In the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal (April 2019) Martyn McGeown wrote a piece called “Faith: A Bond, a Gift, and an Activity, but Not a Condition for Salvation.” McGeown wrote the following concerning the Philippian jailer:
“Without faith in Jesus Christ no man enjoys salvation, not even this panicking jailor. It is possible to possess salvation (to be regenerate, for example) without conscious faith, but it is not possible to possess the other benefits of salvation such as justification and sanctification, and to be consciously aware of them, and thus to enjoy and experience them, without faith (Rom. 5:1; I Pet. 1:22; Acts 26:18).” [underlining mine–CD]
For McGeown it is possible that the presently ignorant among the decretally elect of Israel have ALREADY been regenerated, but who have yet to enjoy and be consciously aware of “the other benefits of salvation” such as knowledge of and submission to the righteousness of Jesus Christ as the only ground of salvation.
McGeown states similarly on Cornelius:
“The case of Cornelius is similar. At the beginning of Acts 10, Cornelius was regenerate — his prayers and his good works were acceptable to God (v. 4); these good works were the fruit of regeneration and even faith, faith of a Gentile God-fearer, but one who did not yet know the gospel.”
“God’s gift to an unconscious infant of the whole of salvation in principle, but only in principle, can be likened to the planting of a seed into the child’s heart (I John 3:9). Ordinarily, a seed grows, the life that God gives develops, and the child comes to conscious faith. We do not believe in dormant regeneration, which was an error of Abraham Kuyper. He taught that a person (usually a child) could be regenerate, but not come to conscious faith for twenty, thirty, or even sixty years. We do not know that a child is saved unless that child grows to maturity and believes, and we do not presume it either…However, if a child who is baptized in the church never expresses faith as the activity of believing, which also produces good works, but instead grows up unbelieving and rebellious, we have no right to view him as a saved person and we have no right to tell him that he is a saved person either. Instead, we call him to repentance and faith, which is a call that comes to him, whether implicitly or explicitly, in every catechism lesson and in every sermon, as well as through the admonitions of parents, grandparents, Christian school teachers, and officebearers.” [underlining mine–CD]
Since McGeown previously acknowledged that it “is possible to possess salvation (to be regenerate, for example) without conscious faith” — thus separating regeneration from repentance and believing the gospel — it seems that the disagreement with Kuyper is not so much over the supposed “dormancy of regeneration” but over the excessive (?) time-lapse between the “dormant/unconscious seed” and its alleged growth and conscious manifestation. McGeown said Kuyper’s 20-60 year spread was an error, but McGeown’s shorter time-lapse denies the Christ-glorifying work of God in hearts of His people as an immediate and inevitable fruit of regeneration just as much as Kuyper’s alleged longer time-lapse (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6).
McGeown’s teaching contradicts Paul’s prayer in Romans 10:1-4 by allowing for the possibility of truly regenerate persons to remain ignorant of Christ’s righteousness revealed in the gospel. Though he presumably would s
“we have no right to view [ignorant Israel as saved persons] and we have no right to tell [them] that [they are saved persons either.] Instead, we call [ignorant Israel] to repentance and faith.”
“We do not enter the kingdom by justification or by conversion (including our activity of believing and repenting), but by regeneration. And remember that the jailor, for example, to whom the command to believe came, was in the kingdom already, that is, he was regenerate.” [underlining mine–CD]
As seen in the Philippian jailor, McGeown DENIES that conversion is an immediate and inevitable fruit of regeneration since he says that he was ALREADY in the kingdom, ALREADY regenerate.
“Brothers, truly my heart’s pleasure and supplication to God on behalf of Israel is for [it] to be saved. For I testify to them that they have zeal to God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ [is] the end of Law for righteousness to everyone that believes” (Rom. 10:1-4).
McGeown does NOT believe that all who are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, who are seeking to establish their own righteousness, and who do not submit to the righteousness of God, are unregenerate. Recall how McGeown would qualify his own particular form of speaking peace to those who are ignorant of the only ground of peace (cf. Romans 10:1-4):
“we have no right to view him as a saved person and we have no right to tell him that he is a saved person either. Instead, we call him to repentance and faith.”