If Sovereignty Isn’t Good Enough, Then Use the Word “Arbitrary” Instead
July 9, 2012, 10:45 am
Filed under: Infralapsarianism, Sovereignty

by David Bishop

Dr. Robert Reymond’s six contentions with infralapsarianism are rather insightful.  Case in point, infralapsarians argue that the supralapsarian position depicts God as discriminating among men as men rather than as sinners, which in turn makes God appear to be arbitrary if not also the author of sin. This argument at first appears to have some teeth, because it seems to appeal to God’s justice.  In other words, the appeal is made that it would not be just of God to discriminate among men with no regard to the fact that man is a sinner.  But if we delve a little deeper into this argument, we find that there is very little justice here, for God’s determination to save or to condemn is not a reaction in response to the actions of men as Arminians claim it is.

God’s determination to save or to condemn is not a reaction in response to the actions of men.  If this is true, then the infralapsarian contention loses its teeth.  The infralapsarian argues that God’s decree to save and condemn must have come before His decree that all men would fall, for otherwise God would be the author of sin.  But if God’s determination to save or condemn is not a reaction, then it is a cause.  In other words, God’s decree to condemn some and save others is the reason for His decree that all men would fall.   If it is not the cause of this, then we would have to say that God’s decree that all would fall was itself arbitrary.  The fact that all of God’s purposes center upon the revelation of His glory loses all significance in the light of this.

The infralapsarian has no answer for this.  Nor does he have an answer for the election of angels.  The election of some angels did not depend on all angels falling, for not all the angels fell (1 Tim 5:21, Jd 1:6).  True, we are not angels.  But if God’s decree to preserve some angels did not require the fall of all angels, then why should have a problem with saying the decree to save some people and condemn others did not first require the decree that all men would fall?

We find a similar challenge to the infralapsarian contest in Romans 9.  There, Paul does not speak of one vessel made from one lump, but rather two vessels made from one lump.  The infralapsarian argues that the lump refers to man after the fall.  But if this is the case, then why the need to make two vessels?  Wouldn’t God have needed to make only one vessel (the elect), and leave the rest in its sin, a lump?  In other words, if the whole lump were under condemnation, then what need is there to fit a second vessel for condemnation?  The passage only makes sense when we interpret the lump to mean the entirety of the human race prior to the decree that all would fall.  From one human race, neither sinful nor righteous, God made two vessels, one for honor (righteousness) and the other for dishonor (condemnation).

Which brings me back to the idea of God as the author of sin.  I don’t know why we should have a problem saying God is the author of sin.  Some of the confessions tell us He is not, so therefore I suppose we have to have a problem with saying He is, but this doesn’t make any sense to me.  It beats me how author does not mean first cause.  Funnily enough, I thought the word author meant exactly that.  I mean, after all, isn’t the author of a book the first cause of his book?!

If someone means to say that God is not the direct cause of sin, then I agree.  He does not do the tempting.  But that is not what is usually meant by the phrase, author of sin.  What people usually mean by author of sin is that He has nothing whatsoever to do with sin, not even as its first cause.  And with this I disagree.

As far as the word “arbitrary” goes, the appeal to it is really nothing more than a pejorative use.  God is sovereign.  He is never arbitrary.  Not even if I don’t care for what He has decreed.


1 Comment so far
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This is a very good summary of Reymond, David. One thing I like about Reymond’s supralapsarians is how he gets “sinners” into the very first thought. God’s purpose from the first is to redeem some elect sinners, and for that you need sinners, thus God’s decree to have sinners.

Infras like to think that they only talk about sinners from the first. But not so. God does not find sinners and then do something. But on the other hand, God does not find “men as men” and then do something. God has determined from the beginning to save some sinners in Christ.

Infras like Bruce Ware will cry foul, will think this is not fair, that they only can talk about sinners from the first. See Five Perspectives on Election.

Comment by markmcculley

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