Friday, October 23, 2015

Doug on Covenantalism Part II

After thinking further about Doug’s definition of covenant (the set of rules that flow from a relationship), it seemed to me to be a very robust thing that fit the biblical mold very tightly, and had a lot of explanatory power. The general form allows both for explicit covenants (like with Creation), and non-explicit ones, (like with the Angels), which was something my old model couldn't provide. But as I was turning the thing over in my mind I began to wonder if it wasn’t too broad--if it wasn't weak where my old one was strong. Was it so broad that it would do injustice to the discontinuities between those covenants which God makes pre-fall and the ones He makes post fall? After all, post fall have the idea of grace in them; they use the actual word covenant. Pre-fall ones do not. And that’s no small difference.

Candidly, that's what pushed me away from the old stuff. The classic thinkers tried to rescue the continuity by putting everything under a single supreme covenant—the Covenant of Works. It’s works, they argue, which makes up the spine of the story of mankind and runs through the whole of the bible. It was manifested first upon Adam, then again in requiring Noah to build a boat, in bright fullness at Sinai, and lastly in Christ who comes to keep the covenant of works on our behalf. This is what Van Dorn seems to have in mind when he says [loc 1193] “It had to be this way so that we would know that the covenant of works continues on as a vital idea throughout redemptive history. This will make much better sense when we look at how it is fulfilled by Christ in a later section.
Grace enters in once the thing is shattered and puts the pieces of it back together.

The problem is this relegates grace to a secondary effect, a kind of architectural buttress. Christ in large part becomes a plan B, springing into action to restore the original blueprint once the first is ruined, and no amount of protesting by saying “it was God’s plan all along to build, then rebuild” can fully cleanse that consequence. Once accepted as the principle mechanism of salvation (owing to the holiness of God) works must be larger than grace. Indeed Van Dorn even admits this is the natural consequence of such a view [also in loc 1193], “This helps us see that grace absorbs the personal, legal basis for covenantal blessing upon perfection as it anticipates the coming Messiah. It then acts as the bubble around which ‘works’ can be carried out faithfully. God is reestablishing with mankind that He still expects man to carry out the covenantal obligations made with Adam in Eden, even though the testing from a tree is no longer in place.
It's crude way to say it, but the thought is that grace is necessary now to enable the works to have their saving work. If carried to the logical conclusion the thought is something like: and one day God will have strengthened our feeble knees to such an extent that such grace will be irrelevant and we’ll return to the works as we were meant to. Or at the very minimum we have Christ carrying the Covenant of Works before the Father so that men can be accepted.
I'm not trying to be dismissive or tip sacred cows, I merely want to point out that this model at some level must
subordinates grace to works. In an effort to avoid that people now like to call the Covenant of Works by a different name, like, Life-Works-Creation covenant, or whatever, because they don't mean for the thought to come off bad. The redeemed take joy in the law and work out what God's worked in. Or they have a some kind of dualism between the Covenant of Works/Grace that allows works to come off as looking nicer, but still, it doesn’t much help in my view, and I think because it's a model that took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

The newer thinkers back of this model and try to get over the discontinuity between pre and post fall covenants in an interesting but different fashion: through Biblical, rather than Systematic Theology. They attempt to pull Adam and Noah together by showing that Noah is a type of Adam in starting the world over. This however seems like an incidental effect of both pointing forward to Christ—they appear to be near each other only insofar as they are near to Him. Objects come nearer to each other as they near the center of the circle. However, it amounts to nothing more than a slight of hand since it achieves unity by downplaying the differences. Just as in the same way there’s no difference between Catholics and Evangelicals since both worship Christ. Van Dorn offers both the old model and the new explanation as reasonable. I'm not so sure about either. 
But once again it’s his definition of covenant to the rescue, and for this my appreciation for the idea grows. Doug’s assertion is that the key thing to understanding all of human history (and especially the story of redemptive history as recorded in the Bible) lies in understanding that it was Gods purpose to manifest Himself to the creation. Covenants make up the framework to the universe because Covenant is fundamental to who God is. He created in an act of love to manifest Himself to the creation, that it could know Him, and by that experience His love. He wants us to know His attributes, most especially His triunity. Thus Jesus prays for us to know Him, even as He knows Him.

