The Centrality of
Regeneration, Faith, and Sanctification in a Biblical
* This paper was presented at the Southeastern
Meeting of the combined meetings of the Evangelical
Philosophical Society, Evangelical Theological Society, and the
Evangelical Missiological Society on March 19, 2010
Abraham Kuyper in his
Principles of Sacred
Theology divided all humanity and all encyclopedic study
into two groups—the epistemology of each being separated by “an
abyss in the universal human consciousness across which no
bridge can be laid.”
Harry Blamires in The Christian Mind describes a “gigantic battle between good and
evil which splits the universe.”
But what both Kuyper and Blamires are describing is only
that which is reflected in Scripture as “darkness and light,”
“the world and the flesh,” and “the kingdom of darkness and the
kingdom of God.” As
Christians working in philosophy, we must ask ourselves, “Does
our work reflect this great chasm that is described by these
authors and by Scripture itself?” More narrowly, “Does our work
reflect this great chasm in our epistemology?
My project is to look briefly at how
regeneration of a person forces this divide.
In one of the important texts concerning regeneration,
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and again, “Most
assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the
Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5).
One should also keep in mind that the Kingdom of God and
the Kingdom of heaven are one and the same: two names for the
Now, what do these kingdoms have to do with
Earthly kingdoms will differ in epistemology, perhaps best
contrasted with the “kingdom of England” and the “kingdom of the
American colonies” at the time of the War for American
epistemologies literally became one of warfare until one side or
the other was defeated.
One could say the same of all wars in history.
Epistemology, by the example of this warfare, has
The Scripture denotes the Kingdom of God being
a “kingdom of light” and its opposition, a “kingdom of
darkness.” I could
cite many Scriptures, and for purposes of complete scholarship,
that should be done.
But, we will cover much of the distinctions of these kingdoms as
we examine regeneration.
Perhaps, these kingdoms are best set in opposition in the
first chapter of Colossians where they are designated, as “the
power of darkness” and “the kingdom of the Son of His love”
(verse 13). This
section, indeed the entire book of Colossians, is concerned with
“light,” as knowledge in contrast to that of the “world” and
“darkness” (vs. 2:3, 8-9, 14-15; 3:1, 9-11).
According to Augustine in his
City of God, these
kingdoms are in a temporal conflict in which only one can
The Biblical Distinction: Regeneration and Sanctification
as Theorems for Epistemology
Some twenty or more years ago, I was reading
Principles of Sacred Theology, possibly the only heavy-duty
theological book that I ever found exciting!
This sentence, as it was translated, jumped off the page
and started a research project that continues until this day.
That sentence is, “Regeneration by itself is no
What I understood him to say, was, “Regeneration in
itself imparts no knowledge to the person regenerated—no
could that be? The
regenerate person is to be “transformed by the renewing of his
mind” (Romans 12:2)—this change occurring by his life-long study
of Scripture and implementation of that knowledge into his life.
And, regenerate people “have the mind of Christ (I
Corinthians 2:16). How,
then, can regeneration be “no enlightening?”
Well, of course, it is true.
There is no knowledge imparted in regeneration itself,
but there is an extensive “enlightenment” to which the believer
is opened and is supposed to think and to walk.
Further, regeneration posits an infinite and impassible
separation of epistemology for the regenerate and the
course, that is what Kuyper’s book is about.
And, of course, that is central to my project here.
What, then, is regeneration?
I had hoped to focus on the purely epistemological
concerns of regeneration, but the Biblical texts do not allow a
separation from right actions, as we will see.
But, even in philosophy, ethics is a logical outflow of
one’s epistemology, as they form two of the three traditional
branches of philosophy along with metaphysics?
I am using the term, “regeneration,” reflecting the Greek
palingenesis, but one
should keep in mind that the Bible uses other terms to designate
the same event, such as, “born-again,” “born-from-above,”
“renewal,” “resurrection,” “a renewed heart,” “a washing,” “a
renewed spirit,” and a “circumcision of the heart.”
