Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Birth: Natural and From Above


I recently read the book Understanding Four Views On Baptism. In it I encountered a really good point concerning the Lord's teaching on the New Birth by Lutheran theologian Robert Kolb. Though we Reformed Baptists would disagree with Kolb on how he understands Baptism in relation to Regeneration, what Kolb has written below lines up very well with how we understand the monergistic nature of the New Birth.


"Coming under God's rule means forsaking a sinful way of life and being brought under God's fatherly, beneficent Lordship. Christ spoke of this gift as the loss of our identity as sinners and the gift of the new identity imparted in Christ as a 'new birth' or 'birth from above.' (Both translations of the Greek word anothen in John 3:3 are possible, and both are theologically apt.) When Nicodemus asked Jesus how a person can experience the kingdom of God, the Lord has a number of possible ways to describe how people come under God's rule. Given the Roman economy in Palestine at the time, he might have said, "It is like a business contract that is offered, which you must sign." He did not. He might have said, "It is like wooing a lover and seeking her to gain her consent to marry." He did not. Entering the Kingdom of God is not a matter of two coming to an agreement. Coming under God's rule is not a matter of human desire or human willing. Those who receive Christ and believe in him have been given power to become the children of God (John 1:12-13), Therefore, Jesus compared coming to experience God's reign in his people's lives as birth (John 3:1-15).

Although babies cry and wiggle as they come from the womb, there is nothing more passive -more a gift- in life than being born. We neither asked our parents for the gift of life nor were asked by them if they could conceive and bear us. Mothers give birth, and children receive. God gives new birth and this new identity is received by faith. This new identity involves trusting and loving the heavenly Parent who imparts new life. But he has made the first move, and he makes it independent of every condition on the human side of the relationship. The response of trust or faith results from, is not a cause of, God's re-creative act."

1 comment:

Gordan Runyan said...

Not only with the picture of birth, but also with resurrection and other regeneration metaphors in the Bible (like circumcision, and Ezekiel's "heart transplant"...)it is noteworthy that all of these images have this in common:

They picture something happening to someone, who is passive in the process. Regeneration is something done to you, not something you did or agreed to. Even in the case of the "washing of regeneration" (where someone could say, "Hey, I'm capable of washing myself!")Paul is careful to couch it in terms that stress it's a washing that is done to us.