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Calvin and Calvinism

An Elenchus in behalf of Classic & Moderate Calvinism

This site is dedicated to sustaining an elenchus for Classic and Moderate Calvinism. Specifically, this blog is primarily focused on documenting the original expressions of moderate Reformation soteriology from the 16th century, the 17th century and beyond.

For critical examples of these original moderate Calvinist teachings, see Moderated Forms of “Calvinism” Documented Thus Far.

How to use this site?

A Main Index page has been created to facilitate searching this site. Click on the index, and use this index to find information on the subjects, Scripture verses, or names you are interested in. It is recommended that readers completely bypass the “categories” because for the most part they are unhelpful for searching and research.

If you wish to use the standard search facility for a phrase, I recommend that you enclose the search phrase within inverted quotation marks or commas. This will reduce the number of non-relevant hits.

What this site is about?

Sir, you know there are two sorts of such as oppose Arminianism. One that is the high sort, and the other the moderate sort that are for the middle way in these Controversies, and I confess myself one who have wrote several pieces, so called. We that are of this sort, do hold Election to be of particular persons (not the choosing Believers to be saved with the Arminian and Lutherans, but the choosing Persons to believe): But Redemption we hold to be Universal.

John Humfrey, Peace at Peace at Pinners-Hall With’d and Attempted in A Pacifick Paper Touching The Universality of Redemption, the Conditionality of the Covenant of Grace, and our Freedom from the Law of Works (London: Printed and be Sold by Randal Taylor near Amen-Corner, 1692), 2-3.

It is hoped that visitors read and study further the writings of the men published at this site.  For example:

But (which is the ground of all comfort) it is given to every man, there is not a man excepted; for which we have the sure word of God, which will not fail. When you have the Charter of a King confirmed, you reckon it a matter of great moment: What is it then, when you have the Charter of God himself? which you shall evidently see in those two places, Mark 16:15, “Go and preach the Gospel to every creature under Heaven”: What is that? Go and tell every man without exception, that there is good news for him, Christ is dead for him, and if he will take him, and accept his righteousness, he shall have it; restraint is not, but go and tell every man under Heaven. The other Text is, Rev [22:17]. “Whosoever will, let him come and take the waters of life freely.” There is a quicunque vult, whosoever will come, (none excepted) may have life, and it shall cost him nothing. Many other places of Scripture there be, to prove the generality of the offer: and having a sure Word for it, consider it.

John Preston, The Breast-Plate of faith and Love, (London: Printed by George Purstow, and are to be sold in the Companie of the Stationers, 1651), 8.

Jonathan Moore has argued well that for John Preston (the source the Marrow of Modern Divinity cites), the phrase “Christ is dead for you” denoted “Christ died for you,” and thus both Thomas Boston and David Lachman, and others, have misunderstood both John Preston and the author of the Marrow when they assumed that the phrase ‘Christ is dead for you,’ referred to the simple idea of the intrinsic sufficiency of Christ’s death, abstracted from any divine intentionality; see, J.D. Moore, “Calvin Versus The Calvinists? The Case of John Preston (1587-1628),” Reformation & Renaissance Review, 6 (2004): 327-348.

“Let us not judge ourselves by a general love. As there is a general love of God to man, a general love of Christ to mankind in dying, and giving a conditional grant of salvation upon faith and repentance, and a particular love to the soul of a believer, so likewise in man there is a general assent, and a particular serious assent to the truth of God, and accordingly a general love upon the apprehensions of what Christ hath done in general. There is a common love to God, which may be so called, because the benefits enjoyed by men are owned as coming from that fountain; a love arising from the apprehensions which men commonly have of the goodness of God in himself, and a common love wrought in them to God, as to other things that are good. Again, men may have a false faith, and a false apprehension of pardon of sin, when indeed no such pardon is granted to them; so they may have proportionably a false love upon such an ungrounded belief.”

Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse of the Subjects of the Lord’s Supper” in Works, 4:464.

Stephen Charnock was an English Puritan of the second half of the 17th century.  He was clearly a classic and moderate Calvinist with explicit leanings or sympathies to Amyraut.

“Also they declare by the way, whom he has redeemed: that is to wit, men of all tribes, &c. In which rehearsal he does imitate Daniel in the 7. chapt. and signifies an universality, for the Lord has died for all: but that all are not made partakers of this redemption, it is through their own fault. For the Lord excludes no man, but him only which through his own unbelief, and misbelief excludes himself.”

