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Doctrine of Creation: Its Necessity in Redemption

A Modified Version of Modified Supralapsarianism : Debunking HyperPreterism
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Summary: This lesson discusses the transition from the Doctrine of God's Eternal Decree to the Doctrine of Creation in a theological context. The focus is on the importance of understanding why God creates, emphasizing that creation is a crucial part of God's eternal plan of redemption. This lesson delves into a theological debate about the ordering of decrees, specifically infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism, to highlight the purpose of creation in the context of God's redemptive plan. The ultimate goal is seen as the glorification and preeminence of the incarnate Son of God, and this encourages a deep understanding of the theological implications of creation in the plan of redemption, contra the heresy of hyper-preterism.


Transcript: ‌Well, after a little break, we are finally back to our lessons. Today, we are transitioning into the Doctrine of Creation. And why are we going from the eternal decree into the doctrine of Creation? Well, if you look at SC #8, it tells us why:

Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?

A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

It is in the work of Creation that the eternal decree of God is brought to pass.

Now, you may be thinking, “ok, Jason. Got it. So, let’s turn to Genesis 1 and 2 and get started.” Right? And of course, that makes sense. That would be the main place to go to discuss creation.

But, not so fast.

Now, we are definitely going to spend some time in the opening chapters of Genesis and look at the days of creation and what was created. But, before we do that, in this introduction to the Doctrine of Creation, I want to take a slightly different approach. There is a point of emphasis that I want to make that I believe is crucial to understand before we go on to talk about the birds and the bees.

If you’ll recall, when Pastor JP finished the Doctrine of God, I was considering going straight into the doctrine of Creation with one lesson on the eternal decree, but decided instead to extend the discussion of God’s eternal decree into six lessons. Why? Because I argued that it is just as important to understand WHY God creates what He creates, as it is knowing WHAT He creates.

If you don’t understand the WHY of creation along with the WHAT of creation, you can get yourself into some very serious, even damnable heresy. And I gave the example of hyper-preterism. There are some hyper-preterists who would agree with us on many of the WHAT details of creation. But in the end, they deny the resurrection of the body. They deny the visible, bodily return of Christ. They deny the renewal of creation. The “earth” that we read about on the other end of Scripture is now just a figure of speech, a metaphor, according to them.

But of course, they don’t see a problem with these denials. When you start talking to them about the importance of creation in the plan of redemption, they accuse you of being worldly minded, of being carnal. “You’re focused on the flesh, while we hyper-preterists are heavenly minded, focused on the spiritual and the kingdom of God.”

And to the unlearned, that all sounds great. It sounds pious. It sounds spiritual and mature. But it is absolute foolishness! The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that such a denial is a rejection of the Gospel!

Now, I understand that hyper-preterism is a very tiny, dying movement. And it represents an extreme form of the type of thinking that I am cautioning against here. But beloved, there is a lot of thinking that goes on today even in popular evangelical thought that is hyperpreterist like, very gnostic like.

Pastor Durbin touched on this very thing last week while he was here. I don’t know if you caught that…I certainly did. Remember, he talked about how many Christians today think that the end game to our salvation is for us to die and go to heaven and that’s it. We leave this world…we leave our bodies…never to return. And so the WHAT of creation is fun to talk about. It’s exciting to talk about the great sea creatures, and animals that soar through the sky, and the vastness of space, the depths of the sea….

But for what PURPOSE?

Far too many Christians look at creation as just a curious little footnote.

In the minds of many, it’s as if God started off with a neat little plan involving creation, but once Adam goofed it up, God aborted that plan and moved on to a spiritual, salvific plan in which creation either serves no purpose at all, or at the most, a very minor, temporary, side role.

But beloved, the point of emphasis that I want to make to you today is that the reality is just the opposite of that. Creation is not a little footnote. It’s not a little side hobby of God’s. It wasn’t part of a plan that God ditched to move on to Plan B. Creation is not juxtaposed to the kingdom and the Gospel to show a radical contrast.

But rather, creation IS and ALWAYS has been an essential piece of God’s eternal plan of redemption. And at the center of that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the very forefront of God’s mind when creating the world is that the creation would not only be an object of His love and the stage on which His plan of redemption would be revealed, but creation would be the very means by which the second person of the Trinity would reveal Himself and bring about that eternal plan of salvation.

And to dismiss or minimize the role of creation in the plan of redemption is to dismiss and minimize Christ and His work.

