March 23, 2011

Donald W. Sinnema on Calvin and Lapsarianism

Though scholars have differed on whether Calvin was supralapsarian or infralapsarian,17 it is incorrect to define his position as such, since this issue did not become formulated in terms of these alternatives until Theodore Beza, the first to present a clear supralapsarian position.18 While Calvin could speak of God predestinating man before he was created or fallen,19 in other passages he spoke in a more Augustinian fashion of God electing and reprobating from the condemned mass of perdition.20 Calvin never presented his ideas on predestination in terms of an order of decrees; nor did he seek to identify the "object" of predestination, the two classic ways that the issue was formulated.
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17. Those who consider Calvin supralapsarian include Klaas Dijk, De strijd over infra- en supralapsarisme in de Gereformeerde Kerken van Nederland (Kampen, 1912), p. 25; E.A. Dowey, The Knowledge of God in Calvin's Theology (Grand Rapids, 1994), p. 213; and J. Fesko, Diversity within the Reformed Tradition: Supra- and Infralapsarianism in Calvin, Dort, and Westminster (Ph.D. diss., University of Aberdeen, 1999), pp. 81-139. Others who consider Calvin infralapsarian include Henri Blocher, 'Calvin infralapsaire,' La Revue Réformé 31 (1980), 270-276; and Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols., trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg, 1992-1997), 1:349-350.
18. Donald Sinnema, 'Beza's View of Predestination in Historical Perspective,' in Théodore de Bèze (1519-1605), ed. Irena Backus (Geneva, 2007), pp. 225-229.
19. Institutes, 2.12.5; 3.23.7; Predestination, pp. 101, 121 (De praedestinatione, pp. 102, 144).
20. Institutes, 3.23.3; Predestination, pp. 89, 101, 121, 125 (De Praedestinatione, pp. 82, 102, 144, 150-152).
Donald W. Sinnema, "Calvin and the Canons of Dort," in Church History and Religious Culture 91.1–2 (2011): 91–92.

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