Friday, October 16, 2009

"On the injustice of supralapsarian Calvinism"

Billy Birch has posted a critique of supralapsarianism.

Like a drunken marksman, Birch keeps missing the target.

First, the theory is mere speculation, with absolutely no scriptural warrant. As a matter of fact, the Bible explicitly declares that "God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21 NASB).

How does 1 Cor 1:21 disprove supralapsarianism? Where’s the supporting argument to justify this linkage?

God has conditionally elected to save those whose faith is solely in Jesus Christ His Son.

Of course, appealing to conditional election as though that were a given is tendentious.

Arminianism (or sublapsarianism) might postulate the following order of God's decrees:

1) Create (not out of necessity, as in the supralapsarian model)

Supralapsarianism doesn’t treat creation as necessary.

2) Permit the fall (not decree it, so that it was necessary

What does it mean for an Arminian to say that God “permitted” the fall? Is the fall a naturally inevitable event unless God intervenes to prevent it?

3) Provide atonement and salvation potentially for all (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:10; 1 John 2:2

Notice how, without argument, he is glossing those passages in terms of some unrealized potentiality. Where do they say or imply that?

4) Call all to salvation (Rom. 10:14-17)

When, where, and how does God call “all” human beings to salvation? How is this call to salvation issued? Have all human beings been evangelized? Does Birch subscribe to postmortem evangelism? If not, then how is the Gospel made available to every human being?

Or is Birch falling back on natural revelation? Is natural revelation the gospel?

5) Elect (or save, regenerate) all those who believe in Christ (John 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:21; Ephesians 1:4)

Where do these verses teach us that election or regeneration is subsequent to faith? And if all human beings already have freewill by virtue of God’s sufficient grace, then what does regeneration add? Likewise, if some men choose God apart from election, then what does election add?

Reprobate all those who reject Christ (John 3:36; Rom. 9:22).

i) How does Birch define “reprobation”? Here he seems to be using “reprobation” as a synonym for damnation. But on that definition, it’s equally true in Calvinism that God reprobates (=damns) all who reject Christ.

ii) Where does Rom 9:22 say or imply that God reprobates individuals because they reject Christ?

Second, the theory of supralapsarianism makes creation a necessity, thus contradicting the explicit teaching of Scripture to the contrary. Paul taught that God is not "served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25 NASB). Supralapsarianism betrays God's aseity. Since God is the all-sufficient One, in need of nothing outside of Himself for His being (or pleasure for that matter), then to suggest that God was indebted to create human beings because He needed them in order to fulfill a decree is to contradict Acts 17:25. Hence, in the supralapsarian scheme, the decree to create human beings was by necessity prior to any decision made about them.

What a terribly confused statement!

i) The “need” in question is teleological. And that state of affairs is conditional and voluntary rather than necessary.

It’s a means-ends relationships. If you set a goal, then you may “need” to achieve that goal through some means or another. There may be more than one hypothetical route to achieve your objective, but you have to settle on one or the other. In that contingent sense, God “needed” certain means to realize his ends. However, God didn’t need to do anything at all.

Given a goal, you may “need” a way to achieve the goal. But the goal is not a given.

ii) The question of “need” is equally true for Arminianism. God “needed” to create the world before he was in a position to save sinful creatures. God “needed” to “permit” the fall before he was in a position to redeem sinners. Without the fall, there would be no sinners to save. Without creation, there would be no creatures to fall. So, by Birch’s own logic, the Bible “explicitly contradicts” Arminian theology.

iii) Birch is quoting Acts 17:25 out of context. In its historical setting, this verse has nothing to do with teleology. Ironically, Birch’s appeal is even out of whack with sound Arminian exegesis. As Witherington explains in his commentary, “V25 asserts that God is not served by human hands, as if God had needs human beings could meet by sacrifices and other religious activities” (525).

So it has reference, in context, to heathen offerings to the gods, and other suchlike. Birch is abusing Scripture to service his preconceived theological agenda.

Third, the decree to elect and reprobate could not logically appear prior to God's decree to create human beings, for He would have no one to elect and reprobate. It is nonsensical to suggest that God found it necessary to elect and reprobate without having yet decreed what or whom to elect and reprobate!

What a silly objection!

i) To begin with, the various “decrees” reflect a teleological order, not a chronological or psychological order. It’s not as if God can only think one thing at a time–in a rigid sequence. The entire plan is present in God’s mind, with all its nested elements.

ii) Keep in mind, too, that we only break it down into a series of “decrees” to highlight the teleological structure of the decree. But it’s not as if this is a literal series of discrete decrees. It’s all one timeless plan–like the plot of a play or novel.

iii) Moreover, the fact that one entity can’t exist unless a prior entity exists doesn’t mean the idea of the subsequent entity depends on the actual existence of the prior entity.

