Was Augustine's doctrine of predestination infra- or supra-?

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Puritan Board Freshman

What was St. Augustine's view on this very controversial topic?

Basic definitions to work by from Wikipedia:

"Supralapsarianism (also called antelapsarianism, pre-lapsarian or prelapsarian) is the view that God's decrees of election and reprobation logically preceded the decree of the fall while infralapsarianism (also called postlapsarianism and sublapsarianism) asserts that God's decrees of election and reprobation logically succeeded the decree of the fall."

If his view is neither infra- nor supra-, please explain his view.

Please support your answer with some citations from his works.

Thank you,


Puritan Board Senior
Infra. I don't have the citations handy, but Schaff goes into a lot of detail on why it would be infra.
Mine is a basic understanding of the controversy, but isn't the idea that it was infra fly in the face of God knowing the end from the beginning ? As if the fall was a surprise and He had to invent a 'plan B' ?


Puritan Board Senior
Mine is a basic understanding of the controversy, but isn't the idea that it was infra fly in the face of God knowing the end from the beginning ? As if the fall was a surprise and He had to invent a 'plan B' ?

No. In fact, both the Westminster standards and Dort lean infra. Bavinck and C. Hodge have a good portion dedicated to this in their systematics/dogmatics.


Puritanboard Clerk
Mine is a basic understanding of the controversy, but isn't the idea that it was infra fly in the face of God knowing the end from the beginning ? As if the fall was a surprise and He had to invent a 'plan B' ?

That's the common criticism of infralapsarian. I don't think that Augustine held to the view that God actively damns the reprobate, but only passes them over. If he isn't willing to say that, then he can't be supra.

Of course, that's assuming that the infra/supra categories even apply to Augustine.

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Of course, that's assuming that the infra/supra categories even apply to Augustine.

They don't, as the discussion hadn't progressed that far, a discussion for which Augustine provides a prototype, not a finished product.

Insofar as Augustine believed that God, in His decrees, chose (to use his language) ex massa perditionis (from the mass of fallen humanity), Augustine pointed in the direction of what will come to be developed as, and called, the infralapsarian view.



Puritan Board Junior
A few passages from Augustine for reflection and to encourage more study...

Augustine (354-430):
2. But alongside of this love we ought also patiently to endure the hatred of the world. For it must of necessity hate those whom it perceives recoiling from that which is loved by itself. But the Lord supplies us with special consolation from His own case, when, after saying, “These things I command you, that ye love one another,” He added, “If the world hate you, know that it hated me before [it hated] you.” Why then should the member exalt itself above the head? Thou refusest to be in the body if thou art unwilling to endure the hatred of the world along with the Head. “If ye were of the world,” He says, “the world would love its own.” He says this, of course, of the whole Church, which, by itself, He frequently also calls by the name of the world: as when it is said, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” And this also: “The Son of man came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” And John says in his epistle: “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also [for those] of the whole world.” The whole world then is the Church, and yet the whole world hateth the Church. The world therefore hateth the world, the hostile that which is reconciled, the condemned that which is saved, the polluted that which is cleansed.
3. But that world which God is in Christ reconciling unto Himself, which is saved by Christ, and has all its sins freely pardoned by Christ, has been chosen out of the world that is hostile, condemned, and defiled. For out of that mass, which has all perished in Adam, are formed the vessels of mercy, whereof that world of reconciliation is composed, that is hated by the world which belongeth to the vessels of wrath that are formed out of the same mass and fitted to destruction. Finally, after saying, “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own,” He immediately added, “But because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” And so these men were themselves also of that world, and, that they might no longer be of it, were chosen out of it, through no merit of their own, for no good works of theirs had preceded; and not by nature, which through free-will had become totally corrupted at its source: but gratuitously, that is, of actual grace. For He who chose the world out of the world, effected for Himself, instead of finding, what He should choose: for “there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace. And if by grace,” he adds, “then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate LXXXVII, §2-3, John 15:17-19.

Augustine (354-430): Such as these were they who were signified to Timothy, where, when it had been said that Hymenaeus and Philetus had subverted the faith of some, it is presently added, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord has known them that are His.” The faith of these, which worketh by love, either actually does not fail at all, or, if there are any whose faith fails, it is restored before their life is ended, and the iniquity which had intervened is done away, and perseverance even to the end is allotted to them. But they who are not to persevere, and who shall so fall away from Christian faith and conduct that the end of this life shall find them in that case, beyond all doubt are not to be reckoned in the number of these, even in that season wherein they are living well and piously. For they are not made to differ from that mass of perdition by the foreknowledge and predestination of God, and therefore are not called according to God’s purpose, and thus are not elected; but are called among those of whom it was said, “Many are called,” not among those of whom it was said, “But few are elected.” And yet who can deny that they are elect, since they believe and are baptized, and live according to God? Manifestly, they are called elect by those who are ignorant of what they shall be, but not by Him who knew that they would not have the perseverance which leads the elect forward into the blessed life, and knows that they so stand, as that He has foreknown that they will fall. NPNF1: Vol. V, A Treatise on Rebuke and Grace, Chapter 16, Whosoever do not persevere are not distinguished from the mass of perdition by predestination.
Latin text: 16. Isti significati sunt ad Timotheum, ubi cum dictum fuisset, Hymenaeum et Philetum fidem quorumdam subvertere; mox additum est, Firmum autem fundamentum Dei stat, habens signaculum hoc, Scivit Dominus qui sunt ejus (2 Tim. 2, 19). Horum fides, quae per dilectionem operatur, profecto aut omnino non deficit, aut si qui sunt quorum deficit, reparatur antequam vita ista finiatur, et deleta quae intercurrerat iniquitate, usque in finem perseverantia deputatur. Qui vero perseveraturi non sunt, ac sic a fide christiana et conversatione lapsuri sunt, ut tales eos vitae hujus finis inveniat; procul dubio nec illo tempore, quo bene pieque vivunt, in istorum numero computandi sunt. Non enim sunt a massa illa perditionis praescientia Dei et praedestinatione discreti; et ideo nec secundum propositum vocati, ac per hoc nec electi: sed in eis vocati, de quibus dictum est, Multi vocati; non in eis de quibus dictum est, pauci vero electi. Et tamen quis neget eos electos, cum credunt, et baptizantur, et secundum Deum vivunt? Plane dicuntur electi a nescientibus quid futuri sint, non ab illo qui eos novit non habere perseverantiam quae ad beatam vitam perducit electos, scitque illos ita stare, ut praescierit esse casuros. PL 44:926
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