Let us now consider some specific dimensions
First, regeneration is momentary.
In evangelical theology, this description does not seem
to be in dispute.
While God may “call” a person over weeks, months, or
even years, for those who are eventually “saved,” there comes a
moment of inward
change that has outward
manifestations of conversion, faith, and repentance.
I cannot discuss the sequence of these events here.
There are differences among those who are theologically
Reformed and moreso between those who are Reformed and Arminian.
However, I cite one article by David Anderson, published
in 2000, in which he gives some ground for common agreement with
these terms among both Arminians and those Reformed.
I am not convinced that the issues are as easily
resolvable as he describes, but the epistemological concerns of
inerrancy and regeneration may be the same for both camps.
So, with “fear and trembling,” I must leave the issue for
other minds and other times.
While considerable agreement seems to exist
concerning the immediate nature of regeneration, some arguments
can be presented in support of this position.
(A) In John 3, Jesus makes the analogy of physical birth
which is momentary at the time that the infant takes is
delivered from his mother.
(B) Conversions at Pentecost and other places it the New
Testament were momentary.
(C) The outward effect of
means a “change of mind”—literally in the Greek,
While long study and reflection may precede this “change
of mind,” there is always a moment at which the decision is
made. (D) Greek verb
tenses concerning regeneration begin at
a point in time and
continue from that moment onward.
(E) Sanctification must have a “beginning.”
A process always begins at some point in time.
There may be more and better arguments for one’s being
“born-again,” but this issue does not bear on our
Second, regeneration is the first step in
birth is the beginning of a growth process that should be
vigorous and full-orbed, as indicated in the third chapter of
John, verses three and five.
While sanctification is many things, it is centrally
concerned with faith and knowledge.
notitia has been one vital dimension of faith.
And, one definition of faith, as “the faith,” concerns
the entire Scriptures (Ephesians 4:4, Jude 1:3).
The power and necessity of knowledge in sanctification is
found in Romans 12:2, “be transformed by the renewing of your
mind.” “Renewing” is
one of the words in the Greek New Testament used for
regeneration, and “transformed”
signifies such a change as that of Christ’s appearance when he
was transfigured (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2)
and the change of
believers into Christ’s likeness in heaven (II Corinthians
lamentation of Christian leaders today concerning the general
ignorance of Christians is a reflection of their failure to be
changed in this dramatic way.
However, I have never been satisfied with
“faith,” as notitia,
assensus, and fiducia.
The terms are vague, overlapping, confusing, and are not
applicable to all references to faith in Scripture.
I would like to offer this definition of faith: a
disposition to action, based upon knowledge of Scripture, with
an expected outcome that will eventually be determined by
reality, that is, God’s Providence.
Further, it is a gift of God to enable a person to take
action without certainty of a particular result.
This definition places knowledge—for the
Christian—knowledge of God’s Word, central to faith, as
described in Romans 12:2 and elsewhere.
Discussion of “faith” could be a whole paper in itself
and I have written a book on the subject,
but I must continue on my project here.
Perhaps, this concept could be pursued in the discussion
period that follows.
Third, regeneration is an ethical
believers in Corinth had been fornicators, idolaters,
homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, coveters, drunkards, revilers,
and extortionists but Paul declares that those besetting sins
are in the past (I Corinthians 6:9-10).
In Ephesians 4, Paul states that one should “no longer
walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk… having given themselves
to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness … (and)
according to deceitful lusts” (vs. 18-24).
Regeneration cause dramatic changes in
life-orientation—from hedonistic debauchery to sanctifying
Fourth, regeneration of the mind is central to
the change that occurs within the individual.
We just noted Romans 12:2, “to be transformed by the
renewing of one’s mind.”
