How Nathaniel Taylor Relates to
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration
|Nathaniel W. Taylor (1786-1858) was the most influencial theologian of the third generation New Light Calvinists. His systematic theology is called "New Haven Theology", promoted through his tenure at the theological department at Yale University. Taylor's Correspondence is the most succinct expose of his doctrinal views shown below with my notes in RED.|
This statement by Taylor was published in 1832 in the Connecticut Observer Magazine.
1. That there are three persons in one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
2. That the eternal purposes of God extend to all actual events, sin not excepted;
THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT GOD HAS PREDETERMINED ALL EVENTS (INCLUDING SIN) IS AN IMPORTANT STATEMENT OF CALVINIST ORTHODOXY
or, that God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, and so executes these purposes as to leave the free moral agency of man unimpaired.
TO UNDERSTAND HOW MAN CAN HAVE FREE WILL WHILE GOD HAS FORORDAINED ALL EVENTS, YOU MUST UNDERSTAND NEW LIGHT CALVINIST THEOLOGY - THE MOST SUCCINT EXPLANATION WAS GIVEN BY SAMUEL HOPKINS - CLICK HERE
3. That all mankind in consequence of the fall of Adam, are born destitute of holiness, and are by nature totally depraved; in other words, that all men, from the commencement of moral agency do, without the interposition of divine grace, sin and only sin, in all their moral conduct.
TAYLOR BEGINS TO EXPLAIN THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST VIEW THAT ALTHOUGH ALL MEN HAVE A FALLEN NATURE, GOD DOES NOT PUNISH THEM FOR THIS - RATHER, GOD PUNISHES THEM FOR THEIR SINFUL ACTS.
I do not believe, that the posterity of Adam are, in the proper sense of the language, guilty of his sin; or that the ill-desert of that sin is truly theirs; or that they are punished for that sin. But I do believe, that by the wise and holy constitution of God, all mankind in consequence of Adam's sin, become sinners by their own act. I do not believe that the nature of the human mind, which God creates, is itself sinful; or that God punishes men for the nature which He creates; or that sin pertains to any thing in the mind which precedes all conscious mental exercise or action, and which is neither a matter of consciousness nor of knowledge. But I do believe that sin universally is no other than selfishness, or preference of one's self to all others, of some inferior good to God; that this free voluntary preference is a permanent principle of action in all the unconverted; and that this is sin and all that in the
scriptures is meant by sin. I also believe, that such is the nature of the human mind, that it becomes the occasion of universal sin in men in all the appropriate circumstances of their existence; and that therefore they are truly and properly said to be sinners by nature.
4. That an atonement for sin has been made for all mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ; that this atonement was necessary to magnify the law, and to vindicate and unfold the justice of God in the pardon of sin; and that the sinner who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is freely justified on the ground of his atoning sacrifice, and on that ground alone.
5. That the change in regeneration is a moral change, consisting in a new holy disposition, or governing purpose of the heart as a permanent principle of action; in which change the sinner transfers the supreme affection of his heart from all inferior objects to the living God, chooses him as the portion of his soul, and his service and glory as his supreme good, and thus in respect to moral character, becomes a new man.
6. That this moral change is never produced in the human heart by moral suasion, i. e. by the mere influence of truth and motives, as the Pelagians affirm, but is produced by the influence of the Holy Spirit, operating on the mind through the truth, and in perfect consistency with the nature of moral action, and laws of moral agency.
7. That all men, (in the words of the article of your church,) may accept of the offers of salvation freely made to them in the gospel, but that no one will do this, except he be drawn by the Father.
“DRAWN BY THE FATHER”, NOT “FORCED BY THE FATHER” – IRRISISTIBLE GRACE IS NOT EXPERIENCED AS GOD FORCING SINNERS TO BECOME SAINTs – SINNERS ARE CONSCIOUS WHEN GOD MAKES THEM A SAINT BECAUSE THEIR DISPOSITION (THE INCLINATION OF CHARACTER) HAS CHANGED.
8. That the necessity of the influence of the Holy Spirit in regeneration results solely from the voluntary perverseness of the sinner's heart, or disinclination to serve God, which, while it leaves him a complete moral agent and without excuse for neglecting his duty, suspends his actual salvation on the sovereign will of God.
