Jonathan Edwards and Supralapsarianism

Today we received a question from TSS reader, Jason Dalton. He asks:

Dear Tony,

I’ve been listening to J.I. Packer’s RTS “History and Theology of the Puritans” on iTunes U that you graciously pointed out awhile back. It is very enjoyable, and I am very grateful to RTS for making it free to the public. Thank you for letting more people know about it.

Dr. Packer goes on a bit of a long tangent about supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism in the lectures and comes down very strongly against supralapsarianism.

I still have much to learn on the subject, but I believe I would label myself as a supralapsarian. My hero is John Piper, and it is from him that I have come to believe that God’s glory and Him displaying all facets of that glory is the most preeminent goal in all the universe.

Seeing from your post that Jonathan Edwards liked William Perkins, did Jonathan Edwards consider himself a supralapsarian, do you know? Do you think John Piper would consider himself a supralapsarian?

Thank you for any knowledge you might be able to pass on. Thank you for all your work. God has used it to bless me.

Jason Dalton

Great question, Jason!

Let me define the terms for those interested in this question but lost in the terminology. It’s a question of timing. What did God decree first, second, etc.? A supralapsarian believes that God first decrees (or elected) some for salvation, then decreed creation, the fall and then redemption. He elects some and then decrees to create them, decrees the fall and redemption to establish this relationship with the elect. An infralapsarian however believes God first decrees creation, then the fall, then election and redemption. So the question is this: Did God decree the elect before decreeing the fall (supralapsarian) or does He decree election after decreeing the fall (infralapsarian)?

This is a noteworthy distinction although some of my favorite theologians simply throw their hands in the air and say the order of decrees is not revealed in Scripture (see John Frame for example).

Now, about your question specifically. Yes, William Perkins was supralapsarian and, yes, Edwards liked Perkins. I’m uncertain of Piper’s official position, though.

From what I’ve read Jonathan Edwards reacted against the supralapsarian position. I say that based upon John Gerstner’s conclusion in his multi-volume work The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Ligonier: 1992). Gerstner writes:

“he [Edwards] refutes the fundamental argument of the supralapsarians. They contend that the last thing in execution was always the first in intention. That is, the actual reprobation and salvation of some proved that this was the original intention behind the creation, fall, salvation and damnation. Edwards critiques this … man was not created that he should be converted or reprobated. … God decreed the fall of man, yet Edwards sees this as an anti-supralapsarian. As we shall show in the Edwardsian doctrine of man, the Holy Spirit was Edwards’ donum superadditum. Adam’s failure to call upon Him was the occasion of the fall. God did not first harden Adam’s heart; this wicked deed was Adam’s own doing” (2:161, 164).

Clear as mud? Great question. Does anyone else have insight into answering this question?

Tony

36 thoughts on “Jonathan Edwards and Supralapsarianism

  1. Hi, Tony. Related to this question, is it accurate to speak of the things that an omniscient God knows (and decrees) in human terms of time and space at all?

  2. Thanks, Tony. I probably didn’t phrase my question well. I’m wondering if such a thing as “timing” even exists in the mind of God, who knows all things perfectly–past, present and future–at once.

  3. Perhaps an easier way to look at the supra/infra issue is to ask about the objects of election. In election, was God choosing people out of a fallen mass of humanity, or from a mass of humanity irrespective of the fall? This is the way that the debate arose, and the ordering of decrees was a logical mechanism for evaluating it. By addressing the issue as it touches upon the objects of election, we are able avoid mere speculation and approach it in a more exegetical and scriptural manner. The classic passage is Romans 9:20-23. The lump of clay, by analogy, is the object God’s election. The Christian, in understanding this text, asks, “Are we to understand this lump as representing fallen humanity, or un-fallen humanity?” Supralapsarians say un-fallen, and Infralapsarians say fallen.

