“Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.”
“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Order of Contents
What is the Issue?
In the eternal, predestinating purpose of God, is the one ‘lump’ of clay (in Rom. 9:21), from which God forms vessels of honor and of dishonor, humanity in its corrupted fallen state, or is it mankind in a pure, uncreated state? This is the question of infralapsarianism (fallen) and supralapsarianism (unfallen).
Lapsum in Latin means ‘fall’ and infra means ‘below’, while supra means ‘above’. Hence infralapsarianism means that in God’s election He viewed humanity in his decree as below, or after, the Fall, while supralapsarianism means that God viewed humanity in his electing them above, or before, the Fall.
Both views hold that God foreordains everything that happens (Eph. 1:11; WCF 1.3), including the Fall and all sinful actions. Both views hold that Election and Reprobation are eternal and unconditional, before and apart from any workings of the creature (contra Arminians). Hence the question is not one of a difference in time, but rather is one of the logical order in God’s mind and will.
The Order of the Decrees
While the simplicity of God necessitates that God fundamentally only has one decree of all things, by one eternal act of his willing, yet not all things decreed by Him relate to each other equally, and in fact are revealed to have various relationships, sometimes dependent, antecedent or coordinate with each other. Sometimes the differences are important. For instance:
If Christ lays down his life for his sheep, whom the Father had entrusted to Him (Jn. 10:15; Jn. 17:6,12), then Christ’s purpose to substitute Himself in their place via the atonement must presuppose their election. The Father did not elect a portion of the people that Christ died for.
If Christ must bring into his fold the yet unconverted sheep that the Father commissioned Him to gather (Jn. 10:16, 29), then Christ sending pastors with the outward call of the Gospel (Rom. 10:13-15) must subserve election. It is not the case that God’s determinate purpose is to call all, and to elect some for salvation therefrom.
While many more examples could be given, it should not be inferred that every difference of order is as equally clear or important. In fact, the large share of reformed history is united in recognizing that the difference between the order of the decrees in infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism is a very small, tolerable, difference of opinion which has little or no practical consequence, other than balancing out and guarding other aspects of one’s theology.
Historically, infralapsarians have formed the majority through reformed history. Several historic reformed confessions affirm infralapsarianism, excluding supralapsarianism, while no confessions explicitly affirm supralapsarianism.
Infralapsarianism posits the order of God’s decrees in the way that they fall out in time, starting with Creation. Historic supralapsarianism is the same, except that it puts election and reprobation first:
2. The Fall
3. Election & Reprobation
4. Redemption by the Cross-Work of Christ
5. The Application of the Benefits of Redemption to God’s People
1. Election and Reprobation
3. The Fall
4. Redemption by the Cross-Work of Christ
5. The Application of the Benefits of Redemption to God’s People
Some of the Issues Involved
While both Election and Reprobation are equally ultimate and symmetrical in that they are both eternal, they cannot be equally ultimate or parallel in every way, since God is the source of all good (Mt. 19:17; Jm. 1:17) but not of evil (Jm. 1:13; Eccl. 7:29) While God works all things for good to them that love Him (Rom. 8:28), there is no converse of this in Scripture: God is not actively working all things for the destruction of those who do not love Him, but rather, is passing them by in their sin, leaving them to their own. See the quotes below by Finlayson and Sproul on the asymmetry of Election and Reprobation.
Hence, not only all infralapsarians, but nearly all historical supralapsarians as well affirmed a permisssive aspect to God’s decree which relates to sin. See John Girardeau document this from Twisse, Perkins, Gill, Brine and Beza in pp. 185-191 of chapter 4 of The Will in its Theological Relations. See the permission of sin taught in Westminster Confession 6.1 as well as the documentation of this standard reformed doctrine here, ‘On the Effective Permission of Sin’ and at Calvin and Calvinism’s ‘Divine Permission of Sin’.
Despite this agreement between historic supralapsarians and infralapsarians, we are left with the question of whether, as on the supra view, God, viewing the possibility of innocent creatures, ‘hated’ them and created them for the purpose of damning them on account of their sin for the greater manifestation of his glory through his Justice and Wrath.
If ‘hatred’ conveys the significance of ‘righteous indignation’, just as it does with respect to Esau in Rom. 9:13, then it is impossible, by the benevolent nature of God, to have a righteous indignation for innocent creatures which are possible for Him to create.
Rather, God necessarily has a common love for his creatures as they are his creatures (existent or considered only possibly so) due to his benevolent nature. This has been a common teaching from the best of reformed history, as documented by Andrew Myers in ‘The Three-Fold Love of God’. God’s sovereignty cannot go contrary to his nature, or over-ride it, but must be consistent with it.
The main pillar of supralapsarianism is ‘That which is last in execution, ought to be first in intention.’ (Twisse) This principle is true as it respects things of the same nature and order which are subordinated and dependent on each other. However, it is not true when the things involved are not of the same nature or order and do not have a relation of dependence but are co-ordinate.
The spheres of creation and of grace are not of the same nature or order, and, as the decree to graciously save was not necessitated by anything in the creation, but was rather by God’s free, sovereign, choice (it is possible that He had not chosen to redeem), the decrees of creation and of election unto redemption cannot be subordinated to each other, but rather they are coordinate (with the decree of creation antecedent to election).
Scripture confirms this. On the supra scheme, creation, and more significantly, the evil and misery of the Fall and sin, is a means for the fulfilling of God’s Election. However, notice the absence in Rom. 8:30 of any mention of an Election unto Creation, the Fall, and sin:
“Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
The reason for the absence of the Creation, Fall and sin in the golden chain of predestination is that the blessing which election confers is always that of grace and the means thereof, and that the related Greek Scriptural terms for predestination are always reserved in Scripture for God’s gracious, positive blessings given to God’s fore-loved people.
Another issue involved is whether Reprobation is an act of God’s positive sovereignty (most supras) or whether it is a mere negation of non-election, a preterition, or passing over, coupled with an act of Justice upon the merit of the actual creature’s sins (infras). The difference is quite significant: whether Reprobation is only an act of Justice, which no one can demur over, or whether it involves something positive in nature.
In perusing the many resources below, you will happily notice that there are many variations and distinctions within each view. This should humble us and give us pause. Take note, for instance, that Samuel Rutherford, a supralapsarian, who searched to the bottom of everything he came to, posited two acts of preterition, one where the Supras place it, and one where the Infras place, both passive.
As the plain meaning of Eph. 3:3-11 cannot naturally bear a supralapsarian sense (see Charles Hodge on Eph. 3:10 and A.A. Hodge below), the only text left that could be seen as teaching supralapsarianism is Rom 9:13 & 21, about God loving and hating Jacob and Esau and forming vessels from the one lump of clay. To see that this passage cannot be abstracted from the sinfulness of the persons in context and to whom it is spoken to, nor abstracted from God’s providential dealings therewith (especially from the O.T. context), with additional factors which call for, and necessitate, an infralapsarian viewpoint, see Turretin, John Murray and John Brown of Edinburgh.
While this is not the place to start, but for the student who is bit further along the way in these things, Francis Turretin provides the best defense of infralapsarianism currently available, which is sufficient to demonstrate the position’s verity:
Turretin, Francis – Section 9 – ‘Whether the Object of Predestination was Man Creatable, or Capable of Falling; or whether as Created and Fallen. The Former we Deny; the latter we Affirm’ 8 pp. in Institutes of Elenctic Theology Buy vol. 1, Topic 4
Answering the Riddle
The finite cannot bear, but breaks under the infinite (the reformed maxim: Finitum non capax infiniti). As God’s most simple will is eternal and infinite above all creaturely comprehension and logic, his ways being exponentially higher than our ways, and the inter-relationships of the various aspects of God’s decree relating upon, through and about each other in ways beyond our capacity to even begin to conceive of, as it exists in God, makes both infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism broken and inadequate reflections of his perfect will, the depth of which will forever remain shrouded in inexplicable mystery by God’s ineffable and depthless being.
Hence the answer to which paradigm is correct as to the logical ordering of God’s Decree in God Himself (archeypal theology), is: Neither.
However, as God’s Decree falls out to us through revelation, and as it is, and must be comprehended by us as creatures (ectypal theology), so infralapsarianism is what is revealed in the Holy Oracles. While infralapsarianism does not answer every question one might have, yet, there is no valid objection against it.
Infralapsarianism recognizes numerous necessary qualitative distinctions, beyond which we cannot get. As long as we are finite creatures, recognizing and stopping upon qualitative, metaphysical distinctions is inevitably where our path must end. Beyond this, it is not safe for creatures to tread.
