30 October, 2016


The subject of this essay concerns the inroads made by the doctrine of universal Divine benevolence in respect to the plan of redemption in Presbyterian Churches throughout the English speaking world and in Reformed Churches generally. It is expressed in a system of doctrine known as modified Calvinism, which in its latest form is qualified as being modern; that is, modern modified Calvinism.

The essay has as its immediate background a controversy which has existed between this Church and the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia (known also as Free Church) since 1963. A closer history of the matter is given in the Vindication published by our Presbytery on the 12th February 1965. From the outset this controversy has concerned the following two forms of modified Calvinism, which are inseparable in respect to their underlying principles:

1. The doctrine of the book of The Marrow of Modern Divinity as explained hereafter under the heading, "A History of Modified Calvinism."

2. That in the free offer of the gospel, God desires the salvation of all men, even the reprobate, as proposed by the Professors Murray and Stonehouse in their booklet, The Free Offer of the Gospel.

Both are condemned in our Church: the first, because the book of The Marrow was condemned by the 1720 and 1722 Acts of the Assembly of the Church of Scotland which are embraced by virtue of the constitution of our Church, and the second, because its series of inherent ambiguities and contradictions are contrary to the principle of interpretation of Scripture.

The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia (Free Church) at its 1971 Synod published a paper in justification of the doctrine identified in this essay as modern modified Calvinism, and has thereby made it an officially received doctrine in that Church.

While the basic principles of modified Calvinism, old and modern, are explained in this essay, this treatment is not claimed to be an exhaustive or an exclusive one. It is acknowledged that a controversy of similar nature preceded this one, under the heading of “common grace” within the Christian Reformed Church in the United States. That controversy lead to the establishment in 1924 of the Protestant Reformed Churches in that country.

Modern modified Calvinism is identified herein as a system of doctrine, rather than as an intrusion of the principles of Arminianism in the Reformed Churches. Like Arminianism, it is a system of doctrine in its own right. Both are forms of doctrine which derive from the principle of self-salvation (autosoterism) and universalism. Autosoterism, which assumes that man has ability in total or in part to save himself, in the history of doctrine, goes hand in hand with the universalism that God loves all men, even the reprobate, and desires to save them. In the discussion of this essay, modified Calvinism is not treated as a controversy within the Calvinistic system. Rather the controversy is one between two different and opposing systems of theology. For this reason the essay is presented under the heading, “Universalism and the Reformed Churches: A Defense of Calvin’s Calvinism.”

This essay, therefore, has four basic purposes, as follows:

1. To trace the development of modified Calvinism as it was found in the Schools of Davenant and Amyraut from the early part of the seventeenth century to its present modern modified form.

2. To demonstrate that modern modified Calvinism is a system which is based on a concept of the nature of God other than that which belongs to Calvin’s Calvinism, and is completely destructive of his system, which has been the bulwark of the Reformed Churches, the foundation of their Confessional Standards, and the source of their dynamic for over four hundred years.

3. To show that modern modified Calvinism, when brought into a Reformed Church constitutes an addition to her doctrinal standards and the principles of the Word of God.

4. To set forth the consequences of modern modified Calvinism in the doctrine of the Church and the society in which we live.

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