Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism: Practical Implications

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by strangecharm, Aug 26, 2009.

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  1. strangecharm

    strangecharm Puritan Board Freshman

    As a relatively new Reformed believer, I have run across the terms infralapsarian and supralapsarian repeatedly.

    While I understand what they mean, in terms of theory, I do not understand their implications in practice.

    What difference, if any, does one's position on this issue make in preaching, witnessing, discipleship, and general Christian practice?

    I appreciate the help.
  2. Michael Doyle

    Michael Doyle Puritan Board Junior

    Welcome to the board Stephen!
  3. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    I'll weigh in on this when I get home. This topic greatly interests me.
  4. jason d

    jason d Puritan Board Freshman

    Welcome & great question, I have been wondering the same thing too.
  5. Radical_Pilgrim

    Radical_Pilgrim Puritan Board Freshman

  6. Houchens

    Houchens Puritan Board Sophomore

  7. strangecharm

    strangecharm Puritan Board Freshman

    While this is a helpful thread in classifying myself, it doesn't help me with practical application. You and I both know that I'm lacking there. I would like these theoretical differences to produce perhaps difference in behavior.

    I'm thinking that I'm a Low Calvinist (NOT Amyraldian, 4-point), but I'm not ashamed of that in any way. I'm definitely infralapsarian, and I cannot help but hold to common grace. (Have I been breathing in too much John Piper and Paul Washer?)

    Still, the question remains: what will that mean once I enter ministry, DV?
  8. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Many Reformed theologians, including Bavinck (I think) and Morton Smith, think the whole controversy was kind of a mistake. To attempt to order the divine decrees logically is very close to assuming a discursive operation in the mind of God. Personally, I don't think there's any real merit to the issue, though some have said that the Westminster standards are a bit on the infralapsarian side, and I confess that I personally think that Supralapsarianism involves some logical contradiction.

    I doubt it will ever make a whit of difference in your ministry.
  9. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I suspect that like creationism and traducianism, the practical impact of these doctrines is seen not directly, but in the way that they safeguard and inform your views of other doctrines.
  10. Spinningplates2

    Spinningplates2 Puritan Board Freshman

    Welcome to the PB.

    I think Supralapsarianism is they way to go for one reason. If God did not choose His Elect before the Creation then He was not acting in accordance to His infinite nature, meaning that while He was doing one thing, Creation, He was not or could not be looking ahead to the Fall. But I am willing to admit some pretty smart people see things on the other side. MY advice is don't get to bogged down with this debate when so much is clear about how Great God is.
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    While one can be a supra and not be a hyper-calvinist, those that are truly hyper-calvinists are always supras it seems.
  12. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore


    This is an interesting subject which deserves the study of both lapsarian concepts, as well as becoming familiar with the history of the controversy over whether God's grace is common to all, or not. :detective:
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    But I think that trying to order God's logical decrees (from all eternity) into consecutive order is difficult to say the least.
  14. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore


    But delving into a study of lapsarianism (as well as studying the controversy over Eternal Justification), if nothing else, will edify the believer concerning the doctrine of Unconditional Election.
  15. Spinningplates2

    Spinningplates2 Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm sorry but I don't remember if you ever gave a few names of any modern hyper-Calvinist. People who are teaching today that most Christians might have heard of and should beware of because of their teachings.
  16. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    But that's not what the lapsarian debate is about. The supra/infra distinction is whether, in the eternal decree, God first logically decided to elect or to create. It has nothing to do with how the decrees were exercised in time. All the decrees were in place before creation (hence, eternal).
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, I guess you are quite right.

    -----Added 8/27/2009 at 10:41:34 EST-----

    Here's a description, if you want to read the characteristics of Hyper-Calvinism and check yourself against it: A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism
  18. Spinningplates2

    Spinningplates2 Puritan Board Freshman

    This is what you sent last time. I guess there are no modern Hyper-Calvinist to beware of in the Reformed world today. At least any that have a following. But we should never forget that one man did say something stupid and unbiblical to William Carrey.
  19. ExGentibus

    ExGentibus Puritan Board Freshman

    I think that the implications of one's view on the infra/supra doctrines are not directly practical, but are visible in other doctrines. For instance the promise in the covenant of works: an infralapsarian would see the life promised to Adam as a kind of heavenly life to be somehow restored in the second Adam; a supra would probably see it as a earthly life. However, the question seems to me rather academic in nature, albeit sadly some contemporary teachers make it a matter of separation from other reformed churches.
  20. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    I was wondering how it might have practical implications, and this post was spot-on, IMO. God has been sovereign from eternity, and God's glory has always been the ultimate end of every motion of His will.

    I believe supralapsarianism is the way to go, for when singular actions are considered and subdivided into different aspects, the order in which the aspects are carried out is the exact opposite of the order in which they are conceived. Thought always involves a consideration of the ends logically prior to the means; otherwise the means would be just "out there" detached from any particular end, and actions would be performed without any purpose.

    For instance, if I wish to get some Taco Bell for dinner, I first think of the end, gaining Taco Bell, and then I think of how this Taco Bell can be obtained -- I'll have to drive -- and then I realize that in order to drive, I need to get car keys. When this plan is executed, I first get the keys, then I drive to Taco Bell, then I get the food, the exact opposite of the conceived plan. Likewise, since the creation of man ultimately serves to glorify God's mercy and justice through salvation and damnation, it follows that God's self-glorification via election and reprobation are considered as an end of creation (i.e. creation is the means of them), and therefore they are logically prior to creation.

