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Amyraldianism and the Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675)

Rev. Angus Stewart


Amyraldianism is that false system of theology introduced by and named after Moise Amyraut (1596-1664), Professor in the French Protestant Seminary at Saumur. It may sound like an old and foreign error but it is being actively promoted in the British Isles and elsewhere today.

Amyraut promulgated and popularised a form of hypothetical universalism, that hypothetically God chose everyone to salvation and sent Christ to die for all absolutely.

Amyraut taught hypothetical universal election, that God decreed to save all men head for head on condition that they would believe. However, knowing that fallen man would not believe, God decreed to save His elect, to whom He would give faith.

Similarly, Amyraut proclaimed hypothetical universal atonement, declaring that Christ died for all men head for head on condition that they would believe. However, knowing that fallen man would not believe, God decreed that Christ would die efficaciously for the elect.

Amyraut claimed that his convoluted views were those of a Frenchman, John Calvin. They were actually those of a Scot, also called John: John Cameron, his favourite teacher.

Amyraut claimed that his views were in accordance with the Word of God, the theology of John Calvin and the Canons of Dordt (1618-1619), to which he as a French Reformed minister subscribed. This also was false as his critics, both then and now, have pointed out. Martin I. Klauber states, "The majority of Reformed theologians … rejected his system as the first step towards Arminianism" ("Theological Transition in Geneva," in Carl R. Trueman and R. S. Clark [eds.], Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment [Great Britain: Paternoster, 1999], p. 258, n. 5). The orthodox in the French Reformed Church and outside it called for his discipline but the French synods failed to deal with the problem properly. The slide of his students, his disciples and the French Reformed Church further and further into Arminianism has been well documented.

The Swiss Reformed Churches produced the Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675) in opposition to the views of Amyraut and the doctrines of several other liberal professors at Saumur, requiring Swiss Reformed ministers to sign it. It was penned by John Henry Heidegger (a successor of Zwingli at Zurich) with help from Francis Turretin (a successor of Calvin at Geneva) and Luke Gernler (a successor of Oecolampadius at Basle).

Later this brief article will quote the relevant canons of the Formula Consensus Helvetica against the two principle errors of Amyraldianism (hypothetical universal election and hypothetical universal atonement), as well as two other supporting doctrines of Amyraut: his advocacy of the possibility of the salvation of unevangelised heathen and his dangerous distinction between fallen man’s natural ability and moral ability. Quotations from Reformed theologians and explanatory remarks will be added where appropriate.

Charles Hodge summarises the novel views of Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) in five propositions (which are very different from the Synod of Dordt’s Five Points of Calvinism):

(1) … the motive impelling God to redeem men was benevolence, or love to men in general.

(2) From this motive He sent His Son to make the salvation of all men possible.

(3) God, in virtue of a decretum universale hypotheticum [i.e., a hypothetical universal decree], offers salvation to all men if they believe in Christ.

(4) All men have a natural ability to repent and believe.

(5) But as this natural ability was counteracted by a moral inability, God determined to give his efficacious grace to a certain number of the human race, and thus to secure their salvation (Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, repr. 1993], vol. 2, p. 322).

Now we are in a position to understand the connection between Amyraut’s doctrines. If God loves everybody (His "benevolence, or love to men in general"), then He must in some sense elect everybody (hypothetical universal election). Similarly, He must in some sense send Christ to die for everybody (hypothetical universal atonement). But what do a general love and hypothetical universal election and atonement avail for those who never hear the gospel? Thus Amyraut posits a divine call, beyond the limits of the visible church and the means of grace, through general revelation (creation and providence) so that those who rightly use the light of nature receive the light of grace (the possibility of the salvation of unevangelised heathen). All this does not yet do enough for the reprobate (whether or not he hears the gospel) for he is still totally depraved. Thus Amyraut declared that everybody has the natural ability to believe (though not the moral ability to believe). This is the scheme that Amyraut tried to pass off as the teaching of John Calvin and biblical, Reformed theology!


I. Against Amyraut’s Hypothetical Universal Election (Canons 4-6)

Canon 4: Before the creation of the world, God decreed in Christ Jesus our Lord according to his eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11), in which, from the mere good pleasure of his own will, without any prevision of the merit of works or of faith, to the praise of his glorious grace, to elect some out of the human race lying in the same mass of corruption and of common blood, and, therefore, corrupted by sin. He elected a certain and definite number to be led, in time, unto salvation in Christ, their Guarantor and sole Mediator. And on account of his merit, by the mighty power of the regenerating Holy Spirit, he decreed these elect to be effectually called, regenerated and gifted with faith and repentance. So, indeed, God, determining to illustrate his glory, decreed to create man perfect, in the first place, then permit him to fall, and finally pity some of the fallen, and therefore elect those, but leave the rest in the corrupt mass, and finally give them over to eternal destruction.

Canon 5: Christ himself is also included in the gracious decree of divine election, not as the meritorious cause, or foundation prior to election itself, but as being himself also elect (I Peter 2:4, 6). Indeed, he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, and accordingly, as the first requisite of the execution of the decree of election, chosen Mediator, and our first born Brother, whose precious merit God determined to use for the purpose of conferring, without detriment to his own justice, salvation upon us. For the Holy Scriptures not only declare that election was made according to the mere good pleasure of the divine counsel and will (Eph. 1:5, 9; Matt. 11:26), but was also made that the appointment and giving of Christ, our Mediator, was to proceed from the zealous love of God the Father toward the world of the elect.

Canon 6: Wherefore, we can not agree with the opinion of those who teach: l) that God, moved by philanthropy, or a kind of special love for the fallen of the human race, did, in a kind of conditioned willing, first moving of pity, as they call it, or inefficacious desire, determine the salvation of all, conditionally, i.e., if they would believe, 2) that he appointed Christ Mediator for all and each of the fallen; and 3) that, at length, certain ones whom he regarded, not simply as sinners in the first Adam, but as redeemed in the second Adam, he elected, that is, he determined graciously to bestow on these, in time, the saving gift of faith; and in this sole act election properly so called is complete. For these and all other similar teachings are in no way insignificant deviations from the proper teaching concerning divine election; because the Scriptures do not extend unto all and each God's purpose of showing mercy to man, but restrict it to the elect alone, the reprobate being excluded even by name, as Esau, whom God hated with an eternal hatred (Rom. 9:11). The same Holy Scriptures testify that the counsel and will of God do not change, but stand immovable, and God in the heavens does whatsoever he will (Ps. 115:3; Isa. 46:10); for God is infinitely removed from all that human imperfection which characterizes inefficacious affections and desires, rashness, repentance and change of purpose. The appointment, also, of Christ, as Mediator, equally with the salvation of those who were given to him for a possession and an inheritance that can not be taken away, proceeds from one and the same election, and does not form the basis of election.

