07 February, 2017


In my protest I levelled the charge of Amyraldianism against the teaching of a conditional promise of the gospel. Amyraldianism is an insidious heresy that was condemned by the Reformed churches in the seventeenth century. In the first point of their response, the RWC disputes my charge. I stand by it.

The RWC’s characterization of Amyraldianism as a teaching that has to do only with the extent of the atonement is wrong. It is true that a universal reference of the atonement was the centre of Amyraut’s heresy but he did not concern himself just with the question of the extent of the atonement. Amyraut developed “hypothetical universalism” as an aberrant theology. Amyraut develops his hypothetical universalism in his Brief Treatise, from which we learn that it involved the following elements: a universal, conditional salvific will of God; a universal, conditional reference of the atonement; and a general, conditional promise of salvation to all men. That such is indeed the teaching of Amyraut ought to be unmistakably clear to anyone who takes the time to read his work.

At the beginning of his seventh chapter, he writes,

Since the misery of men is equal and universal and since the desire that God has had of delivering them by such a great Redeemer proceeds from the compassion which he has for them as his creatures that have fallen into such a great ruin and since they are equally his creatures, the grace of redemption which he has procured and offered to them ought to be equal and universal, provided that they are also found to be equally disposed to receive it.8

Here we have the three elements listed above: God desires the salvation of all men; he has procured the redemption of all; and he offers redemption to all on condition they are willing to receive it.

Amyraut goes on to elaborate upon the blessings procured by Christ’s redemption for all men, concluding with these words: “But all of this depends upon the condition, that they do not show themselves unworthy.”9 What Amyraut means by condition becomes clear a little later when he says:

It is therefore necessary, before this Redeemer to whom has been committed the charge of accomplishing our salvation, exercises the power of his Spirit in our regeneration and glorification and makes us feel the effect of his communion in these things, that men accept him and come to be united with him. And this is what he himself calls, ‘to come to him, to look upon him and to believe in him’ … It is that which the apostles calls in so many places ‘faith.’10

This is the idea of condition embodied in the free offer of the gospel as taught by the RWC. It is condition in an absolute sense as something on which God’s offer of salvation is suspended. As Amyraut says, “… before this Redeemer … exercises the power of his Spirit in our regeneration … and makes us feel the effect of his communion in these things.” Before Christ can exercise His power in us, we must do something, namely, fulfill the condition of faith. This makes faith a condition to salvation and not a part of salvation. And that is exactly the position of the RPC of Ireland resulting from the enactments of their 1996 Synod, notwithstanding the evasions of the RWC in Point 1(c) of their response.

Proceeding with his development of a universal grace of God which offers salvation to all men on condition of faith, Amyraut says,

But if you consider the condition which he [i.e., God] has necessarily established—to believe in his Son—you will find that while this compassion of giving men a Redeemer proceeds from a marvellous love toward the human race, nevertheless this love does not exceed this limit—to give salvation to men, provided that they do not refuse it. Consequently these words, ‘God desires the salvation of all men’ (I Timothy 2:4) receive this necessary limitation, ‘providing that they believe.’ If they do not believe, he does not desire it. This will to make the grace of salvation universal and common to all men is in this way conditional, that without the accomplishing of the condition, it is entirely ineffectual.11

The conditional scheme of salvation outlined in the above quotations from Amyraut is embodied in the Reformed Presbyterian teaching of the free offer of the gospel. Both schemes contain a will or desire of God for the salvation of all men (or at least of all who hear the gospel) and a general, conditional promise of salvation to all men, in which faith is the condition. The only difference between the two schemes is that Amyraut roots all of this in a universal atonement of Christ, whereas the Reformed Presbyterians want to maintain a limited extent of the atonement. Whereas Amyraut teaches that the offer of salvation to all men was procured by a redemption for all, the Reformed Presbyterians would have us believe that God makes a sincere offer of salvation to many men for whom Christ procured no redemption. To those who believe that such an offer of salvation is sincere when it is made to many for whom no salvation has been procured requires, I would suggest a redefinition of the word sincere.


8. Moses Amyraut (1596-1664), Brief Treatise on Predestination and its Dependent Principles; translated with an introduction by Richard Lum; 1985, unpublished thesis, p. 38.

9. Ibid., p. 41.

10. Ibid., p. 42.

11. Ibid., p. 43.  

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