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Gualther and the Reformed Doctrine of Unlimited Atonement

October 17, 2008

Sometimes engaging in the theological process is like living in a movie script. You know what I mean, you are living in some downtown somewhere in North America. People around you are disappearing. You alone find their remains here and there. You know that the latest incarnation of the werewolf has been gobbling up your friends. You try and tell the police, but they refuse to believe you. They laugh at you. But wait, it gets worse, they suspect you! They lock you up. You languish in the prison cell, scared to death and lamenting that you even went to the cops. But wait there is still more: some of the cops are actually in league with the bad guys, with the werewolf… and sitting there you just figured that out.

Now of course, if we analyze that scene for a minute we ask ourselves, “Why did he go to the cops?” The answer is that the police are the civic gate-keepers. They are the authorities that ordinary folk look up to with respect. What is more, society invests something in the police. That thing is called trust. When the police act as if they are not the police, they betray our trust. We have specific and proper expectations of the police, how they should behave, how they should treat us.

So you are sitting there in that cell. You know something which many others do not know. You even know that some of the very ones who should be helping are doing bad things. It’s something that would really tick off even the most placid and submissive citizen.

In the theological world we have something similar. Well here the analogy will break down somewhat. We have legitimate theological police appointed by congregations all over the world, and their job is to protect their flock. But then we have this sort of para-military group of theological denizens who are self-appointed thought-police. Either way, most of us would look up to both sorts, the legitimate guardians of the flock and the self-appointed vigilantes of the blogosphere.

In my experience, those guardians appointed in the real world by real people are often the more honest. They are the ones who really care about not only their congregants but also about others around them. It is the self-appointed thought police that are the most hostile, and the most ignorant (ie speaking here of agnosia). These guys will rave about doing so-called “internet apologetics,” for sure. For them, beating up on others less theologically fortunate seems to be a badge of honor. I recently spoke to one internet-apologists’ former Pastor, and his demeanor was completely different. He was completely honest. He did not agree with me theologically, but he was honest about the historical data.

So where am I going with this? Well, in our movie analogy, the hero is looking for two things, first he’s looking for the silver bullet to finally kill the werewolf. Secondly, he is looking for that final infallible, undeniable proof that werewolves exist.  He gets out of jail by hook or by crook, and his quest is to look for evidence and slay the beast. When he looks around for support, it’s not that he just gets passivity from those who should know better, he rather receives direct hostility. His evidence is denied, subverted, and perverted.

When it comes to the issue of early Reformation doctrines regarding the nature and extent of the atonement, some of us are looking for that ultimate piece of evidence, that sort of evidential silver bullet. We are looking for this because what should have counted as valid compelling evidence is dismissed by the uber-apologists, the self-appointed thought police of the blogosphere, these ones who boast the most of being “graced” by the doctrines of grace and by the love of God. For example, one recent hyper-calvinist, when confronted with material from Musculus, did not do the honest and humble thing by saying something like this: “Well I have never read him before now, and while it does look like he is saying what you are saying, I will have to investigate it further… can you help with that? And for now, though, I will hang back on accusing you of the worst kind of heresy.”

No, this person only commented that because he had no way to read Musculus, he couldnt “falsify” our claims.

We see the same mentality from our uber-apologists. While they boast about witnessing to Muslims and Atheists, they treat fellow Christians, involved in other activities (which is perfectly normal and just given the diversity of the body of Christ: 1 Cor 12:12-27) as if they had the plague. These so-called internet apologists, more often than not, living without any accountability, and often completely anonymous, are gate-keepers who are abusing the body of Christ. That is the irony, their demeanor demonstrates that instead of being true Pastors, they are wounding the flock: proper roles have been reversed.

So coming back to silver bullets. Some of us find silver bullets and try and take a shot at the ‘invincible ignorance’ of some of our internet hyper-calvinists and internet uber-calvinists.

Rudolf Gualther was Henry Bullinger’s son-in-law and chosen successor in Zurich. You can see some biographical material here. Now, let me be clear, I am not arguing that simply because he was Bullinger’s successor that Bullinger must have agreed with Gualther on this: no not saying that. I add the biographical points to establish his credentials as an “expert witness” here.

I will cite two specimen quotations from Gualther.


1) “Again, when he commends the preaching of the Gospel to his Apostles, he will first have repentance to be taught, next after which, he will have remissions of sins to be joined. Therefore Peter does not without a cause proceed in this order, that speaking of the death of Christ, he first proves his hearers to be guilty, and to be the authors thereof. And so it is necessary to have Christ’s death preached in these days, that all men might understand the Son of God died for their sins, and that they were the authors thereof. For thus it shall come to pass, that men shall learn to be sorry in their heart for their sins, and shall embrace the salvation offered them in Christ with the more fervency of faith.” Radulpe Gualthere, An Hundred, threescore and fifteen Sermons, uppon the Acts of the Apostles, trans., by Iohn Bridges, (London: 1572), 108.