George Smeaton: "When we examine the [Amyraldian] theory minutely, it will not hang together. Its advocates speak of a UNIVERSAL DECREE, in which God was supposed to have given Christ as a Mediator for the whole human race; and of a SPECIAL DECREE, in which God, foreseeing that no one would believe in his unaided strength, was supposed to have elected some to receive the gift of faith. Unquestionably it differs form the Arminian positions in this respect, that the faith was not referred to man's free will, but was supposed to be derived form God's free grace. The theory acknowledged the sovereign election of God, according to His good pleasure. But it laboured under the defect of supposing a double and a conflicting decree; that is, a general decree, in which he was said to will the salvation of all, and a special decree, in which He was said to will the salvation of the elect. To Christ also it ascribed a twofold and discordant aim, viz. to satisfy for all men, and to satisfy merely for the elect. As a reconciling system, and an incoherent one, it aimed to harmonize the passages of Scripture, which at one time seem to extend Christ's merits to the world, and at another to limit them to the church; not to mention that God is supposed to be disappointed in His purpose" (The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement [Great Britain: Banner, repr. 1991], p. 541).

B. B. Warfield: "it is impossible to contend that God intends the gift of his Son for all men alike and equally and at the same time intends that it shall not actually save all but only a select body which he himself provides for it. The schematization of the order of decrees presented by the Amyraldians, in a word, necessarily implies a chronological relation of precedence and subsequence among the decrees, the assumption of which abolishes God, and this can be escaped only by altering the nature of the atonement. And therefore the nature of the atonement is altered by them, and Christianity is wounded at its very heart ... A conditional substitution being an absurdity, because the condition is no condition to God, if you grant him even so much as the poor attribute of foreknowledge, they necessarily turn away from a substitutive atonement altogether" (The Plan of Salvation [USA: Simpson Publishing Company, repr. 1989], pp. 96-97).

R. L. Dabney points out "two respects" in which this theory is "untenable:" "If the idea of a real succession in time between the parts of the divine decree be relinquished, as it must be; then this scheme is perfectly illusory, in representing God as decreeing to send Christ to provide a redemption to be offered to all, on condition of faith, and this out of His general compassion. For if He foresees the certain rejection of all at the time, and at the same time purposes sovereignly to withhold the grace which would work faith in the soul, from some, this scheme of election really makes Christ to be related, in God's purpose, to the non-elect, no more closely nor beneficially than the stricter Calvinistic scheme. But second and chiefly, it represents Christ as not purchasing for His people the grace of effectual calling, by which they are persuaded and enabled to embrace redemption. But God's purpose to confer this is represented as disconnected with Christ and His purchase, and subsequent, in order, to His work, and the foresight of its rejection by sinners. Whereas Scripture represents that this gift, along with all other graces of redemption, is given us in Christ, having been purchased for His people by Him (Eph. 1:3; Phil. 1:29; Heb. 12:2)" (Systematic Theology [Great Britain: Banner, repr. 1985], pp. 235-236).

C. Matthew McMahon: "The Problems of Hypothetical Universalism are many. Amyraut has created a God who desires after those things which his omniscience has told Him He can never have. This means God is frustrated in His knowledge. He knows he will not save certain men, but He nonetheless desires their salvation because Christ hypothetically created a 'way of possibility' for them. This would make God sin. He would sin in that He would violate His own mind and omniscience. He would go against that which He knows is true. He would desire the salvation of men [whom] He will never regenerate. This would make God frustrated. He would be the ever-blessed, ever-miserable God. Furthermore, Amyraut would have the will of Christ in direct opposition to the will of God. If God willed the salvation of all men, and loved all men hoping they would all 'see His love in the death of Christ,' many of the biblical narratives and texts that Christ asserted are in contradiction to the Father’s desire. Christ said in John 6:37-40, 'All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.' Here the Father’s will and Christ’s will are the same. Jesus loses nothing, and will raise them up in the last day. This is not a probability, but a reality. Yet, Amyraut would have God desire something different than what Christ says here. God desires all to take hold of the free gift he has actually given them in Christ, though it remains a possibility for them until they take hold of it. Yet, the Bible says here that Jesus loses none that the Father gives him.  Jesus must, then, not have really known the Father’s will" ("Amyraut and Hypothetical Universalism").

Scottish Presbyterian, James Macgregor (1830-1894): "The more malignant aspects of Amyraldianism are as follows: First, the notion of any saving purpose of God that does not infallibly determine salvation; or, in other words, of a frustrated intention or a disappointed desire of His; this notion is not only on the face of it unscriptural, but, in the heart of it, offensive even to our natural reason, because inconsistent with the very nature and perfections of Deity. Nor does the notion gain anything, in respect of spiritual seemliness, when transferred from God’s eternal decree to the execution of that decree in time on the Cross. For the notion of any substitution of Christ that does not infallibly secure by purchase the salvation of all for whom He died, is deeply dishonouring to the personal work of the adorable Substitute. Again, the two notions alike (or the notion in its two applications alike) must, when seriously entertained, tend to undermine the believer’s assurance of hope. For that assurance is ultimately founded on the truth, that all God’s purposes are unchanging and effectual, and that no sinner can ever perish for whom Christ gave His life on the Cross. The assurance, therefore, is fatally undermined by the notion, that there is a changeable or ineffectual purpose of God, and that many of those for whom Christ gave His life shall nevertheless fall into death eternal. Once more the two notions alike (or the notion in its two applications alike) must tend, when seriously entertained, to prevent unbelievers from coming to God in ‘full assurance of faith.’ It is at this third point that the Amyraldians deem themselves strongest. Hence, as I have said, in France they assumed the name of Methodists under the impression that their doctrine constitutes a method or way, more excellent than had previously been known among Calvinists, of leading sinners to salvation through faith, and particularly of helping them over the difficulty, already referred to, in the way of believing. And it is at this point—their strongest—that I find them weakest" (quoted in John Macleod, Scottish Theology [Edinburgh: Free Church of Scotland, 1943], pp. 250-251).


