Regenerative Grace is yet another pickle for Calvinism, which teaches that a person is Born Again, not after one comes to Christ, but before. Calvinism teaches that this is necessary, so that a person may overcome their Total Depravity and come to Christ. In this way, Calvinism teaches that a person is regenerated before faith.
Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, writes: “The Reformed view of predestination teaches that before a person can choose Christ his heart must be changed. He must be born again.” (Chosen By God, p.72, emphasis mine)
Sproul adds: “A cardinal point of Reformed theology is the maxim: ‘Regeneration precedes faith.’ Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ.” (Chosen By God, pp.72-73, emphasis mine)
However, not all Calvinists agree:
Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, explains: “If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. But you will tell me that I ought to preach it only to those who repent of their sins. Very well; but since true repentance of sin is the work of the Spirit, any man who has repentance is most certainly saved, because evangelical repentance never can exist in an unrenewed soul. Where there is repentance there is faith already, for they never can be separated. So, then, I am only to preach faith to those who have it. Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” (The Warrant of Faith, emphasis mine)
Regeneration is God’s work of taking the one who believes in His Son, and making them Born Again. Of course, Calvinists reject this too. They believe that a person must first be Born Again in order to come to Christ. Not all Calvinists believe that, but the vast majority of 5-Point Calvinists do.
Dave Hunt explains: “If God gives the faith to be saved only after regeneration, regeneration can’t equal salvation.” (Debating Calvinism, p.301)
Hunt adds: “But if the elect must be regenerated before they have faith, their regeneration leaves them still non-Christians. What ‘regeneration’ is this that doesn’t save?” (Debating Calvinism, p.301)
And that’s a huge problem, as Calvinist are forced to explain how regeneration cannot include salvation:
Calvinist, James White, argued: “In most theological works [i.e. James White’s tradition], regeneration is a subset of the larger and broader term, salvation, which often includes within it justification, forgiveness, redemption, and adoption. Sometimes it can be used in a narrower sense, but in historical discussions of these issues [again, James White’s tradition], regeneration has a specific meaning that Mr. Hunt normally confuses.” (Debating Calvinism, p.305, emphasis mine)
So not only did Dave Hunt force James White into deferring to tradition (thus making White a hypocrite, since he made the baseless accusation that Hunt defers to tradition, which is White’s attempt to suggest that non-Calvinists are just like the Catholics, in terms of deferring to tradition rather than Scripture), but also Hunt forced White into admitting that he must differentiate between salvation and regeneration, which White was unwilling to clarify exactly how they could be differentiated! He could only defer to his tradition, which told him that this must be so. Bam! Score one for Hunt. The fact is that when one is “in Christ,” he is saved, because anyone who is in Christ, is free from condemnation. (Romans 8:1) Therefore, if one is regenerated only “in Christ,” then it follows that when one is regenerated, he must also be saved. In other words, if regeneration is solely in Christ, and being in Christ carries trademarks of salvation, then you cannot say that one could be regenerated but not saved. Game over for Calvinism.
Let’s put it another way. According to Calvinism, a person who is preemptively regenerated and preemptively given new birth, and preemptively made into the new creature in Christ, receives the grace and faith necessary to repent, believe and become saved. Then once he does repent and believe, he technically becomes “saved,” insomuch that one is saved “through” faith. (Ephesians 2:8) Now being saved, what is he? He is forgiven. But wait! Hasn’t he already been forgiven, since he was preemptively placed in Christ? Remember that according to Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Therefore, a person who is regenerated in Christ, is simultaneously forgiven of his sins. Therefore, what then does Calvinism’s salvation actually accomplish, that being preemptively placed in Christ hasn’t already obtained? That’s a very good question.
Hunt concludes: “No one can be saved without being regenerated or regenerated without being saved.” (Debating Calvinism, p.301)
That is the pickle that a Calvinist is forced into.
One member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians writes: “Here, the hyper-Calvinists merely follow the yellow brick road paved by all Calvinism. Calvinism is a system built on what I call ‘maximal aversion.’ Basically, Calvinists define their theological acuity by what they are not: non-Pelagians, non-16th century Catholics, and non-Arminians (the last two being equated w/ Pelagians). Sadly, Calvinists equate any contingencies based on human action with Pelagianism. Without question, Calvinism--more than any other theological system--most maximally avoids even the possibility of works-based salvation. With God performing all the ‘work’ that could ever be performed before the foundation of the world (via his ‘eternal decree’), nothing in reality can ever truly be contingent upon a work on the part of any human--be that work real or apparent. Because Calvinists equate maximal aversion of any kind of meritorious salvation with theological acuity, they run in a bit of a problem when Scripture and logic don’t play ball with their outlook. They have to somehow account for why the Scriptures support the notion that reception and application of God’s grace in Christ is contingent upon human actions like belief and repentance. Rather than admit this, they have to plug regeneration into odd places to account for why and how humans can do anything that impacts the application of God’s gift to their lives. When maximal aversion to anything defines who you are/what you’re about, then you can justify anything. This is the sad state of Calvinism: Any exegetical or theological inconsistency can be justified as long as it serves the greater good of the maximal aversion to human-initiated contingencies (which Calvinists equate with meritorious salvation). This is a deeply unorthodox way to pursue biblical and theological acuity. And this is why you end up with mind-numbing exegesis.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
The implication with Ryle’s quote is that there is something that we must do, and that it is an imperative. However with Calvinism, there’s nothing that we can do, but wait passively for an efficacious call and an irresistible regeneration, without which, no one can either seek God or turn to God. Calvinism’s teaching on regeneration, therefore, makes man helpless, and if he is helpless, he has an excuse. But if God says that there is no excuse, then man must not be helpless, and if not helpless, then Calvinism’s teaching on regeneration preceding faith becomes evidently flawed.
So if a person contributes to their salvation only sin, and nothing else (such as repentance and confession, as expressed at Romans 10:9-10), then salvation must be popped on you, and sprung upon you. But imagine if that was what the apostle Paul had said to the Jailer at Acts 16:30-31. Paul didn’t tell the Jailer that there was nothing that he could do but contribute sin and wait upon a Regeneration. Paul told the Jailer exactly what he must do: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” So Calvinism is at odds with Scripture to an embarrassing degree. A Calvinist must then say, “We’re not saying that there is nothing that a person must do to be saved; we’re saying that what a person ultimately ends up doing is not of their own doing [i.e. Irresistible Grace].” But that’s the same thing as saying that there is nothing that an individual can do, but passively await a Regeneration. Here is a link to an additional discussion on this subject, and here is another. Here is a link to an article from 1987 by John MacArthur which actually supports Prevenient Grace.