Pristine Grace
[Home] [Featured] [Authors] [Search] [New] [SermonAudio] [Facebook]

2006 Eager Avenue Grace Church Conference Review
by Brandan Kraft

Introduction

     I'm back from the 2006 annual Eager Avenue Grace Church conference, and I can honestly say that I had an enjoyable time.  Even with the travel delays and inconveniences, I'm still very thankful for the time of refreshing and Gospel preaching that I was privileged to experience.  I have a better understanding of the controversies, disputes, and understandings of men concerning important doctrine. 

     There were a few surprises as well!  I never expected to meet Mike McInnis (editor of Grace Gazette), David Alvord, or Steve Baloga!  These are all men that I have had e-mail correspondence with and yet had no idea that they were even aware of the EAGC conference or were even living in close proximity to Albany, GA. 

     I also was privileged to meet Ken Wimer, Bill Parker, and David Simpson - all fine stewards of the Gospel of an accomplished salvation.  It was nice to finally meet them after hearing so many good things about them as well as reading their material for some time now.  In particular, I was impressed with Ken Wimer's sermon on Sunday where he taught on the nature of Christ's substitution at the cross.  It was the first time that I have ever heard this taught so boldly and clearly.  I've heard a lot of sermons in my life, but that was one of the best in my opinion. 

     Before I begin my review, I want to thank the men and women of Eager Avenue Grace Church.  I want to thank them first and foremost for standing up for Gospel truth in light of the recent controversy.  It takes courage to stand up to men like Mark Daniel and Don Fortner who in the minds of many men is a legend!  I want to thank them for humbly submitting to the truth as opposed to the traditions of men.  And finally, I thank them for a warm greeting and fine accommodations.  It takes a lot of work to pull off a conference like that and I always felt right at home amongst these brethren.

     In this review I will attempt to deal with a number of important items that I believe are very important.  Like similar conferences, this one was very personal, and therefore this review is personal.  I will deal with the issue of Don Fortner and his stance concerning the substitution of Christ. I will also address the current storm about the timing of justification that involves Scott Price and Gospel of Grace Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Additionally, I will state my position concerning Justification from Eternity and try to explain why I believe there is a misunderstanding of this doctrine by the pastors involved with this conference, including Steve Baloga.

The Doctrine of Justification

     For years, many sovereign grace churches have boldly and openly taught of a salvation in Christ that is completely dependent upon Christ's obedience in life and even in death at the cross.  A complete dependence upon Christ is what unites men together as brethren as the only form of unity is doctrinal unity.  And the central doctrine which unites all believers is the doctrine of Christ which of course must include His substitutionary life and death for His people.  This is simple and straight forward.  Yet sadly this good news (gospel) for God's people has been corrupted over the years and men have exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25).

     Because of the vast web of deceit that has been spun by religious zealots and works mongerers, even God's people have not always held a very clear understanding of the once for all "at-one-ment".  There has been a cloud of fuzz that has hovered over men's minds for many centuries, and I for one am glad to see many men and women including myself break through this fog and by God's Grace throw down the baggage that has plagued us for so many years.  One of the things that many have come to understand with more clarity is the timing of imputation and when it is based upon.  In Albany, it was such a joy to see men and women buzzing with their recent discovery of righteousness being imputed based on the moment of the finished legal obedience of Christ (the cross).  Most, if not all (including myself) at one point in their lives had been taught and erroneously believed that the timing of God's constituting of righteousness occurs at the time the Holy Spirit gives faith to an individual.  This belief in my opinion and in the minds of many other men logically leads to a form of conditionalism that is not based upon Christ and His work, but the work of the Holy Spirit.  Much like the Roman Catholic dogma of infused righteousness one could easily be led to believe that the constituting of righteousness is not based upon the obedience of Christ, but the presence of some other quality (i.e. faith) within an individual. 

     This basic understanding of the cross being the entire focal point of history and the purpose of God from eternity by which the elect are constituted as righteous is something that has been absent from preaching for much too long.  It is time that all of us who claim to love the Gospel of an accomplished salvation openly submit to and rejoice in this plain truth.  If we do not understand the issue then we must be willing to examine our doctrine and even be willing to change for the sake of the truth.  If men and women are to be experientially united in Christ then we must be clear on our understanding of justification for there is not a more important doctrine in the entire bible!  An indifferent attitude toward or an unwillingness to discuss justification and the different perspectives of it is something that is not tolerable, and we must be strive with each other patiently in honest and open discussion if we are to maintain any form of fellowship with one another.

     With this being stated I must write about a situation that is very personal and has the potential to either destroy relationships between like-minded believers or I hope bring about reconciliation and rejoicing in the truth!  What we are facing is a situation just as explosive as the "made sin" controversy that to this day is causing church splits and strife across the globe.  In my opinion the topic of Christ being made sin by imputation cannot be entirely divorced from the current dispute over the timing of imputation of righteousness because these topics both deal with the very core of Christianity - the substitutionary death of Christ.   So what we are dealing with for all intents and purposes is the nature of Christ's substitution, what it has accomplished, and what benefits it continues to bring to God's people.

     This situation involves Scott Price and the Gospel of Grace church congregation in Cincinnati, OH.  Scott is a man who has been helpful to me in learning much of the truth but has taken a position that I believe is contrary to that which is taught in Scripture.  He and his church in Cincinnati, OH have not yet learned like many have recently that imputation of righteousness does not occur at the time faith is given to an individual.  What their position actually is I'm not fully aware as I have not seen an actual detailed explanation of it.  I'm hoping that this article would motivate them to actually publish their position and answer any questions that we might have about it.