I want you to see that when we do go to Genesis 1 and 2 and talk about the days of creation, the plants, the waters, the land, the sun and moon, stars, the beasts of the fields, the great sea creatures of the deep, the eagles and hawks that soar through the sky, and the first man and woman…when we do talk about the dirt and flesh and physical life…don’t treat all of this as just some sort of interesting little side hobby of God’s that will be eventually seen in contrast to God’s plan of salvation. Don’t view all of this as some sort of disjointed, plan A stuff that God will eventually abort for Plan B.

There has only ever been ONE plan, one eternal decree, and CREATION IS THE PLAN! Creation is the very means by which God reveals His one eternal plan of redemption and the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-Man, and His work of atonement is heart and soul of that creation.

Creation is not given to us as a contrast to “spiritual things” and the kingdom of God. It was and has always been a core, essential piece of God’s eternal plan of redemption. And to belittle it and dismiss it in that plan, as hyper-preterists and so many other gnostic-like people do, is to belittle and dismiss the Lord Jesus Christ, His work, and the Gospel of the Kingdom.

If you take creation out of the plan, you no longer have a plan. You no longer have the incarnate Son of God. You no longer have a Gospel.‌


Well, I have given you the main point of emphasis here. Now, the question becomes: how do I get you to that point biblically and theologically? How do I argue and develop this point?

And this is where this introduction to creation takes a slightly different turn from what you’re used to. This is why I said that we are not gonna go straight to Genesis 1 and 2, which seems like the reasonable, usual step to take when discussing creation.

Rather, I’m going to take a debate, a discussion that typically comes later down the road in any good reformed systematic theology, usually not until AFTER you have discussed a view of man, the fall, and then salvation, and I’m going to bring that debate forward to discuss now in order to develop this point about creation.

And that discussion is about the ordering of the decrees, aka the debate between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism.

Now, some of you may be like, “Supra what? Supralapsarian? What is that? Is that one of the dinosaurs God created?”

And there may be others who are familiar with that whole discussion, but you’re probably thinking right now, “Well, I understand that whole debate to be about the ordering of decrees and how the decree of election relates to the decree of the fall….but I’m not getting where any of that has to do with creation.”

And I can understand that reaction. Because as I mentioned, this debate usually doesn’t happen in systematic theologies until well after you have discussed the creation of man, the fall, and then salvation. Robert Reymond, in his Systematic Theology, doesn’t bring it up until then; yet here I am bringing it up now to introduce the doctrine of Creation.

Why? Why bring it up now?

Well, here’s why. When you look at the points of contention between the infra and supra views, and when you especially consider Robert Reymond’s modified supralapsarian view, there is a powerful implication to be drawn from that view regarding the role of creation. Reymond even highlights that implication. And so, all I’m doing is taking that specific part of the discussion and highlighting it now so that when we start to dig into the WHAT of creation, we will do so understanding the WHY of creation and not lose sight.

What I’m trying to avoid here is for us to just go straight into talking about the birds and the bees, and you walk away from that thinking, “well, that’s all cool. I love science. But where does this fit in the grand scheme of things?”

My prayer is that this infra/supra discussion will drive home the point of where creation fits in the plan.

Another way to put it is this: Recall that when we talked about the eternal decree of God, we pointed out that technically, there is only one eternal decree in the mind of God. One, comprehensive, all encompassing thought. However, when that decree is revealed to us, finite creatures limited in time and space, we see the one decree in parts, and so we talk about the decrees (plural) of God.

The discussion over infra vs supra has to do with how we should order the decrees, which in turn has us asking the question; what is the central, primary fact that governs how we order them?

But think about this for a second…It seems reasonable to me to think that if you can figure out what is the central governing principle to God’s eternal decree, then you have figured out what is the central, driving purpose for God in creating the world, BECAUSE the creation of the world IS the execution of His eternal decree.

So…what then is this infra vs supra debate all about?

Now, keep in mind, this discussion can get very technical and drawn out. And there is much of this debate that we will talk about at a later time. All that I’m wanting to do with it today is introduce it to you and draw out of it the implications it has about creation.

In the Reformed world, and even in the broader evangelical world, there was much discussion about the decrees of God; what exactly those decrees were and how we are to understand them.

In other words, what is God up to? What is His plan exactly? Does He even have a plan? And how does He bring this plan about? How does God save people? Who exactly is He saving? And so on. And obviously, there were some major differences between the Reformers and the Roman Catholics on these questions.

