What is “regeneration“?

The Reformed Theology, or Calvinist, view is a person cannot accept Christ until he has first been regenerated by God, without any choice in the matter. In other words in Calvinism regeneration must precede faith… which is not taught in the Scriptures.

The non-Calvinistic view is that when a person confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God has raised Christ from the dead he is saved because he was just born again spiritually and is a now new creation..  Faith is a condition of  salvation, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” We are in effect regenerated, or better born again, after we accept Christ’s free gift of grace through faith:

 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  Hebrews 11:6

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 3:1-3

if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13

                  Also see below: Mark 16:16, Luke 8:12, John 3:16, John 6:47,  John 11:25, Acts 16:31, Romans 1:16, Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2,  Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 2:8, 1 Timothy 1:16, 2 Timothy 3:15, Hebrews 10:39.

Dave Hunt  writes:

Calvin correctly declared, “Every man from the commencement of his faith, becomes a Christian…(1) But if the elect must still be regenerated before they have faith, their regeneration still leaves them non-Christians…

To support ‘regeneration before faith’ it must be proved that regeneration leaves one unsaved and thus under God’s judgment.

Source: Dave Hunt, What Love is This?, 116, 125

However, for many who follow Calvinism or Reformed Theology it is taught that a person cannot accept Christ until he has been changed, that is regenerated first, by God without any choice in the matter on their part. In other words in Calvinism regeneration must precede faith.

Note that not all Calvinists accept the Reformed Theology idea of regeneration preceding faith.

Norman Geisler, a self proclaimed Calvinist, states:

“With the exception of the later writings of St. Augustine, who after his experiences with the Donatist controversy concluded that persons could be forced to believe, virtually all of the great thinkers up to the reformation affirmed that human beings possess the power of contrary free choice, even in a fallen state. None believed that a coerced act is a free act. In short, all would have rejected the extreme Calvinists’ view that God acts irresistibly on the unwilling (see Chapter 5).

Source: Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free, Second edition, Appendix 1, page 150.

Another Calvinist, Charles H. Spurgeon, did not accept the concept of regeneration prior to faith and salvation:

If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine?
This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.
Source: Spurgeon, The Warrant of Faith, 3

I have yet to see any scripture for the Reformed Theology view of regeneration prior to saving faith and salvation but there are many clear passages that state that to be saved, to be born again, to have everlasting life, we must first believe, that is have faith:

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16

Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

Luke 8:12

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. John 6:47

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he diesJohn 11:25

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”           Acts 16:31

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes Romans 1:16

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus Galatians 3:26

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16

how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Hebrews 10:39

 Nothing here states that a person has to be regenerated before they can believe. 

‘There is a passage in Revelation (1:5) which I think a great deal of—”Unto Him that loved us, and washed us.” It might be thought that God would first wash us, and then love us; but no, He first loved us.”‘ Dwight Moody2


1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II,xvii, 1
2. The Way To God by Dwight L. Moody