Supralapsarianism: The Fall of Man Was Both Necessary and Wonderful

Theodore Beza

Quæstionum Et Responsionum
Christianarum Libellus

Questions 190-194

Q190. Can God be thought to will anything which he does not approve, and thus that which is evil?

BEZA: Truly, it must be confessed, that whatever God decreed, it is ordained altogether willingly, but here also shines forth His infinite wisdom, that with Him even the darkness has a bit of light, yet in such a way that it is and remains darkness, that is, it is good also that there should be evil; for God found the method whereby it might happen, that what is and remains evil by its own nature, might still have a bit of good before Him, and (as Augustine rightly and elegantly said) it may not happen except by His will, that is, apart from His decree, and yet be against his will, that is, what is by its own nature unrighteous, and therefore does not please God. For example, that God saved His own by the gracious redemption of His own Son Christ, is to His own exceedingly great glory, which otherwise [if men had not sinned] would not have shone forth.  But man would not have required redemption from sin and death, unless sin and death existed. Therefore, in respect to the ordinance of God, it was good that sin and death enter into the world; and yet this sin is and remains sin so much by its own nature, that it could not be expiated for except by a very terrible penalty. Again, we receive far more in Christ than we lost in Adam. Therefore, it was best and most useful for us that Adam fell, in respect to God, who prepares a kingdom of eternal glory for us by this wonderful means. And nevertheless, this Fall is so evil by its own nature, that even those who are justified and believe, experience many miseries and calamities from it, even to death. Also, this is the great glory of God, that He shows Himself to be a most severe punisher of sin. But if sin had not existed, no opening would be made for this judgement. Therefore, it was good, in respect to the ordinance of God, that sin exist, and afterwards be spread abroad, which is damned in the demons and all those who are outside of Christ, with eternal punishment. Likewise, this also is the will of God (Peter said), that is, His decree, that all who do right, are affected by evils.  But he who does well, is not able to be hurt apart from sin. It is good therefore, in respect to Godís will (that is, His ordinance) that there be persecutors of the church, whom, notwithstanding, He most severely punishes, justly, as sinners against His will, that is, against that which He approves of them doing. Therefore, by the express words of the apostles, that which is against Godís will or decree (that is, against that which He approves and commands), does not come to pass; on the other hand, it cannot be said that God is contrary to Himself, or that he wills iniquity, as Augustine rightly concluded from the Word of God against Julian.

Q191. Therefore, it seems right that permission be distinguished from will.

BEZA: What should be the thought concerning this distinction I addressed a little before. Certainly, if permission is set against will, that is decree, this opposition is not only false, but is also foolish and ridiculous. Even if in those actions which are not of free choice in and of themselves, as when merchants who are in danger throw their goods overboard, and generally as often as men choose the lesser evil to avoid the greater inconvenience, even profane men know that free-will has dominion. But if you set permission against will, that is, to that which God wants, as pleasing and acceptable to Him and of itself, and by its own nature; so that that which is good in and of itself is matched with that which is good by chance, and like as from the immense wisdom of God the darkness all serves the purpose of light, it has some measure of good (clearly, not by its own nature, but in respect to its end to which it is guided by God), then I would admit it; only this should be added, that this permission is not vain and idle, as some sleep, but very active and powerful, and yet most righteous permission, which can best be understood in a few words. I donít think that you would say that a judge is a certain idle spectator, when he hands criminals over to the executioner after hearing his case to receive this or that kind of punishment. For the executioner doesnít put him to death so much as he is the instrument of the judge who puts him to death. So if anything happens cruelly form the sentence of the judge, it is attributed, not so much to the executioner who executes, as to the judge who commands.

Q192. I concede all these things. But how many dissimilarities are there between these illustrations and the things which we are discussing?

BEZA: I confess. For otherwise there is no, or at least very little between a like thing and a same thing. Nevertheless, I wish that the chief points be brought up by you, so I can respond to them individually.

Q193. In the sentencing of judges, a trial goes before; but in these things concerning which you entreat, often nothing of this trial is observed.

BEZA: How many things are done rightly by the magistrates of this world, whose trial does not appear to the subjects?  And do you attribute less to God, who searches thoroughly all things past and future lying hid in the depth of the hearts of men?

Q194. The executioner does nothing except from sentences received. But where have evil men received any such command as to kill one another, or to harm good men?

BEZA:  In this you are deceived, that whatever God decreed, you think he gives knowledge of it with some loud voice, to those whose works He has decreed to use. However, experience has shown this is not always true in either case, that is, whether He has decided to use mercy, or to use justice, not even when He uses knowing instruments. For who would doubt that Pharaoh was ordained by God to receive Joseph and to prepare a hospitable place for the church? Yet he himself outwardly received no mandate concerning this, no, nor even thought of any such thing in himself. Yet this was decreed by God, and the quiet motion of Pharaohís heart tended to the executing of that which the Lord decreed. The prophets predicted a thousand times that the Chaldeans [Babylonians] were ordained to punish the evil Israelites, and to nurture the good; and in the same way, as if Nebuchadnezar had received an express mandate concerning this, so the Lord did not expressly command any such thing to the Chaldeans, but, as Ezekiel wrote, the heart of the king, partly given to Satan and his seers, and partly to his own desires, willingly inclined him to accomplish that which God had determined.  How much more must the same be believed, as often as the Lord uses the things which lack reason [animals], or even that which is utterly without life, as His executioners. For in this way He called flies, frogs, locusts, grasshoppers, hail, and death to punish Pharaoh; so also the wisest of all men said, that even lots themselves do not fall by chance.  For by a secret motion all things serve the executing of the decrees of God. But there is this difference, that good instruments do nothing except by faith, that is, upon assurance that they are called to do that which they do, and with a mind fixed to obey. But as for the evil instruments, sin they are led with a blind force by Satan and their own lusts, and have not the least consideration for obedience to God, with whose express word they know, or ought to know, that their counsels strive. Therefore, they do not serve the Lord, although God secretly uses the work of them, even the unwilling, so that they do nothing else, than that which He Himself, the wonderful worker, has decreed.