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Is Westminster Infralapsarian?

We have received a follow-on question concerning the articles on supra- and infralapsarianism published earlier. The question is: "I know it is often said that Dort and Westminster were infralapsarian. This may be so in theCanons (of Dort), Art. 7 (chapter 1), but Westminster seems much stronger on this point (Confession, III, sec. I, ii, iii). Can it be proved from any statement in the Westminster Standards that they were definitely infra?"

Remember that infralapsarianism is the teaching that God first decreed the fall (lapsus means "fall") and then decreed to save some, i.e., the order of God's plan is the same as the order of history. Supralapsarianism teaches that God first chose some in Christ to be His own, and then decreed the fall as part of the way in which He would make them His own, i.e., the order of God's plan is the opposite of the historical order.

The statement from the Canons is: "Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, he hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ." According to the Canons, when God chose some, He chose them as those who had already (in His decree) fallen into sin. That is infralapsarianism.

The Westminster Confession is also, though perhaps less clearly, infralapsarian in III,vii, "The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice." The words emphasized say that when God elected some and rejected others, He had already seen them as fallen.

The Canons say much the same in Chapter I, Article 15: "What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal election of God"; whom God, out of his sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, that decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion." That, too, is infralapsarianism.

We include these lengthy quotes to show that both creeds, though infralapsarian, are clearly teaching sovereign, eternal, double predestination, including both election and reprobation. Infralapsarianism is not, as some suggest, a compromise of that doctrine.

We would emphasize again, however, that these matters are in large measure only inferences from the teaching of God's Word, that insofar as they do contain Biblical truth, there is something to be said for each view, and that they ought not, therefore, be made matters of division among God's people. Let us not make them such. 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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  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 12
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


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