The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Fall of Man and The Cross of Christ Was Plan A, Not Plan B, and That Changes Everything


Chapter 3 of my Treatise of Calvinism:

               I was always taught, as long as I could remember, that God knew all things. And, if we leave it at that, that is believable enough. After all, if God can create everything out of nothing, then for Him to be able to know all things isn’t really a stretch. The limits of my human mind and ability are not a good reason to demand that God be limited to only that which I myself can understand and do. Anyone who thinks like that is not a Christian, for they would never believe in a God greater than them, since from the outset they remove the possibility of God doing anything or knowing anything that they themselves cannot do or at least fathom.
               
So it is certainly acceptable, and reasonable, to believe that God knows all things, past, present, and future, even though I cannot. However, what we should not be affirming as Christians is a contradiction. The law of non-contradiction is basic to human logic. Something cannot both be and not be at the same time, in the same way and relationship. Up cannot be down, black cannot be white. Something cannot be both right and wrong at the same time, in the same way and relationship. Your car cannot both exist and not exist. This is basic, and all of us who are sane live by this principle (The fact that we do live by this principle, I would attest, is a great evidence of God’s existence, but that is for a different subject and time).  Here’s the snag- when I was taught at school that man chose to fall into sin totally by his free will, yet God knew that they would choose to fall, a bell should have went off in my head, informing me that this sure sounds like a contradiction. Unfortunately, it never did. The reason this is a contradiction is because God cannot foreknow a totally free choice, as we have demonstrated, if we define freedom as autonomy, outside of God's sovereignty.

But that is only if we define a free will choice as outside of God’s sovereignty. That is to say, outside of God’s predestined purpose and plan. My Christian school did make that much clear, that God did not predestine, or plan, or foreordain, that the fall of man would occur. That seemed reasonable enough to me at the time. Why would God plan for us to fall? I never thought about that again, not until college. And now I know that, the only way God can be good and loving and be able to know that man would fall, is if He indeed predestined and planned the Fall. I’ll show you why that is so, and why that is a good thing.
            
First, what do we mean by free will anyway? It is a nebulous term, but I think most people mean that man does whatever he wants to do, whether that is doing a righteous thing or a sinful thing, and that nothing hinders him from doing what he wants. He can choose what he wants, when he wants, and God never interferes with that or dictates to man what he will do. There is a sense in which, when Adam and Eve fell, I agree with that. Certainly God did not cause Adam and Eve to eat the fruit by working an evil spirit or desire in their heart. If God did that, it would be He, and not they, who were responsible for their sin. In other words, if God changed Adam and Eve’s desire so that they would want to eat the forbidden fruit, then God is a sinner and responsible for man's fall, not Adam and Eve. And the Bible is clear that Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit of their own accord, of their own self-created desire, by exercising their will freely.
                
But then if that is the definition, how could God know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Adam and Eve would eat of the forbidden fruit? If you say it is because God knew the devil was too much for them to bear, not only do you contradict Scripture which says that God never allows you to be tempted above that which you are able to resist (1 Cor. 10:13), but you also shift the blame to the devil, as Eve tried to do. Further, if Adam and Eve truly could not resist, they wouldn’t have free will, since they would be forced to succumb to the temptation of the devil in this situation. The devil did not make them do it, or trick them into sinning. If so, that would make the devil’s charm greater than the creating capacity of God, and Adam and Eve couldn’t be held responsible for sin; that answer simply won’t work. As you can see so far, it is actually when you deny that God predestined the Fall of man that God would have to become at least in part responsible for sin.

Now clearly, while God punished the snake for his lies, he also punished Adam and Eve. They were not tempted above what they were able to resist. They chose not to resist when they could have resisted if they so desired to resist. Therefore, if they could have resisted, God could not possibly have known what they were going to choose, right? Actually, no. God did not merely know what would happen in the future, but He controlled what would happen in the future through other means with which He brought about the future, including the Fall, according to His own predestined plan.
                
only way in which the fall of man could have occurred and still be a good thing is if God predestined it. If it was part of His foreordained plan all along, then it is still justifiable and possible for God to be good and loving. This is because, if God planned the fall, and all things following the fall, then the fall itself serves His purposes, not man’s purposes. If God predestined the fall, then it could be used for His glory, and moreover, was indeed planned and purposed to bring Him glory, rather than giving man an opportunity to glorify himself, his own free will. That is precisely what Calvinism argues, and is what the Calvinist God, the God of Scripture, has done.
                
