Infra or Supralapsarianism

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by James Swan, Mar 16, 2014.

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  1. James Swan

    James Swan Puritan Board Freshman

    Greetings, I haven't been here in a while. I suspect the Puritan Board is the best place to ask this question.

    I've been doing some cursory studies into the infra / supra debate. I've been sifting through some of the old CRC Acts of Synod to see how they handled the infra / supra debate. The 1908 Synod (p. 81) declared the following (earlier declared as The Conclusions of Utrecht, 1905):

    In regard to the first point, infra- or supralapsarianism, Synod declares:

    Here are my questions:

    1) What particularly provoked the 1908 CRC Synod to adopt this statement from Utrecht? Are there any good texts that provide an overview of what was going on at the time that pushed this issue to a synodical statement in both Utrecht and then the CRC?

    2) Other than a theological dispute, what difference is there in actual practice as to whether or not someone is infra or supra? Historically, is there a significant difference in practice that impacted the Reformed church from those holding the supralapsarian view?

    3) Are there any significant Reformed denominations that are explicitly supralapsarian? After having some sparse interactions with advocates of the Netherlands Reformed Church here in NJ, i'm tempted to think they are supralapsarian.

    I have my suspicions as to the answers to these questions, but I would certainly like to hear from others, particularly in regard to #2. Primarily, I'm looking for some good historical texts, particularly on the Dutch side, that explore these questions. Any suggestions?


    James Swan
  2. James Swan

    James Swan Puritan Board Freshman

    OK, since I've had around 100 views and no takers... here's a much more simplified question:

    What difference does it make if someone is infralaparian or supralapsarian? For instance, is the Christian life, piety, spirituality behavior, etc. of a supralapsarian different than an infralapsarian?
  3. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    James, I realize that you ask a serious question and have a commendable desire to understand what was happening in the CRC a century ago, yet I doubt there are many people who have the knowledge to give you a real answer that's more than speculation.

    I'm tempted to get snarky and suggest that whatever controversy brought on that ruling was probably due to the hard-nosed Dutch proclivity to snipe at each other and to continually poke around for error and demand that others correct it. When I was a child in the CRC about 40 years ago, the debate over infra- and supralapsarianism was repeatedly held up as THE prime example of the sort of theological disagreement one should avoid coming to blows over. The fact that it was cited so often as an example of where not to bash one's brother may be some clue as to what the average CRCer thought of the 1908 debate, whatever that was. But this is just a guess.

    It sounds like Synod took a reasonable, wise approach that emphasized peaceful discussion.
  4. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    One major difference in the two views relates to evil in general. Did God decree to permit the fall for the purpose of manifesting His grace and justice or did God decree to manifest His grace and justice as a consequence of the fall? One's understanding on this point is influential in how one sees various doctrines, so one's viewpoint should make a difference.

    Having said that, there are also causes why the consequences of each view might not be regarded as important. There is a general dislike of metaphysical inquiry, with a feeling that it interferes with the province of biblical theology. There is also the emergence of paradox (ironically arising from a metaphysical concept), which means people sit more comfortably with inconsistencies.
  5. James Swan

    James Swan Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi Jack,

    Thanks for the comments. I've done some work on CRC history, and I have access to all the Acts of Synod. The problem though is that they often only provide either an outcome or an overview. I have a suspicion that somewhere there's some sort of overview as to Utrecht and the CRC Synod of 1908 following along.

    While I am Dutch, I was not raised in the CRC. Most of my expeditions into CRC history are driven by my desire to understand URCNA (my denomination) and the CRC tradition that still lingers. So any CRC information or personal CRC anecdotes are much appreciated. Your comment really nailed down what I've seen from studying Dutch church history, and I certainly understand the temptation to snarkiness.

    I was reading Berkof the other day referring to the CRC decision of 1905, and he appeared to me to be saying the same thing.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  6. James Swan

    James Swan Puritan Board Freshman

    Rev. Winzer,

    Thank you as well for your comments!

