In an article entitled "Regeneration Without Means" that spanned four issues of The Remnant (Vol. 14, No. 4 to Vol. 15, No. 1), editor C.C. Morris (who claims to believe the doctrines of grace) claims to magnify the sovereignty of God in salvation. Instead, he (and all the other Primitive or Particular or Old School Baptists who believe what he does) ends up denying the Word of God and making a mockery of the Christian faith. The title that Morris chose for his article is misleading. For a significant portion of the article, he does not attempt to refute those in the "regeneration with means" crowd; instead, he mainly focuses his attention on those who believe that all regenerate persons believe the gospel. He erroneously equates the two and calls them "gospel regenerationists." This is similar to the charge of "doctrinal regeneration" (see the article on this subject in this issue).
Morris clearly and unmistakably believes that there are many regenerate persons who do not believe the gospel. He wrote the following:
"(1) In every nation there are at present those who fear God and work righteousness. Must religionists be so self-satisfied as to think that, until they come along and teach them how, no one else in all the world can fear God and work true righteousness? They who fear God and work righteousness are not just in nations which have been blessed with the gospel ministry;
"(2) Those who fear God in every nation actually do work righteousness, not merely think, as the Pharisees did, that their unrighteous or self-righteous acts are works of righteousness; and,
"(3) They are at the present time accepted with (or by) God. The text [Acts 10:34-35 - ed.] does not merely say that they will be accepted by Him in the future, only if and when the gospel is preached to them."
Morris also said, "Whole continents were left for centuries without exposure to the Missionary scheme of salvation. Certainly He neither loved any of these people nor desired to have any of them born into His heavenly kingdom, if gospel regeneration were true."
Morris believes that there were and are people who do not believe the gospel (since they cannot believe what they have never heard - Romans 10:14) who nevertheless fear the true and living God and work true righteousness and are accepted by God. He tries to illustrate his point by saying, "If a rich man pays a pauper's debt and opens a million-dollar account in his name, the deed is an accomplished fact, it is done, no matter whether the destitute person hears about it for a while or not." In other words, once a sinner's debt has been paid, he is regenerated, whether he believes the gospel or not. One wonders why Morris would not then believe that all of the elect were regenerated when Christ paid the debt for them on the cross.
Contrary to the heretical notion that God is pleased with those who do not believe, the Scripture says, "But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).
The most interesting and telling part of the article comes when Morris gives examples of certain people from Scripture, thinking that these examples show that regenerate people can be ignorant of the gospel. I will focus on two of them. Morris believes that Saul of Tarsus was a regenerate man as he went about persecuting Christians!! Morris also believes that the men at the Areopagus who worshiped the false gods were regenerate men!! It is almost unbelievable that Morris would come out and publicly admit to holding such heresy. But his words are unmistakable. He wrote the following about Saul of Tarsus:
"Saul of Tarsus was no different in this respect from any other child of grace. The evidence he gave, even before Christ Jesus called him on the Damascene road, was that he had already been made spiritually alive. He was feeling the goading, pricking work of the Holy Spirit in his life, and he was kicking against it all. Why else would Jesus the Lord of glory have said to him, 'It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (Acts 9.5)'?"
Incredibly, Morris believes that Saul, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1), was a regenerate man, as evidenced by the supposed "work of the Holy Spirit in his life." Only a fool would say this. Paul himself refutes this absurdity in Philippians 3. What Morris calls the workings of a regenerate man, Paul called them loss and dung: "... concerning zeal, persecuting the church ... But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ" (vv. 7-8). Why did Paul count his life in false religion loss? For the excellency of the KNOWLEDGE of Christ Jesus. When Paul was regenerated, God gave him the KNOWLEDGE that his salvation was conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, his works totally excluded. And when God gave him that KNOWLEDGE, he counted his former religion as nothing but self-righteous dung, because he realized that in his former religion, he believed in salvation conditioned on the sinner. This is called repentance. This repentance that happens upon regeneration is a change of heart, wherein one turns FROM believing in, worshiping, and serving a false god and a false christ TO believing in, worshiping, and serving the true God and the true Christ. The person turns FROM believing in the false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner TO believing in the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. In Romans 7:4-5, Paul recognized that before he was given the knowledge of Christ Jesus, he was in the flesh, and he was bringing forth fruit unto death. Morris believes that Paul was in the Spirit, fearing God, bringing forth fruit unto God, working righteousness, and accepted by God. He calls good what God calls evil. And God says, "Woe unto [them that] call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20). God pronounces a curse on Morris and all who call good what God calls evil.
