An archive of works against hyper preterism aka full preterism from a confessionally Reformed perspective.

Samuel Frost is Wrong about R.C. Sproul

Sam Frost, in his attempts to portray Reformed authors as being confused on the nature of death in Genesis, now claims that the late Dr. Sproul excluded “spiritual death” from the threat. That is Sam‘s interpretation of these words from Dr. Sproul:

”Numerous commentators have tried to soften the divine warning by interpreting the “death” of Genesis 2 as a kind of spiritual death. That is not what the text says.”1

Yet, Dr. Sproul would go on to say:

“To be sure, Adam and Eve did suffer spiritual death that very day…”2

Thus, Sam reasons that Dr. Sproul would agree with his restriction of “death” to “physical death” alone, and that Dr. Sproul’s addition of “spiritual death” is “inconsistent.”

I would argue that it is not inconsistent. 

Besides the fact that Dr. Sproul, all throughout his writings, affirmed “spiritual death“, he says something in the very next sentence that sheds light on what he meant, which Sam did not include:

“The death penalty of which God warned was real death, death in the full sense of the word. To be sure, Adam and Eve did suffer spiritual death that very day, but God granted mercy in terms of the full measure of the penalty.”2

Notice the words “full sense” and “full measure.” Is it not obvious that for Dr. Sproul, “death“ includes both “spiritual death“ and “physical death”? If not, why speak of the “full sense“ of “death” and the “full measure of the penalty”? Read any of the standard commentaries on the Westminster Catechisms. They all speak of “death” in its “full sense”; spiritual, temporal, and eternal. I believe, therefore, that Dr. Sproul was speaking of those who exclude “physical death” from the threat, making it about “spiritual death“ alone…something that no confessional reformed author does, as far as I’m aware.

This is perfectly in line with everything else Dr. Sproul has written about the subject. He’s not being “inconsistent” on this issue. Rather, I think this is a prime example of how some people scan books looking for certain words or phrases that they can use to justify their own strange interpretations, without carefully considering what is actually said and argued; something we did a ton of as hyper preterists. 

  1. R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, 2nd ed. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1998), 114. []
  2. ibid, 114 [] []
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Sam Frost
5 days ago

Jason,

If you read what I wrote, and posted in public, when I posted Sproul’s comments, I wrote this to James McAnany, dated December 10th: “Thus, two points from Reformed maverick, R. C. Sproul: 1. Adam did not “desire to usurp God’s throne” before Adam broke the transgression. 2. THE TEXT does not say “you will spiritually die”, but to quote Sproul again, “Was the penalty stated, ‘if you sin, then someday you will die?’ No! The penalty was…instant death, DEATH THAT VERY DAY” (page 162, Holiness of God, Tyndale, 1998). Now, to be sure, he does say, that Adam “spiritually died” – but he does not go into any real detail there, James, and he clearly does not MAKE THAT the “death”. Clearly.”

Thus, it is misleading to say that I “did not include” what Sproul said. And, in his book, Sproul makes it crystal clear that the threat issued was NOT spiritual death, but physical death. “The death penalty of which God warned was real death, death in the full sense of the word” – then he goes on to say, “we are all sitting on death row awaiting execution” (p.163). What “death” is he talking about there? When one introduces “full sense”, then “spiritual death” is not the “full sense” of the “death” meant. Thus, with “full” there is “part” – meaning that “spiritual death” is a “part” or “less than full” meaning of death. Second, Sproul does not have “deaths” going on here. And, as stated, he doesn’t elaborate.

Now, to be sure, Sproul explicitly rejects the idea that Adam “rebelled” against God, wanting to “usurp” his throne. From that post, I wrote, “R. C. Sproul, Sr., agrees. Also from my book, in a footnote, he ‘notes the ‘philosophical problem’ with this question: ‘How can a creature who has no sinful disposition, no evil desire, and no evil inclination whatsoever make a wicked choice?’ He states that we have an ‘inexplicable event’. ‘We do not know what motivated Adam and Eve. Somehow, a good desire got twisted into a bad result.’ Finally, ‘…the Bible does not tell us how it was possible for them to sin…How sin got here we do not know…’ – Truths We Confess: A Systematic Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Reformation Trust: Orlando. 2019. 154-156. (END NOTE).

Thus, Adam did not “rebel”, and ate under the deception of his wife, Eve. He did not “die” in the “full sense” of the word, to which Sproul “attaches” spiritual death. I don’t. He didn’t “die” at all. His mind was changed/altered, and death entered through Sin, which now had a playground in the mind (illustrated for us in Genesis 4, with Cain, where “sin is at your door, and desires you, but you must master it.” Voila, Romans 7. Without revelation – without God intervening, Man cannot master it, and will most certainly die in it…die in sin. That’s his condition. You want to see this as tantamount to denying original sin, and the corruption of man-against-God, but it isn’t. Not even close.