II. Against Amyraut’s Hypothetical Universal Atonement (Canons 13-16)

Canon 13: As Christ was elected from eternity the Head, the Leader and Lord of all who, in time, are saved by his grace, so also, in time, he was made Guarantor of the New Covenant only for those who, by the eternal election, were given to him as his own people, his seed and inheritance. For according to the determinate counsel of the Father and his own intention, he encountered dreadful death instead of the elect alone, and restored only these into the bosom of the Father's grace, and these only he reconciled to God, the offended Father, and delivered from the curse of the law. For our Jesus saves his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21), who gave his life a ransom for many sheep (Matt. 20:24, 28; John 10:15), his own, who hear his voice (John 10:27-28), and he intercedes for these only, as a divinely appointed Priest, arid not for the world (John 17:9). Accordingly in the death of Christ, only the elect, who in time are made new creatures (II Cor. 5:17), and for whom Christ in his death was substituted as an expiatory sacrifice, are regarded as having died with him and as being justified from sin: and thus, with the counsel of the Father who gave to Christ none but the elect to be redeemed, and also with the working of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies and seals unto a living hope of eternal life none but the elect. The will of Christ who died so agrees and amicably conspires in perfect harmony, that the sphere of the Father's election, the Son's redemption, and the Spirit's sanctification are one and the same.

Canon 14: This very thing further appears in this also that Christ provided the means of salvation for those in whose place he died, especially the regenerating Spirit and the heavenly gift of faith, as well as salvation itself, and actually confers these upon them. For the Scriptures testify that Christ, the Lord, came to save, the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24), and sends the same Holy Spirit, the source of regeneration, as his own (John 16:7-8); that among the better promises of the New Covenant of which he was made Mediator and Guarantor this one is pre-eminent, the he will inscribe his law, the law of faith, in the hearts of his people (Heb. 8:10); that whatsoever the Father has given to Christ will come to him, by faith, surely; and finally, that we are chosen in Christ to be his children, holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4-5); but our being God's holy children proceeds only from faith and the Spirit of regeneration.

Canon 15: But by the obedience of his death, Christ, in place of the elect, so satisfied God the Father, that in the estimate of his vicarious righteousness and of that obedience, all of that which he rendered to the law, as its just servant, during his entire life whether by doing or by suffering, ought to be called obedience. For Christ's life, according to the Apostle's testimony (Phil. 1:8), was nothing but submission, humiliation and a continuous emptying of self, descending step by step to the lowest extreme even to the point of death on the Cross; and the Spirit of God plainly declares that Christ in our stead satisfied the law and divine justice by His most holy life, and makes that ransom with which God has redeemed us to consist not in His sufferings only, but in his whole life conformed to the law. The Spirit, however, ascribes our redemption to the death, or the blood, of Christ, in no other sense than that it was consummated by sufferings; and from that last definitive and so blest act derives a name indeed, but not in such a way as to separate the life preceding from his death.

Canon 16: Since all these things are entirely so, we can hardly approve the opposite doctrine of those who affirm that of his own intention and counsel and that of the Father who sent him, Christ died for each and every one upon the condition, that they believe. [We also cannot affirm the teaching] that he obtained for all a salvation, which, nevertheless, is not applied to all, and by his death merited a salvation and faith for no one individually but only removed the obstacle of divine justice, and acquired for the Father the liberty of entering into a new covenant of grace with all men. Finally, they so separate the active and passive righteousness of Christ, as to assert that he claims his active righteousness as his own, but gives and imputes only his passive righteousness to the elect. All these opinions, and all that are like these, are contrary to the plain Scriptures and the glory of Christ, who is Author and Finisher of our faith and salvation; they make his cross of none effect, and under the appearance of exalting his merit, they, in reality diminish it.

In the section of his systematic theology entitled "The Extent of Christ's Satisfaction: Particular or Limited," Wilhelmus à Brakel states, "we must do battle against Roman Catholics, Arminians, and Amyraldians" (The Christian's Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, repr. 1992], vol. 1, pp. 598-599; italics mine). Earlier in this volume, a Brakel also had to "do battle" with Amyraut's compromise doctrine of God's decrees: "Amyraut, and all who follow him, maintain to have found a middle position whereby the offense of the true doctrine can be removed" (pp. 222-223). A Brakel has put his finger on Amyraldianism's fatal attraction to carnal man (its attempt to remove the offence of the cross and the absolutely sovereign God) and identified its spiritual sisters (Romanism and Arminianism).

Robert L. Reymond: "When [Amyraldianism] urges that the Bible teaches that both by divine decree and in history Christ’s death, represented by it as unrestricted regarding its referents, was intended to save all men without exception (the doctrine of universal atonement), Amyraldianism must necessarily join forces with Arminian universalism which … shares this aspect of its vision and turn away altogether from a real substitutionary atonement" (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998], p. 478; italics Reymond’s).

John Owen: "Christ did not die for any upon condition, if they do believe; but he died for all God’s elect, that they should believe, and believing have eternal life" (Works [Great Britain: Banner, repr. 1967], vol. 10, p. 235; italics Owen’s).

Ian Hamilton: "Hypothetical universalism reduces the propitiation of the Son of God to a potentiality. The cross actually achieves nothing, it only makes sinners potentially salvable. Definite atonement, or better simply ‘atonement,’ truly glories in the ‘finished work’ of Christ’" (Amyraldianism—Is it Modified Calvinism? [Great Britain: EPCEW, 2003], p. 20).

John Murray: "It has been maintained that the [Westminster] Assembly formulated at least one section so as to allow for an Amyraldian doctrine of the atonement. The Minutes of the Assembly give no support to this contention. There are three principles enunciated in the [Westminster] Confession that exclude the Amyraldian view. The first is that redemption has been purchased for the elect. 'The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself ... purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him' (8:5). The second is that impetration and application are coextensive. 'To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same' (8:8). This excludes any form of universal atonement. The redemption purchased includes, as the preceding quotation implies, the purchase of an everlasting inheritance, and this is therefore said to be communicated to all for whom redemption was purchased. If all were included then all would be the partakers of the everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, a position clearly denied in the Confession elsewhere. The third principle is the exclusiveness of redemption. 'Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only' (3:4). In the preceding sentence the elect are said to have been 'redeemed by Christ'; now it is said that they alone are redeemed. Other lines of argument could be elicited from the Confession to show that it allowed for no form of universal atonement, not even the hypothetical universalism propounded on the floor of the Assembly. But the foregoing principles are sufficient to show that the particularism in terms of which the whole doctrine of salvation is constructed is not sacrificed at the point of the atonement" (Collected Writings of John Murray [Edinburgh: Banner, 1982], vol. 4, pp. 255-256).