Does that make sense? The issue here between Calvinists and non-Calvinists is that non-Calvinists have a man-centered view of things, to some degree or another, while the Calvinist has a God-centered, indeed as we shall see, a Christ-centered view of all things. God is Creator, Sovereign Lord, not us. It is illegitimate to argue with the Almighty, saying that He was wrong to create us for His glory and His purposes (Romans 9:20-21, book of Job). What I will unveil to you is that ultimately God uses the Fall of man to bring about His glory. Hint: without the fall of man the glory of the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, never would have, or could have, taken place.
               
Let’s examine predestination. It gets a bad wrap, and that is because most non-Calvinists, and even some who claim to be Calvinists, misunderstand it. I know for a fact that those who were the pastors at the church that was affiliated with the school I went to misunderstood Calvinism, because I sat down and talked with them. One of them seemed to claim that predestination and God’s sovereignty over all things, including the will of man, would do away with evangelism, render men robots without a will, and would make God the author of evil. If this were the case, I would reject predestination as a doctrine from hell just as quickly as they do. However what they, and so many others, fail to differentiate between is the meaning of fatalism and predestination.
                
Fatalism, as I am going to define it for the sake of this writing, would indicate that man is controlled by God in such a way that God worked evil into the hearts of Adam and Eve so that they would fall. In other words, a fatalist would say that God predestined the fall of man by forcing their wills to choose the forbidden fruit; further, that God works all things according to His will by forcing men to do what He wants them to do- force by changing their heart’s desires, or at the very least having some other being such as a demon change their heart’s desires. This would be fatalism, and what some of the pastors from the Christian school I attended mistook for predestination. To be clear, Calvinism and I adamantly reject fatalism as wholly unbiblical and blasphemous. Fatalism would scar the character and goodness of God far worse than the God of Open-Theism.
                 
Calvinism does not believe in fatalism at all, and predestination has an entirely different meaning. I will attempt to explain. God, from eternity past, because He is eternal, had planned to create man. He also planned that they would fall into sin, so that the elect, meaning God’s special chosen people, could be redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, out of their sins. God also planned to reveal His glory through the displaying of His righteousness, power, and holy wrath against those who were given justice for their sins by punishing them in hell.The Fall gave God the needed clay, both the dishonorable and honorable, to display His grace and mercy as well as His wrath and justice. This is ultimately why God created man- for Himself, for His glory. This is why God predestined the Fall- for Himself, for His glory. But again, this predestined plan is carried out in such a way that God is not the author of sin, and the fall of man was carried out by man and man alone, not God acting upon man to make them fall, to make them sin.

Here is the key point- God accomplishes this, not by dictating what men will and will not do through manipulation or changing their heart’s desires, but rather by the fiat of His will. Meaning, God brings about what comes to pass by the power of His word, His fiat, His decree. God is able to predestine every single thing, providentially, so that everything He has decreed to come to pass, will come to pass, in such a way that no harm is done to the will of man.

In other words, God’s predestined plan for all things is perfectly carried out by us, but in such a way that we freely choose to do it. Now this power of God, much like God creating all things out of nothing, or the fact that God alone has the power of being (to have eternally, always, existed) within Himself, is also a power that belongs solely to God, and therefore something that cannot be understood by the human mind in regards to how He is able to bring this about.  Thusly, this is consistent with and further reveals why we cannot know how Adam and Eve used their wills to choose to disobey God. We cannot know how Adam and Eve, without a sin nature, but with a free will, could incline themselves towards disobedience. What we can know for sure is God predestined that Adam and Eve would choose to eat the forbidden fruit because of their own twisting of their desires and wills, and not a desire He worked into them. It was a desire they conjured up themselves, utilizing their wills freely, of their own accord. Ephesians 1:11 says, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” God works all things according to His will. This means, then, that the Fall of man was God’s will.

