God Decrees: (Updated) 2012
In my book, The Divine Decrees, I have to confess that I did not distinguish—as well as I ought—the distinction between the historical and purpose order of the decrees. As a writer it is easy to make the mistake of assuming my audience sees categories that my mind’s eye does. Thus, I wish to come out this is modified version with the emphasis on this distinction
Defining the terms:
With the assumption that most who have interest in this biblical doctrine will know the terms supralapsarian and infralapsarian, and so I will move on. The lack of this distinction of purpose and historical has caused more than a small amount of confusion. Let us remedy this. In fact, the argument of supra. vs. infra. is more about incompleteness than out right error.
When God’s decrees are laid out from Top to bottom or that is, when they are laid out from the perspective of what God chose as His goals first, then we call this the, “Purpose perspective.” This is what some know as supralapsarian.
When God’s decrees are laid out from the Bottom up or that is, when they are penned down from the perspective of executing His goals we call this, “historical perspective.” This is what some know as infralapsarian. Although, in the truest since this is not a description of decrees;
rather, it is the execution of the decrees: that is, it is the historical execution
of God's intended goals.
In our reach for a complete
biblical understanding of God's decrees we need to have the purpose order, for it is the natural
meaning of decreeing or planning. The
perspective of God's "purpose" is greater not only because it is the natural
meaning to plan something, but also the historical order is derived from it. That is,
infralapsarian is an effect of the supralapsarian. In fact, when we think about an all Sovereign
God planning, (not reacting) is this not
in terms of choosing ones goals first?
This is why the perspective of God's goals
or purpose in the Decrees are so important and to which the Bible addresses. I would even go as far to say the historical
perspective of God is an incorrect doctrine, if left by itself, because in
light of an all Sovereign God "decrees" naturally point to purpose rather than
history. Without the "purpose"
perspective in the decree the historical perspective turns God into a God of
reaction rather than a God of total sovereign causality. Likewise, without the historical, the purpose
perspective looks incomplete for the God's decrees regard why and how God
ordered public reality.
Regarding the purpose or goal perspective what God chose as His first goal is last in execution, and what God purposed last in his goals comes first in execution
or history. I will explain this more.
Take for example a kid after
thinking about life decides he wants to be a great baseball player. This is his first "purpose," or goal that
is. His second choice to support the
first is that he needs to be an All Star baseball player, so that he can be a great
player. Thus, his third choice in
purpose is to get great averages in hitting (etc.) so that he gets chosen to be
an All Star. His next is purpose is to
be drafted to play in the Major League.
His next purpose is to start playing baseball at his local high school. See, what he first intended was accomplished last
in order, while that which was purposed last was accomplished first in history
or in execution. Ecclesiastes 7:8, "The
end of a thing is better than its beginning," because the end was the original
This analogy with the baseball
player is in the perspective of "purpose." Understand?
Jonathan Edwards saw the scriptures
speaking of God's "purpose perspective" more in broad decrees (basic clay vessel of mercy or destruction), whereas when
these were mirrored in the historical perspective they got "specific,"
because it was not until after the fall that man sinned, and so such
"specific" decrees of judgment or wrath, or mercy could not be done
to any one person until this point.
For the sake of argument, whether
this is true is not the crucial issue; rather, it is important for both to be
taught from scripture and that the "purpose" be ordered Top to Bottom and the
"historical" be ordered from Bottom to Top. The purpose order needs to be shown
as the natural meaning of God Decreeing
and the historical order as the effect of this being executed. The lists need to make sense when read in
either direction, whether from the perspective of purpose, or from the
perspective of execution. Furthermore, the decrees encompass all things, so it
is impossible for a simple list to include everything. Depending on what topic or doctrine I was
teaching on I could focus or bring to light these in the decrees: both in the
purpose or historical. What needs to
happen is someone puts emphasis on God's election in a historical perspective
and then they emphasize God's election in the purpose perspective in another
sermon or book, then the ordering needs to agree with each other.
Below is a simple list of
decrees. The first section is from God's
Purpose perspective (top to bottom) and the second is the Historical
perspective (bottom up.) You will see
how the second list mirrors the first so that what is decreed first in Purpose is executed last in order Execution.
TOP DOWN, ORDER of PURPOSE
1.) Glory. God
decrees out of delight in His own Divine Nature, to create the full displaying of His Glory in a public creation. And
God decrees to do this in particularly by making His Son to be the
only living fountain, the Head, the first born, central axis, the Preeminence in all things
in His created universe; that is, the invisible God glorifies Himself by making
His Son the Public showcase.
2.) Jesus Christ. Therefore God
then decrees to elect His Son to be the savior of many people to whom He will
create, and likewise to be a rock for which many will be crushed upon. God
decrees that Christ becomes the Central public-Person, that is, He becomes the preeminence
before a public audience. His mercy
given to a great many will lead them to be in the perfect place to see their
joyful dependence for His love, and the damnation for others will also showcase
this glory and many others. Thus, Christ
is glorified as the central dividing line for all public minds, both human and
3.) Election. God then Decrees
to unconditionally elect and give infinite happiness to a great number of
persons by unconditionally electing them into His Son for salvation, and thus communicating
to these the greatest possible good and love from Himself. Furthermore, God unconditionally elects others
who He will not
show His love to; rather, He decrees to glorify His wrath and justice through
hating them. (Before the twins were born or had done good or bad choices it is
written: Jacob I have loved, but Esau I
have hated.) Both will be, for there
is no other power in the metaphysical.
