supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism
Supralapsarianism (also antelapsarianism) is the view that God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically preceded the decree of the fall while infralapsarianism (also called postlapsarianism and sublapsarianism) asserts that God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically succeeded the decree of the fall.
The logical order of God’s decrees in Calvinist theology is the study of the logical order (in God’s mind, before Creation) of the decree to ordain or allow the fall of man andreprobation in relation to his decree to elect and save sinners. Several opposing positions have been proposed, all of which have names with the Latin root lapsus meaning fall.
Supralapsarianism (also antelapsarianism) is the view that God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically preceded the decree of the fall while infralapsarianism (also called postlapsarianism and sublapsarianism) asserts that God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically succeeded the decree of the fall. The words can also be used in connection with other topics, e.g. supra- and infralapsarian christology.
Many Calvinists reject both lapsarian views for various reasons. Herman Bavinck rejected both because he sees the entire system of God’s plan of salvation as organic with each part mutually dependent and determinative, rather than some parts “causing” others. Other Calvinists (and many non-Calvinists) reject the lapsarian views because they perceive any particular ordering of the decrees as unnecessary and presumptive speculation. Critics of lapsarianism often argue that it is impossible to conceive of a temporal process by which God, in eternity, issued decrees, and it is impossible to know the mind of God without direct, scriptural documentation.
You may ask why I have shared this somewhat arcane definition, given that it is difficult to understand and that most people I know could care less. Well firstly, I simply enjoy the sound of the words. antelapsarianism – say it aloud – wonderful isn’t it? and infralapsarianism – is that antelapsarianism with a special red light? These words are just so suggestive of all sorts of things completely unrelated to “The Decrees of God” (whatever that means). Is antelapsarianism about “lapsing”? Something to do with the inhabitants of Lapland? Or is it to do with lapsidaisical – itself a corruption of lackadaisical – “lacking spirit or liveliness, idle or indolent especially in a dreamy way”?
I have also shared this definition as a point of departure: I find it interesting that well-meaning (and some not-so-well-meaning) men and women through the centuries have presumed to know not only the Will of God for the world, but in addition to have what appears to be a self-appointed, almost ex officio claim to Knowing The Mind of God and His Will for me. And often as not the individuals making these claims are either unsavoury characters (the proverbial Watchtower-weilding JW duo in their tatty suits at the door) or at least largely ignorant of their own theological traditions. The assumption here is that I do not know the Will and Mind of God (which admittedly I do not) and they do. The certainty with which it is proclaimed is always disconcerting if you are like me, a thorough-going pyrrhonist, “doubting even my doubts”. The trouble with such vehement certainty is that without exception it casts me – and you – (and most of the inhabitants of this planet for that matter) in the default position of the Ignorant, Unbeliever, Heathen, Wrongdoer, Transgressor, Infidel, Evil Other, Outsider, Kāfir.
For me – and for you – to question this presumed knowledge of The Mind and Will of God, is to land us in dire straits both here and in the afterlife. The tacit assertion that They who Know are going to heaven and We who do not Know are excluded – has always been a precursor to intolerance and a conceit that would have caused Jesus to fashion a whip and turn over a few tables.