Where to Start
The first place to start is with humility: “Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5) To grow in humility in relation to this subject, read John Newton’s first letter to the Reverend Mr. R.
For a necessary and clear introduction to some of the issues at stake, see the quotes by Finlayson & Sproul on the Asymmetry of Election and Reprobation below.
For those not faint of heart and intent on becoming more familiar with the issues, and to get one’s fuller bearings in place, Berkhof is clear and helpful to that end.
Berkhof, Louis – ‘E. Supra- and Infralapsarianism’ in II. Predestination in Systematic Theology 1949
For a more advanced and very fair discussion of the issues, see Geerhardus Vos, who leans supra:
Vos, Geerhardus – ‘On Infra- and Supralapsarianism’ 36 paragraphs from Reformed Dogmatics, pp. 148-155
For an excellent, nuanced, setting forth of numerous aspects of the infralapsarian paradigm, see:
The best defense of Infralapsarianism currently in English, and that which is sufficient to demonstrate the verity of the position, is by Francis Turretin:
Turretin, Francis – Section 9 – ‘Whether the Object of Predestination was Man Creatable, or Capable of Falling; or whether as Created and Fallen. The Former we Deny; the latter we Affirm’ 8 pp. in Institutes of Elenctic Theology Buy vol. 1, Topic 4
And for perhaps the fullest, comprehensible, modern, setting forth of historical supralapsarianism, which is not easy to obtain (try contacting Westminster Theological Seminary), see the dissertation on Johannes Maccovius:
Bell, Michael – Propter Potestatem, Scientiam, ac Beneplacitum Dei [According to the Power, Knowledge and Good-Pleasure of God]: The Doctrine of the Object of Predestination in the Theology of Johanes Maccovius Westminster Theological Seminary, 1986 544 pp.
However far along the Lord may or may not give us strength to search into these things, may we humbly confess with the Psalmist in Psalm 131:
“Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.
Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.”
Finlayson & Sproul on the Asymmetry of Election & Reprobation
Finlayson was a Free Church of Scotland professor during the mid-1900’s, and one of the best, lesser known theologians of the 1900’s. See here for an introduction to him. From Reformed Theological Writings of R.A. Finlayson, p. 265
Predestination & Reprobation Contrasted
1. The [Westminster] Confession does not teach or imply a double predestination. In an attempt to distinguish between election and reprobation we should use predestination for the elect and foreordination for the reprobate [as the Confession does].
2. Election and reprobation rest on different grounds: election on the redeeming love of God that undertakes the salvation of the lost; reprobation on the moral necessity to manifest to the universe the nature and consequences of sin in moral personality.
3. Means are used of God to fulfil the purpose of election, but God uses no means to fulfil His purpose of reprobation. It is left to sin to run its course and receive its wages.
4. The fruits of election are attributable to divine grace, the fruits of reprobation to personal sin. This means that while there is grace to some, there is injustice to none.
5. While God finds pleasure in the salvation of the elect, He has sworn by Himself that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God does not need sin or its retribution for His self-manifestation, but its reality in the universe can serve that end.
6. That the elect will constitute a recreation of the race under a new Head is evident, while the reprobate are but the branches cut off from the tree of humanity. Christ will be revealed as the Savior of the world, though many are lost in the process.
R.C. Sproul, Sr.
Sproul here is touching on hyper-calvinistic forms of Supralapsarianism. Not all supralapsarians are hyper-calvinists, though all hyper-calvinists are supralapsarians. From Chosen But Free, Chapter on Double Predestination
“The distortion of double predestination looks like this:
There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. God works in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate.
That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative. In the case of the elect, regeneration is the monergistic work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin and degeneration are the monergistic work of God.
Stated another way, we can establish a parallelism of foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry. We can call this a positive-positive view of predestination. This is, God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation. In the same way God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the reprobate to bring him to sin.
This distortion of positive-positive predestination clearly makes God the author of sin who punishes a person for doing what God monergistically and irresistibly coerces man to do. Such a view is indeed a monstrous assault on the integrity of God. This is not the Reformed view of predestination, but a gross and inexcusable caricature of the doctrine.
Such a view may be identified with what is often loosely described as hyper-Calvinism and involves a radical form of supralapsarianism. Such a view of predestination has been virtually universally and monolithically rejected by Reformed thinkers.”
Neither, Both or Undeclared 9
Sibbes, Richard – p. 3, rt col. of ‘Dr. Sibbes’ Judgment of the Author’ †1635 prefaced to the commentary on Ephesians of Paul Bayne, a Supralapsarian
Davenant, John – ‘On the Ordering of the Decrees: As Speculations of a ‘Crazed Brain” 1641 7 paragraphs from Animadversions Written by the Right Reverend Father in God, John Lord Bishop of Sarisbury, upon the Treatise intitled, Gods love to Mankinde (London: 1641), pp. 375-377
* Ness, Christopher – Ch. 1, ‘Objection 5’, p. 57 in An Antidote Against Arminianism †1705 This work was recommended by John Owen, an infralapsarian. Note also that Turretin, an infralapsarian, and Willard, a supralapsarian, amongst others, both fully affirm what Ness says below.
“2. Those notions of sub and supra are but human conceptions of the order of the Divine decree, which so far transcends our understanding, that our weak capacities cannot comprehend it but after the manner of men.
Those several states of man, before and after the Fall, are not in the Divine understanding as they are in ours, by a succession of acts, one after another; but God by one single act orders all things; and the Divine idea in the decree is a representative of all those states at once. They are not subordinanda [to be subordinated] but co-ordinanda [are to be ordained together]; not this after that, but altogether in one instant of eternity.”
On Peter van Mastricht †1706
Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, ch. 8, ‘Predestination’, p. 162
“Mastricht e.g. attempts to mediate the opposition between the supra- and infra- lapsarian ways of looking at it by distinguishing a fourfold actus praedestinationis [acts of predestination] (III, ii, 12):
‘Four acts of God are here to be observed:
(1) the purpose to manifest the glory of mercy and of punishing righteousness;
(2) the statute to create all men and permit them to lapse in a common beginning.
(3) of those created and fallen to choose one in whom He would acquire the glory of mercy, and to reprobate another in whom He would obtain the glory of avenging righteousness.
(4) an intention to prepare and direct the means corresponding to election and to reprobation.
By reason of the first act of predestination the object could only have been homo creabilis et labilis [man creatable and mutable], since no decree so far is presupposed to have been made concerning creation and the fall:
by reason of the second act it is strictly homo creandus et lapsurus [man to be created and to fall]; by reason of the third homo creatus et lapsus [man as created and fallen]; by reason of the fourth homo electus et reprobus [man as elect and reprobate].
Since therefore, so far as it is distinguished from election and reprobation, predestination consists of two prime acts, you would be most accurate in saying that the object of predestination is homo creabilis et labilis, creandus at lapsurus; while at the same time the object of election and reprobation is homo creatus et lapsus.
Thus most conveniently you will have reconciled specifically dissident views and most safely removed difficulties with which each side wants to saddle the side opposed to it.'”
‘Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism’ late-1800’s unknown source
‘Supra- and Infralapsarianism’ 6 pp. in Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, Part 3, Section 7, pp. 361-366
* Dabney, Robert – ‘Predestination of Angels different from that of Man’ & ‘Schemes of the Sublapsarian and Supralapsarian Examined’ in Lecture 21, ‘Predestination’ in Lectures in Theology, pp. 231-234
John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan, of the Free Church of Scotland:
“I have never entered the door of either supra- or -infralapsarian Calvinism.”
Berkhof, Louis – ‘E. Supra- and Infralapsarianism’ in II. Predestination in Systematic Theology 1949
* Muller, Richard – ‘Revising the Predestination Paradigm: An Alternative to Supralapsarianism, Infralapsarianism, and Hypothetical Universalism’ being lectures given at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, 2008 Contact MARS to obtain.
The Best is Francis Turretin.
* – Some of the more significant treatments
* – Westminster divine
* Junius, Francis
20 Theses of Dr. Francis Junius concerning Divine Predestination 1593 16 pp. in Works of James Arminius, vol. 3, p. 263-277 Only the theses are those of Junius; the annotations thereon are of Arminius (just ignore those).
Junius, the renowned reformed professor, had lectured on Calvin’s doctrine of predestination and sought to make it a bit more palatable by laying out a framework of Infralapsarianism. Arminius, a pastor at this time, wrote a letter to Junius expressing his doubts about predestination in the reformed model. Thus was the start of this historic, important and masterful interchange.
