Does Faith Precede Or Result From the New Birth? A response to Ronnie Rogers [part 1]

 by Michael White

Ronnie Rogers’ paper was published on Friday, 07 November 2014 04:30 at SBC Today.

To be a consistent Calvinist, a person must believe that the Bible teaches God limits His redemptive love toward His creation and that limited love is more reflective of God being the sum of perfect love than God extending His salvational love to all of His creation.

That statement is Brother Rogers’ opening remark. Of course it is just as true that to be a consistent Arminian or a consistent Traditionalist or basically a consistent anything evangelical Christian, one affirms that God does not save everyone.

But herein lies the difference: I, as one who holds to all 5 point of Calvinism, believes that it is the love of God that saves. God’s love is not just an inefficient force that makes it possible for men to save themselves, but is what draws people to God and delivers people from their sinfulness.

God saves sinners who are at the time, enemies of God, lovers of the world, followers of the Evil one, and blind and ignorant to the veracity of the truths of the Gospel. He, and the love He has for them fills their heart, enlightens their understanding, humbles their proud and haughty mind and carries them to life eternal.

Further, I affirm that there is no shred of wisdom or understanding that I have apart from the saving work of God in me that leads me to embrace Him wholly and willfully. That it is God alone who saved me, and that when he does the same for others as He has done for me, they too will embrace Him wholly and willfully.

It is a sad thing when a group of brothers, whether they be called Arminians or Traditionalists, promote their OWN wisdom and/or humility as the deciding factor in their own salvation. For our choice to serve God is either one of two things: it is wholly of God whereas He deserves the all the honor and glory for delivering us from darkness, or it is not wholly of God wherefore God does not deserve all the glory for our deliverance. Furthermore to assert that when we are saved it is wholly of God but if we choose not to be saved, it is on the unbeliever, is a cop out. For in the same breath they declare that each man has the choice and they put the onus on man to choose one way or the other.

Additionally, this point is buttressed by Dr. Rogers’ own words. Where he seeks to show a contrast with Calvinism and himself by saying that:  “God [is] extending His salvational love to all of His creation.” Consider that Mr. Rogers, speaking for Traditionalists, sees the salvational love of God not actually saving all humanity but simply reaching out to them. So then, how does anyone then get saved, but by making their own self and their own choice the deciding factor in their own salvation. So we might ask, “Why are you saved?” And the answer would be, “Because I chose to embrace God.”

The testimony is man centered, not God centered. The testimony gives the person the credit, not God the glory. Not “Because God…”, but, “Because I…”! Do Arminians and Traditionalists deny that God is a part of their salvation? No they do not. They do seek to give God the greater credit. They seek to get around giving themselves credit by appealing to unBiblical ideas such as prevenient grace. It is unBiblical if one extends it, like brother Rogers does God’s salvational love, to ALL of humanity. By that extension, they negate their own idea that God gets ALL the credit for saving them, since His grace is extended to all, why do some choose for Him, while others choose against Him? And they are brought right back to the place where they respond: “Because I…”.

The question is not, does God have a role in saving man, or even, does God have the greater role in saving man, but, does man have a role in his own salvation? And his answer, like all Traditionalists and Arminianists is, YES. And whether they like it or not, if man has a deciding role that he must properly act on that decides his destiny, then the person deserves part of the credit for their own salvation, and per force God does not get all the credit.

Brother Rogers continued a bit later with this:

The same is true with the heavenly birth, which is a work of God’s creative power with observable effects. Consequently, the message to Nicodemus seems to be a summons to trust Jesus’ words that human birth, even if it included such recognitions as Pharisaical standing or Jewish descent, is insufficient to make one right with God. Even recognizing Christ as a teacher from God is inadequate. For any person to experience the kingdom, salvation, God must create a new life. There must be a heavenly birth subsequent to the earthly birth in order to partake of God’s kingdom, i.e. be saved. This requirement confused Nicodemus for obvious reasons, but most importantly because it left him having to face the glaring inadequacy of what he was, all he had done, and with nothing he could do to rectify his lacking. This truth left him with faith and faith alone. Trusting God to do what Nicodemus could not do.

