Monday, January 27, 2014

Supralapsarianism - Common Objections 3B

One further clarification should be made in this regard. It is often stated that Infralapsarianism views election as unconditional, but reprobation as conditional. In other words, it is said that the elect were not chosen in foresight of any good that they would do. To say so would be the rankest Pelagianism anyway. All this notwithstanding, it is frequently asserted that reprobation on the other hand is based upon foresight of sin. In fairness to my Infralapsarian friends, I must reject this position as a false representation of what Infralapsarianism teaches. Supralapsarianism and classical Infralapsarianism have always held that predestination, which is the umbrella term which includes both election and reprobation, is unconditional. Neither foresight of faith nor foresight of sin is taken into account as a condition upon which God’s choosing or rejecting of anyone is based.

Not that long ago, I posted a short piece by William Twisse on why Reprobation is not conditional. In that post, Twisse gives six reasons. At this juncture in our discussion, I would like to recap those reasons. In doing so I will modify his language in order to make myself more clearly understood. Nevertheless, the argument is essentially his.

1. Something eternal cannot be caused by something temporal. I hope after reading that we can all say, “Duh!” in unison. But of course we might wonder what this has to do with our subject. The answer to that is easy. God is eternal, hence His decree is eternal. No temporal thing could cause an eternal decision because the decision eternally existed before the temporal thing it relates to existed. The sins of men are temporal. Reprobation, being part of God’s decree of predestination, is eternal. For this reason, the sins of man cannot be the cause of reprobation.  Romans 9:11 affirms as much by telling us that neither God’s loving of Jacob, nor his hatred of Esau, was based on anything they had done because God had revealed his purpose of election before either of them was born and could have done anything good or evil.

2. If the permission of sin precedes damnation in the intention of the divine decree, then it would follow that permission of sin should be last in execution. But this is absurd. This would mean that man was damned first and then permitted to sin.

3. There is no cause of God’s essence. Reprobation, as it signifies God’s decree, is the act of God’s will. The act of God’s will is the very will of God, and the will of God is God’s essence. Since there can be no cause of God’s essence, there can be no cause of God’s will, or the act thereof.

4. Saying that foreseen sin is the cause of God’s decree of damnation presupposes a foreknowledge of sin as something future, without any logical grounds. The only way anything can be foreseen as future is if it truly is future. Foreseen sin being the cause of God’s decree of reprobation presupposes a futurition of sin from eternity, a presupposition without any logical ground. No sin is future in its own nature. In its own nature it is merely possible and indifferent – it may or may not become future. It cannot pass out of the realm of possibility into the realm of the future without a cause. What cause can be given for the futurition of sin? Apart from God nothing could be the cause because this passage of things out of the realm of possibilities into the realm of things future must have been from everlasting. This must be the case because Scripture tells us that God knows all things from everlasting. Consequently, the cause of this passage from possibility to futurity must be acknowledged to have been from everlasting, and consequently nothing without God could be the cause of it, seeing nothing without God was from everlasting. This means that the cause must be found within God. But what within God could be the cause? It could be the will of God, but that is precisely what the adherents of reprobation upon foresight of sin disclaim. It could also be the knowledge of God. However, knowledge is what presupposes something to be future rather than what makes it so. Or it could be the essence of God. Now the essence of God can be considered as working one of two ways, viz., necessarily or freely. To say that the essence of God causes things to become future by necessity of nature is not only ridiculous, but blasphemous as well. To say that the essence of God works freely is to grant that the will of God is the cause why everything merely possible in its own nature passes from everlasting into the condition of a future thing, if indeed it is a future thing at all. The only cause therefore, why a thing passes from the realm of possibility into the realm of future is because of the free will of God. Consequently, the reason why everything becomes future is because God has determined that it shall come to pass. Twisse makes only this distinction: “all good things God hath determined shall come to pass by His election, all evil things God has determined shall come to pass by His permission.”

5. If sin be the cause of Reprobation, that is, of the decree of damnation, then it must be so either by necessity of nature, or by the constitution of God. No one has ever held that it was by necessity of nature.  But neither could we say that it is by the free constitution of God, for this would drive us to an utterly ridiculous position. We would be forced to say that God ordained that upon foresight of sin, He would ordain them to damnation. In other words, we would be forced to affirm that God ordained that He would ordain – that He decreed that He would decree! We all know that the objects of God’s decree can only be temporal things and not eternal things. We all acknowledge that God decreed to create the world, to preserve the world, to redeem us, call us, to justify us, to sanctify us, and to glorify us. But it cannot be truly said that God did decree to decree, or ordain to ordain. Decreeing is an act of God’s will and therefore it cannot be the object of the act of God’s will. As strong as that argument is, it is still weak in comparison to Paul’s statement in Romans 9:11, “Before the children were born or had done good or evil, it was said, ’the elder shall serve the younger.’” This means that the purpose of God concerning reprobation does not stand on works. Since all Reformed folk are agreed that this passage teaches that election does not stand upon good works, why should we not infer from here that reprobation does not stand upon evil works?

6. If foreseen sin is the meritorious cause of reprobation, then faith, repentance and good works must be the disposing causes all of election. The only way one side of that statement can be true is if the other one is true as well. If evil works foreseen are the meritorious cause of reprobation, then faith, repentance and good works must be the disposing causes unto salvation and by the same force of reason faith, repentance and foreseen good works must be the disposing cause unto election.

There are two reasons why faith, repentance, and foreseen good works cannot be the disposing causes unto election:

A. If this were true then the purpose of God according to election would be of faith, repentance and good works. But this is exactly what the apostle denies when he says that God's purpose of election stored before the children were born or had done good or evil. It obviously follows that the purpose of God according to election is not of works. And if this is true (and it is true), then it follows that the same purpose of God according to election is not of faith, nor of repentance. They were no more capable of faith or repentance before they were born than they were of any other good works. And certainly faith and repentance are as good a work as any other good works.

B. If God by sovereign fiat works faith in some and not in others according to the mere pleasure of his will, then it cannot be said that foreseen faith is the cause of any man's election. For this case faith is the means of salvation rather than salvation a means of faith. Consequently the intention of salvation precedes the intention of faith rather than the intention of faith can be said to precede the intention of salvation. And this is exactly what the Scriptures say. We read in Acts 13:48, “And as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” This simply and plainly means that God’s ordain into eternal life is the cause why men believe. We find the same idea in Acts 2:47, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Similarly, we find Paul saying to Titus, “according to the faith of God's elect.”

Someone who holds to classic Infralapsarianism should have no beef with the points we have just made. Both sides of the Supra/infra discussion should be agreed that, just as election is not conditioned upon foreseen good works, neither is reprobation conditioned upon foreseen bad works. Anyone who disagrees with the above statement that Reprobation is not based upon foreseen sin is not an Infralapsarian in the classical sense of the word.

We said all that to say 2 things: First, true Reformed Infralapsarianism views predestination, which includes election and reprobation, as unconditional. Any form of Infralapsarianism which views reprobation as conditional upon foreseen bad works, is not Infralapsarian in the true sense of the word, nor is it Reformed.

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