In Ephesians 4 again, Paul speaks of the Gentiles, that
is, the unregenerate in the “futility of their
mind, having their
understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God,
because of the ignorance
that is in them, because of the blindness of their
heart” (vs. 18-19).
With these four different designations, Paul denotes the
cognitive process: mind, understanding, ignorance, and heart.
By contrast, the regenerate is “to have
heard (Christ) and
have been taught by
Him, as the truth in
Jesus … being renewed in the spirit of (their)
mind” (vs. 20-24).
Thus, we have a four-fold
designation of thinking—heard, taught, truth, and mind.
Fifth, and similarly, regeneration concerns
wisdom. In I
Corinthians 1:18 to 2:16, wise or wisdom is used 19 times.
Remember, philosophy is
philo-sophia, the love
of wisdom. Here,
wisdom is contrasted with “foolish” or “foolishness,” so it
could be translated “anti-wisdom” or “anti-philosophy.”
Other words here that are associated with “wise” actions
include know, knowledge, understanding, speak, words, and
chapters are an antithesis of the natural, unregenerate man in
the world and the spiritual, regenerate man in the kingdom of
God. In passing, we
should note that right thinking is associated with the “power of
God” (1:24, 2:4, 5).
This association should give us pause that without “right
cognition” we lose any power that God confers through that
Finally, this section ends in that “we have the mind of
Christ”—which is, as one philosopher-theologian put it, “The
‘punch line’ of (Chapter 2), its climax, its last word, is a
word of intellectualism, intelligibility, knowledge and
Sixth, regeneration affects the “heart.”
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all
your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit
within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh
and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk
in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them”
Contrary to many Christians, even theologians,
today, “heart” largely used in Scripture to refer to the mind,
thinking, and will of a person. In
philosophical language, the heart concerns cognition and
willingness. Some examples of “heart” denoting mind are these.
“For as (a man) thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs
mind, not emotions “think.”
“For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”
(Matthew 12:34). The
mouth speaks what the mind thinks.
If this passage concerned the emotions, it would state,
that “out of the overflow of the heart, a person feels … (some
emotion—sadness, anger, happiness, or fear).”
“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not
bridle his tongue but deceives his own
heart, this one’s
religion is useless” (James 1:26).
Again, we see the link between the mind and speech, but
we also have the specific mention of “thinking.”
“Heart” appears almost 1000 times in the entire Bible, so
we have not even scratched the surface.
Yes, heart may refer to the emotions in a few instances
in Scripture. For
those interested, the author who made this observation discusses
these issues in considerable detail.
And, another author has detailed the relationships of
mind, soul, spirit, heart, and conscience.
regeneration is described as a “new spirit.”
The passages in Ezekiel discussed above include “new
spirit,” as well as “new heart.”
While “spirit” does not have the association with emotion
that “heart” does, one should know that the “mind” is a
(Again, the reference above sorts out the various
non-physical entities of man that are being discussed here.)
Eighth, regeneration is a change of
Choice of beliefs and one’s ethics is not as complicated,
as it might appear at first glance.
There are only three possibilities: choices by the self
(autonomy), vox populi
(the vote of the plurality or majority), and submission to an
Practically, we can reduce these to two, the self and
authority, as rarely is a choice made by having others vote
(except in politics).
And—where our reasoning is not flawed—we find the same
instruction in Scripture, perhaps best illustrated in our
discussion of I Corinthians 1 and 2.
On the one side is “foolishness,” “wisdom,” “human
wisdom,” “wisdom of men,” and “natural man.”
On the other side is spiritual “wisdom,” “Spirit and
power,” “wisdom of God,” “the Spirit of God,” “spiritual
discernment,” and finally “the mind of Christ.”
So, my definition of regeneration would be:
the momentary miracle of changing one’s destiny from the Kingdom
of Man to the Kingdom of God—and one’s epistemology,
metaphysics, and ethics from that of the self to that of the
Scriptures under the authority of the Trinity.