HERE IS WHERE PEOPLE WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND PREDETERMINATION GET LOST. CRITICS OF NEW LIGHT CALVINISM SHOULD ADMIT THEY DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT IF THEY EITHER DON’T UNDESTAND IT OR DON’T BELIEVE IT – THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST CALL FOR AN IMMEDIATE DECISION FOR CHRIST STANDS OF FALLS ON THE TRUTH OF THIS STATEMENT.
9. That the renewing grace of God is special (in distinction from that which is common and resisted by the sinful mind) inasmuch as it is that which is designed to secure and does infallibly secure, the conversion of the sinner.
HERE IS THE UNAMBIGUOUS STATEMENT THAT SAVING GRACE IS IRRESITIBLE. BUT WAIT, IN HIS CAVEATS, TAYLOR SAYS THIS:
I do not believe that the grace of God can be truly said to be irresistible, in the primary proper import of this term. But I do believe, that in all cases, it may be resisted by man as a free moral agent, and that when it becomes effectual to conversion, as it infallibly does in the case of all the elect, it is unresisted. I do not believe, that the grace of God is necessary, as Arminians and some others maintain, to render man an accountable agent, and responsible for rejecting the offers of eternal life.
TAYLOR IS SAYING THAT GRACE FOR SALVATION IS NOT OFFERED TO ALL MEN AS THE ARMINIANS SAY
But I do believe, that man would be such an agent and thus responsible, were no such grace afforded, and that otherwise ' grace would be no more grace.'
TAYLOR IS SAYING THAT GOD IS NOT OBLIGATED TO OFFER GRACE FOR SALVATION, OTHERWISE, “GRACE WOULD BE NO MORE GRACE”, THAT IS, IF GRACE WERE MAN’S DUE, I WOULD NOT BE A GIFT.
HERE IS A GOOD PLACE TO PUT TAYLOR’S VIEW OF PRE-REGENERATION GRACE AND USING THE MEANS OF GRACE:
I do not believe that sin can be proved to be the necessary means of the greatest good, and that as such, God prefers it on the whole to holiness in its stead; or that a God of sincerity and truth punishes his creatures for doing that which he on the whole prefers they should do, and which as the means of good, is the best thing they can do.
HERE IS THE INFLUENCE OF TIMOTHY DWIGHT (TAYLOR WAS HIS MOST FAMOUS DISCIPLE - UNLIKE NETTLETON AND BEECHER WHO REJECTED DWIGHT'S PURITAN VIEW OF THE MEANS OF GRACE IN FAVOR OF HOPKINS' RADICAL VIEW, TAYLOR SAW USING THE MEANS OF GRACE LIKE A PURITAN PREPARATIONIST), RESTORING COMMON GRACE TO PRE-REGENERATION ENLIGHTENMENT, AS TAUGHT BY EDWARDS AND BELLAMY.
But I do believe, that holiness as the means of good, (TAYLOR MUDDIES THE THOLOGICAL WATER HERE – IS HE IMPLYING THAT ANY PRE-REGENERATION USING THE MEANS OF GRACE ARE “HOLY”, THAT IS, CONNECTED TO REGENERATION? HE SHOULD HAVE USED THE TERM “ATTEMPTING TO BE HOLY AS THE MEANS OF GOOD” INSTEAD OF “HOLINESS AS THE MEANS OF GOOD”) may be better than sin; that it may be true that God, all things considered, prefers holiness to sin in all instances in which the latter takes place, and therefore sincerely desires that all men should come to repentance, though for wise and good reasons he permits, or does not prevent the existence of sin. I do not believe that it can be proved, that an omnipotent God would be unable to secure more good By means of the perfect and universal obedience of his creatures, if they would render it, than by means of their sin. But I do believe that it may involve a dishonorable limitation of his power to suppose that he could not do it.*
* FOOTNOTE: The question is not whether God, all things considered, has purposed the existence of sin rather than to prevent it; but for what reason has he purposed it? Some affirm this reason to be that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good. Now what I claim, and all that I claim is, that no one can prove this to be the reason why God has purposed the existence of sin, and that some other may be the true reason, without affirming what the true reason in.
