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Amyraut and Testard and the Synod of Alancon on ‘Conditional Will,’ ‘Conditional Decree,’ and ‘Conditional Predestination’

October 20, 2008

[Note: we are now in a position to properly appreciate Amyraut and Testard’s use of the language of conditional will, decree, and predestination: as we now can document precedent use of this same language, with the same intent, in Twisse, Davenant, Polanus, Bucer, Zanchi. It is not the case that Amyraut and Testard were introducing either novel doctrines or language.]

The Synod of Alancon (1637):

19. And as for the Conditional Decree, of which mention is made in the aforesaid Treatise of Predestination, the said Sieurs Testard and Amyraud declared, that they do not, nor ever did understand any other thing, than God’s Will revealed in his Word, to give Grace and Life unto Believers; and that they called this in none other Sense a Conditional Will than that of Anthropopeia, because God promises not the Effects thereof, but upon condition of Faith and Repentance. And they added farther, That although the Propositions resulting from the Manifestation of this will be conditional, and conceived under an if, or it may be; as, if thou believest thou shalt be saved; if a Man repent of his Sins, they shall be forgiven him; yet nevertheless this doth not suppose in God an Ignorance of the Event, not an Impotency as to the Execution, nor any Inconstancy as to his Will, which is always firmly accomplished, and ever unchangeable in itself, according to the Nature of God, in which there is no Variableness nor Shadow of turning.

20. And the said Sieur Amyraud did particularly protest, as he had formerly published unto the World, that he never gave the Name of Universal or Conditional Predestination unto this Will of God than by way of Concession, and accommodating it unto the Language of the Adversary: Yet forasmuch as many are offended at this Expression of his, he offered freely to raze it out of those places, where ever it did occur, promising also to abstain from it for the future: and both he and the Sieur Testard acknowledged, that to speak truly and accurately according to the Usage of sacred Scripture, there is none other Decree of Predestination of Men unto eternal Life and Salvation, than the unchangeable Purpose of God, by which according to the most free and good Pleasure of his Will, he hath out of mere Grace chosen in Jesus Christ unto Salvation before the Foundation of the World, a certain number of Men in themselves neither better nor more worthy than others, and that he hath decreed to give them unto Jesus Christ to be saved, and that he would call and draw them effectually to Communion with him by his Word and Spirit. And they did, in consequence of this Holy Doctrine, reject their Error, who held that Faith, and the Obedience of Faith, Holiness, Godliness and Perseverance, are not the Fruits and Effects of this unchangeable Decree unto Glory, but Conditions and Causes, without which Election could not be passed; which Conditions or Causes are antecedently requisite, and foreseen as if they were already accomplished in those who were fit to be elected, contrary to what is taught us by the sacred Scriptures, Acts 13.48. and elsewhere.

21. And whereas they have made distinct Decrees in this Counsel of God, the first of which is to save all men through Jesus Christ, if they shall believe in him; the second to give Faith unto some particular Persons: they declared, that they did this upon none other account, than of accommodating it unto that Manner and Order, which the Spirit of Man observeth in his Reasonings for the Succour of his own Infirmity; they otherwise believing, that though they considered this Decree as diverse, yet it was formed in God in one and the self-same Moment, without any Succession of Thought, or Order of Priority and Posteriority. The Will of this most supreme and incomprehensible Lord, being but one only eternal Act in him; so that could we but conceive of things as they be in him from all Eternity, we should comprehend these Decrees of God by one only Act of our Understanding, as in Truth they be but one only Act of his eternal and unchangeable Will.

22. The Synod having heard these Declarations from the Sieurs Testard and Amyraud, it injoined them and all others to refrain from those terms of conditional, frustratory, or revocable Decree; and that they should rather choose the Word Will, whereby to express that Sentiment of theirs, and by which they would signify the revealed Will of God, commonly called by the Divines Voluntas Signe.

John Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata (London: Printed for T. Parkhurst and J. Robinson, 1692), 2:354-355. Thanks to Tony for typing and publishing this and its entire context.

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