Ryan…I was wondering if you could assist me with trying to understand 1 Peter 1:3. The word ἀναγεννάω is translated different among all of the various versions. The ESV and NASB goes with "has caused." This translation seems to have significant theological relevance when dealing with primary and secondary causes of our faith. I would like to be able to defend against any Pelagianistic heresy using this verse and understand for myself the logical order of regeneration and faith. The use of the words "has caused" to me seems to be another slam dunk verse to support regeneration preceding faith and the Lord being the primary cause of our regeneration and faith and man only being a secondary cause of saving faith. Any help you can provide would be very appreciated. Thanks.
Andre, this is a great question. In NTG, one word can often have several different meanings. Sometimes, though definitely not always, the meaning and translation of a word will be ultimately determined by the context of the passage, or by the translator's theology. Here however, the word ἀναγεννάω is set in meaning. Though there may be three possible translations of it, they all mean the same thing. It could be that the translational differences to which you refer are the result of the translator's translation philosophy: (Word for Word = ESV, NASB; Dynamic Equivalent = NIV, TNIV; Paraphrase = Message, NCV). It could also be the result of the translator's theology, and the place of importance and understanding that they do or do not have of the doctrine of regeneration. That being said, here is the verse:
ὁ κατὰ τὸ πολὺ αὐτοῦ ἔλεος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς εἰς ἐλπίδα ζῶσαν δι’ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν
…who according to his great mercy begat (has begotten) us again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
ἀναγεννάω: to regenerate, to beget again, to cause to be born again.
ἀναγεννάω is only used twice in the NT, here and also in V23. There, it is a present passive participle which translates (having been born again). It tells us that our regeneration or new birth is “not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”. We are born again as the result of God's working through or by the Word of God, or the Gospel, not anything that we have mustered up or produced within ourselves (i.e. faith, will, goodness). Through the gospel message, God causes regeneration within us; as a result we believe and repent in the gospel.
So in answer to the question: Yes regeneration does precede faith and repentance; however a word of caution and clarification is necessary here. There are those who teach that a person can be born again/regenerated and yet remain unsaved or unconverted. They teach that a person can be born again, yet sometime later or even years later they believe and repent. This is not a Biblical understanding of the doctrine, and it is very dangerous. Even though technically and theologically we may say that regeneration precedes faith and repentance, we never see it this way from our own eyes, as regeneration and conversion (faith and repentance), occur from our perspective simultaneously. Though they are distinct acts theologically, from our view we see them without any lapse of time between. A person who is regenerate is also converted, if they have been regenerated, they have also believed and repented. In the aforementioned misunderstanding of regeneration, those who hold to that view may at times even state that a person could be regenerated, and yet die before they were converted. We understand that such is not possible.
So, as you said, this is another "slam dunk verse" to defeat any Pelagianistic heresy, and it does in fact give all the glory and credit to God.
Just a note for reference: In John 3:3, 7 the following phrase is found: γεννάω ἄνωθεν: This phrase is related to ἀναγεννάω and means: to beget from above, to be born from above.