Today we received a question from TSS reader, Jason Dalton. He asks:
I’ve been listening to J.I. Packer’s RTS “History and Theology of the Puritans” on iTunes U that you graciously pointed out awhile back. It is very enjoyable, and I am very grateful to RTS for making it free to the public. Thank you for letting more people know about it.
Dr. Packer goes on a bit of a long tangent about supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism in the lectures and comes down very strongly against supralapsarianism.
I still have much to learn on the subject, but I believe I would label myself as a supralapsarian. My hero is John Piper, and it is from him that I have come to believe that God’s glory and Him displaying all facets of that glory is the most preeminent goal in all the universe.
Seeing from your post that Jonathan Edwards liked William Perkins, did Jonathan Edwards consider himself a supralapsarian, do you know? Do you think John Piper would consider himself a supralapsarian?
Thank you for any knowledge you might be able to pass on. Thank you for all your work. God has used it to bless me.
Great question, Jason!
Let me define the terms for those interested in this question but lost in the terminology. It’s a question of timing. What did God decree first, second, etc.? A supralapsarian believes that God first decrees (or elected) some for salvation, then decreed creation, the fall and then redemption. He elects some and then decrees to create them, decrees the fall and redemption to establish this relationship with the elect. An infralapsarian however believes God first decrees creation, then the fall, then election and redemption. So the question is this: Did God decree the elect before decreeing the fall (supralapsarian) or does He decree election after decreeing the fall (infralapsarian)?
This is a noteworthy distinction although some of my favorite theologians simply throw their hands in the air and say the order of decrees is not revealed in Scripture (see John Frame for example).
Now, about your question specifically. Yes, William Perkins was supralapsarian and, yes, Edwards liked Perkins. I’m uncertain of Piper’s official position, though.
From what I’ve read Jonathan Edwards reacted against the supralapsarian position. I say that based upon John Gerstner’s conclusion in his multi-volume work The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Ligonier: 1992). Gerstner writes:
“he [Edwards] refutes the fundamental argument of the supralapsarians. They contend that the last thing in execution was always the first in intention. That is, the actual reprobation and salvation of some proved that this was the original intention behind the creation, fall, salvation and damnation. Edwards critiques this … man was not created that he should be converted or reprobated. … God decreed the fall of man, yet Edwards sees this as an anti-supralapsarian. As we shall show in the Edwardsian doctrine of man, the Holy Spirit was Edwards’ donum superadditum. Adam’s failure to call upon Him was the occasion of the fall. God did not first harden Adam’s heart; this wicked deed was Adam’s own doing” (2:161, 164).
Clear as mud? Great question. Does anyone else have insight into answering this question?