As well as the passages from the Westminster Confession quoted by John Murray above, consider Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 59, 66-68.


III. Against Amyraut’s Views on the Salvation of the Unevangelised Heathen (Canons 17-20)

Canon 17: The call to salvation was suited to its due time (I Tim. 2:6). Since by God's will it was at one time more restricted, at another, more widespread and general, but never completely universal. For, indeed, in the Old Testament God announced his word to Jacob, his statutes and his judgments to Israel he did not do so with any other nation (Ps. 147:19-20). In the New Testament, peace being made in the blood of Christ and the inner walls of partition broken down, God so extended the limits of the preaching of the Gospel and the external call, that there is no longer any difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord is over all and is gracious to every one who calls upon him (Rom. 10:12). But not even thus is the call universal. For Christ testifies that many are called (Matt. 20:14), but not all; and when Paul and Timothy tried to go into Bithynia to preach the Gospel, the Spirit prevented them (Acts 16:7). And there have been and there are today, as experience testifies, innumerable myriads of men to whom Christ is not known even by rumour.

Canon 18: Meanwhile God has not left himself without witness (Acts 14:7) to those whom he refused to call by his Word unto salvation. For he provided to them the witness of the heavens and the stars (Deut. 4:19), and that which may be known of God, even from the works of nature and Providence, he has shown to them (Rom. 1:19), for the purpose of showing his long suffering. Yet it is not true that the works of nature and divine Providence are self-sufficient means which fulfilled the function of the external call, whereby he would reveal unto them the mystery of the good pleasure or the mercy of God in Christ. For the Apostle immediately adds: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen" (Rom. 1:20); not his hidden good pleasure in Christ, and not even to the end that thence they might learn the mystery of salvation through Christ but that they might be without excuse, because they did not correctly use the knowledge that was left to them, but when they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, neither were they thankful. Wherefore also Christ glorifies God, his Father, because he had hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and revealed them unto babes (Matt. 1:25). And as the Apostle teaches: "God has made known unto us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He has purposed in Christ" (Eph. 1:9).

Canon 19: Likewise the external call itself, which is made by the preaching of the Gospel, is on the part of God also, who earnestly and sincerely calls. For in his Word he most earnestly and truly reveals, not, indeed, his secret will respecting the salvation or destruction of each individual, but our responsibility, and what will happen to us if we do or neglect this duty. Clearly it is the will of God who calls, that they who are called come to him and not neglect so great a salvation, and so he earnestly promises eternal life to those who come to him by faith; for, as the Apostle declares, "It is a trustworthy saying: For if we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself (II Tim. 2:12-13). Neither is this call without result for those who disobey; for God always accomplishes his will, even the demonstration of duty, and following this, either the salvation of the elect who fulfil their responsibility, or the inexcusableness of the rest who neglect the duty set before them. Certainly the spiritual man in no way determined the eternal purpose of God to produce faith along with the externally offered, or written Word of God. Moreover, because God approved every truth which flows from his counsel, it is correctly said to be his will, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have everlasting life (John 6:40). Although these "all" are the elect alone, and God formed no plan of universal salvation without any selection of persons, and Christ therefore died not for everyone but only for the elect who were given to him; yet he intends this in any case to be universally true, which follows from his special and definite purpose. But that, by God's will, the elect alone believe in the external call which is universally offered, while the reprobate are hardened. This proceeds solely from the discriminating grace of God; election by the same grace to those who believe, but their own native wickedness to the reprobate who remain in sin, who after their hardened and impenitent heart build up for themselves wrath for the Day of Judgment, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5).

Canon 20: Accordingly we have no doubt that they are wrong who hold that the call to salvation is disclosed not by the preaching of the Gospel solely, but even by the works of nature and Providence without any further proclamation. They add that the call to salvation is so indefinite and universal that there is no mortal who is not, at least objectively, as they say, sufficiently called either mediately, meaning that God will provide the light of grace to those who use the light of nature correctly, or immediately, to Christ and salvation. They finally deny that the external call can be said to be serious and true, or the candour and sincerity of God be defended, without asserting the absolute universality of grace. For such doctrines are contrary to the Holy Scriptures and the experience of all ages, and manifestly confuse nature with grace and confuse the things which we can know about God with his hidden wisdom. They further confuse the light of reason with the light of divine Revelation.

Alan Clifford, the leading advocate of Amyraldianism in the British Isles today, in an appendix to his tercentenary tribute to Philip Doddridge, quotes Doddridge (whom Clifford claims as an hypothetical universalist like Amyraut) advocating the possibility of the salvation of unevangelised heathen: "It has been much disputed, whether it be possible that the Heathens should be saved. Some have absolutely denied it, upon the authority of the texts mentioned ... which universally require faith in Christ; but to this it is answered that they can only regard such to whom the gospel comes, and are capable of understanding the contents of it. The truth seems to be this, that none of the Heathens will be condemned for not believing the gospel, but they are liable to condemnation for the breach of God's natural laws: nevertheless, if there be any of them in whom there is a prevailing love to the divine being, and care in the practice of virtue [see Acts 10:1], there seems reason to believe, that for the sake of Christ, though to them unknown, they may be accepted by God: and so much the rather, as the ancient Jews, and even the apostles of Christ, during the time of our Saviour's abode on earth, seem to have had but little notion of those doctrines, which those who deny the salvability of the Heathens are most apt to imagine fundamental. Compare Rom. 2:10[-16], 26; Acts 10:34-35; Matt. 8:11-12 to which may be added I John 2:2 which Mr. R. supposes intentionally decisive on this question, as to the application of Christ's merits to all virtuous men, who may not have opportunities of hearing his name. Some also add John 1:29" (The Good Doctor [Great Britain: Charenton, 2002], p. 274). Clifford approves of Amyraut’s and Doddridge’s view, stating, "Some [unevangelised heathen] will discover that it was through [Christ] alone they were saved" (p. 274).

