Friday, October 15, 2010

Hybrid Calvinism?

"Hybrid" Calvinism? -- What is it?

From time-to-time, we have "new arrivals" to our Flyswatter blogs who are not familiar with what I prefer to call "Hybrid" Calvinism.
In a nutshell, this term refers to the teaching that "regeneration precedes faith," or the idea that a person is actually"born again before faith."

This idea apparently was a post-seventeenth century development which arose among the Pedobaptist [baby baptizer] theologians as a means to supposedly explain how their "covenant children" were "regenerated" as babies or even before they were physcially born. These supposed "covenant children" of believers were supposedly "born again" as babies before they ever became believers, which believing supposedly comes later in life.

Hybrid Calvinism is a mixture of (1) Creedal Calvinism on the efficient cause (Holy Spirit) in the New Birth, and (2) the non-creedal idea that the "means" of the Word in creating faith is not an inherent necessary element in the New Birth. It became the "Primitve Baptist" or "Hardshell" view of regeneration by a "Direct Operation of the Spirit apart from Means." It is often called the "Spirit alone" theory.

This theory became part of the "ordo salutis" and the idea is traced by some to Francis Turretin.

W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Volume 2, pages 492-494, attributes the distinction between "regeneration" and "conversion" to Turretin, and Shedd adopted this approach. He says:

"The divines of the seventeenth century [Puritans] very generally do not distinguish between regeneration and conversion, but employ the two as synonyms. Owen does this continually: On the Spirit, III. v. And Charnocke likewise: Attributes, Practical Atheism. The Westminster [Confession] does not use the term regeneration. In stead of it, it employs the term vocation, or effectual calling. This comprises the entire work of the Holy Spirit in the application of redemption. . . ." Shedd then alleges: "But this wide use of the term regeneration led to confusion of ideas and views. As there are two distinct words in the language, regeneration and conversion, there are also two distinct notions denoted by them. Consequently, there arose gradually a stricter use of the term regeneration, and its discrimination from conversion. Turrettin (XV. iv. 13) defines two kinds of conversion, as the term was employed in his day. . . . After thus defining, Turrettin remarks that the first kind of conversion is better denominated 'regeneration,' because it has reference to the new birth by which man is renewed in the image of his Maker; and the second kind of conversion is better denominated 'conversion,' because it includes the operation and agency of man himself. . . ."

Then Shedd says: "We shall adopt this distinction [by Turretin] between regeneration and conversion. . . . Regeneration is a cause; conversion is an effect."

J. I. Packer also contends that the theory arose in "later Reformed theology:" Packer says:

"Many seventeenth century Reformed theologians equated regeneration with effectual calling and conversion with regeneration . . . LATER REFORMED THEOLOGY has defined regeneration more narrowly, as the implanting of the 'seed' from which faith and repentance spring (I John 3:9) in the course of effectual calling."

Louis Berkhof:

Berkhof likewise acknowledged that the theory had post-Creedal development:

"It is true that some Reformed authors have occasionally used the term 'regeneration' as including even sanctification, but that was in the days when the ORDO SALUTIS was not as fully developed as it is today" (Systematic Theology, page 468).

These are well-known "Reformed" Pedobaptist sources, and they are acknowledging that the "ordo salutis" of modern Reformed theology -- which puts "regeneration" prior to faith -- is in fact a hybrid development which arose "later" than the seventeenth century divines (Puritans) who regarded regeneration and conversion as synonymous.

Contrary to Shedd's idea that "regeneration is a cause," non-hybrids hold that regeneration is indeed an "effect" -- that is, regeneration is the New Birth, and the New Birth is an effect of the Holy Spirit's using the Word of God to bring an unconverted person to union with Christ by faith in Christ.

So non-hybrids contend that no one is born again until he has faith "monergistically" effected in him by the Word as the instrumental cause and the Spirit of God as the efficient cause -- as is plainly taught in our Baptist Confession of Faith, and is known as "Effectual Calling." (1689 London Baptist Confession, Article 10).

That is why we say we are "Creedal Calvinists" on the New Birth as opposed to the modern "Reformed" Hybrid Calvinism of the Pedobaptist "ordo salutis" variety. While we strongly affirm that the Holy Spirit works in a lost person before he actually becomes a believer, this preliminary work or influence does not constitute the New Birth or regeneration.

As Dr. B. H. Carroll has said, "regeneration cannot be complete without faith." [An Interpretation of the English Bible, Volume 10, pages 293, 294].

This is why we disavow so much of what passes today as "Calvinism." It is not a proper representation of Creedal views, but has derived as a hybrid "development" under the label of the "ordo salutis." One of the modern blogging "Calvinists" very well expresses the post-creedal theology which is held by many in the "Reformed" camp:

"The language with respect to the concept of 'regeneration' has been refined since 1646. It isn't as if we stopped doing theology in the 17th century." (Gene Bridges, Pyromaniacs blog of Nov. 8, 2008).

1 comment:

  1. Bob, though I am not a Calvinist I enjoy reading the info you provide. Your flyswatters and The Baptist Gadfly are good resources.