2) The third reason is deduced of the dignity of the Church, which appears in this, for that God has purchased it with his blood. He attributed blood unto God by a figured called communione or property of tongues, because Jesus Christ which is God from everlasting, at a time long before appointed, became man, and redeemed the Church with the price of his blood. Therefore the church is dear unto Christ, and they are guilty of the blood of Christ, that neglect the Church, and either abolish the profit thereof themselves, or else suffer it to perish and decay. Mark how the Church belongs to no one man, but unto God, who has redeemed and purged her with his blood, and espoused her unto himself. Therefore as no man may challenge unto himself, must look that they consecrate themselves to God only, and addict not themselves to worship any creature. All so this serves for our consolation, that it is impossible, that God should neglect them, whom he redeemed with so great a price. Think that there is the like reason before God of all creatures. For as every man is created after the image of God: so are they redeemed and purchased with the blood of the Son of God. Shalt thou go unpunished, if thou slander any of them, do him wrong, violently hut him, or contumaciously disdain him, or offend him in religion, or conversation of life? Read the things written of Paul. Rom. 14. Which make much for this place, and the 8 chapter of the first to the Corinthians. Radulpe Gualthere, An Hundred, threescore and fifteen Sermons, uppon the Acts of the Apostles, trans., by Iohn Bridges, (London: 1572), 751-2.

[More of Gualther can be found here.]

There are, for sure, some possible rejoinders to
Gualther’s theology. One could say, “He doesn’t count.” To that we say, sure, he is not a big weight like Musculus or Bullinger or Luther or
Calvin. However, this proves beyond doubt that 1) this was considered an exceptable expression (and trajectory) of early Reformation theology; and 2) this predates Amyraut by many decades.

One could say, “Gualther was a deviant, an exception.” To that, we can say, at least, “Sure, but that only proves our point. His position was excepted as a legitimate minority position in early Reformation theology.” It means that Gualther was not demonized, smeared, vilified by his Christian brothers.” However, we would also add, “Gualther is exactly in line with Musculus, Luther, and Bullinger and many others.”

One could say, “But such and such later Reformed Confession or theologian denies this theology.” To that we would say, “So what? How does citing a man or confession a century or more later, disprove the historical truth that earlier Reformation theologians held to unlimited expiation and redemption? It doesn’t. In terms of proper historical investigation, citing sources from a century later is irrelevant. Such a strategy is just smoke and mirrors.”

One could object, “Just because Gualther, and other early Reformation theologians may have held to unlimited atonement and redemption, that does not make it Scripturally true!” To this we say: “We agree, but such a retort is irrelevant to the question of this doctrine’s historicity.”

Is this the silver bullet that will slay the werewolves of the blogosphere? I am convinced we will only see more disinformation, smear and evasions from the self-appointed thought-police. Will we see some honesty, some humility, some of them saying something like this, “Well perhaps I need to research this a little more….”  I doubt it; one or two might, but not those invested so heavily in hostility against the true Reformed historicity of this doctrine.


21 Comments leave one →
  1. rey permalink
    October 18, 2008 9:07 pm

    Why even worry about what the Augustinian Reformers had to say? Their only concern was really to reinvigorate the heresy of Augustinian Determinism and God-hating that had died out in the RCC already by their time. They were not Christian nor did they have the betterment of the church in view, which is why they persecuted the anabaptists (from whom all REAL reforms came) by drowning them! There is no excuse for following Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, those haters of the truth who burned as many anabaptists as they could at the stake and drowned the rest in mockery of baptism by immersion. The anabaptists truly followed Christ’s teachings, including not swearing at all, and they alone taught baptism by immersion and for believers only! Let Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli go down in history as depraved blood-thirsty partisans of irreligion, which is all they were.

  2. Flynn permalink*
    October 18, 2008 11:09 pm

    Hey Rey,

    I would encourage you to go here and hash that out.


  3. rey permalink
    October 19, 2008 1:19 pm

    Turretinfan is a bigot who will only argue with strawmen. He only posts dissenting opinion when he thinks he can easily disprove it. Of course, I don’t expect those who still “baptize” faithless infants to ever realize what evil men their great gods Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli really were. I comment only for those who love the truth, not for those who will do any and everything to defend a false doctrine like infant baptism: including calling God the author of sin, drowning true Christians, boring the tongues of dissenters through with hot irons, and such like.

  4. October 20, 2008 5:39 pm


    Can I just say…

    You sound like a very angry idiot.

    And this is coming from someone who believes in credo baptism. But, dude…chill out.

  5. Martin permalink
    October 20, 2008 5:41 pm


    Either you have a very limited view of sin, since all men are evil, or you have something against Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. It is also instructive that you think that some folk regard those three as great gods. The question then becomes why shouldn’t I regard you as a bigot just as you speak of T’fan?