You had the Reformed and their particular (pun intended) understanding of God’s plan of salvation, and you had others within the broader Reformed world who just couldn’t get on board with that. Jacobus Arminius, for example, argued a hypothetical universalism. I say hypothetical because he didn’t actually believe that all people would be saved, but that Christ had died for all people and God has conferred grace to all people, but it was ultimately up to the individual and his excercise of free will as to whether or not that person will be saved. And even in saying that Christ died for all men, he did not die, according to Arminians, as an actual penalty for their sins, but rather as an example. Because after all, if Christ had actually paid for the sins of all people, then all people would be saved.

Then you had the Amyraldians. Amyraldus tried to take a middle ground between the Arminians and the Calvinists. He recognized that God elected some and not others and that the Spirit applies the benefits of redemption only to the elect, but he didn’t want to let go of the false notion that Christ died for all people without exception. Sometimes these people are referred to as 4 point calvinists. But a major error of this view is that it has the Son of God working at odds with the Holy Spirit. The Son dies for all but the Spirit doesn’t want to apply redemption to all.

In opposition to both of these “hypothetical universalist” views was the Calvinistic (and I would argue Biblical) understanding that God has elected particular individuals and sent Christ to atone for their sins and theirs alone. Jesus did not die merely as an example but actually paid the penalty for the sins of the elect. And the salvation of the elect did not depend on their exercise of any “free-will,” but upon the regenerating work and power of the Holy Spirit in quickening and applying salvation to the elect person.

All Calvinists agree with this “particularistic” understanding of the plan. For the Calvinists, what became central to the plan was not that God wanted to save everybody and Christ died for everybody, but that God elects individuals, Christ dies for the elect, and the Spirit applies the benefits of salvation to the elect….all three members of the Godhead working consistently together to fulfill the single redemptive purpose of saving the ELECT.

And so, in the typical definition and ordering of the decrees within Calvinism, there were five main decrees that became the focus and they are ordered as follows:

1. God decreed to create the world and all men

‌2. God decreed that all men would fall into sin

‌3. God decreed to elect some fallen to salvation in Christ and reprobation of others

‌4. God decreed to redeem the elect by the work of Christ on the cross

‌5. God decreed to apply Christ’s redemptive benefits to the elect

‌Now, I want you to notice two things. (1) God’s decree to elect precedes the decrees of the atonement of Christ and the application of it by the Spirit. It was ordered this way in order to show that the election of individuals, not every person without exception, is what determines the nature of Christ’s atonement and the Spirit’s application. Christ did not die for everyone and the Spirit does not confer grace to everyone. These things are only done for the elect! And that drives the point home well against the Arminians and Amyraldians. The (2) thing I want you to notice is that the decree of election comes after, or below, the decree of the fall. And that’s where the label infralapsarian comes from. Infra is latin for “below, under, beneath" and lapsus is latin for “a fall.” The decree of election comes after or below the decree of the fall…infralapsus.

‌However, some Calvinists took a slight issue with this order. And there are multiple reasons why, which we don’t have time to get into, but one of the reasons I have heard often is that it portrays the election of men as sort of an afterthought to the fall. And so, these men took the decree of election, which is in the third spot, and moved it up to the first spot. And this view became known as supralapsarian. Supra being latin for “above, over, before," So in this scheme, the decree of election is above or before the decree of the fall…supralapsus.

‌But there’s another objection that was raised by the Supras and it is this objection that starts to get to the heart of where I’m going with all of this.

‌Reymond writes, “Espousing as the infralapsarian scheme does the view that the historical principle governs the order of the decrees, and arranging as it does the order of the decrees accordingly in the order that reflects the historical order of the corresponding occurrences of the events which they determined, this scheme can show no purposive connection between the several parts of the plan per se. In a single, consistent, purposive plan one assumes that any and every single member of the plan should logically necessitate the next member so that there is a purposive cohesion to the whole. The historical arrangement simply cannot demonstrate, for example, why or how the decree to create necessitates the next decree concerning the Fall, or why the decree concerning the Fall necessitates the following particularizing decree. 4. Because the infralapsarian scheme can show no logical necessity between the first two decrees (the creation decree and the Fall decree) and the three following soteric decrees, it “cannot give (and now Reymond is quoting Berkhof) a specific answer to the question why God decreed to create the world and to permit the fall.” It must refer these elements to some general purpose in God (“for his general glory as Creator”?) which has no discernible connection to the central redemptive elements in the “eternal purpose” of God.”

