November 30, 2020

The Council

Proclaiming the truth to the world.

Ordo Absurdum: 1 John 5:1

 

I would like to begin by stating that the Holy Scriptures teach that regeneration precedes (and necessarily results in) saving faith. (Note: By this, we do not mean that regeneration occurs at a different point in time — temporal sequence — than the initial exercise of saving faith, but that the two occur in a logical sequence; regeneration and faith are contemporaneous.) Many are aware that, when reformed theology seeks to establish this from Scripture, 1 John 5:1 often comes up. As a matter of fact, there has been much confusion concerning why the reformed community points to this verse. I would like to offer our argumentation for why we assert that 1 John 5:1 teaches that regeneration precedes faith. To do this, below, I have provided an abridged version (the full conversation can be read here) of a conversation that I had in the comment section of a YouTube video by Dr. Leighton Flowers (which I participated in). (If you’d like to see a Romans 8 discussion from the same thread, please click here).

 

Note: In order to understand what is going to be discussed, one must be aware of the fact that 1 John 2:29, 4:7, and 5:1 are syntactical parallels, all following the pattern:

 

Koine Greek:   πᾶς ὁ  ________  ἐκ (or ἐξ) τοῦ θεοῦ (or αὐτοῦ) γεγέννηται.

English:   Everyone who ________ is (or “has been”) born of God.

 

The articular (substantival) participial verbs (ὁ ποιῶν, ὁ ἀγαπῶν, ὁ πιστεύων) all have the same exact verbal form. The main, finite verb is the same exact word for all of the verses (γεγέννηται); it goes without saying that the main verb has the same verbal form as it does in the other verses since it is the same exact word in all three verses.

 

Here is the conversation:


Calvinist Klein

Hopefully we can discuss 1 John 5:1 next time. I wish we would have gone back to that.


Eric Rogers

Calvinist Klein was it you that compared “repent and live” to “go to the store and run a mile”?


Calvinist Klein

Oh I wasn’t comparing it. It was an example to illustrate that the word “and” doesn’t necessitate (not in English or Greek and I would assume not in the Hebrew) an order.


Eric Rogers

Calvinist Klein Yes. I find this fascinating. While I agree it doesn’t have to necessitate order, it usually does. I have been told to go to the store 100 times and EVERY time it was to get something at said store. This logically required I first go to said store. So though the language may not demand repentance to precede life, it probably does. It is also worth noting that would God have switched the order, this would be the first verse cited by Calvinists to support pre-faith regeneration.


Eric Rogers

I too wish 1 John 5:1 was discussed further. The WHOLE verse, not just the first part. As Leighton said when he shared the Storms article, the issue is regarding evidence of salvation. Demonstrating pre-faith regeneration was nowhere on John’s radar. (I believe because such a concept would be completely foreign to him.) As with the “Repent and live” line, nothing necessitates “is born of him” precedes “believe Jesus is the Christ.” Just as in the second half of the verse “loving those begotten” doesn’t precede “loving the Begetter.”

Here’s the kicker though; I believe John IS referring to someone who has already been born again (or saved as I see no biblical distinction). This is the point of the entire letter. How does one know if they are truly saved? They do good works, the believe in the deity of Christ, they don’t sin, they overcome….these are all evidences for the legitimacy of an event that has already occurred (ie salvation). As such, I fail to see the Calvinists’ infatuation with this text. It simply doesn’t gain them any ground.


Calvinist Klein

+Eric Rogers Wait, can you show me a Hebrew syntax/grammar textbook that says the word “and” usually implies order? That’s an honest question because my Hebrew is very weak. The example that you gave is actually an adverbial construction called “attendant circumstance” in the Greek and it is translated with an “and” in English just for the purpose of smooth reading. Idk whether or not there is something like that here in this Hebrew passage (it’s pretty rare in Greek). Nevertheless, something that I wish I would have mentioned is that this text is actually irrelevant too because of who this text is spoken to and the context. I was going to ask Leighton if he was aware of the context in which these words were spoken and how this text was relevant to the ordo salutis. This text is about Israel not using a specific manmade parable anymore and actually repenting so that its people would not continue to die. The passage is not about spiritual life (unless I missed something). That would have been my first point and then would be followed by the “and” point.

I wouldn’t have used it to support any ordo salutis. The reason being is that I have to be consistent in my exegesis everywhere. I can’t use double standards. I would also ask other Reformed brothers to be consistent as well. The thing is, because I apply that standard (concerning one of the “and”) in Acts 22:16 when speaking with baptismal regeneration/necessity folks, I have to be consistent (though that’s in the Greek, so I actually am capable of making grammatical/syntactical arguments). Let me tell you that the appearance of the multiple “and” doesn’t function in that way here. 😉 That verse actually uses the attendant circumstance that I spoke of above.