Junius divided Arminius’ letter into 27 propositions, and cordially responded to each of them. Arminius then responded again at some length, though Junius never responded thereto before he died 6 years later. The discussion repeats 27 cycles of: (1) Arminius’ initial objections, (2) Junius’ response, and then (3) Arminius’ response thereto.
Simply read Junius’ responses and ignore Arminius. Much of the discussion revolves around lapsarianism and the implications therefrom. This is one of the most in-depth treatments of the lapsarian issue that there is.
Heppe, Heinrich – pp. 157-160, 162 of Reformed Dogmatics Buy ch. 8, ‘Predestination’
Heppe was an 1800’s German reformed scholar who collected and translated an anthology of early reformed sources from the 1500’s-1700’s. He gives excerpts from their writings that are inaccessible anywhere else in English.
Heppe quotes as Infralapsarians: Cocceius, Heidegger, the Leiden Synopsis, Wendelin, Wolleb, Hottinger, Seegedin & Rissen.
* Polanus, Amandus
‘On Reprobation’ 1600 5 paragraphs
‘On Divine Permission of Sin’ 1600 11 paragraphs
Syntagma, IV, viii, p. 245, col. 1, trans. Muller, Christ and the Decree, p. 156
“The election of men to eternal salvation is that predestination by which God form eternity has given to Christ those men upon whom He has willed to have mercy so as to give them life eternal, that is, by which He has decreed in Himself from eternity which men He would take to Himself out of the rest and make exempt from the common destruction, adopt as sons in Christ, effectively call to communion in Christ, justify in Christ, and glorify…”
Kornelis, Michael – ‘Amandus Polanus’ Doctrine of Reprobation: One Decree; Two Acts’ a Calvin Theological Seminary paper for Dr. R. Muller
Davenant, John – Question 26. ‘Man Fallen is the Subject of Divine Predestination’ in The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge trans. Josiah Allport (1634; 1846), pp. 354-359 bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia... trans. Josiah Allport (1631; London, 1846), vol. 2
Davenant was a hypothetical universalist.
Burroughs, Jeremiah * – pp. 209-210 on Hosea 4:17 in Commentary on Hosea †1646
Burgess, Anthony *
Sermon 73, ‘Of God’s framing and devising evil of Calamities’ on Jer. 18:11 in Spiritual Refining 1652
p. 624 of Spiritual Refining
p. 293 of Spiritual Refining
“Secondly, God hath this end in this spiritual creation, to show his absolute dominion, and free liberty in exercising his gracious power upon what subjects he pleases… Our Savior acknowledges with the admiration of God’s wisdom herein; ‘Thou hast hid those things from the wise, and revealed them to babes.’
The Apostle Paul, Rom. 11, does professedly dispute Gods dominion herein, ‘Whom He will He chooses, and whom He will He hardens: And who are thou, O man, that disputes with God?’ God’s dispensation herein is wholly arbitrary, and none may say unto God, ‘Why doest Thou so?’ Thus while the Apostles were preaching, it is said, ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed,’ Act. 1:48. And ‘the election hath obtained,’ Rom. 11.
Hereupon it is that the Apostle does so often put the godly in mind of their election, that hereby their hearts might be stirred up to all thankfulness; for what an overwhelming consideration would this be to the gracious heart, to consider of those many thousands lying in a lump of sin, God should choose thee among others, and leave the rest in a perishing condition!”
Arrowsmith, John * – Aphorism V, Exercitation II, ‘Preterition’ 1659 in A Chain of Principles
p. 220 of Book 3, ch. 1 in A System or Body of Divinity 1654
Leigh here directly treats of the topic and says that the various views can be reconciled in that they all practically agree in the order of the execution of the decree in time. While this shows that there is some agreement in the lapsarian positions, it does not actually reconcile their differences.
When Leigh treats of the topic of Reprobation, below, it is exactly and only how the Infralapsarian parses it.
* ‘On Reprobation’ in System or Body of Divinity 1662 18 paragraphs
* Section 17 of Exercitation 26, ‘Of the Origin of the Priesthood of Christ’ prefixed to Commentary on Hebrews, vol. 1 of 4, pp. 424-427 This is at the beginning of vol. 2 of the 7 vol. set
Owen discusses the ordering of the decrees for 4 pages and lands on infralapsarianism. The very interesting, whole, exercitation asks why the Son of God purposed to become incarnate as a priest, and argues against a supralapsarian view that Christ would have become incarnate even if man had not sinned, such as was held by Wolfgang Musculus.
p. 474 of ‘The Greater Catechism’ in Works, vol. 1
“Q. 6. Does any thing in us move the Lord thus to choose us from amongst others?
A. No, in no wise; we are in the same lump with others rejected, when separated by his undeserved grace. Rom. 9:11-12; Mt. 11:25; 1 Cor. 4:7; 2 Tim. 1:9″
Manton, Thomas – pp. 128-134 on Reprobation on Jude 4 in Commentary on Jude, in Works, vol. 5 1677
“Consider, God has as much interest in them [reprobates] as in you: ‘All souls are mine, saith the Lord,’ Eze. 18:4; He was their creator as well as yours, and we are all in our blood, involved in ‘the same condemnation;’ He saw as much of original sin in you as in them; we lay in the same polluted mass. Oh! that free grace should make such a difference.” – pp. 133-134
Charnock, Stephen – ‘Proposition 3’, pp. 221-222 in ‘The Holiness of God’ in The Existence and Attributes of God, in Works, vol. 2
* Jenkyn, William – pp. 82-83 on Jude 4 in Commentary on Jude †1685
* Turretin, Francis, Institutes of Elenctic Theology Buy vol. 1, Topic 4
Section 18 – ‘Is any order to be admitted in the divine decrees, and what is it?’
Saurin, Jacques – ‘On Supralapsarianism’ in Sermons †1730 5 paragraphs
Saurin (1677-1730) was a popular French, reformed preacher, who was not unaffected by the Enlightenment.
Ridgley, Thomas – ‘Opinions as to the Objects of Election’ †1734 2 pp. in Body of Divinity, vol. 1, Questions 12-13, ‘The Decrees of God’, pp. 269-70
Venema, Herman – ‘On Supralapsarianism’ in Institutes of Theology †1787 18 paragraphs
Venema (1697-1787) was a Dutch, reformed professor of theology at Franeker who was influenced by the Enlightenment.
Bellamy, Joseph – 4 Sermons on the Wisdom of God in the Permission of Sin †1790
Bellamy as a New England divine.
* Brown, John of Edinburgh – Commentary on Rom. 9:21 1857
Hodge, Charles – pp. 316-320 of Systematic Theology, vol. 2, Part 3, ‘Soteriology’, ch. 1 1877 5 pp.
* ‘Outline of the Covenant of Grace and Testimony to Sublapsarianism’ 1877 14 pp. in Collected Writings, vol. 2, pp. 17-30
‘Election and Reprobation’ 1877 99 pp. in Collected Writings, vol. 2, pp. 105-204
Thornwell wrote this when he was 28 years old.
Hodge, A.A. – pp. 230-236 of ch. 11, ‘Predestination’, #41-50 in Outlines of Theology 1860 7 pp.
Shedd, William G.T. – pp. 441-448 of ‘Divine Decrees’ in Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1
pp. 35-44 of Part 1, Section 1, ‘Doctrine of Election Stated and Proved’ 1890 10 pp. in Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism
Chs. 4-5 of The Will in its Theological Relations 1891 80 pp.
Warfield, B.B. – ‘Calvinism’ 1914 25 pp. being ch. 5 of The Plan of Salvation, pp. 111-136
The whole book is about the order of the decrees, with each chapter dealing with a particular order; the first chapters dealing with erroneous sub-Christian views. This, the last chapter, deals with the correct view of the decree, that of Calvinism, and then discusses the lapsarian question within it, and falls on the infra side. Modern reprints of this work often have a helpful table that puts the order of the decrees of the various views side by side for comparison.
Boettner, Loraine – ‘6. Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism’ 1932 8 paragraphs in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination
* Murray, John – Commentary on Rom. 9:21 1968
“21 The thought here is the reproduction of what we find repeatedly in the Old Testament (cf. Isa. 29:15,16; 45:9; 64:8,9; Jer. 18:1-6). God’s sovereign right, pleaded here after the pattern of the potter’s right over the clay, belongs to God as Creator in the disposal of his creatures as creatures.