    This is kind of what I'm interested in. I've come across a number of discussions over the years of people quibbling back and forth over the infra / supra conundrum. Most of the time, it's heavy theological banter in which Reformed folks enter into on of those the labyrinths that has no exit. I'm curious as to the effect of supralapsarianism on one's theological system, and by extension, how it effects personal piety, evangelism, Christian behavior, etc. So if you get a moment to flesh out which various doctrines you have in mind, I'd appreciate it.

  7. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    James, on the historical details about the CRC I suspect that Dr. Venema would either know or would know where to look.
  8. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  9. James Swan

    James Swan Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, he is quite the expert on the CRC, and I would only pursue him as a last resort, as I know firsthand he is quite busy with Mid-America Reformed Seminary.

  10. James Swan

    James Swan Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks so much for the link, I'll be reviewing it. Also, I recall you from the CARM boards. While I typically spend my CARM time with the Lutherans, I do recall you from this thread. I'd spend more time on the CARM Reformed/Presbyterian board, but it typically was overrun by schwärmerei.
  11. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    The doc is an extract from Bavinck's second volume of his Reformed Dogmatics's. To avoid copyright issues, I only extracted a small part of the chapter wherein he discusses the topic at length.

    Well, as you can see, PB can be a welcome respite from the usual discussion sites. Why here at PB we do not even quibble about baptism, KJV translation, infra vs. supra, covenantalism, theocracy, justification, how to keep the Sabbath, young or old earth, or even Arminianism. Go ahead, start a thread on one of the topics and then get ready to experience the bliss. :um: ;)

    Seriously, welcome and I look forward to seeing more of you here and about.
  12. James Swan

    James Swan Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the extract... I actually have vol. 1 & 2 of Bavinck. At some point I'm sure I'll pick up the rest.

    I've visited PB off and on over the years, but on some level I must enjoy the punishment the CARM boards continually inflict.
  13. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    James, There are numerous issues which are centred around the relationship of sin to the attributes of God. E.g., theodicy. How can an all powerful and good God permit sin? The answer is, He ordains it for an higher good and is not bound by the creature's standard of justice and goodness. As far as I can tell the supralapsarian view has provided the theological foundation for this answer. The fall subserves the purpose of salvation in Christ. Infralapsarians who have recourse to this answer are effectively assuming the supralapsarian position. When they speak of the felix culpa (happy fault) of the first sin, they are subordinating sin to eternal destiny, which is a supralapsarian distinctive.

    Another doctrine is atonement. Was it absolutely necessary? or does its necessity flow from the freedom of grace?

    In the message of the gospel no question is made of election or reprobation. In the foreground the gospel is actively seeking the salvation of the hearer. But the message of salvation in Christ is a savour unto God whether it is a savour of life unto life or of death unto death. One's view of the order of the decrees affects how one understands this.

    Concerning piety and Christian life, let us look at the nature of goodness. Is something good because God commands it or is it commanded because it is good? Supralapsarians consistently maintain it is good because God commands it. Infralapsarians vary.
  14. Matthew1344

    Matthew1344 Puritan Board Freshman

    can you explain this in a different way? I am not understanding. It is not your fault. ha I know it is mine!
  15. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

  16. NB3K

    NB3K Puritan Board Sophomore

    Please excuse me for being a bit off-topic, but I have question, which is related to the subject.

    Is it possible for both positions to be true? Because God's ways are way higher than what my mind can comprehend.
  17. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    in my opinion no. :) Infra has God "contemplating after" the fall to decide who He will save. Supra has God "contemplating before" the fall who will like the goodness of The Gospel and those who will think the savour of The Gospel is not good.
  18. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    No problem. We might think of the statement, Many are called, few are chosen. The Gospel is a revelation of God, but it does not reveal everything about God. There is something which remains hidden from us. This leads us to believe that the design of the Gospel is one thing and the design of God in giving the Gospel is another. The Gospel actively seeks the salvation of its hearers -- the called. God gives the Gospel to save the elect -- the chosen.
  19. KGP

    KGP Puritan Board Freshman

    Rev. Winzer, I haven't been around long enough to recall your personal position on this issue. Supra, I'm guessing, from your responses here. Care to confirm or deny?
  20. PhillipJLee

    PhillipJLee Puritan Board Freshman

    Great topic -- for those who like charts, see here: Notes on Supralapsarianism & Infralapsarianism

    I don't want to hijack this thread but could I also ask how Amyraldism relates to the both? I am specifically wondering how I could defend against Amyraldism using Covenant Theology?
  21. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

  22. convicted1

    convicted1 Puritan Board Freshman

    Now where's my "like" button?
  23. convicted1

    convicted1 Puritan Board Freshman

    Infra here...

