in him to whom you are pleading forgiveness.

    Rom 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
    Rom 8:6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
    Rom 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
    Rom 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
    Rom 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
    Rom 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

    To even begin to submit to God’s law, the Spirit must already be dwelling in you, bringing “life because of righteousness”. It is by this righteousness that those who are in the Spirit DO please God, in contrast to those who are in the flesh, who cannot please God. All this means that in order to even begin to submit to God’s law, you must first be justified, having the righteousness of Christ imputed to you by faith. The righteousness that the Spirit brings in verse 10 is the imputed righteousness of Christ in justification.

    Now, you could say that the righteousness that the Spirit brings is the righteousness that is borne out in our lives, namely that which stems from sanctification, also the work of the Spirit. But what Paul is contrasting here is the believer and the unbeliever. The believer is in the Spirit, while the unbeliever is in the flesh. You must be in the Spirit prior to being able to submit to God’s law, because if you are still in the flesh, you cannot submit to God’s law nor please him. Once in the Spirit, then you do desire to submit to God’s law, which is necessary for true repentance. But Paul speaks of those who are in the Spirit as belonging to Christ. He doesn’t say that you have to have righteous deeds in order to begin to desire to submit to the law of God. Rather, in order to have any righteous deeds at all, you must do so out of a desire to submit to the law of God, and it is that desire which, when borne out in your deeds, is actual righteousness (though it remains tainted with sin). Righteous deeds must be the outward manifestation of the inward desire to submit to the law of God. But Paul says that to even begin to have this desire, you must be in the Spirit. So to even have the desire, the Spirit must dwell in you, bringing life because of righteousness. Simply being in the Spirit places you in the position of not being in the flesh, and thus pleasing God. This is prior to doing anything of your own that actually pleases God. This is explainable, again, by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (active obedience) by faith alone. By faith alone the righteousness of Christ is imputed to you, and by this righteousness, which is Christ’s, not yours, you please God.

    By this imputed righteousness, God declares you justified, thus justification is a legal/forensic pronouncement of judgment upon you by God as one who pleases God – in Christ. Thus in virtue of justification alone you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit and are covered by the righteousness of Christ, and thus you please God.

    But let me come at this from the other angle. What Murray is saying is that repentance and faith are fruit of regeneration directly, independent of one another. In other words, repentance is something you do, not something faith does. What he is saying, or rather, the logical conclusion of what he is saying, is that it is not faith that works in you, but you who work. You confess your sins, you turn from them apart from faith.

    Indeed, James says that faith without works is dead. Faith and works, of which repentance is one, must go together. But they go together because one is the fruit of the other. For example:

    1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

    Paul says it was not him that worked, but the grace of God within him that work. Again he says, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” What does this mean but that works are the fruit of the labor of the Spirit within us, who works faith in us?

    Anyway, faith without works is dead. Granted. Absolutely. Let’s say someone has faith, and by that faith they realize they have offended God and are full of anxiety. So they can’t sleep for like two weeks, and then finally they call up their Christian friend and ask if they can go to church with them on Sunday. At church, he finally hears that God can forgive him in Christ, he repents of his sin and believes in Christ as his savior. What about all that time when, by faith, he clearly recognizes God and his own sin, but yet fails to do anything about it other than be worried about it? During that time, he has faith but no works, but eventually he does work, going to church and repenting and trusting in Christ. So we can say, only in retrospect that his faith during that time was genuine, even though it didn’t bear outward fruit during that time. In the same way, Christians may lapse into terrible sin, but true believers eventually come around and repent, always growing in righteousness. This doesn’t mean that they stopped having faith, it only means that their faith has temporarily stopped producing fruit. I could say a lot more, but not now.


  35. it’s no accident that the Westminster Larger Catechism places repentance after sanctification:

    Q75: What is sanctification?
    A75: Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit [1] applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them,[2] renewed in their whole man after the image of God;[3] having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts,[4] and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened,[5] as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.[6]

    1. Eph. 1:4; I Cor. 6:11; II Thess. 2:13
    2. Rom. 6:4-6
    3. Eph. 4:23-24
    4. Acts 11:18; I John 3:9
    5. Jude 1:20; Heb. 6:11-12; Eph. 3:16-19; Col. 1:10-11
    6. Rom. 6:4; 6:14; Gal. 5:24

    Q76: What is repentance unto life?
    A76: Repentance unto life is a saving grace,[1] wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit [2] and word of God,[3] whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger,[4] but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins,[5] and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent,[6] he so grieves for [7] and hates his sins,[8] as that he turns from them all to God,[9] purposing and endeavoring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.[10]

    1. II Tim. 2:25
    2. Zech. 12:10
    3. Acts 11:18, 20-21
    4. Ezek. 18:28, 30, 32; Luke 15:17-18; Hosea 2:6-7
    5. Ezek. 36:31; Isa. 30:22
    6. Joel 2:12-13
    7. Jer. 31:18-19
    8. II Cor. 7:11
    9. Acts 26:18; Ezek. 14:6; I Kings 8:47-48
    10. Psa. 119:6, 59, 128; Luke 1:6; II Kings 23:25

    Notice that for repentance to occur, the sinner must see his sin and be convinced that he will be forgiven them in Christ (apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent). Furthermore, part of repentance is not just wanting to do good, but actually doing it.

    Repentance is a work. It is the fruit of justification, the fruit of faith, the fruit of the work of the Spirit in our hearts to sanctify us further and further by continually increasing us in faith; by this faith we seek to be obedient – in fact, this faith compels us to do just that.


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