What the Central Focus of the Lapsarian Discussion Should Be

Sbrainpower_bigcott Price

For years there has been debate and discussion concerning whether Infralapsarianism or Supralapsarianism is the proper position. I believe most people have missed the whole theological boat. Many want to focus on the so-called problem of evil. Others rush to the controversial issues of Reprobation. Some will go to either end of the spectrum and embellish their opponents weakness to caricature their view of God. Often, like in any other controversy, they will put words in the other person’s mouth. This means people continue to talk past each other and little is accomplished.

Outside the Sovereign Grace and Reformed school of thought the Pelagian and Arminian camps go to the ends of the earth to make the true God look like a monster who acts on a whim for no apparent purpose. People who are ignorant of the subject both historically and theologically read their writings and leave with a permanent warning burned in their brain: Stay away from anything that looks, sounds, smell and feels like it is even remotely close to the Sovereignty of God, especially in salvation.

In the Sovereign Grace and the Reformed camp, many preachers, teachers and writers seek to dumb people down. They keep Lapsarian issues in the theological closet and appear anxious to stay away from subjects that challenge the minds of their hearers in any direction other than church growth or building projects. Some divert the minds of many by mocking the length of a word such as Supralapsarianism and making those who use it appear like theological obscurantists, as if once a word has more than 10 letters only snobs or irrelevant ivory tower theologians could be concerned with it. The term Dispensationalism has the same amount of letters in it and many have no problem drilling that word into the heads of professing Calvinists. What about Presuppositionalist? It has 19 letters, almost twice the amount but I see many Calvinists wielding that term around with ease. Many in leadership positions keep things in the closet far more easily dealt with than Lapsarianism issues. But keeping people in the dark and suppressing their growth is a topic for another article.

For over two decades in the faith I have become solidly convinced of the Supralapsarian character of God’s decrees. What this means in a nutshell is this: God, in His determination to glorify Himself in the work of His Son Jesus Christ and to elect His people to salvation, made this determination without any consideration or constraints outside Himself. He did not determine to elect a people unto salvation in response to the fall of man. He “responds” to nothing, but He determines all that comes to pass for His glory, including the so-called “problem” of evil and the reality of the Fall of man. God does not decree based on the temporal order of events.

Many things have come together in my thinking over the years to bring me to this solid conviction. One overarching issue ties them all together: God’s chief concern is His own glory, and He glorifies Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. God glorifies Himself in the effectual and triumphant life, death, and resurrection of His Son. Some would accuse those who are Supralapsarian of not being focused on Christ in our understanding of God’s decree. Nothing could be further from the truth. From all eternity, it is God’s good pleasure to glorify Himself in the life and work of His Son before all He has made.

By teaching that God’s decree to elect His people unto salvation by Christ’s work in some way depends on the fall of man, man is made the focus and ultimate concern of Christ’s work. This is symptomatic of the man-centered focus of all modern religious thought. The central issue in Christ’s work is the glory of God. Everything takes second fiddle to God’s glorifying Himself. Man is not the center of all things. God is.

God is concerned, jealously concerned, with Himself. He is faithful to His Own character. He loves Himself. He engages all His attributes to insure and accomplish all things for His glory. He does this in such a harmonious way that no attribute violates the other in an inconsistent fashion. He has decreed this and He, through His magnificent power and providence, victoriously and overwhelmingly conquers everything and anything that opposes Him then, now and forever to glorify Himself. The LORD God has His glory in the death of His Son as His eternal over-arching purpose and all else trails behind that. Everything else must get in line behind that purpose.

One final thought. Only a particular and effectual atonement is consistent with the understanding I have just described. There are those who think of God’s decree to save His people as dependent on the fall of man who would strongly advocate a particular and definite atonement and say “Yes, God accomplished this atonement for sinners who first fell in Adam!”.

I do not deny the significance of the temporal order or the logical succession of events since the creation of the world. I would only point out the following: We do not develop our understanding of Christ’s work by arguing back from those events. We develop our understanding of Christ’s work by submitting to God’s Testimony concerning Himself.

