February 2, 2010

Can an Unregenerate Person Believe the Gospel?

Courtesy Dr. Charlie Bing, GraceLife Ministries

Many would answer this question, “Of course. How else could a person be eternally saved?” But there are some who would disagree, because they think that a person must be regenerated (born again) before he or she can believe the gospel. That perspective is demanded by their view of man’s sinfulness, which they call total depravity. But what does the Bible say?

The issue of total depravity
Total depravity is a theological term used by some to describe the sinfulness of man. The term itself is not in the Bible. After Adam’s fall in Genesis 3, man is considered “dead in trespasses and sins” as described in Ephesians 2:1 (see also Rom. 3:10-18; 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22). How one understands this spiritual death determines how one relates faith to regeneration.

Those who insist that God must regenerate a person before that person can believe define total depravity as man’s total inability to respond positively to God. They believe that an unregenerate person cannot even understand and believe the gospel. This view is held by Reformed theology and strong versions of Calvinism.

It would be more biblical to take “dead in trespasses and sins” as a description of man’s condition before God. Because of Adam’s sin and man’s relationship to Adam, man is totally separated from God and lacks anything that can commend him to God. Though sin’s corruption extends to every man and all of his being, man retains the capacity to respond to God’s initiative. Even after Adam sinned and died spiritually, he was able to talk with God immediately (Gen. 2:17; 3:1-19).

The biblical evidence that regeneration does not precede faith

Many biblical arguments show that man’s sinfulness does not require regeneration before faith.

Man remains in God’s image. Man was made in God’s image, which includes a measure of self- determination. The image of God was not destroyed by man’s fall, but marred or corrupted, with the result that man, when left to himself, is inclined toward evil and rejection of God. Self-determination, even if used to reject God, is essential to humanness and personhood. Without self-determination man would be nothing more than a robot with every decision and action determined and controlled by God.

Man is responsible. Because human beings can make self-determining choices, unbelievers are held accountable by God for rejecting the gospel (John 3:18, 36; 5:40-47; Acts 17:30; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). God would not be just or fair if He condemned people who could not believe because He did not regenerate them. That would actually make God the author of evil.

The invitation to believe is legitimate. God’s invitation to be saved through the gospel is a sincere and legitimate offer only if any and every person can believe it. If God must regenerate people before they can believe the gospel, then the invitation is not really to all people, but only to those already born again. But this is contrary to biblical statements that the gospel is for all (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:19-20; 1 Tim. 2:3-6; 1 John 2:2). Just as Paul preached everywhere with the assumption that anyone could respond to the gospel (Acts 20:21), we also should share the gospel with everyone (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8) because it is a genuine offer to everyone. God regenerates anyone who believes the gospel.

God draws men to Himself. Because in his sinful state man does not seek God. The Bible teaches that before anyone believes, God draws that person to Himself (John 6:44; 12:32). God convinces or persuades the unbeliever of truth, righteousness, and judgment concerning Jesus Christ (John 16:8-11). The Holy Spirit works mysteriously in a person’s heart to bring her to the point of faith (John 3:8).

Faith is the means not the result. Nowhere does the Bible say that faith is created by regeneration. John 3:16 is a very familiar verse which, according to the preceding context of 3:1-15, explains how God gives eternal life as a result of faith, not a requirement for faith. Likewise, Ephesians 2:8 explains how it is through faith God made alive those who were dead in sins (Eph. 2:1-7). Regeneration is the result of receiving God’s eternal life, and that life is only available through faith (John 5:24; 20:31).

Faith is simply a personal response. Man can believe either truth or falsehood that is presented to him. An unregenerate person can believe the truth of the law of gravity, or he can believe the error of a flat earth. Likewise, an unregenerate person can believe the truth of Christ’s gospel or she can believe the error of a false religion. Since faith is only the instrument, the response of faith in the gospel is not a special kind of faith. Faith is simply faith. It is the object of faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is special and brings salvation.

Faith is not a good work. Those who define total depravity as total inability claim that if man were able to believe, then that faith would be a meritorious good work for salvation. But that cannot be true, because the Bible declares that faith is necessarily contrary to works (Rom. 3:27; 4:4-6; 11:6; Eph. 2:8-9). Faith is not the cause of our salvation; God is the cause. Faith is God’s designated means by which the unregenerate can receive His grace for salvation. Faith is passive because it means that one is convinced that something is true or trustworthy. It is not a work in the sense of actively doing something, thus it is non-meritorious.

The view that regeneration must precede faith is a theological construct,
not a biblical one.
To say that a person goes from being spiritually dead to eternally alive before he believes in Jesus Christ is both absurd and contrary to biblical teaching. The Bible teaches that man is so corrupted by sin that left to himself, he would not seek God or believe the gospel. Therefore, God must draw a person to the point of faith. Nevertheless, it is the person who believes. Faith is not man’s contribution or good work. It is the means through which man receives God’s grace in salvation. The unregenerate person believes in Jesus Christ as Savior precisely because he can contribute nothing to God’s work of salvation. Faith makes the new birth accessible to anyone, but that birth is God’s work.