It must be borne in mind, however, that Paul is not now dealing with God’s sovereign rights over man as men but over men as sinners. He is answering the objection occasioned by the sovereign discrimination stated in verse 18 in reference to mercy and hardening. These, it must be repeated, presuppose sin and ill-desert.
It would be exegetically indefensible to abstract verse 21 and its teaching from these presupposed conditions. In other words, Paul is dealing with God’s actual government and with the sovereign determinations of his will actualized in this government.
The same is true of the Old Testament passages of which verse 21 is reminiscent. Suffice it to refer to Isaiah 64:7,9 which supplies the context of verse 8.”
Infralapsarian Works in Latin 4
Maresius, Samuel – Letter, or Defense, for the Synod of Dort’s judgment concerning the Object of Predestination 1651 67 pp.
Strang, John – Of the Will and Actions of God Surrounding Sin 1657 600 pp. The table of contents is after the several prefaces.
Strang (1584-1654) was a Scottish professor at Glasgow.
“No mean theologian was Dr. Strang, Principal of Glasgow College, author of the De voluntat et actionibus Dei circa peccatum. It is a work of the same class as Rutherford’s De Providentia, to which indeed it is in part a reply. Strang was not so high a Predestinarian as Rutherford, and ventured to assail some of the positions of the latter… He suffered for his boldness. The case at last came before the Assembly, and in the end he had to withdraw from his office in the Glasgow College.” – Walker, Theology & Theologians of Scotland, p. 18
“Dr. Strang… who was at least as pronounced a Sublapsarian as rutherford was the opposite… It perhaps indicates the prevalence of very high doctrine, that Strang had to give up his chair.” – Walker, p. 55
De Moor, Bernard – Ch. 7, Sections 17-18, pp. 63-72 of Commentary on Mark’s Compendium, Book 2
See especially the reformed confessions listed by Warfield below; Junius, Zanchi, Vermigli (van Asselt lists as a supra), J. Dove, Wolleb, Bucanus, E. Parr, Du Moulin, Cocceius, Heidegger, Polanus, R. Abbot, Wendelin, Hottinger, Seegedin, Rissen, Maresius, the Leiden Synopsis, Thysius, Polyander, Walaeus, Lubbertus, Rivet, Ball, Diodati, Featley *, Cocceius, Henry Alting, J. Hall, Burroughs *, Leigh, J. Strang, Arrowsmith *, Fr. Spanheim, Brinsley, R. Mayo, Manton, Owen, A. Burgess *, Charnock, Coles, Flavel, Jenkyn, Fr. Turretin, S. Clarke, J. Heidegger, Bates, Pictet, a Brakel, M. Henry, Willison, A. Rotterdam, Trail, Saurin, John Edwards, John Evans, Howe, Halyburton, Hellenbroek, Boston, J. Fisher, E. Erskine, Brown of Haddington, Ridgley, J. Newton, M. Aurthur, Toplady, H. Venema, a Mark, De Moore, Whitefield, I. Backus, J. Bellamy, A. Alexander, Brown of Edin., R. Haldane, Spurgeon, Cunningham, David Brown, C. Hodge, A. Hodge, Heppe, Thornwell, Shedd, Girardeau, J. Harper, Warfield, Boettner, John Murray, Packer & Sproul Sr.
Vermigli, Peter Martyr
As translated by Muller, Christ and the Decree, p. 65, from Common Places, III.i.10, p. 449. See Muller’s discussion generally for the other infralapsarian characteristics of Vermigli’s view.
“Indeed we must remember that the love, election and predestination of God are ordered among themselves and follow on one another for a certain reason. First, all men in their unhappy estate are presented to the knowledge of God, as needy and miserable, then those of whom God of his pure and simple mercy loves and for whom He wills the good are distinguished from those He passes over, who are not comprehended within his benevolence: by this distinction they are said to be elect; the elect, truly, are appointed toward their end.”
On Peter Martyr Vermigli
James, Frank A., the translator of Vermigli’s Predestination and Justification, in The Peter Martyr Library, vol 8, ‘Translator’s Introduction’, pp. xxviii-xxix. See the larger surrounding discussion which highlights and explains some seeming supra-strains of thought in Vermigli.
“…on the matter of election (which he [Vermigli] identifies with predestination), God’s will in eternity is seen to be the exclusive cause. The effect of this election assumes Augustine’s anthropology by viewing all humanity as a massa perditionis [a ruined mass], doomed to eternal condemnation unless God intercedes. Divine election is portrayed positively as the rescue of the doomed sinner, who can do nothing to secure his own deliverance. After being elected from the mass of fallen sinners in eternity past… the elect embrace Christ in time and thus inherit eternal life.
Vermigli’s doctrine is an unequivocal double predestination, but he differs from other Reformers, such as Ulrich Zwingli. The latter advocates a strict symmetrical double predestination, but Vermigli constructs an asymmetrical version of this doctrine. According to Vermigli, God does not deal with the elect in precisely the same way he deals with the non-elect…”
Zanchi, Girolamo – Ch. 4, ‘Of Reprobation’, Positions 1, 7, & pp. 155, 158 in The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted Note that this edition was edited by Augustus Toplady, who was an infra, who did not always note his changes and sometimes added thereto.
See Dr. Richard Muller’s discussion of Zanchi as an Infralapsarian (Christ and the Decree, p. 112-3). Here is a quote from Zanchi’s De Praedestinatione, col. 307:
“[Election is God’s] eternal, most wise, and immutable decree, constituted by Him in eternity, by which certain men in the trap of deepest sin and death, and one with all the fallen are, according to his merciful will, rescued graciously through Christ.”
Dove, John – pp. 35, 38-39 of A Sermon… in which are discussed… 1 It is not the will of God that all men should be saved. 2 The absolute will of God, and his secret decree from all eternity is the cause why some are predestined to salvation, others to destruction… 3 Christ died not effectually for all 1597
Background on Dove, an Anglican particularist with respect to the Atonement, and his sermon can be found in Moore, English Hypothetical Universalism, p. 63 ff.
Bucanus, William 1606
Institutions of Christian Religion
“6. Reprobation is contrary to election, whereupon the reprobate are so called, by a metaphor taken either from counterfeit silver which is rejected or from a barren soil which is left untilled as cursed of God. But it is to be noted that election and reprobation are taken two ways. Indeed they are properly referred to the condition of man already created and through his fall corrupted, that by election there might be signified a separation, which in very deed might be in time through an effectual calling of certain men from amongst the cast-away sort of mankind, and that from darkness to light. But by ‘reprobation’ is signified a neglect or a casting away of some, who being left to themselves and their corruption, are forsaken of God…”
“Of what sort of men is election?
Of such as are uncleane and ungodly in the sight of God. “For He has chosen us that we might be holy and without blame,” Eph. 1:4. But whereas He chose us before the world was made, it is effected that God set before his eyes all men that ever should be, and for as much as they would be ungodly and accursed, He likewise so considered them and so chose some out of the common lump and filth of men, and those freely according to the good pleasure of his will, leaving others in their sin and curse.”
Parr, Elnathan – On Rom. 9:21 in A Plain Exposition upon Rom. 8-11 1618
Ball, John – p. 81 of A Short Catechism 1631
Hall, Joseph – On Rom. 9:21 †1656 in A Plain and Familiar Explication by way of Paraphrase of all the Hard Texts of the Whole Divine Scripture
On John Davenant & James Ussher
Moore, Jonathan – English Hypothetical Universalism, p. 188 2007
Contrary to many people’s claims that Davenant was an infralapsarianism, he was a hypothetical universalist (that Christ paid the redemption of everyone, conditionally; which view had a different order of the decrees).
Ussher is often claimed to be a supralapsarian, though the evidence for this is not sufficient (A Body of Divinity is not clear, nor was it written by Ussher and he objected to some of the things in it), and there is a substantial case that Ussher was infralapsarian. Here are a few of the references Moore cites to this effect:
Brinsley, John – pp. 6-8 of Three Links of a Golden Chain, or, Three of the Principal Causes of Man’s Salvation 1659
Flavel, John – ‘Of the Salvation of God’s Elect, and of the Covenant of Grace’ in An Exposition of the Assembly’s Catechism, in Works, vol. 6, pp. 174-5
“Question 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery;
A. God having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life… to deliver them out of an estate of sin and misery; and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
Q. 1. Are same persons chosen to salvation, and others left?
A. Yes: God has chosen some to salvation, and passed by others; as the Scriptures speak; See Rom. 8:30…
Q. 7. What learn you from God’s election?
What cause we have to admire free-grace in our choice, who were no better than others; Eph. 2:3. And were by nature children of wrath even as others.”
