Calvinist Proof-texting of 1 John 5:1: Using misleading grammatical arguments to teach that regeneration precedes faith

If there is one thing I learned from my Greek teachers, it’s that they taught me to be very careful with using the Greek language.  I wouldn’t consider myself very good in Greek at all despite finishing seminary (frankly, most seminary graduates are not, regardless of where they went), but I know enough of it and semantic analysis to know to be cautious and nuanced.  I’m sure I still mess up when I try to use the language, but while it may be tempting to pass off awesome-sounding points with simple appeals to Greek grammar or words in sermons, I try to avoid it.  Not only does it often not help support a point to the audience, most pastors who do so often oversimplify the use of the language and therefore mislead their congregation who is eager to gobble up all of this neat “scholarly” stuff.  One of the greatest errors of early seminary students is their excitement to use simplistic Greek grammar to make sweeping conclusions when it is not quite that easy.

This is why it is concerning that many Calvinists use such simple tense analysis to try to argue that 1 John 5:1 teaches that regeneration precedes faith.  One of the main points of contention between Calvinists and most non-Calvinists is on the ordo salutis, the order of salvation (that wasn’t Greek but Latin; see how smart I sounded?).  Calvinists believe that regeneration logically precedes faith, while Arminians and other non-Calvinists believe that faith precedes regeneration (some others argue that such ordering is unimportant and unduly speculative).  In other words, Calvinists believe that we have faith because God has already regenerated us while others believe that we are regenerated due to our faith.  Many Calvinists argue that 1 John 5:1 is a clear verse for their view because the tenses of the Greek verbs demand it.  However, as attractive as it sounds to end an old and ongoing debate with “objective” Greek interpretation, a more careful look at the verse shows that it at best says nothing about the order of faith and regeneration and at worst (for the Calvinist) says the opposite of what Reformed people want it to say.

“I used Greek.  Therefore, it is so.  QED.”

In the NIV, the first part of 1 John 5:1 reads: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”  The important Greek words are the present participle that is translated “who believes” (pisteuon) and the perfect verb that is translated “is born of God” (gegennatai).  The English Standard Version, a more Reformed translation, translates this phrase, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (emphasis mine).  Before anyone tries to simply dismiss the NIV for being the NIV, the NASB translates this, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,” also using the present tense construction in English.

Calvinists argue that the ESV rendering is more correct because it is more faithful to Greek grammar; since perfect verbs communicate a past action with present consequences, it should be “has been,” which also tells us that being born again preceded belief since “everyone who believes” is in the present.  The logic is simple: Perfect tense verbs talk about the past and present tense verbs talk about, well, the present, so the passive perfect verb of being born again should be seen as coming before the present participle of believing.

It is not only lay Calvinists who use this argument; commentators such as John Stott and Thomas Schreiner have argued along similar lines (after all, the lay Calvinists got it from somewhere).  John Piper even went so far as to say that it is the clearest text that supports the Calvinist position on the relationship between the new birth and faith.¹  Case closed, right?  After all, that’s what it says in Greek.

Misunderstanding logic and semantics

Unfortunately for Calvinists, while this may sound cool, it’s not quite that cut and dry.  First of all, it could be argued that trying to use the time of verbs is inapplicable to this issue to begin with.  Both Calvinists and non-Calvinist often agree that while there is a logical priority of faith or regeneration, they happen in time simultaneously.  Thus, even if the ESV translation is the better one, it should strike even many Calvinists as odd to strongly conclude logical priority based on the time of the verbs when their own theology holds that faith and regeneration are contemporaneous.  They have to do far more than just point at tenses.

Secondly, again granting the ESV’s rendering, the context of the passage (and much of 1 John) is talking about the evidences of faith.  This may have nothing to do with logical priority, and it is perfectly fine to see belief in this passage as an evidence of the new birth while holding that faith logically precedes the new birth as well.  Strangely, Matthew Barrett in a journal article makes an outlandish argument that this is a contradiction.²  Eh?  How on earth is that a contradiction?  One condition that someone gets wet from rain could be that he doesn’t have an umbrella; it is also true that someone not having an umbrella in the pouring rain is a good sign that he got wet outside.  In fact, given that conditions for something need to be there for it to happen, one should not be surprised that a condition for something is also a sign of it.  How one could call this a contradiction is beyond me.

