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Friday, December 12, 2014

Hodge's analysis of the Biblical doctrine of Regeneration, being born again.

The following was written by one of my students at New Geneva Seminary, as a summary of his 
reading in Hodge.  This is well written.   If Wesley had read Calvin on 1John 3:9, he might not have 
preached that awful sermon on perfectionism that has wreaked so much havoc on the church.   
[lightly edited]

Hodge Systematic Theology Vol. III Part III


I. Usage of the Word

The word “regeneration” has many designators in Scripture. “It is called a new birth, a resurrection, a 
new life, a new creature, a renewing of the mind, a dying to sin and living to righteousness, a 
translation from darkness to light, etc.” The term as used by many of the theologians during the 
reformation period, both orthodox and not, had a wide range of use that was more general in its 
definition than precise.

II. Nature of Regeneration

Current use of the word “regeneration” has an almost unanimous meaning of “instantaneous change 
from spiritual death to spiritual life.” The false definitions of “regeneration” that Hodge treats of are 
as follows; (1) Regeneration is not a change in the Substance of the Soul, (2)Regeneration does not 
consist in an Act of the Soul, (3) Regeneration is not the same as conversion or sanctification, (4) 
Regeneration is not brought about by Finney’s definition of freewill (i.e. man is a total free agent able 
to choose God), (5) Regeneration is not the natural desire for happiness terminated by man’s choice 
of God.

Hodge continues to explain that many of the definitions of “regeneration” that place a primary cause 
of the action on man are merely philosophical theories and have no basis in proper theology. God, as 
creator, must be the primary cause of all things to which there are many secondary causes.
Regeneration is concerned with the Scriptural definition of the heart which consists in man’s entire 
faculties. Many errors are propagated with the idea that a change of heart merely relatesto feelings. 
Additionally, regeneration is not merely illumination, but a change of the will.

III. The Evangelical Doctrine
In understanding the evangelical meaning of “regeneration” one must first grasp the meaning of total 
depravity and the state of man, who being completely unable to choose God because of sin is 
effectively moved from having a heart of stone to having a heart of flesh whereby man is then 
converted. This is done of grace and not by the merit of man. The points of definition that Hodge uses 
are as follows:

1. Regeneration is an Act of God - God is not merely the giver but also the author of faith2. 
Regeneration is an Act of God’s Power - Because of God’s omnipotence, nothing can resist an 
efficacious call to regeneration. Regeneration is also said to be immediate because of God’s power 
and not mediate. The example given was of Lazarus being raised from the dead by Christ. 3. 
Regeneration in the subjective sense is not an act.  4. Regeneration is not a change in substance of the 
soul - “it is not good acts which make the man good; the goodness of the man determines the 
character of his acts.”5. Regeneration is a new life - Those who are spiritually dead are not dead in all 
senses of the word (socially, morally) but are dead in their views toward God, Christ, sin, etc… To 
those who have been given new life they are made alive in their views toward all the truths that are 
necessary to salvation whereby they testify to the truth.6. Regeneration is a new birth - As with a 
child, birth is not the act of the child but it is what itis… spiritually we are born anew and it is not a 
cause of our own but of the one whom gives life.7. Regeneration is a new heart - The heart in 
Scripture is the part of us that thinks, feels, wills and acts. When a new heart is given, God is giving a 
hole new character and nature; one that is not mired in sin and opposed to him but one that loves God 
and begins to act accordingly.
Other notes:

* The soul is recognized as a unit in Scripture and should not be separated in the analyzation 
[analysis?] of regeneration.
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