Dr. Charlie Bing
GraceLife Ministries
Original article appears in GraceNotes

Editor’s Note: You can read more answers to regeneration before faith. Follow these links to Brother George Zeller’s

The Danger of Teaching That Regeneration Precedes Faith

The Danger of Teaching That Faith is the Gift of God


  1. Paul's conversion was a pattern of conversion. (1 Tim 1:16) You somehow want to separate conversion and faith. They both come by the will and grace of God. The faith of Yeshua is not a work of man. It is a gift of God. When God chooses a man, he is given grace and faith. Faith comes from hearing (the report, the gospel), and hearing from the word of God. The one true gospel is accepted is accepted by the will and grace of God. And the one true gospel is without controversy in the true grace of God is the Mashiach, Yeshua of "Nazareth", died for our sins according to the Old Testament, He was buried and He rose again the third day according to the Old Testament. (Luke24, 1 Cor 15:1-6)


  2. Daniel:

    "You somehow want to separate conversion and faith. "

    I don't see that in Dr. Bing's article.


  3. Interesting article Lou. It was George Zeller's articles on the matter which I first read almost two years ago that first got my wheels turning as to absurdity of Total depravity in it's extreme form. I considered myself a Calvinist at the time but GZ's articles helped me start to see that my TULIP was much much different than what Calvinism truly had in mind. (And even then I was really just a TUIP anyway... Limited atonement NEVER made any sense to me)

    Ultimately, it was exactly the requirement of justification before faith and it's implications against God's justice that caused me to cast aside Calvinism's T once-and-for-all.

  4. Sorry, I meant regeneration before faith, not justification before faith... though for those who hold to TOTAL depravity it seems to basically amount to justification before faith anyway since once the chain of events is started, in their view, the result of justification is guaranteed. Still, not technically the same thing.

  5. Great article from Dr. Bing. I couldn't agree more. I don't even have anything to add, really.

    Well, maybe just this one thing:

    Closely related to this idea of the man being responsible to exercise the non work of faith is the argument about God's sovereignty in salvation. You will notice that at no point does Dr. Bing "dethrone" God in the salvation procedure. He makes it clear that it is God who does the saving and that man does not save himself simply because he does the believing. I will add that God is the one who decided out of His own free sovereign will what the terms of salvation are. It is completely within God's sovereign prerogative to assign the task of believing to the man if He wants to. His sovereignty is not only not violated by so doing but is rather exercised according to His own preference.


  6. Stephen:

    Thanks for the comment and clarification.

    Your stating justification before faith is a fair and acceptable representation of the extra-biblical teaching known as regeneration before faith.

    I like to ask: What part of salvation, being born again, is left unfinished when the lost man has been regenerated? Is he still dead in his sins? Is he still on his way to Hell?

    The way I express this teaching follows:

    Regeneration, i.e., born again prior to and apart from faith in Jesus Christ.”

    That is what this teaching is expressing and it flows from Calvinistic extremes such as Total Inability. So, as Dr. Bing noted this is a theological construct, not a biblical one. This is a construct to bolster Calvinistic (TULIP) theology.

    IMO, regeneration (salvation) before faith cannot be demonstrated from the Scriptures without forcing into or extracting from them things that are not there.


  7. Hi Jan:

    Very good pick-up on how God is not “dethroned.” I like your follow-up as well. The twin truths of divine sovereignty and human freedom do no damage to God’s sovereignty.

    Here is an applicable excerpt from the revised and expanded edition of my book, which is in production with the publisher. This is from an appendix entry.

    In the matter of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will and/or his responsibility to say that there is a balance at the center would not be appropriate. Both divine sovereignty and human responsibility are truths found in the Word of God. They are not competing truths they are truths! They are truths that cannot be reconciled. The free will of man does no violence to God’s sovereignty! In short, freedom of will is no threat to, nor is it a denial of the sovereignty of God. In my opinion God’s sovereignty is actually magnified when we allow for the free will of man and His sovereignty to co-exist. His sovereignty is not diminished and is done no damage by or through the will of man.

  8. The term "total depravity" is not found in the writings of the apostolos, but "you who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph)is.Romans 3 cannot be any clearer. The will of man is not involved in conversion.(John 1:13)The will and grace of God is the initiator of conversion. Paul was an unbeliever, and then God made choice and revealed His Son Yeshua to him. There was no ascent or faith on the road to Damascus, only murderous thought one moment and the acceptance of Yeshua the next. What the author is speaking of here is semi-free will. There is no semi-free will, no free will of man involved in conversion. A man either accepts the one true gospel, Yeshua ha Mashiach, by the grace and will of God or he does not. Acceptance and rejection is by the will of God. Esau was rejected by God before he had done any good or evil, as Yakob was accepted by God before he had done any evil or good. And this hold true to all men whether a child of grace or a vessel of dishonor. (Rom 9)There is no human freedom. We are with a slave a righteousness or a slave of sin. God makes choice. And I reject Calvinism out of hand. For God loves all men, and the Mashiach, Yeshua, died for all men.