Therefore, considering both logic and context, such a wide theological conclusion is suspect even without looking at the grammar.  The grammatical analysis itself, however, leaves much to be desired.  Barrett amusingly cites Daniel Wallace’s Greek grammar to support his Calvinist interpretation when that very same grammar says that present participles should often be conceived as happening contemporaneous with the main verb in a sentence, not before.  Barrett and other Calvinists make the elementary mistake of treating that participle like a typical indicative verb; in fact, many grammarians would argue that substantival participles (participles that function as a noun, like what we have here) have a diminished time significance or none whatsoever.  Essentially, even if we were to once again grant the ESV’s rendering, the most one could say based on grammar alone is that faith and regeneration are contemporaneous, and it may even say nothing at all about it.  Even if we were to grant that this present participle’s time is not relative to the main verb’s, that only tells us that the act of believing is happening in John’s present; it doesn’t tell us anything about when that believing started, how it started, and what started it.

As far as complaining about the NIV’s or NASB’s translation, I’ll only say this: Perfect verbs can carry different semantic emphases that translators try to bring out in English in various ways.  Sometimes, that means that they translate Greek perfect verbs into present English verbs.  For example, there is something called an “intensive perfect” which is still about a past action but emphasizes the present consequences, so it can be translated in the present in English.  In addition, a “gnomic perfect” is one that states a general principle, and it can be translated into English as a present as well because it sometimes flows more naturally.  My aim here is not to argue for a particular translation but only to show that it is not strange for the NIV or NASB to render the verb in our passage as a present in English, and sometimes such a maneuver is more successful in carrying the actual meaning of the text.

Merely looking at grammar, then, is a rather simplistic and, dare I say, lazy way to try to make such sweeping theological conclusions.  Does the grammar leave open the possible logical priority of regeneration over faith?  Perhaps.  It also leaves open the possibility that it is the other way around.  If this question is to be answered, we should look deeper into the context.  And I would argue that this should lead us to a more non-Calvinistic interpretation.  This is already getting long so I will not make a comprehensive case, but I’ll make a couple of brief points on this.

A conditional force and 1 John 5:10

I would argue that the participle here should be understood with a conditional force.  A conditional statement is an “if-then” statement, like “If you eat ice cream, then you will be happy.”  Participles constructed like this one can carry such a force.  That does not always mean it’s a cause and effect relationship, as such conditionals can mean a variety of things, but that is nonetheless the most typical interpretation of conditionals.  Basically, it is highly plausible semantic interpretation to take 1 John 5:1 as stating something like “If someone believes, then he is born again,” which is reflected more in the NASB’s “whoever” translation.  This does not settle the issue on its own but gives more weight to a non-Calvinistic interpretation.

Moreover, 1 John 5:10 has the same verb construction, yet logical priority is clearly on the present participle rather than the perfect verb.  In the middle of the verse, it reads in the ESV, “Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.”  Clearly, even in the ESV, logical priority is given to the present participle of “not believing,” otherwise this verse would make no sense.  It would be bizarre to say that someone has made God a liar before he disbelieved God, either logically or temporally.  The causal clause after that makes it doubly clear; it is because of unbelief that one has made God a liar.  If this is the case, however, then it is especially dubious to make bare appeals to grammar just nine verses earlier to argue for the logical priority of regeneration.  If anything, the similar construction of 1 John 5:10 gives justification that it could be the other way around.

Conclusion

Calvinists are going to have to do a lot better than this to try to support their theology.  The argument here is so simplistic that Brian Abasciano comments:

It is surprising that some scholars have made such a basic error regarding Greek grammar in this argument for regeneration preceding faith in 1 John 5:1. It gives the impression that, in the rush to find a proof text to support their own theological conviction, they have been less than cautious in handling the text.³

The lesson here?  If it sounds too easy, it probably is, even if it comes from the writings or mouth of famous guys like John Piper.  This is, of course, not the only text that is debated between Calvinists and non-Calvinists, but I think it is clear that Calvinists need to drop this line of argumentation if they’re going to convince anyone who has more than a cursory familiarity with Greek.  The text either says nothing about the issue or hints at the opposite of what they want.

