Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pop Quiz

In an otherwise excellent book by a well-known Christian writer, there is a discussion of the perfect world that God created, which was then marred by Adam and Eve's rebellion against God in the Garden. The writer then says:

"God now saw his world ravaged by sin. He was unwilling for it to stay this way, so he devised a plan. It would take thousands of years. It would mean harnessing the forces of nature and controlling the course of human history, but he could do it. From the moment of the Fall, for generation after generation, he controlled everything so that someday he could fix what had been so horribly damaged. Into this world, at just the right moment, he sent his one and only Son."

What's the theological problem with this paragraph?


  1. God could have fixed the problem anytime he wanted to but he ordered it and planned in such a way so as to put the maximum amount of his glory on display! What a loving thing to do!

  2. The phrase "From the moment of the Fall." God controlled everything not just from that moment on, but every moment that has led up to that.

  3. Quite a few things:

    Firstly, according to the Bible, the plan of salvation was devised BEFORE the foundations of the world was laid - not after sin entered (Ephesians 1:4).

    Secondly, God did not need to harness "the forces of nature and controlling the course of human history" to make salvation happen. It was already a done deal which would happen in due time according to His plan (Galatians 4:4).

    The referenced paragraph makes it sound as if God was doing damage-control until Jesus came. In a sense that is true, but there is nothing that can happen in this world that can ever thwart God's sovereign and eternal plan (Romans 8;29-30, 38-39).


  4. The problem, I believe, lies in the statement, "so He devised a plan," as if, after the fall of man, He slapped His knee and said, "Oh, phooey! Now I need to come up with a plan!"
    But that's not what Scripture teaches. And such a view of the history of redemption would undermine the whole doctrine of election and predestination. God knew and predestined us who are believers before the creation of time. He knew there would be a fall. It was not a surprise to Him.

    2 Tim. 1:8-10 "But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of anything that we have done, but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."

    Why would grace have needed to be given to us "before the beginning of time" if God did know have foreknowledge of man's sin and the coming fall?

    Jim W

  5. Hahahaha, I just read the recent comment and when I got to the "Oh phooey" in the first sentence, I knew it was from Jim! Not sure why, just knew. :o)

  6. Sorry, that rhetorical question at the end should have read: Why would grace have needed to be given to us "before the beginning of time" if God did NOT have the foreknowledge of man's sin and the coming fall?

    He did know man would sin, and he had a plan ordained before time for the redemption of fallen mankind.

    Jim W

  7. Neat way of generating discussion. I was thinking - in context of the authors arguement - what would compel God to do it the way he described? It appears he's describing a bumbling God who finally got it right and was able to slip in his plan of redemption and atonement. If he was in control? Why did he wait so long?

    Not sure that question can be answered, but I think it was to show the greatness of His perfect love and long suffering patience toward sinners. It revealed most perfectly who He was. I'm so thankful He did it the way He did.

  8. Larry,

    I have trouble believing that an "excellent" Christian book would have this paragraph within it. With such a faulty doctrine of the sovereignty of God and salvation, ANY conclusions reached by such an author should be highly suspect. You should treat that book the way someone in an area prone to earthquakes should treat a building with a faulty foundation: it may be a nice place to visit, but you definitely shouldn't sleep there.
    "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."


  9. Thanks for the comments, guys. Good discussion.

    Will, you can read the book for yourself and be the judge: Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, by Paul Tripp. I stand by my statement that it is an otherwise excellent book, probably one of the most helpful and challenging books I've read over the past 3 years.

    My tendency is to think that this paragraph was a regrettable oversight, and not an accurate reflection of Tripp's view of God's sovereignty. His frequent speaking engagements at Desiring God events confirms this for me. I can't imagine Piper having a guy with such a view of God's sovereignty consistently speaking at DG events.

    And be careful, brother, about the leaven statement. When Paul wrote that, he was talking about a church that was tolerating a man having sex with his step-mother. I agree, we need to be watchful of any deviation from sound teaching, but let's be careful that we don't condemn Christ-loving, Gospel-cherishing brothers.

  10. Larry,

    I thought about what you wrote quite a bit. I am a proud, arrogant person. He is an incredible Savior that would save the likes of me. This is why I really should consider ANY criticism of my thinking as correct by default.

    That said, I'm still going to have to disagree. I think the context of the passage I quoted stands. "A little leaven leavens the whole lump" is referred to as accepted wisdom to make Paul's point in Galatians, in such a generalized way that it can be applied to this discussion. Making such foundationally incorrect statements about the most doctrinally important tenants of our faith will work itself into the dough of a church body as much as accepted sexually morality or a misunderstanding about circumcision. In fact, there are many times when the Bible relates sexual immorality to our general faithlessness to our God, including faithlessness in the area of doctrine. In fact, Tripp's statement is pretty awful and can lead as many astray, if it is overlooked. Think about how the understanding of God as reactionary to our actions, a step behind us, will effect how we do many things inside of church--from prayer, to preaching, to money, etc. This is a big deal. It's more than a sentence--it's a worldview, a distinctly non-biblical one.

