Extensivism’s View of the Origin of Sin and God’s Offer of Salvation | Conclusion

May 13, 2016

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

The serpent’s temptation of Adam and Eve gives every indication of being one in which man could obey or disobey God, and God desired obedience (Genesis 2:17). It also seems clear that the serpent’s effective temptation was a direct challenge to God’s call for man to live by faith based upon God’s worthiness and the essential dissimilarity between God and man. God knows everything infinitely, even sin, although He has never sinned, while man only knew about sin by trusting what God said prior to choosing to sin (Genesis 3:5). This dimension could include things like death (Genesis 2:17), temporary pleasures (Hebrews 11:25), and the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13), as well as all of the immitigable suffering from sin and death; things God knows exhaustively without needing to experience sin.[i]

Thus, Extensivists contend that the desire of God was to create man in His own image; a man who would express true love, righteousness, and compassion as God did to man. God knew that unlike Him, man would not choose to do that but rather he would use his freedom to sin, which God did not desire. God’s redemption plan from eternity past included the determination of God to provide salvation for all through the death of Christ and grace enablements, providing man a real choice between following Christ or remaining in his sin.

Theologians and philosophers recognize that there seem to be things that are truly impossible even for God; these fall into to two categories. The first is that which is logically impossible, and the second is that which is contrary to His nature. W.T. Shedd says, “God can do anything that does not imply a logical impossibility. A logical impossibility means that the predicate is contradictory to the subject.”[ii] Regarding those actions that are contrary to God’s nature, Shedd comments, “Again, God cannot do anything inconsistent with the perfection of divine nature. Under this category fall the instances mentioned in Heb. 6:18 (“it is impossible for God to lie”); 2 Tim. 2:13 (“he cannot deny himself”); and James 1:13 (“God cannot be tempted”).”[iii]

Others would add to Shedd’s list, with whom I would agree, the impossibility of creating true human freedom with otherwise choice with the guarantee that man will not use it for evil (when that option is available as it was in creation). Another actual impossibility is to force man into heaven against his will because to do so would destroy man as God’s image bearer; therefore, the redeemed would not be the same being created by God who then chose to sin, thereby making God’s redemption only a partial redemption of man.[iv]

As a part of his free will defense, Alvin Plantinga argues what he refers to as “transworld depravity.” He summarizes, “What is important about the idea of transworld depravity is that if a person suffers from it, then it wasn’t within God’s power to actualize any world in which that person is significantly free but does no wrong—that is, a world in which he produces moral good but no moral evil”[v] “and that it is logically possible that every person suffers from transworld depravity.”[vi] Regarding libertarian freedom, Peter Kreeft comments, “One gives a polish to a table, or a pony to a schoolboy, but one does not give three sides to a triangle or free will to a human being. Free will is a part of our essence. There can be no human being without it. The alternative to free will is not being a human but an animal or a machine.”[vii]

Accordingly, people are in hell because they are born sinners, practicing sinners, and they rejected an accessible opportunity to choose freely to be delivered from hell to heaven. In the Garden of Eden, God provided an environment in which man could freely choose to walk in relationship with Him or walk away from Him. In like manner, God provides a salvific environment in which man can choose to accept an opportunity to come back to Him or reject Him. Man chose to leave his relationship with God, and man must choose to return; without such choice, what is redeemed from sin is not what was lost in sin. Man as man is destroyed and only an ersatz man is redeemed.

Calvinism’s commitment to compatibilism means that man chose to sin, but could not have chosen not to sin, and that man is in heaven or hell because God desired—elected—him to be and man could not have chosen otherwise. That is to say, according to Calvinism, God’s desire is the ultimate and sole determiner and reason why man sinned and why man is saved. George L. Bryson sums up the essence of Calvinism thusly, “Calvinistically speaking, the lost will not be eternally lost for committing sins or being depraved, any more than the saved will be eternally saved for believing the Gospel or receiving Christ. That is, Calvinism asserts that the elect are eventually, ultimately and inevitably saved unconditionally, just as the unelected are eventually, ultimately and inevitably lost unconditionally.”[viii]

