So, some of y'all who took my challenge of rating those ideas in Christendom according to their level of importance to you were a bit stumped by the Supra and Infralapsarian distinctions. That was actually my attempt to goad my reformed college buddies into participation. I'm most familiar with IL and SL from the book The Plan of Salvation by B. B. Warfield
. My hardbound copy (the shame...) has a neat table comparing the different conceptions of salvation. The Naturalistic (Remonstrant and Pelagian) are neatly disposed of. Then comes the Supernaturalistic - Sacerdotal (Orthodox, Roman, Anglican). Then we find the Supernaturalistic-Evangelical-Universalistic (Pure Universalistic, Wesleyan, Lutheran). Then the Supernaturalistic-Evangelical-Particularistic (Amyraldian, Infralapsarian and Supralapsarian). Now the process in Lutheranism is as follows:
- Permission of Fall-guilt, corruption and total inability.
- Gift of Christ to render satisfaction for the sins of the world
- Gift of means of grace to communicate saving grace.
- Predestination to life of those who do not resist the means of grace
- Sanctification through the means of grace.
Compare that to Supralapsarianism (for infralapsarianism, just invert the first two):
- Election of some to eternal life with God.
- Permission of Fall - guilt, corruption and total inability.
- Gift of Christ to redeem the elect and ground offer to all.
- Gift of the Holy Spirit to same the redeemed.
- Sanctification of all the redeemed and regenerated.
Best line in the book, regarding the Lutheran conception of salvation: "But they suppose that, though dead in sin, man can resist, and successfully resist, almighty grace. Resistance is, however, itself an activity: and the successful resistance of an almighty recreative power, is a pretty considerable activity - for a dead man.
So then, I ask you gentle reader, is Warfield correct in his assessment of Lutheran doctrine?
A couple more quotes to clarify:
It is in a truly religious interest, therefore, that the Reformed, as over against the Lutherans, insist with energy that, important as are the means of grace, and honored as they must be by us because honored by God and the Holy Spirit as the instruments by and through which he works grace in the hearts of men, yet after all the grace which he works by and through them he works himself not out of them but immediately out of himself, extrinsecus accedens (outside of the accidents). (p. 63)
A passage like this reveals the difficulty a Lutheran who wishes to abide by his
official confession has in giving effect to his evangelical profession. He may declare that all the power exerted in saving the soul is from God, but this is crossed by his sacerdotal consciousness that grace is conveyed by the means of grace, otherwise not. The grace of regeneration, for example, is conveyed ordinarily (some say only) by baptism. And this grace of regeneration is the monergistic operation of God. Even so, however, it cannot be said that the effect is all of God. For, in the first place, whether it takes effect at all, is dependent on the attitude of the recipient. He cannot cooperate with God in producing it; but he can fatally resist. And therefore Baier (70) carefully defines: "God produces in the man who is baptized and who does not resist the divine grace, the work of regeneration or renovation through the Sacrament, in
the very act itself (hoc actu ipso)." And then, in the second place, whether this gift of regeneration proves a blessing or a curse to the recipient depends on how he takes it and deals with it. "An absolutely new power is created in him by God," says Haller, (71) "the action of which, whether for blessing or cursing, is dependent on the subject's subsequent, or even already presently operative decision." This carries with it, naturally, what is here covered up, that this self-determination of the recipient is his natural self-determination. For if it were itself given in the new power communicated in regeneration, then it were inconceivable that it could act otherwise than for blessing. Whether man is saved or not, depends therefore in no sense on the monergistic regeneration wrought by God in his baptism. It depends on how man receives this "new power communicated to him and how he uses it. And thus we are back on the plane of pure naturalism. (p. 77-78)