Lapsarianism is the set of Calvinist doctrines describing the theoretical order of God's decree (in his mind, before Creation), in particular concerning the order of his decree for the fall of man and reprobation. The name of the doctrine comes from the Latin "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 (with a minor variant, sublapsarianism) asserts that God's decrees of election and reprobation logically "succeeded" the decree of the fall.


Many prominent early Protestants were supralapsarian, such as (some argue) Martin Luther, John Knox, Theodore Beza, Huldrych Zwingli, Jerome Zanchius, Franciscus Gomarus, William Twisse, and William Perkins. John Calvin's own position is often disputed, and subsequent Calvinism was frequently infralapsarian, although supralapsarianism has been revived recently by theologians such as Geerhardus Vos and Gordon Clark. According to Loraine Boettner, very few modern Calvinists are supralapsarian. [cite book| author=Loraine Boettner |chapter=2.11.6: Supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism |chapterurl= |date=1932 |title=Reformed Doctrine of Predestination |publisher=Eerdmans |quote=At the present day it is probably safe to say that not more than one Calvinist in a hundred holds the supralapsarian view.]

Historically, infralapsarianism won out at the Synod of Dordt in 1618. In the Canons of Dordt, First Point of Doctrine, Article 7, it states:

:"Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, [God] chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin." (Translation from "Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions", CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1988, page 124)

The Westminster Assembly leaned in favor of infralapsarianism, although there were supralapsarians in the Assembly as well, and the documents that resulted from the Assembly, the Westminster Standards, also imply infralapsarianism, though not as strongly as Dordt's position.


The terms are often used in a general sense, with supralapsarianism meaning that God planned the fall and infralapsarianism that God merely foresaw, and hence permitted or merely reacted to, the fall. Some believe that in this sense all Calvinists are supralapsarians, believing that God planned the fall, though Calvinists themselves would dispute that notion. Nevertheless, inside scholastic Calvinism, the terms came to mean a different thing. While all held that God planned the fall prior to creation, disputes arose as to the logical relation within this plan between the decision to save individuals and the decision to allow the fall. Supralapsarians believe that in the logical order of the divine decrees, individual election and reprobation occur logically prior to the fall, infralapsarians believe they occur logically subsequent.

Both positions are technically double predestinarian, in that God has settled the eternal destiny of both the elect and the reprobate. However, "double predestination" today is usually an ambiguous pejorative term used to describe those who believe that God actively works equally to keep the elect in heaven and the reprobate out of heaven (actually known as "equal ultimacy"). Equal ultimacy was not held by Calvin and is not held by most in the Reformed Tradition.Fact|date=April 2007 It came into popularity with hyper-Calvinism.

The Latin root "supra" means "over", "above", or "before". The root "infra" means "below", "under", or "after". Supralapsarianism is the position that the fall occurred (among other reasons) to facilitate God's purpose of election and reprobation of individuals, while infralapsarianism holds that, while the fall was planned, it was not planned in reference to who would be saved. Thus supralapsarians (in the Calvinist sense used here) believe that God chose which individuals to save before he decided to allow the race to fall, the fall serving as the means of realisation of the prior decision to send some individuals to hell and others to heaven, providing the grounds of condemnation in the reprobate and the need for redemption in the elect. In contrast, the infralapsarian holds that God planned the race to fall logically prior to the decision as to which individuals to save or damn out of a fallen race. As such, it is argued that to be saved, one must be subject to something from which one need be saved, and so the fall is logically prior to the decree of election.

Historically, part of the appeal of the infralapsarian position is that it can, at least in part, be viewed as a possible theodicy for the logical consequence of predestination that God is the author of sin.

Supralapsarians are often termed hypercalvinists, although this is a misnomer. All hypercalvinists are indeed supralapsarianFact|date=August 2008, but not all supralapsarians are hypercalvinists.


External links

* [ Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism] by Herman Bavinck.
* [ - Supra vs Infra]

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