     As far as God was concerned, from eternity (as God is eternal and not temporally bound), He has looked upon Christ as the once and for all substitution for His people.  He along with His people do not look to any other period in time except the entire life of Christ and His obedience culminating in His death on the cross for their justification. He has no need to wait until an individual possesses faith before He transfers righteousness to their account. 

     In fact, the very reason a person has faith is because righteousness has already been put to their account in the eternal mind of God.  An elect person's entire life is a result of the cross which involves their entire pre-conversion state.  From the moment in time that one of God's elect is born, the events of their life are directed and purposed by God for that person's benefit.  All that God has purposed for that person is because of God's love for that individual, and that love must be conditioned upon something, which of course is the righteousness of Christ!  A question Scott and others like him must ask themselves is what is God's love conditioned upon?  Is it just a willy-nilly love that results in an imputed righteousness, or is it actually based upon righteousness itself?  And if God's love is conditioned upon imputed righteousness, then how in the world is it possible for imputed righteousness to occur at the time of faith or any other moment in time?

     Before we continue, we must all ask ourselves what imputation is and where exactly imputation takes place so that we can understand when it takes place. Is the act of imputation something that is physical or is it something that has occurred in the mind of God?  I think we can all safely conclude that imputation is not something that occurs outside the mind of God.  Let it not be understood that I do not think the consequences of imputation are not real such as Christ suffering the wrath of God at His appointed time.  However, sin and righteousness are not physical properties, but they are all legal principles that are defined by God and judged by God.  Something is deemed as righteous or sinful because God defines it as such - period.  Therefore imputation must then be understood as something that occurs in the mind of God because it is something that He has defined.  He being the Almighty has the authority and the power to deem something as righteous or unrighteous simply because HE is God and can do whatever He pleases.  Therefore we must not see the death of Christ as something that had to take place because God's justice was at stake; but we must view it in light of the fact that His death was necessary to propitiate sin and transfer righteousness to the accounts of the elect because that is exactly what God decreed would be satisfactory to Him.  In God's view of Christ hanging in agony on the cross God forensically accounted Christ as sinful and He forensically accounted the elect as righteous.  There was a judicial exchange in God's mind of the righteous for the unrighteous and from His perspective all of salvation was accomplished.    We must conclude that this is as true for Old Testament saints as it is for those in the New Testament because God's view of this was from eternity.  This is exactly what I mean when I use the terminology of a vital union.  God was not merely an observer of this judicial exchange, but He purposed it and determined it all from eternity and as everything else has always been accomplished from His perspective.

     So it is in my opinion not the disagreement on the timing of imputation that has the potential to destroy unity in the Gospel, as imputation is an eternal and immanent act of God.  But the real potential for disunity lies in the disagreement on the actual moment in time that imputation is based upon!  Hopefully we can all agree that imputation is something that occurs in the mind of God and it is something that is transcendent of time as God Himself is timeless.  If we can agree on that then we must strive to come to an understanding of exactly what period in time that all of imputation is based upon.  There can be no such thing as multiple imputations as has been suggested by those who oppose justification from eternity because imputation is something that is timeless and occurs exclusively in the mind of God.  Those like Scott who believe that imputation occurs in time (where?) at the point of an individual's faith are wrong because they see imputation as a timely event.  Based on my observations in Albany I also think that men like Ken Wimer, Steve Baloga, and David Simpson are also incorrect because they too fail to understand imputation as an immanent act of God.  The issue should never be about the timing of imputation because imputation is not something that takes place in time as God is not a timely being.  Of course we must never divorce imputation from Christ's life and death because without it imputation is impossible as it was decreed to be dependent upon Calvary.

     I personally believe much misunderstanding has taken place because of a failure to understand imputation as an immanent act. Misunderstanding also exists because of an erroneous understanding of eternity and time.  For example, I heard David Simpson preach that justification is not something that happens in eternity and then happens at the cross and then later happens at the time of faith.  I wholeheartedly agree with him!  However, his proclamation in my opinion shows that there is a misunderstanding of exactly what eternity is.  Eternity is not an extension of time as so many would have us believe.  But eternity is transcendent of time, and while I cannot describe it fully with my limited faculties, I believe the Bible teaches it to be something that surrounds time and is from what all time proceeds.  Time is defined as a succession of events, but eternity does not consist of such!  All the events of time in the mind of God were decreed in a single moment (see we can't even escape using timely language to describe eternity!)  Yes, there was a logical order in the decrees, but they can all be summed up as a single decree. God said let there be light, and there was light! Could we not also conclude that God also said "let my people be righteous", and they were righteous?  God perfectly decreed and saw all the events of time, and this includes Christ's sacrificial death.  These things were not determined because God had to do so in order to abide by some eternal bar of justice which is often taught, but because this was His pleasure.  He was pleased to create men and cause them to sin for the purpose of redeeming them in Christ.  Adam's fall, and thus his elect posterity was perfectly purposed by God because He had also determined to be glorified in their salvation.  And He had everything that He decreed as soon as He thought it as His word is all powerful.  He is God!  And He needs not wait as an observer for His will to be accomplished!  To suggest that He was waiting for something to happen in time (any condition) before He could view His elect as righteous is ludicrous because as far as He was concerned, it had already happened. Yes, the death of Christ, and the condition necessary for imputation of Righteousness was accomplished from His perspective.  We may witness the events of time as participants and observers, but God is not merely an observer.  He has done it all from beginning to end, and while we may have yet to experience His wonderful creation, we can rest knowing that it is completed in His infinite mind.  Let us not take away from this at all!