Consider his words about faith and nothing he could do to rectify his lacking. Is not trusting God something Nicodemus could do? Therefore Nicodemus was not left with “nothing he could do to rectify his lacking.”

I point this out to bring attention to the confusion inherent in Arminian/Traditionalist doctrine. If the choice of the person is needed to be the deciding factor in whether a person gets saved or not, then there is something Nicodemus and by contrast, every person can do to rectify their lacking.

But if personal choice is the deciding factor in this rectification, then their faith is based or founded on their choice, or on themselves, and therefore not on God. For they could just as easily choose against God, could they not? The choice is theirs and their destiny hangs in the balance. Their eternity rests on the choice they make. “Because I…”!

Their faith has as its foundation the reason they chose to believe.

If we have an either/or moral choice, we should make that choice based on our judgment of what is right and wrong, and, do we wish to act right or not? Thus the scheme I am arguing against sets each person up a judge to rule on their own destiny when presented with the Gospel. If they rule God’s way, they reap eternal life. If they rule against God, they reap eternal death. Their faith has as its foundation the reason they chose to believe.

Or to put it in another vernacular, we could ask why they chose to accept Jesus as their Lord. There is nothing wrong with the question. Every Christian chooses to accept Jesus as their Lord. But the answer is not because “I chose to believe”, but because “I believe.”

Choice follows faith. If faith follows choice then their faith has as its foundation the reason they chose to believe.

What then is the foundation of faith? Is it my choice and thus my reason[s] in making that choice become the foundation for my faith, or is the foundation of faith to be found outside of my own person with my personal reasons and choice?

More later.

-mike

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About parsonsmike

seriously into the Word of God
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8 Responses to Does Faith Precede Or Result From the New Birth? A response to Ronnie Rogers [part 1]

  1. “The true scriptural position then is this: There is, first of all, a direct influence of the Holy Spirit on the passive spirit of the sinner, quickening him or making him sensitive to the preaching of the Word. In this the sinner is passive. But he is not the subject of the new birth without contrition, repentance and faith. In exercising these he is active. Yet even his contrition is but a response to the Spirit’s conviction, and the exercise of his repentance and faith are but responses to the antecedent spiritual graces of repentance and faith.. To illustrate take this diagram:
    Conviction – Grace of Repentance – Grace of Faith
    _________________________________________ = New Birth
    Contrition- Repentance- Faith
    The upper or divine side represents the Spirit’s work. Then contrition, repentance, and faith are the constituent elements of the human side of regeneration.
    When we say repentance and faith are fruits of regeneration we simply mean that in each case the Spirit grace above originates and works out the respective human exercise below. The following scriptures prove that repentance is a grace as well as a human exercise: Acts 5:31; 11:18. That faith is also a grace, is also seen from I Cors.2:4-5; 3:5; II Pet.1:1. The Holy Spirit then is the agent in regeneration and the instrumental means of regeneration is the Word of God, or the preaching of Christ crucified, yet the power of the Spirit does not reside in the word as inspired by him, but the agency is positive and active in the use of the word….”
    ..Now let us clearly and forcibly state the reason or ground of this necessity (of regeneration). The necessity lies in the fact that man is fallen and depraved, and without the change effected by regeneration could not enjoy heaven, even if he were permitted to enter it. Therefore in any true system of theology the doctrine of human depravity is a vital and fundamental doctrine…..’ B.H. Carroll’s reply to Brother Rogers (An Interpretation of The English Bible. “The Four Gospels.” Vol. I. ed. J.B. Cranfill. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1947. pp. 287, 293.