1.  Piper, John, Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again, 118.

2.  Barrett, Matthew.  “Does regeneration precede faith in 1 John?”  Mid-America Journal of Theology 23 (January 2012), 9.

3.  Abasciano, Brian J.  “Does regeneration precede faith? the use of 1 John 5:1 as a proof text.”  Evangelical Quarterly 84, no. 5 (October 2012), 321.

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21 thoughts on “Calvinist Proof-texting of 1 John 5:1: Using misleading grammatical arguments to teach that regeneration precedes faith

  1. Pingback: An Overemphasis on Parallelism by Five-Point Calvinists in Interpreting 1 John 2:2 | leesomniac

  2. “Come, ye dead, Christless, unconverted sinner, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with graveclothes, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone placed on top of it. View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him, Ah! how he stinketh. Stop there now, pause a while; and whilst thou art gazing upon the corpse of Lazarus, give me leave to tell thee with great plainness, but greater love, that this dead, bound, entombed, stinking carcase, is but a faint representation of thy poor soul in its natural state;…thy spirit which thou bearest about with thee, sepulchered in flesh and blood, is literally dead to God, and as truly dead in trespasses and sins, as the body of Lazarus was in the cave. Was he bound hand and foot with graveclothes? So art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions; and as a stone was laid on the sepulchre, so there is a stone of unbelief upon thy stupid heart. Perhaps thou has lain in this estate, not only four days, but many years, stinking in God’s nostrils. And, what is still more effecting, thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy boasted free will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said ‘take away the stone” and cried “Lazarus, come forth,” also quicken you. This is grace, graciously offered, and grace graciously applied. Or as the Confession originally puts it, “grace offered and conveyed.” – George Whitefield

    • As much as I respect Whitefield and other Calvinist preachers, simply quoting him does nothing. You have to deal with the texts in Scripture and make an argument, not just resort to the fallacy of the bare appeal to authority.

  3. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. -1 John 4:7

    Can you do the same gymnastics with these two? So that our love and our righteousness is what makes us born of God…I’ve even used different translations, so I won’t be accused of using the Reformed, biased, ESV..

    • Hi JN:

      There is no gymnastics required. What you need to do is deal with the Greek and make a semantic argument. What I did in the post is deal with several ways why the Reformed interpretation is way too simplistic. Context determines how we interpret the sentence structure of a verse, not merely the tenses. I state this clearly in the post; you CANNOT conclude even time priority for the present participle just based on the tenses, much less logical priority. To do so is just bad Greek. In 1 John 4 (I’ve actually done an exegetical paper from this passage), he’s primarily concerned about the evidences of faith and assurance. There is no problem as seeing 4:7 as such without making any conclusions on the logical priority of faith or regeneration. It is only the Calvinist who performs eisegesis and inserts his theology into the text.

      Thank you for coming by. Blessings.

      Thank

      • What you’ve done is tell us that faith and regeneration are, at best, simultaneous…if you want to admit that, that’s fine…but that is all you can admit to. You certainly cannot prove that faith precedes regeneration in this passage anymore than you can prove love does in 4:7 or righteousness does in 2:29.

        Eisegesis can be charged both ways I suppose; but since the whole of scripture points to God’s gracious action before man’s will being moved, I’ll assume it’s yours. But, for my money, I’ll go with the one that attributes no boasting to man, when any passage regarding regeneration ascribes the action to God (John 3:5-6; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 Peter 1:3).

      • I’m actually the one who would be just fine with avoiding any conclusions on the logical order of faith or regeneration, because that’s the thing: Non-Calvinists aren’t the ones trying to parade this verse around as a prooftext. Calvinists are, and it’s not a good argument. I’d be satisfied if they just dropped the use of 5:1.

        As far as other passages, it obviously won’t do to just assume that “the whole of Scripture” agrees with you, and I’m sure we’d disagree on several different passages. Nonetheless, that’s beside the point of this post; this post was to critique the use of 5:1 as a prooftext for regeneration preceding faith based on tense analysis, and there is no way to do that. If you agree with me on 5:1, then the charge of eisegesis here is clearly on the Calvinists.