Henry Bullinger, A Hvndred Sermons Vpon the Apocalipse of Iesu Christ. (London: Printed by Iohn Daye, Dwellyng ouer Aldersgate, 1573), Rev 5:9, pp., 79-80.

Bullinger was the successor to Zwingli, after the latter’s untimely death.  What is interesting is that in this quotation from Bullinger, from his commentary on Revelation, he reflects both Thomas Aquinas and David Pareaus’ exegesis on this passage, even though he uses different terms. There are good warranted grounds in assuming that before him, Bullinger would have had Aquinas’ commentary on the same. This is certainly true of Paræus.  Bullinger wrote the famous Second Helvetic Confession, which is still in use today in many eastern European Reformed churches.

M. [Musculus] Moreover it is the office of a Mediator not only to pray but also to offer. And he offered himself upon the Cross for all men. For (as says Paul) Christ died for all men. Finally Saint John says that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. How then says he that he prays not for the world seeing he died for all men, and was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world? C. [Calvin] this may be briefly answered, that these prayers which seem to be made for all men are notwithstanding restrained to the Elect of God.

We ought to wish this and that man be saved and so to comprehend all mankind because yet we cannot distinguish the Elect from the Reprobate yet notwithstanding we pray withal for the coming of God’s kingdom, wishing that he would destroy his enemies.

This is even as much as to pray for the salvation of all men whom we know to be created after the Image of GOD, and which are of the same nature we are of, and do leave their destruction to Judgment of GOD whom he knows to be reprobate. There was another certain special cause of this prayer, which ought not to be drawn into example. For Christ’s prayer proceeded not only from the bare sense of faith and love, but also from the feeling of his Father’s secret Judgments which are hidden from us, so long as we walk through faith.

Augustine Marlorate, A Catholike and Ecclesiasticall exposition of the holy Gospel after S. Iohn, trans., Thomas Timme (Imprinted at London by Thomas Marshe, Anno Domini, 1575), John 17:9; p., 560.

Marlorate was a French Reformer who was martyred for his faith. His commentaries on the New Testament are windows into the wider Reformed commentarial picture, as he sought to reproduce Reformation theology, as an apologetic for the Reformed faith. His goal was to demonstrate the continuity of thought between the traditional Augustinian church and the Reformers.  Here he cites Musculus as asserting that while Christ died for for all, he does not pray for all.

And now there is another reason we must extend this teaching a bit further. It is, as I have already said, that, seeing that men are created in the image of God and that their souls have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we must try in every way available to us to draw them to the knowledge of the gospel.

John Calvin, Sermons on Acts 1-7, Sermon 41, Acts 7:51, p., 593.

Calvin clearly held that unbelievers, along with known apostates, were redeemed by the blood of Christ. What is more, Marlorate, a contemporary of Calvin, confirms this reading of Calvin.

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 hurt 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.

Gualthere, sometimes spelt Gualther, was both Zwingli’s son-in-law and successor to Bullinger after his death.

Assumptions and Purpose Statements

The author of this site subscribes to the Second Helvetic Confession, as well as to the Three Forms of Unity, that is, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism (as explained by Ursinus and Paraeus), and the Synod of Dort. This author would also consider himself a ‘system’ subscriptionist to the WCF. If one should believe that classic and moderate Calvinism is precluded by Dort and the WCF, then I would encourage the reader to peruse Richard Muller’s comments to the contrary.

The policy here is to include multiple quotations and citations from the same author on the same topic in one post or file. When this file is ‘updated’ a comment will be included advertising the update. Readers should occasionally scan the ‘recent comments’ box to keep abreast of these updates.

The intent of this site is to document various theological trajectories and streams of thought within the broad Reformed movement, especially of the 16th and 17th centuries. While at times some commentary is supplied, the aim here is not to so much as set out an integrative interpretative analysis, but to lay out the primary sources as raw data, as it were, which I and this site’s readers may use for their own research and interpretive analysis.

After this, the aim here is to present: 1), a positive self-attesting body of primary source information which responds to the claims of modern hypercalvinist historiography; 2) to lay out, again by way of primary source information, the classic-moderate Augustinian and Reformed position (of which, varieties of hypothetical universalism are a sub-set) on the nature and extent of the satisfaction of Christ; and 3), to map out the broader Reformed directions regarding the doctrines of God.

