Decisional regeneration/decision theology – What is it?
Decisional regeneration (also known as decision theology) is the teaching that a person must make a conscious decision to accept Jesus by faith in order to be saved. This view believes faith is the cause of salvation.
Those who hold this view typically emphasize that a person must pray a sinner's prayer, walk down a church aisle, or make some other public commitment or decision in order to truly be saved. Other methods may include asking someone to raise a hand or stand up to acknowledge becoming a believer during a church or outreach event or signing a card as an act of commitment.
However, others oppose this view as emphasizing the human element of salvation rather than an emphasis on God's work to save an individual. In fact, the Bible is clear that salvation is a work of God's Spirit (John 3:8). Further, actions like those mentioned above such as walking an aisle or praying a particular sinner's prayer are not found in the New Testament.
The strongest evidence against the view of decisional regeneration, however, is the biblical understanding that humans are dead in sin and are incapable of faith in Christ apart from His grace (Romans 8:8; Ephesians 2:1). No one truly seeks God (Romans 3:10-11). Instead, God calls those He has elected to respond by faith.
Related to this view is the teaching called monergism. This teaching, developed within Reformed Theology, emphasizes God as the sole power in bringing a person to faith in Him. God both sovereignly chooses who will be saved and then calls the person to faith in Him. In contrast, others hold the view called synergism that teaches both God and people work in synergy in the process of salvation. (Read more on monergism vs. synergism).
The Bible is clear that salvation is God's gift and is completely dependent upon His grace through faith apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Technically speaking, any human effort would be considered a "work" in the sense that it is something a person does to obtain or help in salvation. Though we are called to respond to God's invitation of salvation through prayer and commitment to Him, salvation is not the result of these efforts. These efforts are instead a result of God providing salvation.
It has been said that when a person first trusts in Christ that he thinks it is because he decided to believe. As a person matures in their faith they realize they would never have decided to believe unless God first placed the desire in their hearts. This is the proper perspective, one in which God does the work of salvation and we benefit from the gift of salvation.
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