Friday, August 21, 2009

B. H. Carroll on Regeneration


From time to time, the occasion arises which calls for reminding Southern Baptists of the view held by Dr. B. H. Carroll on the New Birth -- a view for which we contend in contrast to the Reformed Pedobaptist Hybrid Calvinist view.

The late Dr. B. H. Carroll (1843-1914), Founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at Fort Worth, Texas, would be disappointed in the teaching of some of the modem graduates of the Seminary who have embraced the Reformed Pedobaptist Hybrid Calvinist notion that "regeneration precedes faith" or that a sinner is "born again before believing in Christ."

Dr. Carroll was obviously aware of this theory and he did a very good job of refuting it in his writings. How any student could have been given a diploma from SWBTS without embracing the truth taught by Dr. Carroll on this important theological issue is rather perplexing, to say the least.

But the case is, preachers such as Tom and Bill Ascol of the Founders Ministries, James Galyon, James Hamilton, Tom Nettles, and some others managed to get diplomas while not embracing the views of Dr. Carroll on the New Birth, or Regeneration. These men adopted the post-reformation Reformed Pedobaptist Hybrid Calvinist view which holds that "regeneration precedes faith." -- a view which the Seminary's Founder refuted.

In a recent blog comment, Southwestern graduate James "the Rev" Galyon, said he did not "mention" Dr. B. H. Carroll in his writing of which I was critical. The fact is, Galyon would obviously not mention Dr. Carroll because Galyon apparently differs with Dr. Carroll's view on regeneration in preference to the Pedobaptist theory of Dr. J. I. Packer, Ian Murray, R. C. Sproul, and similar Reformed Hybrid Calvinists. And even though the "Flounders" like to associate the name of B. H. Carroll with their "movement," the fact is, Dr. Carroll rejected what the Founders teach on the New Birth.

If, as Hybrid Calvinists teach, the New Birth consists in a "regeneration" of the unbeliever which supposedly gives him the "ability to hear and believe", in contrast to the actual creation of repentance and faith by the Holy Spirit's use of the Word of God -- then this is in contradiction to what Dr. Carroll taught (as follows):

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.This is illustrated by the use of the ax and the sword. We say that an ax is adapted to cutting down trees, and not that it has power to cut down a tree apart from its intelligent use by the woodsman; and we say that the sword is adapted to cut or thrust, not that it has in itself the power to kill apart from its intelligent wielding by the swordsman. So, though the Word of God is represented as 'quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do,' yet this Word is but the Spirit's sword, powerful only when wielded by him. (An Interpretation of the English Bible, Volume 10, pages 287, 288).

Earlier, Dr. Carroll said the following. (Please notice that he denies that the pre-faith work of the Holy Spirit constitutes the New Birth):

Some theologians hold that in the new birth the subject is passive and the Spirit's power is immediate, i.e., the direct impact of Spirit on spirit. Others held that in the new birth the subject is active and that the Spirit employs the word of God as a means, but I say that there is an element of truth in both positions. Antecedent to all human effort a direct power of the Holy Spirit quickens the soul or makes it sensitive to impressions by the word. For example, "The Lord opened the heart of Lydia that she should attend to the words spoken by Paul." Now if this first touch of the Spirit is what we mean by the new birth, the first position is undoubtedly correct.

But while insisting on the necessity and reality of this initial and direct power of the Spirit, if one should hold that this is not what the Scriptures call the new birth he would be able to support his view by many scriptures. This appears from the fact that when one is born into the kingdom of God he is fully a child of God. But if the subject of the hew birth is passive only – if regeneration is completed without the use of means and before the subject is penitent or believing, then we have a child of God who is yet in his sins, impenitent, without faith, and hence without Christ, which is philosophically impossible.

Dr. Carroll continues:

Moreover, it is contrary to Scripture, as witness --

James 1:18: "Having willed it, he begat us (apekuesen) by the word of truth."

I Peter 1:23 : "Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of the living God. But this is the word which was announced to you."

Gal. 3:26: "For ye are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus."

Romans 10:17: "So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God."

Moreover, in John 3:9-18, when Nicodemus asks, "How can these things come to be," that is, what is the instrumental means of the new birth, Jesus explains by telling that Christ must be lifted up as an object of faith, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.

Again, John 1:12, 13: "But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

Then Dr. Carroll presents this INPECCABLE SYLLOGISM:

This teaching may be put into a syllogism, thus:

Every one born of God has the right to be called a child of God.
But no one has the right until he believes in Jesus.
Therefore the new birth is not completed without faith.

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 a subject of the new birth without contrition, repentance and faith. In exercising these he is active. (An Interpretation of the English Bible, Volume 10, pages 286, 287).

So, Dr. Carroll affirmed, as do all sound Baptists, that there is indeed a pre-faith influence by the Holy Spirit, but Dr. Carroll did not equate this influence as being regeneration or the New Birth. Whether or not one holds the exact view as Dr. Carroll, it is certainly beyond any doubt that he did not believe and teach that one is born again prior to faith.--

In the light of these passages cited which contradict the idea that regeneration is merely the giving of "ability," we believe Dr. Carroll is absolutely correct when he says:

"Therefore the new birth is NOT COMPLETED WITHOUT FAITH." (Page 287 of Volume 10, Part I on The Gospels, An Interpretation of the English Bible).

