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Regeneration (theology)

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Bushfire damage

Bushfire regrowth in Australia, 2003; visually representing the spiritual concept of regeneration.

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 subjection to the decay of death (Ephesians 2:4).[1] While the exact Greek noun palingensia ("rebirth" or "regeneration") appears just twice in the New Testament (Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:5), regeneration represents a wider theme of re-creation and spiritual re-birth.[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 of Regeneration

Baptismal Regeneration

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


During the period of the Great Awakening emphasis in Protestant theology began to be placed on regeneration as the beginning of an individual's Christian life.[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, more liberal theology has seen regeneration as more educational then spiritual.[8]


Reformed theology sees Baptism as an outward sign of God's internal work. So for example John Calvin describes regeneration as the "secret operation of the Holy Spirit." [9]


Arminian theology holds that after a believer has made a decision to follow Christ, God regenerates them spiritually.[10]

Decisional Regeneration

The twentieth century Church has a newer concept of regeneration called "Decisional Regeneration". "Decisional theology" differs from Baptismal theology only in the fact that it attaches the certainty of the new birth to a different act. This doctrine, just as Baptismal Regeneration, sees the new birth as the result of a mechanical process that can be performed by man.

See also


  1. Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997): 292.
  2. Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 293-294.
  3. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Nottingham: IVP, 1994): 699.
  4. Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 281.
  5. Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 285.
  6. H. Burkhardt 'Regeneration' New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1988): 574.
  7. Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 279.
  8. Burkhardt 'Regeneration', 574.
  9. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (III.1.1).
  10. Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 288.

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