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Adam’s End… Doctrine of Revelation in pre-Fall Eden


Adam’s End


My laborious perusal of the Beeke/Jones tome, ‘A Puritan Theology’ continues and they include an interesting discussion on SUPERNATURAL THEOLOGY, and ask whether there was any supernatural revelation in the pre-Fall Garden of Eden.

It would be wise, before setting out their arguments, (or rather their examination of the arguments of the Puritan divines) to explain some terms. There are two ways in which God reveals himself to mankind. The first of these is by means of NATURAL REVELATION. Natural revelation is the simple understanding that there must be a Creator – an intelligent being who made the universe and gave life to all things in it. The psalmist, in Psalm 8 expresses this well:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

In the psalm, the writer contemplates the world and the creation, and he realises that there is a God, and that God must in someway relate to him, and he draws conclusions, about the nature of God, the nature of man and the relationship between both.

Some theologians extend this idea of natural theology to an innate sense of God within the human condition, – that each one of us, by birth, has within us a propensity to worship ‘something’ because we perceive there to be a Creator. After all, as the Shorter Catechism reminds us, God made us specifically to have fellowship with Him,to worship Him and to enjoy his presence and to glorify him.

An important aspect of this NATURAL REVELATION is that whatever knowledge of God may dwell within a man by it, it is not SAVING KNOWLEDGE. The Socinians for example, argued for universal redemption, on the basis that since some men only had natural revelation of God, God would not hold them responsible for not believing something which he had never revealed to them. This is entirely contrary to Romans 1, which establishes the biblical principle, that while natural revelation does not give enough light for the soul to appropriate God’s gracious offer of salvation, yet it does give enough light to make the recipient aware of basic moral concepts, – in other words to render him guilty under the law, by doing that which he knows in his conscience he should not do. St. Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18-2:5 is conclusive:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

So, Natural Revelation is enough to make men aware that there is a Creator, to make him conscious of sin against that Creator, and because he persists in that sin, to render him liable, rightly, to God’s judgement and wrath.


The second kind of revelation that is found in Biblical Theology is SUPERNATURAL REVELATION. This is the revelation that will awaken a man’s heart to it’s true condition before God, and it is usually delivered in two ways:

* Through the Scriptures, God’s final written, Word to mankind. Paul wrote to Timothy:

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 2 Tim 3:13-16

* Through the work of the Holy Spirit in applying the written Word of God to the heart, mind and conscience of the believer. Jesus taught:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:13-16

In every sense, Supernatural Revelation is Christocentric. The Hebrew author wrote:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4

So in Supernatural Revelation, Christ is revealed to us in all of the Scriptures, and the task of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ, and we are granted, through God’s grace and mercy enough light in our darkened and blinded souls to realise that we are sinners and to turn to Christ for mercy and forgiveness.

Thus our two forms of the Revelation of God to mankind; Natural and Supernatural. I shall return to the Doctrine of Divine Revelation again.


– oOOo –


Now, back to Beeke and Jones, who now want to ask whether the Puritans had an opinion on whether Adam had any form of Supernatural Revelation, in the Garden of Eden in his pre-Fall condition. (They will deal with post fall revelation later). Their methodology in discussing the issue, is to examine the expressed theological opinions of those Puritan divines who had written on the subject, namely, Thomas Goodwin and John Owen.


Thomas Goodwin 1600 – 1679

Goodwin takes the view that Adam had no experience of Supernatural Revelation, and in this he seems to be adrift from many of the other puritans, and this is what makes him interesting. In the Garden, Adam relationship with God was based on the ‘covenant of works’ – God placed him in the Garden, gave him employment, enjoyment, sustenance and companionship, both on a human and divine level, – and the maintenance of that situation was contingent upon his obedience. Goodwin’s argument is that such a covenant had no concept of grace attached. (‘No Grace in the Garden’ is a common expression to describe this state of affairs.). Adam would have had in his conscience a sense of morality. He knew to love his wife, and perform his labours to the best of his ability, and to rest on the Sabbath, and to obey God by not eating the fruit the forbidden tree. Whether that sense of morality was innate or learned from creation, all of those things were possible under natural revelation, by which means he could learn that God was faithful and true. Even the trees were physical, natural representations of truth, reminding Adam of his own mutability.

Goodwin’s conclusion that there was no Supernatural Revelation in pre-Fall Eden seems to rest on his understanding of ADAM’S REWARD. He notes that God made no promise of eternal life to Adam, as he does to those of us living within the Covenant of Grace. Adam’s chief end may then not have been the same as our chief end. Genesis 1 sets out God’s intention for Adam…

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:26-31

Is there any evidence of heavenly promise in this text? Was Adam ever intended to be a partaker of the blessedness of the Lord with the redeemed host in heavenly glory? Would he have a part in the resurrection? Or, if he had not broken God’s command, would he have simply dwelt forever in Eden, for pre-Fall there was no death?

Also, if Adam had been a recipient of Supernatural Revelation from God, given in grace how could he have rejected that Grace at the fall, for God’s Grace is irresistible. If if he did not reject it, did he then fall from it?

Goodwin finds that it is safest to conclude that in the Garden of Eden, there was only Natural Revelation of God to Adam, and that revelation was sufficient for the Covenant of Works. (Which, of course, we may now conclude, was destined to fail and be replaced, because of man’s sin at the fall). He concludes that Natural Faith promises nothing more than life on this earth, and to a great extent this view is essential given his understanding of the Christological focus of Supernatural Revelation, and his contrast between a man from the earth and a Man from Heaven, a contrast also highlighted by Paul in Romans.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:15-19

In this Goodwin finds himself at odds with many other Puritan writers, who see the evidence of Supernatural Revelation in the fact of the presence of God in the Garden, – and that there is a direct channel of communication between God and man,

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:8-9

Does this in itself not constitute some form of Supernatural Revelation? Francis Turretin, for example, seen potential room for Adam in heaven, but under the terms only of the Covenant of Works.

John Owen offers a middle road of sorts. His thesis is that there is Supernatural Revelation in the Garden of Eden, but that it is PROGRESSIVE. It co-existed with Natural Revelation, and was gradually rolled out as the will of God was enacted. He supports the idea, by referring to God’s gracious granting of a Sabbath rest to Adam, a day in which Adam could contemplate on God’s goodness in His works, and by inference learn more about him.

So, a start is made on the Theology of the Puritans, and any comments or help or corrections on the above are welcome!

Post them below please!

From → Puritans

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