    • I didn’t give a non-answer. I specifically addressed a proof-text used by Calvinists, including famous ones like John Piper, to support the idea that regeneration precedes faith. I then stated several reasons why this does not suffice as a prooftext. Even if one takes a more neutral interpretation, that still destroys the case made by Calvinists like Piper and Barrett. If you can’t understand that, I’m not sure how to help you. If interpreting this verse without conclusions on the ordo salutis is no problem for you, then great; that doesn’t change the fact that Piper and others misused the verse.

      • No one has granted that you have actually succeeded in doing this. John is clearly making the simple point that “the one believing” or “everyone believing” (present tense participle; i.e. true believers keep on believing) “is” or “has been” (perfect tense verb; completed action having a present result) “born of God.” Both the NASB and ESV are correct…

        Same with 2:29 and 4:7, which is why I brought them up (same construction). So yes…it’s gymnastics…and yes…it’s eisegesis.

        It was a non-answer; you have basically admitted that it isn’t the Calvinist understanding, but you’re not ready to say that what the passage ought to say is, “everyone who believes [will be] born of God.”

      • I am beginning to suspect that you did not read my post carefully and understand it.

        I already addressed the present tense participle and perfect verb in the sentence, and I showed why merely looking at those cannot lead one to strong conclusions on the ordo salutis. I have to ask you: Have you studied Greek semantics? Have you read through Daniel Wallace’s grammar? It seems that you have not because you brought the tenses back up again when I already explained them in the post. It is Calvinists who try to make too much out of the tenses and quite wrongly construe that substantival present participle to mean logical priority over the perfect verb. To refute such a position, all I have to do is show why that is wrong, which I do in the post. I do not even need to give a sweeping interpretation of the verse myself. For example, if someone does a complex math problem and halfway through they multiply 5 and 3 to get 10, I can show them where they went wrong without having to complete the entire problem for them. That still wouldn’t change the fact that they did it wrong. The argument is so simplistic that it is actually quite surprising that famous teachers and scholars would use it.

        Nonetheless, since you insist, quite bizarrely, that I have not succeeded in refuting Piper’s and others’ use of this verse (even though you too seem to favor a more simple translation without conclusions on the ordo salutis), I will say that I lean towards the interpretation that the present state of believing is evidence that one has been born again, and that’s it. That fits the semantics much better and also fits John’s subject matter. Nonetheless, given 5:10, I don’t immediately discount more anti-Calvinist interpretations because at least they try to come at the text more contextually without such bare appeals to tenses.

        I suggest that you read my post again, take not of my purpose, and consider whom I am answering. If you want to favor a simpler interpretation that makes no conclusions on the ordo salutis and therefore reject both the possible interpretation I bring up at the end as well as Piper’s and Barrett’s, then you’ll get no argument from me because my purpose was met: To show that the Calvinist argument here fails. It seems you are having trouble admitting that they made a mistake.

  4. I don’t care if they made a mistake, lol. But thank you…I will reread…then reread…I’m sure it’ll come to me. Since you’ve made your sweeping assumption now; here:

    “However, as attractive as it sounds to end an old and ongoing debate with “objective” Greek interpretation, a more careful look at the verse shows that it at best says nothing about the order of faith and regeneration and at worst (for the Calvinist) says the opposite of what Reformed people want it to say.”

    That isn’t just a statement about Piper; that’s a statement about Reformed theology. I’m willing to let you explain how “is” or “has been” (perfect tense) does not denote a one-before-the-other understanding…so I’ll wait.

    “Calvinists argue that the ESV rendering is more correct…”

    No. They don’t… I believe that it is just as correct (already stated).

    “Perfect tense verbs talk about the past…”

    No. They talk about a past event with a present consequence. I’ll try not to nitpick… but it’s important. It is not just that it happened, it’s that it happened and has a consequence. Therefore “everyone believing” (currently) “has been” (there is an emphasis on the completed action having a continuing result) “born of God.”

    “the lay Calvinists got it from somewhere…”

    I’ll be honest; most people get it without needing the greek, or to consult a greek scholar. It just makes sense.