‌Wow.

‌Listen to this quote from Berkhof:

“The Infralapsarian position does not do justice to the unity of the divine decree, but represents the different members of it too much as disconnected parts. First God decrees to create the world for the glory of his name, which means among other things that he determined that his rational creatures should live according to the divine law implanted in their hearts and should praise their Maker. Then he decreed to permit the fall, whereby sin enters the world. This seems to be a frustration of the original plan, or at least an important modification of it, since God no more decrees to glorify himself by the voluntary obedience of all his rational creatures. Finally, there follows the decrees of election and reprobation, which mean only a partial execution of the original plan.”

‌Now, if this is going over your head a bit, let me try to simplify this with an illustration.

‌This past week, Kaylee put together a surprise birthday party for Jordan who turned 21. And as you know with surprise parties, you have to figure out how to get the birthday boy to a location where people are already gathered for a party without revealing the surprise to the birthday boy.

‌Well, the task of delay and diversion was given to Wesley. And I don’t know what all happened, but when they finally showed up for the party, Jordan was telling us how weird Wesley was acting. First, Wesley invited him to his house, which was rare and out of place during the week. Then I heard something about Wesley asking Jordan if he wanted to get into the hot tub, only for Wesley to come out of his room fully dressed, or something like that. haha.

‌Jordan knew something was off. But he wasn’t quite positive. He’s thinking to himself, why are you inviting me to jump in the hot tub? And why did you get fully dressed? He can’t quite figure it out, but something’s off here. Wesley’s asking one thing, but then acts contrary to that. What’s going on?

‌Now, to Wesley it kinda makes sense, right? Because getting into the hot tub isn’t the end game. It just a means to delay Jordan and buy some time. But since Jordan wasn’t in on the plan, he couldn’t quite figure it out. It wasn’t making any sense. Although, I’m sure he had his suspicions knowing that it was his birthday.

‌But you see the point, right?

‌If you’re not in on the plan, then the historical ordering of the decrees presents problems:

‌First, God creates the world. Ok. Great. But why?

‌Then, God decrees the fall. Well, wait a second….why did He do that? That’s the “hey, let’s jump in the hot tub” moment. It doesn’t make sense. What’s the connection? Why would He do that? Did God need to do that?

‌And so to resolve this dilemma, the Supras moved the decree of election to the top to prioritize it so as to explain the point of creation and the fall. The creation and the fall of man into sin serve the purpose of bringing about the salvation of the elect!

‌However, we still have a slight problem. What’s interesting here is that the supra view is almost identical to the infra view. The other four decrees stay in the same order. All they did was take the decree of election and move it to the top. And so while the decree of election is made the governing principle, so as to provide purpose for the remaining four decrees, it still suffers from logical inconsistency as you move from one decree to the next. So, in light of that, some men have come along with a MODIFIED SUPRA view and what they did was keep the decree of election at the top, but then took the remaining four decrees and flipped them upside down. And so you end up with this order:

‌1. *the election of some sinful men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the rest of sinful mankind in order to make known the riches of God’s gracious mercy to the elect)

‌2. the decree to apply Christ’s redemptive benefits to the elect sinners

‌3. the decree to redeem the elect sinners by the cross work of Christ

‌4. the decree that men should fall

‌5. the decree to create the world and men.

‌Do you see the advantage this has? Remember, we are talking about the eternal plan of God. We are not dealing with time and a chronological order, but a LOGICAL order. And in this scheme, each decree logically necessitates the decree after it.

‌With the first decree, the election of men, being the goal (as it stands at the moment, but more on that in second), in order to make that happen, you have to apply a redemption to the elect. But in order to have a redemption to apply, Christ has to "work" out this salvation "by the cross." But if you are saving sinners, you have to have a fall. And in order for there to be a fall of men, you have to "create" the "world and men". Thus, you see the necessary relationship between the decrees. The fifth decree of creating men, which is the first that is executed in time and space, serves the purpose, ultimately, to bring about the first decree, which is the goal!

‌And this finally brings me to my point of emphasis in all of this.

‌Listen again to what I just said: The fifth decree of creating the world and men, which is the first that is executed in time and space (Genesis 1 and 2), is done for what purpose? To bring about the fulfillment of the first decree! Because there is that logical necessity between the decrees, what is decreed last is excercised first in ORDER TO BRING about the FIRST DECREE. God created the world and men in order to save elect men.

