Billy Birch has posted a critique of supralapsarianism.
Like a drunken marksman, Birch keeps missing the target.
First, the theory is mere speculation, with absolutely no scriptural warrant. As a matter of fact, the Bible explicitly declares that "God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21 NASB).
How does 1 Cor 1:21 disprove supralapsarianism? Where’s the supporting argument to justify this linkage?
God has conditionally elected to save those whose faith is solely in Jesus Christ His Son.
Of course, appealing to conditional election as though that were a given is tendentious.
Arminianism (or sublapsarianism) might postulate the following order of God's decrees:
1) Create (not out of necessity, as in the supralapsarian model)
Supralapsarianism doesn’t treat creation as necessary.
2) Permit the fall (not decree it, so that it was necessary
What does it mean for an Arminian to say that God “permitted” the fall? Is the fall a naturally inevitable event unless God intervenes to prevent it?
3) Provide atonement and salvation potentially for all (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:10; 1 John 2:2
Notice how, without argument, he is glossing those passages in terms of some unrealized potentiality. Where do they say or imply that?
4) Call all to salvation (Rom. 10:14-17)
When, where, and how does God call “all” human beings to salvation? How is this call to salvation issued? Have all human beings been evangelized? Does Birch subscribe to postmortem evangelism? If not, then how is the Gospel made available to every human being?
Or is Birch falling back on natural revelation? Is natural revelation the gospel?
5) Elect (or save, regenerate) all those who believe in Christ (John 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:21; Ephesians 1:4)
Where do these verses teach us that election or regeneration is subsequent to faith? And if all human beings already have freewill by virtue of God’s sufficient grace, then what does regeneration add? Likewise, if some men choose God apart from election, then what does election add?
Reprobate all those who reject Christ (John 3:36; Rom. 9:22).
i) How does Birch define “reprobation”? Here he seems to be using “reprobation” as a synonym for damnation. But on that definition, it’s equally true in Calvinism that God reprobates (=damns) all who reject Christ.
ii) Where does Rom 9:22 say or imply that God reprobates individuals because they reject Christ?
Second, the theory of supralapsarianism makes creation a necessity, thus contradicting the explicit teaching of Scripture to the contrary. Paul taught that God is not "served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25 NASB). Supralapsarianism betrays God's aseity. Since God is the all-sufficient One, in need of nothing outside of Himself for His being (or pleasure for that matter), then to suggest that God was indebted to create human beings because He needed them in order to fulfill a decree is to contradict Acts 17:25. Hence, in the supralapsarian scheme, the decree to create human beings was by necessity prior to any decision made about them.
What a terribly confused statement!
i) The “need” in question is teleological. And that state of affairs is conditional and voluntary rather than necessary.
It’s a means-ends relationships. If you set a goal, then you may “need” to achieve that goal through some means or another. There may be more than one hypothetical route to achieve your objective, but you have to settle on one or the other. In that contingent sense, God “needed” certain means to realize his ends. However, God didn’t need to do anything at all.
Given a goal, you may “need” a way to achieve the goal. But the goal is not a given.
ii) The question of “need” is equally true for Arminianism. God “needed” to create the world before he was in a position to save sinful creatures. God “needed” to “permit” the fall before he was in a position to redeem sinners. Without the fall, there would be no sinners to save. Without creation, there would be no creatures to fall. So, by Birch’s own logic, the Bible “explicitly contradicts” Arminian theology.
iii) Birch is quoting Acts 17:25 out of context. In its historical setting, this verse has nothing to do with teleology. Ironically, Birch’s appeal is even out of whack with sound Arminian exegesis. As Witherington explains in his commentary, “V25 asserts that God is not served by human hands, as if God had needs human beings could meet by sacrifices and other religious activities” (525).
So it has reference, in context, to heathen offerings to the gods, and other suchlike. Birch is abusing Scripture to service his preconceived theological agenda.
Third, the decree to elect and reprobate could not logically appear prior to God's decree to create human beings, for He would have no one to elect and reprobate. It is nonsensical to suggest that God found it necessary to elect and reprobate without having yet decreed what or whom to elect and reprobate!
What a silly objection!
i) To begin with, the various “decrees” reflect a teleological order, not a chronological or psychological order. It’s not as if God can only think one thing at a time–in a rigid sequence. The entire plan is present in God’s mind, with all its nested elements.
ii) Keep in mind, too, that we only break it down into a series of “decrees” to highlight the teleological structure of the decree. But it’s not as if this is a literal series of discrete decrees. It’s all one timeless plan–like the plot of a play or novel.
iii) Moreover, the fact that one entity can’t exist unless a prior entity exists doesn’t mean the idea of the subsequent entity depends on the actual existence of the prior entity.
