Supralapsarianism: The Fall of Man Was Both Necessary and Wonderful

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Coram Deo, Mar 31, 2008.

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  1. Coram Deo

    Coram Deo Puritan Board Junior

    Theodore Beza

    Quæstionum Et Responsionum
    Christianarum Libellus

    Questions 190-194

    Q190. Can God be thought to will anything which he does not approve, and thus that which is evil?

    BEZA: Truly, it must be confessed, that whatever God decreed, it is ordained altogether willingly, but here also shines forth His infinite wisdom, that with Him even the darkness has a bit of light, yet in such a way that it is and remains darkness, that is, it is good also that there should be evil; for God found the method whereby it might happen, that what is and remains evil by its own nature, might still have a bit of good before Him, and (as Augustine rightly and elegantly said) it may not happen except by His will, that is, apart from His decree, and yet be against his will, that is, what is by its own nature unrighteous, and therefore does not please God. For example, that God saved His own by the gracious redemption of His own Son Christ, is to His own exceedingly great glory, which otherwise [if men had not sinned] would not have shone forth. But man would not have required redemption from sin and death, unless sin and death existed. Therefore, in respect to the ordinance of God, it was good that sin and death enter into the world; and yet this sin is and remains sin so much by its own nature, that it could not be expiated for except by a very terrible penalty. Again, we receive far more in Christ than we lost in Adam. Therefore, it was best and most useful for us that Adam fell, in respect to God, who prepares a kingdom of eternal glory for us by this wonderful means. And nevertheless, this Fall is so evil by its own nature, that even those who are justified and believe, experience many miseries and calamities from it, even to death. Also, this is the great glory of God, that He shows Himself to be a most severe punisher of sin. But if sin had not existed, no opening would be made for this judgment. Therefore, it was good, in respect to the ordinance of God, that sin exist, and afterwards be spread abroad, which is damned in the demons and all those who are outside of Christ, with eternal punishment. Likewise, this also is the will of God (Peter said), that is, His decree, that all who do right, are affected by evils. But he who does well, is not able to be hurt apart from sin. It is good therefore, in respect to Godís will (that is, His ordinance) that there be persecutors of the church, whom, notwithstanding, He most severely punishes, justly, as sinners against His will, that is, against that which He approves of them doing. Therefore, by the express words of the apostles, that which is against Godís will or decree (that is, against that which He approves and commands), does not come to pass; on the other hand, it cannot be said that God is contrary to Himself, or that he wills iniquity, as Augustine rightly concluded from the Word of God against Julian.

    Q191. Therefore, it seems right that permission be distinguished from will.

    BEZA: What should be the thought concerning this distinction I addressed a little before. Certainly, if permission is set against will, that is decree, this opposition is not only false, but is also foolish and ridiculous. Even if in those actions which are not of free choice in and of themselves, as when merchants who are in danger throw their goods overboard, and generally as often as men choose the lesser evil to avoid the greater inconvenience, even profane men know that free-will has dominion. But if you set permission against will, that is, to that which God wants, as pleasing and acceptable to Him and of itself, and by its own nature; so that that which is good in and of itself is matched with that which is good by chance, and like as from the immense wisdom of God the darkness all serves the purpose of light, it has some measure of good (clearly, not by its own nature, but in respect to its end to which it is guided by God), then I would admit it; only this should be added, that this permission is not vain and idle, as some sleep, but very active and powerful, and yet most righteous permission, which can best be understood in a few words. I donít think that you would say that a judge is a certain idle spectator, when he hands criminals over to the executioner after hearing his case to receive this or that kind of punishment. For the executioner doesnít put him to death so much as he is the instrument of the judge who puts him to death. So if anything happens cruelly form the sentence of the judge, it is attributed, not so much to the executioner who executes, as to the judge who commands.

    Q192. I concede all these things. But how many dissimilarities are there between these illustrations and the things which we are discussing?

    BEZA: I confess. For otherwise there is no, or at least very little between a like thing and a same thing. Nevertheless, I wish that the chief points be brought up by you, so I can respond to them individually.

    Q193. In the sentencing of judges, a trial goes before; but in these things concerning which you entreat, often nothing of this trial is observed.

    BEZA: How many things are done rightly by the magistrates of this world, whose trial does not appear to the subjects? And do you attribute less to God, who searches thoroughly all things past and future lying hid in the depth of the hearts of men?

    Q194. The executioner does nothing except from sentences received. But where have evil men received any such command as to kill one another, or to harm good men?

    BEZA: In this you are deceived, that whatever God decreed, you think he gives knowledge of it with some loud voice, to those whose works He has decreed to use. However, experience has shown this is not always true in either case, that is, whether He has decided to use mercy, or to use justice, not even when He uses knowing instruments. For who would doubt that Pharaoh was ordained by God to receive Joseph and to prepare a hospitable place for the church? Yet he himself outwardly received no mandate concerning this, no, nor even thought of any such thing in himself. Yet this was decreed by God, and the quiet motion of Pharaohís heart tended to the executing of that which the Lord decreed. The prophets predicted a thousand times that the Chaldeans [Babylonians] were ordained to punish the evil Israelites, and to nurture the good; and in the same way, as if Nebuchadnezar had received an express mandate concerning this, so the Lord did not expressly command any such thing to the Chaldeans, but, as Ezekiel wrote, the heart of the king, partly given to Satan and his seers, and partly to his own desires, willingly inclined him to accomplish that which God had determined. How much more must the same be believed, as often as the Lord uses the things which lack reason [animals], or even that which is utterly without life, as His executioners. For in this way He called flies, frogs, locusts, grasshoppers, hail, and death to punish Pharaoh; so also the wisest of all men said, that even lots themselves do not fall by chance. For by a secret motion all things serve the executing of the decrees of God. But there is this difference, that good instruments do nothing except by faith, that is, upon assurance that they are called to do that which they do, and with a mind fixed to obey. But as for the evil instruments, sin they are led with a blind force by Satan and their own lusts, and have not the least consideration for obedience to God, with whose express word they know, or ought to know, that their counsels strive. Therefore, they do not serve the Lord, although God secretly uses the work of them, even the unwilling, so that they do nothing else, than that which He Himself, the wonderful worker, has decreed.
  2. Red Beetle

