Regeneration (theology)

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Regeneration, while sometimes perceived to be a step in the Ordo salutis ('order of salvation'), is generally understood in Christian theology to be the objective work of God in a believer's life. Spiritually, it means that God brings Christians to new life from a previous state of separation from God and subjection to the decay of death (Ephesians 2:4).[1] Thus, in Lutheran and Roman Catholic theology, it generally means that which takes place during the baptism.

While the exact Greek noun "rebirth" or "regeneration" (Ancient Greek: παλιγγενεσία palingenesia) appears just twice in the New Testament (Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:5), regeneration represents a wider theme of re-creation and spiritual rebirth.[2] Furthermore, there is the sense in which regeneration includes the concept "being born again" (John 3:3-8 and 1 Peter 1:3).[3]

Historical interpretations

Baptismal regeneration

Lutheran and Roman Catholic theology holds that "baptism confers cleansing of [original] sin, the infusion of regenerating grace and union with Christ."[4] Official Roman Catholic teaching specifically states that regeneration commences with baptism.[5]

General evangelicalism

During the period of the Great Awakening, emphasis in Protestant theology began to be placed on regeneration as the starting point of an individual's new life in Christ.[6]


Pelagius believed that people were born pure, with God's spirit already at work, making the need for spiritual regeneration from a previous sinful state irrelevant.[7] Since Pelagius, modernist theology has seen regeneration as more a matter of education than spiritual renewal.[6]


Semipelagianism in its original form was developed as a compromise between Pelagianism and the teaching of Church Fathers such as Augustine, who taught that man cannot come to God without the grace of God.

In Semipelagian thought a distinction is made between the beginning of faith and the increase of faith. Semi-Pelegianism holds that man must initiate of his own free will to receive grace. The first steps toward the Christian life are thus understood as acts of the human will with grace supervening afterward.

Calvinism and Reformed theology

Reformed theology characteristically views baptism as an outward sign of God's internal work, as John Calvin stated: “all who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ are at the same time regenerated by the Spirit, and that we have an earnest of this regeneration in baptism.”[8] Regeneration is further described as the "secret operation of the Holy Spirit."[9]


In contrast to Semi-Pelagianism, Arminian theology teaches that the first steps are taken by God in the form of prevenient grace.[10] Arminians differ from Calvinists in affirming that God's grace is always resistible. When someone believes, it is not grace which makes one to differ from another person, but faith which is produced by grace in those who do not reject it. According to Classical Arminians if a person is saved it is due to the grace of God alone; if a person is rejected, it is due to that person's choice alone. Prevenient grace is appropriated or rejected before regeneration; those who do not reject it come into the light by grace in concert with their freed will operating synergistically. After a believer has under the influence of prevenient grace made the faithful decision to follow Christ, God regenerates them spiritually.[11]

See also


  1. Demarest 1997, p. 292
  2. Demarest 1997, pp. 293–294
  3. Grudem 1994, p. 699
  4. Demarest 1997, p. 281
  5. Demarest 1997, p. 285
  6. 6.0 6.1 Burkhardt 1988, p. 574
  7. Demarest 1997, p. 279
  8. Calvin, John, "5.12.1", Institutes of the Christian Religion, retrieved 2014-03-07<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Calvin, John, "3.1.1", Institutes of the Christian Religion, retrieved 2012-11-08<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Olson 2006
  11. Demarest 1997, p. 288


  • Burkhardt, H (1988), "Regeneration", in Wright, David; Ferguson, Sinclair; Packer, J I (eds.), New Dictionary of Theology, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, p. 574, ISBN 0830814000<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Demarest, Bruce (1997), The Cross and Salvation, Wheaton: Crossway Books, ISBN 0891079378<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Grudem, Wayne (1994), Systematic Theology (Reprint ed.), Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, ISBN 0310286700<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Olson, Roger (2006), Arminian Theology, Downers Grove: IVP Academic, ISBN 0830828419<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • Wikisource-logo.svg [ "Regeneration" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>