I agree that it is discussing evidence of salvation. The problem (more a major oversimplification than a problem) with the Storms argument (which I didn’t get to hear fully because I was doing homework as I was listening) is that there’s a relationship between finite verb and a present tense substantival participle. There’s a time relation between the two verbs (I can send you Dan Wallace in his “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics” on this topic). The substantival participle is typically prior to the time of the main, finite verb (believing, working righteousness, and loving all come before being born of God). This is obviously a problem. That’s where the discussion needs to start. It’s over-simplistic and artificial to just say, “we must ignore grammatical forms and the time relations between the verbs because all John is discussing is this topic thing and he wasn’t thinking about anything more specific than this.” And if we are to be consistent in our interpretation of the text (some people are fine with not being consistent, so they wouldn’t mind), my argument would be that if the time aspect of the two parallel texts is that the being born of God precedes the participle action, [then in] 1 John 5:1 [it] must precede it in the same way. Also, the latter half of 1 John 5:1 doesn’t have the same construction as the former half, which it shares with 2:29 and 4:7.

This text is significant for the reasons I’ve stated. If we are inconsistent here, we have no defense to say that 1 John 2:29 and 4:7 describe prerequisites in order to obtain the new birth. All you can really say is, “they don’t say enough to actually tell us that.” Then a works-salvation/justification individual will take you to task on the grammatical level. Again, I agree that this is how someone knows they’ve been born again, but that’s not enough. You can’t oversimplify it in that way where you’re not allowed to mention grammatical parallels and not allowed to let them stand as they do. I’m forced to this position because I have to use the same standards here that I would use everywhere else.


surr2Him

Calvinist Klein is the golden chain (Rom 8:28-30, in which sentences are joined by ‘kay’) an ordered sequence?


Calvinist Klein

+surr2Him It is an ordered sequence, but it’s not merely because there’s multiple και there. That was my point: the mere appearance of the word “and” doesn’t necessitate an ordered sequence. That’s not to say it can’t be used in an ordered sequence. In this passage, Paul is mentioning one group and saying, “this group which he did this to, he also did that to.” He’s compounding actions that God does to the group that he’s talking about. It’s not merely a list. There’s so much more going on here (demonstrative pronoun τούτους and the previous action being referred to in order to apply a new action).


Eric Rogers

Please do send me the Wallace article. Thank you.

I am by no means a Bible scholar. I simply use the Interlinear concordance at biblehub.com. Doing so I found something interesting.

The Hebrew word translated into the English “and live” is wiḥ·yū. It occurs 8 times total (Genesis 42:18, 2 Kings 18:32, Proverbs 9:6, Jeremiah 27:12,17, Ezekiel 18:32, and Amos 5:4,6). EACH and EVERY TIME is logically requires the event preceding it syntactically to precede it temporally. In fact, 3 times (the 2 Kings verse and the Amos verses) it is actually rendered, “that you may live” in the NAS. So one should conclude that the phrase “repent and live” can rightly be understood as “repent THAT YOU MAY live,” which demands repentance logically and temporally precede living as it does syntactically.

As for 1 John 5:1, as I said, I do believe John means the person has previously been born of God. That is the premise that is being proven. Belief in the deity of Christ, refraining from sin, doing good works, etc. are all proof that the person in question has, at some time in the past, been born again/saved. What John is NOT saying is regeneration precedes conversion. The reason are plenteous.

1) This interpretation assumes new life/born again/regeneration is different from salvation. No evidence has yet been given that the two are distinct.

2) The second half of the verse doesn’t demand a person first love those begotten and then love the Begetter. Nor does overcoming the world precede being born of God (1 John 5:4).

3) Sanctification (practicing righteousness/not sinning) is further down in the ordo salutis for Calvinists. If John is attempting to establish an ordo salutis here he does a poor job because he has sanctification and faith following regeneration. No indication is given as to their relation to each other.

As I stated before, 1 John 5:1 simply doesn’t mean what Calvinists insist it means. As a non-Calvinist, I happily admit that John sees new birth/conversion as occurring before the evidences he provides. It must be so. But to say he is establishing pre-faith regeneration, it just isn’t there.


Calvinist Klein

Please join a hangout because this was a lot of writing for me and I am a slow and overly critical writer. Therefore, I prefer spoken interactions. XD I would like to begin by saying again that I do not believe this text is relevant to the ordo salutis. However, with that in mind, I wanted to discuss methodologies in biblical interpretation. Let me clarify by saying that the following was what I remembered having an issue with when Leighton was sharing the following (from Soteriology101):

The order clearly laid out is as follows:

1. “Repent, Turn away…Rid yourselves…”

2. “…get a new heart and a new spirit.”

