Oct 20, 2008

Adams on God's Sovereignty

The following article by A. P. Adams, expresses my view on the matter of Predestination and Divine Determinism, or the Sovereignty of God. Though he does not use the term, he clearly upholds the supralapsarian view of the decrees of God. Adams was a "Universalist," believing that God would ultimately redeem all men from sin and death. I reject this view, but do accept his views, in the following article, written in 1895, on God's sovereignty.

I am told that Karl Barth, though a supralapsarian, was also a Universalist, like Adams. These believe that only "Universalism" really "exonerates" God for having created evil. I do not agree with this. Creation may be "UNTO Redemption" and yet not include everyone, whether man or angel.

Adams wrote (emphasis mine):

"The common idea is that God created man perfect and complete in the garden of Eden, and thus started him all right; but evil invaded that peaceful and blessed retreat, successfully assailed the man and the woman, and the dreadful consequences were sin, alienation, the loss of Paradise and universal death. Thus was God's handiwork marred and his plans disarranged, and now he must commence all over again, as it were, first, to repair damages and then to carry out his original plan as best he can. This is the common idea among the great mass of Christians, and yet the simple statement of it as above is enough to make one suspect that the idea cannot be just exactly right. Is it so?-that God is altogether such an one as ourselves?-whose plans may be upset?-whose will may be thwarted?-who may be compelled to change his plan because of some interfering agency or evil power entering in and for the time being getting the better of him? Is it so? Why, no, we say; and yet what shall we do with the Bible story of the "fall of man" as we term it? Shall we make God responsible for it? If his will was not thwarted in that terrible fall, must we say that it was in accordance with his will? Many cannot say that, it seems blasphemous; and yet either that is true, or else his will was thwarted and his plans disarranged and upset by an evil power, mightier, or for the time being more cunning than himself. What shall we do in this dilemma? How shall we untangle this seeming snarl? Let us see how the Bible helps us.

I will first state the case as I understand it from the Scriptures, in my own language, and then give the Bible proof. And first I would have the reader settle it in his mind that


in all realms and over all forces, evil as well as good; nor would I abate one hair's breadth of this supremacy let the consequences be what they may, for infinitely more direful are the conclusions flowing from such abatement. If God's will has ever been thwarted we have no positive guarantee that it will not be thwarted again; if his plans have ever been circumvented, disarranged and upset the like may again take place; if evil has been more powerful than good at one time, or if God has been outwitted by evil or in any way hampered, constrained or limited by it at any time or under any circumstances, the like may again occur, and the pearly gates of the New Jerusalem, any more than the gates of Eden, may not be able to keep out evil, discord and death. I ask the reader to consider this point carefully. Many shrink from taking the position that God's will is never thwarted but that, as the Bible expresses it, "he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11), because they say that such a view makes God responsible for the introduction of sin into the world and leads to other startling conclusions that seem impossible and even blasphemous. But these persons do not consider the consequences of the opposite view, that God's will is thwarted, and that he does not work all things after the counsel of his own will; if that be so then the future is doubtful, the final triumph of the good, and the perpetuity of that triumph is uncertain. No, no, it will not do; we must make God absolutely supreme, as he himself says, "I am God and there is none else," (Is. 46:9) otherwise for aught we know there may be "gods many and lords many" (I Cor. 8:5)