This Testimony is clear: God doesn’t watch the creation to see what He is going to do. God uses the creation to glorify Himself, and this purpose depends, not one iota on the creation, but wholly on Him. God must and does always satisfy Himself first and that is His primary and foremost purpose. Elect sinners, for sure, benefit from God’s purpose to glorify Himself in the salvation of sinners. He is God, the only God there is, who declares the END from the beginning (Isaiah 46).

If we consider what took place on the cross during those few intense hours between the Father and Son, we should note that it was God-ward first and God’s people second. The death of Christ is about the satisfaction of God. In the death of Christ, God glorified Himself as just and Justifier.

All that is written in Holy Scripture about the elect must be understood in view of the primary driving force in the mind of Christ which is expressed in the Biblical account of His crucifixion. The driving force comes out in His recorded expressions: His Father in Heaven.

The false prophet Jerry Falwell gave out “Jesus 1st” pins for a donation. He knew a different jesus, another jesus, a false one who miserably failed to secure the salvation of those for whom He died. But the real LORD Jesus Christ of the Scripture is One who glorifies His Father in Redemption. He is the One who is first. His effective work on the cross is the result of Him making His Father first as He humbled Himself even to the death of the cross. His was a sacrifice TO His Father. This is both the end and the beginning. He is the Alpha and the Omega. I will admit that I am still learning and do not have all the answers. But for the last 18 years or so I see the eternal purpose of God starting and ending in His Redemptive Glory and that is God-ward not Man-ward. The central focus of the Lapsarian discussion should be the glory of God revealed in Christ.

Feb 15th 2009

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4 Responses to “What the Central Focus of the Lapsarian Discussion Should Be”

  1. mike white Says:

    It seems to me that God always knew that men would sin and that Jesus would die for the elect. Thus God could never react to the fall by devising plan 2 [send the Son to die] but neither could He plan to send the Son to die unless he knew men would fall.

    Thus the plan was always in the mind of God until time began and the plan put into motion by His creative Word.

    So the ‘what came first’ question is invalid. Both ideas were always present with God [if we could speak that way of Him in eternity]. Thus the Son was meant to die before God created anything. But to stand that thought alone and apart from WHY he had to die makes no sense either.

    To God be all the glory.

  2. Mike,
    Hi. Thanks for getting involved. I think your last 6 words is the answer and was what I was trying to communicate in my article. The WHY is His glory. That is His focus, His priority and His over-arching purpose that drives the rest and all else trails behind that. God must use the fall of Satan and the sin of Adam as means to that end. Christ’s death is the preeminent theme that is central to all history that brings God this glory and He has wisely and sovereignly accomplished that purpose.

    Scott

  3. Thanks Scott for your work and energy in this effort to clear up the confusion on this important and necessary topic. You and I share this passion as well as our name. With so many touting a universal love of God and denying Isaiah 45:7’s clear teaching of “equal ultimacy”, even in the “calvinist” camp, yours is a breath of fresh air.

  4. William Schmitt Says:

    The Supralapsarian view is the ONLY view that is true because it gives and directs all the glory to God alone. I have read what you wrote. Infralapsarian vs. Supralapsarian view is a spiritual distinction. Infralapsarians are saying that God has to “wait” for events to occur before he decides they will occur a certain way. (watchtower view). God ordered His decrees from His own will FIRST (example: election and reprobation) God decided to elect and reprobate without even respect to the reprobate’s sins. Most “Calvinists” will go along with “God elected the elect without respect to anything; but mention this about the reprobate, and WOW…they will go crazy and accuse you of making God the “Authour of sin”. True, God created evil, but not as Himself being the doer of any evil or sin. So, I have been called a “hyper-calvinist” by those who hear I am “Supra.”. But I don’t care what men say…just what the Bible says. To give God the glory for some things “(the elect)” and not the glory for the “REPROBATE being ‘vessels of wrath’ fitted for destruction’ ‘before the children were born, neither having done any good nor evil, that the purpose of God might stand according to election.’ Your site is good.

    Bill

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