  9. Daniel:

    I do agree that “total depravity” is clearly taught in the Scriptures. Jeremiah 17:9 for example. Calvinism’s Total Inability, however, is not.

    Calvinism’s total inability negates the universal convicting and convincing work of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible God invites (Isaiah 1:18), and Christ draws all men (John 12:32), but no man has the innate ability to respond without the working of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11) to convince him of “sin, righteousness, and judgment.”

    I would have to disagree with you on another matter. Dr. Bing is not teaching what you refer to as “semi-free will.”


  10. I would rather leave it at "dead in trespasses and sins" and saying it is written, "They are all gone out of the way, there is none that seeketh after God...the way of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes", than dividing this all up into total depravity and total inability. I would rather leave it that conversion is based on the will of God and His grace alone. There is nothing a man can do to attain this. There is only God making choice. To answer the question very simply do men have the ability in any sense to turn to God in conversion? No, it cannot be. What ability did Paul have? The ability to fall down on the ground. And the reason he fell down on the ground was not his own will, but the will of God.


  11. Daniel,

    In Matthew 23:37, Jesus said, "How often I was willing (ethelesa)...but you were not willing (ethelesate)".

    In what way does that not contradict your argument?

    I would like to respond to you more in the future if I get the time.

  12. Greg, how we look for the exception. Again where is the free will in the conversion of Paul. Matthew 23:37 speaks of the very purpose of God. God desiring that none perish, and yet men not desiring what God desires. There is the will of a man, but it is not free. Man is a slave of sin or a slave of righteousness. There is the will of God and there is the will of man. The will of man is contrary to the will of God, whether Yeshua as a man, "not my will, but thy will be done", or Peter, "be it far from thee lord. The will of the man, Yeshua, in the days of his flesh, and the will of Peter, were both contrary to the eternal purpose of God, the one true gospel. And the one true gospel is the Mashiach died for our sins according to the Old Testament, He was buried and He rose again the third day according to the Old Testament.


  13. Daniel,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. However, I am not particularly appreciative of your remark, "how we look for the exception" in response to my citation of Matthew 23:37, as if mentioning this verse from the Lord Jesus was somehow part of the tendency of man to find ways around the Word of God.

    Considering Matthew 23:37 is not a way to reject the Word of God but a matter of understanding the Word of God. I believe we should consider all of the Scriptural information to us. Aside from the fact you come close to admitting this verse is an "exception" to your beliefs, it is ironic that you use the word "exception" when we're posting in a comments section to an article that gives several Biblical reasons why a person's faith proceeds regeneration. How many more verses would I have to give you in order to not consider this an "exception"? I could give you many more.

    You did not address the problem this verse presents to your view, though you agreed God desires nobody should perish. If God desires none should perish (which requires people to believe the gospel) and faith were a unilateral decision on the part of God, why doesn't God give all faith?

    In the same way, 1Tim. 2:4 indicates God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. If the reason some do and some don't get saved involves man's will, it is understandable that God's desire for all to be saved does not override His sovereign decision to give man a choice in the matter. Yet if man doesn't have a choice in the matter, what aspect of God's character limits Him to only save some when He expressly desires to save all?

    As far as Paul, you bring up his conversion as if it is proof that man has no choice to believe. But you see it that way only because of the lenses through which you look at it.

    All that citing Paul's example proves is that God gave him an exceptional amount of light. God also knew Paul would believe. But God also gave exceptional amounts of light to people who did not believe (Matthew 11:21). So you are only pretending that your conclusion follows from the evidence.

    Paul's conversion did not simply take an exceptional amount of light from God (in terms of receiving the heavenly vision) but it involved Paul's choice to respond in faith. That is why Paul said, "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision" (Acts 26:19).

    In the same way, God gives a certain amount of light to all men (John 1:9; 12:32). His offer is available to "whosoever wills" (Revelation 22:17).

    Finally, I think you need to rethink your paragraph on giving Jesus Christ as an example of a man whose will contradicted God's will. Why would you even claim this in response to Matthew 23:37? Are you saying Jesus in the flesh was a slave to sin? Or that, although He was the one human after Adam's fall that was not a slave to sin, His will was still against God's will? And ultimately, doesn't His submission to the Father's will and the very prayer you cited prove that ultimately His will was perfectly in agreement to the Father's will?