In a Sermon on "The Human Side of Regeneration," Dr. Carroll said:

Thus considered, conviction, repentance, and faith are the CONSTITUENT ELEMENTS OF REGENERATION. . . . Sinner, it tells you what to do: Hear the word, repent, accept Christ. Yes, that is simple and easy. The Word of God is preached to men and they hear that Word and they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and whosever believeth in Him is born of God" (Sermons, The Human Side of Regeneration, pages 177, 187).

In this sermon, Carroll has a diagram on page 177 which demonstrates that conviction, repentance, and faith equal the New Birth. I can't exactly duplicate the diagram on this blog, but Dr. Carroll uses it to demonstrate that the Spirit's unseen inner work in using the Word (top line) is to bring conviction, repentance, and faith (lower line), which EQUALS the New Birth. Thus, he calls "conviction, repentance, and faith" the "constituent elements of regeneration."

He has "Regeneration" on the top line;
He has "Conviction, Repentance, Faith" on a line below.
He has a bracket } which combines both lines to equal New Birth.

Among his comments are these:

I would prefer to write the word "regeneration" above a horizontal line with "conviction," "repentance," "faith" directly underneath, so that three names under the line are exactly equal in length to the one above the line. . . . Conviction, repentance and faith are the CONSTITUENT ELEMENTS OF REGENERATION.

Dr. Carroll even specifically refutes "some theologians" whom he says limit the word "regeneration" to the "influence which precedes all attention to God's word," and he says "the New Testament does not so limit the term regeneration" (pages 177, 185).

He does not name the "some theologians," but I suspect he has the Hybrid pedobaptists in mind, such as Dr. W. G. T. Shedd.

While affirming that the Spirit does exert a preliminary influence, he says, "But I do not call this influence regeneration" (page 178).

There you have a specific denial by B. H. Carroll of the idea that the preliminary influence of the Spirit is "pre-faith regeneration." He further says, "No son without faith" (page 185).

Carroll believed that the Spirit uses "the instrumentality of the Word in the new birth" (page 187.

He says (page 187):

Brother preacher . . . Preach the Word. Sinner, it tells you what to do: Hear the Word, repent, accept Christ. Yes, that is simple and easy. The Word of God is preached to men and they hear that Word and they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and whosoever believeth in Him is born of God.

Dr. Carroll on the Relation of Justification and Regeneration:
When we accept Jesus by faith as he is offered in the gospel, we at once and forever enter into justification, redemption of soul, and adoption into God's family, and are regenerated. We are no longer aliens and enemies, but children and friends of God. . . . The ground of the justification is the expiation of Christ. The means by which we receive the justification is the Holy Spirit's part of regeneration which is called cleansing. Regeneration consists of two elements, at least – cleansing and renewing. But the very moment that one believes in Christ the Holy Spirit applies the blood of Christ to his heart and he is cleansed from the defilement of sin. At the same time the Holy Spirit does another thing. He renews the mind. He changes that carnal mind which is enmity toward God. [An Interpretation of the English Bible, Volume 14, pages 126, 127].

Justification comes in touch with regeneration at that point where the Spirit of God by the application of the blood of Christ, cleanses the soul. When the man accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as his Teacher, Sacrifice, Priest, and King, and trusts in him for salvation, then God in heaven justifies the man, or declares an acquittal of him, through his faith in the blood, but the blood is applied in the cleansing part of regeneration, so that we see again from this relation between regeneration and justification how it is that regeneration cannot be complete without faith. [An Interpretation of the English Bible, Volume 10, pages 293, 294].

It is no marvel that Southwestern Theological Seminary, founded by Carroll, has been known over the years for its sending forth graduates who are noted for their evangelistic, soul winning, and missionary endeavors. I think they reflect the influence of Dr. Carroll's views.

Contrarily, those of the modern Hybrid Calvinist view on the new birth have not distinguished themselves for evangelistic, soul winning endeavors, but rather they have majored on beating the drums for the version of "regeneration" which derives from the Pedobaptists,
even to the point of dispensing with "public invitations" to lost sinners to accept Christ, following the lead of Pedobaptist Ian Murray and his disciple, Ernest Reisinger, founder of the Founders Ministries.

COMMENTS: Your comments are welcome, but in the absence of "Charles" the exclusive Moderator of Comments, they must be sent to Bob L. Ross' email at --


At Friday, August 21, 2009 5:59:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


Wes Kenney wrote:

You mentioned Wade Burleson as a graduate of SWBTS in the article. This is not the case. Burleson is a graduate of Baylor University, and holds no theological degree.

Wes Kenney

Bob's comment: Thanks for the correction. I have removed Wade's name, though I understand he does teach the same view on regeneration which differs with B. H. Carroll.

At Friday, August 21, 2009 6:16:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


We discussed this awhile back:

At Thursday, March 04, 2010 3:33:00 PM, Blogger Clark's blog said...

I'm sorry, are YOU known for your evangelistic zeal? Its one thing to parse the writings and come up with deductions based on fact, it's another to just attack someone's character without facts. I know many Calvinistic baptists who are very evangelical. Why, 'cause Jesus called us to it.
One thing B H Carroll was sure of was, election was not based on faith and repentance, Faith and repentance were based on God's election before the foundations of the world. So he differs a little on his definition of regeneration. Big deal.
Read His exposition of 1st Thessalonians and you'll see his pronounced calvinistic influences!

Clark Dunlap
Pastor, graduate of SWBTS (twice)


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