John Owen on Partial Regeneration (Prevenient Grace)

John Owen on Partial Regeneration (Prevenient Grace) October 1, 2014

Several times here I have been criticized by Calvinists for talking about a “partial regeneration” brought about by the Holy Spirit in what Arminians call “prevenient grace.” They have demanded that I show them this “partial regeneration” in the Bible. My answer has always been that it is everywhere assumed and implied in the Bible.

Recently I’ve been reading John Owen’s book The Holy Spirit. Owen was, of course, the leading Puritan theologian of the 17th century. Most of his books are still in print and widely read and studied by Calvinists.

Imagine my surprise and delight in coming across this passage in Chapter 16 “Believers Only Are Sanctified”:

“Those under such conviction of sin have sometimes actually had the seeds of regeneration imparted to them already. [He clearly means BEFORE full regeneration occurs.] Then they will indeed continue to pray for the works of regeneration to be properly done in them.” (The Holy Spirit [Puritan Paperbacks edition, 1998], p. 118)

So, to my Calvinist critics–if you think “partial regeneration” is an unbiblical belief consider why your hero John Owen believed in it!

Yes, of course, there’s a difference between Owen’s belief ABOUT it and Arminians’ belief. For him it is irresistible; for us it is resistible. But that’s not to the point. The point is a simple and straightforward one: Owen, like Arminians, believed in what can properly be called a “partial regeneration” that precedes full regeneration.

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