    In the end, the infralapsarians are not in a better position than the Supralapsarians. Both groups admit that God ordained the fall. And, both agree that man was culpable in the fall, and that the reprobate is at fault for his damnation. So, the Reformed position, either way, must accept the fact that God foreordained the fall of humanity into sin. Infralapsarianism tries to ease the tension by saying that reprobation is just God leaving the fallen person in his own sinful condition. Nevertheless, the Infralapsarian still has to deal with the fact that God prearranged with certainty that the reprobate be within the fallen mass of humanity to begin with. It is only to remove the tension a very small step to say that God chose to leave some in their sinful state, since God determined that they would be a part of that sinful lump of clay from the start. Infralapsarians and Supralapsarians alike must humbly bow before the sovereignty of God.

    It might come as a surprise to many, but some of the most practical theologians and evangelistic ministers of the 16th and 17th Century were Supralapsarians.

  4. This is an interesting topic, which I’ve only delved into a couple of times. I’ve noticed that for some reason most people are inclined to stear away from the Supralapsarian, which I find odd, especially for those who are reformed.

    I’m also intrigued that Romans 9:20-23 is cited as the classic passage on this topic. I would have thought Ephesians 1 a more pertinent passage with regard to election, esp v.4-6:
    4 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
    I guess I’m probably the Supralapsarian then? :-)

  5. Hi Tony,

    This was a topic I dealt with in my Masters Thesis at Dallas Theological Seminary. Oliver Crisp demonstrates well in his book Jonathan Edwards and the Metaphysics of Sin that Edwards was actually quite innovative in his ordering of the decree. He held to a supralapsarian position with regard to election and an infralapsarian position with regard to reprobation. He was able to do that by defining election in non-redemptive terms. Election, for Edwards, while it entails redemption after the Fall, properly speaks to God’s decision that certain creatures ultimately enjoy his happiness. God decreed that prior to his decree of the fall (i.e. supralapsarianism). However, reprobation is not equivalent to non-election. Non-election only speaks to God’s decision that some creatures not ultimately participate in his happiness. So Edwards holds to a supralapsarian view of non-election. Reprobation, on the other hand, necessarily has sin in view, since it is fundamentally concerned with condemnation. Therefore, as Gerstner demonstrates, Edwards held to an infralapsarian ordering with regard to the doctrine of reprobation.

    I hope that is helpful.

    Jay

  6. Thank you for your post, Tony. I have one quick clarification question for you.

    From my understanding of supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism (please correct me if I am wrong), both views are not only about the order of the decrees but also what was the main reason behind God decreeing the fall. Where infralapsarianism says that God would only elect some to salvation and reprobate the others as a result of man’s rejection of Him, supralapsarianism says that God desired even before the fall to elect some to salvation and reprobate the others to better glorify and display every aspect of his glorious characteristics.

    Am I way off? The reason I thought Edwards might be a supralapsarian is I just read an essay from him at DesiringGod.org. In the essay he puts forth the idea that God had to sovereignly decree sin (while staying guiltless for man’s sin cf. Edward’s Freedom of the Will) in order to magnify every different characteristic. Which sounds very supralapsarian to me.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts, and will gladly receive any corrections if I have misunderstood anything.

    Jason Dalton

  7. Hi Tony et al,

    I don’t think we can be or ought to be too dogmatic about these things, however it would seem to me that the infa postion seems most logical…and the Synod of Dordt favoured that position….I quote First Main Point: Article 7

    “Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery”

    This seems to imply (albeit with a troublesome comma!) that the choice was made from a fallen people. Likewise the article on reprobation seems to imply the infa position.

    I think in many ways the crux of the matter is that in relation to logic, the supra position places the decree to elect before the decree to create beings which are electable, which when compared to the infa position does seem to be illogical…the infa position places the decree to create a people first and then a decree to choose out of that people.

    Regarding Supra, R.L. Dabney writes,

    “That it is erroneous in representing God as having before His mind, as the objects of predestination, men conceived in posse only; and in making creation a means of their salvation or damnation. Whereas, an object must be conceived as existing, in order to have its destiny given to it, And creation can with no propriety be called a means for effectuating a decree of predestination as to creatures. It is rather a pre- requisite of such decree.”

    He continues,

    “It contradicts Scripture, which teaches us that God chose His elect “out of the world,” Jn. xv: 19, and out of the “same lump” with the vessels of dishonor, Rom. ix: 21. They were then regarded as being, along with the non-elect, in the common state of sin and misery.”

    I always find Dabney to be extremely clear on such matters and his Lectures are an excellent resource in which he always states his opinion clearly.