  14. You have said much in your response but it is summed up in this statement, "Paul's conversion did not simply take an exceptional amount of light from God (in terms of receiving the heavenly vision) but it involved Paul's choice to respond in faith. That is why Paul said, "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision". I am not shouting, just capitalizing to emphasize, PAUL'S CHOICE. Romans chapter 9 should settle this age old argument, "So then it is not of him that willeth, not of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" and also "for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth." Salvation is only of the will of God, and not the will of man. "He hath chosen is in him before the foundation of the world", before we had a will.


  15. Dear Daniel:
    As a former 5-point Calvinist, I can tell you, Calvinism is a "religious" conclusion that seeks to "support" a preconceived conclusion from Scripture.

    I would challenge you to read Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, Part 1 of the Second Part, Treatise on Grace, Questions 109-114, and demonstrate to me that there is the SLIGHTEST difference between the "irresistible" grace of Calvinism, and the poppycock taught by 12 Century Roman Catholicism, which re-defines grace as some sort of a mystical empowering substance that enables man to 1) believe, 2) detest his sins, 3) to turn from his sins, 4) to perform meritorious works by which he might be saved, and 5) to persevere in faith and good works.
    I spent the first eighteen years of my life in the Church of Rome, and a great many post conversion years with one foot in "Protestant Romanism" (Calvinism), before reading Aquinas, and realizing I had come full circle back to Rome.

    I invite you to review The Grace Chart, and consider your theology against Scripture.


    Remember the great philosopher of science, Karl Popper, and the father of the “analytic school of philosophy,” Ludwig Wittgenstein. If an assertion cannot be falsified, it is not scientific, it is nonsense. If there are two equally valid interpretations for observable phenomena, (e.g. the sun rises in the east is equally predicted by Ptolemy and Copernicus), then this phenomena is NOT support for either theory. Only when individual factoids and elements of evidence favor one theory more than the other, are they worthy of “weight” in support of one theory over the other. The same is true for Scripture.

    I challenge you to re-read Charlie Bing's article prayerfully, and scientifically. Make a “T-Chart”. Post all the Scripture Charlie Bing cited to support his position. On oppsoing sides of the chart, review the strengths and weaknesses of each verse on opposite sides of the chart. Include with the chart all of the Scripture you (and any other Calvinist) cites to support their position. List every verse, pro and con, in a "T-chart." Look at all the passages you believe support “Calvinism,” and ask what the alternative interpretation of each of those passages is. Give weight to each verse only to the extent that it favors one theory over the other. Add them up in the privacy of your own home and your own thoughts and prayers.

    I am aghast when I read the way Augustine used Scripture to begin this wayward teaching, which was on the level of how I hear Jehovah's Witnesses use Scripture. I would fail a student studying theology under me if he used Scripture with the reckless disregard and "proof texty" style of Augustine.

    Augustine's position was unknown in the first 400 years of church history. I realize that is technically not a logical argument, and don't offer it for any more than rhetorical effect. Nevertheless, it is "food for thought."

    Ultimately, Calvinism is nothing more than the "intellectual" practice of the charismatic movement. Charismatics want to see "miracles" of God to confirm their weak faith, and imagine miracles all around them, though these miracles are absurd to anyone but charismatics.

    Calvinism imagines that faith is impossible, and that to believe is a miracle of God. Having persuaded oneself of this, the Calvinist sees "miracles all around him," just as the Charismatic. I'm satisfied that "though we knew Him in the flesh, yet we know Him thus no longer." And that this journey is one performed in a material world in the presence of the invisible God, but will be (with RARE exceptions) one free of miracles and such divine intervention that violates laws of the physical universe. I do not need imaginary "signs" to pump up my faith. The resurrection is the only sign I require.
    God bless,

  16. Hopefully I can speak well.

    I consider myself a Calvinist but deny Limited Atonement and redefine Irrisistable Grace and Total Depravity a bit. Not sure if division and composition ws known as falacius back then but I tend to think they needed to defeat all 5 points of Arminianism. Also, think of the age this happened in 1618-1619. Printing press was was still in its infancy and it has only been about 100 yrs since they had the bible.

    King James who authorized the Synod of Dort just published a bible and the only reason he was against the Geneva bible was because of a note or two not in the bible text that stomped his toes on the divine rights of kings.

    The enlightenment sprung several philosophies when in by them selves are not wrong until w let them enter Christianity which at that time am sure they were ot aware of the dangers of making everything fit in this apologetic box. I write a lot so will post this and continue on another posting. God bless Dave Emme

  17. On the original article there are some thngs I agree and disagree with. First, regeneration, born again, faith, justification-these are not all about salvation in the vien as they all have seperate functions but are the results of salvation. In a general way when we approach these words-it is all about salvation by grace.

    I defeine Irrisistable Grace this way-God initiates and completes salvation and in there is faith by us which produces regeneration/justification.

