Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Deception of Amyraldianism

However its proponents wish to deny it, Amyraldianism inevitably leads back in the Arminian direction, which in turn leads back toward the semi-pelagian direction, which in turn leads to pelagianism. Amyraldianism winds up being a completely inconsistent compromise between the synergistic views of Arminianism/Semi-pelagianism and the monergistic theology of Scripture and of the Protestant Reformers...

To be honest, I had not seriously considered the error of the Amyraldian theology other than the overgeneralized view that it is a four point Calvinist view. Recently I was drawn into an online debate with two bloggers claiming to be "Calvinist" and "Reformed." However, I found this to be far from the truth and in fact just a replay of the tactics used by the Arminians during the controvery in Holland in the seventeenth century. The tactic I speak of is pretending one is a true Calvinist while at the same time making anachronistic arguments and twisting the context of comments made by Calvin, Bullinger, Zwingli, and other Reformed theologians of the time to make it seem as if they are in fact Amyraldians. This is not only dishonest but the motive and intention is to deceive less informed Calvinists into believing the Amyraldian view.

The fact is the Amyraldian view not only rejects particular atonement but it also rejects the doctrine of unconditional election. How can this be true you say? Well, since the Amyraldians must insist that God loves all men, including every single individual without exception, they wish to keep the doctrine of unconditional election while at the same time capitulating to the Arminian side by positing a dual election. So instead of an outright rejection of unconditional election, the Amyraldian makes election a dual or double election. Prior to particular election of those who will receive the benefits of the atonement of Christ, the Amyraldian position says that God elects all men without exception. This is necessary because they insist that Christ loves all men without exception and makes a free offer of salvation to every single individual and so God must have elected all men, including those who are reprobates.

This sort of logic leads to all sorts of confusion and makes God look dishonest and schizophrenic. It also leads to further error, as the Protestant Reformed Church theologians have accurately pointed out. The Protestant Reformed Churches in America split from the Christian Reformed Churches of North America in 1924 over the issue of common grace and it seems to me that the CRCNA has gone in a more liberal direction since that time as the historical background page at their website indicates:

After the war the CRC had a difficult time defining itself. It wanted to become American but it also wanted to cling tenaciously to its Reformed beliefs and practices, which many felt could only find full expression in Dutch. This led to disagreements, and, in typical Reformed style, to secession. Calvin Seminary Professor Ralph Janssen left the CRC because of sustained investigations into his views on science as a legitimate source of knowledge that could contribute positively to Christians' understanding of the world. Herman Hoeksema's rejection of "common grace" sparked the secession of the Protestant Reformed Church from the CRC.

The Depression years were difficult for CRC members. The church had spread in pockets throughout the United States. The rigors of survival caused them to look more inward than outward. As a result they were losing touch with each other and with their roots. Banner editor H.J. Kuiper sounded the alarm, encouraging members to dedicate themselves afresh to the Reformed faith. Kuiper identified three factions in the CRC that we can still identify to some extent today: those who cling tenaciously to historical Calvinism, those who espouse a sort of fundamental evangelicalism, and those who follow behind the liberal, socializing, modernistic churches of North America. (http://www.crcna.org/pages/history_of_crc.cfm).

Unfortunately, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary of the CRCNA denomination are increasingly siding with theological liberalism. While the Protestant Reformed Churches in America remains a relatively small denomination in the northern midwestern states of Illinois and Michigan, they have at least maintained a solid Calvinist and Reformed witness without caving in to modernism and modern attempts to mediate between Amyraldianism and the Reformed faith, which is essentially what the common grace controversy was all about. Thus, the PRCA stands in a unique position to speak against the modern Amyraldian heresies over against other conservative Reformed denominations here in the United States, which have mostly gone in the direction of common grace. While some might question whether or not the common grace controversy was worth seceding from the CRCNA, hindsight seems to justify the split.

As Martyn J. McGeown, on the website of the PRCA's sister church in Ireland, the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, says, the Gospel is very simple. Christ died on the cross to suffer the penalty of God's wrath against the sinful elect and He suffered in their place as a substitute. So for Arminians and Amyraldians, the penal substitutionary view of the atonement is impossible since Christ does not die for anyone in particular but only for everyone in general. How could Christ pay the penalty for unbelief for those who refuse to believe unless one takes the view that all men in general will be saved? Universalism is obviously a false doctrine.