    “John Piper even went so far as to say that it is the clearest text that supports the Calvinist position on the relationship between the new birth and faith.”

    Don’t know that I agree, but it certainly lends support.

    “Both Calvinists and non-Calvinist often agree that while there is a logical priority of faith or regeneration, they happen in time simultaneously.”

    Faith is a result of regeneration; they might happen in an instant, but one is the obvious result of the other, because we believe that the natural man considers belief “that Jesus is the Christ” to be folly. So the question is does God’s action precede man’s or vice versa; this is where your non-answer came in. Therefore the rest of the paragraph is nonsensical.

    “This may have nothing to do with logical priority, and it is perfectly fine to see belief in this passage as an evidence of the new birth while holding that faith logically precedes the new birth as well.”

    So can man make the declaration—from the heart, in true faith—prior to having the ability to do so? This of course requires the whole of scripture. Something you ignore in favor of isolating the verse to make it have little to no meaning: “it means what you want it to…”

    “One condition that someone gets wet from rain could be that he doesn’t have an umbrella; it is also true that someone not having an umbrella in the pouring rain is a good sign that he got wet outside.”

    So here’s what I got (and admittedly I’m confused): One condition that someone is born again is that he has faith; but having faith doesn’t mean one is born again, but it might lead to it? I’m confused by the umbrella..

    “Barrett and other Calvinists make the elementary mistake of treating that participle like a typical indicative verb; in fact, many grammarians would argue that substantival participles (participles that function as a noun, like what we have here) have a diminished time significance or none whatsoever.”

    You seem to think that what is being argued is some sort of “time significance” when in reality what is being argued is a necessary action resulting in a present consequence (thus the construction of this verse: the necessary action being God’s and the consequence being our belief).

    “…the most one could say based on grammar alone is that faith and regeneration are contemporaneous, and it may even say nothing at all about it.”

    Tell me again how this isn’t a non-answer? It would be like me saying: we shouldn’t go this way, or that way, we could go both ways, we could go no ways…then never actually answer the question: which way should we go?

    “Even if we were to grant that this present participle’s time is not relative to the main verb’s, that only tells us that the act of believing is happening in John’s present; it doesn’t tell us anything about when that believing started, how it started, and what started it.”

    Huh? Can you flesh that out a bit more? It does tell us… that’s the point of the rest of the sentence.

    “My aim here is not to argue for a particular translation but only to show that it is not strange for the NIV or NASB to render the verb in our passage as a present in English, and sometimes such a maneuver is more successful in carrying the actual meaning of the text.”

    I don’t disagree with either rendering. I disagree that what is meant by John is anything but the action of God results in a continuing belief (still haven’t shown me anything on 4:7, 2:29, using the same line of argument; can you do it?).

    “Merely looking at grammar, then, is a rather simplistic and, dare I say, lazy way to try to make such sweeping theological conclusions.”

    Good point. Which is why I recommended taking the scope of scripture and referencing other verses…which you have, to this point, ignored.

    “If this question is to be answered, we should look deeper into the context. And I would argue that this should lead us to a more non-Calvinistic interpretation.”

    You think? I’ll wait for you to show that before I even bother.

    “Basically, it is highly plausible semantic interpretation to take 1 John 5:1 as stating something like “If someone believes, then he is born again,” which is reflected more in the NASB’s “whoever” translation.”

    Obviously much could be said about the grammar; but what is your point here? Could it also be said someone can believe and not be born of God? All you are really saying here is that the reading of John that Calvinist give is correct. Yes, “if someone has belief” it’s evidence “they have been born of God.” You have overcomplicated the phrase, undermined any clear meaning, and claimed victory over a Calvinistic interpretation…

    “Moreover, 1 John 5:10 has the same verb construction, yet logical priority is clearly on the present participle rather than the perfect verb.”

    Here’s where you go to another verse, ignoring the verses with the SAME (not just “similar construction”) syntactical and grammatical parallels (like 4:7 and 2:29). Rather than citing a verse that has to do with the results of salvation, regeneration, etc. you find one that has to do with unbelief. Not to mention that there is a clause explaining the meaning of the text. Why not use the direct parallels?