(Gods purpose being for all to know Him also elegantly explains the covenant made with angels as well. Why were the angels created more powerful than men? Because God wanted them to understand that part of Him that is powerful yet voluntarily humble and serving. They were made to stoop and serve the men who were lesser in ability and might than they. Satan rebelled in that he didn’t want to serve, and therefore he didn’t want to magnify God’s glory, he didn’t want creation to see God’s attributes, and voila, the fall.)

Why did He make men and not predestine them to stay perfect like angels? Because they were made to manifest His graciousness. He wanted the fall so He could have them know Him as a savior. And since this is a much finer gift, a much greater role, we are much more highly favored than the angels. We get to know what it’s like to be pursed, brought back, redeemed, wood, rescued. Our portion is grace. Grace is in everything of who we are and why we’re here. We have been forgiven much, so we will love the much more.

Seen in this light the pre-fall covenants are indeed genuine covenants, but they are merely incidental ones. Er, I’m not sure that’s the best word for it. The pre-fall covenants are a necessary set up for the real show: the post fall covenants. The road sign that points you to where you’re going is real, it’s just not what you should be dwelling on, merely using. Or better yet it’s like a play—the backdrop, stage, lighting, and curtains are all necessary elements that are really a part of things, but they are… secondary? It’s not that they’re not themselves a real or important thing, it’s that they are not what you are meant to be paying full attention to. Don’t think of works as fundamental to all covenants, or even as fundamental to the pre-fall covenants. That’s taken care of in the definition. Think of the pre-fall covenants as a necessary set up for grace, and the post-fall as the revelation of grace.

This also explains why the first three chapters of Genesis are zipped through with no mention of covenant though it’s forms are there, either for man or angels. Because our story is one of grace, and it’s in terms of grace that we should be thinking. Yes they are necessary as background information, but we’re not meant to stop there, we’re meant to keep moving, because soon God is going to use the fallenness to reveal His real plan.
By moving the notion of works into the idea of covenant, we suppress the tendency to let such a notion as the covenant of work arise in the first place, and we’re free of it eating the truth of grace alive. Or if you like it keeps Christ from being a servant to our holiness.
10 more points for Van Dorn’s definition of covenant.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Doug On Coventalism

This is an analysis of Doug Van Dorns assertion regarding the definition of Covenants as seen in his book Covenant theology, a Reformed Baptist Primer.
I promise you this blog post is more interesting than I just made it sound.

Necessary Personal Background Information

Let me begin by saying something about the view I had regarding how the covenants all fit together before picking up this book: I only accepted a covenant when the Bible explicitly stated it. Noah, Abraham, and David, are in, Adam is out. This is because I took covenant to mean “Christ,” which is why the covenants in the old testament have death or sacrifice in them, since they foreshadow the savior.  Each covenant is designed to be a progressive revelation about Jesus until we get to the New Testament whereupon the thing is fully revealed. For example, Noah teaches us that God would send someone to save the world from His wrath and put everything back together. Abraham teaches us that Jesus would descend from him, a man who would bless the world. From David we learn He will be a King. In short Old Testament=Christ Promised, New Testament=Christ revealed.
But for this reason the covenant with creation mentioned in Jeremiah 33 never sat well with me. I tried to shoehorn it into the covenant God made with Noah, but that’s sort of an ugly fit and I was never happy with it, because it never really worked. Think about it for a minute and you’ll see why.

