One very pertinent question to ask about this emphasis on regeneration as a change of nature is whether it represents an attempt to find a fixed point within the created order, which would make it a species of idolatry. The reason this is a great question is that the human mind, as Calvin noted, is an idol factory, and can make an idol out of anything. It is possible to take the law “no idolatry,” absolutize it, and turn that into an idol. But enough about Islam.
There can only be one fixed point in the created world, and that is the Word of God. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever (1 Pet. 1:24). But note what this does — the constant (considered as absolute) is the Word of God. But this Word fastens something in the created order. It is a secure truth, nailed down by God’s Word, that grass withers. That is the way it is — not because ultimate and autonomous witherdom resides within the grass, but rather because God spoke it that way.
We don’t usually fall into the idolatry mistake with things that wither, though. Here is the temptation from a more obvious and tempting direction. God “by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power”(Ps. 65:6). When God makes the mountains fast, it becomes possible for men to establish the high places, and forget the God who alone created the high places. Here is a fixed point in the created order, but it is only fixed because of the Word of God. Forget that, and you’re sunk.
Scripture cannot be broken (Jn. 10:35), and this is why the bones of Christ could not be broken (Jn. 19:36 ) — it was not because the bones of Christ were a fixed point in the created order, made out of celestial titanium.
“Let all the earth fear the Lord: Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:8-9).
But as soon as something is standing fast (because of the Word of God, and only because of the Word of God), the sinful heart of man can come along and make an idol out of it. “Look how sturdy that is!” But the fact that it is so sturdy — defined, placed, fixed, and fastened by God — does not make it God. But this also means that we, not being God ourselves, cannot point to the mutability of all things (“the grass withers, does it not?”), and turn that into an argument for sex-change operations. “Everything changes, man!”
The reason we cannot do this is because the Word of God has defined the image of God in mankind as “male and female” (Gen. 1:27). He fixed it that way. The pomosexuals want the created order to be infinitely malleable, while the idolatrous traditionalists want “traditional marriage” precisely because they want a fixed point within the created order, without reference to God. And that move is impotent at best, deadly at worst, and sinful all the time. Every attempt to find a fixed point within the created order apart from the triune God is idolatry. But it is also idolatry to try to pretend that He hasn’t spoken His certainties into our world. We don’t like His certainties. Uncertainties make a nice little fog to sin in. Idolizing the fog is no better.
So are there fixed points in the created world? Yes, when God speaks them. When He creates all the species according to their kinds, that’s the way it is. When He put the Rocky Mountains there, that’s where they stayed. But the world is only stable because there is no foundation for stability within it. But once you introduce the Words of God, how gloriously stable it becomes! Every hair numbered, every sparrow noted, every atom superglued in place.
Let’s bring this back to the matter of regeneration. Regeneration is God speaking. It is a matter of God creating. The new birth is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15).
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
This is like one of those mountains that God commanded to stand fast. And evangelicals who make regeneration into a high place, where they worship their own feelings and subjective experiences, have indeed fallen into idolatry. They have gone and left out the whole point. But those who look to Christ, and who know that nothing in this sorry joint of a fallen world can stay put unless He is telling it to, are not guilty of idolatry. Just the reverse.
Why? The just shall live by faith, and that means faith in what He said.