Q&A: Supra or Infra?

Supra or Infra?

Question

What is the current Reformed stance on supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism? Is there still conflict on this issue? Are their Biblical passages that help shine the light on which is more correct? What is your stance?

Answer

On Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism

There is no single Reformed stance on infra- and supralapsarianism, although it is probably true that infralapsarianism has been the dominant view. Both of these are distinctly Reformed doctrines, even though, generally speaking, they are in opposition to one another. It is worth noting, however, that many Reformed theologians argue that these doctrines do not have to conflict as much as one might be tempted to think.

Supralapsarianism is the doctrine that God's eternal decrees of man's creation and fall were predicated on God's decrees of election and reprobation. The idea is that God first decreed election and reprobation, and then decreed creation and the Fall, which created the conditions necessary to fulfill election and reprobation.

Infralapsarianism is the doctrine that God's eternal decrees of election and reprobation were predicated on God's decrees of man's creation and fall. That is, God decreed creation and the Fall, which condemned all mankind, and then decreed election and reprobation as a means of redeeming some and leaving others to perish.

The problem with both of these doctrines, stated this simply, is that both are usually presented as being exclusive of the other. That is, supralapsarianism is thought to include a denial of infralapsarianism, and vice-versa. In reality, 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 on one another.

To put this in terms of symbolic logic, 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" and "If I have a wife, then I am a husband." Both are true, and combined they render "I am a husband if and only if I have a wife."

My favorite way of illustrating the mutual agreement between supra- and infralapsarianism is to talk about baking a cake. If I want to bake a cake, do I add the flour because I add the milk? Or do I add the milk because I add the flour? The truth of the matter is that these are both silly questions. I put in the flour and the milk because each needs the other, as well as eggs, sugar, etc., if they are to combine in the form of cake batter.

In the same way, God's eternal decrees are not isolated from one another; they are all part and parcel of his plan of creation. It can be helpful, at times, to distinguish one decree from another, but not when we lose sight of the big picture: all the decrees are necessary to one another in order to accomplish the one big plan of God. In short, all God's eternal decrees are made because of his other decrees, and thus, in some respect, every decree is predicated upon all the others.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.