HERE IS WHERE THE MEANS OF GRACE BECOME (WITH THE UNDERSTANDING OF PREDETERMINATION), THE MEANS OF REGENERATION (“MAKE YOURSELF A NEW HEART”)
I do not believe, that it is necessary that the sinner in using the means of regeneration, should commit sin in order to become holy. But I do believe, that as a moral agent he is qualified so to use these means, i. e. the truth of God when present to his mind, as to become holy at once; that he is authorized to believe, that through the grace of the Holy Spirit, this may be done; and that except in so doing, he cannot be truly and properly said to use the means of regeneration.
10. That all who are renewed by the Holy Spirit are elected or chosen of God from eternity, that they should be holy, not on account of foreseen faith or good works, but according to the good pleasure of his will.
I do not believe, that we are authorized to assure the sinner, as Armninians do, and some others also, that the Holy Spirit is always ready to convert him. But i do believe, that we are authorized to assure any sinner, that it may ie true, that the Holy Spirit is now ready to convert him, — “that God peradventure will now give him repentance,” and that thus, in view of the possible intervention of divine influence, we remove what would otherwise be a ground of fatal discouragement to the sinner, when we exhort him to immediate repentance.
I have dwelt the more on some of these particulars, because much pains has been taken by some individuals, to make the impression, that I have departed from the true faith respecting the influences of the Holy Spirit, even denying his influences altogether. So far is this from the fact, that as you well know, no one attaches higher importance to this doctrine than I do; preaches it more decisively, or appreciates more highly its practical relations and bearings.
In my own view, the power of the Gospel on the mind of the sinner very much consists in the two great facts of his complete
moral agency as the basis of his obligation, of his guilt and of his duty;—and of his dependence on the sovereign grace of God, resulting from his voluntary perverseness in sin. Without the latter, we could, in my opinion, neither show the Christian what thanks he owes his Deliverer from sin, nor awaken the sinner to flee from the wrath to come. This doctrine seems to be indispensable to destroy the presumptuous reliance of the sinner on future repentance, as it shows him how fearfully he provokes an offended God to withhold the grace on which all depends. At the same time one thing is indubitably
certain, viz. that God never revealed the doctrine of the sinner's dependence on his Spirit, to prevent the sinner from doing his duty at once. God does not call sinners to instant compliance with the terms of life, and then assure them, that such compliance is utterly out of the question and to be wholly despaired of. The opposite impression however, is not uncommon; and it is an error not less fatal to immediate repentance, than the fond hope of repenting hereafter. Both are to be destroyed; and he who does not preach the gospel in that manner which tends to destroy both, preaches it but imperfectly.
11. That all who are renewed by the Holy Spirit, will, through his continued influence, persevere in holiness to the end, and obtain eternal life.
Such is my faith in respect to some of the leading doctrines of the gospel. These doctrines I preach ; these I teach in the Theological department of this Seminary; these, I have repeatedly published to the world. With what truth or justice any regard me as a “teacher of Theology introducing heresy into our churches”, the candid can judge.
But it may be asked, whether after all, there are not some points, on which I differ from my brethren generally, or at least, from some of them? I answer—it would be strange, if any two men should be found to agree exactly, in all the minute matters of religious opinion. With respect however, to what is properly considered the Orthodox or Calvinistic system of doctrines, as including the great facts of Christianity, and as opposed to, and distinguished from, the Unitarian, Pelagian and Arminian systems, I suppose there is between the Orthodox ministry and myself an entire agreement.
In respect to comparatively minor points, and philosophical theories, and modes of defending the Calvinistic system of doctrines, there has always been, as you are aware, a diversity of opinion with freedom of discussion, among the Calvinists of this country, especially in New England; but which has never impaired their fellowship or mutual confidence. To these topics of difference, greater or less importance has been attached by different individuals. In respect to some of these, (and in respect to them, I suppose myself to agree with a large majority of our Calvinistic clergy) I will now briefly, but frankly state what I do not, and what I do believe.