4.) The Fall. To imprison
the whole human race to the slavery of sin and disobedience-so that the
pervious decree of unconditional elect practically works out, so that the
previous decree of Jesus' public Saving and judging comes into fruition.
5. Creation. God decrees to bring
into being a grand universe suitable for the grand exhibition of God's glory
BOTTOM UP, ORDER of
Creation. God decrees to
bring into being a grand universe suitable for the grand displaying of His
7.) The Fall. God
decrees to imprison the whole human race to the slavery of sin and
8.) Election. I say election, but at this point, because we
are in history it would be more apt
to call it summing or calling. God
now elects or summons for mercy from
the disobedient human race the particular people, whom He decreed originally to
crown with His infinite love. Furthermore, to
fulfill His election of the reprobate, God now chooses the level of wickedness
that each vessel of wrath will fall
while on earth.
9.) Jesus Christ. In order to accomplish this election God to call His Son, Jesus Christ, to come into
the world and provide perfect righteousness, complete forgiveness, and the
purchasing of the Holy Spirit for many persons to be to the praise of His Son,
and likewise to be a rock for which many will be crushed upon for the praise of
His Son. The result is that Christ
becomes the historical, and future center point of the universe before a public
10.) Glory. The
sending of His Son a second time for the final
and compete separation of the people of wrath and children of His love, so that
Jesus will have all evil closed off from His presence and the final intimate
gathering of His chosen people (and all elect creatures) to Himself-to the
Father. In this Jesus truly becomes the
Public Supremacy before all public eyes, and in becoming so He (the image of
the Father) causes His invisible Father to be glorified as the Supremacy.
The result is that God brings all the human children of His love
(now of His electing mercy) with all the elect angels of His grace and heavenly
creatures of His goodness, IN
CHRIST, whom Christ is in
the Father, in order that the most indescribable and brilliant display of the Glory of His
Supremacy is accomplished for all to marvel and enjoy. This is why Ephesians talks about the "Glory of His Grace,"
because the displaying of
grace is the height of God's wisdom for the reinforcing and magnification of
His Supremacy. All goodness in life is from free grace, therefore, the source of where
this grace flows from has the "Preeminence."
All who receive this grace must boast in that source. The result is that
all of their life, strength, and hope came not from themselves but from the
source of free grace.
The creating love of
God magnifies His Supremacy, as this is the spring from where all good things
flow out, but the free mercy
of God, even more, magnifies the Glory of God's absolute Supremacy! God's
mercy does this because it exposes, in a tangible way, our absolute dependence,
while, on the other hand, exposing tangibly the sheer beauty of God's absolute
1:9, "having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His
good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of
the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are
in heaven and which are on earth-in Him."
1:18, "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the
beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have
the preeminence (Supremacy)."
4:9, "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has
sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we
were still sinners, Christ died for us."
16:4, "The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day
9:21, "Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump
to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God,
wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much
longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 (namely)
that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of
mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory."
11:27, "For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."
Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election,
they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the
calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God,
yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these
also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may
obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that
He might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom
and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past
finding out! "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who
has become His counselor?" "Or who has first given to Him and
it shall be repaid to him?" "For of Him and through Him and to Him
are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen."
Romans 11 passage we read, "For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He
might have mercy on all, [that is, "take away their sins"]."
The phrase "that He might have
mercy" is a referring to the purpose perspective. The "so that" is speaking of a prior
decree. In particular it is speaking of
the prior decree of unconditional election or mercy for many. If it helps recall the analogy I wrote
earlier: Take for example a kid after thinking about life decides he wants to be
a great baseball player. This is
his first "purpose," or intention, or goal that is. His second choice to support the first is
that he needs to be an All Star baseball player, so that he can be a great player.
Thus, his third choice in purpose is to get great averages in hitting
(etc.) so that he gets chosen to be
an All Star.
all "so thats" in the bible are about the order of God's decree from the
perspective of purpose, but it can be if the context is regarding that subject
as this passage is. What we see is that
God electing some to mercy is before the decree of the fall from the
purpose perspective ordering.
Understand? I use this as an
example to show the Bible does speaks on these issues. In fact Eph. 1:9-10 gives us the first and
second decree of purpose. Herein the
second decree of Christ being the central Supremacy with a public audience is
spoken of, and we know it is second because it reads "all things in Christ - in
Him." The, "in Him," is referring to the first or the prior decree of the
Father wanting His glory to go public.
another example may be found in Romans 8:29,
when it says, "For whom He foreknew(i.e.
fore-loved), He also predestined to be
conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn
among many brethren." Here, as in
the previous scripture the "that" is indeed indicating a previous decree, for
this is the context of the passage. The
model of the decrees I have in this essay showed Christ's public supremacy
before a public audience was decreed before election. God decreed the creating
of loved vessels and electing into His Son for the very reason of fulfilling
the previous decree of Christ's public supremacy by being the first born. This
verse clearly shows that order. (Decree
3) God for-loved and predestined many to be conformed to His Son's image,
(decree 2) so that He might full His previous choice to give His Son public preeminence,
so that (decree 1) God fulfill His previous choice that He might fully glorify
Himself through His Son. Moreover, in the
next verse the "predestination" still refers to the "purpose order," but starting
with "being called" to the end of the verse the order is in historical, which
can been seen in the order I have in this essay.