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Turretinfan and Richard Muller: Two Views in Opposition

October 21, 2008

Guest post from Tony, of Theological Mediations:

Part A: Amyraldism and Confessional Boundaries

Turretinfan said:

“…full-blown Amyraldian position: one that contradicts all the major Reformed confessions and which consequently is properly placed outside the bounds of “Reformed” theology…”

“…when Amyraldians make such arguments today, everyone should just accept them as part of the ‘Reformed’ perspective.”

“…such positions (the positions contrary to the Reformed confessions) should still be viewed Reformed.”

Turretinfan is asserting that:

1. The full-blown Amyraldian position contradicts all the major Reformed confessions.

2. Amyraldism is properly placed outside the bounds of Reformed theology.

3. Modern Amyraldians should not be accepted as part of the Reformed perspective.

4. David’s views [in addition to Amyraut’s] are contrary to all the Reformed confessions and should not be viewed as Reformed

In complete contrast, Dr. Richard Muller makes these points:

“…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, were consciously framed to stand within the confessionalism of Dort.” Development of Reformed Covenant Theology,” Mid-America Journal of Theology 17 (2006), p. 36.

Muller’s point:

1. Seventeenth-century opponents of Amyraldianism [such as Turretin] recognized that the views of Cameron and his Salmurian successors were not heresy, and that, like it or not, were consciously framed to stand within the confessionalism of Dort.

“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.”  See Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003),1:76.

Muller’s point:

2. Reformed churches did not identify a particular theologically defined group [including Saumur and Baxter] as beyong the bounds of the confessions. Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 1:76.  

“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.” PRRD, 1:76.

Muller’s point:

3. Davenant, Martinius and Alsted [i.e. Dortian confessionalists] had maintained similar lines of argument as Amyraut’s concerning the extent of Christ’s satisfaction.

“Amyraut, moreover, arguably stood in agreement with the intraconfessional adversaries like Turretin on such issues as the fundamental articles of faith.” PRRD, 1:77.

Muller’s point:

4. Amyraut is intraconfessional [like Turretin], and stood in agreement with Turretin on the issues of the fundamental articles of the faith. 

“Whereas, therefore, some distinction can be made between various lines of development within Reformed orthodoxy, such as between the Swiss orthodoxy of the line of Turretin and Heidegger and the Academy of Saumur, between the northern German Reformed of Bremen or the Herborn Academy and the rather different approach of Franecker theologians in the tradition of Ames, between the Cocceian or federalist line and the Voetian approach, between the British Reformed theology of Owen and that of Baxter, or between the British variety of Reformed theology in general and the several types of Reformed teaching found on the continent, there is no justification for identifying any one of these strains of Reformed thought as outside the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy…” PRRD, 1:79-80.

Muller’s points:

5. Although some distinctions can be made between the line of Swiss orthodoxy [found in Turretin and Heidegger] from the line of the Academy of Saumur, they are both various lines of development within Reformed orthodoxy.

6. There is no justification for identifying the Saumur strain of Reformed thought [or the Bremen theology, the British variety of Reformed thought or that of Baxter] as being outside the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy. 

“Voetius and Cocceius obliged the same confessions—and Voetius could identify several lines of Reformed thought on, for example, the work of Christ, including that of Crocius and the Saumur theologians. He disagreed with these thinkers but did not set them outside of the Reformed Confessions.” PRRD, 1:80.

Muller’s point:

7. Voetius did not set the Saumur theologians outside of the Reformed Confessions. 

“Turretin, similarly, indicates his disagreement with the Saumur theologians on various issues, but consistently identifies them as Reformed and as “our ministers.” PRRD, 1:80.

Muller’s point:

8. Turretin himself consistently identifies the Saumur theologians as Reformed and as “our ministers.”  

“Owen, moreover, thought highly of Cameron and Amyraut on such issues as the divine justice and the doctrine of the Trinity—at the same time that he abhorred elements of the teaching of Twisse and Rutherford, both of whom stood closer to him than to the Salmurians on the issues addressed in the Formula consensus Helvetica. All of these branches of the Reformed tradition stood within the boundaries established by the major national confessions and catechisms of the Reformed churches.” PRRD, 1:80.

Muller’s point:

9. The Salmurians are a branch of the Reformed tradition standing within the boundaries established by the major national confessions and catechisms of the Reformed churches.  

All of Muller’s 9 points above completely contradict the 4 assertions of Turretinfan.  

Part B: Redemption and the WCF

Turretinfan also says:

“…universal redemption, contrary to the WCF…”

Turretinfan’s point:

1. All versions of universal redemption [even the views of Davenant, Calamy, Baxter and Amyraut] are contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith.  

In complete contrast, Dr. Richard Muller makes these 3 points:

“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. 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.” PRRD, 1:76-77.

Muller’s points:

1. The Westminster Confession was in fact written with this [Baxter, Amyraut, Davenant, Martinius and Alsted] diversity [on the extent of the satisfaction] in view.

2. The WCF confessionally encompassed the varient Reformed views on the nature of the limitation of Christ’s satisfaction to the elect, just as it was inclusive of the infra- and supralapsarian views.

“Owen and Baxter acknowledged each other’s theologies as belonging to the same confessional tradition.” PRRD, 1:80.

Muller’s point:  

3. Owen and Baxter [the latter being a universal redemptionist of sorts] acknowledged each other’s theologies as belonging to the same confessional tradition.  

Yet again, we see Muller’s 3 points above contradicting Turretinfan’s 1 point.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2008 12:31 pm

    That is a great post. Wonder what will be said now about this? Maybe that Richard Muller is now a moron? Who knows.

  2. Flynn permalink*
    October 22, 2008 2:33 pm

    Hey Seth,

    Perhaps one could say that Muller has “decontextualized” the entire 16th and 17th centuries. :-)

    Also, like you, I am wondering what will be said in response to Muller.

    David

  3. Martin permalink
    October 24, 2008 6:52 pm

    Unfortunately, even when confronted with incontrovertable arguments, the sinful human nature can look for ways to avoid (what may be subconsciously perceived to be) losing face. We all constantly look for ways to ‘earn’ our way, trusting in various functional ‘lords’ along the way instead of simply resting in Christ’s perfect record. As Calvin said, we’re like idol factories. The hardest cases to detect are those that are wrapped in something which is seen to be glorifying God. Just as one might jump to their own defence when falsely accused not realising that functionally, they have built a sense of self-worth based on their own record rather than resting in Christ, so some can let their doctrine become more important than their Lord, deriving their peace from what they believe rather than from Him. Thus an attack on what they believe is internalised as an attack on them personally and, sadly, the need to defend or to win then subdues any desire to demonstrate a Christ-like spirit.

    One thing is clear for those who find themselves struggling to believe what Muller has said: the humble thing to do would be to study more and write less. Sadly, though, I half-expect someone to now say we’re taking Muller out-of-context or some such argument.

    Martin

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