    JP

  8. From what I’ve read on the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) and the debates between supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism, it seems that the Westminster Divines allowed room for both positions to be featured in expository doctrine, though the Divines made it clear that the Lord had made a special plan for His people before the foundation of the world.

    The Westminster Divines did want to move with the Lord to offer prominent support for ministers who upheld the “Supra” position.

    “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.” (WCF 3: 5 qtd. in “Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics,” )

    Here the Westminster Divines’ key language is about “the foundation of the world.” The Westminster Divines wanted to make it clear, in reflection from Scripture with the Lord, that the Lord does establish the nature of covenant cross-centered salvation for His people beyond the boundaries of this world. Knowing the Gospel with the Lord means knowing with the Lord that the Lord’s decrees are not bound in any sort of way to this world, whether the world prior to the fall of Adam or the world after the fall of Adam (which perhaps pro “Infra” types may struggle with from time to time).

    Yet knowing the Gospel with the Lord also involves knowing the Lord’s predestination as most directly related to the carnal fall of man, and the Lord’s saving work in view of the incarnate new covenant ministry of Jesus for fallen men. The Westminster Divines made much room in their reflection on Scripture with the Lord to consider the extent to which the Lord has clearly revealed His standards of predestination in His inscribed Word and the extent to which He has left predestination a mystery. The Westminster Divines knew with the Lord that most of the Bible’s language on predestination is centered on the carnal reality of the fall of man, and the Lord’s saving work ultimately revealed in the cross of Jesus among fallen men thereafter. Here was the key for the Westminster Divines, especially for the pro “Infra” ministers in attendance: is election explicitly tied to individuals of the fallen flesh and seed of Adam? The Westminster Divines’ answer seems to show a sort of “wiggle room” for the “Infra” position, at least in attempting to harmonize this position with the “Supra” position.

    “As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.” (WCF 3: 6 qtd. in Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics” )

    Here the Westminster Divines’ key language is about the elect “fallen in Adam.” The Westminster Divines wanted to move with the Lord to make special emphasis on the features of salvation in the redeeming and justifying and sanctifying grace of Jesus dwelling with His people, in both Jesus’ incarnate ministry, and in the keeping power of the Holy Spirit. The Westminster Divines wanted to move with the Lord to make predestination a practical foundation to their call of sinners to justifying faith in Christ, the proper essence of evangelism. Knowing the Gospel with the Lord means knowing with the Lord that the Lord, out of the mystery of His position in glory, has indeed moved to incarnate communication of the things of His grace to His people, at a one to one level with them on the earth (which pro “Supra” types may struggle with from time to time).

    Knowing the history of the Westminster Divines with the Lord involves knowing that the Westminster Divines did earnestly pursue a happy common ground between the “Supra” and “Infra” positions for Christians. Some of the attending pastor-theologians at the Westminster Assembly clearly favored knowing the Lord’s work before the foundation of the world, and professing this truth to thoroughgoing detail in the Westminster articles. I’m convinced with the Lord that these men doubtless struggled against the Lord in trying to figure out too much about the mystery of His predestination, and in looking down on the “Infra” ministers in attendance. Some of the attending pastor-theologians at the Westminster Assembly clearly favored knowing the Lord’s work at a very practical earthly level, and professing this truth to thoroughoing detail in the Westminster articles. I’m also convinced with the Lord that these men doubtless struggled against the Lord in demanding the doctrine of predestination to be at too much of an earthly level, and in looking down on the “Supra” ministers in attendance. Such is life in a denomination. And in the Westminster Divines’ mortification of their sins to the cross of Christ with the Lord, they decided to take on both the “Supra” and “Infra” positions to allow for both positions (and much unity) between ministers in the pulpits.

    In my own lessons on predestination of the Gospel with the Lord, I would tend to not shift decisively to either the “Supra” or the “Infra” positions, but rather uphold the consensus of the Westminster position on predestination. I would confess with the Lord that, in a slight degree of caution about supralapsarianism, there is great risk for sinners to try too much to decide what decrees of predestination belong “first” to the Lord, as the Lord has hidden details of predestination from sinners’ minds. If we try to aspire to “too much information” about the Lord’s predestination, we become arrogant against the Lord. And this kills our passion for evangelism in the church. (This is where Hyper-Calvinists tripped up in their view of global missions and evangelism in their debates against William Carey.)

