Monday, October 24, 2011

Chapter 101 - Hardshells and Predestination IV

In the preceding chapter it was seen how the Conditionalist faction of Hardshells denies that God has willed, decreed, purposed, determined, or predestined, all things, and yet this is what the scriptures and the old Baptist confessions teach and affirm. God is, in some sense, the cause, the first cause, of all that exists or that occurs. Yet, at the same time, men are responsible, acting by choice. It was further shown that these two seemingly contradictory propositions are true and that neither is to be rejected because one cannot understand how they can both be true.

The apostle John wrote:

"But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." (I John 2: 20)

What does the apostle mean when he says that Christians, those who "have an unction" from the Lord, "know all things"? Certainly he does not mean to say that Christians are omniscient. Rather, it seems to me, that John is saying - "you see the big picture." He is saying - "you know the reason for all things," that is, you know why God created the world, and what is the purpose behind all things. You know that "of him and through him and to him are all things" (Rom. 11: 36), that everything has meaning and purpose, has a destiny. (Eccl. 3: 1; Prov. 16: 4) John is affirming that Christians have insight into the why of things.

God has good and justifiable reason for purposefully allowing the existence of moral evil. The final good that will occur from it's existence clears God of any blame for sin's existence. Those who teach that God intended good from the fall of man are often charged with believing that sin is thereby justified and not condemnable. So Paul was falsely charged. Wrote Paul:

"But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!" (Rom. 3: 5-8 NIV)

Commenting upon this passage Dr. Gill wrote:

"...though God is true and faithful to his promises, notwithstanding the sins of his people, which are as a foil, to set off the lustre of his truth the more, yet their sins are nevertheless sins, and are taken notice of by him as such, and they are corrected for them; and however God may overrule, in a providential way, the sins of others for his glory, this is no excuse for their sins, nor will it be an exemption of them from punishment."

"let us do evil that good may come; a slander cast upon the apostle's doctrine of unconditional election, free justification, and of God's overruling the sins of men for good; and is the same which is cast on ours now, and is no small proof of the likeness and sameness of doctrines."

It is Christian doctrine to affirm that God has brought the greatest good out of the greatest evil. As a result of the fall of man, God is glorified in forgiveness and redemption through Christ. As a result of wicked men crucifying Christ, God has brought glorious salvation. As a result of the wicked acts of Joseph's brethren God brings Joseph to a place where he saves his family. Whether it be the sinful intention of Adam, in transgression, or the sinful intention of Joseph's brothers, or the sinful intentions of those who killed our Lord and Savior, it may be said of them all - "you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."  (Gen. 50: 20) 

Paul later would say - "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Rom. 5: 20) But, if grace abounds where sin abounds, does this fact not promote and justify sin? Does it not make sin to be the means for grace abounding, and therefore a good thing, rather than an evil thing?

Doubtless the apostle Paul taught that God had designed to bring good from, or by means of, evil. Yet, Paul denies that this invariably justifies anyone having a positive attitude towards sin, or legally clears any from the guilt of sin. The perpetrator of transgression cannot plead innocence because God brings some good out of his transgression. God's overruling of his transgression for good does not excuse or justify the transgressor. Though grace abounds to the glory of God in places where sin abounds, this does not justify the existence of sin, as a thing or end in itself.

From verses of scripture cited in the previous chapter, it was observed how "all things are of God," and not only from him, but "through him, and to him." Several kinds of causes are alluded to by these words of the apostle. God is the "first cause," for that is what is meant by all things being from him. God is the "efficient cause," for that is what is meant by all things being "through" him.  God is the "final cause," for that is what is meant by all things being "for" or "to" him. God is therefore, as many Christians have avowed, "the first cause" and the "last great end." God himself says that he is "the first and the last," and this is true relative to "causes." He is the first and last cause of all things.

Last or final cause signifies an "end," a purpose or design, achievement of a wish. And, what is the end design, the final purpose? How are all things "to him" and "for him"?

That God is the "first cause" of all things has already been addressed. How they are "through him" I fore go a delineation, but simply restate that it signifies that God is the "efficient cause" of all things, or as Paul said elsewhere - "for in him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17: 28)

"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." (I Peter 4: 7)

The "end" of a thing is its consummation, the fulfillment of its aim and purpose. It corresponds to the reason for existence. "End" is from the Greek word "telos," hence our word "teleology," which is the study of the ends or purposes of things, with their destinies and ultimate designs.

