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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Adam, Merit & Glory

It is not deducible from Scripture that the prospect of glorification was open to Adam prior to sinning, let alone that Adam was in a position to merit glorification. In fact, a reasonable inference is that covenant of life implies that Adam would have continued in a perpetual state of communion with God had he continued to obey God by faith. Unfortunately, in certain Reformed circles, the latter view is now considered aberrant. (Beale makes the best case I've seen for the prospect of glorification, though it remains an unnecessary inference.)

Let’s assume, however, that it was available to Adam to be glorified. To say that he might have merited glorification is most misleading. Would we say that a son who cuts his father’s half-acre field for fifty million dollars “earns the money”? In common parlance we might say “The son earned nothing. He merely received from a generous father that which was not deserved.” We can find even more problems with this novel view when we look more closely at the significant differences between the earthly son who receives a disproportionate reward for completing a task and the alleged prospect of glory that awaited Adam upon the successful completion of a supposed probation period.

1. The blessing of the world to come is of a different order than any blessing that can be obtained in this world, accentuating the folly of referring to the celestial blessing as one that could be earned by a creature. In other words, if it is equivocal to say that a son may “earn” fifty million dollars for cutting grass in less than two hours, how much more confusing is it to suggest that Adam was in a position to have “merited” being like Christ? In some respect it seems heretical.

2. When something is truly earned, it is understood that two parties benefit. The two parties, relative to each other, can be said to be autonomous. Indeed, the earthly father would receive some (although small) benefit from the son’s obedience; whereas God would have received no benefit from Adam’s obedience. Accordingly, it’s a misnomer to say that Adam, being contingent upon God, could have earned something from the hand of God. To suggest that Adam could have earned glory implies that God is wanting of something, like earthly fathers, and that would-be autonomous Adam could have fulfilled that need.

3. The earthly father would not have played a relevant part in causing the obedience of his son; whereas God would have providentially assured Adam’s obedience had Adam obeyed, accentuating the undeserved favor that Adam needed in order not to have fallen and to have remained a covenant-keeper. Therefore, it is misleading to say that Adam could have earned something from God when it would have been God who effectually enabled Adam gladly to do as he ought. To deny this is to affirm that Adam had libertarian freedom prior to the fall, a metaphysical surd indeed.

If one wants to say that Adam would have merited glorification, then it should be underscored that the compact would have been so exceedingly gracious that (a) the merited reward of being like Christ would have been incomprehensibly disproportionate to the work performed; (b) the benefactor of the reward would have received nothing of value in return for the work performed; and (c) the one who would have earned the reward would have done so only because the benefactor providentially caused the beneficiary gladly to will and to do of the benefactor’s good pleasure. Yet when we make all those qualifications, what then does it mean to say that Adam might have “merited” glorification?! Merit becomes a vacuous term!

So, why could the God-man have merited our glorification without contradicting the three points above?

1. By obedience, the Son received back the glory he already had known. (John 17:5) Accordingly, given who the Son is, the reward was not disproportionate, for he was even the one who created heaven.

2. Even when we “glorify” God, we are not bringing glory to him per se, but rather a magnanimous God is showing forth his glory in us. Accordingly, strictly speaking, Adam himself was not, nor could he have been, in position to glorify God. Therefore, Adam was not in a position to earn anything from God. Yet Adam was in a position but by no worthiness of his own (of course), to show forth God’s glory but only by God’s determination and grace.

The Father, however, did receive something through the Son’s work on behalf of his people. The Father was truly glorified through the glorification of the Son. (John 17:1) The difference is that the Father was glorified through the work of the Son that was performed not only for, through and to God but, also, by him in the person of Christ. God being a non-contingent sovereign being can receive glory through who he is and what he’s done.

3. The Son being the creator and sustainer of all things was the source of his own willing and doing of his Father’s good pleasure, unlike created beings – even those created upright.

With respect to the claim of glorification upon perfect obedience:

It is with hesitance I dignify the notion that Adam could have merited anything before God. For one reason the idea presupposes the inference that it was available to Adam to enter into glory, whether by grace or merit.