    I would also confess with the Lord, in a slight degree of caution about infralapsarianism, that there is great risk for sinners to try to make predestination too pragmatic for our human understanding and our work in evangelism. There is much that the Lord does not want us to understand about His plan of salvation, because He wants us to appreciate His mystery. And most importantly, the Lord wants us to know satisfaction with Him at an earthly level, in our reconciling of our human identities, our “Adam” and “Eve” identities, into covenant cross-centered relationship with Him. (This is where “end times” fanatics typically trip up with their demand to know, “When is it all going to end?” Such is the reality of radical pragmatism and radical skepticism in the postmodern age.)

    Knowing the truth and grace of predestination in the Gospel with the Lord involves knowing the Lord’s deliberate withholding of His mystery from human knowledge, and knowing the Lord’s deliberate revelation of His grace at a personal level in the incarnate ministry of Jesus. “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). Here the apostle Paul speaks about the mystery of God in the spiritual marriage of Christ and His church. Paul is saying with the Lord that the marriage between Christ and the church ought to be upheld in praise to the Lord for what the Lord has both deliberately withheld and deliberately revealed for His people. And yet Paul moves to say with the Lord that the Lord has made the mystery of the Gospel a very practical reality for His people. They know real one to one relationship with the Lord through His Son Jesus. It’s not something that we have to box our way through thin air to find out. The Lord has shown it to us in His sovereign good pleasure. Knowing and upholding the predestination of the Gospel with the Lord means upholding the aspects of mystery and incarnate revelation in predestination with the Lord for developing unity in the church among questioning Christians. And knowing and upholding the predestination of the Gospel with the Lord, in all the Gospel’s mystery and revealed reality, will provide a convincing statement about the mystery of God and the revelation of sovereign joy in grace from God onto the radical pragmatist and radical skeptic.

  9. Just a further note to Deb…the argument regarding the two positions is not an argument as to when in relation to actual creation took place but whether God decreed to elect before or after he decreed to create….both positions agree that all the decrees took place in eternity past….so the text in Ephesians does not teach either position….indeed Dabney would say that it suggests infa because of the “through Christ”…

    I quote again..from Discussion 21

    “Our election is in Christ our Redeemer, Eph. i: 4; iii: 11, which clearly shows that we are conceived as being fallen, and in need of a Redeemer, in this act. And, moreover, our election is an election to the exercise of saving graces to be wrought in us by Christ, I Pet. i: 2; 2 Thess. ii: 13.”

    JP

  10. Sorry just wanted to say that Jay’s point (number 6) is extremely important, while disagreeing with Edwards on Election being supra…I think reprobation would not be just unless it was infra…..

    “Reprobation, on the other hand, necessarily has sin in view, since it is fundamentally concerned with condemnation.”

    As Turretin points out the fall and sin are not the result of damnation, damnation is the result of the fall and sin.

  11. We must be careful of saying supralapsarianism toward man would be unjust, since God’s election and non-election of angels must have been from a supralapsarian stance. This does not automatically mean that God deals with man from a supralapsarian stance, but it does caution us from saying He could not have done so justly.

  12. A friend of mine bumped into John Piper in a bookstore a while back and, with the opportunity to ask him only one question, he decides to ask him whether he’s infra or supra. He said that Piper said he used to lean towards supra but is now infra. This surprised me because I would’ve always thought he was supra unless I completely misunderstand the definitions (which I probably do). Then again, my friend tends to mix up his terms sometimes so it could’ve been the complete opposite.

  13. Disclaimer: This is merely an opinion and I hope that it does not serve as a stumbling block for weaker brothers of the faith.

    I am of the conviction that it is a silly endevour to embark upon this theological quest for any Christian. The fundamental problem with the arguement concerning supralapsarianism vs infralapsarianism concerns the very nature and character of God.

    Let us ask ourselves a question: What is eternity? Many Christians define eternity as the summation of all of human time. This is obviously incorrect as time is relative as the the measurement of change.