     There can be no reconciliation amongst brethren if we are unwilling to discuss these important topics.  I am personally calling upon Scott Price to boldly place his opinion and a defense of his position in a paper.  He should welcome all criticism from those who are opposed to him, and he should be willing to change as should we all if we are shown that we are holding to an erroneous position. No man's beliefs should be beyond the intense scrutiny of another.  I beg those involved in the current controversy to please consider coming to the table together without hostility in hopes of searching the Scriptures and learning together.  I of course believe everything I've written in this paper is correct or I wouldn't have written it.  But I do not believe I am beyond reinvestigating the scriptures in order to learn more of the truth.  Nor would I be opposed to even changing my opinion if I am shown to be wrong.  I welcome the scrutiny and challenges of others as I know that in answering I will either be further convinced of the truth or by God's Grace I will be shown to be wrong and be forced to change my position.  I also think this is the attitude of Scott Price, Bill Parker, Ken Wimer, and David Simpson.  They have shown themselves in my opinion to be honorable men and zealous for the truth.  I therefore fully expect them to work this issue out.  This is an appeal to patience, humility, and honesty.  Let us not be like others who are puffed up and show ourselves to be blustering fools if we are shown to be incorrect in our position.  Also, please let us put aside for a moment the issue of whether or not we accept each other as brothers in Christ.  Let us approach the table together in hopes of learning from the Lord.  The ball is in everyone's court.  How each of us will respond has been already determined by the Lord and it will be interesting to see how this is played out.

     My dissent concerning the doctrine of the men mentioned in this article is not meant to be disrespectful.  I expect them to be willing to accept my criticism and able to face the challenges that they are presented with in this important time.

Justification from Eternity & Imputation in Eternity

     To reiterate, I want the audience to be aware that I truly believe the main misunderstanding concerning the timing of justification is a failure on both sides of the issue (Wimer & Price) to see imputation as an immanent act of God.  It is absolutely crucial that men come to an understanding of what imputation is and where it occurs before we can even think about these other ramifications.

John Gill wrote in his body of doctrinal divinity:

Now, as before observed, as God's will to elect, is the election of his people, so his will to justify them, is the justification of them; as it is an immanent act in God, it is an act of his grace towards them, is wholly without them, entirely resides in the divine mind, and lies in his estimating, accounting, and constituting them righteous, through the righteousness of his Son; and, as such, did not first commence in time, but from eternity. (John Gill, Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book II, Chapter V, section II.)

     Now, I have been trying to think of a clearer statement on the doctrine of justification from eternity because of all the confusion that seems to surround it.  Here Gill clearly states that God's will to justify His people which is connected to His election of them exists entirely in His mind.  He doesn't use the word imputation, but he uses words to describe what imputation is.  Imputation of righteousness means that God "estimates, accounts, and constitutes" a group of people as Righteousness.  Where?  His divine mind of course!  And when does God think something?  We cannot say that God thinks of anything in time as He is timeless. So therefore we must believe that all things are thought by God in eternity, and this includes the charging of sins to Christ and the constituting the elect as righteous.  I now think Gill would have helped his cause more if he had also used the phrase, "imputation in eternity" alongside the phrase, "justification from eternity."

     I now perceive that much confusion abounds over this doctrine because of a misunderstanding of Gill's semantics.  Those that aren't of the fullerist/neo-calvinist persuasion and teach against justification from eternity have opposed it because they see it as something that competes with the cross of Christ.  If this doctrine competes with the cross of Christ, then I would most certainly agree with them that this is an awful doctrine.  But I do not see that!  And after thinking about this all week I've concluded that justification from eternity could be considered as poor terminology by many and easily misunderstood because they think we're teaching that justification took place in eternity.  I think I understand where the opposers are coming from although I am still unwilling to admit that Gill was perfectly clear.

     The act of justification which is to be understood as the act of Christ dying for His people did not take place in eternity.  It took place in time.  Please do not misunderstand me on this very important point.  Surely we can all agree on this! There are not multiple imputations just as there are not multiple justifications.  There is only one justification! There was no more work that needed to be done for salvation by Christ or even the Holy Spirit after the cross because it was completed in Christ.  All of the work was finished.  Done - Complete - Finito!  I don't think Scott Price or any of the parties involved with this important discussion would disagree with me on this.  At least I hope not!  We should all be able to say that it was in view of Christ's finished work that God's people were accounted as righteous (past tense), and this work of Christ was a timely event.

     But what are we to think of imputation?  Where or when does that take place?  Was there a physical court that surrounded the cross of Christ where God accounted the elect as righteous in time?  No!  Of course not!  And don't try to tell me that an absurdity like this occurred as the full preterists claim when they spew forth their ungodly babble declaring that God entered into a physical heavenly holy of hollies in 70 AD.  Imputation is finished, and it always has been.  And it hasn't taken place in time at all.  All of God's accounting and constituting is from eternity as He Himself is eternal.  He accounts things as such, and His accounting of them does not change, because eternity is changeless. Indeed, God Himself is immutable.   He is the Lord, and He changeth not.  God does change things, but He does not change.  This world is constantly changing from one moment to the next, yet we can rest knowing that He does not change or is moved.  So if the work of justification is done in time, perhaps a more appropriate term to place alongside justification from eternity should be imputation in eternity.  There is no other imputation than that which is in eternity.  Imputation does not take place in time.  The effects of it do as His accounting changes things. But His accounting itself does not.