Now to shift gears for a moment, we do have to affirm that God did allow the means by which sin would enter into the world. He did so by giving Adam and Eve the ability to disobey Him if they so chose to do, and on top of that He predestined that they would freely choose to do so. Yet if we take predestination too far, we turn it into fatalism by saying that the reason Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and thus fell into sin was because of God’s predestination rather than their freely choosing to eat the forbidden fruit. If God’s predestining caused Adam and Eve to sin, if His predestined plan accomplished its purposes by changing their wills and giving them the sinful desire to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit, then God is responsible for their sin and is quite evil and unloving indeed. However, if God’s predestining merely guaranteed the fall of man, but didn’t force or cause Adam and Eve to sin, then God is not the author of sin, and it is in this sense that Calvinism, and I, believe in predestination. Predestination, then, is not the cause of Adam and Eve’s sinful desire and choice, but rather, simply the plan and purpose of God that Adam and Eve would freely choose. Predestination simply means that God’s plan was precisely that Adam and Eve would fall, but it is not the means by which that plan is carried out. The means by which the predestined plan was carried out, was Adam and Eve freely exercising their wills to disobey and eat the forbidden fruit. The plan was carried out by Adam and Eve’s choice, and their choice alone. Therefore, they own the guilt, not God, or the devil, or anything else.  

It is only in this view that God can be seen as good and loving. That may seem strange, but don’t forget, if God didn’t predestine the fall of man, He didn’t plan the fall of man. If He didn’t plan the fall of man, then God’s purpose for giving Adam and Eve free will would have been nothing more than to honor them by allowing them to be obedient, and thus make a name for the human race, or perhaps to give man a chance to show God some respect. If that was God’s plan, then His plan failed, and He knew it would fail before He even made man given his omniscience, and the cross was nothing more than a back-up plan, the emergency plan, plan B. A plan B kind of god is not a god you want to serve, because that would mean that things aren't going according to this god's original plan. And one would hope that the original plan was better than the back up plan. Even if you want to argue that plan B is better in the end, that brings into question the intelligence of such a god whose back up, reactionary, default plan is actually better than what the god wanted to do to begin with. 

The good news of Calvinism, and of Scripture itself, is that the cross of Christ was never plan B, it was God’s plan all along, and it is at the cross that we see God’s ultimate, predestined plan fulfilled- in Jesus dying for His people, thus glorifying Himself and His Father who sent Him. So the fall of man, and thus the entrance of evil into this world, was used by God to bring about a greater good, which was Christ dying for His people, bringing both the Son and the Father glory, and the bride of Christ, the Christians, indescribable happiness. Being bought by the blood of Christ, we are His, and become the children of God. Adam and Eve’s relationship with God, as sweet as it was before the Fall, never was as amazing as our relationship to God, and to Christ, for we are the children of God, bought with the blood of Christ. Adam and Eve were the creations of God, made in His image, but not His children, and not the brother and sister of Christ. Christ’s blood, His dying for us, unites us together with Him in a way that we were not connected with Christ, or God, before (2 Cor. 5:17-21, Eph. 2:4-7, John 15:1-8). So ultimately, the purpose of the Fall was to allow our fellowship with God and Jesus Christ to be far more special, and more intimate, giving us greater delight, happiness, and joy, as well as magnifying God and Jesus’ glory through the revealing of Their grace, love, and mercy, as well as Their justice, righteous wrath, and holiness. Where was all of that seen at one time? At the cross itself. There we see God’s justice being upheld, as He punishes His own Son for our sins, and there we see our salvation, our Savior, dying for us, out of His love for the Father and His love for us. The death of Christ demonstrates God’s justice and wrath against wickedness, against sin and evil, and it also demonstrates that God is gracious and merciful, for He is saving us from the wrath and justice we deserve.  

We never would have experienced, or let alone known and understood, God’s saving grace, and love and mercy, if we had no need for it. So by predestining our fall, God brought Himself more glory, and ultimately for His chosen people, greater joy, by allowing us to experience, in reality, the love and grace and mercy of Jesus Christ by receiving Him and His Holy Spirit through the gift of faith.

