Samuel Rutherford's supralapsarianism revealed: a key to the lapsarian position of the Westminster Confession of Faith?

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Samuel Rutherford (1600–61) has long been assumed to be an advocate of a harsh supralapsarian predestinarianism. Such an assumption, however, cannot be substantiated by the claims that he makes in his writings. New evidence from his writings suggests that while Rutherford was supralapsarian, he expressed his supralapsarianism only in the most moderate of terms. In fact, he consistently employed infralapsarian language to express his thinking in regard to predestination. This essay will seek to demonstrate this in Rutherford and then to explore whether such an expression of supralapsarian predestinarianism can help us in determining the lapsarian position of the Westminster Confession of Faith. While some scholars have claimed that the Confession is an infralapsarian document, this essay will show that, by using Rutherford's supralapsarianism as a hermeneutic, it is perhaps better understood as a supralapsarian document that is phrased in such a way so as to facilitate consensus on the lapsarian issue.

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The purpose of this article is to review the views of supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism which are two views within the Reformed theology camp. These two views are often misunderstood, supralapsarianism is often seen as making God a sin-maker and God acting unjustly. On the other hand, infralapsarianism is accused of falling on Arminianism. This article is an attempt to clarify the misunderstanding of these two views. The method used in this article is a literature review in the presentation of argumentative main ideas. The results of this study indicate that both supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism cannot be said to be absolute antitheses, but there are also differences that supralapsarianism focuses on the ideal and theological, while infralapsarianism focuses on the historical structure of Bible teachings.
Predestination-the idea that God foreordains each person's eternal destiny-is one of the most fascinating and controversial doctrines in Christianity. For centuries, theologians assumed that outright denial of the dogma amounted to atheism but disagreed on whether God elected persons for salvation unconditionally (apart from foreknowledge of their actions) or conditionally (because of their foreseen merit or faith). The book argues that today's denominational landscape cannot be understood apart from such predestinarian disputes dating back 1,600 years to Augustine. The age-old riddle of divine sovereignty versus human free will was only one facet of the problem. A more practical religious concern was predestination's relationship to the sacraments: If a person's fate was already sealed, did baptism or the Eucharist have any saving effect? Predestination was also inseparable from questions about the doctrine of original sin, the existence of purgatory and hell, and the extent of God's providential involvement in human affairs. The book reexamines not only familiar predestinarians such as the New England Puritans and many later Baptists and Presbyterians, but also non-Calvinists such as Catholics and Lutherans, who struggled to reconcile otherworldly predestination with confidence in this-worldly ritual. In addition, the book shows how a variety of newer groups, from Methodists to Mormons, derived a surprising measure of their initial energy from opposition to predestination. Even contemporary megachurches, which shun theological technicalities, preach a "purpose-driven" outlook owing much to the American career of this contentious doctrine.
The Evangelical awakening which took place in the province of Ulster during 1859 was one of the most important events in the religious history of the north of Ireland. Although it has received virtually uncritical acceptance by modern Evangelicals in Northern Ireland, few are aware that there was a significant minority of Evangelicals who dissented from offering the movement their wholehearted support. This article examines why one of nineteenth-century Belfast's most controversial Anglican clerics, the Revd William McIlwaine, was very critical of the movement. Not all critics were outright opponents of the revival, however. McIlwaine was one of the revival's moderate critics, who believed that it was partially good. Nevertheless, the awakening's physical manifestations and its impact on theology and church order deeply disturbed him. The article also explains why 1859 was a turning point in McIlwaine's ecclesiastical career, which saw him move from Evangelicalism to a moderate High Church position.
The issue of the relationship between Calvinism and assurance is one that has vexed historians and theologians alike. David W. Miller, a distinguished historian of religion, once argued that Calvinism and assurance of personal salvation were wholly incompatible. This article seeks to use a biographical case study of one of Ulster Presbyterianism's most significant figures in order to illuminate our understanding of a much wider historiographical debate. The 1859 Revival was supposed to have furthered the cause of evangelicalism, while Isaac Nelson's denomination (the Presbyterian Church in Ireland) was its main beneficiary. Nelson, however, did not believe that the Revival was congenial to the orthodoxy of evangelical Presbyterianism. In particular, he took exception to views of assurance popularized during this movement, which appeared to be more in line with Methodist Arminianism than with Reformed orthodoxy. In the years subsequent to the Revival, debate raged within the Irish Presbyterian Church as to whether or not revivalist notions of assurance were compatible with the Westminster Confession. The anti-revivalist William Dobbin charged the revivalist Robert Crawford with holding heterodox opinions, only for the latter to be acquitted by the General Assembly. Most existing scholarship on the Assurance Controversy has concentrated on the debate between Dobbin and Crawford; this tendency has unhelpfully obscured both important nuances and the wider significance of the debate. By concentrating on the arguments of Nelson, the broader issue of confessional Calvinism's fraught relationship with popular evangelical conceptions of Christian assurance can be understood more clearly.
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