The question of Calvinism, in a narrow regard, can be boiled down to a question of order. Which comes first? This time, however, the question is not about chickens and eggs, but rather faith and new birth. The reality of the new birth in the life of the Christian is held dear by those who are, historically, evangelical. To be evangelical may mean many things to some, or nothing to others, but at the very least it means belief in new birth. Belief in new birth, however, does not seem to answer the question of Calvinism in the minds of many.
So, which comes first? Faith or new birth? Some folks postulate faith as a means of new birth, whilst others in the traditional Calvinistic view see faith as a result of new birth. It seems strange to me that faith could possibly proceed new birth because of one basic question: if a person has faith, why is new birth necessary? The Christian life, as Luther so aptly put it, is all of repentance. Repentance is the other side of faith; faith is turning to Christ, whilst repentance is turning away from sin. If a fellow, beit that very bad fellow or the very self-righteous one, is able to turn away from sin and toward the Savior, why does he need a new heart? His old heart has done the trick, so to speak. His old heart could do everything the new heart does.
A Living Thumper
The glorious Gospel of God’s sovereign grace is an upside down sort of thing. The Gospel is glorious because it raises the dead. It is prophesying to dead bones. It is an, “Oh Lord, You know” sort of thing. Dead bones, lying in a valley, can never conjure up enough faith for their own resurrection. Dead bones don’t have faith at all. God, however, is the God of the living, not the dead. His people have faith on Him, precisely because they have been resurrected first. Regeneration is not a tack on doctrine of the Christian life, but rather it is the very beginning. Regeneration is God giving new thumpers to dead sacks of bones. Those new thumpers pump faith, like the physical thumpers pump blood. It’s just what they do.
- See the first of the 95 Thesis.↵