I finished listening to the White Horse covenant confusion series. Covenant confusion is right. We have a lot of knots to untie.
The center of the problem concerns the use of the word grace in speaking of God’s relationship to Adam before the Fall. Because the word grace is linked in their minds to the idea of overcoming demerit, it is assumed that we must either be asserting some sort of fallenness in the created order, even though God said it was all very good, or we are abusing a perfectly good theological word like grace when we could be using other words like goodness, kindness, etc.
And so I return to a question I have posed before, and have not even received an attempt at an answer. What about common grace?
We agree that a firm distinction must be maintained between the creational grace enjoyed by Adam in the Garden and the redemptive grace that God bestowed on His elect in Christ. The word grace signifies divine favor, and divine favor to an innocent creature and a fallen sinner will necessarily be manifested in different ways.
But in these broadcasts, it was insisted that grace can only be used to describe unmerited favor to sinners, favor that overcomes their sins and demerit. The word charis in the Scripture does mean this overwhelmingly — but not exclusively. Jesus grew in grace. The grace of God was upon Him (Luke 2:40).
God’s goodness to Adam in the Garden was expressed through a multitude of gifts — a world, a body, a life, a wife, a Garden, and all the trees but one. None of this is redemptive, none of it implies any deficiency on Adam’s part. This is creational grace.
After Adam broke the covenant of creation, God determined to restore what had been done through another covenant. This new covenant had a new federal head, the second Adam. This new covenant was redemptive grace. It does presuppose sin. When grace is extended to sinners, it is manifested differently.
Fine, our opponents might say. We agree that God was good to Adam before the Fall, but why do you insist on calling it grace? Well, not because we want a controversy, or because we are trying to be perverse. We call it this because this is what we think it is. God was gifting Adam.
And this is why I am astonished that those who are fighting our use of creational grace for unfallen Adam in this way are not rejecting the far more problematic concept of common grace for fallen Adam. If the gifts of God bestowed on an unfallen man cannot be called grace (without running the risk of being dubbed a heretic), then how can the gifts of God bestowed on fallen (and reprobate) men be called grace?
In other words, our opponents are saying (in effect) that Adam enjoyed no grace from God at all until he disobeyed, and then he started enjoying common grace. Moreover, Cain enjoyed common grace his entire life. But before the Fall, no grace at all.
But if grace must overcome demerit, then why is common grace for the reprobate called grace at all? It does not overcome demerit. The answer might be that we understand common grace to be a theological phrase with a stipulated meaning. Okay. Can we play too? Creational grace is not redemptive grace.