8. To attempt to combine universal redemption with particular election, they pressed, is to introduce an intolerable disjunction in the
divine purpose. This disjunction in fact threatens the unity of the Trinitarian relationship, for it would show Christ intending to die for those whom the Father has not given to him, and whom the Holy Spirit will not regenerate.
1. While it was owned that some Fathers of the Church have penned statements which reflect the view of general atonement, this was not construed as a strong presumption in favor of the doctrine.
With respect to several of them however, notably Augustine, quotations to the opposite effect could be made, and were made.
2. Far from teaching universal redemption, Calvin and most of the great early leaders of the Reformed church held to definite atonement, it was urged.
3. Reformed confessions, and particularly the Canons of the Synod of Dort, support vigorously the view of Amyraut’s opponents.
4. Amyraut’s views, and the arguments by which they were supported, it was urged, bore unmistakable resemblance to the Arminian approach.
1. To make a concession at this point, they urged, would be to open a breach in the whole Reformed system.
2. This would breed disregard of the subordinate standards and lead to a general loosening of the doctrinal soundness of the church.
3. This could open the way for inroads of Arminianism and even of Romanism.
4. If the subject was really as trivial as Amyraut’s supporters claimed, and concerned merely method, it is difficult to see why they were so prone to disturb the church and so insistent in holding on to their positions in the face of synodical opposition.
The orientation of the movement became more clearly manifest in one of the most gifted successors of Amyraut, Claude Pajon (1626–1685). His distinctive approach was to deny that there is any direct internal operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, for he held that the Spirit works purely in terms of the suasion that is effected by the presentation of the truth. This tended to relieve the clash between the Amyraldian conception of the universal design of the Father and of Christ in redemption and the particularistic activity of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. In Pajon’s scheme, the saving work on the Holy Spirit was also both universalized and rendered ineffective of itself. This was taking a big step toward outright Arminianism, in spite of Pajon’s efforts to retain some place for divine sovereignty in election and reprobation. Needless to say, this approach was in flat contradiction to the Canons of Dort (3d and 4th head, art. 10–12; rejection 7, 8), and it is not surprising that objections were soon raised against the authority of that statement of faith.
The doctrine of hypothetical universalism acted as a corrosive factor in the French Reformed Church. Tolerated at first because it was felt that an outright condemnation would lead to schism, it slowly undermined respect for the confessional standards and disrupted internal unity and cohesion. As far as can be seen, it did not in fact help to promote any basic union with the Lutherans, nor did it materially assist in preventing abjurations to the RC faith. On the other hand, it did provide a bridge toward Arminianism and perhaps toward the Semi-Pelagian tendencies of the Church of Rome. The advantages that Amyraut had envisioned failed to materialize, and the dangers against which his opponents had warned did in fact eventuate.
In 1675, after lengthy efforts made by L. Gernler in Basel, J.R. Stücki and J. H. Heidegger in Zürich, F. Turrettini in Geneva, and others, a special statement of faith was drawn up to which subscription was required of ministers in many areas. This statement, the Formula Consensus Ecclesiarum Helveticarum …, was directly opposed to the novel views of Saumur, and 16 of its 26 articles were specifically directed against the doctrine of universal grace, as presented by Amyraut.
In spite of these efforts, the opponents of the old orthodoxy slowly gained ground. In Geneva, serious difficulties were experienced with Cl. Mussard, Alex Morus and Robert Chouet, who were in varying degrees influenced by Saumur. Louis Tronchin and Philippe Mestrezat, professors of theology in the Academy, were at first secret, and later open, sympathizers with the new views. In the course of the eighteenth century, the Formula Consensus was abrogated almost everywhere as a test of faith, principally through the efforts of S. Werenfels, J. F. Ostervald, and J. A. Turrettini, the son of Francis Turrettini, who had been one of its main promoters!
The Netherlands. The resistance seemed at first more successful, for the whole movement was viewed as an attack upon the Canons of Dort and as a dangerous compromise with Arminianism. It is in this country that many of the principal opponents of Amyraut resided; even P. du Moulin had for some time taught at Leiden (1592–1598). Because of the freedom of the press, it is here that many of the books relating to the controversy were published. As the Netherlands became one of the main havens of refuge for French Reformed people after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), a good many refugees imported their views. This may have paved the way for the relaxing influence of the Cartesian and Cocceian schools of theology in Holland. Venema, van Oosterzee, Doedes, etc., may be listed as more recent representatives of this trend.
Germany. It is difficult to trace the influence of Amyraut here, for views which have considerable similarity were held well before him in Bremen (Crocius, Martinius), Hesse and Nassau. H. Heppe and J. H. A. Ebrard are modern representatives of this trend.
