Monday, December 8, 2008

Does A Bad Tree Bear Good Fruit?

Jesus finishes his discourse in beatitudes by stating the defining difference between the children of the kingdom and the children of the world.

Primary to the entrance into the kingdom is the necessity that one is born again. The term is not found in John 3, there the term is anothen gennao, born from above, or born from the beginning. The term born again is found in 1 Peter , anagennao, again born or born again. The distinction is subtle. The former indicates the origin or the source of the action, the latter, the action itself perfected. That is to say, the cause and effect. Indeed, in the first case what is hidden from view is the monergistic work of the Spirit in bringing about the conditions that will make it possible for one to understand the "beauty" of Truth. In the second, that generating action is found to have been accomplished, what is seen of the wind.

At the end of this article: Regeneration Necessary to Perceive the Beauty and Excellency of Divine Things Charles Hodge quotes J. Edwards

"...It is agreeable to the sense of the minds of men in all ages, not only that the fruit of effect of a good choice is virtuous, but the good choice itself from which that effect proceeds; yea, and not only so, but also the antecedent good disposition, temper or affection of the mind from whence proceeds that good choice, is virtuous. This is the general notion, not that principles derive their goodness from actions, but that actions derive their goodness from the principles whence they proceed; and so the act of choosing that which is good is no further virtuous than it proceeds from a good principle or virtuous disposition of mind; which supposes that a virtuous disposition of mind may be before a virtuous act of choice; and that therefore it is not necessary that there should first be thought, reflection, and choice before there can be any virtuous disposition. If the choice be first, before the existence of a good disposition of heart, what signifies that choice? There can, according to our natural notions, be no virtue in a choice which proceeds from no virtuous principle but from mere self-love, ambition, or some animal appetite." - 140 Jonathan Edwards, Works, vol 1 (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1974), p. 177.

Hodge says:
It is the motive which gives the moral character to the act. If the motive is good, the act is good; if the motive is bad, the act is bad; if the motive is indifferent, so is the act. The act has no character apart from the motive This, it seems, is admitted with regard to all moral acts excepting the first. But the first act of a holy kind is an act of obedience, as well as all subsequent acts of the same kind. How then is it conceivable that the first act of obedience performed from the mere desire or self-love can be holy, when no other act of the same kind and performed from the same motive, either is or can be? How does its being first alter it very nature? It is still nothing more than as act done for self-gratification, and cannot be a holy act.

In earlier threads and with the eruption of accusations against James White as being both hyper-Calvinistic and freshly developing a new position has come the in house Calvinist debate on the ordo salutis and when regeneration takes place. As Hodge says, there really in no difference between the Arminian position and the defective Calvinistic belief that regeneration proceeds from faith. But, as can be seen, both the logical order and the temporal order must be that a righteous nature is regenerated before the action of faith can be considered a moral act. In other words, as I have argued elsewhere, and as John informs us, without a new nature and the abiding Holy Spirit, no one can believe. Having faith, as righteous act, can only proceed from a regenerated nature. Without a renewed nature, faith in Christ is sin, mere animal sensuality.


Gordan said...

Wow. Best post I've seen from you, man. Good stuff.

Strong Tower said...

It's the colors, right? Pastor's love the colors.

Gordan said...

And shiny things.