    Now, this debate is needless, in my opinion. Regardless the position, God elects, God regenerates, God converts, and God will glorify His elect. We are to rest in this. I rest in this, and whether infra or supra rings true, I have no clue...I see support for both, but more for infra. Regardless, I won't debate this.
  24. One Little Nail

    One Little Nail Puritan Board Sophomore

    Matt can you elaborate on this, I think Supra is the more correct view, though I would say both of the above are true,
    that is Christ had to be born of a woman & born under the Law to fulfil its demands (which is death) so that the freedom of Grace ,as you say, may have a free course, this grace is a satisfaction, is it not. am I seeing this correctly

    Didn't Owen the Infra write a treatise on Psalm 130 to rebuke the Supra views of Rutherford on this point if Im not mistaken.
  25. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Christological supralapsarian, which means the order of the decrees serves the purpose of glorifying Christ as the Head of creation. I believe this puts the emphasis and focus where the Scripture places it. It also removes the difficulties connected with individual destiny of persons who are not yet considered as being created.
  26. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    All reformed theologians teach the necessity of the atonement. The question is whether it is necessary because God has decreed it for wise and holy purposes or because the nature of justice absolutely requires it. The voluntarists maintained that if justice absolutely demands it the soul that sins must die and there is no place for a Surety or for any equivalent payment. Furthermore, if justice is absolutely satisfied by the death of Christ then the sins of all men have been satisfied by Christ because of the intrinsic value of Christ's death. In contrast the Reformed teach that Christ satisfies the justice of God for some men and not others because of the purpose of God to save the elect and pass by others.

    Owen first held the same position as Rutherford but changed his mind in light of the Socinian controversy. This change is reflected in his dissertation on divine justice.
  27. One Little Nail

    One Little Nail Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks for your reply Pastor Matthew

    Who are the voluntarists?, this view would seem to deny the Atonement, even the arminians wouldn't espouse this,
    this could not even be regarded as a christian statement or part of the christian religion.

    Well yes the Reformed view as you have stated has Christ satisfying the Elects (some mens) sins, which is definitely the
    Scriptural view, absolute satisfaction would be a form of Universalism that I have never heard espoused as they tend say
    that those who have not been redeemed in this life endure a period of purifying suffering in fire & then are redeemed afterwards though there may be many varieties, Im not familiar with all these, & then you have the hypothetical Universalists like pelagian, semi-Pelagians, remonstrance & wesleyan arminians, & others types as well, who do say that Christ has effectively paid the price for everybody though the onus seems to be on the sinner adding his faith to the mix to make it effectual! you could even throw in amyraldians & other such 4 point "calvinists" into the mix I suppose.

    Did Owen publish anything on this view when he held it previously, his english works seem to have only 2 of the 5 main calvinistic points espoused at the Synod of Dort ie; Limited Atonement & Perseverance of the Saints , apart from his
    Display of arminianism which is a more general work, & there doesn't seem to be a treatise on Predestination/Election.

    Do you know what the major supra schemes are that have previously prevailed in or do now prevail in the Reformed community, & what theological books could you recommend that outline/summarize these views, regards.
  28. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    The following are some of those who have expressed voluntarist sentiments:
    Aurelius Augustine
    John Calvin
    Amandus Polanus
    William Ames
    Thomas Goodwin
    Samuel Rutherford
    William Twisse
    Matthew Henry
    John Owen (in his early days)
  29. nick

    nick Puritan Board Freshman

  30. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    As articulate as ever. Supra has been my position but I've never been able to say this succinctly.
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