On this verse Dr. Gill wrote:

"end of all things...with respect to the whole universe, to the scheme and fashion of this world, which will soon be gone, though the substance will abide; when the heavens shall pass away, and the earth and all therein will be burnt up; when there will be an end of all the purposes and promises of God respecting the present state of things concerning his church and people, and of the judgments of God upon his enemies here..." (Commentary)

Thus, what Peter is affirming is not the mere ceasing of things, or of their annihilation, but of their reaching their final end and destiny, when each thing completely fulfills the reason for its creation and existence.

There are many ends, but only one final end.  All ends, except the final end, are means to further ends.  Ends imply purposes, and are also effects, and all effects have prior causes.  But, effects are also themselves causes of other effects.  Thus, a singular thing may be an effect of one thing but a cause of another thing. 

The "final cause," in the biblical and Christian scheme, is God himself, and his own glory, and the means to that end are the creation and fall of man, and his redemption or condemnation by the Son of God.   This naturally leads one to discuss the issue of lapsarianism (falling), and whether the scriptures support a supralapsarian or infra(sub)lapsarian scheme.

As I said in a previous chapter, most of the Absoluter faction are supralapsarians while nearly all of the Conditionalist faction are infralapsarians.  The Westminster and London confessions had supporters who were both supras and infras.  These confessions were so written so as to be acceptable to both sides, without fully endorsing either.  Old Baptists have always had men on both sides of this question.  It is interesting to note however, that all Pelagians and Arminians are infralapsarians.  Those Calvinists who are infralapsarians share Pelagian and Arminian sentiments and arguments on this subject.  Those Calvinists who reject supralapsarianism are "low Calvinists," while those professing it are styled "high Calvinists."  These are distinct terms from "hyper Calvinist," as I stated at the outset of this book.

Supralapsarianism's motto is, "The last thing in execution is the first thing in purpose." Or, "What is first in design is the last in accomplishment."

Is it better for God to decree that all of humanity should fall into sin without any reason for it and without any thought of redemption?  Sin, and the fall of man, was not an accident, and redemption was not a mere reaction on the part of God. As the Scripture says, "The LORD works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster." (Proverbs 16:4)

The question at issue here is whether "creation is UNTO redemption."  In commenting upon Ephesians 3: 1-12, a very long sentence of the apostle Paul, Princeton professor Charles Hodge said this about verse 9 and 10 and of the relation of God's purpose in creation to God's purpose in redemption:

"The all things here referred to are by some restricted to every thing pertaining to the Gospel dispensation. For this interpretation there is no necessity in the context; and it is contrary to the common usage and force of the terms. There must be some stringent necessity to justify making "creator of all things," mean "author of the new dispensation." Others restrict the terms to all men: ‘He who created all men now calls all.’ This however is arbitrary and uncalled for. The words are to be taken in their natural sense, as referring to the universe. It was in the bosom of the Creator of all things that this purpose of redemption so long lay hid. The reference to God as creator in this connection, may be accounted for as merely an expression of reverence. We often call God the Infinite, the Almighty, the Creator, without intending any special reference of the titles to the subject about which we may be speaking. So Paul often calls God, blessed, without any special reason for the appellation. Some however think that in the present case the apostle uses this expression in confirmation of his declaration that the plan of redemption was from ages hid in God—for he who created all things must be supposed to have included redemption in his original purpose. Others suppose the association of the ideas is—he who created, redeems—the same God who made the universe has formed the plan of redemption. None but the creator can be a redeemer.

V. 10.

2. Apart from the doctrinal objections to this theory, this connection of the clauses is unnatural, because the words ‘who created all things,’ is entirely subordinate and unessential, and therefore not the proper point of connection for the main idea in the whole context. That clause might be omitted without materially affecting the sense of the passage. 3. The apostle is speaking of his conversion and call to the apostleship. To him was the grace given to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and teach all men the economy of redemption, in order that through the church might be made known the manifold wisdom of God. It is only thus that the connection of this verse with the main idea of the context is preserved. It is not the design of creation, but the design of the revelation of the mystery of redemption of which he is here speaking. 4. This interpretation is further sustained by the force of the particle now as here used. Now stands opposed to ‘hid from ages.’ God sent Paul to preach the Gospel, in order that what had been so long hid might now be made known. It was the design of preaching the Gospel, and not the design of creation of which the apostle had occasion to speak.

