Review of Absolute Predestination by Jerome Zanchius

Absolute Predestination by Jerome Zanchius, Grand Rapids, MI: Sovereign Grace, 1971, 126 pp.
Absolute Predestination is a translation in English from the original Latin text of Jerome Zanchius (1516-1590). It presents a strong Calvinistic view on God’s will, election, and reprobation.
Modern “Calvinists” who teach the error of the so-called “well-meant offer of the Gospel” are likely to shudder when reading Zanchius who definitely opposes their view. He writes, “Since the determining will of God being omnipotent cannot be obstructed or made void, it follows that He never did, nor does He now, will that every individual of mankind should be saved.” (p. 18) And on this position Zanchius well quotes Augustine, Luther, and Bucer in support.
Zanchius also writes “God may in some sense be said to will the being and commission of sin.” (p. 20) He argues in favor of “more than a bare permission of sin.” (p. 30) In addition to referencing Biblical passages, he again looks to Augustine, Luther, and Bucer in support. “God may be said to be the Author of all of the actions done by the wicked, yet He is not the Author of them in a moral and compound sense as they are sinful; but physically, simply and sensu diviso as they are mere actions, abstractedly from all consideration of the goodness or badness of them.” (p. 32)
While a certain 20th century theologian often caught flack for his view that God’s love is not an emotion (but a volition), it is seen that the 16th century Zanchius took much the same position. He writes, “When love is predicated of God, we do not mean that He is possessed of it as a passion or affection.” (p. 43)
On reprobation Zanchius makes a good point that the “The punishment of the non-elect was not the ultimate end of their creation, but the glory of God.” (p. 78) And he quotes: “The Lord has made all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov. xvi.) which gives a nice Old Testament precedence to the teaching of Romans 9:23.
Zanchius could rightly be considered a high Calvinist, though there is debate whether he was a supralapsarian or infralapsarian. Regardless, he is a must read for Calvinists today.
Credit is due to Sovereign Grace Publishers and, more recently, Reformation Heritage Books for printing this volume. Other publishers like Banner of Truth and P&R would likely never print it because it opposes their agendas.

4 thoughts on “Review of Absolute Predestination by Jerome Zanchius”

  1. Doug,
    What do you think is the key difference between Supra’s and Infra’s, the one defining element?
    How do you read Calvin?
    How do you read Westminster? Allows for either or mandates Infra?

    1. These are good questions.
      It seems that the motivation of many infralapsarians is to protect the moral character of God. That is, they think that if God elects certain people to salvation out of “the all” that has fallen then God isn’t responsible for the damnation of the reprobates. But I don’t think supralapsarians have a problem there. In addition to pages 188-192 in my “The Presbyterian Philosopher,” I recommend the section on lapsarianism in Robert Reymond’s “A New Systematic Theology.” Reymond is excellent on many points including that Romans 9 is strongly supralapsarian in that God positively forms lumps of clay for both election and reprobation. That is, God does not form only the elect while leaving the reprobate, but he actively forms the reprobate.
      I understand that both infra and supra advocates have seen their views in Calvin. I don’t know which position is stronger.
      I’ve heard that something in the Westminster Standards (maybe the catechism, not the confession?) fits only with the infra view. Of course, William Twisse, the moderator, was supralapsarian.

      1. Doug,
        Would you agree with me that Infralapsarianism is really just a form of single predestination despite their protestations to the contrary?
        As for Calvin’s view, I would recommend the excellent study of J.V. Fesko in his book “Diversity Within the Reformed Tradition: Supra- and Infralapsarianism in Calvin, Dort, and Westminster” and or his chapter “The Westminster Confession and Lapsarianism: Calvin and the Divines” in “The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century Volume 2” edited by Ligon Duncan.

      2. Interesting. I think you might be right. While there are infralapsarians who say they hold to double predestination, it doesn’t seem that they fully do or fully can.

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