    “Calvinists are going to have to do a lot better than this to try to support their theology.”

    I think Calvinists have…

    “…but I think it is clear that Calvinists need to drop this line of argumentation if they’re going to convince anyone who has more than a cursory familiarity with Greek.”

    Have I satisfactorily read your whole post, or should I read it again? You have failed to show why I—or anyone—should abandon the authorial intent in this passage. I can go and read the books/articles you talk about, but why claim that you’ve done something when you really haven’t?

    • No, you have not satisfactorily read the post because you bring points I address clearly in it.

      “don’t care if they made a mistake, lol.”

      Oh really? Even though that’s the whole point of my post? That sure sounds like you’re reading things carefully.

      “However, as attractive as it sounds to end an old and ongoing debate with “objective” Greek interpretation, a more careful look at the verse shows that it at best says nothing about the order of faith and regeneration and at worst (for the Calvinist) says the opposite of what Reformed people want it to say.”

      “That isn’t just a statement about Piper; that’s a statement about Reformed theology. I’m willing to let you explain how “is” or “has been” (perfect tense) does not denote a one-before-the-other understanding…so I’ll wait.”

      It is absolutely a statement about Piper and anyone like him who makes this argument. I already explained present participles and perfect verbs in the post. Your lack of understanding in Greek and refusal to interact clearly with the points brought up here is not my failure to explain but your failure to understand.

      “’Calvinists argue that the ESV rendering is more correct…’”

      “No. They don’t… I believe that it is just as correct (already stated).”

      Yes, many do. Like Matthew Barrett. Who I address specifically in this post. If that’s not you, then pass that comment by, and it will only apply to Calvinists who HAVE made this contention. It’s not a hard concept.

      This is getting tiresome because you’re clearly taking offense simply because I have shown a particular Reformed argument to be incorrect. Of course not EVERY SINGLE Calvinist has resorted to this argument; if they have not, they can merrily go on their way and discuss other passages or arguments because then this post doesn’t concern a strategy they have used. It is clear from context that this passage concerns Calvinists who have used simple tense analysis to claim that the verse teaches way more than it does BASED ON TENSE ANALYSIS ALONE. I showed why, in Greek, this is not the case. You continue to miss such basic points and also continue to show your lack of familiarity with Greek. In fact, you resort to such nitpicking when I make it very clear that I know what perfect verbs and expose the intellectual dishonesty of your tactics. Here is my sentence in context:

      “Calvinists argue that the ESV rendering is more correct because it is more faithful to Greek grammar; since perfect verbs communicate a past action with present consequences, it should be “has been,” which also tells us that being born again preceded belief since “everyone who believes” is in the present. The logic is simple: Perfect tense verbs talk about the past and present tense verbs talk about, well, the present, so the passive perfect verb of being born again should be seen as coming before the present participle of believing.”

      I had just defined what the perfect tense typically means (though not always, as I again note in the post, perfect verbs can be gnomic in nature), and then you take that out of context to nitpick that I summarize the Calvinist argument here as “perfect verbs talk about the past” when one sentence earlier I already said that it’s a past action with present consequences? Please do not resort to such tactics; it is quite transparent and sad.

      ““Both Calvinists and non-Calvinist often agree that while there is a logical priority of faith or regeneration, they happen in time simultaneously.”

      “Faith is a result of regeneration; they might happen in an instant, but one is the obvious result of the other, because we believe that the natural man considers belief “that Jesus is the Christ” to be folly. So the question is does God’s action precede man’s or vice versa; this is where your non-answer came in. Therefore the rest of the paragraph is nonsensical.”

      Presumption on your part. This is EXACTLY what is under question when examining verses like this. If you’re already bringing this assumption into discussions, then yes, you are guilt of eisegesis or begging the question. The paragraph is only “nonsensical” to someone who already comes in unshakably convinced of the Calvinist system.

      “‘This may have nothing to do with logical priority, and it is perfectly fine to see belief in this passage as an evidence of the new birth while holding that faith logically precedes the new birth as well.’”