The Bible clearly teaches not only that the angels take a deep interest in the work of redemption, but that their knowledge and blessedness are increased by the exhibition of the glory of God in the salvation of men."

Hodge rejects the interpretation that sees Paul affirming that God created all things in order to redemption, and yet this to me is Paul's obvious meaning.  Hodge is an infralapsarian Calvinist.  In his denial Hodge says that Paul's words "who created all things by Jesus Christ," is an interjection that has no connection with anything in the passage, merely a statement of praise unrelated to anything he has said in the context.  This is wholly untenable.  First, why not simply say, "God who is blessed" or some other statement of praise and adoration?  Second, Hodge thinks that it is the calling of the apostle to preach the gospel that is the thing God has done "in order to redemption."  Certainly that is included, but it is not limited to that event.  Was Paul's being made into an apostle and evangelist not a creative act of God?  Yes.  So, Paul is saying that God made Paul in order to redemption.  So, Hodge's view still is upholding the principle that he condemns, that principle which says that God created Paul to be an apostle in order to redemption!  Creation unto redemption!  Viewed in this light, it is not an unconnected thought for Paul to say "who created all things (not just Paul)" unto redemption.  Thus, Hodge's argument about the clause being unnatural is false.  It is very natural and appropriate.  Hodge's view makes the clause meaningless, an interjection that does not relate to anything Paul has said!  Hodge said - "the words ‘who created all things,’ is entirely subordinate and unessential."  I find this view totally false.  The words are pertinent and essential. 

Yes, the creation of Paul into an apostle and evangelist is "unto redemption," and Paul appropriately does not limit his being made an apostle for the purpose of redemption, but includes "all things" that God has made.  Hodge's statement that the - "clause might be omitted without materially affecting the sense of the passage," is an absurd position, and indicts the apostle in charging him with uttering things in a complex sentence without any relation to anything he has stated in the sentence.  

Further, it is more likely that the phrase "to the intent" connects with the clause "who created all things by Jesus Christ" for this is the clause nearest the phrase.   

It is also a natural and connected thought, and not unnatural and an unconnected thought.  If Paul had just spoken of his being made or created, it is appropriate for him to expand his thought to the creation of all things.  Why was Paul created an apostle?  Well, for the same reason why all things have been created.

Further, the argument on the word "now" by Hodge carries no weight.  Paul is simply saying that the purpose of his being made an apostle, like God's purpose in all things, is "now" known, in a superior way, by the new testament revelation.

Hodge is wrong to not recognize that God's "design" in gospel preaching is the same as his "design" in creation. 

In talking about predestination and divine causality it is appropriate to talk about the order of God's decrees, of what relates to the supralapsarian versus infralapsarian controversy.  "The last thing in execution is the first thing in purpose" or, "what is first in design is the last in accomplishment." Thus, causality relates to the controversy.

In "TRUTH DEFENDED," Dr. Gill wrote "an ANSWER to an Anonymous Pamphlet, intitled, Some Doctrines in the Supralapsarian Scheme impartially examined by the Word of God."  I wish to cite some of Dr. Gill's remarks from this work.  Gill defends the supralapsarian scheme.

Dr. Gill wrote:

"The examination begins with the foundation-principle of the Supralapsarians, as he calls it, that "God chose his people without considering them as "fallen creatures'." He does well to begin with their foundation-doctrine; for if he can demolish the foundation, the superstructure must fall; if he can pluck up what he supposes to be the root of many false opinions, the branches which grow from it will die in course."