Regarding 1),  modern hypercalvinist historiography denies that the doctrines of general love (and cognate doctrines), and/or the well-meant offer, and/or that God wills (i.e., desires) the salvation of all men by will revealed were actually constituent elements of  standard Augustinian and Reformed orthodoxy.  Regarding 2) the best exponents of the classic-moderate Reformed position on the nature and extent of the satisfaction can be found in the writings of such men as Calvin, Bullinger, Musculus, Ursinus, Kimedoncius, and Paraeus, among others. Readers should also be familiar with Muller’s comments regarding early forms of non-Amyraldian hypothetical universalism.

While it is granted that the very selection and organization of the data presupposes some level of interpretation on my part, nonetheless, I believe enough of the original context, the quality and the quantity of material published here should adequately respond to challenges of interpretive bias, or any claims that I am misrepresenting Reformed theology in general, or any given author in particular. What is more, while it is easy to throw out cheap shots and accusations that I have taken some, even most of the material published here, out of context, if any quotation posted here can reasonably be shown to be out of context, I will readily remove the quotation, or supply reasoned qualifications that delimit the intent of the quotation thereby responding to such claims and challenges. I also welcome corrections regarding typos or citation errors, or anything of this nature. Please email me or post a comment to that end.

The reader should keep in mind that not every author cited at this site held to classic and moderate Calvinism. Many are here cited because on given topics they have tabled some of the best and most helpful comments which either agree with, or are agreeable to, classic and moderate Calvinism. Further, one should not assume that we agree with every comment of every author. Some material is published here for its historical value, not necessarily its theological value simply considered.

As a caution, readers should not come to the wrong conclusion that this site somehow denies the other standard doctrines of  predestination, providence, election, depravity, unconditional election, and perseverance of the saints.  All these doctrines are affirmed by the author this site.

Participation Rules

Discussion is welcome. However, all comments are held in moderated mode until approved. No abuse will be tolerated. Emoting, insults, rants, denunciations, and so forth, will be deleted. Commenters may disagree with us, but they may not engage in abuse or childish behavior. All comments must be focused on advancing the conversation, and thereby increasing our historical understanding. Comments should focus on being on topic, academic, descriptive, informative or interrogative, not polemical. All polemical conversation will be held at the C&C Yahoo List or in the Theology Online comments sections.

Acknowledgments

I want to thank friends, co-workers in this research and support. Special credit to Tony over at Theological Meditations for supplying me with a lot of primary resources and for allowing me to steal a lot of his research findings. Thanks to those who help with the managing of this site, Josh Follansbee and Jim Beale. Thanks to all those who have linked to this site and continue to do so, and to the readers.

And oddly enough, thanks to all our detractors and traducers who have forced us to think more deeply, more clearly, and to dig ever more deeper into history, theology, logic, and exegesis. But even more importantly, critics have forced us to be think more Christianly and to act more Christianly, especially in the way we respond to opponents.

Contacting Me

To contact me, David W. Ponter, email:  flynn000  [at] comcast [dot] net   (no spaces)   You can also find me “David Ponter” on Facebook.  [But please, let’s behave like adults, so no abuse.]

©

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2011 8:49 pm

    Thank you so much for this site!!! I have been struggling with the doctrine of Limited Atonement, not because I think man deserves salvation, nor because I believe God is in any way obligated to grant it. If Jesus never died for a single soul, God would be Just in sending all to Hell. But He has chosen, by His perfect and merciful plan to die for sinners, and in so doing is most glorified!

    I have been agonizing over this doctrine for the past year, though my struggle has been (since I have believed Limited Atonement and Double Predestination) “If God didn’t die for non-elect and created them for Hell, how can I believe he loved them?”

    Finding no answers to this question that fully satisfied me, I have begun more recently to realize that my struggle may lie with these other doctrines. This site is really helpful and encouraging to me as I study and learn more about this. I truly appreciate it! I tried to add you on facebook but couldn’t find you on there. Anyways, thanks again and may God bless you.

  2. April 13, 2011 9:51 pm

    Hey Charlene,

    Thanks for the kinds words. This site was the original site for my blog. However later we moved here: Calvin and Calvinism. You will find a lot more information there. Use the indexes (links located at the top of the page).

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you have someone you are debating with or conversing with, feel free to invite them to discuss any of the points or quotations in the comments.

    Thanks,
    David

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