Clarke, Samuel – On Rom. 9:13, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’ in Annotations on the New Testament 1683
“Excluded him [Esau] from the inwards benefits of the Covenant, and given him no part in my grace, but left him, as a sinner, under my wrath and judgment.”
Coles, Elisha – V. ‘Election is in Christ, or the Elect were Chosen in Christ’, pp. 76-77 in ‘Of Election’ in A Practical Discourse of God’s Sovereignty †1688
Bates, William – p. 159 of Sermon 11, ‘The Marriage Feast’ in Works, vol. 4
“Election is the fountain of distinguishing grace… by the most gracious and freee act of his own will, He chose some out of the corrupt generality (and they are but a little diminutive flock) to make them vessels of honor, Acts 13, that his goodness might be the more admirable.”
Halyburton, Thomas – p. 548 in Works †1712
Henry, Matthew – pp. 41-43 of A Scripture Catechism in the Method of the Assembly’s 1714
Trail, Robert – Eleven Sermons on Important Subjects, Sermon 1, in Works, vol. 4, pp. 16-17
“The Lord now and then takes a few, and picks them up through the nations where they are scattered; they were all of the same mass, of the same lump, lying in the same pit; Peter was no better than Judas, nor Judas any worse than Peter; Cain was no worse than Abel, and Abel was no better than Cain, till grace made the difference; when they were in the same womb at the same time, yet, says the Lord, ‘Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.”
Willison, John – p. 63 of An Example of Plain Catechizing upon the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism 1717
Willison was an evangelical and orthodox Church of Scotland minister.
Hellenbroek, Abraham – p. 29 of Specimen of Divine Truths †1731
Boston, Thomas – ‘Of Election to Everlasting Life’ †1732 13 pp. in The Doctrines of the Christian Religion, in Works, 1.301-313
Whitefield, George – ‘Whitefield’s Letter to Wesley on Election’ 1740
“I believe the doctrine of reprobation, in this view: that God intends to give
saving grace, through Jesus Christ, only to a certain number, and that the rest of mankind, after the fall of Adam, being justly left of God to continue in sin, will at last suffer that eternal death which is its proper wages (Rom 6:23).” – p. 7
Fisher, James, Ebenezer Erskine – Questions 38-48 of Question 7, ‘What are the Decrees of God?’ in The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism explained by way of Question and Answer Buy 1753, 1760 See especially question 38,40,43,48
Fisher and Erskine were ministers in the Scottish Secession Church.
Toplady quotes Bishop Burnet, a historian of the Anglican Church, as saying: “In England, the first Reformers were generally Sub-lapsarians.” Toplady also states: “The Church of England system, as I shall show hereafter, is, strictly speaking, formed on the Sub-lapsarian principle: though with such moderation as not to exclude the former [supras].” (p. 125)
Backus, Isaac – p. 8 of The Sovereign Decrees of God set in a Scriptural Light 1773
Backus was a leading American Calvinistic baptist during the time of the Revolutionary War.
“But instead of attending to the true state of the controversy, and instead of referring the decision of it to the divine oracles, tradition and corruption has carried them into the way which this writer pursues, of representing our doctrine to be, that God decrees some men to misery in the same manner that he does others to happiness; yea this slanderer, in imitation of those who have gone before him, sets reprobation foremost, and would have people believe that we hold, God’s first design to be the damnation of multitudes, and then secondly, the irresistible salvation of a number!”
Arthur was a Scottish Secession minister at Aberdeen.
Alexander, Archibald – #280-285 of Lectures Notes on Systematic Theology hand-written by Charles Hodge, which is not the easiest to read
Alexander, the first professor at old Princeton seminary, gave the arguments for Infralapsarianism in his classes, following Turretin, though he concludes in this way:
“#285. Did not God determine all things by one most simple act?
Yes, the decrees of God may be considered as one most perfect purpose, which destroys all debate relative to their order.”
Spurgeon, Charles – ‘Jacob and Esau’ a sermon on Rom. 9:15 1859
Haldane, Robert – Commentary on Rom. 9:21 1874 2 pp.
Commentary on Rom. 9:21 in The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary
Commentary on Rom. 9:21 in Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Embracing the Latest Results of Criticism 1860
Commentary on Rom. 9:21 in The Epistle to the Romans, with Introduction and Notes 1883 in Hand-Books for Bible Classes, ed. Dods & Whyte
Harper was of the United Presbyterian Church and was a professor of theology in the Theological Seminary in Xenia, Ohio. He was an old school a Capella psalm singer who defended many of the points of the purity of worship in numerous scholarly treatises.
Packer, J.I. – ‘The English Puritans’ on iTunes Free
Sproul, R.C. – “Double Predestination” n.d.
“Though this writer favors the infralapsarian view along the lines developed by Turrettini, it is important to note that both views see election and reprobation in light of the fall and avoid the awful conclusion that God is the author of sin.”
* – Some of the more significant treatments
* – Westminster divine
A Brief Declaration of the Chief Points of the Christian Religion set forth in a Table trans. 1575 8 brief chapters
Questions #190-194 of A Book of Christian Questions and Answers 1570 5 paragraphs
See an interesting anecdote related by Increase Mather on a book that Beza wrote on reprobation: pp. 95-96 of Soul-Saving Gospel Truths.
Heppe, Heinrich – pp. 160-162 of Reformed Dogmatics Buy ch. 8, ‘Predestination’
Heppe was an 1800’s German reformed scholar who collected and translated an anthology of early reformed sources from the 1500’s-1700’s. He gives excerpts from their writings that are inaccessible anywhere else in English.
Heppe quotes as Supralapsarians: Zwingli, Braun, & Trelcatius. Mastricht attempted to mediate between the positions. Heppe himself leaned toward Infralapsarianism.
* Perkins, William
‘Of Predestination and Creation’ & ‘Concerning the Decree and Execution of Reprobation’ in A Golden Chain, pp. 10-11, 163-174
* Willet, Andrew – On Rom. 9:21 in A Six-fold Commentary on Romans, pp. 424-425
Willet interprets the ‘lump’ of Rom. 9:21 either way, and thus leaves open the supra position, though he says most divines take it in the infra sense. Willet summarizes Beza’s reasons against the infra interpretation of Rom. 9:21.
Bayne, Paul – On Eph. 1:4, p. 25 in Commentary on Ephesians †1617
Goodwin, Thomas *
‘Of the Order of God’s Decrees about Man’s Election and Reprobation’ being Book 2 of A Discourse Concerning Election, in The Complete Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 9, pp. 84-149
* On Thomas Goodwin
Beeke, Joel & Mark Jones – ‘Thomas Goodwin’s Christological Supralapsarianism’ in A Puritan Theology Buy Chapter 9
Twisse, William *
For an interesting anecdote from John Cotton’s perspective on this, see p. 68 of The Life of Mr. John Cotton.
* The Riches of God’s Love unto the Vessels of Mercy, consistent with his absolute hatred or reprobation of the vessels of wrath, or, An answer unto a book entitled, God’s Love unto Mankind 1653 600 pp.
Ambrose, Isaac – Book 2, ch. 1, section 4, ‘The Project’ of Looking unto Jesus 1653 1 page
Gillespie, Patrick – Paragraphs 4-8 of Ch. 3 of The Ark of the Covenant Opened, or a Treatise of the Covenant of Redemption 1677
* Willard, Samuel †1707
A Complete Body of Divinity in Two Hundred and Fifty Expository Lectures on the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism, see also Sermon 73 on Election
Willard (1640-1707) was a New England puritan who wrote the last great, puritan body of divinity.
Edwards, Jonathan – pp. 540-542 of 2 Volume Works, vol. 2, Remarks on Important Theological Controversies, ch. 3, sections 56-58 †1758
Edwards posits aspects of election both before and after the Fall, though places reprobation wholly after the Fall.
The Doctrines of God’s Everlasting Love to his Elect, and their Eternal Union with Christ Together with some other truths, stated and defended. In a letter to Mr. (alias Dr.) Abraham Taylor 1732 57 pp. This work can be downloaded here
Brine (1703-1765) was an English, Calvinistic baptist who followed in the steps of John Gill. Here he responds to objections to supralapsarianism.
This sermon does not deal with the issue directly but touches on and highlights some related themes.