    I would submit that another definition of eternity is as an unbounded period of time, which has two implications. The first is that eternity consists of an infinite period of time, which is all time: past, present, and future. But, I present that to be an incorrect view of God and of eternity.

    If God is eternal, pure, infinite, and holy, then he is set apart from creation (including time). As such, even the definition that eternity is infinite in time is not appropriate because God is eternal and the concept of eternity shifts to a more correct version in being a complete lack of time which is merely a specific form of infinite time.

    Simply stated: If God is eternal, then he is outside of time.

    This conclusion is supported by scripture with the simple statement that a thousand years are as one day in God’s eyes and a thousand years in God’s eyes is but a single day (I Peter) and this concept is presented elsewhere in scripture consistently. As such, placing God’s decrees “during” eternity within a temporal contexture simply nullifies the very concept of eternity.

    What does this have to do with this theological question? With the above information in mind, the question of supralapsarianism versus infralapsarianism cannot be worked through logically as it cannot be comprehended and if it could, it still would be counter to any sort of logic to place God’s decrees within the context of time if they took place in eternity. Thusly, for all that we know, all of decrees of God could have happened at exactly the same “time.” Hence we get the Old Testament whereas an entire system of sacrifices are put into place to point to an event (the atoning death of Christ) in eternity “future,” which is really eternity “past,” which is really eternity “present,” despite the fact that it does not coincide with time and the notations of “past,” “present,” and “future” eternity is a misnomer and that we could really say that if we did use it, we would need to come up with a new word like “pre-eternatural” (coined by AW Pink) to describe what really is eternity. Really long sentence, eh?

    Nevertheless, the formulation of such an uneducated guess stemming from an uneducated theological problem seems to flinging the mud of intellectualism in the face of faith (although it is important to not divorce faith from reason).

    Logically, this problem cannot even be pondered by the human mind and, exegetically, it is not presented in scripture and revealed by the divine mind of God. Therefore, speculating upon this impossible task has only one fruit: to show forth the unsearchable depths of God to be unsearchable. Any conclusion other than that is at best an uneducated speculation and at worst a blaspheme of the living God.

  14. Jonathan,
    You stated, in a more eloquent and philosophical way than I could have, the main thought behind the questions I asked at the outset of this discussion.

  15. Hi Jonathan,

    I agree there are difficulties involved when discussing eternality. We don’t have good categories available to do that very well. For instance, you described God’s timelessness using spatial teminology describing it as God being “outside of time.” But God is also Spirit, which means he is not definable in spatial terms. What does it mean that God is outside of something? But we all do that. We are quite often forced to use analogy when describing divinity.

    It is important to remember, as you have demonstrated, that the ordering of God’s decree is not temporal. It is logical. The ordering is not chronological; it is logical and axiological. There can be no chronological ordering for the reasons you give. However, there must be a logical and axiological ordering according to the dictates of divine wisdom and love.

  16. Okay now I was not going to say anything to the discussion on supralapsarianism but you hit on a topic that I might be able to help on I am new to the discussion but maybe I can help on talking about timelessness. I will start with a brief discussion on time and Edward’s concept of physics. There seem to be two types of ways to talk about time and theologians have been debating this a lot lately due to open theisms influence. One way theologians and philosopher seem to talk about time are using terms like past, present and future and placing events into those labels, the other way some thinkers talk about time are the starting and ending point of an event consuetude a moment. The Rub becomes the of talking about time in one these two ways need each other theoretically speaking, To say that time is just a measurement of an event means to place it in relation to a past “event” or a present “event” or a future “event”. To say that an event is past, present or future means that you know the content of the “event” to make such labels stick as past present and future. I believe this problem is called Mctaggarts paradox (they talk about the “unreality of time”. This is probably poorly stated but this as far as I can figure the tension expressed by the paradox causes problems for most theologians when talking about God’s relation to time but Edwards seems to provide a model above the modern debate (not bad since the paradox is a 1901 concept). Edwards appears very active reworking the Newtonian system of his day to make it more Theocentric for him there is no distinction between sustaining creation and creation itself, Edwards seems to have revamped the whole of Physics of his day the goal of creation for Edwards is for the supreme end is God’s self communication of his glory which interestingly enough is what equals happiness of those intelligent rational creatures (Suppose that is us) this goal of God’s self communication is also is used by Edwards to explain the reason God made us we are an auxiliary end to the supreme end of a forever conversation with God about how Great God is ( Cool eschatology )when considered time is nothing but conversation meant to communicate God’s Glory in Edwards system. As are the order of the decrees. I wonder if Edward’s model Of God necessitate things being the way they are? ( For instance some commentators say that in Edwards model God had to create? )

