Doctrine of Lapsarianism

July 19, 2010


A.  What is Lapsarianism?

1.    Of all the decrees in eternity past, five are related to the purpose of God in election, so that lapsarianism deals with the logical order of these five decrees.

2.    Lapsarianism, from the word “lapse,” refers to the fact that man is a fallen being.

3.    Under lapsarianism the five decrees of eternity past are related to the purpose of God in election.  Therefore, the five concepts of lapsarianism are often called the five elective decrees.

4.    Lapsarianism, then, deals with the order of the five elective decrees.  It deals with the logical rather than with the chronological order of the decrees.  By logical is meant that although the entire decree is one thought in the mind of God, the principle of cause and effect is involved.

5.    The sovereignty of God and the free will of man coexist by divine decree.  The omniscience of God decreed everything simultaneously, and not by stages.  The input into the decrees includes two categories of decision and self-determination.

a.    The decisions of the sovereignty of God exist in two categories (on a ROM chip programmed in heaven in eternity past):

(1)    Category efficacious, or those things directly wrought by God.

(2)    Category permissive, where God appointed certain things to be done by secondary causes or the volition and actions of man, (entered on a prom chip).  Man’s thoughts, actions, motives, and decisions are read by God, but never altered by God.  No event is directly effected or caused by the decrees.  For the decree itself provides in every case that the events shall be effected by causes acting in a manner consistent with the nature of the event in question.

b.    The decisions of the free will of man (on a prom chip).

B.  The Importance of Lapsarianism.

1.    Lapsarianism provides the logical environment as well as the logical order in the divine decrees for the provision of escrow blessing. God cannot do anything for us until we become an entity; He cannot do anything for a non-entity.

2.    The escrow-election rationale includes predestination which is for believers only.  Therefore, in the order of the decrees it must be noted that three elective decrees precede the escrow-election rationale:  the decree to create mankind, the decree to permit the fall of man as the extension of the angelic conflict, and salvation before he can have escrow blessing deposited in eternity past.3.    It is possible that divine omniscience, knowing who was elect, deposited blessing in escrow for the elect only.

4.    God the Father cannot deposit greater blessings in escrow for a non-entity.5.    The whole order of the five elective decrees is sorted out through understanding the true as over against the false lapsarian principles.

6.    Only infralapsarianism is correct Biblically.  But even that did not take into account the escrow blessings deposited to your account in eternity past.

7.    The principle of glorifying God has to do with where your escrow blessings occur in the order of the five elective decrees.

C.    Lapsarian Views.  The word lapsarian deals with the fact that man is a fallen being (the lapse of man.)  There are four schools of interpretation in the order and arrangement of these five elective decrees.

1.    Supralapsarianism.  This is hyper-Calvinism.

a.    The decree to elect some to be saved (a false position) and to reprobate all others.  (This is double predestination and heresy.)

b.    The decree to provide salvation for the elect, which is the basis for limited atonement.

c.    The decree to create man, both elect and non-elect.

d.    The decree to permit the fall.

e.    The decree to save the elect.

2.    Objections to Supralapsarianism.

a.    Hyper-Calvinism is actually the work of a Burgundian theologian and noble who lived from 1519-1605, Theodore Beza.  The problem with Beza’s view is that it makes God elect a non-entity on the one hand, and on the other hand, it makes God unfair.  For it says salvation really begins, not when you believe in Christ, but in eternity past when you were elected.  This also leads to the sitting-on-your-hands syndrome.

b.    The problem with this is that it places election and limited atonement before the fall instead of after the fall.

c.    It begins by assuming that a certain number of men will be elected and reprobated which ignores the justice and fairness of God. It is arbitrary and blasphemous.

d.    Furthermore, God cannot elect until He creates.  But this makes the decree of election refer to a non-entity (because creation doesn’t occur until the third point).  How can you elect before you create, logically?  Mankind is contemplated as creatable but not created.  You cannot elect until you create.  You cannot elect until you permit the fall.

e.    Hence the decree of election and limited atonement has no real object.  Man is an abstract concept of non-existence; therefore, any divine determination concerning mankind is dealing with something that doesn’t exist.  Therefore this is the blasphemy of ignoring selection before election.  Non-meritorious self-determination before salvation is left out. They say, “The only reason you ever believed in Christ was because you were elected.  So you were really saved when you were elected, not when you believed in Christ.”

f.    By putting election first in the decrees, supralapsarianism would assume that non-entities exist from which to elect and reject.  But something must be created before it can be selected.

g.    Also, this heresy says God is unfair because He selected some people to be saved and the rest are lost, no matter what they do or think. It ignores the part played by human volition in human history.