Here is a rough argument for the meritorious view:

p1. Jesus after a finite amount of time on earth entered into glory
p2. The compact with Adam paralleled that of Jesus with respect to the hope of glory
C. Adam after a finite amount of time on earth would have entered into glory

The minor premise needs to be shown from Scripture, not just assumed. Given the implied parallel in p2, why not also assume a parallel with respect to the possibility of sin? Why, in other words, should we not conclude that Jesus could have sinned given that Adam could, if it were indeed true that Adam could have obtained glory just as Christ could? (I address Hodge’s argument here: Also, given the parallel in p2, why not also assume that Adam would have obtained eternal life for those he represented, as did Jesus? (G.K. Beale in his N.T. Biblical Theology offers the most persuasive exegetical case I've seen for p2; yet it remains an inference that although is "good" is not "necessary" but to make it dogma is to exceed the principle of Sola Scriptura.)

The response I have received in the past is much along the lines of: “God promises ‘eternal life’ to those who perfectly fulfill its precepts (Lev. 18:5; Matt. 19:16-7; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12; etc.)”The problem with such a line of reasoning is that none of the proof-texts imply that Adam (or any other non-divine person) would have been glorified by keeping the law. Life is indeed a sufficient condition for the guarantee of future glorification in the days of redemption, but we know that by divine revelation - not speculation! With respect to Adam we have no such revelation. In fact, all we know is that the life Adam enjoyed was not a sufficient condition for glorification since he indeed fell! Under the gospel we have a golden chain of redemption, which culminates in the glorified state. In the garden there was no golden chain of redemption but rather life was offered upon perpetual obedience. As long as Adam would obey, he’d live. Adam had life (even life eternal in some respect) until he would fall. Eternity is not timeless; so Adam was (in time) a partaker of eternal life, just as believers are now. [Note: The ontology of Adam and that of one born from above are of course different but the point still stands.] If Adam had obeyed forever, he would have continue to live eternally. The merit advocate’s task is to prove that Adam, after a time, would have lived forever in a different, glorified state. Yet all that Scripture reveals is that glorification is an additional blessing to our new life, having been raised in Christ. I want to see where Scripture reveals that glorification was offered as an increase in blessing upon Adam’s perfect obedience apart from union with Christ, the God-man.

What a great salvation we have in Christ! We have more than was ever available to Adam, which has teleological implications that I would think pertain to supra-infra discussions. It would seem, in other words, that the prospect of glory for Adam is critical to a infralapsarian position. (The supra position as it has been traditionally formed (Beza) is problematic to me as well. Yet in later times supras such as Clark and Reymond placed in the first position the election of some sinful men unto salvation, which I find closer to the telos that Scripture puts forth. Finally, given a multi-faceted decree in which some ends are means to other ends, it's somewhat a fools game to try speculate the teleological order of it. I think Frame hints at this notion with softer words in DKG.)

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Mark said...


The certificate alone screams the absurdity of the merit position.

Anonymous said...

The fact that we are even more richley blessed with glorification than Adam would be;even if he kept perfect obedience,is truly amazing and humbling!Oh...what greater things has God in store for his children!

Joshua said...

Well stated Ron! You draw out the implications of meritology with blinding precision (in other words, one would have to be blind not to notice the "merit" of your arguments).

I'm reading through Augustine's book on the literal interpretation of Genesis and I reminded that for all his lack of Hebrew and minimal knowledge of Greek, Augustine thought logically and with a concern for first principles of philosophy. Few men today concern themselves with the implications of words, even if they take some care with defining them.

If God has brought us into darkness in this present age, perhaps one implication may be that the true light shines the brighter in piercing the shroud of ignorance that blights the pure Way. May the light of God continue through the few who linger long in thought of His Word, who penetrate beyond the material words and sounds to the rarefied immaterial spirit, and may the labor of the few who grasp for more than this age would desire find the generation to come full of minds who would make a good return on the deposit left for them to discover.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...


How strong is your constitution?

Joshua said...


Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Yup, it really boggles the mind how far some will go to convince themselves of something that cannot be rationally maintained.


No Merit! said...

