Grace Restores Nature … Against the Anabaptistified & Gnosticized Contemporary Reformed Church

Genesis 2:8 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of [f]corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

In these passages we have the story of creation, fall, redemption and glorification. Some have said that here we find the macro outline of all of Scripture.

Now, we are going to talk a great deal about nature as well as sin and grace this morning so, just to be clear nature will be used synonymously for God’s creation or His pattern of creation. Nature here is the way God made things according to His original intent. For example, according to nature boys can’t be girls. According to nature boys marry girls. According to nature nations are Christian.

We want to spend a little time this morning talking about the interplay of sin, nature and grace.

I.) The effect of Sin on creation/nature – Sin mars nature

First, we say again that before the fall nature was in harmony. God created it as “Very Good.” There was no death. It is a paradise existence. After the fall we see that, in the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, nature is now red in tooth and claw. Death has entered into the world. There is no longer a harmony of interest as seen in the blame shifting between Adam & Eve and as seen in the account of Cain and Abel. The harmony that was present before has evaporated and instead we the ongoing attempt for men to de-god God and en-god himself. Because of sin man acts contrary to his given nature. God’s creation that is all of nature as it fell from His hands as very good is now marred by sin.

However, and this is a fundamental point, keep in mind as we go on from here that the problem is not nature as it fell from God’s hand. The problem is the problem of sin as it has entered the world so that sin has marred God’s creational project. Because of sin nature is now no longer what it was intended to be. Because of the fall, nature can now be unnatural. We soon enough come across increasing moral degradation as seen in Lamech’s vile boasting in Gen. 4.

We read of sin marred nature in the family strife where Laban deceives Jacob who had deceived his father Isaac and who deceives Laban right back. We see the family strife of the Brothers selling their Brother Joseph into bondage. We Amnon, who is the half brother of Tamar raping Tamar. We see the adultery of David. We see magistrates who are supposed to be nursing fathers to their people turn into tyrants of the most wretched sort with Ahab going so far as to kill Naboth to seize his land.

All of this and so much more is the effect of sin on nature. And this effect remains with us and as we more and more consistently turn our backs on God and defy His grace with can anticipate that this effect on nature will cough up more and more vile twistings of nature.

However, in God’s economy we see that grace can restore nature.

And so we consider secondly,

II.) The effect of Grace on sin marred creation/nature – Grace restores nature

Here we have several options to consider in terms of how grace restores nature as among the major players that comprise Christianity.

1.) Aquinas argued in his Summa that “grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.” ( 1a 1.1.8 ad 2). Later Rome put a twist on this. Medieval Rome agreed that grace perfects nature but they insisted that in order for grace to perfect nature, nature had to be brought in under the umbrella of the Church where grace resided. Anything outside the umbrella of the Church could only be nature and being only nature and so fallen all it could ever be was fallen.

2.) The Radical Reformation (Anabaptists) held that grace unmakes and so destroys nature and replaces nature so that nature becomes grace in this life. This explains their complaint against “worldliness” and their conviction that they could escape worldliness by forming their own non worldly all grace communities. Outside their communes was sin marred nature. Inside their communes is the grace of heaven on earth. Notice the dualism. Inside their communities is all grace. Outside their communities is all sin marred nature. All this was and remains consistent with their belief that all of the future heaven could be brought near now. This explains why the Anabaptists have a pure church theory that is characterized by restricting baptism only to those who make profession of faith. You see, if it is all heaven now then the Church of all places must pure without tares, without dross, without false believers. Grace destroys nature so that all is grace.

We continue to have much of this Anabaptist view of nature and grace in the Evangelical Church. There are those who talk as if some nature/creation realities are evil in and of themselves. For example it is all the rage these days to speak as if our creational realities in terms of ethnicity or race are erased by grace. Once in Christ, so the current logic goes, then who God has made us creationally is now irrelevant. This is a Anabaptist case where grace is destroying nature. Race and ethnicity for the Christian is certainly not everything but neither is it nothing. To suggest that grace destroys physical nature because of our the grace found in our union w/ Christ is a new expression of Gnosticism.

Here we cite our own Mr. Calvin on this score. This from his Sermon on I Corinthians11:2-3;

“Regarding our eternal salvation, it is true that one must not distinguish between man and woman, or between king and a shepherd, or between a German and a Frenchman. Regarding policy, however, we have what St. Paul declares here; for our, Lord Jesus Christ did not come to mix up nature, or to abolish what belongs to the preservation of decency and peace among us….Regarding the kingdom of God (which is spiritual) there is no distinction or difference between man and woman, servant and master, poor and rich, great and small. Nevertheless, there does have to be some order among us, and Jesus Christ did not mean to eliminate it, as some flighty and scatterbrained dreamers [believe].”

19th century Dutch Theologian Herman Bavinck put it this way;

“Grace serves, not to take up humans into a supernatural order, but to free them from sin. Grace is opposed not to nature, only to sin . . . Grace restores nature and takes it to its highest pinnacle.”

Herman Bavinck,
Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, 577.

So, what is now being hinted at is the the Reformed understanding which follows Scripture. Herein we find the idea that grace restores nature. Typically the Reformed argue that incrementally, slowly, imperceptibly over time grace restores nature to what it was originally intended to be as men are regenerated and won to Christ in any given culture or social order.

