God has no backup plan.

Here are some thoughts I shared on Covenant Theology. Be sure to leave comments if you disagree, agree, or question.

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6 thoughts on “God has no backup plan.

  1. Fence-riding is almost impossible to avoid on this topic. I agree that the idea of a sovereign God having a “backup plan” is,by definition, oxymoronic. Still, we have to be careful that we not follow a certain line of thought to the logical conclusion of making God, essentially, the author of sin.
    Sovereignty and free will seem to be mutually exclusive, and yet the Bible declares the veracity of both. I believe it is beyond our finite capabilities to reconcile them satisfactorily.
    Excellent post. Good thoughts.

  2. Thanks for posting Gene. I agree, God’s holiness just doesn’t allow us to make him responsible for sin. “For by one man’s sin”. Likewise,His sovereignty doesn’t allow for a God who has to go back to the drawing board. I think more often than not, it’s the latter error that occurs in theological thought.
    You know, maybe the biggest miracle we can attribute to God is His ability to create a freewilled creature in His likeness who has the “ability” to reject Him.
    There are paradoxes throughout all of scripture, and for me it’s so much easier to accept the mystery.

  3. Rob- I’ll have to agree that, since a sovereign God cannot have a plan B, Adam’s sin did not force him into one. But I don’t agree with your apparent identification of plan A. If that plan is the atoning work of Christ, it follows that there must be something that requires atonement, which, in turn, makes it difficult to avoid what Gene is concerned about. According to the WCF III.1, “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
    I accept this; however, I do wonder if there is not a valid distinction between decreeing everything and having a specific plan. The former would not make him the author of sin whereas the latter, depending upon what it was, might.
    So then, what was plan A? It was that God would dwell with his people forever. It’s fine to have a salvation plan after the fact of sin, but the only reason to have one is to accomplish something more basic- to stick to the original intent. Put in more technical terms, eschatology precedes sotereology. Adam was not created in his final blessed condition only to lose it through sin. Instead, he had to earn that condition for himself and his posterity by fulfilling the covenant of works. The plan, then, is that God’s people will spend eternity with him on the merits of their federal head. That plan was not discarded when, upon Adam’s failure, the task of fulfilling the covenant fell to Christ as the new federal head. Earning heaven for us is distinct from and more basic than atoning for our sin, although both were necessary after the fall. Whether Adam might have kept the covenant of works has simply not been revealed. Nevertheless, unless God was just playing games with him (which would be contrary to his character), I do believe that he could have.

  4. Kevin,
    You bring up some tantalizing points. I do agree with you that God’s intent was to dwell with His people. His foreknowledge is difficult to avoid however, and it seems that the “plan” he ordained to accomplish this was Christ-centered. His sovereignty makes it difficult for me to insinuate that “atonement” was some type of plan “B”.
    Let me ask you, is it conceivable that sin/rebellion is the necessary catalyst for Adam to arrive to his “final blessed state”, for without it Christ’s atoning work wouldn’t be necessary?

  5. Is it conceivable that sin is the necessary catalyst? Technically, yes; otherwise, you couldn’t have formulated the question. Is it possible that sin was a catalyst? Yes. This is just a matter of historical record: impossible events don’t happen. Is it possible that sin was the necessary catalyst? No. God could have accomplished his ultimate goal without the atoning work of Christ; consequently, there is no reason to think that sin, which made that work necessary, was, itself necessary. You might be objecting that, if there’s no atonement, then the fulfillment of God’s plan is not Christ-centered. At best, this is an argument from silence and does not constitute a valid inference. Besides, there is already a way in which Christ is central to God’s plan and would have been even without fulfilling the covenant of works or atoning for sin.
    It’s often said that Christ was born to die, which is true enough as far as it goes. Nevertheless, the statement has gone too far if it implies that, had it been unnecessary for Christ to die, his birth would have been superfluous. The incarnation of the Son of God was not a means to an end. It is the end. When God purposes to dwell with his people, it is not simply that he decides to allow them into heaven to be with him. He has something better in mind, which is to include them in the eternal intratrinitarian fellowship. Without violating the Creator/creature distinction, God the Son takes on the nature of humanity so that we, as sons of God, may be made partakers of the divine nature. The Covenant of Works was genuinely offered to Adam, so he could have fulfilled it. In the end, though, it is forensic, i.e., it provides the legal basis for God to dwell with his people. Because God gave his word, fulfilling it makes God obligated to honor its terms. The incarnation goes beyond this and makes it possible for God to fulfill that to which he has bound himself. God must become incarnate in order to remain incarnate.
    The atonement is not any kind of plan B. Once God makes his eternal decree, it is what it is. Christ becomes the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The question is whether there is something more basic than the atonement or than redemption such that God could have decreed otherwise. I maintain that there is. Eschatology is more basic than sotereology (i.e., redemption), and incarnation is more basic than atonement. The decree of God is one; however, for purposes of clarification, I need to break it down. Once God decrees that he will dwell with his people, other decrees must follow. Included among these are the incarnation and the creation. At this point, though, decreeing the atonement is both unnecessary and unjust. But once the decree includes allowing the fall, then it must also include the atonement, for, if it doesn’t, the decree of dwelling with his people remains unfulfilled.

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