Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Select Annotations and Quotations on Supra- & Infralapsarianism: Part I

As I mentioned last week, a couple of years ago I put together a random selection of annotations and quotations on the supra- and infralapsarianism debate. I will post this list in four parts. However, this bibliography is by no means comprehensive. So please feel free to add to it. My intention is to provide some basic historical and theological sources for those who may be interested in studying this issue in more depth. I start with the Westminster Assembly, not because this is where the discussion began but because it was where it came to a head.

Westminster Assembly

  • For the minutes regarding WCF 3, “Of God’s Eternal Decree,” see Alexander F. Mitchell and John Struthers, eds. Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (USA: Still Waters, 1991), 126-127, 129, 134, 150-157, 160-162, 245-246. For an illuminating discussion on the debates on God’s decree and the relationship of WCF 3 to the Irish Articles, see Mitchell’s “Introduction,” lii-lxiv. Mitchell states, “They spoke indifferently of the ‘decree’ and of the ‘decrees’ of God, while the Irish divines speak of only one and ‘the same decree;’ and from the notes of their debates given below, it will be seen that this was done because all were not agreed upon the point, and in order that that every one might enjoy his own sense! The same care was taken to avoid the insertion of anything which could be regarded as indicating a preference for supralapsarianism” (lv, emphasis original). Although Mitchell concedes that this matter is not entirely clear in the minutes and even entertains the possibility of room made in the confession’s wording for Amyraldianism. Hopefully, as anticipated, Chad Van Dixhoorn’s findings at The Westminster Assembly Project will shed more light on this subject! For an anecdotal account of the Assembly’s debates on the decree, see Robert Baillie, The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie: Principal of the University of Glasgow 1637-1652, vol. II, ed. David Laing (Edinburgh: Printed for Robert Ogle, 1841). Baillie reports, “We had long and tough debates about the decrees of election” (325). On the grammatical/syntactical construction of WCF 3, especially 3.6 and 3.7, S. W. Carruthers, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Being an Account of the Preparation and Printing of Its Seven Leading Editions (Manchester: Aikman & Son, 1937), 94-96.

  • For the history of WCF 3, especially with its relation to the Irish Articles, see Alexander F. Mitchell, The Westminster Assembly: Its History and Standards (USA: Still Waters, 1992), 352-353; 359-360; 381-394. On the formation of WCF 3, see Benjamin B. Warfield, “The Making of the Westminster Confession, and Especially of its Chapter on the Decree of God”, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, vol. VI (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 122-151; see also the helpful chart Warfield supplies comparing the Irish Articles (1615), the Committee’s Proposal, and the third chapter of the WCF. Warfield summarizes, “The third chapter of the Confession is distinctly the work of the Assembly itself, and comes to us as the well-pondered and thoroughly adjusted expression of the living belief of that whole body. The differences that existed between the members were not smoothed over in ambiguous language. They were fully ventilated. Room was made for them when they were considered unimportant and mere apices logici: but when they concerned matters of moment, after full discussion, the doctrine of the Assembly – well-reasoned and fully though out – as distinguished from that of individuals, was embodied clearly and firmly in the document. The document as it stands is thus emphatically the Confession of Faith of the Westminster Assembly. We cannot say that this or that clause represents this or that part in the Assembly. There were parties in the Assembly, and they were all fully heart and what they said was carefully weighed. But no merely party opinion was allowed a place in the document. When it came to voting the statements there to be set down, the Assembly as such spoke; and in speaking it showed itself capable of speaking its own mind. It is doing only mere justice to it, therefore, to read the document as the solemn and carefully framed expression of its reasoned faith” (146-147); cf. idem, “The Significance of the Confessional Doctrine of the Decree,” Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, vol. 1, ed. John E. Meeter (Nutley: P & R, 1976), 93-102.

  • For a compact analysis of Calvin, Dort, and WCF on the subject of predestination, see John Murray, “Calvin, Dordt, and Westminster on Predestination – A Comparative Study”, Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 4 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), 205-215. On WCF 3.7, Murray states, “No paragraph in the whole compass of confessional literature excels for precession of thought, compactness of formulation, and jealousy for the various elements of truth in the doctrine concerned in Section VII of the Confession” (209-210); cf. idem, “The Theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith”, Works, vol. 4, 241-263; “The Importance and Relevance of the Westminster Confession”, Works, vol. 1, 316-322.

  • For an able defense and explanation of the doctrine of ‘preterition’ and WCF 3, see W. G. T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1893), 30-87; idem, Dogmatic Theology, ed. Alan W. Gomes (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003), 340-344 (for more on Shedd see below). For a contrary view, see Guy M. Richard, “Samuel Rutherford’s supralapsarianism revealed: a key to the lapsarian position of the Westminster Confession of Faith?” Scottish Journal of Theology 59.1(2006): 27-44.

  • For helpful expositions of chapter three of the confession, see Thomas Boston, Commentary on the Shorter Catechism, vol. 1 (USA: Still Waters, 1993), 149-167; A. A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (London: Banner of Truth, 1964), 63-79; Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Ross-shire: Christian Heritage, 1998), 79-96; Roland S. Ward, Westminster Confession for the Church Today (Melbourne: Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia, 1992), 34-41; G. I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1964), 30-40.

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