Thursday, July 1

Monergistic Regeneration

Most of us who are Calvinistic in our view of the salvation process believe in something called monergistic regeneration* (see endnote). That's just fancy theological jargon that means we believe that being born again (or regenerated, or made alive again, or recreated) is not a result of our faith--or anything we do, or believe, or confess--but is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, initiatied by Him. It is this sovereign work of the Spirit within us, this complete change in the direction of our inner being, that produces the faith within us by which we are justified. We don't believe, and then as a result God remakes us and justifies us; but we are remade by God, and as a result we believe and are thus justified.

This doesn't meant that we Calvinists believe that there are a lot of born-again people running around who have not yet believed, and so are not yet saved (or justified). Most would probably agree that these things are instantaneous--they occur all together in one saving moment--but they have a logical order, and it is that monergistic (or worked alone) act of the Holy Spirit in our regeneration that brings about the other two. Sort of like when I sprained my ankle playing soccer. The sprain caused the pain I felt, and yet the pain and the sprain were nearly instantaneous events, and certainly were felt as a single event in my perception of things. So it would be with the regeneration/faith/justification sequence. They occur together in a nanosecond, and are percieved as one event, but they have a logical (or causal) order.

Here are a couple of texts that I believe argue for regeneration being a monergistic work of the Spirit, and not the result of the exercise of faith on our part. My personal favorite is Ephesians 2: 1-5:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ... (ESV)
We are following the leadership of Satan and carrying out the desires of our worthy-of-wrath nature, when God, out of mercy for us, makes us alive, or regenerates us. There doesn't seem to be much wiggle room for the exercise of faith within the description of what we were when God sparked life within us. In this passage, it certainly appears as if the initiative in regeneration is God's, and He initiates this newness within us out the mercy that comes from the great love wherby He loves us. His love is directed toward us at His initiative, and out of that love, we are made alive together with Christ.

Then there is that verse in John 3 where it tells us the Spirit, in the work of rebirth is like the wind:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (v. 8, ESV)
Once again, the initiative seems to be God's, through the Spirit. The Spirit, when He works our rebirth, comes "out of the blue", so to speak, like the wind does.

And 1 Peter 1:3-5:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Our living hope, and the faith by which we are kept for our final salvation, comes by God's power and as a result of God causing us to be born again. We are begotten again unto faith, and since our faith is the product of God's work, we are insured of our inheritance, for our faith is not dependent on our weak wills, but only on God's powerful work by which we are remade.

I'm sure there are more texts, but I'm working off the top of my head again. If you are Calvinistic in persuasion, and you have more texts to add, please do. If you are new to this idea and find something in my post confusing, please feel free to ask for clarification. If you have arguments to make against this view of rebirth, please make them. And if you have texts that put faith squarely as a cause of regeneration rather than a result of it, I wish you would post them in the comments.

*(The word monergistic just means "solo work", as opposed to synergistic, which means "working together". Someone who believes in synergistic regeneration believes that we cooperate in our rebirthing experience. We believe, and as a result of that show of faith, God responds by regenerating us. Our action of believing, then, becomes the initiator of God's response to regenerate us. If regeneration is monergistic, then we have no part in causing our own rebirth. This doesn't mean that we oppose our rebirth, just that we don't work in anyway--even if only by belief--toward it.)
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