    I also believe God is more powerful then sin and no matter how one wants to define Total depravity-left on our own we recieve the just sentence of eternal hell.

    When defining this, my intention was noty to try and fit my perception into biblical teaching but quite naturally fell together in a perfect symmetry for me. Total Depravity is not the propensity to do evil but the knowledge of good and evil. This being Adam departed from God, with this new Knowledge self determined what was sin and what was righteousness(good and evil) and came up with the means to overcome sin in a self reliant way(fastening clothes) and hid from God in fear because of this new concept of sin. Your welcome, I probably just gave 6 months of preaching. Yes-this is where I see free will as a product or the very essence of sin nature because all free will has done is caused us to depart from God-next posting.

  18. Psalms 14 aqnd 53 speaking of the foll proclaiming there is no God in his heart snuggles right in and then I believe God describes these fools which were us. In this I also see a bit of foreknowledge cleared up because acording to these two Psalms-God foresaw rebellion, death, and hell with no one choosing to seek God and again Paul quoting these-there is none righteous no not one-There is none that seeketh after God. I mention Paul because had one who tried efining the fool and those departing from God as the sinners going to hell and not his childeren-yet if Paul uses these two Psalms to describe all mankind as sinful-it either applies to us or Paul was in error for quoting these as ascribed to all mankind. Saying this, The original Synod painted themselves into a box and hope more Calvinsts will realize this. Saying this-if we were there-we would be lucky to have a bible so consider the times before judging as too harshly as am sure as it is with me-as now 25 years in the faith-what I believed 15-20 yrs ago is not the same today. Am sure if we took Logos Platinum Portfolio and everything else Logos sells in a laptop-I think they would concieve they are in heaven or not in the world they were born to. As sometimes things move forward so should Calvinism as we have so much more knowledge, wisdom, and resources. They did what they had to do in the understanding they posessed.-Next blog

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Daniel,

    You said, "Salvation is only of the will of God, and not the will of man." Yet verses I pointed out such as Matthew 23:37 and 1Tim. 2:4 specifically indicate it's God's will for all to be saved. If it was "only the will of God", as you say, clearly everyone would be saved. Why would Jesus even mention, "but you were not willing" in Matthew 23:37 if that had nothing to do with the fact Israel did not come to Him? I wonder if you can reflect upon this nonsensical picture of God that you have as one who "desires all to be saved" but simultaneously does not want all to be saved. What kind of God is that?

    Ron made a good point about your views stemming from a philosophy that started with Augustine and passed all the way through the Reformation via Calvin to the present day. The philosophy itself is a sort of gnosticism or "secret knowledge" that defies the plain meaning of Scripture. No person hearing the command, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ..." (cf. Acts 16:31) would conclude this actually means "You cannot decide to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. God must give you the gift of faith apart from your will, and nobody knows if or when He will do that." Only once you're initiated into this philosophy and wearing its lenses can you see Scripture in that way.

    On the other hand, I see the Scriptures you quoted in a straightforward way. The context of Romans 9 is not about election to individual salvation but election of people groups to the service of God. Paul was addressing the emerging question of what happened to Israel in light of the Church of Jesus Christ coming into existance. It was God's sovereign choice to adopt Israel and then to put them aside as His representatives. It was God's sovereign choice to elect a new group composed primarily of Gentiles, i.e., the Church to represent Him as His people.

    The verse you quoted in Romans 9:11 (and the following verse) are not about Jacob's salvation verses Esau's damnation to hell but about two people groups (i.e., the nations that descended from them), one of which God chose as His national/ corporate representatives (cf. Mal. 1:2-3). Within these respective groups, not all are saved or lost as that involves individual choice (which comes up in Romans 10).

    It is in this national election context Paul states "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that shews mercy."

    There is a valid way in which we can take this statement beyond its context of corporate election to special service and apply it as a principle in regards to God's plan of salvation for individuals. It would be this: God made the sovereign choice to make the plan of salvation and offer it to all. God was not coerced into it by man. God was not obligated to save anybody based on their will. It is only by that sovereign choice of God that we now have the free offer of salvation available and the choice to receive it individually.

    In regards to God choosing "us in Him before the foundation of the world", Scripture indicates God made this choice before time began according to His foreknowledge (Rom. 8:29; 1Pet. 1:2).

    My prayer for you is that one day, by the grace of God, you will be able to see Scripture and even the character of God without your Augustinian glasses. They are not needed to understand the verses to which Calvinists cling, but they do prevent you from accepting the plain sense of massive portions Scripture. Just try reading it in its normal sense when it appeals to people to make the choice to receive God's offer of salvation (cf. 2Cor. 5:21).

  21. David,

    I am curious...how do you define "total depravity" and "irresistible grace" differently than most Calvinists? Do you therefore also define unconditional election and perseverance of the saints differently?

