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Supra- or Infra-lapsarianism? (2)

We continue in this issue to deal with the question of supra- versus infra-lapsarianism (cf. vol. V, no. 20). The questioner, has asked concerning Westminster and Dort, "Were these synods correct in adopting the milder infra theory?" i.e., is one or the other view correct? 

It is clear from the Reformed confessions that they take the infra-lapsarian viewpoint. Thus you will find in them statements to the effect that God chose (elected) His people out a fallen race, that is, out of the human race which He had first foreseen as fallen

Nevertheless, we would emphasize that neither the Canons of Dort (copy available on request) or the Westminster Confession of Faith condemn supra-lapsarianism. Indeed at both assemblies there were men present who held supra-lapsarian views - Gomarus and Maccovius at Dort and Rutherford, Goodwin and Twisse at Westminster. 

Both views teach the Biblical fundamentals: (1) that predestination is double and includes both election and reprobation; (2) that it is eternal and unconditional (i.e., that God chooses and rejects without regard to personal merit, but solely according to His good pleasure - Eph. 1, Rom. 9); (3) that God eternally decreed the fall of man and the coming of sin into the world; and (4) that God decreed all things for His own glory. 

Both teach, then, that predestination is eternal and is in that sense before the actual historical event of the fall. Both also teach that in history redemption follows the fall and the coming of sin into the world. Christ's cross is the remedy for sin. The question only concerns the order of God's decrees, about which Scripture says nothing

That is not to say that there is no truth in either view. But insofar as there is Biblical truth in either view, there is truth in both. 

For example, Scripture teaches that Christ is first and central in God's decrees (cf. Col. 1:16-17). Supra­lapsarianism emphasizes this with its order: Christ, election in Christ, creation and the fall. 

On the other hand infra­lapsarianism emphasises the Biblical truth that election is gracious by seeing Christ even in God's decrees as the answer to and remedy for sin with its order: creation, fall, election, Christ (cf. Rev. 13:8). Note though that infra­lapsarianism does NOT say that election follows the fall in time (that would be Arminianism), but only in God's decree. 

Nevertheless, the question is too speculative and abstract. Scripture says nothing about the logical order of God's decrees and it is, therefore, a matter of little importance and ought not be a matter of strife or division or a test of orthodoxy among Christians. 

The fact is that God's decree is ONE, just as God Himself is One. It is, therefore, we believe, unnecessary to talk about order in the decrees and to try to separate and arrange them in some order. 

We should emphasize that Christ is "before all things" as supra­lapsarianism does. This is very important. But we should also emphasize that election is gracious and reprobation just, as does infra-lapsarianism. That is equally important. 

Emphasizing these two things we will not be, strictly speaking either supra- or infra-lapsarians, but will merely be keeping to those things that are revealed and leaving the secret things, the things God has not revealed, to God Himself.  Rev. Ronald Hanko



"Men are to be taught, indeed, that the Divine benignity is free to all who seek it, without any exception; but since none begin to seek it, but those who have been inspired by heavenly grace, not even this diminutive portion ought to be taken from his praise.  This is the privilege of the elect, that being regenerated by the Spirit of God, they are led and governed by his direction.  Wherefore Augustine as justly ridicules those who arrogate to themselves any part of a good volition, as he reprehends others, who suppose that to be given promiscuously to all, which is the special evidence of gratuitous election.  "Nature," says he, "is common to all men, but not grace."  He calls it "a transparent subtlety, which shines merely with vanity, when that is extended generally to all, which God confers on whom he chooses." 
Calvin's Institutes, Book II, Section 10

Last modified on 27 March 2013
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Additional Info

  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 11
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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