Some Thoughts on Creation, Sin, Depravity, and Redemption: Extensivism and Calvinism

God created the world in holiness, love, and grace. God provided sufficient grace for Adam and Eve and their offspring to live for Him in fellowship and holiness by means of His creative grace. Every aspect of His original creation was by grace.

Adam and Eve possessed everything in superabundance to fulfill His will, to resist eating of the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil,” and live forever in fellowship and holiness with Him (Gen 2:17). But, when they chose to disobey God and sin, the creative grace by which Adam and Eve had walked with God since creation was no longer sufficient for living and relating to God. God always knew Adam and Eve would choose to sin even though they were created with the ability to choose not to sin. And, as the holy and loving God, He desired for them to choose righteousness and not sin.

God’s knowledge of Adam and Eve’s sin is why God’s eternal creation-redemption plan comprehended their sin and provisioned for a relationship with man before and after the fall, both of which are totally dependent on grace. To wit, God created man with libertarian moral freedom so that in each moral moment of decision, he could choose to follow God or sin, and whatever he did choose, he could have chosen differently, even given his same past.

This is, of course, the opposite of Calvinism’s compatible determinist freedom, wherein whatever man chose according to his greatest desire, he could not have chosen differently in the moral moment of decision, given his same past. And although, according to compatibilism, a choice made emanating from a person’s greatest desire is a free choice, the desire from which it arose is determined by the person’s past–historical antecedents. Therefore, according to Calvinism and compatibilism, Adam and Eve technically made a determined free choice.

Biblically, In creation, God freely chose to love the people He created, which is the nature of genuine love. Love by definition cannot be coerced. If God did not desire to love them, He could have chosen to not create them. Accordingly, God desired genuine love from His creation, which requires the ability to love or not love Him–libertarian moral freedom. (See the article Compatible and Libertarian Freedom for a fuller explanation) This is why there was a tree “of the knowledge of good and evil.” It provided a tangible means of deciding whom they would freely love, God or themselves.

While the fall left man in possession of much of his humanity, the fall was so pervasively damaging that every component of his humanity, the choices he could make, and the creation he occupied were corrupted. Man was created in the image of God with libertarian freedom, and while he retained the image of God, including libertarian moral freedom, he no longer, as provisioned by creative grace, possessed the ability to make a spiritually significant or restorative decision. (Gen 1:26-28; Gen 3:7-24; Gen 9:6).

That is to say, he could not choose to walk with God as Adam and Eve could prior to the fall, nor could he choose to initiate and bring about the restoration of a spiritual relationship with God with only creative grace as experienced before the fall. Therefore, God’s plan of holiness, love, and grace always included, when the time was necessary, providing redemptive grace sufficient to enable man to once again choose to love and walk with God or choose not to. Accordingly, God is in every sense, the initiator and provider of all things necessary so that man’s faith response to God can never be rightly attributable to man’s works after the fall any more than it could be prior to the fall.  

I believe in total depravity (TD) and mean by that term that sin affected every aspect of humanity, and that with creative grace alone, man cannot make a spiritually restorative decision apart from redemptive grace. It seems that regarding depravity (effects of the fall), we are only left with two general options. The fall either affected humanity totally or partially. I do not believe in partial depravity, and, therefore, I believe in TD. A fortiori, I refuse to permit Calvinism’s distortive use of TD, with its unbiblical essentials such as unconditional election and efficacious grace upon only a few to control the dialogue.

As an Extensivist (one who believes God has provided an accessible salvation for every person), I use the term grace enablements to speak of God’s redemptive grace. Grace enablements include such things as Christ paying for all sins (Luke 22:20; John 1:29), Christ satisfying the just demands of God against all sinners (1 John 2:2), God being in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19), Christ tasting death for everyone (Heb 2:9), Christ praying for the salvation of all of lost humanity (John 17:20-21), conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7–11), working of the Holy Spirit (Heb 6:1–6), enlightening of the Son (John 1:9), God’s teaching (John 6:45), God opening eyes, minds, and hearts (Luke 24:45; Acts 16:14; 26:17–18;), and the power of the gospel (Rom 1:16). Without such redemptive grace, no one seeks or comes to God (Rom 3:11). Because of these gracious provisions and workings of God, fallen man can choose to seek and find God (Ps. 50:3; Isa 55: 6-8; Jer. 29:13; Acts 17:11–12). For a more complete explanation, see the article on Grace Enablements.

This means that I believe the Bible teaches TD, not as defined by Calvinism, but as defined by the Scripture. I believe man is totally depraved, extensively speaking, in contrast to being partially depraved, touching only certain aspects of humanity. I believe in enabling grace for everyone, just like there was creative grace for all before the fall, instead of Calvinism’s effectual coercive grace for only some. TD, as I use it, means only that there can be no aspect of fallen creation that does not fall under the God’s canopy of grace. This is even true of the vilest blasphemer who ultimately rejects God’s salvific grace. Because, based on holiness alone without grace and mercy, the sovereign would immediately wipe him into the lake of fire. For clarity’s sake, I not only reject the TULIP, but I reject every part of the TULIP down to the sepal, stamen, ovary, petals and the dirt it is planted in.

The last issue I briefly address is why did God create man if He knew man would sin? The answer depends on whether a person believes in Calvinism’s compatible moral freedom (determinism) or Extensivism’s libertarian moral freedom. With man endowed with libertarian freedom, one cannot guarantee he will not use his freedom to act wrongly if that is within the range of his options, which it was in God’s creative love relationship with man (Gen 2:17).

Adam and Eve’s choice to love and obey God or not to love and obey God was perennially on display in their choice to not eat or eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  Thus, we see that libertarian free will is a good gift from God, which man misused, and the misuse of God’s good gift is the source of sin, first with Lucifer in the universe (Ezekiel 28:15) and second with man and woman in the Garden.  Therefore, God could truly desire for man to live without sin, but given the nature of libertarian free will, and the option to sin, man could act against God’s loving and righteous desire for mankind and suffer the fallout of sin, even eternal torment.

In contrast, is a deterministic compatible moral freedom wherein a person is said to be morally responsible so long as he freely chose according to his greatest desire. Remembering that while his choice is said to be free, the desire from which it came is the result of determinative antecedents going back to God as the ultimate cause of every choice and thing.[1] In compatibilism, God could have created man with a different past that would determine that man would only freely choose righteousness and could only choose righteousness and never experience sin or its consequences.

Therefore, according to compatibilism, sin and tragedy exist because God was pleased to predetermine the world to be unholy, unloving, and most unsavable and irrevocably predestined to the torments of hell forever. In stark contrast, from a libertarian moral freedom perspective, God did genuinely provide for and desire man to walk in holiness. His desire and plan for that is seen in the perfect environment God placed man in, in that gave man libertarian moral freedom which enabled him to resist sin and choose holiness, and in that God even provisioned for redemptive grace for all humanity when mankind fell.

[1] The idea of God is not essential to hold to either libertarian or compatible moral freedom; many secularists, Darwinists, and others hold to one of these perspectives.

Ronnie W. Rogers