Monday, February 3, 2014

Supralapsarianism - Common Objections 5

The logical consistency of Supralapsarianism does a far superior job in handling the question of sin and evil with regard to the divine decrees than Infralapsarianism does. This is why I said earlier that the Infralapsarian objection that Supralapsarianism makes God the author of sin, is an unfair argument at the very least. I only bring that up again here, after having already dealt with that objection, because it appears to me that Infralapsarianism confuses logical conception or logical order with historical execution, as I’ve already said. This means that it is contrary to fact and that it creates confusion in the divine decrees, at least some of them, by leaving the purpose of unspecified until the next decree. This would appear to deny God’s rationality by making the Divine decree be purely arbitrary, without any reason.

In any logical arrangement the first thing conceived of is the final purpose. Every step along the way is made in order to accomplish what comes before. This would of course mean that the decree which concerns the creation of man would have to be preceded by a decree that requires the creation of man in order to accomplish the ultimate goal while still representing man is a “possibility.” Therefore it seems to be a rather weak argument when it is said that Supralapsarianism is illogical because it makes the decree of election and reprobation refer to nonentities, bare possibilities in the mind of God, who do not as yet in fact exist.

One final consideration is the decree of Predestination as it regards the angels. The Supralapsarian view is the only adequate explanation for predestination as it regards the angels. The entire body of angels consists of 2 categories: the fallen and the unfallen. Scripture refers to the unfallen angels as “the elect angels” {τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν ἀγγ έλων} (1 Tim. 5:21), by which language a specific body of chosen individuals is denominated. This language is identical to that used with reference to the human individuals which God has chosen as a specific body, i.e., the Church, which he has chosen in His Son. It is therefore obvious that Supralapsarianism is the only adequate explanation for predestination as it regards the angels, because those among them who are designated “elect,” were not chosen out of a mass of fallen individuals. The angels who were termed “elect,” were decreed to be so without any consideration of a fall. None of the fallen angels are elect. Scripture gives is no reason to think that the decree of predestination which encompasses the election and reprobation of angels is to be considered in any different manner from the decree of predestination which encompasses the election and reprobation of men. The decree of predestination with regard to the angels makes it very clear, even without the biblical commentary which Romans 9 gives us with regard to human election, that predestination unto election or reprobation is not, and should not be considered, a matter of Divine Justice, but rather a matter of Divine Sovereignty.

Before we continue, I’d like to tie up would seems to me to be one remaining loose end. I have already repeatedly asserted that predestination, which I use as an umbrella term for both election and reprobation, is an act of God’s sovereignty, not his justice. I have also already affirmed repeatedly that the primary weakness of Infralapsarianism, as far as I can see, is that it confuses logical conception with historical execution. I repeat all of this now because Calvinism in general, and Supralapsarianism specifically, is frequently impugned as if it held that God created some creatures, i.e., some men, merely to damn them. Before I reply to this issue, I’d like to say that I find it a tad amusing since Scripture does indeed have statements such as, “prepared for destruction” (Rom. 9:22), “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (Prov. 16:4), “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (1 Peter 2:8).

But let’s return to the matter at hand. This accusation, viz., that God intentionally created some men purely to damn them, misses the point entirely. God’s ultimate aim in predestination, which includes election and reprobation, is not primarily the salvation of the elect, nor the damnation of the reprobate. God’s ultimate aim is his own glory. God has decreed to glorify himself in mercy and retributive justice: mercy to the vessels of mercy, and retributive justice to the vessels of wrath. Neither the salvation of the elect nor the damnation of the reprobate is God’s primary our ultimate aim in the decree of predestination. The ultimate aim is His own glory.

But I can already hear someone objecting, “I thought you said that predestination was an act of sovereignty not of justice.” But now you are saying that God has decreed to glorify himself in retribution justice upon the vessels of wrath. Again, this objection is guilty of confusing logical conception with historical execution. The Supralapsarian position affirms that Creation and the Fall were decreed by God as the means of executing His decree of predestination. It is important to keep reminding ourselves that what we are considering is the logical conception, not the historical execution.

This is why I brought up the subject of predestination as it regards the elect angels at a point which seems perhaps out of sequence. I wanted to have that idea in place already in order to respond to this criticism. Someone may be tempted to distance the predestination of angels from the decree of predestination of men. But notice what Scripture says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). This means that the decree of Predestination (comprised of election and reprobation) as regards angels is subservient to the decree of Predestination with regard to man. Angels were created before man, but this is because they were created for the purpose of serving the elect. The Greek text explicitly says, “all angels” (πάντες). I take this to mean literally, all angels – good and bad. Lest someone object at my including bad angels in the “all,” let me remind you of the following Scriptures:

Exodus 9:16 (cited in Romans 9:17) - But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

Isaiah 44:28-45:1 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” "This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:…”

Isaiah 10:5-6 - Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets…

Notice that in all three of these passages God is specifically using evil enemies for the benefit of His people. Not only are these enemies of God simply used by God for the benefit of his people, but the Scriptures explicitly declare that the reason for both their actual existence and their attainment of military strength was by God’s design and was for the benefit of his covenant people. God used Pharaoh to glorify himself in the eyes of his covenant people. God used Assyria as a rod to discipline a wayward and unfaithful covenant people. God used Cyrus as an instrument of showing God’s graciousness to his people by turning his heart to let the captives of Judah return home and rebuild the temple.

On the strength of that observation, I am completely comfortable in asserting that the “all,” of Hebrews 1:14 refers literally to all angels, good and bad. This means that not only does reprobation, as it regards man, serve the elect, but so does the predestination of angels, which includes both their election and reprobation. You’ll remember, of course, that we demonstrated that the decree of predestination as regards the angels must be viewed in a Supralapsarian way because no fall is in view with regard to the elect of their number. The elect of their number were never subject to a fall and no means of salvation was provided for those who did fall. It would seem very unusual, not to say illogical, if the entire scheme of predestination were to be viewed along the lines of Infralapsarianism, while the decree of predestination with regard to the angels, which is entirely subservient to the decree of predestination with regard to Christ and his church, must be construed along the lines of Supralapsarianism.

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