    I really hope that it's an oversight. However, you'd have to admit that's a pretty big oversight
    I don't condemn someone I don't know. Anyway, it's not my role to condemn people. However, I think we need to be careful that because of pragmatism (the book is helpful) or association (someone speaks at Desiring God) we overestimate our ability to discern how something so incorrect has worked its way into every facet of someone's argument. I don't trust myself to discern this--I'm a spiritual moron--so I'd rather stay away.
    I'm really against the whole thing of being the doctrine police--been there, done that, repented, bought the T-shirt--however, I am very jealous that my God gets all the glory, and he's certainly being robbed here.
    Posting passages by a Christian author on the Internet for large group doctrinal discernment is a temptation to sin for me. I try to stay away from these things because I am so prideful. So far, your blog has been blissfully free of such things. I don't think it's right to do what we just did unless I can talk to the person directly. I believe I sinned by posting my first comment. If I could, I'd apologize to Mr. Tripp. I don't know if it's right to pick a person's words apart--especially a brother in Christ--publicly without addressing it with him first. Of course, I've regrettably sinned in this way often. I only replied to put a period on this discussion. From now on, I will keep away from posts like this for this reason--too much temptation! I'm sorry if through these comments I've tempted anyone to sin in the same way.


  11. If I could, I would delete the comment above and write this instead. It's always good to reflect on things before you hit "post comment"!

    I just read this Spurgeon quote, and it got me thinking about my posts on the blog and myself.

    "...the old way which wicked men have trodden is a way of self-righteousness. Cain, especially, trod that road. He was not an outwardly irreligious man, but quite the reverse. Inasmuch as a sacrifice must be brought, he will bring an offering on his own account. If Abel kneels by the altar, Cain will kneel by the altar also. It was respectable and reputable in that age to pay deference to the unseen God, Cain therefore does the same; but mark where the flaw was in his religion! Abel brought a bloody sacrifice, a lamb, indicating his faith in the great atoning sacrifice, which was to be offered in the end of the world in the person of the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus; but Cain presented an unbloody offering of the fruits of the earth, the products of his own toil, and he thought himself as good as Abel, perhaps better. When the Lord did not accept his service, the envious heart of the self-righteous man boiled over with indignation, and he became a persecutor, ay, a murderer.

    None are so bitter as the self-righteous; none so cruelly persecute the righteous as those who think themselves righteous and are not. It was because Saul of Tarsus boasted in a fancied righteousness of his own that he breathed out threatenings against those who found their righteousness alone in Christ. The old way of self-righteousness, then, was trodden by the feet of the first murderer, and it is trodden still by tens of thousands of men. Ah, your church-goings and your chapel-goings, your carings of the sacrament, your baptism, your confirmation, your ceremonies of all sorts and kinds, your gifts to the poor, your contributions to charities, your amiable speeches, and your repetitions of your liturgies, or of your extemporaneous prayers; these, put together, are rested on as the rock of your salvation. Beware, I entreat you, for this is the old way of the Pharisee when he thanked God that he was not as other men; it is the old way of universal human nature which evermore goeth about to establish its own righteousness, and will not submit itself to the righteousness of Christ. As surely as the Pharisees were condemned as a generation of vipers, and could not escape the damnation of hell, so surely every one of us, if we set up our righteousness in the place of Christ’s righteousness, will meet with condemnation, and will be overthrown by God’s sudden wrath. Mark that old way, and I beseech you, men and brethren, flee from it; by God’s grace, flee from it now."

    Whenever there's any kind of doctrinal question, perhaps I shouldn't be as concerned as I am with what is Biblical. This needs to be a concern, but perhaps not for me. Perhaps my concern needs to be my own heart Maybe this is a good opportunity to remember James 1:19-21: " Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." I do not like the self that I see whenever I get involved in one of these discussions. I feel like Cain--angry, jealous, self-serving. I may be right, but it's not the RIGHT that matters to me, it's that "I" am right. Wow, I am thankful for the cross right now!
    Please point out to me when I am offering the sacrifice of Cain, when I am being a pharisee. I am often so full of sin that I can't even see it. The God who would die for me surely deserves better than that!
    Please help me, as my Pastor, to "receive with meekness the implanted word."
    I am deeply sorry to Paul Tripp for my attempt to hurt a dear brother in Christ.