Or, more simply, regeneration is the work of God to
change one’s earthly and eternal destiny and belief in self to
belief in His Word.
In the history and developments of religions
and philosophy, the Bible stands powerfully and majestically
above the other schemes.
No other book claims absolute authority.
No other book has a flowing history that moves from a
beginning to a final consummation.
No other book claims to give a history of God on earth.
No other book can explain with clarity and correspondence
the evil that is within man.
No other book simply declares, “Thus says the Lord.”
No other book has the agreement of more than 40 authors
over 2500 years of writing. No
other book stands philosophically with the objectivity and
clarity in its presentation of certain truth, ethics, and
metaphysics—an objectivity that should not be minimized within
the Bible’s claim to be truth and a Christian epistemology.
In the history and developments of religions
and philosophy, no figure stands as powerfully and majestically
as the Lord Jesus Christ.
Who else declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the
life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” Who else declares,
“I and the Father are One,” and simply, “I am,” equating Himself
with the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God.
In no other system has God become man, claimed to be God
incarnate, predicted His death and resurrection, and then
enacted those predictions.
No Christian in philosophy should ever minimize His
unique deity by trying to defend “theism” in general, when
Biblical theism by the law of noncontradiction refuses to be
coherent with that entity.
In fact, “philosophy of religion” in the West is almost
entirely “philosophy of Christianity,” especially until the late
And, while we are in this vein, Christians in
philosophy should begin to define what religion is or is not.
“Religions” are so diverse that they cannot all fit one
definition. By the
law of identity, Christianity claims to be the only “religion.”
All others are imitations and fakes.
To continue to discuss “religions” without forcing
definitions is to invalidate all the unique and authoritative
claims of Biblical Christianity.
We have not covered all that regeneration is.
(9) We could discuss the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit
to convict and teach the regenerate.
But, however certain that fact is declared from
Scripture, I am not sure that it helps us with our study of
epistemology, as it involves subjectivity that quickly gets
complicated. (10) A
beginning of the restoration of the
image Dei in the
regenerate surely has epistemological effects.
The theologians that I read state that this image is
primarily man’s ability to think and reason.
(11) Certain regenerate persons are given spiritual gifts
of teaching, preaching, wisdom, discernment, etc. which enable
them to have understanding beyond the “average” Christian, yet
are obligated to teach him within the church.
And, I am sure that more could be found in Scripture, but
we have covered enough for my project here.
regeneration is a true miracle—that is, an event which in which
God intervenes in the natural course of events in natural
Oath of the Evangelical Philosophical Society as Coherent with
In epistemology for Christians, the most basic
question is, “Should my approach to epistemology differ from
that of the non-Christian?”
Or, in terms of our concern here, that of the regenerate
from the unregenerate.
Now, the subscription statement for our Evangelical
Philosophical Society is the same as that for the Evangelical
Theological Society and coheres with what we have established
The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God
written and therefore inerrant in the original manuscripts.
God is a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an
uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.
Let us briefly parse the first statement.
“The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety” posits
both a unity and a completeness.
We could say further that this book stands unique among
all other books for there is no other book which requires such
submission. And, we
could say that the proposition includes Genesis 1:1 to
This inclusion is also an exclusion of all other writings that might lay claim to an equal
authority, including church tradition, and church councils.
In this simple parsing, we have said much already.
But we go further.
“The Bible … is the Word of God written.”
God, what God?
Concerning epistemology, the God who is omniscient (Psalm
139:1-16, Romans 11:33-36) and the God who is truth (John
17:17). If we add
that God is eternal (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 92:2), then God has
known, knows, and will know all things.
If we add that He does not change, that is, He is the
same yesterday, today and forever”
(Hebrews 13:8), then His knowledge never changes.
If God knows all things, He knows epistemology in a
fullness that finite man can never know.
Indeed, He created the conditions for the field of
This phrase also says, “written.”
Philosophically, writings are a form of
objectivity—something that exists outside the person—every
person—something that exists independent of anything else.
