My article, “Does Regeneration Precede Faith?” has just been released in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry. The journal is online and the article can be accessed here:

Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

Here are a few excerpts:

Why do most Calvinists believe regeneration precedes faith? There are two reasons. First, most Calvinists define total depravity to mean total inability in the sense that a person cannot exercise faith unless regenerated. Second, appeal is made to key Scripture passages such as John 1:12-13; 3:1-16; Eph. 2:1-10; and 1 John 5:1.

The phrase “regeneration precedes faith’ is fraught with ambiguity. What does one mean by “regeneration”? What does one mean by “faith”? What does one mean by “precede,” (logically or temporally)? Are we talking about mediate regeneration (by means of the Word of God] or immediate regeneration (no use of means, but the Holy Spirit acts directly and immediately on the person to effect regeneration)? Part of the confusion over this issue is a failure to carefully define terms and draw careful distinctions.

As even many Calvinist commentators point out with respect to John 1:12-13, there is nothing in this passage that speaks to a Calvinist ordo salutis.[1] It is not exegetically possible to find “regeneration before faith” in John 1:12-13, temporally or logically.[2]

Man cannot exercise saving faith on his own apart from enabling grace. But the very nature of faith itself means one can do otherwise than believe. It is not true that man’s free will unassisted by enabling grace is sufficient to believe. To accuse non-Calvinists of this is a straw man. The question is whether God sovereignly chose to create humanity with the ability to exercise faith and whether God restores that ability by enabling grace for all apart from selective regeneration. [3]

Philosophically, a “principal” cause is an efficient cause which produces an effect by virtue of its own power. An “instrumental” cause is an efficient cause which produces an effect by virtue of the power of another cause.[4] When it comes to salvation in Ephesians 2:8-9, the Scripture indicates that grace is the principal cause and faith is the instrumental cause of salvation. One might illustrate this from the following syllogism:

  1. “Through faith” is the instrumental cause of “made alive.”
  2. Instrumental cause necessarily precedes its effect.
  3. Therefore, faith precedes regeneration.

The only place an effect can precede its cause is in Star Trek.

[1] See the discussion in Ronnie Rogers, Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist (Bloomington, IL: CrossBooks, 2012), 55.

[2] Boris Hennig, “The Four Causes.” Journal of Philosophy 106(3), (2009), 137–60.

[3] See, for example, D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: InterVarsity/Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 126; Andreas Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 39.

[4] See Brian J. Abasciano, “Does Regeneration Precede Faith? The Use of 1 John 5:1 as a Proof Text,” Evangelical Quarterly 84.4 (2012), 318-20.