Sam Frost
Reply to  Jason
15 hours ago

Again, Jason, listen to Sproul’s tape of the month club, where he states that Adam “rebelled” (he sinned – we ALL acknowledge that), but that he did not have sin in his heart before he transgressed. “We do not know what motivated Adam and Eve. Somehow, a good desire got twisted into a bad result.” (Truths We Confess, 154-156). A “GOOD DESIRE” got twisted into a BAD RESULT (“rebellion”). We do NOT KNOW what motivated them. It wasn’t SIN, nor was it REBELLION. A GOOD DESIRE motivated them and “got twisted” into a BAD result.

He further states, “the Bible does not tell us how it was possible for them to sin…How sin got here we do not know.” And there’s the rub, Jason. Now, let’s listen to Piper (who echoes Calvin and Augustine): “‘Adam hit God. But not with his fist. He hit him with his heart. He said, in effect, “I don’t trust you anymore to provide the best life. I think I know better that you…I reject you…I vote for myself…I will do it may way.” (Providence, page 503). You can’t see a difference there between Sproul’s “GOOD desire” and Piper? If you can’t, oh well.

More importantly, in the Genesis text, we see no “rebellion” being lead by Eve and Adam “before they ate.” None. Sproul is on the right path here, and I believe I am, too.

Keep in mind, Jason, as I have noted, I am not saying “Sproul agrees with every word I write.” I clearly, clearly have stated that he endorses “spiritual death” – but does so in a way that introduces “deaths” (plural), spiritual death, and physical death, whereas, again, the TEXT of Genesis does not. Milton has four “deaths”, Augustine has three deaths. Recently, I found another Reformed author that defines “spiritual death” as the “Second Death”.

Thus, for Sproul, “the rebellion” of Adam was his “transgression” (breaking the law). However, BEFORE he did this – before he transgressed (broke the law – that’s what Paul’s word means in Romans 5.12-ff.), there was NO rebellion as defined by Calvin and Piper. Sproul explicitly states this in his lecture on You Tube “the problem of evil.” He is, for me, stating the problem: how does Eve and Adam have EVIL THOUGHTS before they actually DO (transgress) what God said not to do? That’s a PROBLEM, Jason, because if they had EVIL THOUGHTS before they broke the law (sin is breaking the law), and EVIL THOUGHTS are a result of a CORRUPT MIND, then clearly, they had a corrupt mind ALREADY – even before breaking the law! And, if “corrupt mind” means “spiritual death” (as defined by some), then, again, logically, they were already “dead” before they ate! Absurd.

You wrote, “First off, i don’t even know what that means. “Before Adam broke the transgression.” Broke the transgression?” Yes, in Paul’s Greek, “the transgression” is “do not eat of this tree” – that is “the transgression.” Adam broke it: he transgressed. Simple. “Do not murder” – that’s a Transgression. If you murder, you have transgressed.

Now, Sproul, like so many others, runs into a problem: IMMEDIATE DEATH is clearly what he (and I) say. Not “begin”, not “starts to”. Right? Right. Okay…so, if the DEATH PENALTY is IMMEDIATE, and by this Sproul CLEARLY MEANS a “swift execution” in the day (as he so clearly states), then does “spiritual death” MEET these requirements? Is spiritual death IMMEDIATE? Is it a “swift execution”? Is it? If it is, then quite logically, SWIFT IMMEDIATE EXECUTION took place, and it was not “physical” death. But, this would contradict the very fact that Sproul states, “”Numerous commentators have tried to soften the divine warning by interpreting the “death” of Genesis 2 as a kind of spiritual death. That is not what the text says.” Now, Jason, please. Was a “kind of” spiritual death that happened? Was it a “less measure” from the “full measure”? If so, ISN’T THAT SOFTENING THE WARNING? Yup. Logic demands it.

Second, and most devastating, if spiritual death is a “less measure” (sense it is not the FULL measure), then did Adam “start” to die? Let’s read Sproul again: “Was the penalty stated like this: ‘If you sin, then someday you will die’? No! The penalty for sin was clearly stated by God: ‘When you eat of it, you will surely die.’ (page 162, Holiness). Now, surely by all that is logical, you can see the problem here. It’s a case of “wanting to eat your cake, and have the icing, too.” You can’t have BOTH. You can’t say, “swift, DEATH IN THE FULL SENSE OF THE WORD” being “WHEN YOU EAT”, and yet the FULL SENSE is not carried out! “Well, the full sense wasn’t carried out, but the lesser sense, spiritual death, was fully carried out because man is fully spiritually dead in sin.” And, Jason….please do not insult my intelligence: I never meant that you believe Adam’s spirit literally “died.” That’s stupid. For you to infer that after earning a Th.M., an MAR and a MACS from Whitefield, that after all their “book reading” (which apparently you think I brag about), I don’t “know what Reformed theology is”. Not a good plug for the school, Jason. I know FULLY WELL what “spiritual death” means from Augustine, to Piper. I read ’em.