I have been following the thread at greenbaggins with considerable interest. Admittedly I’m a better theologian than logician but with little effort I’ve been able to follow your unassailable arguments. It was a good exercise for me!

Mark said...

This is from the typically incoherent Roger Mann over at greenbaggins

Roger says:
And, of course, I argue that any obedience Adam might have performed was not a gift, because he had the power to perform them in his originally-created state.

And of course that is ridiculous. Any obedience on the part of the pre-lapse Adam in his state of innocence, was dependent on the provision of God. Adam needed God to sustain him in that set of circumstances that elicited obedience, something that God was not required to do. It would have been grace.

Roger stumbling:
From the fact that Adam could have chosen to obey in the power of his own will it does not logically follow that there could have been another outcome than the Fall.

Was Adam autonomous? Was he a non contingent individual? Does Roger imagine the righteousness of Adam to be ontological rather than relational? This is again ridiculously incoherent theology and incredible coming from the mouth of someone who calls himself a Calvinist. Roger confuses freedom with ability by suggesting that Adam could have chosen to obey in the power of his own will (whatever he means by his own will—could he choose by someone elses?) Even if we understand foreknowledge to be mere prescience, the very fact that the outcome was divinely known precludes the possibility of anything other than what was in fact known. Roger it seems, not only confuses freedom and ability, but likewise compulsion and necessity.

Given the set of circumstances providentially arranged by God, Adam could NOT have chosen to obey. Roger is an Arminian.

Anonymous said...


This is no different than what was said to Ron a few months ago at the same website. Ron's got it on his blog. The ordained servant (who Ron protected the name of) said: “The pre-Fall and post-Fall distinction is what is completely escaping you.... Let me state that again: Adam could NOT have thwarted God’s will in the garden...What I am saying is that Adam could have willed to do the right thing... Are you denying that Adam could have chosen to obey?”

In response Ron wrote: "Mustn’t it be true that if Adam truly could have acted contrary to how he did, then Adam truly could have acted contrary to God’s decree? After all, had Adam acted as OS says he could, then the decree would have been thwarted - hence OS's contradiction."

Pretty scary stuff if you ask me!

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

No Merit et al.,

In a nutshell, here’s what transpired:

1. The axiom I first interacted with was that if a necessary precondition is met, then that which is gained in return is necessarily meritorious.

2. My refutation of the axiom was that faith is a precondition for justification but not meritorious. Consequently, the axiom is not universal and, therefore, must be rejected.

3. In response to my refutation, it was offered that faith is a gift.

4. I noted that whether faith is a gift or not, it is still a necessary precondition for justification. Accordingly, the axiom is still false.

5. Suspecting that the future would be like the past, I assumed that my opponents would simply ignore the logical inconsistency and internal critique of their axiom; so in tandem, I also argued that Adam’s good works were no less a gift from God than justifying faith, leaving them with the option of affirming either the metaphysical surd of “libertarian free will” or the plain truth of God’s graciousness to Adam in ensuring any good works that would be performed. Accordingly, they were left with two dilemmas. The first dilemma was that since faith is a necessary precondition for justification, then their axiom is false. The second dilemma was that in order to deny that Adam’s good works were a gift from God they had to affirm autonomy and pure contingency, which is nothing other than libertarian free will.

6. My one opponent made a muddled response that basically communicated that if Adam’s works were a gift from God then God was the author of sin. [The rationale that is usually behind such thinking is that if Adam’s good works were a gift, then Adam needed God’s blessing not to fall. And if Adam needed God’s blessing not to fall, then the fall of Adam makes God a sinner. (When it’s pointed out to such people that they are affirming libertarian freedom, they typically end up ranting; they even sometimes throw out a few anathemas.) Moreover, it is a non-sequitur to think that Adam’s need of God’s ensuring good works necessitates that God sins with Adam. That Adam was dependent upon God not to sin does not imply that Adam was not responsible for his sin. These “Calvinists” are actually latent humanists, Pelagian if you will, with respect to Adam’s metaphysical ability.]

