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12 March, 2008 / theexpositor

R.C. Sproul-Regeneration Preceeds Faith

“No man has the power to raise himself from spiritual death. Divine assistance is necessary. This grace, according to Rome, comes in the form of what is called prevenient grace. “Prevenient” means that which comes from something else. Rome adds to this prevenient grace the requirement that we must “cooperate with it and assent to it” before it can take hold in our hearts.

This concept of cooperation is at best a half-truth. Yes, the faith we exercise is our faith. God does not do the believing for us. When I respond to Christ, it is my response, my faith, my trust that is being exercised. The issue, however, goes deeper. The question still remains: “Do I cooperate with God’s grace before I am born again, or does the cooperation occur after?” Another way of asking this question is to ask if regeneration is monergistic or synergistic. Is it operative or cooperative? Is it effectual or dependent? Some of these words are theological terms that require further explanation.

A monergistic work is a work produced singly, by one person. The prefix mono means one. The word erg refers to a unit of work. Words like energy are built upon this root. A synergistic work is one that involves cooperation between two or more persons or things. The prefix syn – means “together with.” I labor this distinction for a reason. The debate between Rome and Luther hung on this single point. At issue was this: Is regeneration a monergistic work of God or a synergistic work that requires cooperation between man and God? When my professor wrote “Regeneration precedes faith” on the blackboard, he was clearly siding with the monergistic answer. After a person is regenerated, that person cooperates by exercising faith and trust. But the first step is the work of God and of God alone.

The reason we do not cooperate with regenerating grace before it acts upon us and in us is because we can- not. We cannot because we are spiritually dead. We can no more assist the Holy Spirit in the quickening of our souls to spiritual life than Lazarus could help Jesus raise him for the dead.” Read the entire article…..



  1. Brett S / Mar 13 2008 14 09

    I ‘m reluctant to disagree with a brilliant Christian thinker like Dr. Sproul because I admire his work, and he’s probably forgotten more theology than I can ever hope to learn in my lifetime. But a few comments of things that confuse me about the article:

    – Aquinas and Augustine are still canonized Saints and “Doctors” of the Roman Catholic Church, so obviously there’s more common ground with dreaded “Rome” than disagreements, right?
    – Roman Catholic doctrine has always taught that initial regeneration (being born again) it totally a work of God’s grace. [Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5]
    – It’s kinda misleading to say that, “according to Rome” prevenient grace is what regenerates us? The Catechism describes prevenient grace operating as follows:
    [“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Every time we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the way of prayer by his prevenient grace. Since he teaches us to pray by recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit too? That is why the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action. CCC 2670]. So the Catholic Church teaches that we can’t even pray without God’s grace acting first.

    – I think the confusion for some in understanding the Catholic/biblical view of regeneration is this. The Catholic Church teaches that there can and probably will be many “born again” Christians in hell, along with the unregenerates. We can’t choose to go to heaven and don’t deserve it, but we can reject God’s grace and burn in hell.
    I don’t really know or care if someone calls me a monergist, a synergist or any other fancy word you can come up with. All I know is that my redeemer lives.

  2. Ken Silva / Mar 14 2008 18 37

    “initial regeneration”

    There is no such thing as initial regeneration. One is either a new creation in Christ or they are not. And if they are not regenerated then they do not have the gift of faith. Therefore they do not believe.

    So since obviously Christ-the Redeemer lives-the question is: How does a dead person come to know Him? Hence, regeneration must precede faith.

    And the Roman Catholic Church teaches baptismal regeneration, which is a false doctrine. They have the erroneous idea that one is “born again” in baptism.

    There will be zero regenerated [i.e. “born again”] people in Hell.

  3. Brett S / Mar 18 2008 14 11

    Sorry Pastor,

    As I commented before I was a little confused by the article, so please forgive me if my reasoning is off; I really was trying to understand it and I’m still cutting my teeth on the solid food of God’s word. Dr. Sproul used the words “Regeneration precedes faith” so I used the term “initial regeneration” in reference to faith. Personally, I am very reluctant to place any limitations, orders, or requirements on God’s grace, and I don’t find the verse that says “Hence, regeneration must precede faith.” in the bible.

    I still maintain that the Catholic Church has always taught that (regeneration and faith) are gratuitous gifts of grace; and I’m responsible for teaching that Truth to impressionable teenagers (and I don’t plan on having any millstones hung around my neck). I’m aware that some Christian traditions have the view that baptism is a work that men do to honor God; but it’s consistent with scripture that baptism is a work of God’s grace. I appreciate the way that Dr. Michael Horton put it in an article: [“However, the real question is: where has God promised to meet us and show us His grace? And the Bible tells us that one place that He has promised to meet us is where He has instituted a sacrament. That’s where He has promised to deliver His grace. Certainly God blesses us in many other ways as well, but it is in the sacraments that God has promised special blessing.”(Australian Presbyterian)]

    “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” John 13:8

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