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Supralapsarianism & Infralapsarianism  (Sublapsarianism)


The doctrine that God decreed both election and reprobation before the fall. Supralapsarianism differs from infralapsarianism on the relation of God's decree to human sin. The differences go back to the conflict between Augustine and Pelagius. Before the Reformation, the main difference was whether Adam's fall was included in God's eternal decree; supralapsarians held that it was, but infralapsarians acknowledged only God's foreknowledge of sin. Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin were agreed that Adam's fall was somehow included in God's decree; it came to be referred to as a "permissive decree," and all insisted that God was in no way the author of sin. As a result of the Reformers' agreement, after the Reformation the distinction between infra - and supralapsarianism shifted to differences on the logical order of God's decrees.

Theodore Beza, Calvin's successor at Geneva, was the first to develop supralapsarianism in this new sense. By the time of the Synod of Dort in 1618 - 19, a heated intraconfessional controversy developed between infra - and supralapsarians; both positions were represented at the synod. Francis Gomarus, the chief opponent of James Arminius, was a supralapsarian.

The question of the logical, not the temporal, order of the eternal decrees reflected differences on God's ultimate goal in predestination and on the specific objects of predestination. Supralapsarians considered God's ultimate goal to be his own glory in election and reprobation, while infralapsarians considered predestination subordinate to other goals. The object of predestination, according to supralapsarians, was uncreated and unfallen humanity, while infralapsarians viewed the object as created and fallen humanity.

The term "supralapsarianism" comes from the Latin words supra and lapsus; the decree of predestination was considered to be "above" (supra) or logically "before" the decree concerning the fall (lapsus), while the infralapsarians viewed it as "below" (infra) or logically "after" the decree concerning the fall. The contrast of the two views is evident from the following summaries.

The logical order of the decrees in the supralapsarian scheme is:

  • (1) God's decree to glorify himself through the election of some and the reprobation of others;

  • (2) as a means to that goal, the decree to create those elected and reprobated;

  • (3) the decree to permit the fall; and

  • (4) the decree to provide salvation for the elect through Jesus Christ.

The logical order of the decrees according to infralapsarians is:

  • (1) God's decree to glorify himself through the creation of the human race;

  • (2) the decree to permit the fall;

  • (3) the decree to elect some of the fallen race to salvation and to pass by the others and condemn them for their sin; and

  • (4) the decree to provide salvation for the elect through Jesus Christ.

Infralapsarians were in the majority at the Synod of Dort. The Arminians tried to depict all the Calvinists as representatives of the "repulsive" supralapsarian doctrine. Four attempts were made at Dort to condemn the supralapsarian view, but the efforts were unsuccessful. Although the Canons of Dort do not deal with the order of the divine decrees, they are infralapsarian in the sense that the elect are "chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction" (I,7; cf.I,1). The reprobate "are passed by in the eternal decree" and God "decreed to leave (them) in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves" and "to condemn and punish them forever...for all their sins" (I,15).

Defenders of supralapsarianism continued after Dort. The chairman of the Westminister Assembly, William Twisse, was a supralapsarian but the Westminister standards do not favor either position. Although supralapsarianism never received confessional endorsement within the Reformed churches, it has been tolerated within the confessional boundaries. In 1905 the Reformed churches of the Netherlands and the Christian Reformed Church in 1908 adopted the Conclusions of Utrecht, which stated that "our Confessional Standards admittedly follow the infralapsarian presentation in respect to the doctrine of election, but that it is evident...that this in no wise intended to exclude or condemn the supralapsarian presentation." Recent defenders of the supralapsarian position have been Gerhardus Vos, Herman Hoeksema, and G H Kersten.

F H Klooster
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Infralapsarianism, (Sublapsarianism)

(Lat. for "after the fall," sometimes designated "sublapsarianism"). A part of the doctrine of predestination, specifically that which relates to the decrees of election and reprobation. The issues involved are God's eternal decrees and man's will, how can the one be affirmed without denying the other. If one argues for God's predetermination of mankind's fate, this tends to deny mankind's free will and threatens to make God responsible for sin.

On the other hand, if one argues for the freedom of mankind's will, thus making man responsible for sin, this can threaten the sovereignty and power of God since his decrees then are contingent upon mankind's decisions. The argument / dilemma is not new. Pelagius and Augustine argued over the issue with the Synod of Orange, 529, which sided with Augustine. In the Middle Ages, Duns Scotus and William of Ockham questioned Augustine's position. Luther and Erasmus argued the issue in Freedom of the Will and Bondage of the Will. Melanchthon got involved and was accused by Flacius of synergism, and by the end of the sixteenth century the position of Arminius stirred the controversy among the Reformed, who attempted to resolve the issue at the Synod of Dort.

What is the order of the eternal decrees of God? Infralapsarians argue for this order:

  • (1) God decreed the creation of mankind, a good, blessed creation, not marred or flawed.

  • (2) God decreed mankind would be allowed to fall through its own self determination.

  • (3) God decreed to save some of the fallen.

  • (4) God decreed to leave the rest to their just fate of condemnation.

  • (5) God provides the Redeemer for the saved.

  • (6) God sends the Holy Spirit to effect redemption among the saved.

The key to the order of the decrees is that God decreed election to salvation after the fall, not before; hence the name of the view "infralapsarianism." The supralapsarian view would offer an order in which the decree for election and reprobation occurs before the creation. Those on both sides of the issue cite weighty arguments for their positions, quote Scripture as a foundation, and comb through Augustine, Calvin, and others for support. Generally most Reformed assemblies have refused to make either infra - or supralapsarianism normative, although the tendency has been to favor the former without condemning those who hold to the latter.

R V Schnucker
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

No major Reformed confession specifically supports the Supra position, but none condemns it.  On the main they tend to stay away from stating a clear position and this is understandable for the Bible has no firm statement on the matter and any position taken would be without a solid support.

However, an argument by logical reason can be put forward if we consider the essential attributes of God: Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence. To God the position of Time e.g. Past, Future is an eternal Now. Therefore to God, in his Omniscience,  all things, but ALL, none left out, are known "instantly" without having to wait for the unfolding of time (like it is for  us). Thus ALL things were known (decreed) to Him "from" inception, nothing hidden, it follows then that God "knew" very well everything that would come to pass from the beginning to the end, INCLUDING the fall of Adam. 

On this basis it would make no sense at all for God to wait for the fall (when He knew it would happen, whether by decree or by Adam's determination) and then formulate a plan of salvation, as an after thought.  It seems to me that the Supra view is more coherent with the Supreme Sovereignty of God that the Infra one.

Also some expositors use this phrase "God permit the fall".  I strongly object to the word "permit" for it implies that God did not quite like the idea but He could not do otherwise and he "tolerates" it, or that something was imposed onto Him from the outside and He had to concede.  To me God is the Absolute Sovereign of ALL things, and ALL things have their being in Him and move by Him and He is not the author of sin for sin is, by definition, transgression to His Law that is not applicable to Him, but to men.

If someone has objections to this: "The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." (Pro 16:4 AV)

also 1Ki 22:19-23

aymon de albatrus