Infra, Supra and.... Amyraldian?

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timfost

Puritan Board Senior
As my head starts to spin when I consider time and eternity, I couldn't help but read Bavinck's article on supra and infralapsarianism. Bavinck clearly shows how each position is one-sided and doesn't take all of scripture into account.

Effectively, the supra scheme is:

1. Decree of election
2. Decree of the Fall

Infra:

1. Decree of Fall
2. Decree of election

How can we order what happened in eternity? It would seem necessary to impose time on eternity, a losing proposition in my estimation.

The Amyraldian also tries to order God's decrees and places a decree to redeem all men before a later decree to elect.

1. Decree to redeem
2. Decree to elect

Granted, a double decree amounts to nothing but fiction and is not even remotely biblical, but it seems to me that at bottom it suffers from the same problem: ordering God's decrees.

It seems that we should take Bavinck's advice:

"Because of the limited character of our reasoning powers we must needs proceed from the one or from the other viewpoint; hence, the advocates of a causal world and life-view and the defenders of a teleological philosophy are engaged in continual warfare. But this disharmony does not exist in the mind of God. He sees the whole, and surveys all things in their relations. All things are eternally present in his consciousness. His decree is a unity: it is a single conception."
 

Jimmy the Greek

Puritan Board Senior
It should be emphasized that the decrees of God are understood as one single eternal intention; not an order of succession in His plan either in time or deliberation. As A. A. Hodge has stated, "The question as to the Order of Decrees is not a question as to the order of acts in God decreeing, but it is a question as to the true relation sustained by the several parts of the system which He decrees to one another," (Outlines, p. 230). In other words, it has to do with the logical relationship between creation, predestination, and redemption established by the eternal purpose of God?

I recognize some like Bavinck and if I recall correctly, Dabney, kind of poo-poo the order of decrees. However, i have found it helpful in reflecting the inherent assumptions of the various soteriologies from Pelagianism all the way to supralapsarianism, ala the chart in Warfield's Plan of Salvation. For example, as God decreed Election, did his mind have in view created and redeemed humanity, created and fallen humanity, or simply created (unfallen) humanity.

I am sure others may have different opinions.
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Jim is correct. The order of the decrees is not an order of decreeing but an order of the things which are decreed. It is not a succession in the thoughts of God (as that is impossible), but a subordination of means to end so far as the things themselves are concerned (which is a matter of wisdom). Those who are elected to eternal life are considered as being in a specific state. Supralapsarianism maintains that the elect were chosen out of the mass of unfallen men. Infralapsarianism holds that they were chosen from the mass of fallen men. Amyraldism hypothesises that the elect were chosen from the mass of redeemed men. Evangelical Arminianism conditions salvation by teaching the elect were chosen out of the mass of redeemed men on the basis of foreseen faith, which is effectively post-destination. Semi-pelagians include good works and perseverance in these conditions.

The supra and infra schemes agree at the point of salvation, and they can be reconciled to a certain extent if election is focused away from the individual and placed on Christ as the head of creation. If we place the election of Christ as first in the order of things, then the infra can accept that the fall subserves the glorification of Christ, and the supra can accept that election in Christ necessarily includes the fall.
 

Grumman Tomcat

Puritan Board Freshman
I find myself falling into the Infra camp. It looks the closest to what I find in the Bible.

Infra:

1. Decree of Fall
2. Decree of election

God knew ahead of time that Adam and Eve would sin and yet He created us anyways. The Elect are chosen out of fallen mankind. That is how I see it.

Thank you MW for your clear and concise post. I find your posts most helpful and instructive.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks, MW, that was a helpful reconciliation between the two.

I'm still struggling with knowing what the benefit of ordering the decrees is when we speak about the eternal decree of God? Is it for systematics? If so, does it actually work to our benefit or does it create a meaningless category as we make plural what is to God singular?

Thanks
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I'm still struggling with knowing what the benefit of ordering the decrees is when we speak about the eternal decree of God? Is it for systematics? If so, does it actually work to our benefit or does it create a meaningless category as we make plural what is to God singular?

Are we justified by faith or by works? Are we elected on the basis of our faith, or is faith the consequence of being elected? I would say the categories are meaningful and integral to how we understand and apply the doctrine which is according to godliness.

When it comes to semi-Pelagianism, salvation is at stake. We cannot be justified by works. When it comes to evangelical Arminianism, the gift of faith is of vital importance to practical godliness. If everything depends on free-will is it not the individual which makes himself to differ from another? When it comes to Amyraldism, the introduction of an hypothetical element has the capacity to destroy real faith and assurance.

When it comes to infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism, they are both Calvinistic. This leads me to agree with Twisse that it is apex logicus, a point of logic. It should remain an intramural discussion among Calvinists. And I think Calvinism is healthier for having the discussion.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Certainly God decree is the first cause of everything. I did not bring up Amyraldianism for the purpose of suggesting that it was on par with infra and supralapsarianism, only to point out the ordering of decrees. Certainly one is a Calvinist who holds to one of these two positions and one is not a consistent Calvinist who holds to Amyraldianism.

My question is only in regard to the benefit of distinguishing. Certainly God's decree unfolds over time and so there is a logical ordering in that sense. But since the elect were elect from eternity (Eph. 1:4), it seems that there is no logical place to put election in a chronology when election itself does not come to fruition over time, only the working out of election to bring him unto salvation.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
My question is only in regard to the benefit of distinguishing.

Such things have to be distinguished if one is going to understand the Bible because the Bible distinguishes them. The order is not in the decreeing act of God; the order is in the things which are decreed. These things are revealed as bearing a certain relation one to another. Consider the classic "chain of salvation" in Romans 8:28-30. That is a basic order which affects the way we understand and apply the Christian faith. We ignore it to our own confusion.

The question as to the mass from which God elected, whether fallen or unfallen, is not without its advantages. Did God have a higher purpose in ordaining to permit the fall? Immediately we are in the realms of theodicy. We also have biblical typology to consider. How is Adam a figure of the one to come (Rom. 5)? How is it that the natural comes first and the spiritual follows (1 Cor. 15)? How are all things made for Christ (Heb. 1), and how does His dominion fulfil the creation mandate (Heb. 2)? In other words, is the order of redemption a "Plan B" in light of the fall, or was it "Plan A" from the beginning?
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I agree that the order of salvation is important. I'm not sure if I see a clear connection in regards to election in terms of order, but I will "chew" on your response.

Thanks!
 

Grumman Tomcat

Puritan Board Freshman
When it comes to semi-Pelagianism, salvation is at stake. We cannot be justified by works. When it comes to evangelical Arminianism, the gift of faith is of vital importance to practical godliness. If everything depends on free-will is it not the individual which makes himself to differ from another? When it comes to Amyraldism, the introduction of an hypothetical element has the capacity to destroy real faith and assurance.

When it comes to infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism, they are both Calvinistic. This leads me to agree with Twisse that it is apex logicus, a point of logic. It should remain an intramural discussion among Calvinists. And I think Calvinism is healthier for having the discussion.

Amyraldism strikes me as unstable when I look at it. I find myself agreeing with the words of B. B. Warfield--"an inconsistent and therefore unstable form of Calvinism.". It is adhered to by Dispensationalists found in Independent Baptists, and independent Bible Churches. The double nature of the decrees cancel each other out when they are analysed logically. Amyraldism also creates Four Point Calvinism, dropping off the L in the Tulip, Limited atonement. Limited atonement is one of the key doctrines of Calvinism. When it is ignored what we get is an unstable theology that in many respects starts to look like Arminianism in places, even though its founder Moses Amyraut rejected Arminianism.
 
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