7. After all that it was finally asserted that Adam’s works had to be considered meritorious because the terms of the covenant required merit in exchange for blessing. That of course is to assume one’s argument by definition, which is classic question-begging. In the final analyses, when faced with the logical trajectory of the defense of their position, my opponents argued nothing and in the end simply defined the terms of “covenant of works” in a way consistent with their pre-commitment, which of course not only begs the question but also employs the term merit in an esoteric way, as my blog post aims to show. With respect to the exchange on GreenBaggins, my primary goal wasn’t to argue that their conclusion was wrong but rather demonstrate that their conclusion had not yet been successfully argued.

It obviously has never occurred to such men that God promises us today blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Our works indeed are often times necessary preconditions for future blessings and even future graces, but does that make them meritorious? The whole idea that a creature could merit anything before his maker is not jus silly; it’s literally idiotic. And no, I’m not engaging in name calling. You know things are bad when Christians become so committed to the term “merit” that they have to change its meaning in order to fit with a theological paradigm. Moreover, you know it’s bad when the sufficient conditions for merit in the garden are not universally sufficient, making the axiom upon which their entire theology stands arbitrary and inconsistent. Do you see the problem that comes when the teaching of systematic theology is relegated to pop-historians who do not employ an exegetical model while employing equivocal terminology?


Tim said...

Ron: I checked it out. Everything you said is exactly what transpired. Truly amazing.


PhD Guy said...


I’m a Molinist and you know what that means. I think your website is garbage. Calvinism is fatalalsim end of story. I will say this though: Your cronies are NOT CALVINISTS!!! You know the guy who wrote this?: “From the fact that Adam could have chosen to obey in the power of his own will it does not logically follow that there could have been another outcome than the Fall.” ??? Well guess what? He's right! I'm even more happy to say that he’s not one of yours! Same thing for the guy who wrote this: “The pre-Fall and post-Fall distinction is what is completely escaping you.... Let me state that again: Adam could NOT have thwarted God’s will in the garden...What I am saying is that Adam could have willed to do the right thing... Are you denying that Adam could have chosen to obey?” Did these guys nod off in their philosophy classes??? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Oh, that’s right -- Calvinists aren’t the best philosophers! LOL Maybe that’s why they're Calvinists!!! Your cronies are right that Adam could have chosen opposite to what he did and your cronies are again right that God’s plan could not be thwarted. Same goes for us!!! The only thing that YOU”RE right about is that those are not Calvinistic tenets – they’re tenets of my camp - Molinism!!! Actually to be perfectly honest they’re tenets of Open Theism too but we won’t go there!!!

I’m so glad to see that Molinism has crept into your confessional circles. Maybe one day you guys will revise your confessions!!!

PhD guy

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I don't know if I should laugh or cry.


Anonymous said...


How could Adam have chosen not to sin if Judas couldn't? I don't see how autonomy can apply to Adam but not to us after the fall. The "prefall distinction" doesn't make sense to me. Either mankind can choose contrary to what God knows or we can't.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...


If an action is a consequence of the mind choosing (i.e. the will), then it's a necessary action. Accordingly, neither Adam nor men after the fall can have LFW lest our actions of choice can be unintended, which is a contradiction in terms. In other words, given that we must choose according to our strongest inclination at the moment of choice, our choices that follow from those inclinations must be necessary. If such were not true, then one could choose contrary to his strongest inclination, which of course would destroy moral accountability. We are morally responsible for our choices precisely because we always do choose according to our strongest inclination. Consequently, Adam was morally accountable for his non-sinful actions (and of course his sinful ones) precisely because they were his own inclinations that necessitated them.

We can come at this from another direction too. Everything in the past is necessary. God knew on day one that Adam would sin. On day two day one was necessary (being past). Accordingly, the proposition from day one (being past) was also necessary. Accordingly, that which the proposition contemplated (Adam’s choice to sin) was necessary. Things that are necessary cannot be contrary to what they end up being. Consequently, Adam’s choice to sin was necessary making it something that he could not have avoided. What that means is that the ordained servant and Roger are wrong. It is false that Adam could have not sinned, which is why it is true that God’s decree could not have been thwarted.

Mr. PhD., these men are Calvinists with respect to irresistible grace as it pertains to the will. They’re simply not acquainted with the metaphysical implications of the will. They’re happily inconsistent.


