Universal Grace and Amyraldianism -- By: Stephen Strehle

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 51:2 (Fall 1989)
Article: Universal Grace and Amyraldianism
Author: Stephen Strehle


Universal Grace and Amyraldianism

Stephen Strehle

In a previous article1 the doctrine of the extent of the atonement was discussed and exhibited in all its multifaceted dimensions among the Scholastic Calvinists of the Synod of Dort. The ambiguity of the final articles over the doctrine was seen to accommodate the considerable divergency which remained among the delegates of the synod, providing for a wide range of interpretation over its precise intendment.

After the adjournment of the synod, such ecumenical latitude, of course, did not prove to mollify the more rigid orthodox Calvinists in their zeal to purge all remnants of “Arminianism” from the church, and thus a second polemical struggle necessarily ensued. In fact, when the Amyraldians attempted to promulgate their concept of universal grace and unlimited atonement—concepts which they themselves considered well within the confines of Dort—”a kind of Civil War” erupted among the “Divines of France.”2 It is this second great polemical struggle of the seventeenth century and this newfangled Amyraldian system of universal grace which is the subject of our second article over the extent of the atonement.

1. John Cameron (1580-1625)

The Amyraldian system begins with John Cameron, the beloved and highly esteemed professor of Moyse Amyraut.3 It was his system of universal grace and unlimited atonement, having been presented to Amyraut at Saumur, that was so devoutly embraced and promulgated by the latter.

The system which Cameron instilled to his students came essentially from his schooling at Glasgow, and contains, as would be expected, a number of foreign, if not overtly dissonant, elements with respect to Continental Calvinism. For example, one of those elements teaches basically the same biblical humanism which was encountered in Arminianism, giving impetus to Scripture as the final epistemological authority, allowing for much creativity and innovation in disputed areas.4 Another is even more overtly dissonant, opposing Bze and his Aristotelian philosophy directly, preferring instead the philosophy of Peter Ramus.5

But the most significant element of his system pertaining to the present study concerns a dichotomy Cameron proposes in the divine will between God’s conditional and unconditional will.6 With respect to the former, Cameron suggests that God has universally resolved to re...

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