Yes, the Scriptures came through a process that involved
men, both in the writings, the canon, and in preservation, but
our EPS statement did not find the need to say those things.
Our oath continues, “and
therefore inerrant in the original manuscripts.”
An omniscient God who is also truth could only write
However, “original manuscripts” is a problem.
Yes, we do not have the original manuscripts—we can
praise God their absence with all the icons that already exist
in the church. But,
does this phrase mean that we do not have the Word of
Of course not!
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the texts that we
have today are completely reliable as “the Word of God written.”
But, in passing, I would suggest that limitation of the
oath to the “original manuscripts”
could be interpreted
as a limitation for Biblical scholarship.
And worse, in my opinion does not state the accuracy and
reliability of what we do have.
But we cannot go into that issue now.
I only point it out for your consideration.
So, we have inerrant propositions from a God
who speaks only truth.
One who knew and created the constructs that philosophers
would eventually investigate as “epistemology.”
I ask, “Might not this Word have bearing for
not this Word have considerable weight for epistemology?
Ought not this Word to guide, control, and from the
foundations for epistemology?”
If the answer to my questions seems obvious, then I must
ask other questions, (1) What is the epistemological basis of
the EPS Statement of Belief?
(2) “Why is this Word at the periphery of Christians in
Specifically Epistemological Considerations—Opting for
the Best Approach
Classically, epistemology is “justified true
belief.” However, the question must be asked, “Must Scripture
face the same justification as knowledge to which every other
claim is subjected?”
The answer is both yes and no.
“Yes,” because any claim to knowledge must be subjected
to certain tests for its veracity.
But, “No” because the field of epistemology is uncertain,
and there is the issue of
But, have we not already made decisive epistemological claims?
By these opening statements to this section, have we not
already stated without qualification that (A) we can have
knowledge, and (B) this knowledge can be communicated to each
other? Do you not
find it amazing that even to discuss epistemology, we must
assume that it is possible!
Let us not pass over this truth too quickly.
We assume the
possibility of communication.
This fact gives a very strong argument for a “common
if not a “common sense”
likely, many, if not most of us hearing or reading would agree
that “common sense” is inadequate as our final resting place for
epistemology. But let us
at least appreciate the complexity and assumptions that are made
simple by asking the question!
To get a perspective on modern epistemology,
Peter van Inwagen is helpful.
In the end we must confess that have no idea why there is no
established body of metaphysical results. It cannot be
denied that this is a fact…. In metaphysics you are
perfectly free to disagree with anything the acknowledged
experts (in philosophy) say…
Scott Oliphint adds:
Truth be told, the same problems that plague metaphysics
plague epistemology as well. If van Inwagen is
correct, then there is no established body of accepted
metaphysical results to which one interested in the subject
must appeal in order to enter the debate…. Metaphysics
remains in a near-total state of flux and chaos.
But so does epistemology. Discussions epistemological abound
in the history of philosophy, and it could easily be argued
that, as in metaphysics, there is no established body of
accepted epistemological results to which one interested in
the subject must appeal in order to enter the debate.
Perhaps in epistemology, however, with a few exceptions, the
situation is even worse.
Whereas in metaphysical discussions the topic of God
and his relation to the world is (naturally) broached, there
is relatively little discussion of God and his relationship
to the knowledge situation in epistemology…. Because
epistemology deals with the subject of human knowledge, it
is easier to think that the relationship of epistemology to
God is, if not irrelevant, significantly minimal… Happily,
those kinds of discussion are gaining ascendancy in the
philosophical literature again (thanks in large part to
Alvin Plantinga and others).
The first point that I would make here is that
the field of epistemology is wide open and unsettled.
Quoting Oliphint again:
Thus, there are no set parameters in metaphysics or
epistemology, and these two comprise virtually the entire
field of philosophy.
