08 November, 2016


Chapter Five

A Comparison of the Views of Davenant and Amyraut


As observed at the outset, the teachings of Davenant have been equated with those of Amyraut. Having outlined the essential teachings of both men as regards the nature and extent of the atonement, it remains to attempt some comparison of the two. The question which needs to be addressed is whether the positions propounded by these men are essentially the same, or are there significant differences?

There is no doubt that their views exhibit significant similarities. Those similarities include:

(a) that God has a general intention or desire to save all men, on condition that they believe in Jesus Christ;

(b) that the basis of that desire is the love of God for all men;

(c) that God has a twofold will: a conditional or general will that desires the salvation of all men, and an unconditional or special will pertaining to the elect alone;

(d) that the death of Christ upon the cross was universally applicable to all men for salvation;

(e) that God has bestowed His grace upon the elect to enable them to believe and to be saved and that this is of His sovereign good pleasure;

(f) that the benefits of the atonement were not actually communicated to every individual, thereby securing salvation for all men;

(g) that God denies the means of faith to the non-elect by virtue of His good pleasure.

Clearly, the similarities are substantial, but there are also some distinct differences.

Amyraut taught, as did Davenant, that Christ died for all, on condition of faith. However, man was incapable of appropriating that faith for himself. This dilemma was resolved by Amyraut, by contending that God by another decree purposed to give the requisite faith to a select number, namely the elect. Consequently, the atoning work of Christ on the cross was divorced from its application. Amyraut interposed the condition of faith between Christ’s atoning work and salvation. Without faith being given to the elect, Christ’s atonement on the cross had no application.

This feature of Amyraut's system distinguishes it to some extent from the position of Davenant. Davenant contended that Christ died for the elect according to the love and intention of God that He might bestow salvation upon His elect. In his understanding salvation, faith, and perseverance are given to the elect by and on account of the merit and intercession of Christ. In other words, in Davenant’s understanding there was a direct link between Christ’s atoning work on the cross and the salvation of His elect. For Davenant, the atonement merited its own application.

This draws a line of demarcation between the theology of Davenant and that of Amyraut, who insisted on a view of the atonement that meant that the atonement did not contain its own application.

Another area in which the two differed was that Davenant asserted that Christ actually established a conditional covenant open to all men on the condition of faith. His position therefore did not share the hypothetical nature of Amyraut’s. It is true that Davenant insisted that the Father and the Son had some intention to save all, though he contended that that intention was conditional upon faith and therefore not absolutely efficacious. However, in dealing with the intention of the Father and the Son, Davenant did not subordinate the Father’s decree to apply the benefits of Christ’s death to the decree that Christ should make atonement for all mankind. In this he differed from Amyraut, who subordinated the two decrees by placing the decree of God to send Christ with a universal saving intention before the decree that the Spirit would apply the work of Christ to the elect alone. Davenant, rather than subjugating one decree to another, constructed his theology around a parallel order of those decrees, one having a universal though conditional character and the other being particular and efficacious.80

That the views of Amyraut and Davenant were not on all fours is further fortified by the views which Davenant expressed as regards Cameron’s views on the Atonement. As we have noted, Davenant, in responding to the queries referred to the English divines by the Reformed Church of France, addressed the doctrine that was espoused by Cameron, Amyraut’s father in the faith. It is interesting to observe that Davenant does not embrace the views of Cameron with open arms. Rather, it appears that he felt no strong theological affinity with Cameron because he concludes his remarks with a general statement, “I think, therefore, that the opinion of Cameron was here badly expressed.”81


Notwithstanding the differences, the overall thrust of the doctrines of Davenant and Amyraut are very similar. This is not particularly surprising, as both wanted to ameliorate to some extent the harshness that they perceived in the doctrine of limited or particular atonement. In the final analysis, while acknowledging that there were some differences between the two, it is not unreasonable to assert that Davenant was an Amyraldian, or at least a near Amyraldian.


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FOOTNOTES:

80. Godfrey, Op. cit., p. 185.



81. Davenant, On the Controversy, p. 568.

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