John Owen states the orthodox, biblical position: "... we absolutely deny that there is any saving mercy of God towards [the unevangelised heathen] revealed in the Scripture, which should give us the least intimation of their attaining everlasting happiness. For, not to consider the corruption and universal disability of nature to do anything that is good ('without Christ we can do nothing,' John 15:5), nor yet the sinfulness of their best works and actions, the 'sacrifice of the wicked being an abomination unto the LORD,' Proverbs 15:8 ('Evil trees cannot bring forth good fruit; men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles,' Matthew 7:16-17);—the word of God is plain, that 'without faith it is impossible to please God,' Hebrews 11:6; that 'he that believeth not is condemned,' Mark 16:16; that no nation or person can be blessed but in the Seed of Abraham, Genesis 12:3. And the 'blessing of Abraham' comes upon the Gentiles only 'through Jesus Christ,' Galatians 3:14. He is 'the way, the truth, and the life,' John 14:6. 'None cometh to the Father but by him.' He is the 'door,' by which those that do not enter are 'without,' with 'dogs and idolaters,' Revelation 22:15. So that 'other foundation' of blessedness 'can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,' I Corinthians 3:11. In brief, do but compare these two places of St. Paul, Romans 8:30, where he showeth that none are glorified but those that are called; and Romans 10:14-15, where he declares that all calling is instrumentally by the preaching of the word and gospel; and it will evidently appear that no salvation can be granted unto them on whom the Lord hath so far poured out his indignation as to deprive them of the knowledge of the sole means thereof, Christ Jesus. And to those that are otherwise minded, I give only this necessary caution,—Let them take heed, lest, whilst they endeavour to invent new ways to heaven for others, by so doing, they lose the true way themselves" (Works, vol. 10, pp. 112-113).

Westminster divine, John Philips (1585-1663) declared, "Gross, therefore, and absurd is that libertine opinion that any may be saved in any religion, leading an outward civil life; the Turk in his Mahometism, the Jew in his Judaism, the heathen in his Paganism. They may as well say that in the deluge a man might have been preserved out of the ark, on some tree or house top; or that a limb separated from the body, or a branch cut off from the vine may live" (The Way to Heaven, p. 46).

Bernard of Clairvaux's famous dictum bears repeating here: "Many labouring to make Plato [or any other pagan] a Christian, do prove themselves to be heathens."

William Cunningham rightly notes, "The history of theology affords abundant evidence of the tendency of the doctrine of universal atonement to distort and pervert men's views of the scheme of divine truth" (Historical Theology [Great Britain: Banner, repr. 1969], vol. 2, p. 367). He observes "the progress of error" from (hypothetical) universal atonement to the salvation of unevangelised heathen, both taught by Amyraldianism. He states, "The idea very naturally occurs to men, that, if Christ died for all the human race, then some provision must have been made for bringing within all men's reach, and making accessible to them, the privileges or opportunities which have been thus procured for them. And as a large portion of the human race are, undoubtedly, left in entire ignorance of Christ, and of all that He has done for them, some universalists have been led, not very unnaturally, to maintain the position—that men may be, and that many have been, saved through Christ, or on the ground of His atonement, who never heard of him, to whom the gospel was never made known, though Scripture surely teaches—at least in regard to adults—that their salvation is dependent upon their actually attaining to a knowledge of what Christ has done for men, and upon their being enabled to make a right use and application of the knowledge with which they are furnished" (pp. 367-368). The same unbiblical theory claims that unevangelised heathen are brought to salvation by a "universal vocation, or a universal call to men—addressed to them ... through the words of creation and providence." This, states Cunningham, is the position of the "Arminians," and, we might add, it is also that of Amyraldianism (Historical Theology, vol. 2, p. 368). This heretical view of Amyraut, Doddridge and Clifford that some unevangelised heathen are saved through a universal call in creation and providence (also called "the light of nature") is condemned in God's Word and the Reformed confessions: the Formula Consensus Helvetica (above) and the Canons of Dordt, the Westminster Confession and the Scottish Confession (below).

Canons of Dordt III/IV:4: "There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God."

Westminster Confession 10:4: "… men, not professing the Christian religion, [cannot] be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested."

John Knox and the other authors of the Scottish Confession (1560) also present the biblical position very firmly: "... we utterly abhor the blasphemy of those that affirm that men which live according to equity and justice shall be saved, what religion soever they have professed" (Article 16).


IV. Against Amyraut’s Views of Natural and Moral Ability (Canons 21-22)

Canon 21: Those who are called to salvation through the preaching of the Gospel are not able to believe or obey the call, unless they are raised up out of spiritual death by that very power that God used to command the light to shine out of darkness, and God shines into their hearts with the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4:6). For the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2:14). And Scripture demonstrates this utter inability by so many direct testimonies and under so many mosaics that scarcely in any other point is it surer. This inability may, indeed, be called moral even in so far as it pertains to a moral subject or object: but it ought to be at the same time called natural because man by nature, and so by the law of his formation in the womb, and hence from his birth, is the child of disobedience (Eph. 2:2); and has that inability that is so innate that it cannot be shaken off except by the omnipotent heart-turning grace of the Holy Spirit.

Canon 22: We hold therefore that they speak inaccurately and dangerously, who call this inability to believe moral inability, and do not say that it is natural, adding that man in whatever condition he may be placed is able to believe if he desires, and that faith in some way or other, indeed, is self-originated. The Apostle, however, clearly calls [salvation] the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).