"That famous Supralapsarian, Dr. Twiss, declares, that "as for the ordering of God's decrees, upon which only arise" the "different opinions touching the object of predestination, it is merely apex logicus, a point of logic." The decrees of God may be distinguished into the decree of the end, and the decree of the means, that they may the better be conceived of by our finite understandings; which are not able to consider all things at once, and together, as they lie in the divine mind; but of one thing after another; and that without dividing and separating of God's decrees, or supposing any priority or posteriority in him. Now the decree of the end must be considered before the decree of the means; and that what is first in intention, is last in execution, and so vice versa. Let then eternal life and glory, or a state of everlasting communion with God, be the end of election, as it is with respect to man, then the creation, permission of Adam's fall, and the recovery out of it, are the means in order to that end. It follows, that, in the decree of the end, man could not be considered as a fallen creature, but as yet not created; because the creation and the permission of the fall belong to the decree of the means, which is in order of nature after the decree of the end. For if God first decreed to create man, and to permit him to fall, and then decreed to bring him to a state of eternal life and happiness; according to this known rule, that what is first in intention is last in execution, this strange absurdity will follow, that man will be first brought into a state of eternal life and happiness, and then created and permitted to fall. Let the end be the manifestation of God's glory, which certainly is the supreme end of election, then the means are creation, permission of sin, redemption, sanctification, and, in a word, complete salvation; which, though they are materially many, yet make up but one formal decree, called the decree of the means. Now according to the former rule, the intention of the end must be first, and then the intention of the means-, and, consequently, man cannot be considered in the decree of the end, the manifestation of God's glory, as yet created and fallen; because the creation and permission of sin belong to the decree of the means, which order of nature is after the decree of the end. But if, on the contrary, God first decreed to create man and permit him to fall, and then decreed to manifest the glory of his grace and mercy, in his eternal salvation, according to the above rule, that what is first in intention is last in execution, and so vice versa, it will follow, that the glory of God's grace and mercy are first manifested in the eternal ialvation of man, and then he is created and suffered to fall. Likewise it is to be observed, that the several things mentioned in the decree of the means, creation, permission of sin, and salvation, are not to be considered as subordinate, but as co-ordinate means, or as making up an entire, complete medium. We are not to suppose that God decreed to create man that he might permit him to fall, or that he decreed to permit him to fall, that he might save him; but that he decreed to create him, permit him to fall, and to save him notwithstanding his fall, that he might glorify his grace and mercy. Nor are we to conceive of them after this manner, that God first decreed to create man, and then decreed to permit him to fall; for it would follow that man, in the execution of these decrees, is first permitted to fall, and then he is created: Nor thus, that God first decreed to create man, and permit him to fall, and then decreed to save him; for, according to the former rule, man would first be saved, and then created and permitted to fall."

"...the scriptural part of it (lapsarian controversy - SG) is about the sense of the ninth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, and the question is, whether the Sublapsarian, or the Supralapsarian scheme, concerning the objects of election and reprobation, is most agreeable to the sense of the apostle in that chapter; particularly, whether the Supralapsarian scheme, of God's choosing some, and leaving others, considered as unfallen, as having done neither good nor evil, does not best agree with the account the apostle gives in ver. 11-13, of the election of Jacob, and rejection of Esau; and more especially whether it does not best agree with the same apostle's account, in ver. 21, of the potter's making of the same lump one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? This author should have mentioned these scriptures, and commented upon them, and answered the arguments of the Supralapsarians from them; in particular, those of that eminent Supralapsarian, Theodore Beza, in his notes upon the last of these texts, which I shall transcribe for this man's sake; and he may try whether he is capable of answering of them. "Those who, by the mass, or lump, says this great man, understand mankind corrupted, do not satisfy me in the explanation of this place: for first, it seems to me, that the phrase (Greek - SG) of informed matter, neither sufficiently agrees with mankind, either made or corrupted. Moreover, if the apostle had considered mankind as corrupted, "he would not have said, that some vessels were made to honour, and some to dishonour; but rather, that seeing all the vessels would be fit for dishonour, "some were left in that dishonour, and others translated from that dishonour to honour. Lastly, if Paul had not rose to the highest degree, he had not satisfied "the question objected; for it would always have been queried, whether that "corruption came by chance, or whether indeed, according to the purpose of God, and therefore the same difficulty would recur. I say, therefore, Paul "using this most elegant simile, alludes to the creation of Adam, and rises up to the eternal purpose of God, who, before he created mankind, decreed of  his own mere will and pleasure, to manifest his glory, both in saving of some "whom he knew, in a way of mercy," and in destroying others, whom he also "knew, in righteous judgment."

"But, admitting that these things, with respect to men, suppose them in such a case; it should be observed, that they belong to the decree of the means, and therefore fall short of proving that God, in the decree of the end, or in decreeing men to eternal life and happiness, for the glorifying of himself, considered them in such a state, since the decree of the end, in order of nature, is before the decree of the means-, unless we can suppose the all-wise being to act in such a manner as no wise man would, namely, first fix upon the means, and then appoint the end. Now if God first decreed to create man, permit his fall, and then sanctify and conform him to the image of his Son, before he decreed to glorify himself in his salvation, the consequence will be, that God is first glorified in the salvation of man; and after that, man is created, suffered to fall, is sanctified, and conformed to the image of Christ; because, what is first in intention, is last in execution."

