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Muller on Amyraut

September 20, 2007

1) On the one hand, the hypothetical universalism of the prior decree is juxtaposed with the particularity of the absolute covenant with the elect, emphasizing the full sufficiency of Christ’s satisfaction but adumbrating its limited efficacy; on the other hand, the hypothetical universalism of the covenant is juxtaposed with the particularity of the subsequent decree, emphasizing the universality of the call of the gospel but also indicating the divine purpose underlying limited human response.

This pattern has major implications for understanding the Salmurian soteriology. It indicates a covenantal or federal continuity with Reformed predestinarianism that has been left unexamined in discussions of hypothetical universalism. Against Moltmann’s assessment, it offers an element of the Salmurian theology that presses it away from rather than toward Arminianism; and against Armstrong’s thesis, it demonstrates the point, recognized even by seventeenth-century opponents of Amyraldianism like Francis Turretin, namely, that views of Cameron and his Salmurian successors were not heresy and, like it or not, where consciously framed to stand within the confessionalism of Dort. In the specific case of Cameron’s covenantal thought, it ought to be understood not as a protest against various developments in Reformed theology but rather as an integral part of the rather fluid and variegated history of early Reformed covenantal thought.

Richard Muller, “Divine Covenanters, Absolute and Conditional: John Cameron and the Early Orthodox Development of Reformed Covenant Theology,” MJT 17 (2006), 36-37.

2) “There were also bitter battles among the Reformed – over Cocceian theology, over the espousal of Cartesian principles, and over the various teachings of the Academy of Saumur, over the soteriology of Richard Baxter, and over various responses to the Socinian denial of an essential or ad intra divine attribute of punitive justice. On none of these issues, however, did the Reformed churches rupture into separate confessional bodies or identify a particular theologically defined group as beyond the bounds of the confessions, as had been the case at the Synod of Dort. Amyraut was, after all, exonerated by several national synods in France, and the debate over his “hypothetical universalism” did not lead to the charge of heterodoxy against others, like Davenant, Martinius, and Alsted, who had, both at Dort and afterward, maintained similar lines of argument concerning the extent of Christ’s satisfaction.104 The Westminster Confession was in fact written with this diversity in view, encompassing confessionally the variant Reformed views on the nature of the limitation of Christ’s satisfaction to the elect, just as it was written to be inclusive of the infra- and the supralapsarian views on predestination.105 Amyraut, moreover, arguably stood in agreement with the intraconfessional adversaries like Turretin on such issues as the fundamental articles of faith.106

Even when it was censured in the Formula Consensus Helvetica, the Salmurian theology was not identified as a heresy but as a problematic teaching that troubled the confessional orthodoxy of the church: the preface to the Formula specifically identifies the faculty of Saumur as “respected foreign brethren,” who stand on the same “foundation of faith” but whose recent teachings have become a matter of grave dispute. The Formula consciously refrained from any reference to Cocceian theology, despite the desire of a few theologians to censure this variety of Reformed thought as well.107 Nor, indeed, did the adoption of a modified Cartesian philosophy by thinkers like Heidanus, Burman, or Tronchin take them beyond the pale of orthodoxy. This is not to diminish the controversies or to claim that Cocceian federalism, the Salmurian theology, and the rise of Cartesian tendencies among the Reformed did not place enormous strains on orthodoxy – nor does it ignore the fact that the critical techniques of Cappel and the adoption of Cartesian principles by various Reformed thinkers pointed toward the beginning of a new era in which confessional orthodoxy would fade.”

Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1:76-77.

            104Cf., e.g., John Davenant, A Dissertation on the Death of Christ, as to the Extent of its Benefits, trans., Josiah Allport (London: Hamilton, Adams and Co., 1832); also note Davenant’s On the Controversy among the French Divines of the Reformed Church, concerning the Gracious and Saving Will of God toward Men, in ibid., pp. 561-569, where Davenant indicates his differences with Cameron.

            105 See Benjamin B. Warfield, The Westminster Assembly and its Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), p. 56.

            106Moyse Amyraut, De mysterio trinitatis, deque vocibus ac Phrasibus quibus tam Scriptura quam apud Patres explicatur, Dissertatio, septem partibus absoluta (Saumur: Isaac Desbordes, 1661), pars I (pp.3-5); see below, 9.1 (A.2; B.2) and see the description of the treatise in PRRD IV, 2.2 (D.2). Also note Amyraut, A Treatise Concerning Religions, in Refutation of the Opinion which accounts all Indifferent. Wherein is also evinc’d the Necessity of a particular Revelation and the Verity and preeminence of the Christian Religion (London: M. Simons, 1660).

            107Formula Consensus Helvetica, praefatio, in Niemeyer, Collectio confessionum, II, p. 730. Also see Martin I. Klauber, “The Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675): An Introduction and Translation,” in Trinity Journal, 11 (Spring 1990), pp. 103-123 (a useful history which, unfortunately omits the preface of the Formula from its translation); and note the remarks of Schaff in Creeds of Christendom, I, p. 486.

David: Credit to Marty and the traffic beggar (typo notwithstanding;-). 

Hey Marty, I like Muller’s overall response to Cameron, it is interesting. He is right about the complex and diverse covenantal theologies operating in early Reformed thought. What he is doing is deflecting the force of Armstrong, et al, by reintegrating Cameron and Amyraut back into the mainstream.  This works on the Covenant, but I am not sure it works on the expiation issue.  It is clear that both men adopted the later Federal categories, fusing them into earlier expiation categories. But its those expiation categories that are the problem for the later Orthodox. Its true that Cameron and Amyraut were operating within the structures of Dort too, even tho Amyraut’s opponents (Spanheim, Du Moulin, and the Revet bothers, et al), were convinced otherwise; even tho at every church court, they were vindicated of all charges. For sure, in England, this would have been totally true, as within English Calvinism, there existed side-by-side, all the categories. But among the Continental orthodox, I think that fluidity and diversity was lost, or being lost, post 1640s. I love the “like it or not…” :-)

The other thing I am concerned about is Muller in this article seems to be downplaying the non-existence of a pre-lapsarian covenant in early Reformed thought. The Noaic covenant is hardly comparable to the works-contractual arrangement posited between God and Adam. But overall the article is forward movement in our collective understanding.


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