Quite honestly, I have been attending an Episcopal church where the pastor originally claimed to be "Reformed" in his theology. However, as time went on I began to suspect something was wrong. Not only did he not understand the doctrine of law and gospel, but his view of law was extremely basic and lacking since he did not understand the distinctions between ceremonial, civil and moral law. Neither did he understand the three uses of the moral law in convicting us as sinners, directing us as to how to live as a Christian, and providing general equity in formulating civil laws for modern societies. It was only later that I discovered that his theology was actually Amyraldian rather than Calvinist/Reformed. Suddenly a light went on and I understood why he had not spoken about total depravity or made the dichotomy between law and gospel plain in his sermons. Furthermore, I never heard a sermon calling for the conversion of lost sinners.

I for one get extremely irritated when I feel that someone has deliberately tried to deceive or mislead me. I have had enough of that sort of tactic when I was in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Honestly, Amyraldians and Arminians are just as deceptive when it comes to their equivocation back and forth about the sovereignty of God and the sovereignty of man. Anyone who thinks seriously about the issue can see that foreknowledge implies predestination and God's eternal decrees, which is why many Arminians today are moving toward Open Theism.

Amyraldianism is no less deceptive since it tries to equivocate between Reformed theology and Arminian theology and utterly fails at the attempt. For those who think deeply about this issue it is apparent that the Amyraldian view undermines the doctrine of total depravity since it postulates a natural ability given to all men so that they have a genuine choice to either accept or reject the free offer of salvation. The problem is that total depravity has rendered men unable to accept the offer since Adam forfeited the spiritual gifts enabling him and his posterity to have the free will necessary to choose only the good and to choose to serve only God. Thus, Adam violated the covenant of works and so does all of his posterity by both original sin and by actual sins. So man's natural ability has not existed since the fall of Adam. The question for Amyraldians is how can God make a genuine offer of salvation to the reprobate who are unable to have faith? According to the Protestant Reformed theologians, there is a general call to salvation to all men but only the elect are given faith, thus there is no genuine offer of salvation given to any of the reprobate. Only the wicked elect are given a genuine offer of salvation and they are given the gift of faith to enable them to believe and receive the benefits of the atoning death of Jesus Christ.

How can God will the salvation of all as in the "revealed" will of God and yet God's "secret" will is that only the elect will actually be saved and redeemed? (See Deuteronomy 29:29). To argue as the Amyraldians do, that God has redeemed all mankind is schizophrenic and doubleminded since one cannot have it both ways. Actually, it makes more sense to see that God's will is to save all those whom He has predetermined to save as the Gospel of John clearly shows. God has decreed and determined to save only the elect and that based solely on His sovereign decision to show mercy to whom He will show mercy! (See Romans 9:18ff). If God's will is to save literally all, as in every single individual, then we must either conclude that God contradicts Himself or He fails. The only other option would be universal salvation, the option that the neo-orthodox Karl Barth opted for.

In his article, "Amyraldianism and the Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675) ," Rev. Angus Stewart shows that the Amyraldian views of a hypothetical universal election and a hypothetical universal atonement are not only unbiblical but were condemned by the Canons of Dordt in its positive statements on particular election and particular atonement. Furthermore, even though the synod was not universal, the Formula Consensus Helvetica in 1675 unequivocably condemned the Amyraldian view as unbiblical and as a departure from Calvin and the other Reformed theologians of the Protestant Reformation. While Amyraldians claim they have not violated the Canons of Dordt and deceptively claim to be faithful to both Calvin and the Reformed doctrines in the Canons of Dordt, the Formula Consensus Helvetica expressly proves otherwise.

However its proponents wish to deny it, Amyraldianism inevitably leads back in the Arminian direction, which in turn leads back toward the semi-pelagion direction, which in turn leads to pelagianism. Amyraldianism winds up being a completely inconsistent compromise between the synergistic views of Arminianism/semi-pelagianism and the monergistic theology of Scripture and of the Protestant Reformers:

Amyraut claimed that his views were in accordance with the Word of God, the theology of John Calvin and the Canons of Dordt (1618-1619), to which he as a French Reformed minister subscribed. This also was false as his critics, both then and now, have pointed out. Martin I. Klauber states, “The majority of Reformed theologians … rejected his system as the first step towards Arminianism” (“Theological Transition in Geneva,” in Carl R. Trueman and R. S. Clark [eds.], Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment [Great Britain: Paternoster, 1999], p. 258, n. 5). The orthodox in the French Reformed Church and outside it called for his discipline but the French synods failed to deal with the problem properly. The slide of his students, his disciples and the French Reformed Church further and further into Arminianism has been well documented. (Rev. Angus Stewart).