Leydecker (1642-1721): "The learned Amyraldus did not service to the cause of the Reformation by his distinction between A PHYSICAL AND MORAL POWER OF BELIEVING IN CHRIST. He supposed the sinner to have the former, but not the latter. He held that Christ died for all men according to a decree of God, by which salvation was secured to sinners on condition of faith; which general decree, according to him, was to be considered as going before the particular decree about giving faith to the elect. When it was mentioned to him that his notion of the general decree now mentioned was absurd, as it suspended the end of Christ's death on an impossible condition, he denied that the condition was impossible. 'For,'  said he, 'though I do not, with the Arminians, deny the impotence of fallen man, or his inability to believe (I allow him to be morally impotent), yet I hold that man has still a physical or natural power of believing, as he possesses the natural faculties of the understanding and the will.' Herein Amyraldus has given a sad example of the abuse of great parts. Shall we suppose that when Christ undertook for sinners in the covenant of grace, He considered them any otherwise than as most miserable, lost, dead in sin, utterly impotent (Rom. 5:7; 8:3); or that the wisdom of God gave Christ to die for this end, that sinners might attain salvation by a natural power of believing—a power which Amyraldus confesses could never be exerted? Further, is not faith a most holy and moral act, and, as it takes place in the sinner, [a] purely supernatural act? And shall we allow that a principle which is not moral, but merely physical, can be productive of such a moral and supernatural act? Ought not an act and its principle to correspond with one another? Let the same thing be said of love which Amyraldus has said of faith, and the Pelagians will triumph who used to speak so much about a natural faculty of loving God above all things. Indeed, upon this scheme there will be no keeping out of the Pelagian opinion about the powers of pure nature, and about physical or natural faculties in man of doing what is morally good. For, in confuting that opinion, our divines still maintained that the image of God was requisite in the first man, in order to his exerting such morally good acts as those of loving and seeking true blessedness in the enjoyment of Him. But Amyraldus overthrows this doctrine, while he is led, by the distinction he makes between natural and moral power, to hold that the conception of man's rational nature necessarily includes in it a power of exerting acts morally good, such as those of desiring and endeavouring to obtain the restoration of communion with the infinitely holy and blessed God. The tendency of this scheme became more manifest when Pajonius—a disciple of Amyraldus—began to deny the necessity of the Spirit's work in the internal illumination of sinners, in order to their saving conversion. For, said Pajonius, nothing more is necessary to that end than that the understanding which has in itself a sufficiency of clear ideas (according to the language of the Cartesian philosophy then in vogue) should only be struck by the light of external revelation, as the eye is struck by the rays of light coming form a luminous object" (De Veritate Religionis Reformatae et Evangelicalae, lib. ii., cap. 6, sect. 82; quoted in George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit [Great Britain: Banner, repr. 1958], pp. 363-364).


V. Amyraldianism and Apostasy

1. Amyraldianism has been rightly identified as a compromise position.

A. A. Hodge: "Their own system was generally styled Universalismus Hypotheticus, an hypothetic or conditional universalism. They taught that there were two wills or purposes in God in respect to man’s salvation. The one will is a purpose to provide, at the cost of the sacrifice of his own Son, salvation for each and every human being without exception if they believe—a condition foreknown to be universally and certainly impossible. The other will is an absolute purpose, depending only upon his own sovereign good pleasure, to secure the certain salvation of a definite number ... This view represents God as loving the non-elect sufficiently to give them his Son to die for them, but not loving them enough to give them faith and repentance ... It represents God as willing at the same time that all men be saved and that only the elect be saved. It denies, in opposition to the Arminian, that any of God’s decrees are conditioned upon the self-determined will of the creature, and yet puts into the mouths of confessed Calvinists the very catch-words of the Arminian system, such as universal grace, the conditional will of God, universal redemption, etc. The language of Amyraldus, the ‘Marrow Men,’ Baxter, Wardlaw, Richards, and Brown is now used to cover much more serious departures from the truth. All really consistent Calvinists ought to have learned by now that the original position of the great writers and confessions of the Reformed Churches have only been confused, and neither improved, strengthened nor illustrated, by all the talk with which the Church has ... been distracted as to the ‘double will’ of God, or the ‘double reference’ of the Atonement. If men will be consistent in their adherence to these ‘Novelties,’ they must become Arminians. If they would hold consistently to the essential principles of Calvinism, they must discard the ‘Novelties’" (The Atonement [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans,1953], pp. 374-375).

Charles Hodge: "[Amyraldianism] was designed to take a middle ground between Augustinianism and Arminianism" (Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 322).

George Smeaton: "By those who were competent to take the measure of Amyraldianism—such as Rivetus, Maresius, and Spanheim—it was regarded as a subtle form of Arminianism" (The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, p. 361).

George Smeaton: "[Amyraldianism is] a revolt from the position maintained at the Synod of Dordt, under the guise of an explanation" (The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement, p. 540).

B. B. Warfield: Amyraldianism is "bad Calvinism." It "is not ... an acceptable form of Calvinism, or even a tenable form of Calvinism. For one thing, it is a logically inconsistent form of Calvinism and therefore an unstable form of Calvinism" (The Plan of Salvation, pp. 98, 96).

Roger Nicole points out a purpose of Amyraut's compromise doctrines: false ecumenism: "Amyraut intended to soften the edges of the traditional Reformed view and thus to relieve difficulties in the controversy with Roman Catholics and facilitate a reunion of Protestants in which Reformed and Lutheran could join ranks." As is necessarily the case when one sells the truth (Prov. 23:23) to build false unity, Amyraldianism "tended to weaken the unity of Reformed thought and to open the door to increasing departures from Reformed orthodoxy" ("Amyraldianism," in Sinclair B. Ferguson and David F. Wright [eds.], New Dictionary of Theology [Leicester: IVP, 1988], p. 17).

Abraham Kuyper:  Amyraldianism "was severely censured by the Reformed church in France, and by the Swiss, and by the Reformed church in our country [i.e., the Netherlands], and by the best theologians, namely, Molinaeus, Rivet, Spanheim, and Trigland" (Particular Grace [Grandville, MI; RFPA, 2001], pp. 169-170).

John Owen's exhortation against compromise and carnal unity is insightful and apposite here: "Hold fast the form of wholesome words and sound doctrine: know that there are other ways of peace and accommodation with dissenters [i.e., those in error] than by letting go the least particle of truth. When men would accommodate their own hearts to love and peace, they must not double with their souls, and accommodate the truth of the gospel to other men’s imaginations. Perhaps some will suggest great things of going a middle way in divinity, between dissenters; but what is the issue, for the most part, of such proposals? After they have, by their middle way, raised no less contentions than was before between the extremes (yea, when things before were in some good measure allayed), the accommodators themselves, through an ambitious desire to make good and defend their own expedients, are insensibly carried over to the party and extreme to whom they thought to make a condescension unto; and, by endeavouring to blanch their opinions, to make them seem probable, they are engaged to the defence of their consequences before they are aware." Owen immediately proceeds to give a most appropriate instance of this sinful, doctrinal compromise: Moise Amyraut! "Amyraldus (whom I look upon as one of the greatest wits of these days) will at present go a middle way between the [Reformed] churches of France and the Arminians. What hath been the issue? Among the churches, divisions, tumult, disorder; among the professors and ministers, revilings, evil surmisings; to the whole body of the people, scandals and offences; and in respect of himself, evidence of daily approaching nearer to the Arminian party, until, as one of them saith of him, he is not far from their kingdom of heaven" (Works, vol. 12, pp. 48-49).

2. The French Protestant Academy at Saumur (1598-1685), at which Amyraut taught (1633-1664), was the fountainhead of Amyraldianism and related errors.

