How John Witherspoon Relates to the
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration


links to scottish common sense realism


john witherspoon 600

If you read John Witherspoon’s view of regeneration, you’ll find the version of  Scottish Common Sense Realism he brought to Princeton put regeneration into a subservient position to moral persuasion: “This conviction of the obligation of the divine law, so essentially connected with, or rather so necessarily previous to, an acceptance of the imputed righteousness of Christ, is evidently founded upon the relation of man to God, as a creature to his Creator. This relation then continues, and must continue, unchangeable; therefore the obligation founded upon it must be unalienable; and all those who have once been sensible of it, must continue to be so, unless we suppose them blinded to the knowledge of God as Creator, by the discovery of his mercy in Christ the Redeemer. But this is absurd; for the subsequent relation of a sinner to God, as forgiven and reconciled through Christ, never can take away, nay, never can alter his natural relation as a creature, nor the obligation founded upon it.”

No puritan would link illumination of Law Works with regeneration so completely. Sensibility of the obligation of divine law is not evidence of regeneration, and to think so is to make acceptance of the truth of scripture as tantamount to saving faith. This is what Finney rebelled against when he was taught for two years by George Washington Gale, and this is the error that caused the BEST system to be changed to the BIST system after the Civil War.

Witherspoon's influence over the evolution of the American New Light Calvinist decision for Christ can not be understated. If the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche could be said to be the basis for Nazi ideas of the "power of the will", the theology of Witherspoon was the philosophical influence that resulted in the New Light Calvinist "metaphysical moral influence" decision for Christ. This was the rational for the Inquiry Room changing from BEST system to BIST system after the Civil War, which incidentally, was NOT IN ANY WAY CONNECTED TO CHARLES FINNEY. Charles Finney continued to use the BEST system till the day he died in 1875.

Finney was indirectly influenced by Witherspoon though. Witherspoon taught William Graham (1746-1799), and Graham taught Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) Scottish common Sense Realism, and Alexander taught George Washington Gale (1789-1861), and George Washington Gale taught Charles Finney (1792-1875) to prepare him for the ministry. Finney rejected the idea that regeneration was not immediately discernable and questioned the lack of supernatural activity (apart from the energizing of Scripture) of the Holy Spirit inherent in Scottish Common Sense Realism. This rejection caused him to form his own theology more in line with that of Samuel Hopkins that stressed the immediate experience of regeneration. Unfortunately, almost all modem Calvinists do not know that Finney based his expectation on immediate experience of regeneration on a pre determinist premise with consecutional saving faith.

If you are serious about understanding how Christian salvation change so quickly, that it, before the Civil War supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to after the Civil War, saving faith as evidenced by believing Scripture, please read the complete text of Witherspoon's Practical Treatise On Regeneration with commentary.

Here are 10 FALSE PREMISES of Witherspoon:

FALSE PREMISE 1: There is no difference between common and saving grace.
Witherspoon wrote: “There were … great debates whether special and common grace differ essentially in their nature, or if
they differ only in degree… I embrace the last of these opinions”.

FALSE PREMISE 2: There is no difference between common and saving faith.
Witherspoon wrote: “What is faith? Is it any more than receiving the record which God hath given of his Son, believing the testimony of the Amen, the true and faithful Witness?”

FALSE PREMISE 3: Regeneration is assured if you have common faith in the truth of Scripture.
Witherspoon wrote: “Is not your peace and reconciliation with God, and the sanctification of your natures, expressly provided for … either that you do not give credit to the promise he hath made, or that you are not willing that he should do it for you”.

FALSE PREMISE 4: Anyone who believes the gospel with common faith is said to be regenerate.
Witherspoon wrote: “through the glorious gospel the new nature is effectually produced, and cannot be produced in any other way”.

FALSE PREMISE 5: Having common faith in Scriptures (not the Person of God) is the only means of salvation (Man-Mechanical faith).
Witherspoon wrote: “I praise thee for this message of peace. I think I see, in some measure, its necessity, truth and beauty.
I see it, I trust to such a degree, that it is the sole foundation of my hope”.

FALSE PREMISE 6:Since there is no change of nature in regeneration, “true” or “sincere” repentance and faith are relative and subjective.
Witherspoon wrote: “an unregenerate person is said to have no true love to God or his neighbour only because it is not the most dominant love, and only the most dominant love will be accepted as true or sincere”.

FALSE PREMISE 7:Since “true” or “sincere” repentance and faith are relative and subjective, regeneration is also relative and subjective, not objective and absolute.
Witherspoon wrote: “every holy disposition must be examined, not by its absolute, but its comparative strength; and the true knowledge of our state arises from the conclusion and result of the whole”.

FALSE PREMISE 8:  Regeneration is merely a gradual psychological process, not an immediate, supernatural change.
Witherspoon wrote: “I cannot help thinking, that for a sinner truly and sincerely to desire a change of nature, would be an evidence of a change begun.”

FALSE PREMISE 9:Regeneration is merely the moral persuasion of the rational mind.
The psychological chimera of Scottish Common Sense Realism was a “truth impression” would change a sinner into a saint without the need of supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Witherspoon wrote: “A just view of the glory of God, and the obligation upon every rational creature to love and imitate him, would effectually cure them of all self-righteousness and self-dependence.”

FALSE PREMISE 10: The nature of fallen man is merely polluted, so does not have to be supernaturally replaced.
Witherspoon wrote: “No nature (is) so polluted; but infinite power is sufficient to renew it."