As far as I can tell Dougs stance looks very much like the older treatises on the matter (whether or not that’s your bag) with the only difference being that his work is more accessible for the layman than say, Hodge. Doug has done a great job in making this topic trivially easy to grasp, but personally I’m a little disappointed that he’s stuck closely to the original thinkers whom I find to be defective, or at least incomplete. Not that I blame him for that you understand, being in a different stage, age, career, and circle of life than I do it’s only natural. Nor does it bother me that he comes closer to historicity than I think is wise. Lots of other good thinkers have. I readily admit that I get away with blog posts like this because I’m independent, and find it exceedingly amusing when my pastor calls my blogs the stupidest thing he’s ever read. A man like Doug or Bob Gonzalez however doesn't have that luxury, he must necessarily stick closer to the Authorized Opinion if they’re to be heard by their community. (Otherwise they’d end up like me!)
Full disclosure though, I’m suspicious of my own view, since, as far as I know, nobody holds it but me. I’m even more suspicious however of the even larger inconsistencies I see in the historic models.

A Short Critique of the Text Leading up to the Assertion

Right away Doug defines covenant like the older thinkers do [see kindle location 206] as: an oath of fealty sworn between two unequal parties, often ushered in by blood. This is different than a contract which is between equals. Often a covenant is best understood by an ancient near east Suzeran making his vassal swear allegiance to him, or giving things to his vassal regent.
“I find this… lacking.” I say to myself, “A contract is an agreement over things, a covenant is an agreement between two people. Furthermore, for as much as these theologians go on about blood, the covenant cut with Adam or creation doesn’t feature blood in it. And for goodness sake, when will those old canards about grants versus obligations die already? That’s a terrible fit to the Biblical model, no matter how much Kingdom Through Covenant pushes it. It leaves so much on the table and achieves very little in terms of clarity.”

In another place however he contradicts that line of thought by defining a covenant as: a formal definition of relationship between two parties.
“Well that’s an improvement at any rate,” I think to myself. “Although it still leaves the door open for bare assertions of God to be classified as Covenants, which I’m not impressed with. It would mean for example, when Adam named the animals he covenanted with them—a dubious proposition at best. It also seems to make a mash of how works and grace get along, allowing some theologians to say works are antithetical to grace, and others to say the existence of works are gracious.”
To be fair Doug seems to realize the problem of this as well since he later talks about the problems of categorizing the covenants [see Loc 783].

The book then takes a turn for the better when discussing the objective and subjective dimensions of Christ’s work, then a turn for the worse in falling back into the older thought patterns regarding Covenant of Redemption. And then—an almost throwaway line [loc 603]—God covenants with the day and night (Jer 33:20)… this covenant is based on the oath of God which binds the forces of nature by natural laws.

Now I’ve already got my antenna up because he’s put his finger on the weakness of my model, but what he does in the second half I’m completely unprepared for. Because if he’s right, then the necessary and logical consequences of his assertion there doesn’t just kick over my own table, it upends everybody’s. With a thermonuclear warhead. The result of his statement means that a covenant is best defined as the works (or laws) which flow from a relationship. Not too different I hear you say? That makes sense, it’s just like the rules of fidelity which defines a husband and wife, right? Oh no my friend. Look again at what he’s proposing.