In contrast, Extensivism contends that Scripture’s clear and ubiquitous message regarding the nature of God and man (as well as the pervasive descriptive and prescriptive Scriptures depicting the interactions between the two) is that man is endowed with otherwise choice, which misuse of includes the truth that man is the efficient cause of sin with all of its ghastly horror. Moreover, God provisioned for such eventuality so that the reason people perish in hell is because they reject God’s genuine offer of salvation by faith in Christ, which they could have received by God’s grace enablement. People are in heaven because they, as eternally unworthy beggars, received by faith via God’s grace enablements what they otherwise could not have received. This provision is solely because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Conclusion Coming Soon!

 

[i] In heaven, after having experienced sin and redemption, man will be more like God, having learned what God already knew about sin. Then man will use his freedom only for righteousness and never misuse free will again (see my article Is Libertarian Free Will Eternal posted 9/12/13, which includes issues as a range of options and God’s other protective eternal works as well).
[ii] William Greenough Thayer Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, ed. Alan W. Gomes, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2003), 289. Electronic Edition Logos Bible Software.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] In Calvinism, although man technically freely believes, everything prior to such an act is predeterminately forced upon man, which is undeniable according to compatibilism, monergism, unconditional election, and irresistible grace; all of which predeterminately precede an unalterable free exercise of faith.
[v] Alvin C. Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 48.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 3. Electronic Edition Logos Bible Software.
[viii] George L. Bryson, The Five Points of Calvinism: Weighed and Found Wanting (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, 2002), 35.

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Robert Vaughn

Ronnie–

How do you reconcile these positions:

“…it wasn’t within God’s power to actualize any world in which that person is significantly free but does no wrong…”
“In heaven…man will use his freedom only for righteousness and never misuse free will again…”

Wouldn’t heaven be a world in which a person is significantly free but does no wrong (i.e. has a free will that he will not misuse)?

Thanks.

    Robert

    Robert Vaughn,

    I don’t know how much you have read or thought about the subject of theodicy (i.e. theories as to why God allows suffering and evil in the world).

    You write:

    [[”How do you reconcile these positions:
    “…it wasn’t within God’s power to actualize any world in which that person is significantly free but does no wrong…”
    “In heaven…man will use his freedom only for righteousness and never misuse free will again…”
    Wouldn’t heaven be a world in which a person is significantly free but does no wrong (i.e. has a free will that he will not misuse)?”]]

    Some people assume that God has only one purpose for creating the world. I believe this assumption to be false. The reason this is important to keep in mind is that atheists and other skeptics will sometimes argue: “why does God allow people to suffer or do any evil at all, why not just create them perfect from the beginning so they never experience any suffering or evil at all?” Let’s call this the CREATE PEOPLE WITH FREE WILL WHO ARE INCAPABLE OF SIN FROM THE BEGINNING argument. Well if God had ONLY ONE PURPOSE in creating the world (say getting everyone saved) then it might make sense to create people with free will who are incapable of sin from the beginning.

    But what if God has other purposes?

    We know from scripture that one of the things that God desires and pleases Him is if people have trust in Him no matter what the circumstances (e.g. Hebrews 11). It is not hard to have faith when everything is going perfectly and there is no opposition, no trials, no sin. Faith is much more significant when there are trials, when there is genuine opposition, rebellious sinners, etc. Another one that God seems to be keenly interested in is developing character. Character like faith, does not develop much when everything is rosy. No, genuine and tested character requires just that, testing, trials, things that must be overcome, making difficult choices, choosing one way when others and even seemingly everyone else is choosing the other way. I could go on, but surely you see the point. If God’s purposes include more than just getting people saved, if it includes things like developing faith, developing character, etc. then these things simply will not develop, have no possibility of developing if everyone is perfect and never sins from the beginning and throughout the history of creation.