(One’s ethics are dependent upon these two branches
However, “chaotic” does not seem quite right for issues
concerning God, and in particular for a belief system that
has a fixed, objective standard—the 66 books of the
There is no one or body of knowledge in
philosophy to which anyone can appeal as a standard.
There is no standard in philosophy!
Then, let us place our concerns within this context.
Thus, that the epistemology of Scripture is
self-affirming and self-attesting is not out of place.
The God of the universe not having to justify what He
says is not out of place.
If anything goes, surely God can enter this “mix” also.
But, we can also work our way through certain
approaches in epistemology.
According to DeWeese and Moreland, “Most philosophers,
today and historically, understand knowledge (approximately) to
be justified true belief.”
This approach seems to date back to Plato, if not before.
But, I declare that this approach is impossible and gives
away the truth of Scripture from the beginning.
We have seen that secular philosophy has no answers.
Anyone’s choice is as good as anyone else’s, as both van
Inwagen and Oliphint declare.
We are back to autonomy or authority.
Arthur Leff asked in a landmark legal paper on
foundational problems in ethics and civil law, “Sez who?” Thus, in
secular philosophy, so we are left to autonomy and voting.
With all the opinions in philosophy, there is no
possibility of consensus.
There is not even a dictionary or encyclopedia that is
the determined standard for definitions and terms.
There are no agreed-upon definitions of truth, and there
is no agreement about what justifies.
Without definitions and terms, one cannot even construct
a simple proposition that everyone understands, much less find
some agreement on justification and truth.
“Justified true belief” has no answers.
And, John Frame has stated, “The chain of
justification cannot go on forever.”
There seems to be no end to the divisions and pursuits of
the nuances of justified true belief.
But, from my perspective, that proliferation is
unavoidable with the interplay of three different terms,
justified, true, and
belief, as well as, what each means in various contexts by
From a Biblical perspective, how can the
“foolishness of the world” be satisfied with the “wisdom of
God.” The problem is
not justified true belief, but simply belief.
All the unregenerate has to say is, “I do not believe
what you say,” or “You have not justified your belief to my
argument, then, from his perspective is over.
He does that in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence
He does that with anthropology in the face of virtually no
He does that with sociology in spite of hundreds of contrary
studies about traditional family values.
He does that in psychology in spite of its legion
approaches. He does
that in every area of scholarship—in spite of the evidence
Well, is resorting to simply “belief” a
capitulation. Not at
all. We have already
been there. All we
have to do is to point out that every person has a first
principle of belief that requires no justification.”
This application is universal.
In foundationalism, this beginning has been called “basic
belief.” That is
acceptable, as long as it is divorced from
justified true belief.
There are many names for this first principle:
presupposition, axiom, starting point, first philosophy, dogma,
bias, assumption, or subjectivism.
Mostly, people, even philosophers, do not ferret out
these most basic beliefs.
Their whole philosophical and ethical system is a jumble
of parental sayings, educational brainwashing, self-interest
over others, and emotional immediacy.
In modern discourse, there has come the
distinction between “peoples of faith” and others, presumably
“peoples of reason.”
But everyone builds a
system upon their most basic beliefs.
Christians do not stand a chance in the marketplace of
ideas or politics, if they do not recognize this profound
are people of “faith,” while the atheists, agnostics, educators,
and politicians are people of “reason?”
By this contrast, we have lost the argument before it
begins. Perhaps, as
concerns freedom, this understanding and the working of it into
everyday and academic parlance is the most critical matter for
modern Christians, especially Christians in philosophy.
Now, I would like to distinguish a “starting
point” from a “first principle.”
A starting point is wherever one starts.
One might read Socrates’ saying, “The unexamined life is
not worth living.”
Or, an emotional crisis, such as, divorce or the death of one
loved, might trigger a more serious reasoning process.
Or, taking philosophy or psychology in college may open
new vistas to be explored.
One might be browsing in a library or book store and read
a book that leads to more serious study.
