Supralapsarianism, Infralapsarianism, or Something Else?

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.  

2 thoughts on “Supralapsarianism, Infralapsarianism, or Something Else?

  1. Nonya

    By instantaneous creation of knowledge from eternity past you are trying to create a loophole to logical order by treating logic in terms which we use in causal cases in space and time. However, you just got done saying that logical order is not on par with orders we attribute to casual actions in space time and so I’m extremely confused how this negates the infra and supra controversy. Your argument is fallacious at its core. When we talk about the infra and supra logical order we can not be talking about anything having to do with space time but with eternal actions in the mind of God. Even saying that God’s knowledge is instantaneous is to be thinking in terms of time. Time doesn’t exist when God is thinking before time exists which leads to your view that God simply has perfect knowledge. But the infra and supra camps try to supercede this by talking about logical order in order to peddle their own doctrines of how salvation on an atonement theory works. Ultimately, considering how eternal life is simply union with God and our becoming partakers of the Divine nature I fail to see the usefulness of such thoughts and fail to understand why such questions are not left to mystery. As is common with American brands of Christianity, “doctrine” is over emphasized and over reaches while a humble shoulder shrug and an admittance that God is too great to be understood in these ways and is mysterious is all but ignored. The reality of our awesome realness ought be enough mystery for us. Some thoughts are too great and too useless to benefit our union with God.

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    1. I’m not trained in philosophy. I am just a novice with logical argumentation. I wouldn’t mind some help. I was just wondering if supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism were at all accurate logical orders given the singular act of creation by God, in which everything was decreed once and for all in eternity. It didn’t seem to me that there needed to be an order to the decrees dealt with by those two statements of order. Could you explain the logical fallacies I employed in terms I could understand? Like I said, I’m not schooled in philosophy. Am I making a categorical error?
      I wouldn’ say that God’s knowledge is instantaneous. I would say that it has always been, and has always been just as it is.
      I do think there is benefit from being in awe about the mysteries of God. I think it is good for us to think about His attributes and what the implications of those attributes are. The Puritans, and Reformers, would agree.

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