What are the implications of this controversy with the Amyraldians and Arminians in the Dutch Reformed churches, particularly as that relates to worldwide Anglicanism? Unfortunately, those who revel in the brevity of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are actually no better than the Anglo-Catholics who twist the articles out of their literal historical/grammatical context and their plain meaning to fit their own agenda. It is obvious that the Calvinist influence in the Church of England was an overwhelming one, especially when we observe the Cromwellian Revolution. However, well before that there were the Lambeth Articles of 1595. While it is true that a minority of English observers at the Synod of Dordt were sympathetic to the Arminians, it is beyond all doubt that the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion taught double predestination in Article 17. Both the Lambeth Articles of 1595 and the Thirty-Nine Articles establish only one will of God and one election to grace, not two. Therefore, those who would say that the English Reformers would have sided with the Arminians or the Amyraldians cannot do so without going against the majority view as it is expressed in the official confession and in the Lambeth Articles. Article 17 clearly rejects any idea of a hypothetical and general election and therefore also excludes interpreting Article 15, which mentions that Christ died for the sins of the "whole world," as a reference to every single individual. Neither do the Articles in any way refer to any view incorporating an alleged hypothetical atonement applied to all men in general. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion preceded the Amyraldian and the Arminian heresies and cannot therefore teach either of those views.

Perhaps the most devastating evidence against both Arminianism and Amyraldianism is John Calvin himself. When reading the body of his work as a whole it is difficult to see how Arminians and Amryraldians can say that Calvin taught univeral atonement unless they ignore the specific passages in his commentaries where he particularizes his statements regarding a general call to all mankind as a calling out of the elect from among the mass of mankind in general. In other words, there is no genuine offer of salvation made to those who are predestined to reprobation. Since we do not know whom God has elected or reprobated in His eternal decrees, we preach to all within earshot so that the elect may be regenerated and effectually called to salvation. They are perishing and on their way to hell and God has a favor given only to them such that they are given the gift of faith and the atonement is particularly applied to the individuals who are numbered among the elect from before the foundation of the world. The most obvious passage where Calvin disputes any universal atonement being applied to unbelievers is his commentary on 1 John 2:2:

2 And not for ours only He added this for the sake of amplifying, in order that the faithful might be assured that the expiation made by Christ, extends to all who by faith embrace the gospel.

Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated? I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who under this pretense extend salvation to all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation. They who seek to avoid this absurdity, have said that Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage; for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world. (Commentary on 1 John 2:2).

In light of the above, I fail to understand how Amyraldians can appeal to Calvin's theology to support their case. I could cite numberous other passages where Calvin particularizes the general call to salvation as being offered only to those who will believe, i.e. the elect who will then be effectually called from among the rest of mankind who are reprobate. Not even the elect are able to believe unless they are raised from spiritual death by a direct intervention of God. Thus salvation is a totally monergistic act of God and is by no means synergistic or a cooperation of man with God. Calvin directly and specifically says that the atonement is NOT for the reprobate and he says so in the very prooftext verse that Arminians and Amyraldians use to prove from Scripture that their view is correct. So if they are going to quote Calvin out of context in other places, how do they reconcile this direct quote from Calvin's commentary that says without equivocation or ambiguity that Christ did NOT die for the reprobate? That is a good question and it remains to be seen if the Amyraldians will ever answer it.

Soli gloria Deo!



For those who would contend wrongly that Bishop J. C. Ryle taught a universal atonement I offer his commentary on John 10:10-18....

These verses show us, for another thing, one of the principal offices which Jesus Christ fills for true Christians. Twice over our Lord uses an expression which, to an Eastern hearer, would be singularly full of meaning. Twice over he says emphatically, "I am the Good Shepherd." It is a saying rich in consolation and instruction.

Like a good shepherd, Christ KNOWS all His believing people. Their names, their families, their dwelling-places, their circumstances, their private history, their experience, their trials--with all these things Jesus is perfectly acquainted. There is not a thing about the least and lowest of them with which He is not familiar. The children of this world may not know Christians, and may count their lives folly; but the Good Shepherd knows them thoroughly, and, wonderful to say, though He knows them, does not despise them.

Like a Good Shepherd, Christ CARES tenderly for all His believing people. He provides for all their needs in the wilderness of this world, and leads them by the right way to a city of habitation. He bears patiently with their many weaknesses and infirmities, and does not cast them off because they are wayward, erring, sick, footsore, or lame. He guards and protects them against all their enemies, as Jacob did the flock of Laban; and of those that the Father has given Him He will be found at last to have lost none.