    Red Beetle Puritan Board Freshman

    Beza had a good teacher.
    Calvin wrote:

    "I have already shown clearly enough that God is the author of all those things which, according to these objectors, happen only by inactive permission. He testifies that He creates light and darkness, forms good and evil (Isaiah 45:7); that no evil happens which He hath not done (Amos 3:6). Let them tell me whether God executes His judgments willingly or unwillingly...And, in truth, if Christ was not crucified by the will of God, where is our redemption?"
    (The Institutes Of The Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 18, Section 3, page 202, Translated by Henry Beveridge)
  3. Dieter Schneider

    Dieter Schneider Puritan Board Sophomore

    FELIX CULPA! Augustine;
    "In him the tribes of Adam boast more blessings than their lather lost"
  4. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Thanks for posting it.
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    HEY brother! Glad to see you back.
  6. Reformingstudent

    Reformingstudent Puritan Board Junior

    :ditto: :)
  7. Neogillist

    Neogillist Puritan Board Freshman

    I think the title of this thread refers to the old definition of supralapsarianism, according to which all things happen by God's decree and not by mere permission. However, later on in the reformation, supralapsarianism became understood more in terms of the logical order of God's decree to predestine men as 'pure' or 'neutral' beings rather than sinful creatures. Theodore Beza is thought to have been the first Calvinist to hold this view. The other view is infralapsarianism, according to which men are predestined as fallen creatures either to heaven or to hell. I personally prefer the infralapsarian view since it is better fitting with God's justice. Roman Catholic theologians would object that supralapsarianism makes God into a Tyrant, and this view is also responsible for causing Arminius to devise his new doctrine in response to objections that he could not answer himself. Historic Calvinism has been infralapsarian for the most part, and the supralapsarian position has only been held by a few eccentric characters.
  8. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    I have one quick question about infra...when God ordained the Fall, did He ordain it with the purpose of election? That is, which of these two options did He do:

    1. He foresaw the Fall coming, decided to make the best of it with redemptive history.
    2. He decreed the Fall for the purpose of redemptive history, but elected those after this decree.

    Is #2 even logically possible? Or have I just essentially established the dichotomy between infra and supra with those two options?
  9. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    Such as............... Gill? :lol:
  10. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Is this tidbit from the make-it-up-as-you-go series?
  11. wmc1982

    wmc1982 Puritan Board Freshman

  12. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

  13. InevitablyReformed

    InevitablyReformed Puritan Board Freshman

    And Robert Reymond, too.
  14. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Gill's view can be found here : 8. Truth Defendeed
  15. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Samuel Rutherford was supra though he often employs infra terms. See Guy M Richard, "Samuel Rutherford’s Supralapsarianism Revealed: A Key to the Lapsarian Position of the Westminster Confession of Faith?" This appeared a few years ago in SJT (Scottish Journal of Theology) but I got permission from the author to rerun with slight alteration in the forthcoming 2008 issue of The Confessional Presbyterian journal. I hope to post the [table of ] contents of this issue soon as I hope to go to press in mid to late August.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2008
  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I look forward to this article as I missed the SJT original.

    What is often overlooked is that supralapsarians consider "redemption" from the perspective that the elect are fallen. They might sound like they are infralapsarian when speaking of redemption because the reality is that the two views share common ground on that point. On this basis I maintain that WCF chapter 3 does not teach a distinctive infralapsarian scheme. It is only predestination taken absolutely where the individual is considered unfallen in the supralapsarian scheme.
  17. Roldan

    Roldan Puritan Board Junior

    Reymond created formulated his own version(new) of the supra which I find very compelling, But Im still a Bavincklapsarian haha
  18. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    Both infra- and supra- lapsarian views ascribe some form of sequential thinking in the mind of God, thus both would infer God didn't know a thing until after He knew something else, whether in a temporal or logical sense. God does not "learn" anything. He has always known all things. Both views are incorrect in my feeble opinion, and mark an attempt by man to look into the secret things of God and diminish His omniscience.
  19. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    No infra would argue that God decreed the fall. We just say that the decree came before salvation.
  20. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The ordo decretorum is merely a discussion about the subordination of means to end in the purpose of God; it has nothing to do with some ill-founded idea that God doesn't know all things intuitively.
  21. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    My brain hurts!! :lol:

    I love John Gill... I recall many moons ago snuggling up with "The Cause of God and Truth"... ahhhh.. the good olde days

  22. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Gill comes off sounding infra.
  23. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    If you read, "the cause of God and truth" he doesn't; or, more properly, my fallible memory doesn't recall him sounding as such :think:

  24. BertMulder

    BertMulder Puritan Board Junior

    Entering into the supra/infra debate, we make an assumption with our puny, time-limited mind, that God is also bound by the sequential order of time.

    However, God being eternal, He is not limited to time, one of His creations.

    That being said, just as there were (and are) many eminent theologicians holding to the infra position, there were (and are) many eminent theologicians holding to the supra position.

    And the conclusion of Dordt was that neither was to be condemned...
  25. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    I remember reading, and my memory on this one isn't good, but John Rippon and Toplady say that he was infralapsarian. It doesn't matter...I still read Gill before anyone else.

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