Friday, October 21, 2011

Supralapsarianism

Supralapsarianism asserts that the logical order of all decrees have in mind the final end first, and since God is logical and orderly, He must have first conceived of His desired ends.
As an example, say I want to be warm tonight when the temperature drops. Reason dictates that I must build a shelter to sleep in, for shelters keep me warm. A shelter requires a roof and four walls; walls and a roof require building materials which I must procure, and so on. When I go to carry out this plan I do it in the reverse, first I acquire the materials, then I construct the walls and roof, then I go inside and sleep warmly.

So it is with God they say, God set about to maximally show His glory, to that end He decreed to have a hell, Then decreed it should be populated by creatures who were tempted and fell into it. To have a fall and temptation He would need sin, to have sin He would need angels and people. He then started the clock and it unfolded backwards as logic would dictate: men were created, were tempted and fell into sin, went to hell, and in this brought God greatest glory.

Objections:
  1. The assertion that God thinks and purposes just as we do is a dubious one. Ps 50:21. It first postulates a chrono-logical sequence of events before there is any notion of time or space, for time and space are both created things. The idea of an order at all is a chronological construct, only coming into existence when time can function as a reference. After all, how can the notion of first mean anything if there is no time to sequence events? In this I think Dabney has the right idea, the lapsarian debate is pretty shaky to begin with.   

    Illogical

  2. If the foundational notion is illogical then the list itself is even worse off, (and might I add this is where and how most people level their objection). The assertion that men were created only after a purpose was given for them, is a backwards one, since the object comes after the function. Men are designated, reckoned, tried, and condemned as sinners before there is any such thing as sin. This ignores the nature of sin as a thing added which ruins the original.  Take a computer as an analogy: the stack pointer is imagined and created before the stack of memory it points to.  The whole purpose of the pointer is lost and void if there is no memory stack.  Books were created so there could be words in them, not words were created to express ideas, and then moved into books.  Solomon would never have said "God made man upright, but he has gone astray in search of many schemes" if supralapsarianism was true, because the idea of sin came first into God's mind.

    Based on Assumption

  3. In addition to being illogical, Supralapsarianism is built on an assumption, namely that God's purpose in creating man was only to bring Him glory. But does this starting point hold up under scrutiny?  Are there any other possible reasons God could have created man?  The Westminster Catechism states that the chief end of man “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  If we start with this premise we get very different results because given this intent, it will not do to have people suffering in hell who are incapable of enjoying Him forever. If the Westminster statement is true then Supralapsarianism cannot be, because it would not lead to God predestining men to hell without a chance to enjoy Him forever.

    Against Reason

  4. There is yet another way that this idea don't work: it postulates God working at cross purposes with Himself.  If His purpose is to condemn men into hell where they may be punished then it does not make sense that He would restrain them from sinning, like He does to Abimelech in Genesis 20:6.  The Supra may answer here that God restrains sinful men for the sake of His elect, but this simply won't do, the text's explanation is the direct opposite.  In Genesis God was going to kill Abimelech (v3) for the sake of the elect, but spares him because of the integrity of his heart, because he had been lied to and did not know better (v6).  That God restrains sin does not speak well to an eternal purpose of condemnation as it would be more glorious to have more people in hell for even more horrid things they had done on earth, and having in the meantime the elect saved in an even more glorious way.

    Against Scripture
  5. But more than all this however is the evidence of Scripture to take into account. Romans 11:30-32. While reading the letter to the Romans the Gentile reader will be tempted to ask Paul at this juncture “I can see why God would shut us out from the law and promises, in order that He might teach us His love and character when He stooped to have mercy on us, but why let Israel fall?"  Paul answers the question with verse 30 “Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy so they too have now been disobedient in order that … they also may now receive mercy."
    Why then has God foreordained the fall for both the Jews and Gentiles? Was it in fact to show the glory of His justice when He condemned them to punishment?
      No, says the text, it was so that they may receive mercyThe reader may be inclined to say at this point “Paul this makes no logical sense,” but Paul has anticipated this, and in answer breaks out into unmitigated praise “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?" [Isaiah 40:13] "Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?" [Job 41:11]” Who would have thought that God would hide the truth from the wise and reveal it to babies and fools? Who would have thought He bless weak and not the strong, or consign the world into disobedience and ruin so that He may save it? 

    We see a microcosm, or perhaps an analogy of this in the exodus itself. God ultimately led a people out of bondage and slavery and destroyed them in the wilderness. Was it His purpose to lead them out to destroy them? The Supralapsarian would give an unequivocal
      “Yes! For that’s what He did!” but the Scriptures say otherwise. It was His purpose to have mercy on them, but they purposed to have His justice instead. See here.

    The offended Supralapsarian reading this may argue at this point “Totally irrelevant! The Romans verse is talking about the elect! God has consigned the elect to ruin that He may save them.” Oh? And so logically the contra-positve is true: He has
    not consigned the reprobate that He may have justice upon them?  It doesn't say He has consigned them to destruction that He may destroy them, the text merely asserts a universal statement that both Jew and Gentile were shut up under sin.

    Yes, the elect are the special target of this notion, Psalm 130:4, Galatians 3:22, and Luke 7:47 help us to understand this verse a little better, but there is simply no getting around that it’s also talking about God’s purposes with respect to the fall and creation Humanity at large. “God’s plan was to bring Himself maximum glory!” This is true, but by showing fallen people His mercy.
In sum I find the notion wanting and am rather inclined to ponder Scripture when it says "Go then and learn what this means says the Lord, “I desire mercy not sacrifices” and "Mercy triumphs over judgement."

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