Like a Good Shepherd, Christ LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE for the sheep. He did it once for all, when He was crucified for them. When He saw that nothing could deliver them from hell and the devil, but His blood, He willingly made His soul an offering for their sins. The merit of that death He is now presenting before the Father's throne. The sheep are saved for evermore, because the Good Shepherd died for them. This is indeed a love that passes knowledge! "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13.)


Charlie J. Ray said...

Since the moderator of the Controversial Calvinist blog (an Amyraldian blog actually) deleted my comment, I have posted it here for your interest. First, I will post what he said to me in private:

Steve has left a new comment on the post "John Calvin on 1John 2:2 - Kendall's "Out Of Conte...":

"As they said in the old ad ... sorry Charlie. If you think your behavior has earned you the right to post links (without permission), then you have an odd view of what is acceptable social behavior."

"Plus, the name of your blog is too ironic."

"If you can't behave better, I'll turn on moderation and start filtering your comments."

Here is my original post:

Charlie J. Ray has left a new comment on the post "John Calvin on 1John 2:2 - Kendall's "Out Of Conte...":

Martin said, "Just setting aside for a moment the question of who’s right and who’s wrong here it seems that what is being proposed is causing you some consternation, anger almost. Why is that the case? What I mean is, just suppose for a moment that they are right, so what? Does that then mean your faith would be worthless? Would it rob you of your hope in Jesus Christ, or your identity? Is it another gospel which is no gospel at all? Surely the answer to all these questions is no? Furthermore, God is sovereign and these are spiritual truths. Ultimately therefore the outcome of this discussion is up to God. So, why does it seem to bother you so much?"

Do the words "honesty" and "integrity" mean anything at all to you? Suppose for a minute that they are correct and that Amyraldianism is the view espoused by Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, et. al. ad infinitum. That view is so unlikely and so against the historical development of Amyraldianism that even if one accepted their views were Scriptural, which they are not, it would still be dishonest to call oneself a Calvinist while denying what the Reformed tradition has been universally accepted as teaching. In other words, it is merely a deception to call oneself "Reformed" knowing that the term "Reformed" actually refers to those who believe the Reformed confessions, i.e. The Three Forms of Unity, the Westminister Standards, the Canons of Dordt, Second Helvetic Confession and the Formula Consensus Helvetica.

Secondly, you accuse me of committing the fallacy of appealing to authority, i.e. the Reformed theologians since the time of Calvin. If that be the case, then you must attack the other side for the same fallacy since the argument revolves around which side is correctly reading those authorities. Furthermore, they are appealing to subsequent Amyraldian theology and therefore appeal to the authority of that material.

Essentially, however, it boils down to this. Reformed/Calvinist theology is "confessional." That is even though we believe in the authority of Scripture as the final authority in all doctrinal disputes, i.e., Sola Scriptura, the authority of the church is not totally thrown out. The Reformed confessions and the universal creeds of the church are not arbitrary nor are they lightly cast aside at whim.

While it is true that Reformed theology believes that all interpretations of Scripture are fallible, and that even church councils and synods can and do err, it does not follow that we can just disregard them because of our own "private" interpretation. The right of private interpretation does not mean individualism but rather that the church as a whole can question and correct confessions and creeds IF it can be overwhelmingly proved that those confessions and creeds are not supported by the Scriptures.

Thus, by default, the Amyraldian view is at the disadvantage. I.e. the burden of proof lies with them to prove, 1st, that the Reformed or Calvinist view is incorrect based on Scripture. 2nd, that the Reformed churches wrongfully interpreted the Scriptures. 3rd, that the Reformed confessions formulated by the earliest Reformers, including Calvin himself, were all wrong. 4th that the Reformed synods against both Arminianism, (Dordt), and against the Amyraldians, (Formula Consensus Helvetica) are wrong. They have been unable to do so other than by arrogant and exorbitant claims to the contrary, not to mention prooftexting from Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger in an indiscriminate manner.

The Amyraldian view is a heresy and so is Arminianism. While I would not say that they are "definitely" not saved, when there is such a strong disagreement over what the Gospel really IS, then I would have to question if it really is not actually another gospel which really is no gospel at all.

In fact, I recently wrote a post on my own blog giving a brief argument as to why Amyraldianism is not Reformed and is in fact a return toward Arminianism. You can read the article here:


If you wish to e-mail me in private, my address is on my profile at the blog.

Soli gloria Deo!


Charlie J. Ray said...

