"Anyhow, it’s funny you should mention Kuyper’s Wo…

“Anyhow, it’s funny you should mention Kuyper’s Work of the Holy Spirit, since I stumbled on that yesterday evening. He addressed a problem that is one of the chief matters of debate in our churches now. On the one hand I find myself agreeing with Kuyper, on the other hand disagreeing with him, on the same issue. It’s a nuisance. 🙂 Maybe you can help me.

Blaauwendraad is one of the few who have written books showing that, in Reformation preaching, regeneration (in the narrow sense) and faith belong together, as ‘two sides of the same coin’; although regeneration precedes faith in the ordo salutis, they are simultaneous temporally.
This addresses a big problem in our churches, which put heavy emphasis on the need of regeneration and none at all on faith. Who has faith, is regenerated; who is regenerated, has faith. It is impossible, dangerous, heretical to say that someone can be regenerated and not have faith, because the two are always placed together in the Bible. It is equally a distortion of the Gospel to teach (as is done in some of our churches) that a believer has to go through a number of defined experiences before he is a real, justified believer. This is the problem; Blaauwendraad and others address it by saying that regeneration and (exercised) faith go together.

Kuyper doesn’t say so. He says that first there is a new life-principle, the faith-faculty or fides potentialis. People can be saved with just the faculty and without faith that they are justified. Only afterwards, they can come to a conviction of sin and justification.

Undoubtedly, the pastors in our churches would applaud that, but the ‘rebels’, the ‘malcontents’ (to whom I am more attached, I confess) maintain that it is very dangerous and unbiblical to separate regeneration and faith this way. What do you think?”

Turgonian, thanks for a great question. I will be honest, I have only just started reading some of Kuyper, and that is out of necessity to understand more of the gentleman who I am actually studying.

One thing I have noticed is that Kuyper, Vollenhoven, Stoker and Dooyerweerd saw the need to redefine, or even create, words to reflect what their thinking was.

Kuyper quotes some Scottish theologians first:”God began the work of grace with the implanting of the faith-faculty(fides potentialis), followed by the new grace of the faith-exercise (fides actualis), and of the faith-power (fides habitualis).”

He then goes on to note that it is only “an apparent difference”, and that the work of grace does not begin with faith or repentance or contrition, but with “God’s act of giving power to the powerless”. Reading that, and the preceding motivation that man is literally unconscious and passive in this first work of grace, I can see where Kuyper is coming from.

The implanting of the “faith-faculty” is regeneration. It is the first act of God’s grace in our lives, and is something we can receive while still in the womb, or at any time in our lives. In describing the entire work of grace, he notes that those who have been regenerated in early life (in the preceding paragraph he talks about deceased infants) are saved, not lost. This may be the part that you are referring to? He also notes that they have “dormant faith”, and no conscious faith, kept so by God, like “seed-grain in the winter”.

This followed by the call of the Word and the Spirit, which makes effectual that dormant faith. The call leads to conviction of sin and justification, which in turn leads to conversion, when the child of God becomes conscious of the implanted life, all wrought by the grace of God.

I believe when Kuyper refers to those that are saved based on the first grace, he refers mostly to infants or young children, who do not yet have the ability to have a conscious faith.

I think your problem arises due to the statement “although regeneration precedes faith in the ordo salutis, they are simultaneous temporally”. Kuyper certainly does not see it that way in all cases. He describes 4 different cases: 1. Elect persons regenerated before birth and baptism, and in whom the implanted life manifests when they are converted later in life; 2. Elect persons who are regenerated in infancy, and in whom the implanted life is apparent from a very early age; 3. Elect persons both regenerated and converted later in life; 4. Non-elect persons.

It seems as if you, and the author you are referring to are only describing the third case above. In such a case, regeneration and faith could appear as simultaneous. However, I believe the main point that Kuyper is making is that since the implanting of the seeds of the new life is wholly and totally and act of grace, man is simply not aware of exactly when that occurs.

There are a couple of objections to that line of reasoning, but it is my opinion that those objections arise from human arrogance and a “free-will” need to be relevant. Remember that regeneration (the implanting of the faith-faculty) does not come from anything that we humans can or must do. It does not come from repentance or from hearing the gospel, since both of those require the faith-faculty already be present.

In summary then, I believe that Kuyper, when he refers to those saved by their faith-faculty, is referring to infants or young children in cases 1. or 2. It has to be understood against the whole of covenant theology.


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