This week I have been working through a variety of issues: Does God decree things that he hates? Does God have any desire to save the reprobate?
Yes - God does decree things that he hates. Simon gave me an excellent example - God has decreed that we sin, though he hates sin.
No - God does not desire to save the reprobate. God desires and demands that the reprobate repent from his sin. But to take it a step further and claim that God desires the reprobate to have eternal life, is going too far.
These issues led me into further study of the dreaded Supra/Infralapsarian debate *Dun DUN DUUUNNN* The Supra/Infralapsarian positions attempt to explain the order of the decrees of God. Let me begin by defining the Infralapsarian scheme:
(1) the decree to create the world and (all) men
(2) the decree that (all) men would fall
(3) the election of some fallen men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the others)
(4) the decree to redeem the elect by the cross work of Christ
(5) the decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits to the elect
Reymond comments on this scheme: "Calvnists espouse this scheme because it represents God as distinguishing among men as sinners, which, they contend, represents God as both gracious and tender toward the elect sinner as well as holy and just toward the reprobated sinner" (Reymond's Systematic Theology, pg 480-1).
Robert Reymond, being a Surpalapsarian, raises six objections to the Infra scheme:
(1) The infralapsarian scheme cannot account for the election and reprobation of angels. There are "elect angels" (1 Tim. 5:21), but they were not elected out of a totality of their order viewed as fallen as the infralapsarian scheme affirms is true of elect men, inasmuch as the elect angels never fell.
(2) Although the infralapsarian's concern to represent God's reprobation of some sinners as an act of justice (evidenced in his placing the discriminating decree after the decree concerning the Fall) issues a proper caution against any depiction of God which would suggest that he acts toward men with purposeless caprice, nevertheless, if he intends by this to suggest that God's reprobation of these sinners is solely an act of justice (condemnation alone) which in no sense entails also the logically prior sovereign determination to "pass them by" and to leave them in their sin (preterition), then he makes reprobation solely a conditional decree, a position in accord with the Arminian contention that God determines the destiny of no man, that he merely decreed to react in mercy or justice to the actions of men.
(3) Espousing as the infralapsarian scheme does the view that the historical principle governs the order of the decrees, and arranging as it does the order of the decrees accordingly in the order that reflects the historical order of the corresponding occurences of the events which they determined (as indeed the Amyraldian scheme does also), this scheme can show no purposive connection between the several parts of the plan per se.
(4) Because the infralapsarian scheme can show no logical necessity between the first two decrees (the creation decree and the Fall decree) and the three following soteric decrees, it "cannot give a specific answer to the question why God decreed to create the world and to permit the fall."
(5) The infralapsarian scheme, by espousing a historical order of the decrees, reverses the manner in which the rational mind plans an action. The infralapsarian scheme moves from means (if, indeed, the earlier decrees can be regarded as means at all, disconnected as they are in purpose from the later decrees) to the end, whereas "in planning the rational mind passes from the end to the means in a retrograde movement, so that what is first in design is last in accomplishment" and, conversely, what is last in design is first in accomplishment.
(6) Paul employs the familiar Old Testament metaphor of the potter and the clay (see Isa. 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Jer. 18:6) and asks: "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay [man construed generally] some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" Paul teaches here (1) that the potter sovereignly makes both kinds of vessels, and (2) that he makes both out of the same lump of clay. The metaphor would suggest that the determination of a given vessel's nature and purpose-whether for noble or for common use-is the potter's sovereign right, apart from any consideration of the clay's prior condition. This suggests in turn that God sovereignly determined the number, nature, and purpose of both the elect and the nonelect in order to accomplish his own holy ends, apart from a consideration of any prior condition which may or may not have been resident within them. (Reymond's Systematic Theology, pgs 481-6).
Without further adue, the Supralapsarian (sometimes referred to as: "Double Predestination")scheme:
(1)the election of some sinful men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the rest of sinful mankind in order to make known the riches of God's gracious mercy to the elect)
(2) the decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits to the elect sinners
(3) the decree to redeem the elect sinners by the cross work of Christ
(4) the decree that men should fall
(5) the decree to create the world and men
Reymond comments on this scheme: "In this latter scheme the disciminating decree stands in the first position with the creation decree standing in the last position. It should also be noted that in this scheme, unlike the former, God is represented as discriminating among men viewed as sinners and not among men viewed simply as men. The election and salvation of these elect sinners in Christ becomes the decree that unifies all the other parts of the one eternal purpose of God... all supralapsarians aver as a second consideration (though only those who affirm the revised scheme offer and order of the decrees consistent with this consideration) that in all purposive planning the rational mind is governed by the principle of determining first the end to be accomplished and then the several appropriate means to attain that end; and in the case of the means in the plan, each of which becomes an "end" of the immediately following means, the rational mind determines them in retrograde order from the end or goal back through all the means necessary to the accomplishment of that ultimate end. The rational mind recognizes that only in this way is each element of the plan purposive and contributory to the coherence of the entire plan. And God is a purposing planner!" (Reymond's Systematic Theology, pg 489, 492).
Is that a mouthful of what?! Just imagine: he's got 23 pages on this subject. Seriously though, it's good stuff.
As you can likely tell, I lean towards the Supralapsarian position. Waaaay back when I was struggling with Calvinism, I believed that God either predestined all things, or some things. I understand the concerns Infra raises, but I do not believe it does justice to the purposefulness of God's decree. Did God purpose before the creation of the world to elect some to salvation and some to damnation? I believe the Scripture teaches so.
Reymond's sixth objection to the Infralapsarian position struck home. Many seem to get hung up on God's freedom to do with his creatures according to his good pleasure (in this instance, when we consider God's electing decree ocurred before the Fall). If God desired to create us to demonstrate wrath upon us, that is his choice. Let's glance at Romans 9 - the Lord makes from the same lump of clay, men for honorable use, and others for dishonorable use. Doesn't this imply that God did not consider the prior condition of men? Furthermore, if God makes some men vessels for dishonorable use, does it not also follow that they were not inherently dishonorable? (This creates a lotta problems for the Infra scheme).
For the most part, Supralapsarianism makes sense to me. God is not only active in the decree to save the elect, but also in the decree to damn the reprobate. God's decree, purpose and right to do as he pleases must be remembered in this discussion.