    Hope that was helpful to the time part of the discussion

    God Bless,
    Bryan

  17. God is greater than time(past,present, or future). Time is for man. God has chosen some prior to this creation to be elected to salvation and other to reprobation. Creation is just a habitat for us finite creatures. It was the Lords will and decree that it be as such. Supralapsarianism is very correct in it’s approach. Re-read Romans 9:11. The verse states before the twins had commited good or evil God chose Jacob! Before man had fallen he was chosen or reprobated.

  18. Yes, God did decree the fall and all events that terminate to his glory! God is the author of all creation and that includes sinful man, who is the author of sinning against a holy and just God. It was and is the Lords will to let man sin against God. In all times man has sinned against God and the bible testifies to this fact. No good or evil comes to past without the Lords will. Amos 3:6, Isaiah 45:7,and Lamentations 3:38. Look at Job or Pauls “thorn in his side”. The Lord has willed evil to come to his saints to test them and mature them. God has willed evil to come to the reprobate to punish them for there sins. We must, as saints, surrender to the Lordship of Jesus, for the mysteries of the decree and election become clouded as a paradox, much like the dogma of the Trinity! No human this side of heaven has all the answers, and just because we don’t understand the “how and why” of doctrine doesn’t mean it isn’t so!

  19. What if Adam had chosen not to sin? Tony says that Gerstner says that Edwards says that Adam fell on his own. If Adam had chosen not to sin, God would have forknown that. Would he then haved picked someone else to be Adam whom he knew WOULD sin?
    I am confused as to Edward’s position on whether Angels are more loved of God than man or whether man is more loved than angels or whether Edwards is ambigous at this point.

  20. I appreciate this blog. Though I am not a trained theologian, I have found this site very encouraging for a someone like myself who has studied the scriptures daily for many years. After many years, I came to the view of a supralapsarian, even though i didn’t know there was a theological term for it. One sad point I have is that when I went to talk to a pastor with a M-Div, he was taken back by my conclusions. I had to talk to the head of Gordon Conwell Seminary on this and other subjects to verify that I wasn’t a kooky Christian. I’m glad that normal christians can discuss these comments and other deep matters in the cyberspace church.

  21. Evidently,you need a high IQ to understand Calvinism. I thought the Bible was for the common folks, that we didn’t need a degree in theology as one needs a priest to explain the Bible to them as in the Catholic Church. This is purely the “wisdom” of men. Let’s use the language of the Bible,then we can never go wrong or confused. Stay simple and plain brother!

  22. Thankful to God He allowed me to stumble on this blog, it’s been helpful for my studies on the the two positions, I do stand on supra over infra seeing that it is has a more solid argument that are lined up most closely with Scriptures.

  23. In reply to your question Daniel, though that is man’s logical next step (claiming God’s decree of the fall makes Him the “author of sin”), I suggest that we be careful not to jump to speedy and unwise extremes. As an example, let’s look at Peter’s statement of fact on the death of Christ in Acts 4, “For truely in this city were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:27 – 28 NASB).

    Now from this passage and using your stated argument, one could now say that because God had destined their actions (putting Christ to death) that what they did was not sin. But Peter’s previous sermon in Acts 2 informs us that they had sinned in putting Christ on the cross and some of them realized this, for some were “pierced to the heart” (Acts 2:37 NASB).

    Can I in my finite and fallen mind completely comprehend the truth about God’s destinating man’s actions in this world and man’s responsibility for those actions; no. But scripture does point to both without making God culpible or deminishing man’s guilt. I would simply suggest that we do our best to hold to all that scripture states without jumping to extremes to satisfy our own humanistic logic.