  6. rey permalink
    October 20, 2008 9:32 pm

    “The question then becomes why shouldn’t I regard you as a bigot just as you speak of T’fan?”

    Because unlike Turretin-worshiper, I don’t advocate persecution of heretics. He (following his gods: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Turretin) advocates a might makes right approach, stating that if Calvinists can grab hold of the government, they should, and they should use it to exterminate all who disagree with them (even as the Magesteial ‘Reformers’ taught [following their gods, the popes]).

  7. October 21, 2008 5:34 am

    The bottom line is, Ray, you’re off topic. If you don’t care about the subject matter of the main post, then you’re welcome to go condemn the Reformers and others elsewhere. It seems that you at least care about being honest with historical sources. That’s the fundamental point of this post, i.e. historical honesty [but not at all about your historical/theological issues]. Even though we happen to agree with Gwualther’s atonement views, that’s beside the point. Whether one agrees or disagrees with him, they should be honest about what he is so plainly saying.

    We reckon that Dr. Richard Muller is at least being honest about Bullinger, Musculus, Ursinus and Zanchi, even though Muller is himself higher than they are on the extent of the atonement question. Gwualther is in the same trajectory as the above men. We applaud Muller’s scholarly diligence, and we recommend it to others, particularly those complaining about the contents of Flynn’s above post.

    With regard to these significant historical writings by Muller (click), I have now made 22 Observations (click).

  8. rey permalink
    October 21, 2008 7:22 pm

    My initial point, although I suppose I didn’t make it clear enough, was a response particularly to this paragraph: “When it comes to the issue of early Reformation doctrines regarding the nature and extent of the atonement, some of us are looking for that ultimate piece of evidence, that sort of evidential silver bullet.” When I said “Why even worry about what the Augustinian Reformers had to say?…” I meant that the doctrines of uninspired men (especially of such a character as these men) can never be a silver bullet to prove a doctrine correct. If you can show that all of them unanimously agreed on a doctrine, it doesn’t prove the doctrine true. So, rather than searching for the silver bullet quotation from them, we ought to look to the Scriptures. That’s my last two cents. Just thought I would clarify.

  9. October 22, 2008 12:00 am


    Again, you’re missing the point. The “silver bullet” is NOT to prove the doctrine correct [contra your straw man], but to prove that men like Gualther actually believed that Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind without exception. David’s point was about finding a “silver bullet” quote that thoroughly demonstrates that his historiography is correct.

    You’ve become the thing you hate, Rey. Not only have you made bigoted comments here [which you despise Turretinfan for doing], but you have also created a straw man concerning David’s point about a silver bullet.

    We all agree that the scriptures are the ultimate authority for determining what is or is not true doctrine, and to be believed. The point of David’s main post above concerns what the view of Gualther was.

  10. rey permalink
    October 22, 2008 8:51 pm

    The real purpose for trying to find the “silver bullet” quotation to show that Gualther taught xyz is to convince those who rely on Gualther rather than Scripture to believe xyz, is it not?

  11. Flynn permalink*
    October 22, 2008 9:51 pm

    hey Rey,

    Close, but not there yet. The question we are taking up is what does it mean to be Reformed. I don’t know where you are coming from, but it is a bit like this. Lets say from Arminius various sub-groups developed, all claiming to be rightful theological children of Arminius. But some of the wings are exclusivist. They insist that only their version of Arminianism is the true one. They are so sectarian that they want to exclude all other trajectories and/or wings.

    Someone from the dissenting trajectory–from the out-group–tables documentation from Arminius which clearly shows that they are within the range of Arminius’ own beliefs. These are lesser known writings. The sectarian party has a choice: it can become irrational and more sectarian, or it can say, okay, within that tradition we call Arminianism, you too are valid expressions of that movement.

    So to the Reformed tradition. We have certain sectarian Calvinists who cant even agree that within that broad movement we call “Calvinism,”or “Reformed theology,” that there were viable trajectories which are legitimate expressions of historical Calvinism theology which taught unlimited redemption and expiation alongside Predestination, election, effectual calling, and perseverance of the saints, etc. We are not saying that by citing Gualther, the doctrines he taught are therefore Biblical, but only allowable within the historical movement called Reformed theology. For his part, Turretinfan wants to say no, only his version of Calvinism is valid. But to maintain that he must become irrational in his claims, even dishonest in his treatment of the historical sources. He must engage in smear campaigns and poisoning the well strategies in order to shore up his party-line.