‌Now, before I wrap this up, I do want to make one more revision to this Supra scheme. I don’t think this scheme goes quite far enough back.

‌As is, one might read that first decree and think that the ultimate end game here is election. But I don’t believe it is because Scripture does not make election ultimate. In fact, not everyone is elect. And there is even a purpose in the non-election of some people!

‌Rather, I believe that the ultimate end game here is the glorification of God, generally speaking, but in particular the glory of the incarnate Second Person of the Triune Godhead and His atoning work. That is central. That is the governing principle, not election.

‌Now, Reymond actually hits on this in his systematic. But I think he should have made it more explicit in the listing of the decrees. I mean, if we are going to modify this some, let’s make it more full and consistent.

‌We don’t start with election. Rather, we start with the Triune Godhead and His covenant of redemption, in which the Father elects, the Spirit applies, and the Son takes on our flesh and blood as the incarnate God-Man to purchase and redeem a people for Himself.

‌The preeminence of Christ is central, not the election of men. The election of men is not an end to itself, but a means to an end…the preeminence of the God-Man.

‌And again, Reymond touches on this in his systematic, but I think it needs to be more explicit in the actual listing of the decrees. And in turn, I think that because of what Scripture teaches.

‌Listen to Paul in Ephesians 3:8 “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord

‌Notice, God, who created all things (there’s your creation) makes known through the church (His redeemed people) the manifold wisdom, that is, the “eternal purpose” that is REALIZED in who? Christ Jesus Our Lord.

‌Notice, (1) there is and has only ever been one plan, one purpose. (2) Paul says that this plan is “eternal.” As Reymond points out, “there was never a moment when God had a blank mind or a time when God’s plan with all of its parts was not fully determined. He never ‘finally made up his mind’ about anything.” And (3) “The person and work of Jesus Christ are clearly central to God’s “eternal plan,” because Paul says that God “accomplished” or “effected” (ἐποίησεν, epoiēsen) it “in the Christ, Jesus our Lord.”

‌This echoes something else Paul said in Eph 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

‌Again, Reymond notes that “Here we learn that God’s eternal plan, which governs all his ways and works in heaven and on earth, he purposed to fulfill in Christ. Christ, as God’s Alpha and Omega, is at the beginning, the center, and the end of his eternal purpose.”

‌And so, if we were to modify this modified version a little more, we might add a sixth decree and place it at top, that decree being the eternal covenant of redemption between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the glory and preeminence of Christ and His atoning work wherein all things will be made in subjection to Him.

‌That’s the purpose for which election, among many other means, serves.

‌But in closing, let’s bring creation back into this and again, point out the massive implications this all has.

‌The last decree, the decree to create the world and men, which is executed first in time and space serves what purpose? The purpose of glorifying and making preeminent the incarnate Son of God! And notice carefully how I worded it. It’s not just the preeminence of the Son of God, but the INCARNATE Word!

‌That’s the end game that you need to be thinking about as we go through the creation account. That’s where all of it is heading. That’s the purpose and goal of the work of creation.

‌When you hear about God creating man, body and soul…be thinking about the Word who will take on our flesh and blood and dwell among us. Taking on body and soul to redeem us, body and soul.

‌When you hear about physical death being threatened upon disobedience of God’s Law…be thinking about the brutal death of our Lord Jesus Christ and the suffering He endured on the cross to disarm the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

‌When you hear about Adam being charged to be fruitful, multiply, and exercise dominion over the earth, be thinking about the resurrected incarnate Christ who ascended into heaven at the right hand of God and was given authority over all of heaven and earth.

‌Reymond writes, “Contrary to the infralapsarian assertion that “creation in the Bible is never represented as a means of executing the purpose of election and reprobation,” (which is a quote from Hodge). all supralapsarians insist that the created world must never be viewed as standing off over against God’s redemptive activity, totally divorced from the particularizing purpose of God, the ultimate concern of God’s “eternal purpose,” and as fulfilling some general purpose(s) unrelated to the redemptive work of Christ. They insist so on the ground that such a representation of creation shatters the unity of the one eternal purpose of God.”

‌Beloved, creation matters. Creation serves a purpose. It is not irrelevant. It is not a side hobby. It is not the remnants of a failed plan. It literally is the substance, if you will, of our redemption and without it, there is no salvation and there is no incarnate Word and work.

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Reformed : Contra Mundum
Eschatology
Addressing unorthodox eschatology from a biblical and confessionally reformed world and life view.
Authors
Jason L Bradfield