Anglo-Saxon Lands. In England John Davenant (1570–1641) held views on the extent of the atonement which resemble Amyraut’s (cf. his Dissertationes Duae: Prima de Morte Christi …, Cambridge, 1650; Eng. trans. by J. Allport in the 2d vol. of Davenant’s Exposition of … Colossians, London, 1831, 1832). Richard Baxter openly avowed that he espoused Amyraldian views, and he listed other English divines who did so too (Preface to Disputations of the Right to the Sacraments, 1657). Amyraut dedicated one of his works to Bishop Cosin of Durham. We may mention also the names of E. Polhill, Ed. Calamy, Ed. Williams, George Payne, A. C. Clifford.
In Scotland similar views were held by James Fraser of Brea, Thomas Mair, the New Light Reformed Presbytery, James Morison and his group (although John Brown, his professor, probably stopped somewhat short of full Amyraldianism), and R. Wardlaw.
In the United States this type of view has been influential in New England Theology (S. Hopkins, E. Griffin, L. Woods), in New School Presbyterianism (J. Richards), among certain Baptists, otherwise Calvinistically inclined (E. Dodge, A. Hovey, Pepper, A. H. Strong), and many others (L. S. Chafer).
P Bayle, Dictionnaire Historique (2nd ed., 1702), s.v.
L S Chafer, Systematic Theology (Wheaton Ill., 1948) III, 183–205.
W Cunningham, Historical Theology (Edinburgh, 1870; London, 1960) II, 323–370.
A Gib, The Present Truth (Edinburgh, 1774), II, 148–191, 273–302.
E Griffin. … the Extent of the Atonement (New York, 1819).
Haag-Bordier, ‘Amyraut’, La France Protestante (2nd ed.; Paris, 1877), I, 185–206 (the best bibliography of Amyraut’s works).
A A Hodge, The Atonement (Philadelphia, 1867), Part II.
R B Kuiper, For Whom Did Christ Die? (Grand Rapids, 1959).
F Laplanche, L’Enseignement de Moyse Amyraut … sur la Grâce et la Prédestination, Son Retentissement dans les Eglises Réformées (Diss., Angers), 1954 or 1955. (Very valuable.)
A Marshall, The Atonement or the Death of Christ the Redemption of His People (Glasgow, 1868).
J Moltmann, Gnadenbund und Gnadenwahl (Diss., Göttingen), 1951.
J Moltmann, ‘Gnadenbund und Gnadenwahl’, Zeitschrift für Kirkengeschichte 65 (1953/4), 270–303.
J Owen, The Death of Death (London, 1959). Also in Works, ed. Goold, X, 140–428.
C M Pfaff, Schediasma Theologicum de Formula Consensus Helvetica (Tübingen, 1723).
J Quick, ‘Amyraut’, Icones Sacrae Callicanae, 958–1028.
O Ritschl, Dogmengeschichte des Protestantismus (Göttiingen, 1926) III, 402–412.
A Schweitzer, Die Protestantischen Centraldogmen.… (Zürich, 1856), II, 225–747.
G Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Atonement as Taught by Christ Himself (1868; Repr.; Grand Rapids, 1953), 468–472.
A Viguié, ‘Amyraut‘, Encyclopédic des Sciences Religieuses (Paris, 1877), I, 273–285.
J G Walch, Einleitung in die Religionsstreitigkeiten … ausser der Lutherischen Kirche (Jena, 1734) III, 736–742.
B B Warfield, The Plan of Salvation (Grand Rapids, 1942), 90–97.
H E Weber, Reformation, Orthodoxie und Rationalismus. II. Der Geist der Orthodoxie (Gütersloh, 1951).
The present article (pp. 323–36) is drawn from my published volume Moyce Amyraut. A Bibliography with special Reference to the Controversy on Universal Grace. New York and London, Garland, 1981. viii. 209 pages. This was an expansion of a portion of my Ph.D. thesis at Harvard University (1967). The latter part of this article (pp. 336–39) is drawn from Ed Palmer, ed. Encyclopedia of Christianity, I, 192–93. (1964). It appears advisable to indicate some important contributions that appeared after 1964.
Hans Bots and Pierre Leroy, eds. Correspondence Intégrate (1641–1650) d’André Rivet et de Claude Sarrau. 3 vols. Amsterdam: APA-Holland, 1978–82. 1585 pp.
Armstrong, Brian. Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy, Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1969. xx, 390 pp.
Laplanche, Francois. Orthodoxie et Prédication. L’Oeuvre d’Amyraut et la Querelle de la Grace Universelle. Paris: Presses Universitaries, 1965. 358 pp.
Nicole, Roger. ‘Moyse Amyraut and the Controversy on Universal Grace.’ First Phase. Ph.D thesis. Harvard University.
Proctor, Leonard. ‘The Theology of Moise Amyraut considered as a Reaction against 17th Century Calvinism.’ Unpublished thesis for the University of Leeds.
Van Stam, Frans Pieter, The Controversy over the Theology of Saumur, 1635–1650. Amsterdam: APA-Holland, 1988. xiv, 497 pp.
It is also important to note the superb bibliography of Pierre Du Moulin, Sr. by Brian Armstrong, Bibliographia Molineai. Geneva: Droz, 1997. clviii, 564 pp.
J Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, 1955), 69–85.