    If we are being truthful, I am sure we will all admit our struggle with these truths (I know I still do). But we are called as Christians to affirm all scripture and therefore all truths found there-in; not just passages and ideas that are logical and palitable.

  24. I do appreciate the open and honest debate in the discussions of these “deeper” matters of theology.I do believe God wants us to delve deep and long into His scriptures, and then come away awed by the MAJESTIC, AWESOMENESS, AMIABLE character of the Almighty GOD; who is NOT limited by the time-space-mass continuim, BUT chose rather to humble
    Himself and take upon flesh and dwelt amongst us; AND we beheld His GLORY,glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. I lean towards the thinking expressed by ” the secret things belong to the Lord our God”. God wants ALL of our attention,praise,adoration,love,heathy fear of Himself, and admiration!! May God be glorified and NOT the intellect of man!! Deut. 18:21 states: “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?” see Deut.18:21,22.

  25. I too am a past RTS student. An interesting view I find some biblical credence for – that weighs in on this topic some – is that this world is basically a stage (note physics keeps finding all creation more and more an energy field – think holograms). God demonstrates His glory through all creation, especially man. The powers and principalities (think angels and the like) are also created. Created cannot really ‘”comprehend” the eternal and the uncreated. We know there was a rebellion in the heavenlies, just not the timing. Consider if the rebellion timing was either prior to the creation of the material universe (the stage), or the creation in anticipation of the rebellion in the heavenlies. God planned before the creation of the universe, that all things would be subject in His expression of himself, His Word (revelation of Himself) to the created. That expression of Himself is man – the one true man is Jesus, who is fully God and man. Note how Christology allows the design of man that God to fully be in man, and yet man is fully man. What if God gave the rebellion a right to express their view, ultimately glorifying God – nothing can survive without Him or outside of submission to Him, not because of His power but His way. What if fallen man is a self-accountable avatar – some are expressions (son) of God, and some are expressions of the Rebellion. Thus Jesus calls some the “vipers, sons of the devil”, and thus they cannot (impossible) for them to hear Him (John 8). What if Judas and Antichrist were predetermined to give Satan a right o image his position? What if Satan does have rights – for a period of time-to demand to sift those he wishes to attempt to prove or accomplish his plan, view, self-exaltation? What if the “watchers” are angelic forces, who are learning through this world and the Church (Eph 3:10). They are constantly awestruck about the wisdom, the character, the rock of steadfastness, the sacrificing love of God, that includes even the death and suffering of His Son and His sons. His longsuffering humility and Name endures ages of abuse, all to reveal His Glory to ALL of His creation.

  26. Here is more on Jonathan Edwards on Supra and Infra (misc 704)

    http://edwards.yale.edu/archive?path=aHR0cDovL2Vkd2FyZHMueWFsZS5lZHUvY2dpLWJpbi9uZXdwaGlsby9nZXRvYmplY3QucGw/Yy4xNzo0OjIwMy53amVv

    “What divines intend by prior and posterior in the affair of God’s decrees, is not that one is before another in the order of time, for all are from eternity, but that we must conceive the view or consideration of one decree to be before another, inasmuch as God decrees one thing out of respect to another decree that he has made; so that one decree must be conceived of as in some sort to be the ground of another, or that God decrees one because of another, or that he would not have decreed one had he not decreed that other…..”

  27. The Lamb was slain “before” the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8), all things are through him ,for him and by him (Rmn 11:36) The Scriptures lean towards election and redemption first and then Creation. Additionally, what about the angels? The Bible talks about the “elect” angels (1 Tim 5:21) angels DONT need redemption, but they are elect and they have been around before the visible Creation. In reality this is an “angel on a pinhead question” and is not part of the core Gospel of Jesus Christ. A better question would be, “If you died today are you in Gods presence?”

  28. Another “topic” brought up in this thread is, “Is God the author or creator of sin?” The Bible is explicit that God created all things, I lean to the truth God created all things, including satan, sin and death and somehow is righteous, good, true, perfect holy, just and holy in all His ways. How? I have no clue, except that God is completely sovereign in all His ways, names every star and has decided what bird will die today before the foundation of the Creation. I think knowing God decides life and death, saved and damned, has providence and responsibility for all His works makes Him a most awesome and fearful God and this is reflected through out the Bible.

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