The Consequences of Van Dorns Assertion

  • Let’s start with the passage itself. In the covenant of creation the relationship is: God the creator and matter the creation. The rules are the natural laws. Planks constant, e, pi, blackbody radiation, the strong nuclear force, electromagnetism, fusion power, etc.  These rules are themselves covenant God has made with our universe. Those scientific principles which define the galaxies and keep them well ordered is the covenant which God has made.
  • This means that at Sinai the laws themselves compose the covenant. An assertion which I find very interesting since this seems to be what Ex. 19:5 indicates. Of note also is that Sinai is not a recent manifestation of some previous eternal covenant of works by which man does good merit life, but a covenant in its own right. And that too is much more natural.
  • It means the baptists are right about the New Covenant being a new covenant. Now the people are made clean by the blood of Christ, the requirements of a previous covenant have been fulfilled, and are made willing to keep the laws in the new covenant terms. Men are in covenant with God by keeping His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome. The Apostle John calls it abiding in Christ. Do we keep the laws to earn a seat at the table? No, Jesus has kept the covenant regulations for us. Must we keep them to be in covenant with God? Yes, which is why we confess our sins. By the laws of love we have an ongoing relationship with God. By the laws we know His will, by the laws we can see what He wants. The law is our brother. (Notice that I mean law as in rules for loving God, which is distinct from the Mosaic Law given at Sinai). Casting off God and opting for gross sin gets you booted from the covenant, by definition. Isn’t that what the warning passages are all about?
  • It also means God covenants with Adam, since He gave him instructions, and those works which flow from the relationship constitute a covenant. I do think we must be careful to distinguish the big redemptive Covenants which typify Christ in a direct way with the other covenants that don’t, but it’s evident Adam was under obligation to God to perform certain duties and abstain from others, and that means covenant. 
  • It means God has covenanted with all of us by giving us a conscience, or the natural law. This turns out to be very similar to what the older thinkers called the Covenant of works but is both more robust, and more plainly limited than the old form. Our transgression of these innate moral understandings makes us guilty before God even if further special revelation isn’t present. Because we’ve broken the covenant we are sinners, see Is 24:5.
  • It breaks down (and by that I mean completely unravels) the Covenant of works, Covenant of grace distinction that mires the older thinkers down, but also reconciling the thought patterns beautifully. No longer do you have to figure out which old testament covenant belonged where, now you can accept the covenant itself, as itself, or by itself. (I don’t think Doug himself saw the full implication of this one in forcing the reader to define a covenant like that, since he sticks to the older forms in the book. Nonetheless, accidental or not, his assertion delivers the deathblow to the historic dichotomy. Atom. Bomb.)
  • It has the largest impact on understanding the Covenant of Redemption in that it turns the whole thing upside down. Since a covenant is the rules which flow from the relationship, we, interestingly enough, now necessarily have a covenant before the covenant of redemption—call this the Covenant of Identity. It means that the Son is the Son of the Father. The Spirit is the Spirit, the person who proceeds from them. It is who and how the members of the Trinity relate to each other. I don’t mean to be saying something stupidly obvious like God is God, I mean that the relationship between the persons of the God head is governed by boundaries and rules, and that the interactions and innate nature of the persons follow certain principles of relation.

    Proceeding outward from this Covenant of Identity is the Covenant of Redemption—but here we’d do better to call it the Covenant of Manifested Triunity.  Or the Covenant of the Revealing of God. Now it’s no longer about a plan to save the elect by sending Christ, but the plan for the members of the Trinity to introduce themselves to creation, so that creation could know them. It is a scheme to manifest their attributes, persons, and nature in history to the universe, whether that be to men, angels, animals, or even the dirt and stars. Christ still stands at the center of the creation as He hangs on the cross, or as the women find the tomb empty, certainly, but now we have a robust visible portion for all of them in our definition. Previous incarnations of the Covenant of Redemption leave little room for the Holy Spirit, but now we have ample space for all of them to become visible. This definition of covenant leads to a much more robust Trinitarian theology. It is the unfolding story of God, not just of His Christ. It’s… ah… forgive me, I’m saying this badly, I know. My point is not that the old covenant of redemption system is wrong, so much as the Covenant of Manifested Triunity is superior and swallows it up. It’s like how Newtonian mechanics is now known to be a subset of general relativity, rather than in opposition to it. By knowing Einstein you get Newton for free.
Interestingly, and I mean very interestingly, there is a side-effect of defining covenants as the rules which proceed from relationships: it removes or dilutes the idea of neutral ground from creation. Whereas we are tempted to think of the laws of physics as neutral things, neither moral nor non-moral, in this scheme that becomes more difficult. Creation existing under a covenant carries with it a moral component by virtue of the personal God making it. Now when God creates the heavens and the Earth He pronounces it good, as in right by virtue of His relationship to it. Uzziah touching the ark is a problem because he’s sinful, but because the ground or cart is morally pure there is no problem. This means the angels who fell by disobeying their instructions from God received a new nature by virtue of their fall. Man, during the fall, had his heart modified, twisted, corrupted, since there’s no escape from the moral bleeding into the physical. The moral cannot be separated from it. That means that ordinarily to tinker with nature as given is a bad, or immoral thing, but because God made man regent over all creation and gave him instruction to, it’s now a good thing. I’m not sure what the further implications of all that are, since clearly the sun is moral in a different way than we are. But it at least is evident that by creations continual obedience God is glorified, and that is good.