      “So can man make the declaration—from the heart, in true faith—prior to having the ability to do so? This of course requires the whole of scripture. Something you ignore in favor of isolating the verse to make it have little to no meaning: “it means what you want it to…””

      Once again, you A) Bring in Calvinist assumptions and then B) Accuse others of nonsense because they obviously reject your Calvinist assumptions. If you can’t see the problem here, I’m not sure how I can help you. As a side note, you also may want to actually engage other viewpoints that DO have answers on how man can believe logically prior to regeneration and not just presume upon what you already think.

      “One condition that someone gets wet from rain could be that he doesn’t have an umbrella; it is also true that someone not having an umbrella in the pouring rain is a good sign that he got wet outside.”

      “So here’s what I got (and admittedly I’m confused): One condition that someone is born again is that he has faith; but having faith doesn’t mean one is born again, but it might lead to it? I’m confused by the umbrella..”

      You’re confused because you’re, once again, starting with Calvinist presumptions when that is exactly what is under dispute. Try to follow along here.

      “Barrett and other Calvinists make the elementary mistake of treating that participle like a typical indicative verb; in fact, many grammarians would argue that substantival participles (participles that function as a noun, like what we have here) have a diminished time significance or none whatsoever.”

      “You seem to think that what is being argued is some sort of “time significance” when in reality what is being argued is a necessary action resulting in a present consequence (thus the construction of this verse: the necessary action being God’s and the consequence being our belief).”

      This really shows your inability to grasp what has been written here. I pointed out a particular argument that many Calvinists have used and show why it is incorrect. Time significance is one reason why it’s not a good argument because the time aspect is what is often crucial for tenses, not logical priority.

      “I’ll be honest; most people get it without needing the greek, or to consult a greek scholar. It just makes sense.”

      Why then are Calvinists like Barrett resorting to Greek?

      “Good point. Which is why I recommended taking the scope of scripture and referencing other verses…which you have, to this point, ignored.”

      Goodness gracious. I just answered what I think to be the meaning of this passage, that it is talking about the EVIDENCE of faith and says nothing about the ordo salutis. You say it’s a good point… then your beef is with Calvinists like Piper, Barrett, and Schreiner who have used this argument, not with me.

      “Here’s where you go to another verse, ignoring the verses with the SAME (not just “similar construction”) syntactical and grammatical parallels (like 4:7 and 2:29). Rather than citing a verse that has to do with the results of salvation, regeneration, etc. you find one that has to do with unbelief. Not to mention that there is a clause explaining the meaning of the text. Why not use the direct parallels?”

      How is 5:10 not a direct parallel? Once again, you show your ignorance of Greek; that section of 5:10 is not just “similar,” but it is also exactly the same (present substantival participle with a perfect indicative verb). 5:10 alone destroys any attempt to conclude logical priority on the present participle in 5:1 by any Calvinist by just looking at the tenses. Again, if that’s not you, great: Move along. I have other posts where I deal with other texts that I disagree with in the Calvinist debate (though obviously not all, since I haven’t had the time for that yet). Check out my other posts such as on 1 John 2:2.

      “I don’t disagree with either rendering. I disagree that what is meant by John is anything but the action of God results in a continuing belief (still haven’t shown me anything on 4:7, 2:29, using the same line of argument; can you do it?).”

      I already did; I stated in a previous comment that I take those verses to talk about the EVIDENCE OF FAITH, not the CONDITIONS OF FAITH. 1 John is very much concerned about assurance because some people have taught different things in that community and have left the community. How do we know we are saved? How do we know others are saved? Those are central topics in 1 John. None of this has much to do with logical priority. So 4:7 is about epistemology; how do we know someone is of God? He has a lifestyle of love (though that’s not the only way to know). In 2:29, it’s the same; an evidence of the new birth is that someone has a lifestyle of righteousness. I admit that I used wording that was too strong at times in bringing up the other interpretation, but the point was to show that it’s highly plausible to take such verses to mean something other than what Calvinists claim.

