forget i said anything

Right, I said I wouldn’t be back till after the weekend, but this is what I’m going to be thinking about in the meantime.

Which of these positions would you be more inclined to agree with?

* most believers are regenerated in infancy (or before they’re born),


* most believers are not regenerated until they’re much older (childhood, teens, or after)

I obviously won’t be able to read your thoughtful responses till I get back but I would love to take a quick survey of your instant reactions to this question.


14 thoughts on “forget i said anything

  1. Believers are those who are regenerated after they are born. It is only in extremely unusual cases – such as John the Baptist, whom God called for a specific purpose – that people are regenerated in the womb. Since unsaved people must hear the gospel to be saved (as it is applied to them by the Holy Spirit), and it is necessary to be born in order to hear it, most Christians become so after their physical births.

    By the way, as I type this, it is still December 9th – John Milton’s 400th birthday!


  2. Sorry, I don’t get it: Is regeneration supposed to mean the same as “being born again”? In which case, it wouldn’t make sense at all to be regenerated before the first birth. And aren’t all people supposed to be born “unsaved”? Please enlighten me into this realm of theology unfamiliar to me. Thanks!


  3. This is a tricky one to call, we should certainly presume the children of believers to be regenerate from birth. At the same time many people will convert in adulthood. So I couldn’t say which of the two statements is more correct.


  4. @Richard et al: Why would children of believers be regenerate from birth?!? Just look at the genealogy of kings: good ones fathering good ones, good ones fathering bad ones, bad ones fathering bad ones, bad ones fathering good ones. What is your theology of regeneration based on? My concordance doesn’t even have that word in the Scriptures. So, do you mean “being born again” by it, or “sanctification”, or “baptism in the Spirit”, or what?


  5. Oliver,

    The reason that I presume the children of believers to be regenerate from birth is founded upon the promise of God to be the God of us and our children, hence the promise “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7) which is parallelled in Acts 2, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call”.

    You are correct that not all the children of believers are converted from birth, some never convert, but we should presume them to be converted until they demonstrate that they are not.

    Deut. 30:6 “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”
    Isaiah 59:21 “”As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.”
    Jer. 32:39 “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them.”


  6. Presumptive regeneration is not a biblical idea (neither is baptismal regeneration, for that matter). The Bible certainly does not teach that ALL children of believers are regenerate. I know plenty of cases (including in my own family) where some children are believers (either as children or as adults) and some are not. Since all human beings are sinners, all infants are sinners – no one starts out in life not being a sinner. All sinners must have the gospel preached to them. Some will believe, others won’t.


  7. Thanks, Richard & Richard, for putting things into perspective for me.

    Under the impression that you take “children” literally, I have some questions for you: Doesn’t the Bible teach that not all of “Abraham’s children” are his genetic offspring? In a similar vein, how else can Timothy be Paul’s son? Also, a situation comes to my mind where Jesus is saying “children of the devil” to some of his conversation partners who are claiming to be “children of Abraham” (and, at least from a biological perspective, rightfully so). And with regard to the Lord visiting “the sins of the fathers” down to the third and fourth generation (which, in my understanding, means that He’s testing the following generations whether they are still following in the steps of their forefathers, thus for a time actually withholding judgment!) yet blessing the faithful for a thousand generations (which, on the face of it, seems to translate into ten thousands of years!), I take that as implying that those who have been reared in a God-fearing environment have a better foundation for becoming believers themselves than those having been reared in a sinful environment (which in one aspect or another is true for *all* of us). I wouldn’t call that ‘regeneration’ though.


  8. PS: Having done some background reading (plus remembering some teaching from Bible college days approx 15 years ago), I wonder whether the original question of this post might be a non-issue for those who do not subscribe to the Calvinist interpretation of the doctrines of predestination and unconditional election.


  9. Richard: Bar the first sentence of your comment I would agree with what you say.

    Oliver: I think you are correct that the post might be a non-issue for those who do not subscribe to the Calvinist interpretation of the doctrines of predestination and unconditional election.


  10. Richard (II not Z) – I’m utterly fascinated by the mix of things you believe :) I was fairly confident nobody here would have much time for presumptive regeneration, but it just goes to show :)

    I’m grateful to Richard Zuelch for saying that cases like John the Baptist are unusual. It’s one thing to show that people can be regenerated=converted before they were born (or in infancy), but it’s far from clear that they normally are, and (to answer the question in the original post) I’d come down on the side of saying this is not at all the norm.

    The promises in Deut 30:6 etc are there for parents to take hold of – the God who saved them is able and willing to save their children, and he often does save the children of believing parents – but these scriptures don’t imply that this promise will be fulfilled by way of saving the child before he/she is born. They do provide support for treating the children of believing parents as already members of the visible church (a status recognised by baptising them as infants), but it’s axiomatic that not all members of the visible church are or will be saved.