    I think the Bible defines everything differently than the Calvinist's TULIP. What a disgrace "TULIP" is.

    -- Greg

  22. What strange bedfellows we have here. Calvinists who see man not having a free will, and Arminianists who see man having a free will. (Augustine saw man not having a free will.) Whether Calvin or Arminius, both paid lip service to the one true gospel and pursued the knowledge of God by their own carnal understanding. The Calvinist is left with man not having a free will, and the Christ dying for a few, and God hating all the rest of humanity. The follower of free will is left with men deciding to be a Christian, having some choice in the matter, despite the conversion of Paul being in stark contrast.Paul's conversion stated by Paul was that it was a pattern of grace. There was no free will involved in the conversion of Paul. Man has a will, but it is not free. Apart from grace he is a slave of sin. After God makes choice man is a slave to righteousness. I claim that God made choice when He granted me grace to accept the one true gospel. And the one true gospel is without controversy in the grace of God. It is the Mashiach, Yeshua of "Nazareth", died for our sins according to the Old Testament, He was buried and He rose again the third day according to the Old Testament. But the contentious will always be contentious.


  23. Daniel:

    Your latest is primarily a rehash of the prior comments you have submitted in this thread. They have been addressed very capably by Greg and Ron (Elijah). Unless you have some new argument the previous will be the last I am going to allow. OK?


  24. Can one born severely retarded and grows to adulthood be saved? One who has no sense of reality. One who has not the mental "ability" to respond to the gospel.
    What then, is or is not the basis for his/her entrance into the kingdom of God?

  25. Nolan:

    This is a good question. I’ve never really studied that out for myself so I have to say that

    1) I don’t have a definitive answer for it.

    2) I suspect the mercy of God may allow for these folks to be with Him at the end.

    Let me pass this around for some commentary from men who may have considered this in light of any Scriptures that may help us; OK?


  26. Thanks Lou,

    This question and the "possible" answers to this question have important implications if taken to it's theological ends.


  27. Just some comments:

    1. This issue has nothing to do with self-determination. The problem doesn't lie in the will. The problem lies in the heart of the person with the will. The person's relationship to the will is like the relationship of a drunken lumberjack to his chain saw. There's nothing wrong with the chain saw. There's everything wrong with the drunken lumberjack.

    2.Responsibility isn't based on ability. Human beings are responsible for our moral choices because of how God originally created Adam, not what humanity became after Adam sinned. I used to be a debt-collector. People would say they weren't responsible for their debt because they lost their job, or got sick. But that was never true. They were responsible for their debt because they signed on the dotted line for their Macy's card. Their later inability to pay in no way changed their obligation to pay. Adam was created in a signed-on-the-dotted line condition, on behalf of us all. The fact that the human race became evil never changed that.

    3. Even in an Arminian theology, God makes a legitimate and sincere offer of the Gospel to people He already knows end up in hell. So is God being insincere in doing this? When God told Moses to command Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, was God implying that Pharaoh would do so?

    4. John 6:44 says that everyone drawn by the Father to Christ will be raised to life eternal. Does this not imply that there is a 100% success rate; i.e., that God's drawing never fails? 100% of those drawn "make it", which assumes that they all end up trusting in Christ,

    5. John 6:65 says that faith in Christ is a gift granted by God (not "enabled him", in NIV's defective translation). Lost people have no ability to believe in Christ, according to John 6:44. Their ignorance of, and disinterest in God, are caused by being under sin (Romans 3:9-11).

    6. "Eternal life" isn't a synonym for "regeneration", so John 3:16 wouldn't apply here.

    7. Ephesians 2:5-6 refer to what God did for us, objectively, representatively, and historically, by raising Christ from the dead, exalting Him, and seating Him at His right hand in heaven. 2:5-6 aren't referring to regeneration.

    8. What does "left to himself" mean? There would need to be something in the heart of a man that desires reconciliation with God. But 1st Corinthians 2:14 says that all lost people think the Gospel is stupid; and the reason they think it's stupid is because they are "natural", i.e., they don't have the Holy Spirit. They are sarkikos. We don't choose to be sarkikos, and we don't become sarkikos because of intellectual influences. we're all born sarkikos.

    Brother Bing's article assumes that there is some lingering "nerve of righteousness" still in our souls that can be stimulated into full action, but I don't believe that righteous nerve exists.

  28. Jack:

    I appreciate the time you took to compose and share your thoughts here.

    I do not see Dr. Bing assuming, “there is some lingering ‘nerve of righteousness’ still in our souls that can be stimulated…” Dr. Bing was IMO very clear on the concern you raise. See this paragraph in particular.

    “It would be more biblical to take ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ as a description of man’s condition before God. Because of Adam’s sin and man’s relationship to Adam, man is totally separated from God and lacks anything that can commend him to God. Though sin’s corruption extends to every man and all of his being, man retains the capacity to respond to God’s initiative. Even after Adam sinned and died spiritually, he was able to talk with God immediately (Gen. 2:17 ; 3:1-19 ).”