It also allows God to demonstrate His glory through pouring out His wrath on those whom Christ did not die to save, which are the non-elect, or the reprobate (Romans 9). That is a difficult doctrine for Americans (or anyone for that matter) to swallow, but in a later chapter I will address that in great detail. Do know, however, that for God to demonstrate justice, to give sinners what they deserve, hell, is obviously a righteous thing that brings glory to Himself. Do know that in heaven, we will be rejoicing and delighting in God in part because of His righteous wrath being poured out on the guilty sinners in hell forever (Romans 9, Revelation 14:10-11, 19:1-3). We honor our troops for promoting justice, for killing evil men and thwarting the plans of evil nations, why do we not honor and praise God for damning the wicked, who oppose Him and refuse to give Him glory? It is because we are hard at heart and know that we deserve such wrath as well, and we shudder at the thought of God’s holiness and fury being emptied out on us. Which of course throws everything again back to God’s amazing grace that He poured out on those who are saved, His vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand (Romans 9). Hell is not a travesty, but a deserved reality, and a source of great glory for God. The wrath of God poured out on those in hell should cause us not to question God's goodness, but if anything to humble us, knowing we deserve the punishment just as much as the ones who are receiving it. We will also see in heaven just how wicked those in hell really are, and there will be nothing to pity. Therefore, in heaven, we will rejoice over their torment, for we will see at heart that they, and all of us, were really Hitler's at heart, only infinitely worse.

 Now the unbeliever may still be skeptical, if not further outraged. I am saying that God has made everything for Himself and His glory by predestining all things that come to pass, even the fall of man and the subsequent punishment of the wicked for the day of destruction (Proverbs 16:4, Ephesians 1:4, Romans 9:22). The atheist or God hater may at this point say that God has no right to create us for His own purposes. That, of course, is not true, and Scripture points this out. Romans 9:19-24 answers this very objection. These verses tell us that God is Sovereign, and as the Lord and Creator of all things, including us, He has the right to do with us as He wishes, just as the potter has the power over the clay to make one vessel for honorable use, and another for dishonorable use. Then verses 22-23 explain that this is precisely what God has done, that God has chosen and prepared some to be vessels of wrath to glorify His righteous wrath and power, in order to reveal His glory on the vessels of mercy, the elect, which He had prepared beforehand for glory. That is straight out of Scripture, spoken to Jews and Gentiles. We cannot deny this as Christians. This is why God made us, and all things. It is all for His glory, and shouldn’t it be so? After all, He is the only good, only glorious one.

The atheist or God hater (and some Christians) may still object, saying that God cannot create them for the sole purpose of rebelling against Him and suffering in hell forever to display His glory of power, righteousness, justice, and wrath. The atheist or God hater may say to hell with God, even if He is the potter and we are His clay.

There are several things to say in response to that, besides that there is nothing unfair about God doing that in the first place since we have no right to tell Him what He can and cannot do, even though we may not like it. Firstly, God has offered salvation to everyone and has predestined many to salvation, to glorify His grace (oddly enough, nobody complains about that). If the atheist or skeptic were willing to repent and believe the gospel, they would be spared God’s wrath. Secondly, their very objections to God’s plan may very well be showing God’s purpose. Their act of complaining against God’s sovereignty and self-glorification reveals that they believe that God should be doing everything to glorify them instead, thus demonstrating that their condemnation is just.

As we have said, and as common sense tells us, God has the right to do what He wants to do. He is, after all, God, and we are not, and that is what all sinners, especially many atheists and God-haters, can’t stand. They want to call the shots, and not have someone calling them for them. Yet again, lest you yourself forget dear reader, the fall of man, though predestined by God, was not caused by God. It was still a choice of Adam and Eve. Is this not clear? Is it not blatantly obvious that those who hate God do so by their own choice, and are not being forced to do so? Though Adam and Eve's choice plunged us all into spiritual death and slavery to our own sinful desires, we still choose to do what we wish to do as sinners. The problem is, as sinners we only wish to do that which is sinful, and we are not capable of trusting in Christ as Savior without God first giving us new spiritual life, what is commonly referred to as being born again. More on that later as well.