  2. parsonsmike says:

    James.
    Repentance must follow faith. Why does one repent unless they believe? And why does one believe unless they have faith? Conversely, how can one believe or have faith without repentance? But this answer depends on how one defines repentance. For you and I and every other Christian has faith but also at times we sin. When we sin we are not living out our repentance. Thus we know that faith precedes repentance, at least in a logical sense, because we have faith, or because we believe, we confess and repent.
    We must hold that idea though in tension for we know that true faith isn’t without its work[s]. So it is a logical order, not a temporal order. Since the order is logical and not temporal, it is not an order driven in reality by reason. We don’t think that now that I believe and have faith in God, what ever should I do? Oh, i will repent and confess. Rather when we arrive at the point of faith, where the seed of faith within us blooms, we also are confessing and repenting. i liken it more as a reaction to God moving in us as depicted by this passage from 2nd Cor. 4:
    >>~~And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.~~<>~~For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.~~<<
    And thus it is that light which reveals Jesus to us and God's love for us that generates faith in us by which we react to by believing with confession and repentance. And it is there and then that the process of the new birth is culminated and results in a new born child of God.

  3. Hey, Mike, did you note that I was merely quoting B.H. Carroll in reply to Ronnie. While Carroll does not specify any length of time, he does specify the cause of Repentance and faith, whatever their order, namely, grace. Grace is active, and faith and repentance, if you want them in that order, are passive until grace causes them to become active. Since they are life long graces, and the first thing our Lord demanded was repentance, I don’t really worry about which comes first. You know the chicken or the egg. Grace, however, is another matter, and Ronnie is totally overlooking that reality as the cause, the active cause.

  4. parsonsmike says:

    James,
    Yes, I saw where you were quoting Carroll. Faith becomes active in repentance and confession [or profession]. We are not disagreeing, just adding on. (-:

  5. parsonsmike says:

    James,
    As in regard to your point that Ronnie is overlooking grace as the active cause, I remembered an Arminian telling me that the grace of God is there to be used or not. As if grace was a tool or a means to an end to be decided on by sinful rebellious God-hating man. As if such a man as we once were can even discern its presence. Grace isn’t some force of God [think Star Wars… the Force be with you], but rather a disposition of God toward a sinner [or sinners] when He bestows favor on them of any sort. How does God grace a sinner in the salvation process but by revealing His Son to him, enlightening the man’s mind and heart to both his own sinfulness and the great glory of God and His most wonderful mercy in the cross of Christ.

    Yes James, grace is the active cause of faith, repentance and salvation. But so many want to make salvation as offer like an television ad for buying a new car. Say ‘YES” and its YOURS! You will LOVE it! They seek to make the Gospel more offer than proclamation, God begging for sinners to repent instead of declaring His Lordship and their doom unless they capitulate to Him. Its all about man’s choice, and that men have the master choice. Truly sad.

  6. Mike: Have you ever read those Puritans who make appeals to sinners to do the impossible? Our Lord must be noted for demanding that men do the impossible. The failure of the Arminians is that they forget to tell the people to whom they make the offers (they don’t even know that are supposed to do that it would seem) that they need the help of God to comply. Sort of like Ronnie and his group in their comments on Ezek and the demand of God that men “Turn.” Not a word was said about those references where people begged God, saying, “Turn us and we shall be turned.” Or like the father who cried, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

  7. parsonsmike says:

    James.
    How true.
    What is impossible with men is possible with God.
    But there is a movement within evangelicism that thinks it absurd that God would ask men or command men to do the impossible.
    Here is what I see:
    Rebellious man or unsaved man is full of pride and has the mindset that they themselves control their life, that they are masters of their own destiny, and that they have no need of God. And many preachers and scholars today have seemingly bought into the idea that salvation is a matter of the will of man, and not of the will of God. So they discount as an impossibility that God calls man to do what he can not do. “If God commands, man can do, or else why would God command?”

    But God isn’t calling out to cater to man and his pride but to strike down that pride, to lay the groundwork for an individual to come to understand that they are indeed helpless, as Romans 5:6-7 declares [“while we were still helpless”] and needs God’s grace and mercy. But the evangelical cult of man will have none of that kind of thinking- man HAS to be able to respond by their own will or God is besmirched. So they invent or buy into the idea the idea of prevenient grace to every person to lift all the depraved to a point of ABILITY so that whosoever can respond to God’s impossible demand.

    peace,
    -mike

  8. Mike have you read Fisher’s Marrow of Modern Divinity. Special grace can’t be wasted, but common grace is

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