h.    The Bible indicates that the elect and non-elect are taken out of an existing aggregate of beings, as per Jn 15:19, “I have [chosen] elected you out of the world.”  Our Lord did not elect us out of eternity past but out of time.  Hence, the logical order is that man must be created, then the fall must be permitted, and then he must be saved by grace through faith before he can be said to be elected.  Also, this verse states that men are the objects of grace after the fall, not before, cf Rom 11:5-7.

i.    Elect is a term that applies to believers only.  You cannot elect until you have believers.  For believers to exist there must be the creation, fall and salvation offered to all mankind.

j.    The mistake of Calvin was that he never understood that the sovereignty of God and the free will of man coexist in human history by divine decree.  Once Calvin pioneered the doctrine of double predestination, this gave Beza, one of his major professors, a chance to put election before creation.  Double predestination means the unbeliever is predestined to hell, and opens the door for an arbitrary election which is blasphemous.

k.    Neither Calvin nor Beza could relate the divine creation of the free will of man to the prehistoric angelic conflict.  God is glorified when the free will of man executes the sovereign will of God.  But both Calvin and Beza rejected the freedom of human volition and self-determination.

l.    No unbeliever is ever said to be elected or predestined. Calvin said there is a double predestination:  believers are predestined to go to heaven and unbelievers are predestined to go to hell.

(1)    This is the Hegelian fallacy, that for every thesis there must be an antithesis.  In the Bible, both the thesis and the antithesis are true only if both are stated.

(2)    The unbeliever is said to go to hell or the last judgment only because of unbelief; because of the use of his volition, not because of the determination of the sovereignty of God.  God does not elect or predestine unbelievers.

(3)    Remember from Peter that, “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to a change of mind about Christ.”

(4)    So the fact that people do perish means immediately that the sovereignty of God is not involved.  This is why all personal sins of the human race were personally imputed by God the Father to our Lord on the cross and judged.

(5)    Jn 3:18, “He that believes on Him is not judged [last judgment], but he that does not believe is judged already because he has not believed in the name of the uniquely born Son of God.”

(6)    So note that faith is the issue in judgment or non-judgment, and faith is the function of positive, human non-meritorious volition.       Jn 3:36, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life. He that believes not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God remains on him.”

(7)    This adds up to the fact:  unbelievers are not predestined to hell.  They go to hell by an act of their own volition. Predestination originates from the sovereignty of God; the condemnation of man originates from his own negative volition.

m.    The elect are chosen to justification and sanctification says Eph 1:4-6 and 1 Pet 1:2.  Therefore, they must have already fallen; and to fall, they had to be created in the first place, and with the same volition as angels had.

n.    So logically, you cannot have election before the decree to create and to permit the fall.  Had God the Father first said, “Let us elect,” another member of the Trinity would have replied, “Elect whom?”

o.    A believer cannot exist until he’s saved by faith in Christ. Even though God the Father knew billions of years ago who would believe and who would not, man cannot be saved until he believes.  And man cannot believe until there is a fall which necessitates faith in Christ.  And there cannot be a fall until there is creation.

p.    The problem of sin is also an issue here.  Calvin ignored the fact that the computer of divine decrees contains the prom chip of personal sins, and that all personal sins in human history were programmed into that one chip, all being judged in Christ on the cross at one time.

(1)    “The wages of sin is death,” is not a reference to your personal sins, but to the imputation of Adam’s original sin to the genetically formed old sin nature at birth, Rom 5:12ff.  We are born physically alive and spiritually dead.  This is so that anyone who dies before reaching the age of accountability is automatically saved, because condemnation must precede salvation.  There is no salvation without condemnation.  Therefore, the sooner you are condemned, the sooner you can be saved.

(2)    In the court of heaven, ignorance is never an excuse for sin.  Volition wanted to do it and did it.  The woman in the fall was ignorant.  Ignorance was used as her legitimate excuse.  But she was condemned along with Adam.  She wanted to do it and she did it.

(3)    Hence, ignorance is no excuse for sin, crime, or failure, because human volition is involved whether you know the issue or not. Ignorance was no excuse for the woman in the fall, Gen 3:13; 1 Tim 2:13,14.

(4)    This dramatizes the fact that human volition not only exists, but human volition in sinning opposes the sovereign will of God.

(5)    Furthermore, we do not sin by decree, which is blasphemous, but through the function of our own free will.  The decree in eternity past merely recognizes the function of human volition in sin.  The omniscience of God merely programmed into your prom chip all your thoughts, motives, decisions, and actions, which include your sins and failures as well as your successes.

q.    Unlimited atonement is the demonstration that the sovereignty of God desires that no one should perish.  Yet human volition can and does reject the saving work of Christ.  Therefore, the alternative is the lake of fire.

3.    Infralapsarianism,  A form of moderate Calvinism.

a.    The decree to create all mankind.

b.    The decree to permit the fall.

c.    The decree to provide salvation for all mankind (unlimited atonement).

d.    The decree to elect some from among fallen mankind, and to leave others in their sin (those who will not believe in Christ).

e.    The decree to save the elect through faith in Christ or to apply salvation to those who believe.

