I know that this subject comes up from time to time. When theology starts getting discussed, you want to see where the other person stands. We learn a concept or doctrine. We learn the label for the specific doctrine, and we use it in our dialogue to be more efficient with words. Some people don’t know the doctrine behind the label, and just use the label to sound smart. Those folks get exposed soon enough. Let’s not be like that. If you’ve never heard these terms before, don’t feel bad. They are used by theology nerds. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian if you haven’t heard of them. Simply put, they describe the logical order of God’s decrees involving the fall and salvation. Understand that the logical order is not necessarily the perceived order.
Supralapsarianism is the view that God elected the people who would be saved, and those who would be eternally condemned. He then decreed to create both groups of people. Then, He decreed to permit the fall. Finally, He decreed to save the elect with the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. So to sum up, God’s decrees of election and eternal condemnation logically preceded the decree of the fall.
Infralapsarianism is that God decreed the creation of all people. Next, He decreed to allow the fall. Then, He decreed who the elect would be and to save them by the substitutionary atonement of Christ. To sum up, God decreed who the elect would be, after He decreed the fall.
Again, these are supposed to be logical orders not necessarily experiential orders in a linear time. For instance, when we talk about the ordo salutis, we reason through the process, assuming that regeneration precedes justification, and glorification, but we realize that the moment between regeneration and justification may be imperceptibly small, like the short amount of time between when the light switch is toggled and the light actually occurs. It seems instantaneous, but we logically conclude that one had to happen before the other, even if we don’t have the perceptive abilities to experience it.
Let’s say an artist creates an eternal image and uses it as a stamp. He places it on a roller and then begins to press it on a piece of parchment. The shadow copy begins to appear, from left to right in spacetime as the artist rolls the stamp, the image is revealed and the little creatures experience their lives in spacetime. The eternal image was already there. It was created entirely at once. We did not know it. How could we? We didn’t exist, but the artist knows it all, all at once, and perfectly. He doesn’t have to reason it through from one point to another. He doesn’t have to deduce or induce any conclusions. The eternal image He created, He created at once, with perfect knowledge of everything in that image. He doesn’t have to look from left to right as He stamps the image on the parchment to see what comes next.
The idea I’m attempting to flesh out here is that God’s knowledge of all things is perfect and has never not been perfect. He has always known what He was going to do and how He was going to do it. It was never not a reality to Him. To say it was inevitable is to denigrate this concept. To say that it was going to happen is like saying that it hasn’t happened yet. Well to us, it hadn’t, but to Him, it had, has, is, is going to be. We feel the need to make sense of things. We want to know how they happen and in what order. What if in eternity, everything never was, will be, and always was? It is paradoxical for us in this existence. It seems only natural to attempt to make sense of God in accord to how we perceive things here and now. Even when we enter into eternity, our experience and perception will be different than God’s. We after all, are still creatures with limited abilities to know and perceive. So the concept goes something like this, God decreed everything simultaneously in one humanly imperceptible instance according to His omniscience and sovereignty, not violating any of His other attributes, but rather in concert with them as a whole in accord with His purpose. cum creare casus esset decretum: “With the creation (or creating) the fall was decreed (or ordained). Thanks to Dr. Dennis for the Latin. Then again, maybe I’m wrong. It is one of those things we can ponder.