    It could be argued that God does not think discursively, but intuitively, but this objection ultimately fails. We subdivide other aspects of God's thought. We can speak of God's decrees elsewhere as distinct propositions without implying that He thinks discursively. Why not in the lapsarian debate? Lapsarianism does not imply that God thinks in this order, but rather that his thought, when expressed in a way that condescends to human minds, can be accurately conceived in a specific order.
  21. ewenlin

    ewenlin Puritan Board Junior

    I kind of agree with Ben that what was last in action must be first in thought.

    Anyway, I didn't know Paul Washer was infra. I heard one of his sermons that sounded a little on the Supra side.
  22. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    There is a logical problem in supralapsarianism, though. The distinctive feature of supra- is that you have the decree of election to salvation preceding the decree of creation. However, a being's existence logically precedes any other aspect about it, and the fall and sin logically precedes salvation. In other words, if we're putting this into the steps that a human mind can follow, we need creation before anything else, because we need to conceive of the party as existing before we assign any properties to it.
  23. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    B.B. Warfield discussed the infra/supra differences in his "Plan of Salvation". Perhaps some of the practical implications may be derived from his discussion -- I don't recall. However, he held to infralapsarianism and contended that it was the only view self consistent and consistent with the facts of Scripture (p. 28).

  24. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    I don't think this holds up. When we are conceiving of different characteristics of something, it is superfluous to include existence as an attribute of something that is conceived. (This is basically Kant's objection to Anselm's ontological argument.) It is impossible to conceive of men without conceiving of existing men -- by that I don't mean that the men in your mind exist in reality, but that in your thought they have the attribute of existence.

    As a different answer to the objection, consider this order of thought:
    (1) I want to glorify myself.
    (2) I can glorify myself by showing forth my mercy and justice.
    (3) I can show forth my mercy and justice by electing some men and reprobating some men.
    (4) In order to elect some men and reprobate some men, I need to create them.

    In (3), I would say that God is considering the election and reprobation of existing men (because there's no way to imagine a man who possesses an attribute of nonexistence), and, because these men do not presently exist in reality, God decreed their creation as a means to their salvation and damnation.
  25. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    But notice that the notion of "mercy" is unintelligible without prior concepts of (1) relationship (2) justice and (3) sin. To speak of election, reprobation, mercy, or justice, both existence and the fall (lapse) must be concomitant or prior. It is impossible to conceive of salvation without a prior concept of need. Likewise, it is nonsensical to speak in relational categories without a relation being presupposed. If I told you I wanted to kerplank, which is when one person dimpers and another one frewits, you would not be able to conceive of kerplank until after you've conceived of dimpers and frewits. If either dimpers or frewits is unintelligible, so is kerplank.

    When humans think teleologically, they do so based on past experience. "I want to go to Taco Bell" is only possible because I have had previous experience with Taco Bell. Had I never had that past experience, it would be necessary to introduce me to the concept before I could do anything further with it.
  26. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Lapsarianism doesn't involve when God first thinks of the concepts of mercy, relationship, justice, and sin, as if He knew nothing about them prior. If that were the case, then both lapsarianisms would be impossible.

    In fact, the reasoning you give is precisely why supralapsarianism is correct, I believe. God recognizes that mercy requires prior concepts, and therefore when He considers mercy, He understands that other things must be decreed to bring about His mercy. Reprobation requires sin and justice, so after God decrees to reprobate some men, He later decrees that they sin and that He justly punish them for it.

    The alternative to this is that God purposelessly thinks of existing men, or of sin, and then He realizes what He can do with this. But this is certainly false. God always acts with purpose.
  27. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    According to Thornwell, the question “is whether sin is in the Divine thought antecedent to condemnation, the real ground of it, or only a providential means of executing the decree of reprobation formed irrespective of it” (James Henley Thornwell, Collected Writings (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), II:21.
  28. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The practical implication for ministry (if consistently carried through) is, if you are supralapsarian, with the apostle Paul you can glorify God that the savour of Christ is spread through the preaching of the Word even when God makes it a savour of death to some. If you are infralapsarian, the savour of death will be accidental to the preaching of the Word since God is said to merely pass by the individuals who reject it. If you are Amyraldian, and believe God has a conditional will for the salvation of all men, then you will see the savour of death as no part of the influence of the Word of God and that God is not genuinely glorified in the damnation of sinners. In my humble opinion, the supralapsarian scheme is the only one which can make the preaching of the Word a true act of worship even when it is rejected by sinful men.
  29. strangecharm

    strangecharm Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm infralapsarian so far as I can tell. I don't quite understand what your issue is regarding preaching as worship. If you could explain in detail (in private message if need be), I would greatly appreciate it.
  30. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    John Calvin's comments on 2 Cor. 2:15, 16, may be of help as you think through the practical implications of the issue:

    If one can preach with faith that God is glorified when the Gospel becomes an occasion of ruin to the wicked, and it is sweet to the preacher even when the Gospel brings condemnation on the wicked, he worships God as he should. How this could be consistent with infralapsarianism, which teaches that God simply passes by individual sinners, I know not.
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