      “Obviously much could be said about the grammar; but what is your point here? Could it also be said someone can believe and not be born of God? All you are really saying here is that the reading of John that Calvinist give is correct. Yes, “if someone has belief” it’s evidence “they have been born of God.” You have overcomplicated the phrase, undermined any clear meaning, and claimed victory over a Calvinistic interpretation…”

      What on earth are you talking about? I haven’t overcomplicated anything; if someone has a lifestyle of showing true belief (in 1 John, it is clear that true belief is not mere intellectual assent), that is an obvious sign that someone is born again without saying anything on the ordo salutis. You once again show your lack of familiarity with Greek semantics. Please, go look up what “customary present” is and it might start to help you make sense of John’s constant use of it throughout his epistle.

      “Have I satisfactorily read your whole post, or should I read it again? You have failed to show why I—or anyone—should abandon the authorial intent in this passage.”

      Nope, you have not. You’ve missed the intent of my passage and moved the goalposts. I never argued to ignore authorial intent in the passage but addressed a strategy that resorted to simplistic tense analysis. If you want to argue via authorial intent, go ahead; I think you’re still wrong because John never hints at such intent in his epistle, but it’s a lot better than what Barrett tried to do.

      “why claim that you’ve done something when you really haven’t?”

      I claimed that I refuted any attempt to use tense analysis to make such sweeping conclusions. You yourself state that that’s a “good point.” What’s continually puzzling here is your bizarre attempts to try to defend Calvinists like Barrett when they’re the ones who made the mistake.

  5. leesomniac, why do you feel it necessary to respond to James ( a brother in Christ) with such contempt and condescension:
    1. Your lack of understanding in Greek and refusal to interact clearly with the points brought up here is not my failure to explain but your failure to understand.
    2 You continue to miss such basic points and also continue to show your lack of familiarity with Greek.
    3. Please do not resort to such tactics; it is quite transparent and sad.
    4. If you can’t see the problem here, I’m not sure how I can help you.
    5. Try to follow along here.
    6.This really shows your inability to grasp what has been written here.
    7. Once again, you show your ignorance of Greek
    8. What on earth are you talking about?
    9. You once again show your lack of familiarity with Greek semantics.
    10. What’s continually puzzling here is your bizarre attempts to try to defend Calvinists like Barrett when they’re the ones who made the mistake.

    Brother you run the risk of sounding like an empty clanging bell.

    • Hi Paul, thanks for dropping by.

      I understand I may have come off as harsh, but in the arena of debate, things can get heated. It’s important to not take things so personally, though I understand that not everyone is used to that. I adopted a firmer tone with him because he was clearly ignoring things that I had written and even resorted to trying to quote me out of context to claim that I said something that I did not (regarding how the perfect tense is typically understood).

      After all, he accused me of things like interpretative gymnastics and had a harsh tone with me as well. I did not take it personally, but as he continued to ignore major points (like, for example, the whole purpose of this post), it seemed that some firm language was needed. I did not attack his faith or his character, but I did criticize his understanding as well as his tactics here, which are fair game.

      Edit: And to be honest, Paul, some of the stuff you quoted from me would not even count as all that harsh. Me expressing something as “bizarre” in my view, for example, is hardly something harsh. Much firmer stuff is routinely said in academic debate.

  6. Hi Leesomiac: Thank you for taking time to respond I so appreciate that. Just trying to give some input to a gifted brother in the faith that might help you become more effective in your giftedness.

    Knowledge alone does not build one another up nor in my opinion does it enlighten, however knowledge coupled with love does. Knowledge devoid of love serves only to build up ones self; it demonstrates selfishness (1 Corinthians 13:2, “if I have all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing”).

    After all training and equipping has a larger purpose than just making debate points:
    “And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists,
    and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up
    the body of Christ…”(Eph. 4:11-12) clearly you have gifts of teaching and discernment (most
    likely others).

    By the way I enjoyed your insights as well as your nuanced knowledge of Greek Tense that you brought to the discussion.

    • Hi Paul:

      Thank you for the reminder. Sometimes I get too much into “debate mode,” and when that happens, the snark can come out a bit too much. I have Reformed brothers that I’m good friends with, so I certainly do not think I am better than they are, but it’s still always good to be mindful of my tone. I appreciate your gentle rebuke and will keep it in mind.

  7. Pingback: Reading the Bible Theologically Does Not Mean Being Married to Your System | leesomniac

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