It’s a stretch to make a kind of argument that says, “here is a list, action A comes before action B in the list, therefore, Action A is necessarily performed before Action B logically and temporally.” That’s not a sufficient basis to make that case. I readily admit that I am not very familiar with Hebrew, but if you are also not familiar with it (and I am fairly certain that Leighton is not), why put forth a positive case for a logical/temporal relationship between words and then, when questioned about it, defend it by saying something like, “it can mean that in English.” Just because it can (assuming the same rules apply in the language), that doesn’t mean it actually does (that’s where we get into a grammatical discussion). Even if you are correct in your interpretation of a verse, it doesn’t mean that you employed correct hermeneutical/exegetical principals. I would submit to you that that methodology that you used to try and put forth your position is unacceptable. My argument was against the methodologies being used in the interpretation of the verses. Nevertheless, I want to concede that there is a cause-result relationship that I found in the pericope. Reading verse 30, there is a conjunction that is translated as, “so that.” The Israelites must repent in order to avoid the stumbling block.

Now, concerning the verse that you brought up, you said:

The Hebrew word translated into the English “and live” is wiḥ·yū. It occurs 8 times total (Genesis 42:18, 2 Kings 18:32, Proverbs 9:6, Jeremiah 27:12,17, Ezekiel 18:32, and Amos 5:4,6). EACH and EVERY TIME is logically requires the event preceding it syntactically to precede it temporally. In fact, 3 times (the 2 Kings verse and the Amos verses) it is actually rendered, “that you may live” in the NAS. So one should conclude that the phrase “repent and live” can rightly be understood as “repent THAT YOU MAY live,” which demands repentance logically and temporally precede living as it does syntactically.

I don’t think you’d want to say that there is a temporal relationship here. For example, if one event occurs 64 days apart from another, that would be a temporal relationship. I definitely don’t think we have enough to establish that (which itself doesn’t affect your position, but I just want to say that for the sake of precision). Is there a cause-result (logical order) relationship? Maybe. Repentance and obedience to law are conditions for the prosperity of the Israelites (the covenant that they are under was a covenant of works). I would like to concede that there is a cause-result relationship. However, I do think there is a different conjugation which causes the lemma for “and” to be translated in several ways (that, so that, and, so, etc.). We would have to look at the specific inflected form of the word to see why it is translated in a certain way in Amos as opposed to Ezekiel. I looked via Logos Bible Software and saw that the word has several inflected forms, which would be translated in various different ways (different word usages). From what I saw, it looked as though there were two different inflected forms in some of the passages, but they all shared the same base lemma form. Nevertheless, although I don’t have grammatical reasons to say this (until I learn more Hebrew), I do concede that, conceptually (as opposed to grammatically) there is a cause-result relationship in verse 32.

Concerning 1 John 5:1, you said:

As for 1 John 5:1, as I said, I do believe John means the person has previously been born of God. That is the premise that is being proven. Belief in the deity of Christ, refraining from sin, doing good works, etc. are all proof that the person in question has, at some time in the past, been born again/saved. What John is NOT saying is regeneration precedes conversion. The reason are plenteous.

I am confused here. From your perspective, would 1 John 5:1 be true of a person the moment they place their faith in Christ?

1) This interpretation assumes new life/born again/regeneration is different from salvation. No evidence has yet been given that the two are distinct.

They are definitely related, but the different words are communicating different aspects of salvation. Salvation is a broad term that encompasses so many things. It includes justification, growing in holiness, regeneration, etc. There are many constituents of salvation. Salvation is to be saved from the wrath of God (see BDAG for more specific/in-depth usages of the word).

2) The second half of the verse doesn’t demand a person first love those begotten and then love the Begetter. Nor does overcoming the world precede being born of God (1 John 5:4).

I would agree here. I’m not sure what the point is here. Neither of these are grammatical parallels to the verse.

3) Sanctification (practicing righteousness/not sinning) is further down in the ordo salutis for Calvinists. If John is attempting to establish an ordo salutis here he does a poor job because he has sanctification and faith following regeneration. No indication is given as to their relation to each other.

Further down? What do you mean by this? Sanctification begins at the moment of justification in the same way that Romans 5:1 states: “Therefore, having been justified by faith…” Lol I think he does a fine job. Both follow the new birth logically and both continue until death. No problem here.

As I stated before, 1 John 5:1 simply doesn’t mean what Calvinists insist it means. As a non-Calvinist, I happily admit that John sees new birth/conversion as occurring before the evidences he provides. It must be so. But to say he is establishing pre-faith regeneration, it just isn’t there.

