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 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, October 09, 2009

Why Amyraldianism or Four Point Calvinism Is Suspect from a Reforming Anglican Perspective

But only the elect do so, for only the elect receive the necessary grace, which grace to repent and believe was merited and purchased by Christ for his sheep; so that ultimately they are the only ones for whom Christ died. D. Broughton Knox

By Charlie J. Ray

But only the elect do so, for only the elect receive the necessary grace, which grace to repent and believe was merited and purchased by Christ for his sheep; so that ultimately they are the only ones for whom Christ died. D. Broughton Knox

I did not intend to write a lengthy article here, though it did turn out much longer than I planned. However, I do wish to point out a simple theological truth. It is a simple fact that on any point of theology we take the implications for the rest of our theology and our understanding of Holy Scripture is severely affected or positively reinforced. For example, in the 19th century liberal theologians adopted a theory of Christ's incarnation based on a misreading of Philippians 2:5-11. These liberals said that Christ "emptied" himself of his deity while he was on earth. Unfortunately, this is not only unbiblical but it denies the Definition of Chalcedon of 451 A.D. This heresy is known as the Ebionite heresy which over-emphasized the human nature to the point that the divine nature disappears. As R.C. Sproul has rightly said, God cannot empty Himself of deity without making Himself non-existent which would be impossible, since God is eternally self-existent. (See Jesus Christ: Fully Human and Fully God].

In like manner, if one denies even one point of the five replies to the Remonstrandts, the implications for the other four points are so serious as to cause them to collapse altogether when those implications are followed to their logical conclusions. As Professor Emeritus Herman Hanko rightly points out on his Common Grace Considered blog:

Before I get into the material that I plan to send you in this letter, I need to answer a question that came from one of our forum members.

The question is concerning my remark in my last letter that common grace modifies at least four of the five points of Calvinism and, perhaps, also the fifth, namely perseverance of the saints. The reader's claim was that one ought not really be hesitant about saying that common grace also affects perseverance of the saints, and that thus all five points need to be modified if common grace is introduced into the body of doctrine known as the doctrines of grace. His reason for asserting this was that the five points of Calvinism are a whole, and to modify one is to modify all. The five hang together. They stand or fall together.

The reason for the objection of the correspondent is, of course, true. One cannot believe in a universal atonement without denying eternal predestination, including both election and reprobation. And so it is with all five.

It is my contention that any theology which places man as the primary focus of preaching, evangelism, liturgy, worship, or hermeneutics/interpretation of Scripture is doing theology from below or from the perspective of "natural theology" or "natural religion." Any true understanding of Scripture must place God in the primary position in any interpretation of the text. Moreover, pastoral considerations, homiletical considerations, and evangelism/missions considerations must all be interpreted in a theocentric and christocentric way giving place to God's absolute sovereignty. Every other presupposition leads eventually if not initially back to idolatry (Exodus 20:3). It might also be said that practical theology ought to follow the economic trinitarian formula where all three persons of the Godhead are equal in authority but we give primary place to the Father, then the Son and finally to the Spirit. Neo-pentecostalism, a product of Arminianism, is notorious for emphasizing a pneumato-centric trinitarianism and using that to justify reading subjectivist and experiential theology back into the Scriptures.

As Professor Hanko says, to sacrifice the particular atonement to any idea of common grace or the so-called 4.5 Calvinist view is really to sacrifice the entire atonement leaving one with only a four point Calvinism. But from there the collapse goes further. For example, most Amyraldians are confused about the distinction between God's decrees (Ephesians 3:11) made in eternity prior to creation and the temporal unfolding of those decrees in actual time in creation. Four pointers often fail to see that Amyraldianism is in fact a version of the "order" of the decrees prior to creation and instead see their view in terms of the temporal order of how the decrees fall out in time. For this reason many of them will mistakenly identify the infralapsarian view as supralapsarian because they are not clear on the logical distinction between God's eternality and transcendence above time and the temporal order falling out in time after creation has taken place.

The temporal order is thus:
1. Creation. 2. Fall. 3. Redemption.
All three of the above positions would agree with this temporal order. That would include the supralapsarian view, the infralapsarian or sublapsarian view, and the Amyraldian view.