The scenarios are numerous, but beliefs are not.
In quoting Francis
Schaeffer and reasoning further, we found that there were only
(autonomy) and authoritarian belief.
And low and behold we have also arrived at the Biblical position:
autonomy vs. Biblical belief.
“Houston, we have coherence!”
Does this arrival at coherence from a practical method
and a Biblical description not argue powerfully for its truth?
Not absolutely of course, but it is a profound
John Frame states:
The human mind is finite; it cannot present an infinitely
long argument and give an exhaustive reason for anything.
It must at some point, begin with a faith commitment
(first principle), whether in the true God or in an idol
(pagan philosophy). (Words in
parentheses are mine.)
Justified true belief has been churned into a
morass that is indecipherable and infinitely unarguable while
the issue is profoundly simple both logically and Biblically: a
simple choice of first principle or belief (faith) in self or
There is at least a four-fold loss to the
philosopher who pursues traditional and modern approaches to
Justified true belief fails because there is no agreement on
what are the “basic beliefs,” how they are “justified,” or on
what basis are they “true.”
(2) Simplicity is lost to seemingly never-ending
complexity. (3) The
Biblical position of absolute authority is lost.
(4) The “power” of Biblical coherence is lost.
(See I Corinthians discussion above.)
IV. Demonstration That Regeneration Does Not Appear in Philosophical
Discussions among Christians
I would like to now demonstrate that
regeneration, and its profound implications, are virtually
absent from Christians working in philosophy.
This is not a formal research study, but one that is
Faith and Philosophy,
the publication of the Society of Christian Philosopher, on
their website lists approximately 600 articles from back issues.
There are a few articles on the work of the Holy Spirit
and epistemology, but none contain “regeneration” in their
titles. (2) I
reviewed the titles of all the back issues of
which included 22 issues and likely over 400 articles.
There were themes that would have been opportune for the
issue of regeneration, such as miracles, whether a Darwinian
could be a Christian, and arguments from reason.
(3) Of 177 articles on the Virtual Library of
Christian philosophy posted at Calvin College, there are no
articles there on the work of the Holy Spirit or on
course, in both these cases regeneration may be discussed in the
text, but I have no way to determine that without examining
Without “regeneration” in the title, it is unlikely that there
is a substantive discussion in the corresponding text.
(4) In the last issue of
there are three substantive articles on the interaction of other
faiths and Christianity.
Regeneration, which I remind you, translates a person
from the kingdom of the world to the Kingdom of God, is not
mentioned. (5) As a
general observation, I rarely see a discussion in philosophy
books written by Christians in which the epistemologies of the
regenerate and the unregenerate are even mentioned, much less
with the profound distinctions of Blamires and Kuyper, and the
If one accepts the Oath of the EPS, then the
Scriptures will have an authority above any others.
That position alone sets a certain foundation for
regeneration divides the entire human population into two groups
also has profound epistemological implications.
And, my brief and informal research into the appearance
of regeneration in the philosophical literature of Christians
has demonstrated neglect in this area.
The differences posed by the regenerate vs. the
non-regenerate should have implications for future philosophical
considerations by Christians.
For sure, one implication cannot be ignored: an
epistemological approach will differ when directed to an
audience of Christians vs. when it is directed towards an
In regeneration, we have the profound union of the
accompanying subjective changes with the objective
Scriptures—the perfect union of the subjective and the objective
that so many philosophers and religions have vainly sought to
To be perhaps overly simplistic, Genesis 1:1
solves the problem of ontology; John 1:1 solves the problem of
epistemology; and all the commands and directives of Scripture
solve the problem of ethics.
The concept of revelation is the most important one in
the field of epistemology.
The Biblical concept of regeneration is one profound
example of that importance.
Robertson McQuilkin has called for philosophy and
theology, as “the highest categories” of scholarship, to be
under the authority of Scripture.
John Frame has cautioned against “philosophical
From my perspective, we need to heed their admonitions.