The second example also shows that Morris calls the evil idolatry of the pagans good. Witness the following words:
"We rejoice in the fact that God's elect in Athens worshiped the living and true God before Paul ever preached to them! They worshiped him in ignorance for a while, it is true: 'Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you (Acts 17.23).'
"The phrase, ignorantly worship, stands out like a teeter-totter with one word on each end. The advocate of the gospel-regeneration error majors on the minor, the negative word ignorantly, and ignores the major, the positive word worship, as though it is a hopeless impossibility that such persons can be heaven-born children of God until the gospel preacher arrives to correct their thinking. The free-grace preacher, on the other hand, admits the minor - their ignorance - but he majors on the positive: Remember, it was Paul who said they worshiped God. They worshiped Him in ignorance, true enough, but who among God's elect has not worshiped Him in ignorance, in some error or another, at one time or another? The question before us is not one of their ignorance when they first begin, or where they are in their belief at any one point in time, but it is only how they end. It is probably not the case of all the saints, but the experiential order for myriads of them is:
" A. They come into this world dead in trespasses and sins, they are in total spiritual ignorance, and while in such as state they do not worship God. Then,
"B. They are born of His Spirit and regenerated; they worship God in spirit, although they are for a time in doctrinal ignorance. Then,
"C. They are taught by God, led by His Spirit, and they worship him in spirit and in truth. 'God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4.24).' God will see to it."
Morris condemns himself with the Scripture he quotes. The true people of God, those who truly worship God, MUST worship God both in spirit and in truth. Morris twists the Scripture to his own destruction by using the "must" in John 4:24 to mean "will eventually." In another incredible admission of damnable heresy, Morris says that those who worshiped God in ignorance were regenerate. He says that since they worshiped, their ignorance was secondary and was not indicative of lostness. According to Morris, as long as one worships God, it matters not if they have no idea who God is, who Christ is, or what the gospel is. Romans 10:1-4 blows this blasphemy to pieces. In verse 1, Paul judged Israel to be lost. In verses 2 and 3, he shows why he judged these people to be lost: "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God ..." Morris would have to say that these people, since they were zealous for God, were regenerate. But Paul goes on: "... but not according to knowledge." Paul judged these people to be lost because, although they were zealous religionists and worshiped God, they were missing some KNOWLEDGE. They worshiped in ignorance. Paul shows of what their ignorance consisted: "For they, being ignorant God's righteousness ..." These people who had a zeal for God were ignorant of something specific - God's righteousness. God's righteousness is revealed in the gospel (Romans 1:17) and is defined in verse 4: "For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." God's righteousness is shown in the imputed righteousness of Christ. God's righteousness is shown by His freely justifying His people through the redemption of Christ (Romans 3:21-26). Those who are ignorant of this righteousness are lost. The end of verse 3 further describes those who are ignorant of God's righteousness revealed in the gospel: "... and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." Those who are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel must, by default, be going about to establish their own righteousness. If they do not believe that Christ is their only righteousness, then they must believe that it is their own righteousness that forms at least some part of the ground of their acceptance before God. They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God, because they are ignorant of it.
The Athenians to whom Paul was preaching were ignorant of God's righteousness. They were worshiping, but they had no idea what they were worshiping. In fact, they considered the doctrine of Christ to be a strange doctrine: "Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? Other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, [is]? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean" (Acts 17:18-20). Paul, having already preached the gospel to them, preached to them again. And Morris believes that the fact that Paul said they were ignorantly worshiping God shows that they were regenerate. Morris makes his bed with idolaters. Note that in verse 34, some of the men believed when Paul preached to them. God regenerated them and immediately caused them to believe the gospel Paul preached.