* Vos, Geerhardus – ‘On Infra- and Supralapsarianism’ 36 paragraphs from Reformed Dogmatics, pp. 148-155
Vos gives a masterly and balanced discussion. One of the best. Vos leans Supra; see the subsection ‘Doctrinal Controversy: Supralapsarianism’ in this article, about half the way down, for some interesting personal correspondence of Vos on the topic.
Vos’ main critique of Infralapsarianism is that it does not give a sufficient answer as to why God permitted the Fall, if He did not have in view the salvation and glorification of the elect. Turretin, however, long before, answered this question (Institutes, 1.347):
“Although predestination did not precede the decree to create man and permit his fall, it does not follow that God made man with an uncertain end… Rather it was the communication and (as it were) the spreading out of the power, wisdom and goodness of the Creator which shone forth both in the creation of man (Ps. 8:5,6) and in his fall in different ways…”
Kersten, G.H. – ch. 8, ‘Predestination’ 1947 24 pp. in Reformed Dogmatics Buy vol. 1, pp. 119-143
Kersten (1882–1948) was a principal founder of the Netherlands Reformed Congregations (NRC) in 1907.
“In establishing the Covenant of Redemption, unlike in predestination, the elect are viewed as fallen sinners, from whom God’s justice requires perfect satisfaction. Since they cannot render this, it is required, in the Covenant of Redemption, of their representative Head, Christ Jesus.” – p. 145
* Pink, A.W. – ‘The Sovereignty of God in Reprobation’ being ch. 5 of The Sovereignty of God 1918 68 paragraphs
This chapter was cut out of the Banner of Truth edition of this work, but is reprinted in the Baker edition. Pink was heavily influenced by John Brine.
On Gordon Clark
Douma, Douglas – ‘The Supralapsarianism of Gordon Clark’ 2014 15 paragraphs
Douma is the authorized biographer of Gordon Clark. Clark was especially influential upon Robert Reymond.
* Reymond, Robert
‘Supralapsarianism: the Teleological Principle’ from Systematic Theology, pp. 488-490
‘The Principle Governing the Order of the Decrees’ 1998 24 pp. in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith Buy pp. 479-502
On the logical principle that the last in execution is the first in intention, but differing from the order of historical supralapsarianism, Reymond posits this order of the descrees (p. 489, though note that there is a shade of infralapsarianism in the first four decrees):
1. The election of some sinful men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the rest of sinful mankind)
2. The decree to apply Christ’s redemptive benefits to the elect sinners
3. The decree to redeem the elect sinners by the cross work of Christ.
4. The decree that men should fall.
5. The decree to create the world and men.
Francis Turretin, however, answered Reymond’s peculiarly emphasized principle several hundred years earlier (Institutes 1.348):
“The common axiom which supralapsarians like to use here… is, ‘That which is last in execution, ought to be first in intention.’ [but it] admits of various limitations.
First, it holds good, indeed, as to the ultimate end, but not as to the subalternate ends. Otherwise it would follow as well that what is next to the last in execution is the second in intention., and what is next to that is the third and so on…
Second, it holds good only in the same order of things and where a necessary and essential subordination of things occurs… But no necessary connection and subordination can exist between the creation and fall and redemption… Sin is against nature. It is not the means either with respect to salvation (unless accidentally, i.e., the occasion) or with respect to damnation (for damnation is on account of sin, not sin on account of damnation).
Therefore God’s ways in nature and grace, and his economies of providence and predestination must not be confounded here. Therefore the axiom can have place in the same order… However it does not hold good concerning disparates where a leap is made from one dispensation to another, from the natural order of providence to the supernatural order of predestination (as is the case here).”
Supralapsarian Articles in Latin
Beza, Theodore – The Doctrine of Predestination 1583 182 pp.
“Paul … alludes to the creation of Adam, and rises up to the eternal purpose of God, who, before he created mankind, decreed of his own mere will and pleasure, to manifest his glory, both in saving of some whom he knew, in a way of mercy, and in destroying others, whom he also knew, in righteous judgment.
And verily, unless we judge this to be the case, God will be greatly injured; because he will not be sufficiently wise, who first creates men, and looks upon them corrupt, and then appoints to what purpose he has created them: nor sufficiently powerful, if when he has taken up a purpose concerning them, he is hindered by another, so that he obtains not what he willed; nor sufficiently constant, if willingly and freely he takes up a new purpose, after his workmanship is corrupted.”
– trans. John Gill, Sermons and Tracts, vol. 3 (London, 1815), 408-9
Twisse, William * – A Vindication of the Grace, Power and Providence of God 1632 796 pp.
Chs. 25-27, ‘Predestination’, ‘The Eternal Election of God’, ‘Reprobation’ in Common Theological Places, pp. 205-234 1658
Luther, Zwingli, Musculus, Beza, Faius, Genevan Notes, Knox, R. Howie, Rollock, Marlorat, Ursinus, Bogerman, Hommius, Whittaker, Perkins, Willet, J. Cotton, Piscator, Ferrius, Zanchius, T. Shepard, Maccovius, Trigland, Bayne, Braun, Maccovius, Gomarus, Twisse *, Trelcatius, Essenius, Burman, T. Goodwin *, Bunyan, Voet, Tronchin, Dickson, Rutherford *, Binning, P. Gillespie, Brown of Wamphray, S. Willard, Witsius, Hoornbeek, I. Chauncey, Vitus, J. Edwards, Gill, Brine, J. Ryland, Comrie, Holtius, Brahe, Candlish, A. Kuyper, G. Vos, Kersten, Pink, G. Clark & R. Reymond.
Musculus, Wolfgang – VI. ‘In Whom We be Elect’ in ‘Election’ in Common Places, pp. 210-211 irregular numbering: p. 210 reads ‘290’ London, 1563
“The purpose of God’s election relates, for Musculus, to our creation ad imaginem ac similitudinem Dei [in the image and likeness of God] for in the very creation of man, the creature was destined for the blessedness accomplished in the elect through Christ [Musculus derives this from Eph. 1:3-4]. Here, as with Calvin, we may see a remnant of the [Duns] Scotist sense of the priority of incarnation over sin; we also see both here and in the view of the elect as nondum existentes [not yet existing], a supralapsarian tendency linked to christological and soteriological concepts.” – Muller, Christ and the Decree, p. 55
John Owen argues soundly at length against the view that Christ would have become incarnate even if man had not sinned, in his Commentary on Hebrews here.
On Theodore Beza
Beeke, Joel – ‘Theodore Beza’s Supralapsarian Predestination’ 2003 9 pp.
Bray, John – Theodore Beza’s Doctrine of Predestination Buy 1975 153 pp.
Knox, John – God’s Eternal Predestination 1560 453 pp.
Knox’s position on the lapsarian question is not entirely clear from this treatise, though he seems to lean supra. He does, though, make an emphasis of the ways in which reprobation is very different from election. Search for ‘reprobation’, ‘mass’ and other words. Knox was influenced by Beza on the topic of Predestination and translated this work of Beza’s.
Ursinus, Zecharias – ‘What are the Effects of Predestination?’ †1583 1 page being p. 300 of Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism Ursinus recommends Beza and Vermigli on the topic of predestination here.
On Robert Rollock and Robert Boyd in Scotland
Woolsey, Andrew – Unity and Continuity in Covenantal Thought, pp. 531, 534
“It should be noted that both [Robert] Rollock and [Robert] Howie confined the effectual application of the covenant and its benefits to ‘God’s elect’. The doctrine of election permeated their writings and sermons, but, more specifically, both wrote treatises which presented strong predestinarian views advocating double and supralapsarian predestination.
At Basel Academy on February 25, 1591, Howie defended a paper entitled De Aeterna Dei Praedestinatione Aphorismi Theologici [Theological Aphorisms on the Eternal Predestination of God].. He chose to glorify his mercy and love in the salvation of the elect, and to glorify his justice in the damnation of the reprobate. Man’s primal condition, his fall, and his corruption through sin were all included in this decree. (Howie, De Aeterna, 8-10)…
There is one chapter in Rollock’s De Vocatione [Of Effectual Calling], entitled ‘Concerning the Free Grace of God,’ [ch. 38] which has a reference to predestination capable of an infralapsarian interpretation. Here he placed the decree to glorify Christ before the decree concerning the creation of man [which is a supra-viewpoint]. (Rollock, Select Works, 1:266-267; see Letham, ‘Saving Faith’, 1:270) But Rollock went on to say that in the execution of the decree
‘the decree of God concerning man hath the first place… Then after the fall of man, followed the restitution of man… in and by his Son Christ… Therefore the execution of the decree concerning Christ the Son of God, which was first, falls now as it were in the midst of the repairing of mankind, or of the execution of the decree concerning man’s redemption.’ (Select Works, 1:267-8)
This passage in no way detracts from the overwhelming supralapsarian character of Rollock’s predestinarianism…”
[See also p. 514 of Unity and Continuity for Beza’s strong influence on Rollock.]