Mark said...

I’m a Molinist and you know what that means.

Let's make it multiple choice shall we?

a. Your eyes are crossed.
b. There are numerous synapses abnormally blocked impeding the flow of current.
c. You yourself are an uninstantiated essence.
d. All of the above.
e. None of the above.

Immediately we can eliminate (d). No one is that screwed up,(probably). We can also eliminate (e) because clearly there is something wrong. We can discount (a) since one cannot connect crossed eyes with intellectual deficiency.(c) Non existent essences cannot type so that one is out. That leaves (b)

You might try taking Omega3 capsules.

Mark said...

Mr. PhD., these men are Calvinists with respect to irresistible grace as it pertains to the will.

Hey wasn't there a cartoon character named Elmer PhD?


Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"Hey wasn't there a cartoon character named Elmer PhD?


Phil said...


Your blog was emailed to me the other day from a good friend. I don't know that I would call myself "reformed" [yet but maybe soon :)] but after reading the thread on the other web board I can now see that a bunch of people are more interested in joining "teams" than discussing things in a calm intelligent way with their own arguments. I don't know if I see things the way you do (yet) but I think I see that you stick to the point and have solid arguments that I need to deal with on my own. I plan on thinking about the idea of free will in the days to come. I think at this time that I will not find a difference between Adam and us and that is something I never considered before. You've given me a whole lot to think about so thank you.


Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Dear Phillip,

Arminianism is I believe a spiritual matter more than an intellectual one. As you study these matters, pray!



Mark said...

Well I have to retract what I said above about Roger Mann. The quote is from the same thread but it is by Ron Henzel so transfer the criticisms to him. I note though that Roger agreed with Ron H.

However Roger did say the following which is every bit as egregious

Whether intentional or not, those who deny merit in the Covenant of Works are undermining the gospel. And a little leaven leavens the whole lump.

So I took it away only to have to give it back: Any obedience on the part of the pre-lapse Adam in his state of innocence, was dependent on the provision of God. Adam needed God to sustain him in that set of circumstances that elicited obedience, something that God was not required to do. It would have been grace.

We see that Rogers opinion here is without....well without merit.


Anonymous said...

If people would just learn a little logic they might see that their beliefs are unjustified. They think like this:

1. Jesus merited our salvation
2. We are required to keep the law
3. *Brain Cramp* (Ignore logic)
4. Conclusion: Man was offered a chance to merit something from God

Reformed Apologist said...

You must have seen my comments over at GH!

Reformed Apologist said...

As a follow-up...It is impossible for a created being to be worthy in and of himself of praise from God. God will not share His glory with another. Should God crown his servants He in doing so crowns his own graces. Such magnanimous acts speak to condescension, not merit. It was an act of condescension for God even to create man. When God created man he “blessed them” which presupposes favor that was not merited. When man continued upright for a time was he meriting along the way? May it never be! When man wills good it’s because God has enabled him to will good. The same was true for Adam. To call such acts meritorious is to equivocate over the very meaning of the word.

Anonymous said...

Read Roger's responses this morning. It is disheartening that somebody can write so much yet say so little. He misses everything but in his arrogance he will never see his errors which are many (to say the least). I do not know what disgusts me more. His in your face arrogance or his inability to reason. Oh well. God knows you've tried.

Reformed Apologist said...

Well, it's always hard to know when to cut one's losses especially when other people are led into false ways. That the man doesn't draw a relative distinction between the sin God brings to pass through divine providence and the good works He effects in man is a worrisome thought indeed. He would have us believe that man is responsible for each in the same way; then he would draw conclusions built upon that heretical premise. It's basic to Reformed thought that man alone is responsible for his sin but God takes all the credit for His causing us to will and to do of His good pleasure. That monstrosity was only to be topped by not knowing that the God who causes Jesus' inclinations to choose is Jesus himself!

Then, of course, there was all the question begging and misrepresentations of both what he and I wrote previously. I could write sheets and sheets but to what end I must ask... And yes, his smug arrogance doesn't make me want to labor more. I can only wonder whether it's a tactic to push me way so that he doesn't have to deal with more internal critiques of his position.

Jon said...