Notice something very important in Morris's quote above: he talks about the "experience" of what he considers to be the saints. This is what it all boils down to. The reason this heresy was developed was to give an excuse to call people regenerate who are wicked. It really has nothing to do with exalting God's sovereignty; it has everything to do with justifying one's experience in false religion, especially one's experience in the Arminian religion. Morris asks rhetorically, "who among God's elect has not worshiped Him in ignorance, in some error or another, at one time or another?" We know that Morris is not talking about any error; he is talking specifically about error regarding the gospel. He attempts to justify his own experience and the experience of his brothers in Satan while he and others were ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel. We know that he includes Arminianism in this, because he says so: "Do you realize how many untold thousands of the 'ordinary people' of this world believe in a sovereign God in spite of all the Arminian swill they have been inundated with from the time of their infancy?" We see what drives Morris and other heretics like him. They wish to include in the number of the regenerate those who hold to the blasphemy of works salvation, so they concoct theories to fit their wish, and they twist Scriptures to fit into their theories, no matter how obviously ridiculous their "exegesis" is.
One of the theories they concoct is the theory in which a lengthy period of time elapses between regeneration and conversion. The reason they need to concoct this is that they need to be able to explain how those who believe a false gospel can be regenerate. And the reason they need to explain how those who believe a false gospel can be regenerate is so they can speak peace to themselves and others when they believe(d) a false gospel. Were there no such theory, then they would not be able to say that they remained Arminians for a time after regeneration, and they would not be able to say that there are some regenerate Arminians. Morris does some astounding gymnastics and contortions to come up with his twist on this theory. Believe it or not, he makes a distinction between regeneration and being born again! He says, "Being born again is the manifesting of the God-given spiritual life in the experience of the child of God which may take place either simultaneously with or at some time after their regeneration. ... in the spiritual realm regeneration is an event quite separate and distinct from a spiritual rebirth." If I didn't know better, and if this were not in the context of a serious article, I would think that Morris is joking here. Even those who are somewhat familiar with the construction of words can see that "regeneration" is made up of "re" and "generation," which means "again being born." But the original Greek leaves no doubt. The Greek word for regeneration is paliggenesia. This word comes from palin, which means "anew" or "once more," and genesis, which means "birth." "Regeneration" and "new birth" mean exactly the same thing. Morris's glaring ignorance comes shining through. Morris then makes the more well-known error that Primitive Baptist heretics make by talking about a conversion which he believes may come days, weeks, or even years after regeneration. He describes conversion as when regenerate people "are made to hate the things of this world and its worldly vices and religions they formerly loved, and to love the things of God's pure holiness, righteousness, absolute sovereignty, and the grace of Christ they formerly hated." It is true that these are aspects of conversion. However, since Morris believes that conversion is not an immediate result of regeneration, he believes that a regenerate person can love false religion and hate God's righteousness and Christ's grace, and only after a period of time, even many years, will that regenerate person come to hate false religion and love God's righteousness and Christ's grace as part of his "conversion." What blasphemy. The Scripture reference he uses in his attempt to back up his hatred of the truth says just the opposite of what he thinks it says: "For the time past of [our] life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with [them] to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of [you]" (1 Peter 4:3-4). Think about what Morris is saying by using this verse to back up his heresy. He is saying that after regeneration, the regenerate person walks in abominable idolatries! Again, he must say this, because he wishes to consider those in false religion (from the pagans who worship an unknown god to the Arminians who worship a god who cannot save without the work of the sinner) to be regenerate. He certainly has left no doubt where he stands and where the Primitive Baptists stand.
I leave this review with a quote from Morris regarding the regenerating work of his god: "He does so when He so wills, in spite of the irrelevancy of whether or not the gospel or good news of their salvation has been preached to them." Opposed to this, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:16-17).