For example, a son cannot exist apart from the prior existence of his father. But the idea of their existence is hardly dependent on their actual existence, in any particular order.

The decree is a divine idea, or set of ideas. God’s complete concept of the world he intends to make.

Fourth, and most significant, supralapsarianism is unjust, for it reprobates human beings who have not yet sinned against God's holy commands. In this scheme, God decreed the fall of humanity subsequent to the decree to create them, subsequent to the decree to reprobate them.

i) In the nature of the case, God makes decisions for his creatures apart from their actual existence. Indeed, they wouldn’t exist in the first place unless he decided to create them. It’s not as if they preexist his decision to bring them into being.

ii) Logically speaking, Arminianism would have to say that God reprobates impenitent sinners based on his foreknowledge of their impenitence. Before they did anything sinful. Human beings who have not yet sinned against God’s law.

The reprobate were created solely for hell.


i) They are created to reveal the justice of God.

ii) They are also created for the benefit of the elect, viz. reprobate fathers of elect sons.

iii) The fact that they are predestined to hell doesn’t mean they were created for the sole purpose of damning them–as if God damned them for the sake of damning them.

iv) In Arminianism, creates human beings whom he foreknows he will damn. He didn’t have to create hellbound sinners. But he does. So he did create them solely for hell?

v) If Arminianism is consistent with its commitment to libertarian freewill, then there’s an alternate possible world in which a hellbound sinner in this world is a heavenbound sinner in the alternative scenario. But God didn’t realize the alternative scenario in which the sinner goes to heaven rather than hell.

So he didn’t give the damned a choice in the matter. Although they had freedom of choice, in the sense of their ability to potentially do otherwise, he didn’t give them the freedom of opportunity to choose which hypothetical outcome would actually play out. They didn’t get to vote on which possible world would become the real world. He didn’t give them a chance to realize a different potential outcome.

They did not yet deserve hell. They had not done anything deserving of hell, for God's primary decree was to elect some to eternal bliss and others to reprobation (eternal hell). The reprobate's ‘fall’ was not fixed until the third decree. This is unjust.

i) The notion that one decree wasn’t “fixed” until another decree was in place imports illicit temporal notions into the decree, as if predestination were a chronological process. To the contrary, it was all “fixed.”

ii) Considered as merely possible persons, there are many different paths which are open to a possible agent. Different logical possibilities. Different logically possible outcomes.

It’s not as though God is making them act contrary to what they were going to do if he hadn’t intervened. God is not preventing them from doing something else which they were planning to do. For there’s no one thing which a possible person could possibly do. Different hypothetical outcomes are logically possible.

The only internal limit is what God can coherently imagine. In the decree, God selects one possible timeline rather than another. Where is the injustice in that procedure? Since there was nothing in particular that a possible person was bent on doing, it’s not as if divine intent is thwarting the plans of a possible agent. God instantiates the hypothetical timeline in which someone goes to hell rather than the hypothetical timeless in which the same person goes to heaven.

How is that unjust? It may not be merciful, but how is that unjust?

One can easily guess where Calvin (as would any supralapsarian Calvinist) wanders off to in answering such objections: mystery, or antinomy. And who can blame them? For their own theology inevitably leads to the insistence that a person cannot know these things, because the Bible does not support such things, nor does it support their presuppositions.

Notice that in responding to Birch, I haven’t resorted to mystery or antinomy. Therefore, my own theology doesn’t inevitably lead to such an appeal.

Mind you, there’s room in Calvinism for mystery. But I haven’t had to take refuge in mystery, much less antinomy, in responding to a single one of Birch’s objections.

This seems to comport with the tenor of Scripture as well as good reason, for it is God's desire to save fallen humanity, not reprobate the majority of creatures whom He created in His image.

i) If God wants to save all men, then why, according to Arminian theology, does God make hellbound sinners whom he foreknew were hellbound sinners? He knew that eventuality prior to making them. Nothing is forcing him to make them. Yet he makes them anyway, in full knowledge of their infernal fate.

ii) Calvinism has no official position on whether or not God reprobates the majority of the human race. Birch has been repeatedly corrected on that falsehood. Why does he persist? Why does Birch think he has the right to lie about Calvinism? Is there something about Arminian ethics which authorizes you to lie about a position you disagree with?

Does Arminianism have the Islamic equivalent of “holy hypocrisy” (Taqiyya and kitman)?

We must not lose sight of two important truths: 1) God is willing to demonstrate His grace to all lost sinners ("For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him," John 3:17 NASB

And in the very same Gospel, Jesus also said: “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind” (Jn 9:39 NASB).

“Cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11).”

It begs the question to merely cite Arminian prooftexts when the correct interpretation of these verses is the very point in dispute.