"The act of election does not presuppose men sinners and miserable, nor indeed can it; for should it presuppose sin, it would presuppose the decree of the permission of sin; and the permission of sin would be first in God's intention, than man's salvation of God's mercy, and consequently would be last in execution; than which, nothing can be thought of more absurd."

"...according to the Supralapsarian scheme...The decree of the means provides for the bringing about of this end, which includes creation, the permisson of sin, the mission of Christ, sanctification, and complete salvation; so that the elect of God may well be called vessels of mercy; since through such means, they are brought to eternal life and glory; though, in the decree of the end, they are considered as not yet created and fallen, than, which, nothing can more tend to advance the free grace and mercy of God." (pgs. 64-73)

"Besides, this way of stating the decrees of election and reprobation, respecting men, can no more strike at the justice of God, than the way of stating these decrees, respecting angels, does, which cannot be done in another way: for the elect angels could never be considered as fallen ; and therefore the other angels, who were pasted by, and rejected at the same time, must be rejected as creatures only, and not as sinful creatures..."  (V. "Truth Defended: in Answer to a Pamphlet on the Supralapfarian Scheme," from "A collection of sermons and tracts" By John Gill)

See here.

Dr. Gill, in commenting upon Proverbs 16:4 wrote:

Ver. 4. The Lord hath made all [things] for himself,....This is true of the Lord with respect to the creation of all things by him. All things are made by him, the heaven, earth, and sea; and all that are in them, angels, men, beasts, birds, fishes, and all creatures: and these are made for himself, and not another; not for the pure or good men, as Aben Ezra, though all things are for the elect's sake; but for God himself, besides whom there was no other before the creation, nor is there any other God but him, who is the first cause and last end of all things: nor were those all things made for him, through any want he had of them, being God all sufficient and blessed for evermore, but to show his greatness, and communicate his goodness; they are made for his service, which all creatures are obliged unto, and whom all in their way obey, and for his honour and glory. It is also true of his works of providence, and of his ordering and disposing of all things in the course of that, to answer ends of his own glory; his kingdom of providence rules over all; there is a general providence, which respects all creatures and things; and there is a particular providence attending the Lord's own people; and in all the glory of his wisdom, justice, truth, and goodness, is conspicuous: but this is chiefly, if not solely, to be understood of God's decrees and purposes; and of his ordering and appointing all things to bring about his own glory. Every thing is appointed of God; he has foreordained whatever comes to pass; there is a purpose for everything under the heavens, and a time fixed for the execution of it."

"...all things are appointed by the Lord, respecting the temporal estate of men; their birth, and the time of it, with all the circumstances attending it; the place of their abode, their calling, station of life, and usefulness; all adverse and prosperous dispensations; their death, with all the events leading to it: and so likewise all things respecting their spiritual and eternal estate; the choice of them to salvation; their redemption by Christ; the time of his coming, sufferings, and death, and the circumstances thereof; the conversion of God's elect, the time, place, and means; these are all according to the purpose of God; as are also all their times of affliction, temptation, desertion, and of joy and comfort. In a word, the final state of all men, good and bad, is fixed by the Lord; and all this is "for himself", which some render, "to answer to himself"; all creatures are made to answer to his original design in making them, to the laws of their creation, and to answer his ends and purposes; and which is ultimately his own glory: or for his praise, as Jarchi; for his will and pleasure, as R. Isaac; for the thing in which he is well pleased, as R. Jonah or for his own sake, as Kimchi; and all which agree, as with the sense of the words, so with Re 4:11."

"yea, even the wicked for the day of evil; this is added to illustrate the general proposition in the preceding clause, and to obviate an objection, that might be taken from the destruction of the wicked, against all things being for the glory of God; for even the destruction of the wicked, which is under a divine appointment, is for his glory. It is not the sense of this text, nor of any other passage of Scripture, that God made man to damn him; nor is this to be inferred from the doctrine of predestination: God made man, neither to damn him, nor to save him, but for his own glory; and that is secured, whether in his salvation or damnation; nor did or does God make men wicked; he made man upright, and he has made himself wicked; and, being so, God may justly appoint him to damnation for his wickedness, in doing which he glorifies his justice." (commentary)

These citations from Dr. Gill represent the historic view of the old Baptists and of the ancient Baptist confessions. The Conditionalist faction of Hardshells will not accept them, however. But, in rejecting them, they show that they are not what they claim to be, are not "primitive" or "original" Baptists.

In the next chapter I will discuss issues relative to the "permissive will of God."

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