Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Condecency of Redemption

You may hear people, especially those of the Calvinistic bent, making the following comment in an effort to uphold the sovereignty of God in the administration of the state of affairs: "God would've been perfectly just in condemning every single human being to hell."

While the statement is not theologically aberrant per se, it, however, does not fully encapsulate the telos behind God's "ad extra" acts, namely, His glory. If God did consign every human being to destruction, in a necessary turn of events, the whole earthly created order would've had to be destroyed as well. Why so? Because if there was no human being left in the world, there would be no agent for the redounding of glory unto God through the created objects of the world. A majestic Siberian Tiger does not give God the glory that He desires without an image-bearer, in holiness and righteousness, to ascribe the excellencies of that animal to its Creator.

Hence, John Owen, states [all quotes henceforth from Christologia (Kindle version)]:

"Three things God designed in this communication of his image unto our nature, which were his principal ends in the creation of all things here below; and therefore was divine wisdom more eminently exerted therein than in all the other works of this inferior creation.

The first was, that he might therein make a representation of his holiness and righteousness among his creatures. This was not done in any other of them. Characters they had on them of his goodness, wisdom, and power. In these things the 'heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy-work.' His eternal power and Godhead are manifest in the things that are made; but none of them, not the whole fabric of heaven and earth, with all their glorious ornaments and endowments, were either fit or able to receive any impressions of his holiness and righteousness -- of any of the moral perfections or universal rectitude of his nature. Yet, in the demonstration and representation of these things doth the glory of God principally consist. Without them, he could not be known and glorified as God. Wherefore he would have an image and representation of them in the creation here below. And this he will always have, so long as he will be worshipped by any of his creatures. And therefore, when it was lost in Adam, it was renewed in Christ, as hath been declared.

The second was, that it might be a means of rendering actual glory unto him from all other parts of the creation. Without this, which is as the animating life and form of the whole, the other creatures are but as a dead thing. They could not any way declare the glory of God, but passively and objectively. They were as an harmonious, well-tuned instrument, which gives no sound unless there be a skilful hand to move and act it. What is light, if there be no eye to see it? or what is music, if there be no ear to hear it? How glorious and beautiful soever any of the works of creation appear to be, from impressions of divine power, wisdom, and goodness on them; yet, without this image of God in man, there was nothing here below to understand God in them -- to glorify God by them. This alone is that whereby, in a way of admiration, obedience, and praise, we were enabled to render unto God all the glory which he designed from those works of his power.

The third was, that it might be a means to bring man unto that eternal enjoyment of Himself, which he was fitted for and designed unto. For this was to be done in a way of obedience; -- 'Do this and live,' was that rule of it which the nature of God and man, with their mutual relation unto one another, did require. But we were made meet for this obedience, and enabled unto it, only by virtue of this image of God implanted in our natures. It was morally a power to live unto God in obedience, that we might come to the enjoyment of him in glory."

It can easily be imagined that if God did go the way of destroying mankind and the earthly realm, Satan would have been victorious, notwithstanding his own damnation. But God went the way of redeeming His glory in the rescue of man.

Whereas God's power, goodness, and wisdom went on display in the creation of the world, His love, grace, and mercy still needed a theater of expression. And even with regard to the former, a greater expression was still possible. This superlative showcasing of His glory He achieved through the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

As John Owen says:

"I grant the nature of man was not reparable nor recoverable by any such actings of the properties of God as he had exerted in the creation and rule of all things. Were there not other properties of the divine nature than what were discovered and revealed in the creation of all -- were not some of them so declared capable of an exercise in another way or in higher degrees than what had as yet been instanced in -- it must be acknowledged that the reparation of mankind could not be conceived compliant with the divine excellencies, nor to be effected by them. I shall give one instance in each sort; namely, first in properties of another kind than any which had been manifested in the works of creation, and then the acting of some of them so manifested, in another way, or farther degree than what they were before exerted in or by.

[1.] Of the first sort are love, grace, and mercy, which I refer unto one head -- their nature being the same, as they have respect unto sinners. For although there were none of them manifested in the works of creation, yet are they no less essential properties of the divine nature than either power, goodness, or wisdom. With these it was that the reparation of our nature was compliant -- unto them it had a condecency; and the glory of them infinite wisdom designed therein. That wisdom, on which it is incumbent to provide for the manifestation of all the other properties of God's nature, contrived this work unto the glory of his love, mercy, and grace; as in the gospel it is everywhere declared.

[2.] Of the second sort is divine goodness. This, as the communicative property of the divine nature, had exerted itself in the creation of all things. Howbeit, it had not done so perfectly -- it had not done so to the uttermost. But the nature of goodness being communicative, it belongs unto its perfection to act itself unto the uttermost. This it had not yet done in the creation. Therein 'God made man,' and acted his goodness in the communication of our being unto us, with all its endowments. But there yet remained another effect of it; which was, that God should be made man, as the way unto, and the means of, our recovery."

Owen even makes the point that if God had a representation of holy and righteous image-bearers in the company of those angels who did not join the Satanic rebellion, how incongruous would it be for there to be no same representation in mankind. Hence:

"The inquiry hereon is, whether it became the divine goodness and wisdom that this whole nature, in all that were partakers of it, should fail and come short of that end for which alone it was made of God? For whereas the angels stood, in their primitive condition, every one in his own individual person, the sin of some did not prejudice others, who did not sin actually themselves. But the whole race of mankind stood all in one common head and state; from whom they were to be educed and derived by natural generation. The sin and apostasy of that one person was the sin and apostasy of us all. In him all sinned and died. Wherefore, unless there be a recovery made of them, or of some from among them, that whole species of intellectual nature -- the whole kind of it, in all its individuals -- which was made capable of doing the will of God, so as to come unto the eternal fruition of him, must be eternally lost and excluded from it. This, we may say, became not the wisdom and goodness of God, no more than it would have done to have suffered the whole angelical nature, in all its individuals, to have perished for ever. No created understanding could have been able to discern the glory of God in such a dispensation, whereby it would have had no glory. That the whole nature, in all the individuals of it, which was framed by the power of God out of nothing, and made what it was for this very end, that it might glorify him, and come unto the enjoyment of him, should eternally perish, if any way of relief for any portion of it were possible unto infinite wisdom, doth not give an amiable representation of the divine excellencies unto us."

It is my hope that the points made above would help us round out the notions of those who may wish to "defend" God's sovereignty, through an appeal to the justice of a complete wipe-out of mankind, by going back to the basics of God's glory as manifested in His power, goodness, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy through the redemption of mankind (and thus the created order) brought about by the person and work of Jesus Christ.

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