Regeneration is a rebirth. "The birth of a child of God is a spiritual resurrection, the passage of one into new life who was formerly dead in trespasses and sins. A child of wrath becomes a child of the Father who is in heaven. The theological term for this is new birth is regeneration."
Just as in the actual birth process, the birth is just the beginning. A newborn human being is absolutely unable to care for himself and lacks knowledge and insight into life as a human. Likewise, a newly born Christian lacks the same type of knowledge, and it is that knowledge that people most commonly refer to as faith.
Therefore, to understand the relationship between regeneration and faith, it is important to keep in mind that "rebirth is a metaphor of the initial step in salvation."
Regeneration is only the beginning part of salvation; it precedes faith. More significantly, it is important to look at the role of the child in birth. Just as the human child plays no role in his physical birth, the Christian child plays no role in his metaphysical rebirth. Therefore, "the metaphor of rebirth also points out that regeneration is God's work and not the work of sinful human beings."
If regeneration is God's work, how could faith precede regeneration; the two do not share that message. In fact, faith without regeneration is nothing more than hollow knowledge. As pointed out by Boice, "Nothing will make you a child of God unless God himself brings about a new birth."
That is not to suggest that there is no relationship between regeneration and faith. Once a person has undergone regeneration, he is in the proper place to begin understanding Scripture. It is at this point that many would say that the Holy Spirit can begin to work on the follower, allowing him to transcend the limitations of human logic and begin to understand the divine. This understanding of the divine, which operates outside of the confines of human logic, and can neither be proved nor disproved by deductive reasoning or other means that are effective in human logic, is what people refer to as faith. It is only once someone has the ability to understand the divine, which only comes after regeneration, that one can develop faith. Humans who have not undergone regeneration can logically understand the precepts and tenets of Christianity, but a logical understanding of those underpinnings is not the same thing as faith. Because faith is impossible without regeneration, it is clear that regeneration precedes faith.
4. In an Arminian view of salvation, explain which comes first and why, Faith or Regeneration?
The Arminian view of salvation is substantially similar to the Calvinist view of salvation, except for one crucial difference, and that difference implies that Arminians believe that faith must come before regeneration. According to Arminians, one cannot be saved unless one has faith. That does not mean that Arminians do not believe in the role of the Holy Spirit, though they may not characterize it the same way as non-Arminians. Arminians believe that God's grace gives human beings free will, and that this free will is essential when looking at the issue of salvation. All human beings have the free will to accept or reject salvation. Those who choose to accept salvation do so through faith. It is only once a faithful person has accepted salvation that he or she can be reborn through the process of regeneration. Therefore, to an Arminian, faith must precede regeneration.
The idea that faith precedes regeneration is reinforced when one looks at Arminian views on the duration of salvation. Many protestants view salvation as eternal, and believe that once someone has been saved, they remain saved, unless they actually turn away from God and reject him. The Arminians take a different approach; they believe that someone can have faith, be regenerated, and then lose faith, and that losing faith means that they lose their salvation. Here again, one sees the role that free will plays in Arminian ideas of salvation. It is not enough for human beings to choose Christ a single time, but to make that decision repeatedly throughout their lifetimes. That does not suggest that Arminians believe that a person whose faith waivers, or who questions God would lose their regeneration, but it does suggest a more significant commitment to continual maintenance of one's faith in God than is required by non-Arminian schools of thought.
It is important to understand that, while Arminians believe that faith is a prerequisite for regeneration, they do not believe that good works are also a prerequisite for regeneration. They view God as the only means of offering salvation, much like other protestants. Therefore, humans cannot actually bring about salvation. However, there is a distinction between works and faith. While human beings cannot bring about salvation through works, it is necessary for human beings to have faith in order to be regenerated. For Arminians, salvation begins with a call to God. Before being called to God, people are unable to believe, but can only resist belief. However, once someone is called to God, he begins to have the ability to believe, which is faith. Once one has faith, God regenerates the believer.
Explain how god can declare believers to be just when they are still sinners?
The dual nature of Christians as believers and as sinners is one of the most puzzling aspects of Christianity. Many non-Christians believe that salvation makes a person Christ-like, and that, being Christ-like, they should no longer experience temptation. However, that understanding denies the humanity of Christ. Christ was not a unique man in that he felt no temptation, but a unique man for resisting temptation. The goal for Christians is to be Christ-like, and to be able to resist all temptation. However, the reality, which is just as important as the goal, is that Christ's dual nature, both God and human, gave him greater strength to resist temptation than most human beings have. Human beings are expected to be sinners, regardless of whether are not they saved.
This does not mean that salvation does not change a person's behavior. While Catholics believe that good works are required for salvation, Boice explains that, "Protestants reply that we are justified by faith in Christ alone. No work enters in; not even faith is a work. But they add (or should add- there is much deficient Protestant theology) that good works must necessarily follow if we are truly justified, though they do not enter at all into justification itself."
A person who truly has faith in God and has gone through regeneration, so that the Holy Spirit is working through him, is going to be more likely to engage in good works than someone who has not, because he is going to be better able to resist temptation. However, the Holy Spirit does not replace free will, and people are still going to stray into temptation. That does not mean that they have rejected Christ or God, simply that they have made a mistake. Of course, some sins, such as an outright rejection of Christ, take a person outside of the realm of believer.
Furthermore, it is important to understand that justification only works when a person is truly justified. To determine whether a person is truly justified, John suggests a three-part test: "the doctrinal test (the test of belief in Jesus Christ), the moral test (the test of righteousness or obedience, and the social test (the test of love)."
Justification involves more than just a belief in Jesus Christ; it also involves the willingness to obey Christ and the willingness to love Christ. For example, a person with a well-defined belief in Christ would not be justified if he rejected Christ and loved Satan instead. More interesting is the idea of a person who believes in Christ, and who loves Christ, but is too lazy to make the effort to be obedient to Christ. An essential element of justification is the willingness to obey Christ. That does not mean that a person will not make mistakes, which are sins. However, someone who is willing to obey Christ does not willingly defy Christ's teachings.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1996.
Boice, James. Foundations of the Christian Faith: a Comprehensive and Readable Theology.
Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press. 1986.
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing. 2006.