Let me answer a particular objection and then I’ll wrap it up. In the old scheme the promise, or if you like the promises, are inherently antithetical to works. But that thinking need no longer apply in this scheme. The covenant of promise which the new testament speaks of in Ephesians includes the work that not just man was to do, but chiefly what God would do. The definition of covenant in this case is large enough to encompass it without difficulty.

So obviously my brain is running below capacity since I’ve been stuck on this plane for the better part of 24 hours and I feel sick and feverish. I can feel that I’m not thinking well. And obviously I didn’t come at this topic with as much passion or strength as I would were I defending my position, since this is blog post was my examination of Doug’s proposal, not necessarily my view on the matter at this point. I think however that it has a great deal going for it, and it definitely worth further consideration. On a glance I see there’s a lot of reason to accept it, and not very many to dismiss it. It takes what was valuable from the older thinkers and seems to leave out their weaknesses. Granted it pulls me very near the old model, but I think it’s much more sound.

Monday, October 12, 2015

An Introduction To The Dispute

The main question in dispute is this: what are the decrees of God concerning the everlasting condition of men, and how are they ordered? There are two sides to this debate.
One side disavows a decree altogether, asserting that God’s casting men off forever is grounded upon the foresight of man’s continuance in sin and unbelief, which is a fate avoidable by grace. This side consequently infers no man’s damnations necessarily.
The other affirms an absolute and pre-redemptive decree which proceeded from the good pleasure of God and without any consideration of men’s final impenitence and unbelief. By this decree God casts men off from grace and glory and shuts the far greater part (even those called by the preaching of the gospel to repentance and salvation) under invincible and unavoidable sin and damnation.
This group is divided. Some see God as looking out from above the fall and say that before there was sin He decreed of His good pleasure to manifest His sovereignty and justice in the eternal damnation of the great part of mankind. To this end He decreed the means of unavoidable sin and impenitency. This is held by Calvin, Beza, Zanchius, Piscator, Gomarus, and some of our own countrymen.
The rest of the group, thinking to avoid the great inconvenience of supralapsarianism, fall down a little lower and have God looking at man lying fallen and under the guilt of original sin, and there decreeing the great number of them to the torment of hell forever for the declaration of His justice. This way went the Synod.
Admittedly the difference between these two isn’t much, and even in their own account it’s too small a disagreement to cause a breach. As they said at the Hague Conference and Synod, “As concerning the diversity of opinions on the this argument over whether God looked at man in this decree as not yet created or as created and fallen—this doesn’t belong to essential Christian doctrine, so we bear with one another in equity.]
After this, at Dort, they permitted Gomarus to set down his judgment in the upper way, but the delegates from Southern Holland were very indifferent to it, saying, “An Deus in eligendo confideraverit homines ut lapsos, an etiam ut nondum lapsos, existimant non esse neccessarium ut definiatur, riodo statuatur Dum in eligendo considerasse homines in pari statu.” [Whether God considered men as fallen or else as unfallen when choosing we think it is not necessary to be determined, for in both cases God considers all men in a like state.] Maccovis, a professor of Divinity at Frankfurt, a violent and stiff maintainer of the most unsavoury speeches which have been uttered in this controversy, undertook in that very synod to make good against his fellow delegate Lubbert by saying, “Velle peccata ordinare homines ad peccatum qua peccatum & neutiquam velle ut omnes homines salventur etc.” He insisted that God willed sin, ordained men to sin, did not desire that all men should be saved, and that unless these things were stiffly held and maintained everyone would become Remonstrants. This man was not only not censured, but publically declared in the Synod to be pure and orthodox. He was dignified only with a friendly admonition to take heed lest he give offense to tender ears that were not yet capable of hearing such mysteries.
So from these instances it appears that they can easily bear one with another in this difference. And to tell the truth there’s no reason why they should quarrel about these circumstances, seeing as they’re in agreement on the substance. For both contend that the moving cause of reprobation is the will of God, not the sin of man, original or actual, and both agree that the final impenitency and damnation of reprobates is necessary and unavoidable by divine decree.
It is these two points which are the maxima gravamina [the principal grievances] over which the debate hinges on, and these opinions I both question and dislike.

