Does Regeneration Precede Faith? -- By: David L. Allen

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 11:2 (Fall 2014)
Article: Does Regeneration Precede Faith?
Author: David L. Allen

Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

David L. Allen

David L. Allen is Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Preaching, and George W. Truett Chair of Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.


Most Calvinists believe that regeneration precedes faith. Consider the following statements:

“A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved.”1

“A man is not regenerated because he has first believed in Christ, but he believes in Christ because he has been regenerated.”2

“We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again that we may believe.”3

“Faith is the evidence of the new birth, not the cause of it.”4

“. . . regeneration is the necessary precondition and efficient cause of faith in Jesus Christ.”5

“the revived [regenerated] heart repents and trusts Christ in saving faith as the only source of justification.”6

Some Calvinists believe that regeneration can occur in infancy and remain inactive until faith years later.7 Other Calvinists reject the notion that regeneration precedes faith.8

Why do most Calvinists believe regeneration precedes faith? There are two reasons. First, most Calvinists define total depravity to mean total inability in the sense that a person cannot

exercise faith unless regenerated. Second, appeal is made to key Scripture passages such as John 1:12–13; 3:1–16; Eph. 2:1–10; and 1 John 5:1. We shall consider these reasons in a moment.

The phrase “regeneration precedes faith” is fraught with ambiguity. What does one mean by “regeneration”? What does one mean by “faith”? What does one mean by “precede” (logically or temporally)? Are we talking about mediate regeneration (by means of the Word of God) or immediate regeneration (no use of means, but the Holy Spirit acts directly and im...

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