However, what Amyraldians fail to realize is that their own position must be interpreted in light of God's absolute aseity, self-existence prior to creation. In fact, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo or out of nothing implies this as well. If God is totally omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, then it follows that God not only knows beforehand what will happen but in fact determines everything that comes to pass in the temporal order. And since God is omniscient, it follows as well that God must have formulated a plan in His own super-intelligent, omniscient and perfectly rational and logical mind (Ephesians 3:11). So with that in His mind, God surely formulated a logical order of His plan before creation. So the argument is really about the logical order of God's decrees in His divine mind and intelligence. The following is a layout of the divine decrees according to the three views above:

*1. The election of some men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the others). 2. The decree to create the world and both kinds of men. 3. The decree that all men would fall. 4. The decree to redeem the elect, who are now sinners, by the cross work of Christ. 5. The decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits to these elect sinners.

An analysis of this arrangement of the order of decrees will show, because the discriminating decree is placed at the head of all the other decrees with the others then proceeding in the order in which the events to which they refer took place in history, that God at the point of discrimination is represented as discriminating among men simply as men, inasmuch as the decree respecting the Fall does not come until point three. (Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), p. 488.

Reymond further discusses optional orders of the decrees for the supralapsarian position, a position which he himself takes. But in the interest of brevity I will pass those by and refer the reader to Reymond's excellent systematic theology. Although I think Reymond's optional views imply infralapsarianism we can save that discussion for another time.

I will again borrow from Reymond's assessment by showing his layout of the order of the decrees according to the infralapsarian scheme:
1. The decree to create the world and (all) men. 2. The decree that (all) men would fall. *3. The election of some fallen men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the others). 4. The decree to redeem the elect by the cross work of Christ. 5. The decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits to the elect. (Reymond, p. 480).

Again, in the interest of brevity, I will skip over the Arminian scheme since it is acknowledged by all that Arminians challenged all five points of classical Calvinism. The Amyraldian order of the decrees is as follows:

1. The decree to create the world and (all) men. 2. The decree that (all) men would fall. 3. The decree to redeem (all) men by the cross work of Christ. *4. The election of some fallen men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the others). 5. The decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits to the elect.

Even a cursory analysis of the Amyraldian scheme will show that the first three decrees are universal with respect to their referents (thus my insertion of the word "all" in parentheses), with the last two being particular in regard to their referents, the discriminating decree to elect some men to salvation (marked by the * having been postponed to the fourth position in the scheme, coming immediately after the decree to redeem men (hence the scheme's name "post-redemptionism") and immediately before the decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits (hence its name "ante-applicationism"). (Reymond, p. 476).

The real problem with the Amyraldian position is that it places the decree discriminating or choosing between the elect and the reprobate "not at the point of Christ's redemptive accomplishment but at the point of the Spirit's redemptive application." (Reymond, p. 477). Amyraldians do this because they believe that the Scriptures include texts affirming particular election (Neh. 11:1; John 15:16; John 17:6; Eph. 1:4; Eph. 2:10; 2 Thess. 2:13) and at the same time texts affirming a general atonement ("all men" --John 12:32; Romans 5:18; 8:32; 11:32; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:9; "world"-- John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 2 Cor. 5:19). (See Reymond, p. 477).

Before I conclude this article, let me quote a prominent Anglican Evangelical scholar, the now deceased D. Broughton Knox. Knox was an advocate of the popular Amyraldian view in the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church in Australia. Regarding the extent of the atonement, Knox says:

Thus from the point of view of the preacher, Christ has died for all his audience. All may accept the proffered salvation which Christ has provided. The preacher is not concerned with the intended application of the atonement, which at the time of the preaching still lies hidden in the counsel of God. Thus, from the point of view of the preacher presenting the gospel (which is the same as our point of view), all have an equal interest in the death of Christ. Were it not so, and not true that Christ had died for all men, it would not be possible to extend a universalist offer; for the offer; if it is to be a true offer, must rest on true and adequate grounds, which cannot be less than the death of Christ for those to whom the offer is being made. Thus, if the gospel is offered genuinely to all, it can only be offered because Christ died for all, and if for all, then the preacher is at liberty, and indeed obliged, to press home the offer, and to say to each sinner individually, "Christ died for you".

The extent of Christ's work is not limited in itself, but only in the intentions and purposes of God, and consequently in the application of its benefits to those whom God had foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.

