Friday, February 24, 2006

Incarnation, Election, and Fall Part I

Recently Alastair Adveraria has posted a very well thought out argument about ‘the Big Picture’ of election, which for him the ‘Truly Reformed Tradtion’ does not get quite right. In his argument that Christ is the only elect person, and we only have a mediated election through Christ, he mentions that Christ would have been made flesh even if Adam had never sinned. His is not alone in his view of the Incarnation and election, in fact, it is promoted by James Jordan in the book, the Federal Vision. Since this view is growing in the Reformed world, I thought I would make a few comments.

Let me start with a disclaimer that I need to make for those who may want to scream foul. Not everyone in the Federal Vision holds to such a position. The Missouri Presbytery Report rejects such an idea out right, and that report is quite friendly to the Federal Vision position. I actually believe it is the section of the Missouri report that has taken the most heat. With that being said, let us move on to discussion.

Alastair states the two sides of the debate in the following manner.

[God] is forming an international family for Abraham, to set right what Adam set wrong. However, cosmic purposes like setting the creation to rights and gathering all things together in Christ seem to be downplayed in Reformed circles. In their place there is great attention given to the divine purpose of saving a particular fixed number of predetermined individuals and condemning the rest of humanity. Almost everything else seems to be subordinated to this.

He then goes on to argue that election and reprobation are not to be linked because election was possible without the fall, and the God’s purpose was to bring humanity to maturity. Thus, election would still have been in Christ, who still would have come to the world to lead men into maturity even without the fall. In the comment section he clarifies the Big Picture of Scripture by stating, "Scripture is a story of God’s people growing into the full rights and privileges of sonship."

I fear that this is nothing more than Schaff’s Development Theories applied to Biblical Theology, which is one chief reason that I think Biblical Theology may not be a legitimate enterprise. Not only do I fail to see how the idolatry of Israel and Judah in 1 and 2 Kings is all that more mature than the idolatry shown in the Book of Judges, but also I fail to see how this is the Christ-centered view of the bible it claims to be. I do not believe the Bible is mainly about the people of God maturing their way to privileges. Alastair wants to put Christ back in the center of the story, and not the “narrow, individualistic focus” of Reformed Theology. Yet, here he is saying the Big Picture of Scripture is not Christ at all, but the people of God.

Alastair’s desire to put Christ back in the center of Christianity is admirable. I simply disagree that Reformed Theology has not already done just that. Alastair wants to free the decree of election from the decree of the fall lest we think sin a good thing. Jordan says that any view other than the view of Christ coming to give not merit, but maturity leads to a ‘felicitous fall’, or the idea that the Fall of Humanity in Adam’s sin was actually a good thing (pg.184). The Fall is hardly a good thing in traditional Reformed Theology. Nor can it be said it is good for humanity, as the Fall results in hell for many. But God, in Christ, has shown his mercy by giving us a better standing than the original standing of Adam. Does that mean Adam’s sin was good for the elect? No. Does it mean that the mercy of God was good for the elect? Absolutely.

This also fits with what I believe is the Big Picture of Scripture, namely God bringing glory to himself. It is not individualistic salvation, nor is it man maturing into anything. If you read the Scripture and come away thinking it is primarily about man then I think you have missed a great deal. In the beginning God and in the end it is still God. In Genesis we see creation by God, and in the end we see recreation by God. In the book of Genesis we see the Tree of Life pictured sacramentally, and in Revelation we see the true Tree of Life standing in the New Jerusalem. The primary mover in all of Scripture is the Triune God.

I think that is enough opening comments. I will get into some exegesis in the next post.


delete said...

Outstanding blog, Lee. It's great to find outher RCUS bloggers!


Anonymous said...

Here is a critique of your critique:

Lee said...

Yes, I found that critique earlier today. I placed a response to it, and hopefully there will be some good discussion about going.

I do want to warn anyone about to go read that I am unfamiliar with xanga sites, and my numbering of points came off as messed up html at their site, so I apologize up front for the poor coding. Happy reading.