The Response

In the controversy over election and preterition the Remonstrants not only have the contra-Remonstrants for their opponents, but also the Church of England which holds the middle way, as the learned Bishop of Norwich has plainly shown. To join with the Remonstrants is therefore to forsake the doctrine of Church of England as much as it is to forsake Beza, Zanchius, or Piscator. But perhaps unlike  the contra-Remonstrants, the main issue between us is not, “What are the decrees of God concerning the final conditions of men,” but rather “What are the decrees of God concerning the different preparations of grace, whereby some are guided infallibly into salvation and others are permitted through their own corruption or voluntary transgression to fall into damnation?”
Before going on it must be said that neither the Remonstrants nor the Church of England affirms:
1.       That reprobation is an absolute and forceful decree by which the non-elect are cast off from all grace. It is evident the non-elect Angels and many millions of men have had a great measure of grace bestowed on them.
2.       That reprobation is a denial of sufficient grace. It is only a denial of such special grace as God knows would infallibly bring them to glory. Preterition does not shut any man up under a necessity of sinning and being damned, but it instead permits them to freely to run into damnable sins, and through their voluntary impenitency to incur eternal damnation. Non cursus ruentium, nec malignitatem iniquorum neque cupiditates peccantium pradestinatio Dei aut excitavit aut suasit, aut impulit etc. Nemini Deuis correctionis adimit viam, nec quenquam boni possibilitate despoliat. [The sinner is not predestined to their wicked lusts, as if God raised them up or pushed them into it. He corrects, He does not deprive men of the good road.]
3.       That absolute predestination or reprobation excludes the eternal intuition of faith and perseverance in the elect. Nor is a consideration of good or bad acts foreseen in men denied.
4.       That there is an absolute decree adjudging men to the torments of hell torments without consideration of sin.
Likewise both sides agree that Gods casting men off forever is grounded on the foresight of their final continuance in sin. But unlike the Remonstrants, we’d say that the final continuance of Peter’s faith was not a cause, condition, or foreseen motive which compelled God to elect him. His faith was instead produced by his election. The foreseen final continuance of Judas in sin and infidelity on the other hand is not owing to a determination of the Divine will to pass him by—unlike the decree to elect singular persons to eternal life—for in his case God foresaw the obstinacy of his own will. So through no violent decree He let Judas die in his voluntary sin, and for this impenitency merit eternal torment. God mercifully elects some to salvation, and leaves others to their own faults to plunge themselves into eternal damnation.
Yet God did eternally decree to glorify Himself in the salvation of some and the damnation of others—of this events plainly demonstrate.  But for those in whose salvation He decreed to glorify His mercy He works in them the means of their salvation, the faith, repentance, perseverance in faith and in godliness, by an influx of grace into their souls. It is powerful, but not violent, a most sweet and yet most infallible guidance of their wills, in and over which God has a more predominant power than they do.
As for those in damnation, God glorifies His sovereignty and justice not by an influx of malice into their souls, nor by unavoidable wresting of their wills into any sin, but instead by leaving their sinful desires to their defective wills, which lacking the special grace and effectual guidance of predestination never fail to run them willingly into their own damnation. The means by which men are brought into salvation are real effects of election wrought by the Holy Spirit, just as light and heat come from the sun. In contrast the means whereby men are carried to their damnation grow from themselves, as coldness and darkness proceed from space.
Those who are passed by in the eternal decree of God are not by any force of the decree left without the benefit which the Scriptures promises upon condition of repentance, no more so than those who God has elected are by virtue of that decree freed from the punishment which supposing their impenitency might light upon them. The absolute eternal decrees of election and reprobation stand alongside the revealed evangelical decree. If Cain repented and lived well he would receive pardon and salvation. If Peter didn’t repent but instead persevered in his sin, he would have been damned. And further (not to determine whether sufficient grace is offered to every particular person in the world or not) we may firmly assert that the decree of electing some to grace and glory and the passing by and rejecting of others is not a good argument for proving that the non-elected are left without sufficient means of salvation.
Adam was not predestined to stand in the state of his innocence, and yet he was not thereby excluded or bereft of sufficient means of remaining in it. From the decree of reprobation it well follows that Judas is reprobated; but all this means is that God has not given him sufficient means to escape damnation given the hindrance of his own wicked heart.