    The honest thing to do would to say, “I don’t agree with Gualther, he is wrong, but I concede he did teach that.” But it looks to some of us that for Turretinfan, thats a slippery slope because he is going to have to concede Bullinger, Musculus and others. But he is so invested in hatred of this position, he will never allow himself to be publically honest with the historical data. The only thing he can do is deny deny deny, and/or adduce documentation from other men–who affirm their own counter-position–or documents from subsequent generations. But to that we say, who cares about that? We are not saying that every Reformed theologian taught what Gualther taught, or that what Gualther taught is the only true expression of Calvinism (to do that would be to do the very sectarian thing Turretinfan is doing). Citing the real Turretin, or making any assertion from any confession from the next century does nothing to disprove what we have shown from Gualther. We cite Gualther to show, simply yet properly, that this theology was a valid expression of Reformed theology, of that broad movement, and of certain Reformed trajectories within that movement.

    The issue is HISTORY. Turretinfan knows this, but refuses to engage at this level, so he tries to shift (evade) the discussion to other areas of contention. His only reply to Gualther can and has been to make wild sweeping historical claims about another theology that arose in the next century, or try to shift the question to a challenge of our own personal orthodoxy. However, Tony has shown that these sweeping claims are contradicted by an “authority” whom we all would respect.

    And now we have cited THE leading expert in 16th and 17th century Calvinism who directly repudiates Turretinfan’s claims, even by way of citing the real Turretin and his colleagues like Voetius.

    So right now the contention is purely historical.

    Hope that helps,

  12. rey permalink
    October 23, 2008 9:48 pm

    I understand that Turretinfan has made himself the ‘Reformed’ pope and only he can ex cathedra define what is ‘Reformed’ and what is not. But why be so concerned with a psuedo-denominational moniker, anyway? Why not just follow the Bible and not even bother defining ‘Reformed.’ Reformed is not what a Christian is to be anyway. So, the Reformers ‘reformed’ Rome. The very word ‘Reformed’ (as opposed to demolished) shows that they left much of Rome’s heresy in tact. And they did, such as infant baptism, and originally the ever-virginity of Mary doctrine, and infant damnation, etc. etc. So much DIVISION and RANCOR is wasting on WRANGLING over the definition of a moniker that is worthless to begin with, to those who would be TRUE Christians rather than partisans of man-made half-reformed error.

  13. Flynn permalink*
    October 24, 2008 8:48 am

    Hey Rey,

    You say: I understand that Turretinfan has made himself the ‘Reformed’ pope and only he can ex cathedra define what is ‘Reformed’ and what is not. But why be so concerned with a psuedo-denominational moniker, anyway? Why not just follow the Bible and not even bother defining ‘Reformed.’ Reformed is not what a Christian is to be anyway.

    David: I will answer the first part: Why does any Christian reach out to any other Christian by way of conversation and discussion? Think about it.

    take care,

  14. rey permalink
    October 24, 2008 2:50 pm

    But you know Turretinfan “is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself” (Titus 3:11) considering that he firmly believes in Determinism and claims God is the author of sin, and when it is pointed out to him that “there can be no mediator between a ventriloquist and his dummy” the best he can answer is “I will beleive God to be nothing more than a ventriloquist and puppet-master anyway, and will still assert Jesus Christ as mediator, even though it makes no sense for there to be a mediator between a ventriloquist and his dummy since their will is one and the same and there is no, therefore, no need for mediation.”

  15. Flynn permalink*
    October 24, 2008 5:59 pm


    All that you say in your last is off-point. We here agree with “determinism.” You have an argument with Turrtinfan on that topic. Please don’t bring that topic here. The point of my post was on the question of the Reformed doctrine of unlimited expiation and redemption. The comments here should be restricted to that thread, else they will just be cluttered up to no end.

    Thanks and God Bless

  16. rey permalink
    October 24, 2008 8:12 pm

    But if Determinism is true, what good is your asking me to not “bring that topic here” if God has Pre-Determined for me to bring it here?

  17. Flynn permalink*
    October 24, 2008 9:05 pm

    Hey Rey,

    I believe you are predestined to argue this to death with Turretinfan. ;-)

    God Bless,

  18. rey permalink
    October 25, 2008 5:10 pm

    But what if I was predestined to argue it with you? You wouldn’t want me to fail to follow my programming, would you?

  19. October 26, 2008 12:31 pm


    While we affirm a kind of divine determinism [because we think it is ultimately biblical], we view it as compatible with human responsibility. Therefore, we also deem it to be your responsibility to either stick to the point of this post [as David explained it above], or go elsewhere to discuss your different topics.

    For crying out loud, I am a baptist [like Seth] and I am even entertaining the idea of giving you the “third baptism” now, in the name of Conrad Grebel, George Blaurock and Felix Manz! LOL

  20. rey permalink
    October 26, 2008 10:57 pm

    Calvinists can never be anything more than Calvinists. Call yourself Baptist all you like, but your still a baby-baptizing Augustinian Fatalist under the control of Satan.

  21. October 31, 2008 7:46 pm


    Your a retard.

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