Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Twisse on supralapsarianism

[Quote] Now Twisse was no enemy to logic in theological discussions. In fact his statement and defense of Supralapsarianism has been obscured if not ignored in later accounts of the question. It is therefore in order to hear his own precise formulation, which differs from that of others with whom he has been included as holding this high version of Calvinism. In treating of the teaching of Prov. 16:4 as to the manifestation of God’s glory as the end of his works, Twisse writes: “And from hence we conclude, that in case the end is such as has been specified, and all those actions following, congruous means tending to that end, therefore the decree of manifesting God’s glory, as above specified is first with God, and secondly, the decree of the means; which means although they are many materially, yet they come all under one formal notion of means tending to a certain end, which according to the several parts thereof bespeaks them all, and consequently they are all to be considered, as making up the object of one formal decree, called the decree of the means: and the intention of none of them is before another, but all intended at once, as means tending to the end which is first intended. In like manner if God shall be pleased to intend the manifestation of his glory in Man, or Angel, in the way of justice vindicative, the means necessarily required hereunto are Creation, Permission of sin, and Damnation unto punishment, and all three make up the object of one formal decree which is to be called the decree of the means. So that like as God doth not intend the creature’s creation, before he intends his damnation, in the same respect he cannot be said to intend his damnation before he intends his creation, or the permissions of his sin.” (p. 11). In this way, Twisse demolishes the Arminian objection that Supralapsarianism is guilty of the blasphemy that God has determined to create men in order to damn them. At the same time he hints gently that Infralapsarians have no reason to agree with Arminians on this point.



  1. Though I haven't bought it yet, I was happy to find Twisse's The Riches of God’s Love Unto the Vessels of Mercy available online for a reasonable price. That's quite a hard book to find, though it does look like the website that offers it (KirtasBooks) is experiencing some technical difficulties (it's really slow right now).

    Thanks for posting this and providing a link to that article. I had never heard of Twisse's Vindication of the Grace, Power, and Providence of God and since Young recommends it, it looks like I have another book to add to my "to buy" list.

  2. Let's say God created men so that He could condemn them all to eternal Hell. It's within His right, yes, and He would be justified to do so, since all men are depraved (or so you say). That is, the singular purpose of the entire human race was Hell.

    My question is:
    to assert that God is still good, are you not obliged to prove that all men are completely depraved and worthy of that condemnation?

    If man's moral status is irrelevant in terms of his condemnation and whether God is still "good", what attributes must God then possess in order for you to define Him is malevolent or evil? What does "good" mean? Can you put some parameters around it?

  3. John asked:

    "to assert that God is still good, are you not obliged to prove that all men are completely depraved and worthy of that condemnation?"

    Yes, which is not a problem for the supralapsarian, as reprobation isn't condemnation any more than predestination is justification. A further distinction lies in the fact that the former are unconditioned; the latter are not.

  4. John, forgive me if you know all of this already, but I'm also writing this for the benefit of other people who monitor Triablogue but never post. Btw, I freely admit I'm an amateur philosopher and apologist, so I may get some facts wrong.

    In one of Plato's recounting of his master's conversations, Socrates asks Euthyphro whether what is pious (i.e. good, holy, just) is loved by the gods because it is pious, or pious because loved by the gods. If the former, then morality is independant of the gods. If the latter, then what if the gods disagree among themselves about a particular virtue (say, the virtue of war, or love, or deception)? In which case, the problem which exists among humans, resurfaces again among the gods. That's why Socrates wanted to know "the good" regardless of what men or gods thought. He assumed that morality cannot be personal.

    In modern times, atheists present the Euthyphro Dilemma in this way. Are God's commands good because they are good; OR are they good BECAUSE God commands them? If the former, then there are absolutes outside of God (which refutes transcendant forms of theism), if the later then God and His Laws can be arbitrary (for example, theoretically He could command that everyone born right-handed should be sacrificed to Him).

    Traditionally, Christians have posited three possible ways God relates to morality. God is either 1. Sub Lego (under law), 2. Ex Lex (outside of or above law), or 3. "A Law Unto Himself". The first would mean that there are absolutes outside of God, and so must be rejected. The second is often rejected (even by most Calvinists) because it appears to make morality arbitrary (corresponding to divine voluntarism and Divine Command Theory). So, the third option is often held. Namely, that God's good nature is the basis for morality (corresponding to divine essentialism). However, I personally don't see why the second and third cannot be complementary. That is, why both voluntarism and essentialism cannot both be true.

    To be continued:

  5. While I have problems with some of what Vincent Cheung teaches, he advocates the Ex Lex position. Here are five premises he uses to deal with the problem of evil and of reprobation.

    1. Affirm absolute divine determinism.
    2. Deny all human freedom [in relation to God].
    3. Base moral responsibility on God's sovereign decree to judge
    4. Answer almost all related objections just by doing the following:
    a. Affirm that God is just and righteous by definition.
    b. Deny the unjustified premise, "responsibility presupposes

    If we take 4a, then God is just, righteous, good and holy by definition and whatever He does is also just, righteous, good and holy. Many Calvinists reject this (definitionalistic) approach, but I don't see why. For the sake of argument, I'll defend it. If God is the standard of goodness, and there aren't absolutes (including moral ones) outside of Him, then there's no way of judging God as evil. Other sentient beings might dislike Him and what He ordains and does, but they cannot claim He's evil, or deny He's good since all other creatures are "johnny-come-latelies" who are dependant upon Him for their very being (and continued being).

    What we normally consider "good" is good precisely because they (finitely) mirror God's character and priorities. Since they can only do that finitely, there are times when there are disanalogies between God's goodness and man's goodness. While it would be wrong for a human being to snuff out another fellow human beings life via premeditated murder, God has the right to kill and to make alive (Deut. 32:39; 1Sam. 2:6-8).

    Similarly, God has the right to elect or reprobate human beings that are yet to be. Does this then mean, "Might Makes Right"? Yes, but not just the "might" of raw power, but the might of omniscience (all knowledge) and omnisapience (all wisdom). And not just "right" in the sense of "correct", but also of "authority". God's authority is absolute and ultimate. And while God's authority *can* be questioned (though it *may* not be questioned) it nevertheless cannot be rivaled since all other powers, authorities and laws derive from Him (and so are lesser and weaker than His).

  6. I am not sure I agree that God's being "under the law" is a problem.

    I don't have a developed or professional opinion on ethical theory, but I don't buy DCT.

  7. Steven, then what Law(s) or principle(s) is above God, or beside (i.e. next to) God? What are their metaphysical foundations?

    Are you referring to God's Laws? In other words, are you saying that God is under obligation to obey (or at least follow) the laws he sets down for humanity? But God can (and does) take away the life of people as He sovereignly chooses, yet humans may not according to the 6th Commandment. The 8th Commandment prohibits theft, but since God owns all things, there's no one from whom He can steal. The 4th Commandment forbids work on the Sabbath. Yet, Jesus said that because His Father was working on the Sabbath, He did too (by performing miracles on the Sabbath). So, God seems to "violate" the Sabbath. God (as to His being) has no parent to Honor even though the 5th Commandment requires the honoring of parents. You get the point.

    If you're referring to other laws independant on God, where do they come from? How do they exist, and how does God know of them?

  8. heres a link to the Good Dr Twisses book http://www.digitalpuritan.net/williamtwisse.html