This question is niggling at my mind.
[This is not going to be an exciting post, so I sympathize with everyone who doesn't want to count angels on pinheads (or just pinheads) right now. Catch you in a later discussion!]
First, the "so what."
I believe, and have believed for a long time now, that regeneration is the implanting into a human being the very Life of the eternal God. In various discussions and readings over the past 6 months, I have finally begun to see that I am almost alone in that definition. It has taken me a long time to figure it out, but most people believe that regeneration is the restoration of human life such that it can interact with God.
If regeneration is man's nature resurrected, then man may be able to take a first step toward God. If regeneration is God's nature implanted in man, then man can only respond to God's gift after he has received it. That's no tiny matter. It strikes at the heart of the whole free-will discussion. I believe in man's free will, and I believe that fallen man always and without exception wills to place himself above God. If regeneration is man's will resurrected, then everything I believe about free will has to be reexamined.
The thing that has blown me away over the past couple weeks is that most Calvinists seem to believe that regeneration is man's nature being resurrected. I would never have guessed that. It strikes me as bizarre and self-contradictory. But then, I'm still a diesel mechanic at heart.
I would keep this whole discussion confined to the din of my own head, but I came across this quote in a pretty stodgy book, and it jazzed me. The book is, An Absolute Sort of Certainty, The Holy Spirit and the Apologetics of Jonathon Edwards.
(Personal note for those of you still reading: I really enjoy Jonathon Edwards. I just wish I had a couple more IQ points, so I could keep up with him, and some more time so I could finish some of the things he wrote. I picked up a biography of his wife nearly 20 years ago entitled, Marriage to a Difficult Man. It was my wife's favorite theology-ish book of mine. I wonder why? :-P)
Anyway, here is the quote from the book. McClymond is one of the many people who analyzed Edwards' philosophy against his theology, and the author of this book is analyzing his analysis.
McClymond's thesis might be improved if, rather than arguing that regeneration is Edwards's epistemological foundation, he argued that revelation is its basis. Regeneration then enables one to see the truth of revelation. The epistemological foundation, however, is not the perception of revelation, but revelation itself. Both revelation and the perception of it are given by the Spirit. Likewise, the basis of certainty is not the perception that one has or the new sense, but assurance or the Spirit's witness. ...
If you didn't have to read that portion of a paragraph more than once, my hat's off to you.
This paragraph says that the new birth of a Christian does not give him the ability to "know". The Spirit's revelation gives him the ability to know. But, without the new birth, the man will be unable to see the things the Spirit is revealing. So both the light that allows us to see the truth, and the eyes that can receive the light are gifts of the same Spirit.
Postmodernists seem to hold that whatever we see is truth, even if there's nothing objectively real to be seen. They actually seem to hold that there is no truth except for what is true to each person, and there is no truth except what each person perceives. Edwards argues that there is a true God Who reveals true truth about Himself and Who makes us able to receive that truth.
This caught my eye because I have focused in on regeneration as almost standing on its own in our salvation. Regeneration and revelation operate in tandem, both by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals Christ to us, and we are able to see Him because He makes us alive.
This almost threatens to put my thesis in jeopardy, that the mechanics of regeneration open or shut the door on free-will. Oh my!
So, I have something to think about for the next few months. :-)
FWIW, I have not started digging through scripture again on this yet. Nonetheless, I will share the biggest influences on me toward believing that we are given the Life of Christ when we are born again:
+ Eve was formed from Adam. It only makes sense that we would be formed from the spiritual essence of Christ, not simply by Him.
+ A wife for Christ (God and man) of another species (human only) makes no sense to me.
+ Christ Himself was planted as a Seed, and He rose again many seeds. When that happens, kind must be after its kind.
+ Verses like 2 Pet 1:4 - Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
It will probably be months before I am ready to declare one way or the other, but it was good to chat about it a bit. Thanks for listening.