Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jonathan Edwards misrepresented


Hybrid Calvinists are in the habit of misrepresenting various leaders of the past, especially on the new birth, as if they held to the notion of "born again before faith." Jonathan Edwards is another case of such misrepresentation.

While we have briefly presented Jonathan Edwards' view on regeneration in an earlier post (here), I have occasion to mention it again after seeing an item on the Internet where Hybrid Calvinist John Gerstner has in effect repudiated Edwards on "regeneration" yet still persists in trying to make Edwards a Hybrid Calvinist. Gerstner is quoted on a Hybrid website as follows:

Effectual calling, conversion, repentance, and regeneration were approximately synonymous terms for Edwards. An important statement in Original sin shows the identity of the last three terms.

[Gerstner quotes Edwards:]
I put repentance and conversion together, as the Scripture puts them together, Acts iii. 19, and because they plainly signify much the same thing. The word metanoia (repentance) signifies a change of the mind; as the word conversion means a change or turning from sin to God. And that this is the same change with that which is called regeneration (excepting that this latter term especially signifies the change, as the mind is passive in it), the following things do show....

This is a rather unfortunate and unscientific way of proceeding. While it is true that Scripture tends to use these different terms synonymously, there are significant differences.

[Bob Ross:]
Of course, Gerstner, being a pedobaptist Hybrid Calvinist who holds to the idea that both infants and adults are "born again before faith," naturally would be expected to try to spin things to favor the "born again before faith" notion. But notice: while Gerstner repudiates Edwards' "proceeding," nevertheless he acknowledges that "Scripture tends to use these different terms synonymously. . . ."

And while Gerstner alleges that Edwards held that man is "passive" in regeneration, what Gerstner has in mind by "passivity" is not exactly what Edwards had in mind.

Edwards did not use "passive" to refer to any inactivity in the sinner's faculties in regeneration, but rather that the sinner simply does not provide the efficient power which regenerates -- that power is the Holy Spirit's power using the Word of God to bring about the activity of faith in the sinner's faculties.

Jonathan Edwards' view may be understood from reading his sermon, A Divine and Supernatural Light, etc. and may be consulted on the Internet here.

Edwards teaches the Creedal view that "effectual calling" is effected by the Word and Spirit inseparably, these two being essential to the producing of "light" (faith) in the "natural faculties" of the sinner.

Under his second major heading, Edwards says:

"It is not intended that the natural faculties are not made use of in it. The natural faculties of the sinner receive this light: and they receive it in such a manner that they are NOT MERELY PASSIVE, but ACTIVE in it; the acts and exercises of man's understanding are concerned and made use of in it. God, in letting in this light into the soul, deals with man according to his nature, or as a rational creature; and makes use of his human faculties."

Edwards continues under this same heading:

2. It is not intended that outward means have no concern in this affair. As I have observed already, it is not in this affair, as it is in inspiration, where new truths are suggested: for here is by this light only given a due apprehension of the same truths that are revealed in the word of God; and therefore it is not given without the word. The gospel is made use of in this affair: this light is the "light of the glorious gospel of Christ", 2 Cor. 4:4. The gospel is as a glass by which this light is conveyed to us, 1 Cor. 13:12. "Now we see through a glass." . . . Indeed a person cannot have spiritual light without the word.

Edwards' view is obviously what is found in the Creeds on "effectual calling," and there is no "born again before faith" doctrine in his remarks. The sinner is simply "passive" in the sense that he does not furnish the "power" which is necessary in the new birth, but he is "active" when the Spirit uses the Word of His power to influence the sinner's "natural faculties" to receive or believe the Gospel.

Thus, according to Edwards' view, faith may be referred to as a "gift" on account of the power of the Spirit in His use of the Word of Truth in influencing the sinner to receive the Gospel.

This understanding dispels the Hybrid Calvinist notion that the sinner "cannot" believe until after he is regenerated, and holds that while the sinner does not believe "apart from" the power of the Spirit's use of the Word, he does believe simultaneously with the Spirit's use of the Word.


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