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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 (also called postlapsarianism and sublapsarianism) asserts that God's decrees of election and reprobation logically succeeded the decree of the fall.[1]

Many Calvinists reject both lapsarian views for various reasons. Herman Bavinck rejected both because he sees God's decrees as eternal.[2] Other Calvinists (and many non-Calvinists or Arminians) 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 evidence.

Lapsarian Views
Decree to: Save some and condemn others
Decree to: Create the elect and the reprobate Create human beings
Decree to: Permit the Fall
Decree to: Provide salvation only for the elect Save some and condemn others
Decree to: Provide salvation only for the elect



The first to articulate the supralapsarian view were Theodore Beza and Jerome Zanchius[3]. A few later Calvinists - in particular those influenced by Beza's theology - embraced supralapsarianism. In England Beza's influence was felt at Cambridge, where William Perkins and William Ames held to it, as well as Franciscus Gomarus in the Netherlands. Later, William Twisse wrote the definitive book on supralapsarianism entitled The Riches of God's Love unto the Vessels of Mercy. In the last century, the most recent proponents of supralapsarianism include Abraham Kuyper, Herman Hoeksema, Arthur Pink, Gordon Clark. Historically, it is estimated that less than 5% of all Calvinists have been Supralapsarian [4]. Also according to Loraine Boettner and Curt Daniel, no major Reformed theologian and very few modern Calvinists are supralapsarian.[5]

The infralapsarianism view is expressed in the Synod of Dort in 1618. In the Canons of Dort, 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)

A minority of supralapsarians were in the Westminster Assembly while the majority held to infralapsarianism. The documents that resulted from the Assembly, the Westminster Standards, reflect the infralapsarian view.


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. 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 supralapsarian, but not all supralapsarians are hypercalvinists.


  1. ^ Livingstone, Elizabeth A (2005). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1800. ISBN 0192802909.   "sublapsarianism" p. 1563
  2. ^ Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism by Herman Bavinck
  3. ^ Daniel, Curt D (1993). The History and Theology of Calvinism. Dallas, TX: Scholarly Reprints.   p. 95
  4. ^ Daniel, Curt D (1993). The History and Theology of Calvinism. Dallas, TX: Scholarly Reprints.   p. 95
  5. ^ Loraine Boettner (1932). "2.11.6: Supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism". Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Eerdmans. "At the present day it is probably safe to say that not more than one Calvinist in a hundred holds the supralapsarian view."  
  • Edwin Chr Van Driel, Incarnation Anyway: Arguments for Supralapsarian Christology (New York, OUP USA, 2008) (American Academy of Religion Series).

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