While “regeneration is not enlightening,” it is
nevertheless a profound change in epistemological
orientation—from darkness to light and from self-authority
(autonomy) to God-authority—the written Revelation of God.
And, if our epistemology does not reflect the profound
differences of light and darkness, are we truly being Biblical
in what we do and true to our subscription vows of the EPS?
Gratitude and praise to God for all those
great minds, both past and present, upon whose shoulders I try
To Hans Madueme, for a pre-read of my paper
and many helpful comments.
The Christian Mind. Ann
Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1963.
The Doctrine of Regeneration.
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980, reprint of 1840
The Holy Spirit.
Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1993.
Practical discourses on regeneration.
Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Library,
reprint photolithograph from 1855.
The Method of Grace: How
the Holy Spirit Works.
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977—reprint
The Doctrine of the
Knowledge of God.
(Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 1987.
Principles of Sacred
Theology, (Trans. by J. Hendrik De Vries).
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980—reprint of 1898
Abraham. The Work of the
Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted
The Biblical Doctrine
Edinburgh, Scotland: Klock and Klock, 1983 Reprint of 1895
Accomplished and Applied.
Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
1980 (reprinted from 1955).
of John Murray.
Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977.
Volume 2, 167-202.
Confession of Faith, 1643-1648.
Chapters 10, 13-15.
Trans. by J. Hendrik De Vries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker
Book House, 1980—reprint of 1898 edition), 152.
(Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1963), 70.
Biblical quotes are New King James Version, unless
The reader will have to perform his own study here, if
he is not already aware of this equivalence.
Interestingly, Colossians 2:8 is the only place in the
New Testament where the word, “philosophy,” is found.
“Philosophers” is found in Acts 17.
I use “theorem” because I consider the inerrancy and
absolute truthfulness of the Bible as my axiom.
With this interdependency, one could also say that
“epistemology is a logical outflow of one’s ethics”
(Proverbs 9:10, Matthew 5:8, and I Corinthians 2:14-16).
In Reformed theology, the term is “effectual calling,”
but I am trying to speak to both Arminians and the
Reformed without too much “partisan” theology here.
David Anderson, “Regeneration: A
Journal of the
Grace Theological Society, 13(2), 45-65.
The other dimensions being
The transliteration of “transformed” is
which in English is metamorphosis, a totally radical
Franklin E. (Ed) Payne,
Without Faith It
Is Impossible to Please God, (Augusta, GA: Covenant
Address is P. O. Box 14488, Augusta, GA
This power is also reflected in II Corinthians 10:4, as
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but
God for pulling down
Gordon H. Clark, I
Corinthians (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation,
Gordon H. Clark,
Faith and Saving Faith, (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity
Foundation, 1983), 66-79.
Jay E. Adams, More
Than Redemption, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing
Company, 1979), 108-118.
I am aware of Christians working with modern
neuroscience that attribute thinking, cognition, memory,
etc. to the physical brain.
However, they are seriously in error and deluded
by the empirical method which can never discover truth
because it cannot include all universals.
The Church at the
End of the 20th Century, (Downers Grove,
IL: InterVarsity Press, ___),
Force or “might makes right” is another applied method
of ethics, but not choice is involved.
I could have said, “God and His Word,” but all the
coherent knowledge of God, and even His plan of
is from the Scriptures.
It also excludes the Catholic and Orthodox Apocrypha and
Pope speaking ex
cathedra, but I did not want to bring in too many
emotional triggers here.
Metaphysics, 2nd Ed., (Boulder, CO:
Westview Press, 2002), 12.
Reasons for Faith:
Philosophy in the Service of Theology (Phillipsburg,
NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2006), 122-123.
Garrett J. De Weese and J. P. Moreland,
Slightly Less Difficult, (Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 2005), 56.
“Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law,”
Duke Law Journal
“The Behavioral Sciences under the Authority of
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society,
Knowledge of God,
(Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company,