You see, Calvinism is the only thoroughly and consistently God centered theology. God has done everything for His glory according to Calvinism, and this is good for God to do so because He is God and has a right to do what He wishes, and the way in which He carries out His plan does not force man to be evil. You may object, and the God hater and atheist is sure to object, by saying that it is not possible for God to predestine the fall of man and man still freely choose to rebel, that that itself is a contradiction. I’ve already addressed that, but let me remind you, given my definition of predestination, this is not a contradiction, no more so than God creating everything out of nothing. Indeed, for man this would be a contradiction, because we know that man cannot create out of nothing, nor can man, out of the fiat of his will, predestine things. God however, can, these abilities are His and His alone, and as such, are not possible for us to comprehend. This goes back to the atheist and God hater being unwilling to define God except in terms of what the atheist himself can do or at least fathom. If the atheist himself cannot do it, or at least rationally figure out how to do it or how it could be possible, he says it is not possible. He would be right, it isn’t possible for the atheist, but with God, it is possible. A contradiction is not something that man cannot do or something that man cannot logically conceive of; a contradiction is something that is truly impossible, demonstrably illogical and irrational. Until someone demonstrates how God predestining man to freely choose to fall, I stand on my ground.

It is true, for instance, that God cannot create a four-sided circle, since by definition circles do not have sides (or I suppose you could say that they have an infinite number of sides, but the point still stands). A four-sided circle is a contradiction in terms, an impossibility. This can be ruled out of the realm of possibility, because it is inherently illogical. God predestining the Fall is not out of the realm of possibility, because it is not inherently illogical or contradictory. Inexplainable? Yes. Inconceivable for man? Yes. Impossible, contradictory, or illogical? No.

I and my fellow Calvinists are not violating the law of non-contradiction, since we are not saying anything like man both exists and does not exists at the same time, or God caused man to sin by working an evil spirit into man and yet man created the evil desire and spirit by himself.  That would clearly be a contradiction, which is what a lie is, but that is not what we are saying. Fatalism says that God worked evil into Adam and Eve’s heart, but not predestination, and that is why that distinction is so key. Calvinists do not claim to know how it is that God can predestine the fall of man by man freely choosing to fall anymore than we claim that we know how God created everything out of nothing or how He has always existed, yet we do affirm that this is what Scripture teaches and that this is no contradiction or impossibility for God. I repeat again, God can do things that we as humans, as created beings, cannot do. We rest and take our peace in that.

Please also understand, I am not even saying that God took away a little bit of man’s freedom by predestining the fall of man. In fact, as far as freedom goes, I am saying that man was just as free as the typical American church that denies predestination would teach. Indeed, I am saying that man is just as free as the Christian high school I went to taught me. What I am saying, though, is that the Fall was actually God’s plan all along. In other words, I am saying God had a purpose in this. I am showing God’s real purpose in why He planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden and forbade Adam and Eve to eat of it in the first place, but I am not taking away the will of man. It is true that man’s moral responsibility in light of God’s total sovereignty and predestination is a mystery, something we cannot fully explain or understand.  Yet without God predestining the Fall, we are forced to hold the untenable position that God’s purpose in planting the forbidden tree and its forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was to honor man with free will, a plan which failed miserably, that God knew would fail miserably before He even created man, that the cross was an emergency plan B, and yet somehow God supposedly still comes out good and loving and kind, and somehow intelligent, in doing this. That is not a god that I could serve, and I would be with the atheists and God-haters if that were the god of the Bible. Thankfully, it is not. Thankfully, God predestined the Fall to bring Him glory, and His people the greatest possible amount of joy. The Americanized version of God, and the God that my high school presented, cannot claim this.

So to summarize, it is good and loving for God to predestine the Fall of man because it allows God’s chosen people to thusly receive grace, mercy, love, and Christ Himself as Savior in a real and experiential way.  We also are privileged with becoming children of God and united together with Christ through His shed blood poured out for us, something that would never happen if the Fall never occurred. God is also glorified through demonstrating His wrath on those whom He has not chosen to save by the blood of Christ, giving them justice and wrath, what they deserve, instead. Man has a will, always does what he wishes to do, and creates his own wishes by utilizing his will. All unbelievers are God haters, because they do not want to live for God’s glory, which is what they were created to want and find true joy in, but instead they wish to live for their own glory, demonstrating that they do indeed deserve punishment in hell. Salvation is offered to them, and to everyone, through faith in Christ as Savior; yet all men, because they are dead in their trespasses and sins, freely reject Christ as Savior.    

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