Genevan Bible Notes – On Romans 9:21 1599
On John Cotton and William Twisse *
Thuesen, Peter – On John Cotton and William Twisse in Predestination: the American Career of a Contentious Doctrine
On Johannes Maccovius
* Bell, Michael – Propter Potestatem, Scientiam, ac Beneplacitum Dei [According to the Power, Knowledge and Good-Pleasure of God]: The Doctrine of the Object of Predestination in the Theology of Johanes Maccovius Westminster Theological Seminary, 1986 544 pp.
On Samuel Rutherford *
* Richard, Guy
‘Samuel Rutherford’s Supralapsarianism Revealed: A Key to the Lapsarian Position of the Westminster Confession of Faith?’ in Confessional Presbyterian #4 Buy pp. 162-170
‘Predestination’ in The Supremacy of God in the Theology of Samuel Rutherford Buy pp. 116-130
Richard lays out Rutherford’s order of the decrees as follows. Note that it involves two passive decrees of Preterition, at both supra and infra points:
1. Election and Non-Election (or Preterition)
4. ‘Ad extra’ Decrees [of goodness and justice towards creatures]
5. Salvation and Preterition
In response to the objection commonly charged against Supralapsarianism, that it involves God decreeing the election and reprobation of non-entities, they not being considered as created yet, Richard summarizes Rutherford’s response as:
“…everyone who believes in the traditional doctrine of creation ex nihilo also makes a non-entity the object of the divine decree. The universe, just like the elect in Rutherford’s ordo decretorum [order of the decrees], is creandum et nondum creatum [to be created but is not created] when God first makes his decree.”
Shepard, Thomas †1649
“…the Father as Father, received primarily the wrong that sin did against his work of creation: For the Father being the first person in order and creation, the first transient act as (election and reprobation were the first immanent); hence this work is attributed chiefly to God the Father, in respect of our orderly apprehension:
and hence man sinning then when he was only made, this is chiefly attributed to be against the Father, because his work appeared to be chiefly there; and not against the Son, for his work chiefly appears in redemption…”
Shepard spent the first half of his life as a puritan in old England, though became known as a New England puritan. This passage has a more infralapsarian ring to it.
Dickson, David – On Eph. 1:4 in Exposition of Ephesians 1659
Bunayn, John – Reprobation Asserted †1688 24 pp. in Works, vol. 2, pp. 335-358
On Robert Candlish
John Macleod, Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History, RAP, 1995, p. 275
“William Alexander of Duntocher [a congregationalist professor], to whom he wrote about [William] White’s [of Haddington] unfavorable judgment [of Candlish’s work on the Atonement], decidedly approved of his positions, told the lecturer so [Candlish], and won his gratitude. It may have been the case that the leaning in the direction of Supralapsarianism which readers have detected in the Fatherhood [of God, by Candlish] may account for the welcome that Alexander gave the book. For he was a very definite Supralapsarian at the same time as he was a very militant Calvinist. These two of Candlish’s friends were divines of good standing.”
On the History of the Question
William Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, pp. 363-4, 366-8
“The Supralapsarians have always been a small minority among Calvinistic divines,
[58+ Supras: Luther, Zwingli, Musculus, Beza, Faius, Genevan Notes, Knox, R. Howie, Rollock, Marlorat, Ursinus, Bogerman, Hommius, Whittaker, Perkins, Willet, J. Cotton, Piscator, Ferrius, Zanchius, T. Shepard, Maccovius, Trigland, Bayne, Braun, Maccovius, Gomarus, Twisse, Trelcatius, Essenius, Burman, T. Goodwin, Bunyan, Voet, Tronchin, Dickson, Rutherford, Binning, P. Gillespie, Brown of Wamphray, S. Willard, Witsius, Hoornbeek, I. Chauncey, Vitus, J. Edwards, Gill, Brine, J. Ryland, Comrie, Holtius, Brahe, Candlish, A. Kuyper, G. Vos, Kersten, Pink, G. Clark, R. Reymond]
and have had to defend their views against the great body of their brethren…
[100+ Infras: see especially the confessions listed by Warfield below; Junius, Zanchi, Vermigli [van Asselt lists as a supra], J. Dove, Wolleb, E. Parr, Du Moulin, Cocceius, Heidegger, Polanus, R. Abbot, Wendelin, Hottinger, Seegedin, Rissen, Maresius, the Leiden Synopsis, Thysius, Polyander, Walaeus, Lubbertus, Rivet, Ball, Diodati, Featley, Cocceius, Henry Alting, J. Hall, Burroughs, Leigh, J. Strang, Arrowsmith, Fr. Spanheim, Brinsley, R. Mayo, Manton, Owen, A. Burgess, Charnock, Coles, Flavel, Jenkyn, Fr. Turretin, J. Heidegger, Bates, Pictet, a Brakel, M. Henry, Willison, A. Rotterdam, Trail, Saurin, John Edwards, John Evans, Howe, Halyburton, Hellenbroek, Boston, J. Fisher, E. Erskine, Brown of Haddington, Ridgley, J. Newton, M. Authur, Toplady, H. Venema, a Mark, De Moore, Whitefield, I. Backus, J. Bellamy, A. Alexander, Brown of Edin., R. Haldane, Spurgeon, Cunningham, David Brown, C. Hodge, A. Hodge, Heppe, Thornwell, Shedd, Girardeau, J. Harper, Warfield, Boettner, John Murray, Packer, Sproul]
There never was a more able or more zealous Supralapsarian than Dr. William Twisse, the prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly…
There is no doubt that Beza, in defending the doctrine of predestination, was led to assert Supralapsarian views; though he was not, as has been sometimes alleged, the first who broached them, for they had been held by some of the more orthodox [Medieval] schoolmen [Gregory of Rimini, Lucidus, Gottschalk, Bradwardine, Scotus], as has been shown by Twisse and Davenant… it is not by any means certain on which side Calvin is to be ranked…
In addition to Beza, the most eminent men who defended Supralapsarian views in the sixteenth century were Whittaker and Perkins… But in the next generation, the Sublapsarian [Infralapsarian] view was advocated by Dr. Robert Abbot, Bishop of Salisbury, brother of Archbishop [George] Abbot, a very able divine and a thorough Calvinist.
His opinion upon this point was adopted by Bishop Davenant, and the other English delegates to the synod of Dort; and Supralapsarianism has not again been advocated by any very eminent theologian in England except Twisse. The eminent men who most elaborately and zealously defended Supralapsarianism in the seventeenth century were Gomarus, Twisse and Voetius…
…That the great body of the members of the synod [of Dort] were Sublapsarians, is certain. This appears clearly from the Judicia of the different colleges, as they were called, of the divines who composed it… The Judicia all take, more or less explicitly, Sublapsarian ground; except that of Gomar, and that of the divines of South Holland, who leaned to the Supralapsarian side…
The synod seems to… have abstained from giving a formal or explicit deliverance upon the point in dispute, though in the general scope and substance of its canons it certainly takes Sublapsarian ground. It has been contended, however, that the synod condemned Supralapsarian views; and this question gave rise to a very keen controversy, which was carried on for a long time by Gomar and Voet on the one side, and on the other by Maresius or Des Marets, who succeeded Gomar as professor of theology at Groningen…
…We have no doubt that, as in the case of the synod of Dort, the great majority of the members of the Westminster Assembly were Sublapsarians in their own convictions; while, at the same time, they intended to leave this an open question, and framed their statements in such a way as to exclude neither party.