    If instead sin and suffering are part of the human experience than a faith that is meaningful and a character forged on the hot irons of trials becomes possible. One of my friends once joked shortly before his kids become adolescents: “I believe in the pre-adolescent rapture!” To which I replied: “what is that?” He replied “well the parents get raptured before the kids become adolescents so the parents don’t have to deal with their adolescence!” Now he was joking but there is a point there, many wish there were a rapture as soon as they became believers (that way they avoid all trials, all persecution, all character building challenges, all difficult times when it is hard to have faith, etc. etc.). But there is no “pre-adolescent rapture” nor is there a “once you are saved you are automatically raptured” form of rapture. Instead like the many saints before us, we go through a path that has persecution if we live godly lives, a path that has trials, a path where there are multitudes of opportunities and situations where faith and character and godly attitudes and traits are formed. And it ain’t no rose garden! :-)

      Robert Vaughn

      Hi, Robert. Good to hear from you. I’ve heard discussions of why God allows suffering and evil in the world most all of my church life (which encompasses almost 60 years). I realize all this ties in to the subject and is related to my question, but…

      I think my question is much simpler. It seems to me that if one believes that in heaven there is/will be a world where man will only use his freedom for righteousness and not abuse or misuse free will, then he has already settled that he believes that God can in fact actualize a world in which a person is significantly free but does not sin.

      Would you agree?

        Robert

        Robert Vaughn,

        “I’ve heard discussions of why God allows suffering and evil in the world most all of my church life (which encompasses almost 60 years). I realize all this ties in to the subject and is related to my question, but…”

        But . . .

        You seem to be ignoring my post now, I went into the point about God having multiple purposes in creating because it partly explains why this world is so very different than the eternal state in which believers will no longer sin.

        “I think my question is much simpler.”

        Actually your question cannot be adequately answered unless we see some distinctions between the present state and the eternal state. We need to explain why God allows the present state in which the enemies of our faith: the devil/the world and sin are allowed to exist for a brief time compared to the eternal state.

        People who ask (usually atheists and skeptics): why can’t God just create us incapable of sin from the beginning? Are failing to sufficiently take into account that there are in fact two very different states, the present state and the eternal state. If you don’t keep those two states in mind your question becomes simplistic.

        “ It seems to me that if one believes that in heaven there is/will be a world where man will only use his freedom for righteousness and not abuse or misuse free will, then he has already settled that he believes that God can in fact actualize a world in which a person is significantly free but does not sin.”

        Of course we believe that God can and will actualize a world in which a person has free will and yet does not choose to sin: we believe this because the Bible presents us as having free will in this present state and the Bible presents the eternal state as being a place where there is no sin.

        I think a lot depends on how God changes our range of choices. In this state, our range of choices still includes the choice to sin. In the eternal state when the three main enemies have been eliminated (see Revelation for more on this) the devil will no longer be present nor will the world system that opposes God nor will sin. God is going to create an eternal state in which sin will not be within our range of choices. The Bible not only talks about these enemies being eliminated from the eternal state, it also speaks of us being perfected. So the combination of being perfected and the enemies being eliminated will go far in putting us in a state where we still have choices but sin is not within our range of choices in that state.

          Robert Vaughn

          Robert, I may not be doing a good job explaining the point of my question. Some people say that God had to create a world in which man had the choice to sin, and could not have done otherwise. Yet they also believe there will be a world which will be otherwise. I’m trying to figure out why they don’t find this to be a contradiction. I guess I’m having trouble finding the answer in all that you wrote. Of course these are two different states. But you, if I understand you correctly, are positing that God could not have done initially what he will do eventually. Now that might be a good assumption, based on the fact that this is the way he did it. But after we Christians discuss it to death, do we really come any closer to knowing than when we started? We know what he did. We know what he revealed to us. I’m willing to settle for “If God will, what is that to thee” and “What if God” in place of saying what God could not have done because he did not do it.

          In the end, can we really say that we know God could not have initially created us perfect with a different range of choices, none of which were sinful? If we would have been robots without a free will in such state initially, why won’t we be robots without a free will in that state eventually?