4.    Amplification.

a.    This is the Biblical view of the order of the decrees, but it does not take cognizance of Eph 1:3, the work of God the Father in eternity past depositing in escrow greater blessing for us.  Therefore, it is necessary to show the five elective decrees in relationship to the escrow blessings.

b.    It’s very important to understand that the Bible states that mankind is the object of grace after the fall, not before the fall.  After the fall the coats of skins were provided, not before.  This is taught in Jn 15:9, Rom 11:5-7, Eph 1, 1 Pet 1:2.

c.    In other words, condemnation is not an act of God before creation!  Condemnation came after both the creation and the fall.  Both infralapsarianism and sublapsarianism, the two views of moderate Calvinism, recognize the doctrine of Election as an expression of the sovereignty of God in eternity past, the expression of God’s grace apart from every form of works, foreseen or actual.

5.    Summary of each of the five elective decrees.

a.    The decree to create all mankind.  There must be something to elect.

b.    The decree to permit the fall.  Principle:  Condemnation must precede salvation.  Here is where selection comes into focus.  There must be a way to perpetuate the human race after the fall.  Hence, man procreates (but does not create life), and God selects by inventing and imputing human life at birth.  Part of that human life is human volition which distinguishes people very quickly.  So the very fact that any person receives the imputation of life from God at birth when he might have been forever non-existent is the grace principle of selection.  (See the Doctrine of Selection.)

c.    The decree to provide salvation for all mankind.  This is the doctrine of Unlimited Atonement, taught in Rom 5:6; 2 Cor 5:14,15,19; 1 Tim 2:5, 4:10; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 2 Pet 2:1; 1 Jn 2:2.

d.    The decree to elect those who believe in Christ and leave in just condemnation those who reject Christ as Savior.

e.    The decree to apply salvation to those who believe in Christ; hence, the decree to save anyone who believes in Him.

6.    Sublapsarianism, also a form of moderate Calvinism.

a.    The decree to create all mankind.

b.    The decree to permit the fall.

c.    The decree to elect those who believe in Christ, and to leave in just condemnation those who do not believe in Christ.  (Note the difference with infralapsarianism.)  This is sometimes stated:  the decree to elect some out of fallen mankind and leave the others to their misery. But this last statement is questionable as to its accuracy.

d.    The decree to provide salvation for the elect (limited atonement).

e.    The decree to save the elect through faith in Christ, sometimes stated as the decree to apply salvation to those who believe in Christ.  (This was the former view of Dallas Theological Seminary.  Of course it goes astray with limited atonement, the part with which Dallas Seminary now disagrees).

7.    Armenian Lapsarianism, represented by Richard Watson, their greatest theologian.

a.    The decree to create all mankind.

b.    The decree to permit the fall.

c.    The decree to provide unlimited atonement (but they don’t understand it correctly.)

d.    Salvation by foreseen human virtue + faith + obedience; hence the blasphemy of salvation by works.

e.    Election as an act of God in time, which makes election synonymous with experiential sanctification, which is not correct because it ignores the portfolio of invisible assets.  (“Be separate and touch not the unclean thing.”)

f.    In mixing truth with error, this view is a distortion and therefore a heresy.

8.    Objections.

a.    Under Calvinism, election is the sovereign choice of God in eternity past which expresses His grace apart from every form of works, foreseen works and actual works.

b.    This is not true of Arminianism, which is total heresy.  In their system the decree to save the elect through faith follows the decree to save some who believe (#4 and #5 of infralapsarianism are switched).

c.    Also their view depends not on faith in Christ for salvation but on human works called “foreseen human virtue, faith and obedience.” Therefore, they have a system of works for salvation. You aren’t saved until you are separated from the world.

d.    They say that election cannot be eternal because in eternity past the elect were not chosen out of the world, Jn 15.

e.    The problem with the false views goes back to a misunderstanding of the decrees.  The false views say that if the decrees make all things certain (and they do), there is no occasion for man to use means, being unable to avoid the results decreed.

f.    The false views ignore the fact that God has decreed the means as well as the end (result).

g.    Under the principle of the prom or free will of man chip in the computer of divine decrees, man’s destiny is the outworking of his own thinking, motivation, decisions, and actions; all of which God knew simultaneously in eternity past.

h.    Man’s volition or self-determination is the immediate cause.  But God knew billions of years ago that this decision would be, and what our thoughts and motives that preceded it would be, and what the actions that followed it would be.  That’s omniscience.

i.    Remember that God knew all the knowable simultaneously in eternity past.  But God’s knowledge of the facts does not interfere with their outworking in time, a most important principle.

j.    The decree of God removes no man from what, within the sphere of his own experience, is the outworking of his own choice, acting from his own judgment, based on his own desires, his own motives, his own thoughts, and his own circumstances.

k.    Whatever free will choice anyone makes on a given occasion in time is the execution of the divine decrees.  There are no surprises to the omniscience of God.  No decree itself, therefore, opposes human freedom.

l.    In conclusion.

