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Decree of God - Supralapsarian vs. Infralapsarian

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A question I was recently asked:
Is the biblical concept of God's ordaining in line with how Judas was predestined by God to be the one to betray Jesus.

Let's examine the logical ordering versus temporal execution of the decree of God. Two views are predominant within Reformed orthodoxy.

Supralapsarianism
Supralapsarianism is the doctrine that God's eternal decrees of man's creation and the Fall were predicated on God's eternal decrees of election and reprobation. The idea is that in terms of the logical ordering, God decreed election and reprobation, and then decreed creation and the Fall (hence, the term supralapsarian, meaning "before (supra) the Fall"), which condemned all mankind, creating the conditions necessary to fulfill election and reprobation as a means of redeeming some and leaving others to perish in their sins.

A summary of the above logical orderings of supralapsarianism would resemble something like this:

  1. Elect some per God's own secret volitional will, justly leave the remainder (reprobates) in their state of sin with no violence done to their will
  2. Create
  3. Fall
  4. Provide salvation of the elect in the active and passive obedience of the Person of Our Lord
  5. Outwardly and inwardly call the elect to salvation

Infralapsarianism:
Infralapsarianism—a more prevalent view among the Reformed—is the doctrine that God's eternal decrees of election and reprobation were predicated on God's decrees of man's creation and the Fall. The idea is that in terms of the logical ordering, God decreed creation and the Fall (hence the term infralapsarian, meaning "after (infra) the Fall"), which condemned all mankind, creating the conditions necessary to fulfill election and reprobation as a means of redeeming some and leaving others to perish in their sins.

A summary of the above logical orderings of infralapsarianism would resemble something like this:

  1. Create
  2. Fall
  3. Elect some per God's own secret volitional will, justly leaving the remainder (reprobates) in their state of sin with no violence done to their will
  4. Provide salvation of the elect in the active and passive obedience of the Person of Our Lord
  5. Outwardly and inwardly call the elect to salvation

Hyper-Calvinism, a heretical minority view excursus:
The hyper-Calvinist affirms that God has decreed reprobates logically prior to the decree of the Fall. Now while this is included in the supralapsarian view, the hyper-Calvinist goes beyond it by fully embracing equal ultimacy, which is to say, that God will take great pains to go out of His way to ensure those so reprobated will sin to ensure their status of reprobates. In effect, God literally becomes the author of the reprobate's sin, contrary to WCF 5, Section IV. Sigh.

Hyper-Calvinism bears no relation to supralapsarianism. Hyper-Calvinists focus upon the means of the execution of the decree of God. Supralapsarians focus upon the order of the things decreed.

Moving forward, both predominant views—supra or infra—take great pains to focus upon the logical ordering of the decree of God. That said, arguments abound as to whether God begins with the end in mind and works backwards, or with the beginning in mind and works forward. Or perhaps God does not deductively think at all, but intuitively seeing all equally vividly (my personal view), so discussion of logical ordering is perhaps out of place as if God is only able to see things only upon certain conditions.

Clearly, the discussion of supralapsarianism or infralapsarianism is focused upon how we finite creatures conceive of the relationships of the objects of the decree. These human conceptions tend to divide the decree up into portions of actions on the part of God.

We should view these human approaches to be wanting, for God knows a being in that being's totality, including all possibilities relative to the same. The decree is simple (as in the simplicity of God) and single (conventionally, we use the plural "decrees" when speaking of the decree of God), this the decree finds itself with multiple expressions per the way we humans conceive of the objects decreed.

Distinctions between the decree and its execution:Whatever position taken, it is vital to distinguish between the decree and its execution. There is an important distinction between the decree and the thing decreed.

Per WCF 3.2, the decree qua decree is unconditional. The decree will irrevocably come to pass. Why? Well, because God has decreed it! This decree includes "others foreordained to everlasting death," as implied by Section 3 of the WCF. Accordingly, the decree of reprobation is unconditional. However, the thing decreed (reprobation), includes all the specific conditions and relations which are also decreed. Hence section 7 of the WCF states that God was pleased "to ordain them to dishonor and wrath, for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice." The lump of clay contemplated in the mind of God, contrary to hyper-Calvinism, is a fallen lump of clay. Sin is decreed as the reason why those ordained to everlasting death are to be punished.

In executing the decree, God's actions are not in the same way towards all things. For example, towards sin (and the reprobate in some degree) there is active permission by God, using evil to punish evil, or overruling evil to accomplish His good purposes. Note here that God is never passive.

The issue with both of these doctrines (supra, infra) is that both are usually presented as being exclusive of the other. That is, supralapsarianism is thought to include a denial of infralapsarianism, and infralapsarianism is thought to include a denial of supralapsarianism. It seems to me (my equally vividly point above) that the positive assertions of both may be affirmed because there is no reason that the decrees of the Fall and of election and reprobation cannot be mutually predicated upon one another.

Supralapsarianism affirms "If A then B," whereas infralapsarianism affirms "If B then A." Both these statements may be true simultaneously, rendering the logical formulation "A if and only if B."

For example, consider the statements
"If I am a husband, then I have a wife."
"If I have a wife, then I am a husband."

Both are true, and when combined they render "I am a husband if and only if I have a wife."

Concerning your predestination of Judas comments:

In Reformed dogmatics, the word foreordination usually implies the decree of God in general. Predestination is usually confined to the destiny of human beings. They are both unconditional decrees. The WCF followed Holy Writ in confining predestination to the elect (something personal). Foreordination encompasses more than something personal, including the impersonal.

Naturally foreordination includes predestination when the non-elect, like Judas, are a point of reference. Nevertheless, the God's decree concerning the non-elect is no less unconditional and infallible.

As I have explained, the actions of Judas arose from his own volitional will, not requiring God to make Judas do what he did, contrary to hyper-Calvinistic views. God used Judas to bring good out of his evil thoughts, words, and deeds, to accomplish His just purposes, glorifying Himself, without doing violence to the will of Judas.
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