            Robert

            Robert Vaughn,

            “Some people say that God had to create a world in which man had the choice to sin, and could not have done otherwise. Yet they also believe there will be a world which will be otherwise. I’m trying to figure out why they don’t find this to be a contradiction.”

            I have said this already and you seem to be completely ignoring it or missing it completely. If God desired a world where people developed character, had to trust Him in difficult situations (i.e. precisely the world we live in, exactly what God says in scripture about faith and trials). then He is not going to create persons who are incapable of choosing to sin or incapable of making the wrong choice.

            If God wants people to make the right choices that lead to good character, make the right choices that result in trusting Him, then those choices are only meaningful if the persons could have choosen otherwise (i.e. We don’t commend a mindless machine for doing what it was designed to do, as no choice is involved, We don’t praise a machine, We only praise a person who though they could have done the wrong thing chose to do the right thing).

            “Of course these are two different states.”

            God has multiple purposes going on in His creation. Some of those purposes include development of character and having faith.

            Have you ever lifted weights for sports or fitness? You start with a light weight and then you gradually go to heavier weights. It is the resistance of the weights as they become heavier that develops your muscles. No resistance = no muscle development. In the Bible and in our daily experience one does not grow in character or faith without resistance and without freely choosing to do the right thing when we could have done the wrong thing.

            “But you, if I understand you correctly, are positing that God could not have done initially what he will do eventually.”

            Not if he has multiple purposes in mind.

            If the only purpose was to save people than he could create people who are incapable of sin and automatically go to heaven.

            But ********there are********** other purposes, such as development of character, development and testing of faith.

            “Now that might be a good assumption, based on the fact that this is the way he did it.”

            It is not an assumption, he tells us throughout the Word that character development and the testing of faith are good things to Him. He says that the testing of faith is more precious than gold to Him (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6-9). Most people would say “give me the gold and you can keep the character!” :-) But that is not His perspective. He rather have a person go through hell on earth and yet continue to trust Him, than give them lots of gold. Or as Job put it “though He slay me yet will I trust Him”.

            “In the end, can we really say that we know God could not have initially created us perfect with a different range of choices, none of which were sinful?”

            Yes, if He has multiple purposes including developing character, developing faith, testing character, testing faith.
            “If we would have been robots without a free will in such state initially, why won’t we be robots without a free will in that state eventually?”

            In the eternal state we will not be robots but will be people who have free will and always choose to do the right thing. From the beginning God has created persons in His image not robots/machines.

              Robert Vaughn

              Thanks again, Robert. I understand that you are explaining your point of view, as to why you don’t find it to be a contradiction. I am not ignoring it or missing it completely. When I said “I’m trying to figure out why they don’t find this to be a contradiction” that doesn’t mean just you, and it was also an explanation of why I asked the question initially. Ultimately, for now at least, I am not convinced by your or others’ explanation that God had to create a world as it now exists. I agree that he did.

              Note, I did not say it was an assumption that character development and the testing of faith are good things to God, as you seem to imply. Re the word assumption I am talking about assuming that he could not have done otherwise.

              I do not believe that people now or in the eternal state are robots, and am not suggesting that at all. I am trying to understand why people who believe we must now be able to choose the wrong thing in order to not be robots believe that people who cannot choose to do the wrong thing in the eternal state will not be robots. If I understand you correctly, you are saying the difference is in the purpose of God. So if God doesn’t purpose to give us a range of choices, we are still able to choose within what he purposes and therefore not robots. Sounds almost Calvinistic.

                Robert

                Robert Vaughn,

                “Ultimately, for now at least, I am not convinced by your or others’ explanation that God had to create a world as it now exists. I agree that he did.”

                You are not convinced because you are not being logically consistent on this issue. If God desires/purposes to create a world where people can develop character, can develop faith, where they are confronted with genuine trials where they may or may not choose to do the right thing, then He has to create a world where free will as ordinarily understood exists.