Just think of it a moment, for this point is so important that I will dwell upon it a little longer here at the outset-how did evil enter the world in the first place, if God did not permit it? Did "that old serpent, the devil" (Rev. 12:9; 20:2), enter Eden in spite of God? No, certainly not, for such a view would make the devil stronger than God, and we could not be sure who would finally triumph. Did he get into Eden on the sly, outwitting God and getting the better of him? No, that idea would not do, for if the evil one has thus deceived the Almighty and cheated him what guarantee have we that he will not again get the better of him? We must then take the ground that God permitted evil to enter the world, knowing of course full well what the consequences would be, and therefore in some sense, and to some degree he is responsible for those consequences. Can you escape this conclusion except by detracting from the power and wisdom of God? The writer is free to confess that he cannot, nor does he wish to since the Lord does not hesitate to take upon himself the responsibility of evil, as he does all things else; for he says, "I form light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things" (Isa. 45:7), and we are told over and over again that "all things are of God." (Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 5:18; Eph. 1:11, etc.) We do not relieve the Creator of this responsibility by saying that he was obliged to allow evil to enter the world in order that man, as a "free moral agent," might be properly tried and proved. God need not have created man at all had he not chosen to do so; but having created him, giving him the nature that he did give him, whether a "free moral agent" or whatever it might be, and knowing all the consequences beforehand, for "known unto the Lord are all his works from the beginning," (Acts 15:18) immediately he becomes responsible for those consequences. He is the first great Cause, and an intelligent Cause is responsible for all the effects however remote and indirect those effects may be. This is generally held to be true even in the case of short-sighted man; if a human being starts a chain of events that in the end proves calamitous or hurtful to someone, if the matter can be traced back to the original mover, he is held responsible for all the effects, even though he could not have foreseen them and did not intend the injury. How much more then shall he be held responsible for all his work who foresees and fully knows all the consequences from the beginning to the end? Let this point be settled then that God is supreme; "He worketh all things"-absolutely all things, without any exceptions-"after the counsel of his own will." (Eph. 1:11) I exhort the readers to an uncompromising jealousy of this supreme sovereignty of God; begrudge to the Devil, or to any power of evil, the least share in this universal sway; emulate the example of Job in this respect when he attributed all that came to him, the evil as well as the good, to the Lord, saying, "Shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10) As a matter of fact the Devil was the active agent in Job's calamities; but, as a matter of fact, the Lord was back of it all and Satan could only move so far and in such a way as the Lord permitted. (See Job 1:10-12; 2:6,10) Hence Job was perfectly right in attributing it all to the Lord, and the Devil did not even have the satisfaction of being recognized at all, but he drops out of the narrative altogether at its very beginning, and thus may he drop out of our lives and we may deal with God alone for he controls the evil as well as the good. We need not fear to take this position; there is abundance of scripture to warrant it as will be noticed further on. But if we had no other scripture than this case of Job it would be sufficient warrant for us to take the position that evil is entirely under God's control and he uses it, as he does the good, for the carrying out of his own gracious plans and purposes. The hard experiences of Job were a blessing to him in the end, and yet his calamities were the direct work of the Devil. So will it be, under God's direction, with all evil.

"The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand; for the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (Isa. 24:24-27)

"The Most High liveth forever; whose dominion is an everlasting dominion; and his kingdom is from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Dan. 4: 34, 35)

"Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherd of the earth. Shall the clay say unto him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, he hath no hands?" (Isa. 45:9; read this whole chapter, and compare with it Isa.10:15 and Rom. 9:9-24; see also Isa. 43:13; John 19:11; Acts 4:27,28)

There are many other similar passages; let them all be looked up and studied so that this question of the absolute sovereignty of God may be settled in your mind once for all; do not allow yourself to entertain so absurd a belief, as many do, that the jurisdiction of the universe is divided up between God and the Devil, the latter having exclusive control over a large portion, from which domain the Almighty is entirely excluded, or in which his power is secondary or in some way restrained and limited. The above scriptures show that such a view must be false, and our reason confirms the same conclusion, for we have seen how disastrous would be the opposite position. Either God is supreme or he is not the only God; if he is not "God alone" then there are many gods, and in fact there is no "One God."

This point being settled we are prepared to take


Redemption is a part of the process of Creation, and Creation is God's work and not man's. I presume that no one will question the statement that Creation is entirely God's work, but some may object to the statement that Redemption is a part of the creative process, because the common idea is that Redemption was a sort of an afterthought with God, brought in as a remedy for the evil that Satan had wrought; but just one scripture will dissipate this idea, viz.: that Jesus Christ is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 8:8), and that God's people are chosen in him "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20); these scriptures plainly show that the Redemption by Christ was no afterthought, but fully contemplated in the original plan, "before the foundation of the world." We know furthermore that Redemption is Creation, for "if any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new Creature" (2 Cor. 5:17), and this new Creation is the originally contemplated completion of the old, according to God's order, first the natural, afterward that which is spiritual. (1 Cor. 15:46.)"


Showing that Redemption is a part of Creation, and hence its successful issue depends, not on the creature, but on the CREATOR. He will have a desire to the work of his own hands. (Job 14:15) By A.P. Adams - Author of The Spirit of the Word, Originally published in 1895)


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