  1. He said that there is no scriptural warrant for believing supralapsarianism. That's not true; I think Romans 11:32 teaches that God had in mind the salvation of some men in creating the world and decreeing the fall of Adam.

  2. Calvinism has no official position on whether or not God reprobates the majority of the human race. Birch has been repeatedly corrected on that falsehood.

    By you? Are you God's corrective voice in the earth. That's comical.

    Why does he persist? Why does Birch think he has the right to lie about Calvinism? Is there something about Arminian ethics which authorizes you to lie about a position you disagree with?

    It is Jesus Himself who corrects you. In Matthew 7:13-14, as has been offered several times, Jesus notes the quantity of people who enter the way to everlasting life and to everlasting death. Do the words "few" or "many" mean anything? They certainly do when Calvinists point to "many" are called but "few" are chosen!

    You're not wrestling with me, you're wrestling with God's Word.

  3. Steven,

    Where in Romans 11, let alone 11:32 is the notion of creation being taught? Certainly you have better proof-texts to offer than that.

  4. Willim Birth writes: "Do the words "few" or "many" mean anything?"

    Are you a literalist (only the simplest, most apparent translation of any text will do)?

    What do you then make of Matthew 16:28 "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

    To take your approach would certainly lead one to believe Christ errored.

    "All" doesn't mean "all", so why should "few" mean literally "few in number"? Did you have a specific number in mind?

  5. John,

    So, you didn't address what "few" and "many" mean, did you? You merely stated that my interpretation was "literal." Then tell us, what do the words mean? He didn't use the language of "some," but could have.

    As for Matt. 16, I believe what it says. "Some" will see, etc.

    "All" doesn't mean "all", so why should "few" mean literally "few in number"? Did you have a specific number in mind?

    Does "all" mean "all" at Romans 3:23?

    A specific number was not granted. But "few" and "many" were. Would you care to interpret what those two contrary words mean?

  6. Billy,

    The reason why there's no official position concerning the reprobate, at least in regarding such verses as you brought up (e.g. Mt. 7:14, cf. Lk. 13:23-24) is that the term ὀλίγος can simply mean "multitude, quantity, or size". Secondly, we also have statements that the "sons of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7) will be "as the sand of the sea" (Gen. 32:12, cf. Gen. 16:10).

    By the way, I see you got a new picture of yourself for your profile. Where'd all the facial hair go, man?

  7. William Watson Birch said:
    "Does "all" mean "all" at Romans 3:23?"

    To quote Grant Osborne's commentary on Romans:

    "So when he uses 'all men' here, he does not mean every human being but rather is saying "that Christ effects those who are his just as certainly as Adam does those who are his." While all are in Adam, it is clear in Romans that only those who believe are in Christ." (p.144)

    "What this actually means is that the preaching of the gospel to every nation was in the process of completion (Bruce: 1985:209 calls this "representative universalism"). And if the worldwide mission mission was being successfully accomplished, the mission to Israel was as well. As in the great commission of Matthew 28:20, the mission to "all nations" means to Jew and Gentile alike." (p.278)

    "Therefore, it is likely that the all here is corporate, meaning that God's mercy will be shown to Jew and Gentile alike." (p.313)

  8. Ryan,

    Hahaha . . . there's a lot of gray starting to come in . . . I've been told that it makes me look older! :) Not that that's a bad thing.

    Saint and Sinner,

    Thank you for the Osborne quote. But what saith you? For "all" have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Does "all" here mean every single person ever to be born, or only classes of men?

    And what of Romans 5:12? Did death spread to "all men", i.e. every single person ever to be born, or just classes of men, whatever that's supposed to mean?

    I'm certainly not suggesting that "all" always means "every single person," and I never have. But there are obvious texts in which "every single person" is most definitely the meaning, as the two above mentioned texts.

    If we apply Osborne's interpretation at Matt. 7:13-14 (or 22:14), which we shouldn't, then there seems to be a bit of a redundancy: Instead of "few" and "many" meaning "not that many people" and "a whole lot of people," respectively, the former being the preferred translation for years upon years upon years, then what Jesus was saying was, the gate that leads to everlasting life is narrow and some people find it; the gate that leads to everlasting death is wide and some people find it.

    In your opinion, is that the proper way to interpret that verse?

  9. For me, as much as I know now, Matthew's Gospel is being maligned and thus, so is God when you cut out of the general scope and point to that idea of few and many improperly.

    Let me define it or quantify it.

    Many=everyone else.

    Mat 7:13 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
    Mat 7:14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

    What is "Our" Beloved Savior teaching here "mercifully"?

    He is making it absolutely clear that, one, there is no one getting past Him to Our Heavenly Father, as He is the "fewest" number, as in "one" who can go through that narrow gate.

    Let that settle in?