     Those involved with this discussion, please understand that I am opposed with all of my being the concept of multiple imputations.  There are not multiple accountings or constitutions.  There is only one constitution of anything, and that is in eternity as God's view of everything is in eternity.  And God's accounting is by no means "fictional!"  Who would dare call God's thoughts "legal fiction?"  No sir, as far as I'm concerned, if God thinks it's real, then it's real!  If God viewed His Son as a substitute for His people while He was on the cross, then Christ was truly treated as such.  He did not become sinful in His person, but He knew that God would account Him as such.  And He suffered.  Why?  Because that is exactly what God decreed would be satisfactory to Him.  And God's imputation of righteousness is real as well.  It does not need to be imparted or infused to make it real because God's accounting is perfect!  I know I'm digressing a bit here, but if we are going to make something that God accounts as "unreal", we are spitting in the face of God!  Who are we to say to God what is real and what is not?  If He says something is righteous from His perspective, then that's all we need to hear.  That is why the elect rejoice in the cross of Christ because as far as God is concerned, He really saw His elect as righteous!  And that is all that really matters to me.  Did God see His people as Righteous in Christ at the cross?  When God looked upon Christ on the cross was He thinking how unrighteous His sheep were?  Please, don't think that was so!  He was most definitely looking upon Christ in pleasure as that is what He had determined would make His sheep righteous in His sight.  He had determined to be glorified in doing so.

     So as much as I respect John Gill, and his doctrine of Justification from Eternity, and understand completely what he meant by that term, I now propose adding a second term to sit alongside it in order to try and clear up some confusion.  The word "from" seems to be ignored so from now on I will try to convey to individuals the fact that imputation took place in eternity with the physical work of making an individual "right" before the sight of God occurring in time.  The work of justification occurred in time and imputation of righteousness is the eternal and immanent act of God.  Let us strive to come to a better understanding of these concepts as I believe they are of the utmost importance!

What is Eternity?

     God is not getting any older. Yes, that's right! He is not old nor is He young. Indeed He is timeless. Over ten thousand years ago God was as old as He is today, and that is, He is and was without age. If God is to be seen as immutable, then we must comprehend Him to be without time, for time is defined in terms of change itself. God Himself is the beginning and end of time, and it is from Him alone (eternity) that all of time proceeds. The Lord we worship is so large that all of creation cannot contain Him (Acts 17:27f). To be blunt, God is simply everywhere and every time. His mind spans from eternity to eternity and thus governs all things as well as sees all things at the same time.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? (8) If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. (9) If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; (10) Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (11) If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. (12) Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (13) For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. - Ps 139:7-13

     Here the psalmist describes in brilliant detail all the temporal and spatial aspects of what God has created. There is not a place that we can go to escape God's presence which would also include heaven and hell. It is simply not possible to escape God's presence no matter where we might travel or when we might find ourselves. If one could build a time machine and jump backward or forward in time they could not escape His presence. After time passes do not think that God has taken His hand off those previous events even though they may be in the past for us.

     Heaven is God's throne and the earth is His footstool (Isa 66:1). It is His footstool! Can one begin to imagine? God has not taken his hand off of His creation and simply "allowed" time to continue on as so many deists would have us believe. He is constantly interacting with His creation and as the psalmist quoted above, darkness and light cannot in any sense be a hindrance to him and neither can time. He is after all. God.

     So what is eternity? Well the bible clearly states that God Himself is eternity and it is where God's inhabitance is found.

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. - Isa 57:15

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. - Ps 90:2

     Everything God thought or purposed is from eternity. From eternity He created the earth. He did not create time and then move his inhabitance into time in order to create timely things. He has done it all from eternity. His work is from eternity, yet it is completed in time. Thus we can conclude that since all things are from eternity so must be the justification of men.

The Eternity of God, or his being from everlasting to everlasting, is without succession, or any distinctions of time succeeding one another, as moments, minutes, hours, days, months, and years: the reasons are, because he existed before such were in being; Before the day was, I am he, Isaiah 43:13, before there was a day, before the first day of the creation, before there were any days, consisting of so many hours, and these of so many minutes; and if his eternity past, may it be so called, was without successive duration or without succeeding moments, and other distinctions of time, why not his duration through time, and to all eternity, in the same manner? Should it be said, that days and years are ascribed to God; it is true, they are; but it is in accommodation and condescension to our weak minds, which are not capable of conceiving of duration but as successive: and besides, those days and years ascribed to God are expressly said not to be ours, Job 10:5, He is indeed, called, The Ancient of Days, Daniel 7:13, not ancient in days, or through them, as aged persons are said to be in years, and well stricken in them; not so God: the meaning is, that he is more ancient than days; he was before all days, and his duration is not to be measured by them. And it may be observed, that the differences and distinctions of time are together ascribed to God, and not as succeeding one another; he is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever; these are all at once, and together with him; he is he which is, and was, and is to come, Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 1:4, these meet together in his name, Jehovah; and so in his nature; he co-exists, with all the points of time, in time; but is unmoved and unaffected with any, as a rock in the rolling waves of the sea, or a tower in a torrent of gliding water; or as the gnomon or stile of a sundial, which has all the hours of the day surrounding it, and the sun, by it casts a shade upon them, points at and distinguishes them, but the stile stands firm and unmoved, and not affected thereby: hence it is that one day with the Lord as a thousand years; and a thousand years as one day, 2 Peter 3:8. But if his duration was successive, or proceeded by succeeding moments, days, and years; one day would be but one day with him, and not a thousand; and a thousand days would answer to a thousand days, and not be as one only. Besides, if his duration was measured by a succession of moments, &c. then he would not be immense, immutable, and perfect, as he is: not immense, or unmeasurable, if to be measured by minutes, hours, days, months, and years; whereas, as he is not to be measured by space, so not by time: nor immutable; since he would be one minute what he was not before, even older, which cannot be said of God; for as a Jewish write well observes, it cannot be said of him, that he is older now than he was in the days of David, or when the world was created; for he is always, both before the world was made, and after it will cease to be; times make no change in him. Nor perfect; for if his duration was successive, there would be every moment something past and gone, lost and irrecoverable; and something to come not yet arrived to and obtained; and in other respects he must be imperfect: the knowledge of God proves him without successive duration. God knows all things, past, present, and to come, that is, which are so to us; not that they are so to him; these he knows at once, and all together, not one thing after another, as they successively come into being; all things are open and manifest to him at once and together, not only what are past and present, but he calls things that are not yet, as though they were; he sees and knows all in one view, in his all-comprehending mind; and as his knowledge is not successive, so not his duration. Moreover, in successive duration, there is an order of former and latter; there must be a beginning from whence every flux of time, every distinction proceeds; every moment and minute has a beginning, from whence it is reckoned, so every hour, day, month, and year: but as it is said of Christ, with respect to his divine nature, so it is true of God, essentially considered, that he has neither beginning of days, nor end of life, Hebrews 7:3. In short, God is Eternity itself, and inhabits eternity; so he did before time, and without succession; so he does throughout time; and so he will to all eternity. (John Gill, The Eternity of God, pp. 97-98)