For example, a son cannot exist apart from the prior existence of his father. But the idea of their existence is hardly dependent on their actual existence, in any particular order.
The decree is a divine idea, or set of ideas. God’s complete concept of the world he intends to make.
Fourth, and most significant, supralapsarianism is unjust, for it reprobates human beings who have not yet sinned against God's holy commands. In this scheme, God decreed the fall of humanity subsequent to the decree to create them, subsequent to the decree to reprobate them.
i) In the nature of the case, God makes decisions for his creatures apart from their actual existence. Indeed, they wouldn’t exist in the first place unless he decided to create them. It’s not as if they preexist his decision to bring them into being.
ii) Logically speaking, Arminianism would have to say that God reprobates impenitent sinners based on his foreknowledge of their impenitence. Before they did anything sinful. Human beings who have not yet sinned against God’s law.
The reprobate were created solely for hell.
i) They are created to reveal the justice of God.
ii) They are also created for the benefit of the elect, viz. reprobate fathers of elect sons.
iii) The fact that they are predestined to hell doesn’t mean they were created for the sole purpose of damning them–as if God damned them for the sake of damning them.
iv) In Arminianism, creates human beings whom he foreknows he will damn. He didn’t have to create hellbound sinners. But he does. So he did create them solely for hell?
v) If Arminianism is consistent with its commitment to libertarian freewill, then there’s an alternate possible world in which a hellbound sinner in this world is a heavenbound sinner in the alternative scenario. But God didn’t realize the alternative scenario in which the sinner goes to heaven rather than hell.
So he didn’t give the damned a choice in the matter. Although they had freedom of choice, in the sense of their ability to potentially do otherwise, he didn’t give them the freedom of opportunity to choose which hypothetical outcome would actually play out. They didn’t get to vote on which possible world would become the real world. He didn’t give them a chance to realize a different potential outcome.
They did not yet deserve hell. They had not done anything deserving of hell, for God's primary decree was to elect some to eternal bliss and others to reprobation (eternal hell). The reprobate's ‘fall’ was not fixed until the third decree. This is unjust.
i) The notion that one decree wasn’t “fixed” until another decree was in place imports illicit temporal notions into the decree, as if predestination were a chronological process. To the contrary, it was all “fixed.”
ii) Considered as merely possible persons, there are many different paths which are open to a possible agent. Different logical possibilities. Different logically possible outcomes.
It’s not as though God is making them act contrary to what they were going to do if he hadn’t intervened. God is not preventing them from doing something else which they were planning to do. For there’s no one thing which a possible person could possibly do. Different hypothetical outcomes are logically possible.
The only internal limit is what God can coherently imagine. In the decree, God selects one possible timeline rather than another. Where is the injustice in that procedure? Since there was nothing in particular that a possible person was bent on doing, it’s not as if divine intent is thwarting the plans of a possible agent. God instantiates the hypothetical timeline in which someone goes to hell rather than the hypothetical timeless in which the same person goes to heaven.
How is that unjust? It may not be merciful, but how is that unjust?
One can easily guess where Calvin (as would any supralapsarian Calvinist) wanders off to in answering such objections: mystery, or antinomy. And who can blame them? For their own theology inevitably leads to the insistence that a person cannot know these things, because the Bible does not support such things, nor does it support their presuppositions.
Notice that in responding to Birch, I haven’t resorted to mystery or antinomy. Therefore, my own theology doesn’t inevitably lead to such an appeal.
Mind you, there’s room in Calvinism for mystery. But I haven’t had to take refuge in mystery, much less antinomy, in responding to a single one of Birch’s objections.
This seems to comport with the tenor of Scripture as well as good reason, for it is God's desire to save fallen humanity, not reprobate the majority of creatures whom He created in His image.
i) If God wants to save all men, then why, according to Arminian theology, does God make hellbound sinners whom he foreknew were hellbound sinners? He knew that eventuality prior to making them. Nothing is forcing him to make them. Yet he makes them anyway, in full knowledge of their infernal fate.
ii) Calvinism has no official position on whether or not God reprobates the majority of the human race. Birch has been repeatedly corrected on that falsehood. Why does he persist? Why does Birch think he has the right to lie about Calvinism? Is there something about Arminian ethics which authorizes you to lie about a position you disagree with?
Does Arminianism have the Islamic equivalent of “holy hypocrisy” (Taqiyya and kitman)?
We must not lose sight of two important truths: 1) God is willing to demonstrate His grace to all lost sinners ("For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him," John 3:17 NASB
And in the very same Gospel, Jesus also said: “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind” (Jn 9:39 NASB).
“Cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11).”
It begs the question to merely cite Arminian prooftexts when the correct interpretation of these verses is the very point in dispute.