    He is making it absolutely clear that, two, Adam's transgression comes to us all, including Him.

    The many is all and all is all in this numbering system which includes Him.

    But, if you are willing to bite the apple and claim otherwise than this standard, verses following, you most likely are going to be left behind with your own doctrine and perish with the rest of humanity darkened by sin, who want to be accepted and known to be acceptable before God and His Elect Angels according to "works" righteousness.

    The Standard is a High One.

    Mat 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    Can you think of anyone else along with Christ who reached that perfect standard and thus qualifies after their death to enter into His Life?

    The whole point of the Teachings by Christ are to kick you off your throne, to dethrone and deshrine you. If you will not die and go to Heaven before you die, you will not go to Heaven.

    There is only One Name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.

    The Elect gladly accept this Gospel Message.

    The question before you is this then: "why" would some reject this Good Story?

    I proffer only one answer. The works of Satan.

    That is why I am sub/infra and not supra.


    God, with all knowing powers about all His creatures acted wisely, justly, in Holiness and Truth toward these rebellious creatures and God chose the Elect and passed over the non-elect, contemplating them all as fallen creatures, knowing the end of all creatures from their beginning.

    What is the visible fruit of Satanic powers at work in the invisible realm?

    Here is a testimony of what happens when reprobates come alive by the powers of Satan:::>

    Gen 6:1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them,
    Gen 6:2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.

    Again, one would have to accept God's all knowing abilities to know who these fallen creatures would choose.

    I would say that I happily agree with the title of this article: "On the injustice of supralapsarian Calvinism".

    I would also say I am happy for God's Just injustice towards my wretched soul as I write to you today with glaring sins and death and destruction attributed to my person. I have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.

    God is the only one who can swallow up my unrighteousness with His Faithful and Righteous Work, Who was born of a Virgin and afterwards vindicated by the Holy Ghost, as He, on behalf of all those He Elected, stood before the Throne of Grace as a Lamb, slain:

    Rev 5:5 And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."
    Rev 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

    So, few equals One. His Name is Jesus Christ in the passage, Matthew 7:14.

    Many equals all of Adam's race including the Son of Adam, Matthew 7:13. His name is Jesus Christ.

  10. "For "all" have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Does "all" here mean every single person ever to be born, or only classes of men?"

    No. It has a qualitative sense to it, not a quantitative sense. One can only extend its reference to every single last human being by logical deduction.

    It would be like someone visiting the zoo and saying, "Every animal is found here." The person is not saying that every single individual member of the animal kingdom is found inside the zoo. Rather, he is referring to a "representative universalism". At least one of every genus species can be found inside the zoo.

    We can *infer* that every single last person has sinned since Paul states that the descendants of Adam receive the imputation of sin as well as a corrupt nature (Rom. 5; cf. Eph. 2).

    Such a reading makes a lot more sense of Romans 5 than having to add the word, 'possibly,' to verses 18 and 19.

  11. Saint and Sinner,

    for me, wading into the mix of your comments, one needs to step back and link every other verse of the chapter with one verse, verse one:

    Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    For me the "alls" here are well enough defined when you do that.


    Because Paul also said, and I hasten to ask, how did he know this?:::>

    2Th 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,
    2Th 3:2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.
    2Th 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.

    The point to the chapter as I understand it now and waiting for more enlightenment to that is this.

    Consider that in verse 16 the word justification means "the equitable deed" and the word justification in verse 18 means "the acquittal".

    Without Christ there is no acquittal for Christ's sake.

    Satan surely doesn't fit in here as Jesus already taught and Paul grasped, however he did, he did:::>

    Joh 12:28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."
    Joh 12:29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
    Joh 12:30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine.
    Joh 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.
    Joh 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
    Joh 12:33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

    One with the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Ghost easily should come to understand that the word "all" there in verse 32 is "all" who have died in Christ by Election.

    Again it is Satan pitting his own against us, God's Own, the Elect Chosen of God from before the foundations of the world.

    Faith is a "gift" of God, not of works.

    Therefore John says this about the Saints and Sinners alive in the world:::>

    1Jn 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
    1Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
    1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
    1Jn 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.
    1Jn 5:5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

  12. Birch said:
    For "all" have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Does "all" here mean every single person ever to be born, or only classes of men?

    I'll throw it back to you, William. Has a one-day-old infant sinned?

  13. WWB:

    I didn't explain myself in depth, I'm sorry.

    Romans 11 seems to teach that the reason for which God subjected humanity to disobedience (through the sin of Adam, Romans 5) was to have mercy on them.

    It seems to me that we understand desires this way: that end we desire is the first thing in our mind, and the means to accomplish it come after. Thus I understand God's desire in decreeing the fall, the salvation of some, as coming prior to his decreeing the fall.