    Speaking for myself, it is my opinion that the capacity to respond does not suggest some innate ability or goodness he was born with. It does, suggest that through the convincing and convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-ff.) he may “respond to God’s initiative.”

    Kind regards,


  29. Nolan:

    Earlier you asked, "Can one born severely retarded and grows to adulthood be saved?"

    The general consensus is that I/you cannot answer with any certainty what the Scripture does not address.


  30. Lou,

    Thanks for your response to my question. I would like to comment on much of the article you posted here by Dr. Bing. But, it may be a lil to much to post in a comment box. I may post my response to Dr. Bings article on my blog. Would you be willing to put a link here to my blog.


  31. Nolan:

    Feel free to post a few comments here.

    As for linking to your blog, I am very particular about linking to blog articles that take an opposing doctrinal view to what I present to my readers. Send me an e-mail when you post. I'll look in and decide then.

    Take care,


  32. Lou,

    I will post my comments about Bings article here. I want to go through his article point by point. So, it may be lengthy.My response will be from a more biblical perspective. First I would like to try and address my question I submitted earlier.

    Can one born severely retarded and grows to adulthood be saved? One who has no sense of reality. One who has not the mental "ability" to respond to the gospel.
    What then, is or is not the basis for his/her entrance into the kingdom of God?

    Scripture does have something to say about that difficult question.
    We know that "everyone" is born in iniquity:
    Psalm 143:2, Romans 11:32, Romans 3:23, 2 Chronicles 6:36, Isaiah 53:6, Micah 7:2-4, Romans 3:9-12

    This severely mentally handicapped adult is born in sin just like all of us. The problem is he can not respond to the Gospel in faith. So, what is he able to do to contribute to his salvation. In Dr. Bings article above he states:

    Though sin’s corruption extends to every man and all of his being, man retains the capacity to respond to God’s initiative. Even after Adam sinned and died spiritually, he was able to talk with God immediately (Gen. 2:17; 3:1-19).
    Man is responsible. Because human beings can make self-determining choices, unbelievers are held accountable by God for rejecting the gospel (John 3:18, 36; 5:40

    In Dr. Bings theological construct(Arminianism, Semi Pelagian) there is no room for this mans entrance into the Kingdom of God. This man has not the ability to respond by faith to the Gospel. So, according to Bing's statements he is damned.

    also Bing makes this statement:

    The invitation to believe is legitimate. God’s invitation to be saved through the gospel is a sincere and legitimate offer only if any and every person can believe it

    So, since this mentally incapable man can not respond or beleive the Gospel that makes it illegitimate! Contrary to what Dr. Bing states:

    unbelievers are held accountable by God for rejecting the gospel (John 3:18, 36; 5:40

    All men are held accountable to God not for rejecting the Gospel but because we are all born into sin and God is Holy. We are all in Adam before salvation.

    In this Arminian/semi Pelagian theological construct there is no way for this man or others like him to be saved. You might say as you did that in God's mercy he will save this man and others like him. Then He must save Him by some other means then responding by faith to the Gospel. Where did God see down the tunnel of time and see this man respond to the Gospel?
    If you believe that this man will be saved then you in esscence believe in some type of election, a special kind of election.
    I admit we really do not know, but in God's mercy he Elects some to salvation. Reformed theology allows for this issue, somewhat. In the theology Dr. Bing adheres to there seems to be no wiggle room for this man. If he says there is, then he defaults to some type of special election.

    I will respond to Dr. Bing's article later.


  33. Nolan:

    I appreciate what you are trying to convey here, but I think you are driving a stake in the ground on a subject where we cannot be dogmatic. I prefer to leave this for the Lord to instruct each of us when we are finally in His presence.

    You closed with, “I admit we really do not know….” With that you have my complete agreement.

    If you want to address this particular topic beyond what you’ve just submitted I’d encourage you to develop your thoughts for an article at your blog.

    Yours faithfully,


  34. Hi Nolan:

    The 5 part critique of this article really needs to be posted at your blog; OK? Protocol issue for me.


  35. Lou,
    I understand. I have posted my response to Dr. Bing's article on my blog. Thanks for being so cordial. May God richly bless you with his goodness.

    In Christ,

  36. This issue comes down to this.

    Justification by faith


    Justification before faith

    "The just shall LIVE by faith"

    We will live by something, because we are dead. The definition of just what DEAD is will be the issue. Spiritual death is similar to physical death, they are both a separation. To be physically dead means to have spirit/soul separated from body. To be spiritually dead means to have spirit/soul separated from communion with God (Isa 59:2).

    "You hath he quickened", God definitely did the quickening or bringing into communion with Himself of all saints. He did it through the Son, so that by believing we might have life (communion with God) through His name (John 20:31).