Well, the argumentation that you gave was very artificial, brother. It doesn’t deal with the consistent grammatical argument and it appears to stem from some ill-defined theological concepts and some alleged issues that really aren’t issues. If you admit that John has new birth occurring before the evidences, why is it not before believing? We can make a consistent grammatical case for the position. Below I have provided the quotation and citation from Wallace’s grammar textbook:

2] Present Participle

The present participle is normally contemporaneous in time to the action of the main verb. This is especially so when it is related to a present tense main verb (often, in fact, it follows a present imperative as a participle of means). But this participle can be broadly antecedent to the time of the main verb, especially if it is articular (and thus adjectival; cf. Mark 6:14; Eph 2:13). As well, the present participle is occasionally subsequent in a sense to the time of the main verb. This is so when the participle has a telic (purpose) or result flavor to it (cf. Eph 2:14). But as Robertson points out, “It is not strictly true that here the present participle means future or subsequent time. It is only that the purpose goes on coincident with the verb and beyond.”35″ {Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 625-626.}

Things to keep in mind here: (1) the main verb here is not [in the] present tense, (2) the participle is articular (substantival participle), (3) this would mean that the time of the present participle is broadly antecedent in time with respect to the main verb (working righteousness, loving, and believing would all precede being born of God). The alternative is that the time of the participle is subsequent (in a sense) in time with respect to the main verb. This would happen if the participle has a purpose/result flavor. We could discuss whether or not this is the case. I would obviously argue that both loving God and working righteousness are results of being born of Him (as it seems you have admitted).


Eric Rogers

Calvinist Klein I would like to join a hangout some time. I usually don’t catch them until it’s too late. Feel free to invite me to any you host.

As a non-Calvinist, I don’t see pre-faith regeneration in Scripture. The two verses that Calvinists say teach it, John 1:12 says “recieve” first. That leaves only 1 John 5:1 and Storms and others agree it’s not talking about that. So at the very least it’s debatable. Beliefs based on debatable texts stand on shaky ground indeed.


Calvinist Klein

+Eric Rogers I can definitely invite you to them! Here’s a link to join a google hangout chat: Join the conversation on Hangouts: [redacted]

Also, when you join, I’ll add you to a private chat and personally let you know the next time I’m in a hangout (or host one).

We can discuss the ordo salutis and I can show ya. 😂 I assure you that I do not believe these things because I like them. I hated Reformed theology before I knew what it was. Reading about election in Scripture, I came to the conclusion of God foreseeing human actions and acting in response. I thought I made that concept up haha. I like them because I’ve had to affirm them when confronted with Scripture and forced to consistently interpret what the Word of God says. As for John 1:12, the synergistic reasoning here is worse than it is for the “and” situation. Word/sentence order itself certainly does not imply logical order (even as we discussed above). All it’s saying is that, in contrast to those that did not receive, those that did received the right to become children of God. Everyone in the group that received Him [makes up] is the same group that had that right and that believed. The next verse explains how they were born, and the reason was not of based upon any decision that was of human or fleshly origin, or of lineage/ethnicity. It was all of God.

Sure Storms does seem to argue that it’s not talking about that. I would tell him the same thing that I’ve told Leighton, you, and everyone else who disagrees. He didn’t put forth a grammatical argument or refute any positive presentations of what I’ve presented here. I actually just read what he wrote and he doesn’t seem to disagree, but he just doesn’t think it’s discussing that here. One could affirm what he affirms in the passage and still affirm what I’ve presents as his exegesis of 1 John. He is probably not even be aware of the grammatical parallels in 1 John since all he commented on was the individual verb tenses. The broad, overall context/thrust of a book/pericope doesn’t nullify grammatical structures. Just because we’re looking at overall context is never a reason to overlook grammar/syntax. The two coexist and cooperate beautifully.

Eric, how many Roman Catholics have you evangelized? How many have challenged your belief in Sola Scriptura? They would say that all the passages on Justification by Faith aren’t talking about all works, but only a specific set of works… other works justify you before God. The 1 billion Roman Catholics (largest body of professing Christians) would say your interpretation of those texts is debatable. Who is right in that situation (especially when the gospel is at stake)? By what (or whose) standard is something debatable? Is it because people disagree? At that point, I would challenge you to find me a verse in the NT that everyone agrees upon. The Roman Catholics would say that we cannot know what Scripture says and that the fact that you and I disagree is evidence of that. Therefore, they would say that every text in Scripture is debatable if not interpreted by the magisterium and through their “sacred tradition”.