     What has been written here by Gill are not thought by almost all those who claim to be a "christian." Indeed the most prevalent thought is the notion that eternity is just another stage of time that existed before the earth was created or is simply a pre-existing extension of time. It is thought that God is timely, just infinitely so. This type of thinking has been propagated by most modern theologians including those who claim to believe sovereign grace. Indeed, even supralapsarian Westminster chairman William Twisse thought of eternity as a previous extension of time! This erroneous thinking is to be found in most protestant thought including fullerism and neo-calvinism. As for me, these erroneous ideas of eternity are unacceptable as they are not only the basis for erroneous thinking, but they completely and utterly destroy the concept of God, for what is God without His attributes?

     Imagine for a moment that time is a big ruler which we find ourselves standing upon and we are walking on it from left to right. On it, we can barely see what is going to happen on the next centimeter we step across. But God is holding this ruler, and He not only sees what is coming with the next centimeter, but He put everything on the ruler at once, and sees it all at once. He sees a centimeter on this ruler where Christ is seen as the satisfaction for His people. At the same time, he sees the beginning centimeter as well as the centimeter where His people come to know of what happened in the past. That is how God views time, and that is how He views His people in Christ.

     Let my people be justified in Christ! God said it! And He said it from eternity where imputation itself takes place. Christ accomplished this justification in time, and God's elect experience it at the time of faith. It is where they experience the application of it. And it is experienced through the gift of faith alone and not of works lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9)!

Objections Answered

     While I was at the conference I had an opportunity to meet with Steve Baloga in person and have a good long discussion with him. He has openly written against Justification from Eternity on the web, and has also written to me privately by e-mail. Because of his public attack on the doctrine of Justification from Eternity, I will also answer him publicly. This answer is not intended to be disrespectful or controversial as I am only interested in presenting what I believe is the truth for the benefit of the elect. In an e-mail to me in October of 2004, Steve wrote the following:

I would be disingenuous if I did not exhort you to reconsider your view of eternal justification. Gill had not one legitimate verse of Scripture to support his humanly contrived view. This is akin to mysticism and not objective revelation. Not only were the elect not justified in eternity (meaning before time), the clear revelation of Scripture is that the elect were in fact under the sentence of condemnation after the fall of Adam (Rom 5:12, ff). God did not issue a veiled threat, but the elect were under a real or actual sentence of condemnation until Christ came and removed them from under this sentence. To say the elect were justified from eternity is to say God sentenced them to condemnation while yet justified. This is to impugn the all wise God with confusion. But the confusion lies with us, not God. Regrettably, there are supposed sovereign grace preachers who continue to propagate this blasphemy. I say blasphemy because ANY teaching that competes with justification completely and solely finished at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is just that - blasphemy. I hold this heresy to be in the same category as the Reformed heresy of justification by "faith". Both are attempts to pervert the gospel and call attention away from the very heart of the gospel - justification at the cross of Jesus Christ by sin imputed to His account and His righteousness imputed to the elects' accounts resulting in full justification (Rom 4:25). That is the only justification there is in Scripture. It is the very heart and center of true gospel preaching. It is the very glory of Jesus Christ. Before justification could be declared by God, a real Body had to establish righteousness under the law and real blood had to be shed. The righteous attribute of God the Son is not and never shall be the righteousness of the saints. It is the righteousness of God that had to be earned in time by Christ that was in turn imputed in time to the saints (Rom 3:21 - note the adverb in the original is in its prolonged form meaning "just now", i.e., after the cross; the righteousness of God "just now" manifested being (formerly) witnessed to by the law and the prophets). This was God's wise design and I cannot go along with those who walk contrary to the this most vital of all gospel truth. (Steve Baloga, e-mail, October 2004.)

     Now in the style of the internet discussion, I will break Steve's argument up line by line and deal with it as I believe it is deserving of a reply.

Not only were the elect not justified in eternity (meaning before time), the clear revelation of Scripture is that the elect were in fact under the sentence of condemnation after the fall of Adam (Rom 5:12, ff). God did not issue a veiled threat, but the elect were under a real or actual sentence of condemnation until Christ came and removed them from under this sentence.

     Immediately Steve strikes out on his understanding of Gill's doctrine. Gill did not believe or teach that the work of justification took place in eternity; but he believed and taught that it took place from eternity. Gill never taught that Christ's obedience was wrought out in eternity, but that it was wrought out in time. Gill taught that imputation was an immanent act of God and that it resided solely within the mind of God.