Roger Nicole notes that this school was "known for its encouragement of progressive ideas and its special consideration to people of nobility or wealth" ("Amyraldianism," p. 16). Nicole continues, "In theology, the influence of John Cameron (1579-1625) was a dominant feature, even though he taught there only between 1618 and 1621. During that time, however, he managed to exercise a very great influence on three of his students, Louis Cappel (1585-1658), Josue de la Place (Placaeus, 1596-1655), and Moise Amyraut ... Each of these three was involved in controversy over teachings which tended to broaden the Reformed orthodoxy represented for instance in the Synod of Dordt" (p. 17). Of these, the views of la Place, since they deal with sin and, therefore, grace, should be mentioned here: "Placaeus promoted the theory of mediate imputation, according to which Adam's descendants were not adjudged guilty of the first sin of Adam but were born corrupt as a result of that sin and incurred God's displeasure by virtue of this corruption" (p. 17). This was rightly condemned by the French Synod of Charenton (1644-1645) and the Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675) in Canons 10-12 (cf. Rom. 5:12-19; I Cor. 15:21-22). To the false doctrines of Amyraut already discussed above, we should also add his denial of the imputation of Christ's holy life and merits to the believer (cf. Jer. 23:6; Rom. 5:17-19; I Cor. 1:30; II Cor. 5:21; Westminster Confession 7:1, 3; Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 70-73; Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. & A. 33; Formula Consensus Helvetica 15-16—quoted under "II" above). Note the logical connection between these last two heresies: Adam's guilt is not imputed to the human race (la Place) and Christ's righteousness is not imputed to His people (Amyraut). The biblical parallel between the imputation of Adam's sin and the imputation of Christ's righteousness in Romans 5:12-19 would naturally lead Salmurian theology to embrace both false doctrines (cf. B. B. Warfield, "Imputation" in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, repr. 2000], vol. 9, pp. 301-309).

Nicole also observes, "One of Amyraut's students and successors at Saumur, Claude Pajon (1625-85), carried the trend further by positing that the Spirit's work of regeneration is merely an illumination of the mind which brings about, of necessity, a change in the direction of the human will" ("Amyraldianism," p. 17). Nicole explains Claude Pajon's views (called "Pajonism") more fully. Pajon denied "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 [of] 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 Dordt [III/IV:10-12; III/IV:R:7-8], and it is not surprising that objections were soon raised against the authority of that statement of faith [especially at Saumur]" (Standing Forth [Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2002], p. 326). Pajonism's denial of irresistible grace and, therefore, total depravity too (since man cannot be totally depraved if he can be saved by resistible grace) followed upon Amyraut's compromise of two of the other five points of Calvinism: unconditional election and reprobation and limited atonement.

3. Instead of aiding in evangelism, as Amyraut argued, Amyraldianism led to further departure in the French Reformed Church.

Roger Nicole: "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 … 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" (Standing Forth, p. 326).

John Macleod: "John Cameron [the teacher of Amyraut] set the tendency in motion which in different lands has tried to mediate between the consistent scheme of the Reformed Faith and the Arminianism which was set aside by the findings of the Synod of Dordt … The issues of his mongrel compromising teaching were far reaching. The church of his adoption felt the effects of his teaching to such an extent as that the Theology of the later Huguenots was to a large extent revolutionised" (Scottish Theology, pp. 61-62).

Pierre Courthial explains why 1633 (or 1634) marks the end of what he calls " the golden age of Calvinism in France:" the compromise of unconditional predestination by Testard and (especially) Amyraut: "The year 1633 saw the publication of Eirenicon seu Synopsis doctrinae de natura et gratia by Paul Testard. This was the first work of a theologian of the Reformed churches in France to undermine, in a covert way, the faith of these churches as declared in their [French] Confession of 1559 and the Canons of Dordrecht accepted and ratified by their National Synod at Ales in 1620. Testard's work dealt with the central issue of divine predestination. The following year, 1634, Moise Amyraut (Amyraldus) published his Short Treatise on Predestination and the Principal Things Which Depend Thereon—a work that leaned even more strongly toward Arminianism. Despite the excellent warnings against the teachings of Testard and Amyraut given by Pierre du Moulin (Molinaeus) and Andre Rivet, the National Synod of Alencon, which met in 1637, applied no sanctions against them" ("The Golden Age of Calvinism in France: 1533-1633," in W. Stanford Reid [ed.], John Calvin: His Influence in the Western World [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982], p. 75).

George Smeaton states that "few will deny that [with the rise of Amyraldianism] a deep declension had begun, or hesitate to affirm that the salt was beginning to lose its savour" (The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, p. 362). In fact, Smeaton avers, Amyraldianism "was in the last degree disastrous to French Protestantism before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes [1685]" (p. 361), even "the death-blow to French Protestantism" (p. 362). Smeaton explains that through Amyraldianism, "The French Protestant Church virtually ceased to be a witness for the doctrines of grace" (p. 362). Smeaton even reckons that the Jansenists (despite their holding to the abominations of Romanism) gave a more "decided testimony to the doctrines of grace" than the Amyraldian Protestants (p. 362)! Thus contemporary theologians such as "Spanheim, Jurieu, Saurin, and others regarded [Amyraldianism] as an Arminian leaven [Gal. 5:9] which had destroyed the French Protestant Church" (p. 363).

Professor Georges Serr: Amyraut was the "the gravedigger of the French Reformed Church" (quoted by Roger Nicole in Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 54, no. 2 [Fall, 1992], p. 396).

4. Amyraldianism and other forms of hypothetical universalism have led to further departures in Reformed churches around the world.

Roger Nicole: "Amyraut thought he could establish a bridge that would make it easier for Roman Catholic people to embrace the Reformed faith. He seemed to remain oblivious to the fact that most bridges carry two-way traffic: he unwittingly made it easier for Reformed people to turn to Romanism" (Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 54, no. 2 [Fall, 1992], p. 396).

James T. Dennison, Jr.: "The Protestant 'Civil War' [the phrase is that of rationalist sceptic, Pierre Bayle] was launched in 1634 with the publication of Amyraut's Brief Traitte de la predestination et de ses principales dependences. In this work, Amyraut revealed his distinctive doctrine of hypothetical redemption. The battle lines were drawn. [Amyraldian] Saumur and Paris were aligned against Geneva [and the Swiss Reformed] and most cities of the Netherlands. For the next fifty years, the Reformed constituency was divided, with synods, books and formulae hurled into the fray" ("The Life and Career of Francis Turretin," in Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, George Musgrave Giger [trans.],  James T. Dennison, Jr. [ed.] [Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1997], vol. 3, p. 643).