    Presumptive regeneration seems (from the little i know about it) to undermine a host of fundamental doctrines – original sin, saving faith, effectual calling – although i’m aware that the people who normally adhere to it wouldn’t necessarily see it that way …


  11. Cath,

    The doctrine that I affirm was upheld in the 1905 Conclusions of Utrecht which state:

    And finally, in regard to the fourth point, presumptive regeneration, Synod

    that according to the Confession of our churches the seed of the covenant, by virtue of the promise of God, must be held to be regenerated and sanctified in Christ, until upon growing up they should manifest the contrary in their way of life or doctrine;

    that it is, however, less correct to say that baptism is administered to the children of believers on the ground of their presumed regeneration, since the ground of baptism is found in the command and promise of God;

    that furthermore, the judgment of charity with which the Church regards the seed of the covenant as regenerated, does not at all imply that each child is actually born again, seeing that God’s Word teaches that they are not all Israel that are of Israel, and of Isaac it is said, “In him shall thy seed be called” (Rom. 9:6-7), so that it is imperative in the preaching constantly to urge earnest self-examination, since only he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.

    Moreover, Synod in agreement with our Confession maintains that “the sacraments are not empty or meaningless signs, so as to deceive us, but visible signs and seals of an inward and invisible thing, by means of which God works in us by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Article 33), and that more particularly baptism is called “the washing of regeneration” and “the washing away of sins” because God would “assure us by this divine pledge and sign that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really as we are outwardly washed with water”; wherefore our Church in the prayer after baptism “thanks and praises God that He has forgiven us and our children all their sins, through the blood of His beloved son Jesus Christ, and received us through His Holy Spirit as members of His only begotten Son, and so adopted us to be His children, and sealed and confirmed the same unto us by holy baptism”; so that our Confessional Standards clearly teach that the sacrament of baptism signifies and seals the washing away of our sins by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ, that is, the justification and renewal by the Holy Spirit as benefits which God has bestowed upon our seed.

    Synod is of the opinion that the representation that every elect child is on that account already in fact regenerated even before baptism can be proved neither on Scriptural nor on confessional grounds, seeing that God fulfills his promise sovereignly in His own time, whether before, during, or after baptism. It is hence, imperative to be circumspect in one’s utterances on this matter, so as not to desire to be wise beyond that which God has revealed.

    I affirm original sin, saving faith, effectual calling and presumptive regeneration so perhaps more reading is in order?


  12. A clarification question, if anyone’s still reading. Does the Utrecht statement (or anyone else) say anything about the precise connection between regeneration and conversion? Where did the idea come from that you can be regenerated and then potentially not converted till some time afterwards?


  13. Cath,

    It does speak about immediate regeneration. I am not sure where you are getting that “you can be regenerated and then potentially not converted till some time afterwards”. Of course the traditional Reformed ordo salutis regeneration preceeds faith.

    The Canons of Dordtrecht:

    Head III/IV – Article 11: How God Brings About Conversion
    God carries out His good pleasure in the elect and works in them true conversion in the following manner. He takes care that the gospel is preached to them, and powerfully enlightens their minds by the Holy Spirit, so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God. By the efficacious working of the same regenerating Spirit He also penetrates into the innermost recesses of man. He opens the closed and softens the hard heart, circumcises that which was uncircumcised, and instils new qualities into the will. He makes the will, which was dead, alive; which was bad, good; which was unwilling, willing; and which was stubborn, obedient. He moves and strengthens it so that, like a good tree, it may be able to produce the fruit of good works.

    Head III/IV – Article 12: The Divine Character of Regeneration
    This conversion is that regeneration, new creation, resurrection from the dead, making alive, so highly spoken of in the Scriptures, which God works in us without us. But this regeneration is by no means brought about only by outward preaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a mode of operation that, after God has done His part, it remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not regenerated, converted or not converted. It is, however, clearly a supernatural, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, marvellous, mysterious, and inexpressible work. According to Scripture, inspired by the Author of this work, regeneration is not inferior in power to creation or the resurrection of the dead. Hence all those in whose hearts God works in this amazing way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectually regenerated and do actually believe. Therefore the will so renewed is not only acted upon and moved by God but, acted upon by God, the will itself also acts. Hence also man himself is rightly said to believe and repent through the grace he has received.


  14. Thanks Richard. I think some Dutch churches (or Dutch-heritage) believe that you can be regenerated and only some time later converted. John Murray specifically says this is impossible (although without going into details about who believes it).


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