There has been no discussion upon this subject of any great importance since the controversy which was carried on so long and so angrily between Voet and Des Marets, about the middle of the seventeenth century. The ‘Formula Consensus Helvetica’ [Canon IV], adopted as a test of orthodoxy by the Swiss churches in 1675, the chief authors of which, Heidegger and Turretin, were decided Sublapsarians, contains a formal and explicit repudiation of Supralapsarianism…
Some attention was called forth to this subject by a dissertation of Mosheim [a Lutheran] published in 1724, De Auctoritate Concilii Dordraceni paci sacrae noxia, in which he adduced it as a serious charge against the Synod [of Dort] that they had not condemned Supralapsarian views. An elaborate answer to this dissertation was published in 1726, by Stephanus Vitus, professor in the German Reformed Church at Cassel, entitled, Apologia pro Synodo Dordracena, containing a great deal of curious matter. The most important thing, however, in Vitus’s Apologia is a proof, the most full and elaborate with which we are acquainted, that Luther, of whom Mosheim professed to be a follower, held as high Calvinistic doctrine as the Supralapsarians…
The question that had been agitated about the object of the decree of predestination continued to be discussed in systems of theology, though rather as a matter connected with the history of the past, than as a living, subsisting, subject of controversy; and for more than a century and a half it may be regarded as having become practically obsolete.¹
¹ Those who wish to examine this subject upon its merits, will find very able expositions of it, and conclusive defenses of Sublapsarianism, in [Francis] Turretin, [Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1 Buy] Topic 4, Question 9, and in [Bernard] De Moor’s Commentary on Mark’s Compendium, Book 2, Ch. 7, Sections 17-18, pp. 63-72.
The great storehouse of materials on the Supralapsarian side, is Twisse’s Vindiciae Gratiae, a folio volume of 800 pages of close printed Latin…
B.B. Warfield, ‘Predestination in the Reformed Confessions’ 1901
4. It is, however, of more immediate interest to observe the attitude of the Reformed Confessions with respect to the object of Predestination. Here we are met by a greater apparent diversity than obtains in the other matters that have attracted our attention.
Of the three great parties that grew up among the Reformed with reference to the object of predestination (in the sense of Soteriological Predestination) – the Supralapsarian, Infralapsarian, and Salmurian, conceiving the object of predestination respectively as unfallen, fallen, and redeemed mankind – the first and third receive no support from the Confessions.
Yet all the Confessions are not Infralapsarian: nor is their attitude precisely the same towards Supralapsarianism and Salmurianism. Some of them are explicitly Infralapsarian, and none exclude, much less polemically oppose, Infralapsarianism. None of them are explicitly Supralapsarian: many, however, leave the question between Supra- and Infralapsarianism entirely to one side, and thus open the way equally to both; and none are polemically directed against Supralapsarianism.
Not only are none explicitly Salmurian, on the other hand, but those prepared after the rise of Salmurianism firmly close the door to it, while earlier ones certainly do not open it, and leave room for it, if at all, only uncertainly and by doubtful inference from chance expressions which have no direct reference to the point in controversy and are flexible to other constructions.
The explicitly Infralapsarian Confessions include :
the Genevan Consent (1552), the Hungarian Confession (1557), that of the English Exiles at Geneva (1558), the Gallican (1559) and Belgic (1561) Confessions, the Canons of Dort (1618) and the Swiss Form of Consent (1675), together with the Articles framed at the Leipzig Colloquy (1631).
These explicitly declare that the discrimination which God made among men was made in massa corrupta: it is for them certain that it was out of the lost race of man that God chose some to eternal life, leaving the rest to the just recompense of their sins.
By their side we may perhaps place some others, such as :
the Genevan Confession of 1537 and the creeds prepared by Calvin for the Genevan Students (1559), the Church at Paris (1557) and the French Churches (1562), the Confession of Sigismund (1614) and the Declaration of Thorn (1645), and perhaps also, though with less confidence, the Second Helvetic Confession (1562) and the Heidelberg Catechism (1563),
as Confessions which, while not clearly implying Infralapsarianism, yet seem more or less to speak out of an underlying but not expressed Infralapsarian consciousness: this is, however, a matter of mere tone and manner, and is of course much too subtle to insist upon.
In such formularies, on the other hand, as :
Zwingli’s “Fidei ratio” (1530), the First Basle or Mühlhausen Confession (1534), the Genevan Catechism (1545), the Zurich Consent (1549), the English (1553), Lambeth (1595) and Irish (1615) Articles, and the Scotch Confession (1560),
the lines are so drawn that it is impossible to discover that there is advantage given to either party to the debate over the other: in the case of the Westminster Confession, which shares this peculiarity with them, we know that this was the result of a settled policy, and it may have been the same in some of the others also (as in Calvin’s Articles, in view of Beza’s views known to him, and in the Lambeth and Irish Articles).
In view of these facts, it is hardly possible to speak of the Reformed creeds at large as distinctly Infralapsarian, though Dr. Schaff’s language affirming that “all the Reformed Confessions . . . keep within the limits of infralapsarianism,” may, so far, be adopted as well-chosen and expressive of the true state of the case.
Some Reformed Confessions explicitly define Infralapsarianism: none assert anything which is not consonant with Infralapsarianism. On the other hand, nothing is affirmed in the majority of the Confessions inconsistent with Supralapsarianism either; and this majority includes several of the most widely accepted documents.
The Westminster Confession in its careful avoidance of raising the distinction throws itself, therefore, into a class with the majority of its companion Confessions, inclusive of the Heidelberg Catechism and the Second Helvetic Confession, which are certainly the most widely accepted of Continental formularies, and of the entire British tradition.
It is a noteworthy fact that it is particularly the Genevan creeds and those formed under the Genevan influence which are explicitly Infralapsarian; while it is along the line of German Reformed and British influence that the distinction is avoided, or at least not adverted to. This is probably in part due to the prosecution of the debate between the parties, with most vigor among the French-speaking Calvinists and in Holland.
But the effect is to throw the Westminster Confession at this point into companionship with the documents which have been often treated as presenting the “milder” Calvinism, but which would certainly be more properly described as at this point setting forth rather a more generic Calvinism.
General History on the Lapsarian Issue
On the 1500’s
Beeke, Joel – Debated Issues in Sovereign Predestination: Early Lutheran Predestination, Calvinian Reprobation, and Variations in Genevan Lapsarianism Buy 2017 250 pp.
On the Synod of Dort
Fesko, J.V. – ‘Lapsarian Diversity at the Synod of Dort’ 2011 24 pp. being ch. 5 of Drawn Into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates within Seventeenth Century British Puuritanism, pp. 99-123
‘The Westminster Confession and Lapsarianism: Calvin and the Divines’ in The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century Buy vol. 2, pp. 477-525 2004
Thomas, Derek – ‘The Westminster Consensus on the Decree: The Infra/Supra Lapsarian Debate’ an MP3 Buy $1 2004
On the 1500’s & 1600’s
Cunningham, William – pp. 358-371 of ‘Calvin and Beza’ 1866 14 pp. in The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation
Cunningham sides with Infralapsarianism. Most of this section is in the large quote above.
* Dijk, Klaas – De Strijd over Infra- en Supralapsarisma in de Gereformeeerde Kerken van Nederland 1912
“…probably the most foundational twentieth-century work on the lapsarian question in Reformed orthodoxy… Dijk claims that the lapsarian debate was not about the order of the divine decrees or the object of predestination, but the issue was whether the Fall was part of the divine decree and whether reprobation was considered as an act of God’s sovereignty.” – Keith D. Stanglin
On John Calvin
The lapsarian question, in the rise of its explicit, historical development, essentially post-dates Calvin by a generation. It first makes its major appearance with Beza on the Supra side and Junius on the Infra side in the late 1500’s, with Arminius’ entrance shortly following.
Hence it might be expected that Calvin said things on both sides, which, in fact, is the case (which also would be quite natural if there are true aspects to both views). Yet, this has not prevented persons throughout history claiming that Calvin fell mainly in one or the other camp. Please enjoy:
The argument that Calvin was an Infralapsarian
* Girardeau, John – pp. 195-201 of ch. 4 of The Will in its Theological Relations, 1891
The argument that Calvin was a Supralapsarian
Vos, Geerhardus, ‘On Infra- and Suralapsarianism’, from Reformed Dogmatics, pp. 148-155
“There has been dispute about Calvin. The truth is that sometimes he expressed himself in one way and at other times in another. But while his infralapsarian-sounding expressions can be explained as partial a posteriori representations, it is impossible to give a minimizing sense to his decidedly supralapsarian statements.
One may compare the entire 23rd chapter of book three of his Institutes, where in connection with predestination he speaks very explicitly about the fall and the decree of the fall. Further, there is the following (Opera, IX.713),
“Before man was created, in His eternal decree God established what He willed would happen with the entire human race. By this secret decree of God it has happened that Adam fell from the state of his natural rectitude and by his fall drew all his posterity with himself into the guilt of eternal death.”
We find more such expressions. Finally, Calvin’s declaration, “God has created us in order to redeem us.”
Article in Latin
* Twisse, William – A Vindication of the Grace, Power and Providence of God, Book 1, Part 1, Digression 2, pp. 337-438 1632 101 pp.