We find that expressed in the Kingdom parables in Matthew 13

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Clearly we are seeing here that grace restores nature. It spreads in the lives of men and having spread among men it spreads so as to touch their cultures and social order. Nature, because of grace, becomes more and more of what it was originally intended to be. Never perfectly on this side of heaven but more robust, more honoring to Christ, more Kingdom like.

So, the Kingdom of God as it expresses itself in creation does not work to the end of changing the creation realm into a grace realm. What Grace does do is that it restores nature. The Kingdom of God has the effect on the creation realm much like the effect a poultice has in its drawing the poison from a snake bite.

The creation, with the fall, has been snake bitten so that it is a present wicked age. What the Kingdom of God does upon the creational realm is that it sucks the poison of sin out of the Creation realm so that the creation realm is restored to what its original intent was so that this present wicked age is healed by the poultice power that is “the age to come” as expressed by the Kingdom of God at it works as leaven in restoring nature.

Dr. Albert Wolters put it this way in his “Creation Regained”

“The central point to make, biblically speaking, sin neither abolishes nor becomes identified with creation. Creation and sin remain distinct, however closely they may be intertwined in our experience. Prostitution does not eliminate the goodness of human sexuality; political tyranny cannot wipe out the divinely ordained character of the state; the anarchy and subjectivism of much modern art cannot obliterate the creational legitimacy of art itself. In short, evil does not have the power of bringing to naught God’s steadfast faithfulness to the works of his hands.”

And in one of life’s little ironies we find that it is not only the CREC which is taking the Church down the primrose path of Gnosticism but so does its arch-enemy R2K.

For R2K God is not faithful to the work of His hands since that which exists by way of creation is never Redeemed so that it can be considered “Christian.” Marriages can’t be Christian, States can’t be Christian, Education can’t be Christian, and art can’t be Christian because all these creational categories remain “creational” whether they are handled by rebels in opposition to God and His Christ or whether they are handled by Christians in submission to Christ. R2K does not have a category for “grace restoring nature,” choosing instead a paradigm where grace has no effect on nature.

So here we find the two strongest lads right now who are on the Reformed Mountain playing “King of the Hill,” trying to knock each other off so that they alone can be King. It’s David Van Drunen vs. Doug Wilson. And while that is all going on here the Biblically Reformed theonomic, postmillennial, presuppositionalist, Kinist, Agrarians are on the sideline saying… “A pox upon both your Gnostic Houses.”

However, we should say here that the enemy is not only internal on this matter but the enemy is also external. It is difficult to say which is more dangerous.

We have considered the Reformed Gnostics who want grace to destroy nature. But what of those who want nature as defined by the fall to destroy grace? The former camp is so otherworldly it forgets this world. The latter camp is so this world that it fights the world to come. The first camp wants to bring heaven to earth. The second camp wants to take earth for heaven. The enemy within the camp wants to immanentize the eschaton. The enemy outside the camp wants to echatonize the immanent.

You see there are those out there who think that nature is defined by its fallen-ness. They think that it really is the case that nature it red in tooth and claw. Let us refer to these as the humanistic Utopians who believe not in the Kingdom of God that incrementally arrives by grace restoring nature but instead believe that the Kingdom of man arrives by fallen nature coming into full bloom. We will call these “the Utopians.”

The Utopians seek nature as fallen to destroy grace. In order to destroy grace they have been the most adamant of the enemies of Christ through the centuries. The Utopians, generally speaking and humanistically speaking, are the same enemies that Christ labeled “the synagogue of Satan.”

Listen to Bavinck about these folks and their project;

This is the difference between the work of the Kingdom of God upon the creational realm and the work of the Kingdom of man as it seeks to create Utopia in creation. The Kingdom of man identifies creation with the fall and so in order to restore creation it seeks to destroy creation (as it is defined Biblically) thinking that creation can be regenerated out of destruction and chaos.

Herman Bavinck — 1854 – 1921

Dutch Reformed Theologian

And so the Utopians seek fallen nature as the tool to destroy grace. We find these Utopians among the Marxists and we identify them as those, in the words of Bavinck;

“Seek to destroy family, destroy the Church and destroy the State so that out of the ashes a new order may arise Phoenix like. Again, they do this because they identify nature with the fall. To the contrary the Kingdom of God does not identify creation with the fall and the effect of the Kingdom of God upon creation, as we noted above, is to suck the poison of the fall out of creation so that creation reflects the beauty it was intended to reflect.”

The Utopians hate grace and so seek to use fallen nature to destroy grace. This is why the Utopians attack creation as it fell from God’s hands. They must eliminate the family. They must attack the family, they must attack the all in culture that is perfumed with Christ.

In closing though let us note that whether it is the camp of grace destroys nature or whether it is the camp of fallen nature destroys grace in the end both nature and grace are destroyed. There is no preferable poison here. We must fight our current battle on several fronts. We must fight the R2K lads. We must fight the Federal Vision “conversion makes nature unimportant” lads. We must fight the Utopians.

But thanks be unto God we have a target rich environment. We can point our guns in any direction and bring the enemy down. Thanks be unto God the that He has 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. They are Elijah’s scattered all across the nation, standing often alone but still standing nonetheless. Thanks be unto God that He always gives us the victory in Christ Jesus.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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