The contention is whether or not there is any real difference between Supra-lapsarianism vs. Infra-lapsarianism, or whether the purported distinction is merely a false dichotomy, where a system of jargon is invented for the sole purpose of Special Pleading. In other words, the charge is essentially whether any Calvinism inevitably boils down to the hyper Calvinism of Supra-lapsarianism.
First, what is Supra-lapsarianism?
To begin, I will first define the Calvinistic lapsarian terms, and then I will cite a couple of quotes, and then ask you three simple (Yes/No) questions.
The word “lapsarian” comes from the Latin word lapsus, which means the “doctrine of the Fall.” The prefix supra means above, while the prefix infra implies below. So the perspective of the former is “before the Fall” while the perspective of the latter is “after the Fall,” or in lieu of the Fall.
1) Supra-lapsarianism: The damnation of the [alleged] “non-elect” is according to the secret purpose of God, without regard to their sin. Creation, the Fall, and sin must all be the manifestation of the secret counsel of God, having created the [alleged] “non-elect” by necessity. This is also known as Double Predestination or Unconditional Reprobation. Its logical order is:
1. Election and Reprobation
4. Atonement for the elect
5. Salvation for the elect
Here is a statement of Supralapsarianism:
John Calvin writes: “...God has chosen to salvation those whom He pleased, and has rejected the others, without our knowing why, except that its reason is hidden in His eternal counsel.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.53)
Calvin explains: “When God prefers some to others, choosing some and passing others by, the difference does not depend on human dignity or indignity. It is therefore wrong to say that the reprobate are worthy of eternal destruction.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.120-121)
In other words, Reprobation is just as unconditional as Election.
Calvin adds: “If what I teach is true, that those who perish are destined to death by the eternal good pleasure of God though the reason does not appear, then they are not found but made worthy of destruction.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.121)
In other words, the Unconditional Reprobation of the wicked is not in lieu of their sin, but in lieu of God’s alleged decree, which establishes their “lot” in life:
Calvin writes: “…the reason why God elects some and rejects others is to be found in His purpose alone. … before men are born their lot is assigned to each of them by the secret will of God. … the salvation or the destruction of men depends on His free election.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.203)
Calvin writes: “There are some, too, who allege that God is greatly dishonored if such arbitrary power is bestowed on Him. But does their distaste make them better theologians than Paul, who has laid it down as the rule of humility for the believers, that they should look up to the sovereignty of God and not evaluate it by their own judgment?” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.209-210)
Calvin adds: “At this point in particular the flesh rages when it hears that the predestination to death of those who perish is referred to the will of God.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.208)
2) Infra-lapsarianism: The damnation of the [alleged] “non-elect” is strictly according to the sin of man. This is called Single Predestination, and closely associated with Preterition, which conveys the meaning that the [alleged] “non-elect” are simply “passed by” and left out of the will of God. It rejects the idea that God creates sinners by “necessity,” and to ultimately damn them for the glory of God.
3. Election and Reprobation
4. Atonement for the elect
5. Salvation for the elect
Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, explains: “If any of you want to know what I preach every day, and any stranger should say, ‘Give me a summary of his doctrine,’ say this, ‘He preaches salvation all of grace, and damnation all of sin. He gives God all the glory for every soul that is saved, but he won’t have it that God is to blame for any man that is damned.’ That teaching I cannot understand. My soul revolts at the idea of a doctrine that lays the blood of man’s soul at God’s door. I cannot conceive how any human mind, at least any Christian mind, can hold any such blasphemy as that.” (Jacob and Esau)
So it seems that according to John Calvin, the sentiment expressed by Chares Spurgeon is nothing more than an example of how “the flesh rages” against the “arbitrary power” of the “sovereignty of God.”
3) Sub-lapsarianism: As a close relative of Infra-lapsarianism, the prefix sub also implies below or after. This designation accommodates the atonement views of the 4-Point Calvinists, so that Election and Reprobation are placed in a logical order which follow the atonement:
3. Atonement for all
4. Election and Reprobation
Salvation for the elect
4) Conclusion: Now we come to the conclusion, which is the question of whether any of these designations are legitimate distinctions, or merely worthless jargon used to confound, confuse and obfuscate:
Calvinist, G.C. Berkouwer, states: “We cannot speak of before and after in God’s eternal decrees as we do in time, hence the difference between supra and infra can be called imaginary because it implies the application of a temporal order to eternity.” (Divine Election, p.261)
Berkouwer adds: “The fall must ultimately have been part of God’s counsel and therefore it ‘rests’ in God’s sovereign pleasure. But in that case the infra concept says the same as the supra.” (Divine Election, p.261)
A) Based upon the reasoning provided, do you believe that John Calvin was a Supra-lapsarian? (Yes/No?)
B) Based upon the reasoning provided, do you believe that G.C. Berkouwer was a Supra-lapsarian? (Yes/No?)
C) Does Berkouwer’s argument violate any principle of logic? (Yes/No?)
No answer will be permitted, unless it first answers all three of these simple (Yes/No) questions.