Disagreements are one thing. Obfuscation is another. What we have are individuals wanting to debate beyond their natural abilities. It rarely if ever occurs to these types that lack of mental ability in the rest of life *must* show in ability to debate spiritual matters. There is a want of humility and personal reflection.

Salvation is not a matter of intellect but these types will wrongly infer that by what I just said.

Reformed Apologist said...

Not to take away from your point, with which I agree by the way, but much of this sort of thing can also stem from adherence to faulty paradigms that lead to glaringly silly conclusions. In which case, sinful pride overrules even extreme intelligence. I see this most acutely when dealing with intelligent atheists.

Anonymous said...

This whole mess began with Meredith Kline. His protege (name escapes me) picked up on it but has fallen out of the good graces of most due to some extreme views. Nobody will get near him but he was the logical trajectory of his mentor. If you read that person's position you will find that he basically kills the notion of merit by death through qualification. Westminster Seminary in California promotes this ridiculous republication theology that is foreign to Reformed theology.

Jon said...

Lee Irons is the person you mean. He is destructive and self-destructing.

Just to be clear, Republication is distinct from this perversion of the covenant of works.

Reformed Apologist said...

Yes, I have read Irons's paper. It's some of the best bait n switch devilish sophistry I have ever read. Use a word (merit) with a distinct meaning but define it differently according to the "terms of the covenant." But first he must define the terms of the covenant as "meritorious" while making the qualification that it's not really "meritorious" in a "strict justice" sense (i.e. literal sense), but rather what is meant is "meritorious" in a most qualified, esoteric sense. But why the use the term "meritorious" if it's not really meritorious?! Well, the way Irons justifies this maneuver is by noting that our terms must come from God, the author of the covenant. The only problem is, Irons assumes that God has revealed the covenant as meritorious!

So then, which is it for Irons? If God revealed the CoG as meritorious in a "strict sense" then why all the qualifications? But, if He didn't reveal it as such, i.e. in a strict sense, then why use the term "meritorious" other than to confuse? Why the slight of hand?

My guess is that these sophists want it to be meritorious in a strict sense to fit their little schema but then when pressed they have to make qualifications, which actually undermines their original intent.

Anonymous said...

That is it! Irons in a nutshell. Bravo!

Derek said...

Robert Letham proves in his book on the theology of the Westminster Divines that Kline's view both from an historical and theological perspective is inaccurate. It is a brilliant treatment. He has the minutes of the Assembly behind him to boot.

Derek said...

I should add that Letham quotes John Ball’s 1645 treatise on the covenant of grace, which was largely favored by the Assembly. Ball denied that Adam’s works could have been meritorious and that grace was foundational to the covenant – obviously a grace being that of unmerited favor as opposed to unmerited favor given to sinners.

Anonymous said...

You wrote: Because Adam did not have libertarian free will, the good works he would have performed in order to have met the alleged requirement for being glorified would have been just as much a gift of God as the saving faith that God effects in elect sinners.

Roger Mann replied: Using that line of reasoning, Adam would not be guilty of sin nor have demerited eternal death. Because Adam did not have libertarian free will, and the evil work he committed was ultimately caused by God, Adam did not earn the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23) or deserve the penalty of “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Adam was guilty and unrighteous because he disobeyed God’s law. Moreover, Adam’s disobedience demerited eternal death because that was the penalty under the terms of the Covenant of Works. The fact that God was the ultimate cause of Adam’s sin is irrelevant to the issue.

End quote from Roger Mann.

Obviously Adam was to be blamed for his sin. Roger's argument is that because Adam was guilty for his sinful actions then he must truly earn increase of merit for his righteous actions. Roger contradicted himself terribly in that exchange. He recognized the merit was not strict merit yet he saw the demerit as strict. That betrays his point above. If he dismisses the LFW point you made, then he needs to call Adam's merit strict merit, the very thing he would not do. His main mistake was in failing to recognize that LFW requires God to effect holy intentions yet bad intentions are the effect of man left to himself. God gets the credit and man gets the blame. Roger's point above presupposes that whoever gets the credit must also get the blame. I can see why you washed your hands of the mess over there.