     Further, Steve's quotation of Rom. 5:12 is a typical verse that is quoted against this doctrine.

Rom 5:12, (KJV), Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

     This condemnation that fell upon Adam and his elect posterity was not a condemnation to hell. But it was a spiritual condemnation. God's elect are fashioned in iniquity and have no knowledge of God when they are born. Indeed they are totally depraved and have no desire of the things of God. They are born spiritually dead. But that does not mean that God views them as those that are on their way to hell. Steve's thinking is typical of low grace theologians where they see the cross as God's intervention and something which God must necessarily perform because sin exists. It is true that the cross came about in order to redeem men from sin, but the sinfulness and spiritual death of man was purposed so that Christ would save His people from it. There was never any danger of God's people falling into hell, even before the cross because the very possibility did not even exist. God Himself did not view His people as headed for hell because He indeed purposed that they would not! The hatred of God has never rested upon His elect whether it was before the cross or after it. And besides, after all in this review which has been taught concerning eternity, we should now believe that God views all at once, and we must comprehend things from God's view of the end instead of the beginning. God sees all of His saints as justified and even glorified (Rom. 8:30) because He sees everything at once and He has already accomplished it.

To say the elect were justified from eternity is to say God sentenced them to condemnation while yet justified.

     But God's people were not sentenced to an everlasting condemnation. They were condemned to be born in spiritual death in order that God's purpose of raising them in Christ would stand. Like I said above, God never saw them as on their way to hell, for that was not His purpose for them! The cross was not a reaction to the fall, but it was the very reason that the fall took place. The denial of justification from eternity stems from infralapsarian thinking which in my opinion stems from a misunderstanding of what eternity actually is as well as a misunderstanding of who God is. The distinctions between supralapsarian and infralapsarian thinking are much more important than what most theologians would have us to believe. And while some men may hold to supralapsarian tendencies, they still might hold to an infralapsarian thought process as demonstrated here by Baloga. Even John Gill had his inconsistencies, and I have even met men who seem to understand justification from eternity, yet hold to an infralapsarian view of the scriptures, thus convoluting and polluting this important doctrine.

Regrettably, there are supposed sovereign grace preachers who continue to propagate this blasphemy. I say blasphemy because ANY teaching that competes with justification completely and solely finished at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is just that - blasphemy.

     Again, this statement is based on a misunderstanding of the doctrine. In my impromptu follow-up conversation with Steve in Albany I deliberately went out of my way to explain that I agree with his premise. Any teaching that competed with justification finished completely in the work of Christ is blasphemy. To state that justification is based upon anything but Christ and His accomplished work is to rob God of His glory which was purposed in the everlasting covenant of grace. Steve agreed with me that Justification was purposed from eternity, but he in my opinion could not successfully defend how a denial of God's eternal view of the elect as righteous does not destroy the concept of an immutable God.

     In our conversation we also conversed about the Old Testament saints and he commented that they were not seen as righteous until the cross. He referenced Rom. 3:25 where Paul writes about how Christ's death is a propitiation for those saints who were supposedly suffered by God through His forbearance. Apparently forbearance to Steve was understood by him to be something that allowed God not to send them to hell immediately for their sins. Steve believed that righteousness had not been imputed to their account. In one sense, Steve is right. Imputation had not yet been imputed to their account because imputation is something that does not occur in time. It happens in the mind of God, and that is in eternity because that is where He has his inhabitance (see above). The work of Christ was still yet to occur in time from Abraham's perspective, but that does not mean he was not seen as righteous by God! God's view of Abraham was identical to that of His view of the post-Calvary Christians. He saw Abraham as righteous in Christ, otherwise He would not be able to demonstrate a timely forbearance because any sort of love demonstrated toward Abraham had to be conditioned upon something; and that something was indeed Christ! Forbearance for Abraham meant that God would not crush him because of what Christ was about to do. Abraham had to wait for that time when the messiah would come and bear his sin in his body. The only difference between Abraham and new testament Christians is he looked forward to the cross for the basis of his justification whereas new testament saints look backward to it. God's view of it or His people has not changed one iota. And to suggest that God's affections or understanding of anything has changed is to deny His immutability and thus God Himself.  Baloga, and those who would deny that imputation of righteousness is an eternal and immanent act of God are being ignorantly inconsistent or they are worshipping a god of their own imagination. So while I will patiently struggle with these men, I too would hope that they would patiently suffer those that for many years they have had agreement with, but now recently have started to reject. Scott Price believes that salvation is based solely upon the work of Christ, yet he inconsistently claims that imputation occurs at the time of faith. What exactly he means by that I do not understand, but I am patiently striving with him and hoping that he will begin to see things more clearly as I hope for myself. For the time being I will assume that Scott is simply being inconsistent or is using a semantic that is different from mine. I'm not denying that semantics are important, but I contend that sometimes we have the tendency to split hairs!

     I walked away from my conversation with Steve thinking that there was a misunderstanding of justification from eternity on his part, and that is why he condemned it. I explained to him my position, and he seemed a bit more comfortable with me. I have hope that we can continue to discuss this peacefully and that the truth would be magnified.