Francis Turretin (1623-1687), in Calvin’s Geneva, rightly viewed Amyraldianism as "the supreme threat to orthodoxy" and the "one cardinal error" (James T. Dennison, Jr., "The Twilight of Scholasticism: Francis Turretin at the Dawn of the Enlightenment," in Protestant Scholasticism, pp. 252, 253). Turretin opposed the "Amyraldian humanization of God" (p. 253) as "the ugly head of moderatism" (p. 248). Sadly, the liberal, Salmurian or Amyraldian forces took over Geneva after Francis Turretin's death. "In Geneva, the triumph of the theology of Saumur and the surging forces which accomplished the repudiation of the Formula Consensus Helvetica in 1706 marked the end of orthodox scholastic Calvinism in the master's citadel" (p. 247). Soon "the subscription formula in Geneva" was reduced to "merely Scripture and the Geneva Catechism (1725). By mid-century, Voltaire and d'Alembert would observe that the Genevan clergy were indistinguishable from the Deists" (p. 247, n. 15).

Roger Nicole: "the influence of Saumur [i.e., the false doctrines taught by Amyraut and his fellow lecturers through their writings and many students] was felt in all the countries to which French Protestants fled after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes [1685]" ("Amyraldianism," p. 18).

D. H. Kromminga laments the corruption of Reformed doctrine in the Netherlands by the "heterodox" doctrines of Amyraldianism. "Before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes [1685] various heterodox opinions had made their appearance among the Reformed churches of France. At Saumur, professor Moses Amyraud had taught a double decree of predestination, an anterior decree determining that Christ should make atonement for sinners and that sinners should be called to salvation, and a further particular decree of the election of some and the preterition of others." Kromminga also speaks of the "pelagianising" teaching of Claude Pajon, who compromised total depravity and irresistible grace, and Joshua de la Place's false doctrine of mediate imputation. Both these men were professors at Saumur with Amyrault. To try to stop the spread of Amyraldian and Salmurian theology, "the Walloon Synod," drew up, "in 1688, some articles against Amyraud and Pajon, which all incoming ministers were required to subscribe." Despite this, "the purity of teaching" was not preserved. "These [Amyraldian] tendencies which were at work among the Huguenot refugees soon made their appearance also in the Netherlands and affected the course of scientific theology so that it began to lose its Reformed character" (The Christian Reformed Tradition [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1943], pp. 48-49).

John Macleod: "[Through the hypothetical universalism of John Cameron and his pupil Moise Amyraut] the Theology of the later Huguenots was to a large extent revolutionised. Their influence in turn told on Richard Baxter and on all the varieties of teaching that can be traced back to his type of doctrine. It affected the thinking of New England; and as a return tide on its way back over the Atlantic it determined the teaching of the English Edwardians, both Independent and Baptist. The force of the current that was thus changing the older Calvinism beat at last on the Reformed teaching of Scotland in circles other than those of the Neonomians. It found more channels than one in which to flow. New England Revivalism did its share of the work; and the influence of modern Calvinism in English Nonconformity also contributed its quota. Along with the disintegrating work of the New Light movement, which was of home [i.e., Scottish] growth and which spoke of an uneasy spirit of dissatisfaction with long accepted truth and of a restlessness that was in quest of something new, the various streams of influence that derived remotely from Cameron are responsible for the collapse of the Confessional orthodoxy which had for ages found a home in his native country" (Scottish Theology, pp. 62-63).

Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) observed that "little by little" the Reformed doctrine of particular atonement (Isa. 53; Canons of Dordt II) "had to yield to newer views" and that Amyraldianism was prominent in this and facilitated further departures. "The hypothetical universalism of Amyraut, according to which Christ died for all humans on condition of faith and repentance on their part, also found acceptance among many Presbyterians in England and Scotland. It paved the way for Grotius' theory that forgiveness is not really based upon Christ's satisfaction; rather, Christ's exemplary suffering creates the possibility of its application. This theory was embraced as scriptural and orthodox not only by Wesleyan Arminians but also by many [liberalising] Reformed theologians" (Reformed Dogmatics, John Bolt [ed.], John Vriend [trans.] [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006], vol. 3, p. 358). Later Bavinck mentions specific theologians in various countries who, under Amyraldian and other influences, departed further from the truth of the cross of Christ: "First, the doctrine of particular satisfaction [limited atonement] was weakened along the lines of Grotius and Amyraut, then it was totally rejected: in England by Daniel Whitby (against whom Jonathan Edwards took action); in America by the Edwardsean or New England Theologians: Bellamy, Hopkins, Emmons, and others; in Germany by P. Volkmann and others; and in the Netherlands by Venema" (p. 463).

Sadly, today the leaven on Amyraldianism is at work in the British Isles. At Alan Clifford’s fourth Amyraldian Association Conference in April, 2006, the concluding address exhorted the attendees to "declare to all people indiscriminately that God loves them [and] that Christ died for them" (British Church Newspaper [28 April, 2006], p. 11; based on a report supplied by one of the conference speakers). Arminianism (with its universal love of God and universal atonement) is being proclaimed as "authentic Calvinism." This is where Amyraldianism has always led and this is where it always leads. Amyraldianism, as a compromise between Calvinism and Arminianism, and with its two contradictory decrees of election (one universal and inefficacious and the other particular and efficacious) and its two contradictory decrees concerning Christ’s atonement (one universal and inefficacious and the other particular and efficacious), is unstable, and always degenerates further into Arminianism. But Amyraldianism is Arminian even in its roots for it teaches that Christ died for all head for head out of a love of God for everybody. The Canons of Dordt, which Amyraut falsely claimed to uphold, call this bringing "again out of hell the Pelagian error" (II:R:3).

It will also be noticed how similar the free offer (an alleged desire of God to save the reprobate) is to Amyraldianism (in both God loves everybody and has an inefficacious desire to save everybody) and how in refuting Amyraldianism the Formula Consensus Helvetica also opposes the free offer. Canons 6, 13 and 19 (above) certainly bear reading again in this connection, as do some of the quotations (cf. also the chapter "Amyrauldianism" in Prof. Herman Hanko's, The History of the Free Offer).  

Click here to read "A Critical Examination of the Amyraldian View of the Atonement."