(1)    All decrees are efficacious, in that they certainly determine all that ever was or ever will be.

(2)    However, they are categorized as either efficacious (directly wrought by God, as in election and predestination) or permissive (wrought by secondary causes:  the free will of man).

(3)    That means that an efficacious decree is related to the rom or sovereignty of God chip, and that the permissive decree is related to the prom or free will of man chip.

(4)    God has decreed ends as well as means, causes as well as effects, conditions as well as instrumentalities.  All of these and all events depend on these.

(5)    Some things God has eternally decreed to do Himself, such as creation.  Other things God has decreed to do through the free will of man.  This is the one point in which so much of theology has been blinded, and is why dispensationalism was covered up by covenant theology.

9.    Biblical Lapsarianism.  The basis for this modification of lapsarianism is the doctrine of omniscience.

a.  God decreed the creation of all mankind with free will in the status of perfection for two reasons:  to resolve the prehistoric angelic conflict, and to bring many sons into glory.  “Being brought into glory,” Heb 2:10, means there is a Christian way of life, a way to glorify God after salvation.

b.  God decreed to permit the fall of mankind through the function of his own determination, his own volition as the extension of the angelic conflict into human history.  Angels had a fall, therefore man must have a fall to resolve the conflict.  This duplicates Satan’s fall and the subsequent existence of fallen angels.

c.  God decreed to provide eternal salvation for all mankind under the doctrine of unlimited atonement.  God is fair and provides for all.  God doesn’t arbitrarily assign creatures to hell.  By unlimited atonement is meant that all sins in human history were imputed to Jesus Christ on the Cross and judged, so that Christ is the issue and not sins.  2 Cor 5:14-15, 19; 1 Tim 2:6, 4:10; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 2 Pet 2:1; 1 Jn 2:2.

d.  God decreed to leave the reprobate (those who reject Christ as savior) to their just condemnation.

e.  God decreed simultaneously in eternity past both election and predestination for believers only.  The decree for historical election includes the election of true Israel–Rom 9:6, the election of the humanity of Christ in the dispensation of the hypostatic union, and the election of the Church as the body of Christ and royal family of God.  Election is the expression of the sovereignty of God who wills the highest and best for every believer in Jesus Christ.  Election is the prehistoric, precreative recognition by God of those who would believe in Christ.

(1)  Eph 1:4-6.  Election is the expression of the sovereign will of God in eternity past; predestination is the provision of the sovereign will of God for you so that you might execute the protocol plan of God.

(2)  The decree to provide a portfolio of invisible assets for every believer by depositing in escrow greater blessings for time and eternity for every believer.  In eternity past, God the Father as the Grantor deposited into escrow greater blessings for every Church Age believer, Eph 1:3; 1 Pet 1:3-4.  Principle:  The first thing that God ever did for us is the means of glorifying Him.  That first thing was escrow blessings.

f.  God decreed to apply salvation to everyone who believes in Christ.  Hence, the decree to save the elect through faith in Jesus Christ, Eph 2:8-9.

(1)  The decree includes God consciousness, where people become aware of the existence of God through five different systems of thinking.  Positive volition at God consciousness means that that individual will have the means of hearing the gospel regardless of geographical isolation or problems of linguistic barriers.

(2)  The decree includes common and efficacious grace.

(3)  This is the decree to provide election in eternity past for those who believe in Christ in time.

10.    Conclusion.

a.  Selection precedes election.

b.  Selection relates to physical birth.  Election relates to regeneration.

c.  In selection, God imputes soul life to the fetus at birth.  In election, God imputes eternal life to the human spirit at the moment of salvation through faith in Christ.

d.  While God knew simultaneously all the knowable in eternity past, He did not hinder or tamper with the free will of any person in the human race.

e.  While God has a right to do with His creatures as He pleases, God is not arbitrary, irrational or incompetent.  God is not unfair to any member of the human race; such a thought is blasphemous and unthinkable.

f.  The sovereignty of God and the free will of man coexist in human history by divine decree.

11.  The Principle of Concatenation.

a.  Concatenation means events linked in a chain of cause and effect, the order of things depending on each other.

b.  Concatenation in the order of divine decrees just given determines the true interpretation of Scripture.

c.  The concatenation of divine judgment or blessing is not subject to mankind’s critical scrutiny of God.  The believer minus doctrine or any biblical fact can only blaspheme God’s plan, will, and purpose for his life.  It is inevitable that the unbeliever is going to do so.