                If I am in Nebraska and desire/purpose to drive to California, then in my experience if I am going to go there I **have to travel West** from Nebraska to get to California. If that is the road trip I purpose, then I have to do it that way. If you are a rational person and act consistent with what you purpose, then with some purposes you will have to do it a certain way (and that includes God. If God desires a world where there are testings of faith and character, then he has to create a world where that purpose can e fulfilled and that necessitates a world where humans have genuine free will. Now I guess he could purpose a world where humans are like robots and always choose the right thing in every situation they are in, but then they would never ever develop faith or character as their character would already be perfect (no room to grow, as their “faith” and “character” would be perfect) and they would not be created in His image bearing His likeness as He himself is no robot. His actions will be in line with His purposes. If He purposes a world where X is possible then He will also create a world where X is possible.

                But as is evident from looking outside our own skulls and looking at the Bible he did not create a world where people from the beginning have perfect character and always make the right choices. Are you a parent? Did your kids come out of the womb with perfect character? No. Are you a leader, boss, manager of any kind? Do all your people exhibit perfect character always making the right choices? No. And if you take the Bible seriously, which I assume you do, then how do YOU deal with the verse that says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God? It seems rather obvious that in this world people do not begin with perfect character (nor do they ever have perfect character), they do not always make the right choices. And yet the Bible also says that in the next age, the next world, the eternal state, believers will have perfect character as they will be perfected. Now you can hem and haw and complain all you want about this or you can acknowledge reality on this.

                “I am trying to understand why people who believe we must now be able to choose the wrong thing in order to not be robots believe that people who cannot choose to do the wrong thing in the eternal state will not be robots.”

                You already know the answer to this: different range of choices in two different ages. You may not like that answer, apparently you keep kicking against it with no good basis to reject it, and that in itself is a choice.

                “If I understand you correctly, . . . . Sounds almost Calvinistic.”

                Not Calvinistic at all. In consistent Calvinism God decrees every event that takes place (including our choices). If all of our choices are decided beforehand then we never ever have a choice. Never ever having a choice (Calvinism) is very different from non-Calvinism where people are free because at least sometimes they do have genuine choices and they choose from within their range of choices.

                In Calvinism **there is no range of choices** you just do what you were predetermined to do (in this age and in the next: you never have free will as ordinarily understood).

                  Robert Vaughn

                  Robert, you tell me I “already know the answer to this” — what I am asking about. If so, I am either dense or obstinate. Maybe so. Or…

                  …perhaps I am trying to come of a good understanding of someone else’s point of view. Since you must think I’m dense or just set on arguing for the sake of arguing and seem frustrated by this, I’ll leave the rest of the discussion to you with this final observation.

                  If Plantinga had written concerning our present evil world that, “it wasn’t within God’s will or purpose to actualize a world in which a person is significantly free but does no wrong,” I would agree. But he wrote “it wasn’t within God’s power to actualize any world in which that person is significantly free but does no wrong…” I disagree.

                  Thanks for sharing your point of view.

                    Robert

                    Robert Vaughn,

                    You remind me of those people who are looking for the pastor to say something in a sermon that they can object to or be offended by (which is not hard, if you take people’s comments in a very concrete without context way). Apparently you have done that with the Plantinga statement:

                    [[“Or…
                    …perhaps I am trying to come of a good understanding of someone else’s point of view. Since you must think I’m dense or just set on arguing for the sake of arguing and seem frustrated by this, I’ll leave the rest of the discussion to you with this final observation.
                    If Plantinga had written concerning our present evil world that, “it wasn’t within God’s will or purpose to actualize a world in which a person is significantly free but does no wrong,” I would agree. But he wrote “it wasn’t within God’s power to actualize any world in which that person is significantly free but does no wrong…” I disagree.”]]

                    So there you jump on one single statement by Plantinga trying to find a problem that is not there. Why do I say that? Because Plantinga in speaking of “Transworld depravity”, in speaking of God not being able to create a world where people are free and yet do not sin, he is not speaking of the coming eternal state where there is no sin.

                    Plantinga as I do, believes in two different ages (the present evil age where this concept of Transworld depravity applies, AND the coming age to come, the eternal state where there is no more sin in the experience of believers).