Dear Charlie,

Greetings to you! I am thankful to hear of God’s grace that has drawn you into the knowledge of the Reformed faith. It is a glorious gospel, and any other is not the gospel (Gal. 1)

You ask about the importance of the issue of common grace. First of all, let us consider its importance historically, that is, from the history of the PRC. The PRC did not make this issue to be of supreme importance initially. The Christian Reformed Church did. For, all the ministers and members that became the PRC were in the CRC. The synod of the CRC adopted three points of common grace. The classes of the CRC demanded that the Revs. Hoeksema, Danhof, and Ophoff sign the three points, as well as their respective consistories. When they all refused, the respective classes deposed them. The synod of 1926 did not sustain the protests of these men, allowing the actions of each classis to stand. They made Common grace to be important enough to depose ministers who were not in favor of it.

Doctrinally, common grace is destructive of God’s sovereign, particular grace. Throughout the history of the church, starting with Pelagius, some have sought ways to teach a grace given to all men. This because man is dead in sin and cannot save himself – the Bible is so plain and emphatic on that that even the Remonstrants had to formulate their point on man’s fallen condition with that admission. But a dead, totally incapable sinner is an offence to man’s pride. I want to be able to say that I did something to be saved! But if man is dead, how can he contribute to his salvation? Well, he has a grace given to him enabling him to make a start (Pelagius) or man a decision (Arminius). The added ‘benefit’ to common grace is that you can say in the end: We are saved by grace! But that is Arminian. This is not sovereign irresistible grace which saves, but a common, resistible grace that “saves.” And it does so by giving man the ability to contribute to his salvation – why are you saved and not the other fellow? Both had grace, but I used it to make the right choice, or I used it to do good, etc. Because of this, God saved me.

So, yes, we are convinced that common grace is a return to Arminianism. That becomes even more plain from the “three point” adopted by the CRC in 1924. It included in the “evidence” for common grace this: The well-meant gospel offer. God wants to save all. Salvation is available for all. With common grace for each hearer to enable each to accept or reject the offer.

And, then the question arises – where does this grace come from? How can God have a grace for everyone? Saving grace is grounded in and flows from the cross of Christ. Because He died for His people, God’s grace flows to them, they are saved. Where does cg come from? The answer has been: It likewise is one of the blessings that come from the cross. Thus, in some sense, Christ died for all. Does that sound familiar?

Amyraldianism and common grace? Probably. But, as you know, the major heresy there is the conditional covenant and the hypothetical universalism.

I hope this is helpful. May God give you grace to stand for his truth, and if need be, to move to a place where the truth is preached.


Prof. Dykstra


From: Charlie J. Ray [mailto:guapoduck1959@cfl.rr.com]
Sent: Friday, October 03, 2008 8:54 AM
To: dykstra@prca.org
Subject: The Common Grace Controversy....

Dear Professor Dykstra,

I have been reading with interest some of the articles dealing with the common grace controversy. Honestly, at first, I thought the issue was not worth a church split. Honestly, I'm still reading Reformed theology since my conversion to the Calvinist view in the mid 1990s. At the time I was an M.Div. student at Asbury Theological Seminary which is affiliated with the denominations within the Wesleyan holiness tradition. While there I read Calvin's Institutes in a seminar and became convinced that the Arminians were inconsistent while Calvin's theology was logically consistent from beginning to end.

At any rate, recently I have been battling Amyraldian theology online and, unfortunately, my own pastor at Christ Episcopal Church, Longwood, Florida is an Amyraldian. I've been involved in the Anglican tradition for the last few years but it has been a very rocky relationship to say the least.

My question to you is to do with the common grace controversy and why it is considered so important in the PRCA? Would it be fair to say that your church sees the common grace theology as a move back toward Amyraldianism and Arminianism?

Unfortunately, there are no PRCA churches here in Florida. We have only the PCA and OPC to choose from on the conservative end and I have a feeling that the PCA is moving toward a "moderate" view. I heard a professor from Reformed Theological Seminary here in Orlando say in a PCA worship service that predestination refers only to the elect and not to reprobation. He more or less said that God merely leaves the wicked or passes over them. While this is half the truth, the full truth is that God does both: He predestines the reprobate to rejection and He passes over them and leaves them in their sins.

I appreciate your kind response and look forward to reading more of the online articles at your website and the website of your sister church in Ireland, Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.

Soli gloria Deo!



Anonymous said...

Praised be the Father of lights for leading you to see more clearly the pernicious character of the "common grace" error and its intrinsic connection to hypothetical universalism.

For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. (2Jn.1:2)


Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks, Renat. I'm sorry if I have offended you in the past. I do recognize that you are a brother in Christ.

I made a couple of typographical errors on this page and I have corrected them. "They reject universal atonement" has been changed to, "They reject particular atonement."

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