Home > Christianity, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Questions, Theology > Question: Infralapsarianism, Supralapsarianism, or neither?

Question: Infralapsarianism, Supralapsarianism, or neither?

I had a friend ask me what my thoughts were concerning lapsarianism. Lapsarianism is “the set of Calvinist doctrines describing the theoretical ordering of God’s decree order of his decree for the fall of man and reprobation.” (Source)

The following is my response:

Definitions first:

via Lapsarianism

  • Lapsarianism:  the set of Calvinist decrees describing the theoretical ordering of God’s decree order concerning the Fall, Election, and reprobation.
  • Infralapsarian:  the belief that God first decreed the creation of humanity, authorized the Fall, decreed to save some and condemn others, then decreed to provide salvation only for The Elect.
  • Supralapsarian:  the belief that God first decreed to save some and condemn others, decreed to create The Elect and the reprobate, authorized the Fall, then decreed to provide salvation only for The Elect.

I think that such questions are of a two-fold nature:

  1. Foolish.
  2. Impossible to answer.

The reasons for those categorizations are fairly simple:  there is no Scriptural discussion regarding the ordering of God’s decrees; God’s decrees are eternal from eternity past to eternity future; and we are wholly unable to know the mind of God.

What the Scriptures teach is that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and that Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). If we take “before the foundation of the world” to mean that it was before time existed, since time is a product of creation—if time were not a product of creation, then God would be bound by it, and, therefore, not eternal—if that is what we take those to mean, then we are not left with any clear direction regarding the “ordering” of God’s decrees. In fact, if God’s decrees are eternal, it seems foolish to suggest that one decree came “before” the other, whether theoretically or practically speaking. Since God’s ways are greater than our ways (cf. Isaiah 55), we ought not suppose that His rationality works in the same way as ours, although ours may be similar in nature—form and function—to His.

Our thoughts are necessarily bound by time. Because we currently live within a time-fixed reality, our thoughts must proceed in that fashion. God, however, is in no such position. But, you may ask, does God not change his heart or his desires to his people—was he no grieved by the destruction from the flood (Genesis 6)? Yes, his heart was grieved, but, no, his purposes and plans do not change. God exists outside of creation, outside of time itself. He upholds all of creation (Colossians 1; John 1).

So, when we see God enter into creation, he is literally passing through the threshold from eternity to temporality. But, his eternal and specific purpose did not change; what we perceived it to be has changed. His promises in the scriptures last forever. Yes, the Lord can be grieved; he does not desire anybody to be condemned; however, his desires, his emotional attachment to his image-bearers do not supersede his nature, which requires that men choose Christ to be saved. Yes, God is grieved by willful rebellion, but his grief does not go beyond the “limits” of his nature, although, as the Most Free being in the universe, God has no limits as we understand them.

Specifically in regard to lapsarianism, I am wary of attempting to provide frameworks or standards through which God works that are not explicitly identified, or at least discussed, in Scripture.

Be blessed, my brothers and sisters.

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