     I will reiterate that time itself is inherited from eternity.  Eternity is not at all affected by what happens in time as God Himself is eternity.  Eternity is not an extension of time, or even measured in time.  To suggest that time is a starting place for anything in eternity will enable those who are opposed to the Gospel of Sovereign Grace to dream up all kinds of strange ideas such as the well-meant offer, common grace, and old-fashioned fullerism because those ideas are based on the idea of there being "multiple wills" of God.  The two-will theory basically teaches there is an eternal timeless will and there is a timely will of desire.  It leads to the dangerous errors of Spurgeonesque preaching where men are enabled to stand in the pulpit and declare that God desires all men to be saved.  But if God is seen as something that does not change and as a Person who has defined all the events of time simultaneously, these things are incomprehensible.  The doctrine of eternity unfortunately has been neglected and an erroneous understanding has been taught for far too long.  Let us throw off this old baggage and come to know more of the infinite riches of God!

     Personally, it is the idea of imputation in eternity, and the work of justification being purposed from eternity that has brought much peace to my soul.  To think that God has never viewed His elect as sinful, but always as joined to Christ and baptized in His death and thus their resurrection in Him means that they were indeed made for this great salvation.  They were made to be the objects of His affection from the beginning.  God did not decree to create Adam and permit him to sin only so that He would decretively select from a group of fallen humanity.  But He purposed his fall so that ultimately He would be glorified and those who come to know Him would rejoice in Him forever and ever!  The new earth for God's people will not be simply a restoration to the Garden of Eden, but the creation was subjected to intense suffering to prepare a way for something even greater which has been planned from eternity!  What exactly God's people will experience in time, I cannot say entirely.  But it will be far greater than anything any of us including Adam ever experienced.  Time will never come to an end and forever God's people can rest knowing that nothing is a surprise to Him.  God reacts to nothing!  They can rest knowing that He has always loved them and that all things have been purposed and will continue to be of benefit for those that love Him.

High Grace vs. Low Grace Thinking

     One's view of God's purpose from eternity will affect their view of core biblical doctrines more than he or she might realize. There is a vast difference between low and high grace thinking but unfortunately these differences have been downplayed by theologians since the Synod of Dordt. Since that time, infralapsarian (low grace) thinking has been the predominant understanding of the scriptures. And even most varieties of supralapsarianism have been plagued with infra-style thinking.

     Low grace / infra thinking is in my opinion clearly evident in some of the wider known supralapsarian thinkers such as Gordon Clark, John Gill, and Don Fortner. John Gill for example has been claimed to have been an infralapsarian while yet many supralapsarians claim him as one of their own. In my opinion, one could use Gill to support either position because much of what he has written is inconsistent with itself. And such is the case with almost all sovereign grace theologians since the time of the reformation.

     It is low-grace thinking that leads to so many errors such as the error of Mark Daniel where he taught that Christ became an actual sinner in His very person. And it is my opinion that the very reason he has been driven to such wild speculations is because his mind has been corrupted with a low-grace hermeneutic. I don't know where he stands on other important issues, but if he believes Christ became a sinner in order to serve as a complete substitute, it demonstrates to me that he believes in a god who decretively reacted to sin with the cross as opposed to One who has purposed it.

     It is also low-grace thinking that has led Baloga, Wimer, and Simpson to reject Justification from eternity / imputation in eternity. To state that Abraham was not seen as righteous before the cross is a symptom of low-grace thinking because it fails to take into account that eternity is timeless, and that God's view of everything is from the end to the beginning which is exactly how supralapsarianism is defined.

     The late Gordon Clark in my opinion defined supralapsarianism perfectly: 

Supralapsarianism, for all its insistence on a certain logical order among the divine decrees, is essentially, so it seems to us, the unobjectionable view that God controls the universe purposefully. God acts with a purpose. He has an end in view and sees the end from the beginning. Every verse in Scripture that in one way or another refers to God's manifold wisdom, every statement indicating that a prior event is for the purpose of causing a subsequent event, every mention of an eternal, all-embracing plan contributes to a teleological and therefore supralapsarian view of God's control of history . . .  The connection between supralapsarianism and the fact that God always acts purposefully depends on the observation that the logical order of any plan is the exact reverse of its temporal execution. The first step in any planning is the end to be achieved; then the means are decided upon, until last of all the first thing to be done is discovered. The execution in time reverses the order of planning. Thus creation, since it is first in history, must be logically last in the divine decrees. (Gordon Clark, quoted on Predestinarian Network, 2005)

     And there we have it! If we can start with the fact that God first logically purposed to glorify Himself and have a righteous people in His beloved Son, then we must view everything else with this in mind. When one builds a house, they first purpose to have a place in order to live. After that, they work out all the details in the reverse order that is needed in order to make their dream a reality. One doesn't choose which bank to finance their project before they determine they want a house, nor would one necessarily determine exactly where the master bedroom should be located before they decide that they desire a ranch or two-story house.

     And that is high grace thinking in a nutshell. We should see everything that happens in time as something that is necessary to fulfill God's ultimate purpose. God purposed for Adam and the elect to fall into sin in order to fulfill His purpose of having a redeemed people in Christ. God's view of things was not determined by the events played out in time; but His view of everything is based on His primary purpose of being glorified by His creation which includes His righteous elect singing His praises forever and ever and the unelect enduring His wrath for all time. For example, hell itself is not a result of the fall as most low-grace theologians have taught for centuries. They believe that God is crying divine tears of frustration over those that end up in hell, and that God wants all men to be saved in Christ. This is because they fail to understand what God's ultimate purpose from eternity and how all things are brought about in order to fulfill this purpose. But hell was purposed from the beginning to have a number of inhabitants where God's presence would constantly torture those that were created for it. The inhabitants of hell are not there by mistake or as primarily as a result of their sin. But they are there primarily because that is where God intended to put them from the beginning.

     On September 11, 2005, Don Fortner spoke the following:

Now in exactly the same way, in exactly the same sense just as the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us in the incarnation in substitution, he who was made flesh was made sin for us. Wonder of wonders. I don't know how God could be made flesh and never cease to be God, but he was. I don't know how God could die and yet never die but he did.