                    Plantinga in his quote is speaking of the present evil age, NOT THE AGE TO COME.

                    To take his statement as you have done as if it means in any world (including the eternal state) is completely ignoring and twisting what Plantinga is trying to say. Plantinga is a Molinist meaning he speaks of possible worlds that God could or could not create (when it comes to the world we are in, not the world to come). When he speaks of “Transworld depravity” he is speaking of the possible worlds that God could create ***with respect to the one we are now in*** (not the world to come).

                    Perhaps you should read Plantinga more fully next time before you try to take a single statement of his, quoted in Rodgers’ article and then run with that to the conclusion that he does not believe that God could actualize a world where people are significantly free and yet do not sin (He does believe that is not only possible but that it will in fact happen in the coming eternal state because the Bible says that it will).

                    Plantinga’s comment which you chose to attack has to do only with this present evil age (again the Bible speaks of this present age being an age where sin is present, “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God . . .”).

                    No need to respond, instead of responding to me, you need to examine Plantinga’s writings more fully so that you see what he is talking about: rather than taking a single comment and running with it as you have done.

                    Robert Vaughn

                    I didn’t intend to follow this trail any further, but since I remind you of people who look for the pastor to say something with which they can object or by which they can be offended, I don’t want to disappoint!

                    My original question was about not so much about Plantinga (only in that he was the one quoted), but to find out to what extent Ronnie understood and approved of the quoted statement and how he reconciled the two statements. That doesn’t mean I may not follow on his theoretical philosophical meanderings, but that is not a particular interest to me.

norm

You had me at “immitigable.”

Jim P

I know here in the discussions here there is a contention about using the word ‘mystery’ and I think that contention is basically because the word is used incorrectly according to the way Scripture intends for it’s use.

Still, since scripture does use the word, it is really impossible and irresponsible not to use it. Below are ‘two’ relevant example in its application to this post:

Tim. 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: AND 2Th. 2:7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work;

It is revealing that in both the above cases the word ‘mystery’ is used at two opposite ends of a spectrum (one dealing with sin the other dealing with godliness) and seems in both cases, that what they refer to, is in some respect out of man’s control. This ‘out of control’ element was, is and will continually be a frustration to man who wants to think they are in control.

Pastor Rogers, you would admit there are elements in God’s creation just plain out of man’s control. My point is those mentioned above may also be without God’s provision.

God’s provision was not available to the ‘first Adam.’ It became available with the ‘second Adam.’

Thank you, Jim

Jim P

God’s intention for Adam and Eve were that they would rule over creation as His representative.

They, particularly Adam, repudiated that position and allow a competing rule into creation, sin.

From the verse below, it seems Adam knew clearly the transgression he was committing and with open defiance reputed God’s offer for who God intended him to represent.
1Tim. 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

Consider this, that God’s purposes now, are to call ‘many sons to glory.’

Heb. 2:10 ¶ For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Now in Christ, those who choose to accept that offer are now being ‘made His likeness.’ His likeness has much to do with were He is now, ‘at the righthand of God.’

Rom. 6:5 ¶ For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,

That resurrection is at the essence of the Gospel. The resurrection began a New Rule, New Creation and now Christ is the ultimate authority over every competitor, especially sin.

    Dennis Lee Dabney

    Jim,

    Amen Brother!

    The only other choice for Adam and Eve, other than the will of God was “rebellion”.

    Rebellion is “Freedom”, man’s will, that is literally “run” into the ground.

    Preach!

Jim P

Thank you Dennis,

That ‘will’ of God for Adam and Even was to work in fellowship with God in bringing order, righteousness, and love into creation. Adam said no, not Eve though. (another topic)

Sounds a lot like what Christians today should be doing cooperating with Jesus.

Oh, it is what Christians should be doing. When Jesus rose from the dead He defeated the greatest disorder, lawless, and hate-filled element set lose in this creation, sin.

Gal. 5:13 ¶ For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
&
Gal. 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Freedom is an 17th century allusion idolized by the Statue of Liberty. Either God rules or sin rules… no grey area….

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