What do you think of decisional regeneration?
LAWSON: I think the idea of decisional regeneration has produced many false converts. I have lived through churches like that, I have been an associate pastor through churches like that, and I have inherited churches like that. I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know the answer to this one: it produces false converts.
“Repeat this prayer after me: ‘I—I, am a sinner—am a sinner. I confess my sin—I confess my sin. Jesus died for me—Jesus died for me. I will never doubt this again—I will never doubt this again. Amen—Amen.’ Never doubt that again. I’ll sign your Bible with the date.” That’s insane.
The new birth is a monergistic work of God’s grace. That means there is only one active agent. It’s not synergistic with two active agents—God and the sinner. There’s only one, and that is God alone. What did you do to be born physically, Nathan?
LAWSON: Nothing. The same is true spiritually. It’s a work of God’s sovereign grace in the heart. When I hear “decisional regeneration,” that’s an oxymoron. That’s like saying “a dead live oak”—it’s just two opposites. You cannot decide for Christ until you have been regenerated.
Dr. Sproul used to tell me: “Steve, this is the test. Do you believe and then you’re born again, or are you born again and then you believe? You give me that answer, and I’ll tell you whether you’re Reformed or not.” The answer of the Bible is that you must be born again in order to believe.
Regeneration is something that takes place in a split second. There are not people walking around regenerated who haven’t believed. It all happens at once. However, no one can decide for Christ until they are regenerated. “The wind blows wherever it wishes. So is the one who is born of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I say to you, ‘You must be born again.’”
Even those two words, “decisional regeneration,” have the order backwards. It’s regeneration producing a decision, not a decision producing regeneration.
This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Steven Lawson and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.