.

Now I know this, I know this, just as really as the Lord Jesus the Son of God was made flesh, just that really he was made sin for us. Its not that he was treated as though he were sin, it is not that he had sin pasted on him and he took it. It's not just that sin was imputed to him. Now listen carefully, I'll give you a homework assignment. You search the scriptures. You will never find not in the entirety of this book even one reference to sin being imputed to Christ. Its not there, its not there, not there. There's not one legal term used we talk about sin being imputed to Christ. Now it's taught it is taught throughout the scriptures no question about that, but we have been taught to believe that our Lord was made sin by imputation. That is not the case. We are made righteous by imputation and the word is used throughout the scriptures talking about us being made righteous having his righteousness imputed to us. But never is the word used with regard to Christ being made sin. He was not made sin by imputation. Sin was imputed to him because he was made sin. Sin was imputed to him, charged to him and punished to Him because He was made sin.

.

And I don't know how Christ who knew no sin could be made sin and yet have never sinned.

.

The transfer of sin to the Savior was real Mr. Spurgeon wrote, and produce in him as a man the horror which forbade him to look into the face of God, bowing him down with crushing anguish and woe intolerable. My soul, what our sins must have done to us eternally if the friend of sinners had not come here to be made sin for us. (Don Fortner, Sermon on Psalm 22, September 11, 2005)

     Here Fortner has perfectly demonstrated low-grace infralapsarian thinking and the errors that it brings! His hermeneutic necessitates Christ being made sin by something more than imputation because he cannot understand that God is satisfied by imputation alone. He thinks God actually is in need of something more as if God is bound by some law that exists outside of Him. Christ did not have to come into the world to satisfy God's justice because God was looking upon this mess of a world and decided He needed to intervene! And Christ was not hanging on the cross asking why God had to do this as Fortner would have us believe! Christ was making a declaration of victory and was referencing Psalm 22:1 in a demonstration of His righteousness. God viewed Him from eternity as the perfect substitute for His people. The cross was only necessary because that is what God had determined would be satisfactory to Him in preparing a people for glory. It was by no means a reaction to fallen man as the fallen state of the elect was determined because of God's ultimate purpose to have a redeemed people.

What our sins would have done to us eternally if the friend of sinners had not come here to be made sin for us.

     Anytime a theologian uses conditionals like Fortner has as quoted above, I would advise those who love the Gospel to beware of speculative theology. I've done the same thing myself and find this style of thinking difficult to escape, so one could even find it in my previous writings and probably even earlier in this review. But what Fortner is demonstrating here is an idea that is foreign to scripture. It's apparent to me that Fortner sees God as a reactionary person as opposed to the Sovereign God who from eternity who has purposed all things. There are no "ifs" with God, and neither should there be with us when it comes to God's purpose! What would have happened if Christ had not come? Well that kind of question is utterly ridiculous! Scripture does not ask that question, and neither should we. Such a scenario is not a possibility because our Lord purposed for Christ to be the sin bearer. If we start with the God's ultimate purpose to be glorified in all of creation, then all of this nonsense is easily eliminated.

     It was nice to see some high-grace thinking demonstrated by many men gathered together in Albany; but it is still evident that low-grace/infra thinking still infects the minds of men like cancer. And I think it alone has led directly to the number of controversies that we are facing today. The idea of Abraham not being viewed as righteous in Christ from God's perspective until the time of the cross had passed which appears to be the erroneous position of Wimer is a direct result of low-grace infralapsarian thinking and it too shares the same premise as Fortner where the cross is seen as a remedial reaction to sin instead of the purpose that determined the necessity of the fall. I'm hoping that all of us including Wimer and Price would come to a clearer understanding of justification, but before that can occur, we must come to an agreement on God's purposes from eternity, and what exactly eternity is.  This is an appeal to brethren who believe justification to be solely based on the work of Christ to sit down together and be willing to study these important issues in an attempt to come into unity with one another.

Conclusion

     We are living in a very important moment in history.  Will those enlightened with the concept of sovereign grace doctrine continue to adopt low-grace thinking and go the way of fullerism and 20th century paradox thinkers?  Will we recognize the importance of the topic of justification in Christ alone and studiously approach the Scriptures in hopes of learning nothing but truth and rejecting falsehood as dung?  These are questions that remain to be answered.

     Before any of us can come to an agreement on justification we must first come to an agreement on the attributes of God and a clear definition of eternity.  Any attempt to reconcile differences on the timing of imputation will be fruitless unless agreement is first made concerning the mind of God and what He has purposed.  I cannot stress this enough.

     To believe that God's thoughts are changed by what happens in time is to claim that God is mutable.  Those that would propose that God can be measured in time or is affected by what happens in time do not worship the God of Scripture!  To deny the timelessness of God is similar to denying the doctrine of the Trinity.  For a denial of either one of these is a denial of God Himself.  We do not worship the names by which God is known, but we worship His very person.  And if agreement cannot be made on His person, then there really is no point for any of us to have a discussion on the topic of justification.  In my opinion, men are jumping ahead of themselves and putting the horse of justification before the cart of God!  Justification is to be found in Him alone, and therefore we must have agreement on the particulars of who God is before we can discuss our relationship to Him.

     In closing, I again thank my hosts in Albany.  I also thank all those who participated, and I look forward to visiting with everyone again in Albany next year.  It is my hope that these issues will have begun to be addressed by all participants by that time.

Note: Inclusion of an author on this website does not constitute an endorsement of said author.
More information about the articles on Pristine Grace.

Create | Edit