What I am doing is, like Clark (who tore into Hodge, or Vos, or at times several other Reformed men HE ADMIRED GREATLY), is to show how illogical it is to say things like Sproul, above. Sproul “softens” the blow of “death” because he means to equate death with CAPITAL PUNISHMENT – which is CORRECT – then introduces “spiritual death” – which is not the “full sense” of death – thus a “lesser sense” – which SOFTENS THE BLOW.

No. I want to FULL FORCE of what God said to Adam to matter what the Bible says it means: Eat, you die, right then and there. Swift.

Now, some (Bavinck, Berkhof, Sproul, even Piper) will go on to talk about “pardon” and “postponed” (Bavinck) the threat. Yes…correct. But, others, (Hoeksema, Vos) oppose such a thing. Why? Well, Vos lessens the meaning of “in the day”. Bavinck and Sproul do not. The phrase “in the day” is used numerous times in the Hebrew…it means “when” – “in the day”. Simple. Very simple. Easily proven. So, when you put it all together – Adam did not “die” in a “swift” way as the threat states – without “softening” the blow at all. He was “pardoned” for a time (demonstrating the patience of God). Yet, something happened to his “thoughts” – his “mind” or “heart” in terms of “knowledge” and “good and evil.” Not him directly, as if he became an atheistic, God hating transvestite that worshipped idols at that moment. But, by the time we get to Cain, about 128 years later…”SIN desires you…it crouches at your door….you must master IT…do GOOD…” So, what’s the deal with Abel? He does “good”. So does “Noah” – amidst a generation “whose THOUGHTS were EVIL all the time.” Evil thoughts….now, where did such a thing come from? Adam. Death ENTERED and SIN THROUGH DEATH – and what does SIN do? “It desires you, crouches at the door….you must master it.” Romans 7. Man’s mind is corrupt without DIRECT revelation from God and his indwelling Spirit. Far from denying original sin, I AFFIRM IT.

God has given man life, instead of immediate death: “Today, if you hear his voice” (Adam heard his voice, and responded – “I ate. Guilty as charged.”). Thus, one can “die IN sins” or “die TO sins” (Romans 6). You are wrong….Adam didn’t “die in sins” – he died to sin, like Abel, Seth, Enoch, and Noah….

Sam Frost
Reply to  Sam Frost
15 hours ago

There is one other thing: You wrote, “The standard Reformed answer is that death is three-fold: spiritual, temporal, and eternal.” I got that. The question is, in the text (the Bible, the Supreme Judge), which “fold” is mentioned? Did Adam understand these “folds”? I argue that he did not. He knew what “immediate death” meant because God told him, and he knew it meant “return to dust” – he knew where he came from, and he knew where Eve came from (“bone of my bone”). I give Adam credit. The problem, then, is that Eve was “deceived” – tricked, hoodwinked, conned by a sophisticated lie. That’s what the word means. Thus, she and Adam had a ‘good desire’ (Sproul), that garnered a “bad result”. They believed this creature “the Lord God had made” (Gn 3.1). Why not? Did they have any reason to think this creature was “evil”? Nope. God made him. He was a “beast of the field” (3.1), which Adam previously named (2.19). Jason – I am not “overturning” the Reformed faith….however, I am more interested in the fine details of the Word of God as written. And, there is a ton I have not spelled out, here. The universality of Adam’s sin I do not deny. The necessity of God initiating salvation is as plain to me even more so now than it ever has been. The knowledge of mortality consumes the philosophers – what to do with “death”. It is a universal problem, for “all die in Adam.” Me, you, and the kid down the street. For Paul, “death” is a “power” – it “rules” and “works in” until it “brings forth” a corpse – horrible! Since this is the case, and since we are “slaves to sin”, then we have a SERIOUS problem on our hands. But, what does Sin (a power, a principality of evil)? What Sin does is, is takes “good” and works in the mind “evil thoughts” from the good. It “deceives”. It works 24/7 – and finally, with its rule within Death (sin reigns in death), it produces an unrepentant corpse, dead in sins. No hope. No remedy. No forgiveness.

What can deliver us from this doom? “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ.” This corpse of mine….shall receive power, honor, glory, immortality and eternal life abundance forever and live again in this new earth creation…..It is in “this hope that we are saved”.


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