The Hunt/White Debate
Denied Chapter 10: REGENERATION BEFORE FAITH AND SALVATION?
by Dave Hunt
Hunt now addresses the issue of the order of salvation, commonly known in Calvinism as "regeneration before faith" (RBF). He cites Acts 16:31 which states that belief precedes salvation. But what about "regeneration"? Calvin believed that people were regenerated and justified at infant baptism, a time long preceding the possibility of faith. Inconsistently, today’s Calvinists reject this teaching of Calvin yet retain the assertion of RBF. It should be obvious that giving up Calvin’s teaching on infant baptism necessarily removes the very basis for this RBF, since one led to the other (without the ability to exercise faith, infants had to be chosen by God). Modern Calvinists have only moved the starting point, meaning they have no logical reason to reject infant baptism, since when God elects is irrelevant.
Quoting several prominent Calvinists, Hunt shows their unequivocal belief that regeneration must precede faith, which means faith is not the cause but the effect of the new birth. Quoting White: "A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved" (also a nearly identical quote using "regenerated" instead of "saved"). The problem is that this is the exact opposite of what scripture tells us. Along with Acts 16:31 Hunt adds Rom. 10:9, Luke 8:12, John 3:15-16, 5:24, 6:40, and many more, especially 1 Tim. 1:16 which says to believe in Him toward everlasting life.
Hunt also relates a quote from Sproul which betrays the inconsistency in Calvinist teachings: "Once Luther grasped the teaching of Paul in Romans, he was reborn." Shouldn’t he have said, "Once Luther was reborn, he grasped the teaching of Paul in Romans"? Hunt proposes that Calvinist hold to such inconsistencies because their system demands it; without RBF, there can be no TI, no UE, and no IG.
As for White’s emphasis on man’s inability, Hunt asks what ability has to do with placing faith in Christ so as to receive Him? Faith is not a work so it cannot be a matter of ability. It requires no ability to receive a gift. He then mentions 2 Tim. 3:15 with the emphasis on the faith of a child, but this too speaks of the order of salvation: "... the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith...". The only way Calvinism can keep asserting RBF in light of such verses is to equate, without any scriptural warrant, drawing with regeneration. But even then, this would mean that Jesus "regenerates" all men to Himself!
Then Hunt examines the issue of ability by showing, through scripture, that "cannot" does not always signify inability, but frequently unwillingness as well. Knowing this, it removes all basis for the Calvinist to claim any scripture saying that depraved sinners lack any ability to believe in Christ. As already explained, Calvinism errs in equating spiritual, figurative "death" to physical, literal death, such that no "regeneration" is even necessary in order for a person to place faith in Christ, and hence no special "ability".
Response, by James White
White seems to begin his response with an excuse to ignore more of Hunt’s argumentation, judging it to be so full of errors as to exceed his word count limit. This is his second such complaint and excuse.
White accuses Hunt of confusing regeneration with "the entirety of salvation", but must infer that Hunt even said this. After repeating earlier assertions on faith being a gift, White lumps all of Hunt’s quoted scriptures under "empty rhetoric", never grasping the fact that neither he nor Hunt can manufacture scriptures that mention the Calvinist invention of "regeneration". How can Hunt be expected to quote scriptures about "regeneration" when none exist? And whether White used the term "special" to describe the ability to be saved or not, he does teach the concept, which is what Hunt responded to. Yet when Hunt only appears to teach something by inference, White wants the right to treat it as an explicit teaching.
And if I had a nickel for every instance of the word "tradition" in White’s writing, I’d be rich.
He goes on to insist that "draw" does indeed mean "regeneration" but never explains that verse he has yet to face, where Jesus said He’d "draw all men" to Himself. And of course he berates Hunt for allegedly failing to explain only the verses he’d like to use. Then he complains about "Hunt’s refusal to see these texts outside of his" interpretation, which of course is a complaint Hunt could launch against White just as easily. And the expanded quote he offers to replace the shorter "misleading" one Hunt provided does even more damage to his argument, since it clearly states what he denies it states: that man is "incapable... to submit himself to that gospel" nor to "understand and embrace the gospel". In addition, there are no scriptures that provide such minute details in what the lost can or cannot do; it all must come from inference based upon the presumption of Calvinism in the first place. Why White keeps expecting Hunt to argue from that premise is truly puzzling.
White then claims that he is "not talking about good works", yet has he not insisted, as all Calvinists do, that faith is a "work"? Is faith a "work" or not? Does Hunt have to spell out such things before White even knows what argument he’s making?
Defense, by Dave Hunt
Hunt begins by reminding White that his fellow Calvinists do in fact equate salvation with regeneration, then proceeds to explain the logical and scriptural impossibility of a regeneration that is apart from faith. That is, since White insists that regeneration is the first event in this alleged process, and faith another, then what does he do with all the scriptures that only mention faith in conjunction with salvation? Where is this regeneration? Scripture only knows "believe and be saved", but Calvinism adds regeneration or "quickening" as a prerequisite. As Hunt notes, this means that between regeneration and faith is a person who is alive but unsaved! (Or as another non-Calvinist Herb Evans put it, "born again unbelievers".) And it is Christ Himself who equated being "born again" with being saved. If regeneration is the point of rebirth, then White must conclude that Christ was mistaken in equating it with salvation.
Then it’s back to the issue of ability and what is meant by "come", examining various passages of scripture to try once again to explain what he means, with a final question about exactly what this "regeneration" is without faith.
Final Remarks, by James White
White begins this section as he began the previous one, accusing Hunt of confusing terms. But as we’ve seen, Hunt is only trying to get White to define them according to scripture. If scripture, and Jesus Himself, equates "born again" with salvation, who is White to call this "confusion"? The rest of his response is a repeat of Calvinism’s assertions, still not recognizing Hunt’s right to view all this through a non-Calvinist framework. Who else should debate against Calvinism?
Final Remarks, by Dave Hunt
White has done nothing to face Hunt’s argument that the regenerated are unsaved until they exercise their God-ordained faith, then defends his non-confusion of terms. And he has every right to ask how the OT saints could exercise faith when "regeneration" wasn’t even hinted at until Jesus came.