Lapsarianism Rebuked

The ordering these eternal decrees is unknown to the ancients, and has never met with good success. Nevertheless, those who do order them or place predestination and reprobation before the fall are not few for number, nor are a new sect. Scotus, a whole army of his followers, the greater number of late School Divines, and Suarez in particular says, “Probabiliorem existimo commune sententiam Theologorum asserentium electionem hominum predestinatorum ante cessisse permissionem originalis peccati.” [I think it most probable, and the general opinion of theologians, to assert that men were elected before they yielded to original sin.] As for Calvin, he never troubled himself with these imaginary priorities in the eternal immanent operations of God, all he aimed to do was to prove that the foreseen fall could not be the motive to God for the basis of election or reprobation. But for the intuition or Divine consideration of all mankind in statu lapso [in a fallen state], Calvin in plain terms proclaims it, “Postquam Paulus Deum ex Perdita massa eligere & reprobare quos illi visum est, docuit, quare & quomodo id fiat adeo non expedit, ut potius expavescens, etc.” [As Paul says, God selected how and exactly in what way from the some would be taken from the same lump for rejection, in order that the rest should be full of godly fear.]
This presupposition of sin considered in persons whether elected or not elected, whether to be saved or to be damned, may be most convenient for helping our understanding of this deep mystery, but if anyone thinks of the eternal volitions or intuitions of God as having any real priority, he deceives himself, and troubles others with his vain jangling. Utilitas distinguendi hac instantia rationis, non est, un ille modus intelligendi retineatur, sed ut viam aperiat veritati, que aperta relinquatur. [It is advantageous to distinguish between that which exists from reasoning about things which by no means exists; particularly in matters where the truth has not been revealed or plainly set forth.]
The synod of Dort enjoined men to set down their particular judgments concerning predestination and reprobation and therefore they had no reason to forbid any man to set down plainly his own opinion. And since the Divine understanding does not consider or behold this after that, but all together in one intent from eternity, there is no cause why men should stiffly contend about these priorities and posteriorities which are human imaginations or intellectus nostril fictions [understanding of fictions] as some truly term them.
Maccovius was upon a by occasion brought before the Synod, and the business between him and Lubbertus was committed to the examination of some few Delegates, according to whose report he was dismissed. To the objection of ordaining men to sin his answer was, “God did not ordain any man to sin efficiendo [effectually] but permittendo [permissively]. For his denying of a will in God for the saving of all men he understood it of the absolute effectual operative will, not of the conditional and approbative will of God.
They both conceded that the divine understanding could not but eternally foresee the original and actual sin which should finally cleave to every particular man who should afterword be born into this world, but for all this they denied that the moving causes whereby God distinguished men into Elect and non-elect was the foreseen faith of some, and the foreseen infidelity and impenitency of others. The state of men under sin was common to all, the mercy of God in effectually freeing from my sin was due to none.