    The term regeneration is that which is used for the new birth. To be born again means to have spiritual life (communion with God) where none was before. It means we are brought into right relationship with God through the Son. RE-generation, means that at one time man had this fellowship, and for him to have it again it needs to be restored. It restored through the Son who giveth life (John 6:33). How does He give it? To those who come to Him, to those who believe on His name, to those to believe on Him. Why do people come? They are drawn, they are enlightened, they are wooed of the Spirit of God.

    He enlightens and we believe what He has enlightened, and then we LIVE (are brought into communion by God) by that faith. By believing the record God gave of His Son we have life. Why do I believe? Because I still have the propensity to believe. I turn on a light switch believing it will come on, I even go to a doctor believing he can fix my sickness. What the natural man cannot believe is that he is missing out on fellowship with God. In this God enlightens and shows what that is. If you don’t see what your ailment is, you won’t ever seek out a doctor to fix it. God ‘flips the light’ on your illness, so that you may go to Him for the remedy.

  37. Look:

    You've obviously thought this through and applied the Scriptures to form your polemic. I appreciate how you've expressed yourself here.

    Yours in Him,


  38. Sorry for being so late. I recently found this site, and was drawn in by it's proclaiming that certain well known men are preaching another gospel.

    The idea of a child, not previously existing physically, being wooed to its conception and its birth is a strange thought indeed. Jesus said, "... Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

    He also said to Peter, after Peter proclaimed that he was the Christ, "... Blessed art thou, Simon Bar–jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."

    Being "dead in sins and trespasses" and then becoming alive in Christ requires a resurrection before any faith can comprehend anything of God.

    1 Colossians 2 11-13 "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;"

    This last verse is so clear that I am convinced to disagree with Dr. Bing.

    In His Service,

    Joe V.

  39. What a fantastic article Lou, and so on target for those who would misrepresent the Bible's clear teaching on the order of salvation!

    In response to Joe, I'd say Col 2:11-13 actually represents exactly what Dr Bing is saying -- v12, right in the immediate context, couldn't be more clear that we are "... raised up with Him through faith... " not "... we have faith through having been raised...".

    The "total inability" view doesn't have a biblical leg to stand on.

  40. Stephen:

    Thanks for the return visit to this article, which thoroughly refutes the extra-biblical regen before faith theology.


  41. "In regards to God choosing "us in Him before the foundation of the world", Scripture indicates God made this choice before time began according to His foreknowledge (Rom. 8:29; 1Pet. 1:2). "

    That is correct. It never says God chose us based on him foreseeing who will believe. That is the blunder of Arminainism, Semi-Pelagianism ( Roman Catholicism & Eastern Orthodox ) and Pelagianism. The word " foreknew used in Rom 8:29 is a VERB which refers to God's eternal intimate relationship in this context to His elect which is the Body of Christ. The NT Greek has nothing of a mere prescience in view there but it is dealing with something relational in the context of Romans 8. In 1 Pet. 1:2 It likewise refers to God's eternal relationship to the elect. In context election and foreknowledge are co-extensive. The logical order is not being dealt with but rather that both are eternal. Even here it indicates an intimate personal relationship and not at all of a mere prescience of those who God foresaw will believe. 1 Pet 1:1-2 must also be viewed in the light of 1 Pet. 1:20 in order to arrive at a proper understanding. ( for a fuller detailed exposition see The Bible Knowledge Commentary: NT : edited by Dr. John Walvoord & Dr. Roy Zuck pg. 473-474, 839-840 ) .

    "My prayer for you is that one day, by the grace of God, you will be able to see Scripture and even the character of God without your Augustinian glasses. They are not needed to understand the verses to which Calvinists cling, but they do prevent you from accepting the plain sense of massive portions Scripture. Just try reading it in its normal sense when it appeals to people to make the choice to receive God's offer of salvation (cf. 2Cor. 5:21). "

    It is sad to see such a gross misrepresentation such as that taking place. Classical Calvinism does teach that human choices do take place in the matter of salvation. The Westminster Confession of Faith on effectual calling refutes that mispresentation. They would call this a divinely enabled choice. The real error of classical Calvinism would be that they confuse the grace of God which enables one to believe with the act of regeneration itself. Thus they fail to see those are two distinct works of God. This error has been corrected by such dispensationalist such as Lewis Sperry Chafer, John F. Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Robert Lightner and others. Thus it is to be noted they held that this work is efficacious / irresistible in it's outworking. John 6:44 and Romans 8:28,30 does have the irresistible drawing / calling . But Historical Calvinist incorrectly view that as regeneration instead of a pre-faith work that is distinct from regeneration itself. I would agree men are indeed commanded by God to believe in him. To me that is a non-issue. But man's choice in our salvation is clearly a divinely enabled choice and something we never produced in ourselves.