In intending to reconcile the elect only, the method God has chosen has been to make all men reconcilable. Both Calvinist and Arminian are right in what they affirm, but the Arminian is wrong in what he denies. The Arminian affirms that Christ made all men savable, and denies that he saves any. The Calvinist affirms that Christ saves the elect; but some Calvinists are inclined to speak as though the atonement in no wise affects the savableness of any others. Cunningham states, "The intended destination of the atonement was to effect and secure the forgiveness and salvation of the elect only . . . God did not design or purpose, by sending his Son into the world, to save any but those who are saved."

This is correct. Cunningham thinks that the doctrine of limited atonement follows, but this is a non-sequitur. For the method by which the elect are saved is that they and the non-elect alike are made savable by Christ's death for mankind, if they will repent and believe, which God commands all to do. But only the elect do so, for only the elect receive the necessary grace, which grace to repent and believe was merited and purchased by Christ for his sheep; so that ultimately they are the only ones for whom Christ died.

All men receive the benefits from Christ's death. This is agreed. It should be further agreed that one of these benefits is savableness -- which no fallen angel has received. Thus it is true to say that Christ is a ransom for all, without limiting the word "all", nor limiting the word 'ransom' to that which is less than complete salvation. The word 'for' is capable of two levels of meaning. Just as there are two levels of meaning in "Savior of all men, especially of those that believe", so there are two levels of meaning in "He died for all", and "Christ died for his sheep", and in "He is Saviour of all", and "He saves his people."

It is not what limited atonement states positively, but what it states negatively, that is objectionable (that is, the use of the word 'only' for the more appropriate 'specifically', or 'especially').
[From: "Some Aspects of the Atonement: II Limited Atonement," in D. Broughton Knox: Selected Works. Volume I: The Doctrine of God. D. Broughton Knox. Tony Payne, ed. (Kingsford NSW: Matthias Media, 2000). Pp. 261-262]

As you can clearly see from the comments of D.B. Knox, Amyraldians -- because of a wrong exegesis of the texts which seem to indicate a universal atonement on the surface -- are prone to compromise not just the doctrine of limited atonement but also the doctrine of total inability. It is problematic to do theology with pastoral concerns in mind prior to letting the text speak for itself.

In fact, Knox seems to be saying here that the reprobate are not unable to respond to the general call of the Gospel. How else could he say that they are in any sense of the word "savable"? Savable implies "ability." So to their credit, Amyraldians acknowledge that only the elect are saved and only the elect receive particular and effectual grace to believe. But the problem is the Amyraldians "act" and "talk" as if the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace is true. Does God give a general grace to all men to make them actually savable? If not, how can Knox in any way say that the reprobate are savable? Even Knox says that the Arminian view implies that no one in particular is actually saved so how is his view any different? If Christ died for all but only applies the benefits to some, how are the reprobate redeemed or even "savable"? Any hypothetical savability from below contradicts God's actual sovereignty in His divine decrees. One is left wondering where general atonement and particular and prevenient grace begins and ends in the Amyraldian view? The obvious should be seen here. Not only does Amyraldianism undermine the doctrine of total inability but it undermines God's sovereignty. If all men are savable in any sense of the word, then salvation, it is implied, lies entirely in the hands of capricious and sinful men who are by biblical definition unable to respond to the Gospel call to repentance. Yet Knox says they are savable. I fail to see how those who are unable to turn to Christ without particular grace applied are in any way "savable" at all! "Savable" implies that men are able to save themselves by believing, which implies conditional election. Yet the Amyraldian claims to believe in particular election and the sovereignty of God in election and reprobation. Which is it?

Furthermore, it is a non sequitur to say that the supralapsarian or the infralapsarian cannot preach for conversion and repentance. Obviously, many classical Calvinists have done so in the past. The famous baptist, John Gill was a supralapsarian and had a fruitful and successful ministry, even though this is not the ultimate criteria.

In addition, there is only one verse which says that Christ is a ransom for "all" (1 Timothy 2:6). It is highly questionable if this one verse can overturn the others which refer specifically to the elect (Psalm 49:15; Isa. 51:11; Jer. 31:11; Hosea 13:14; Mt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 1:18; Rev. 5:9). What is particularly damaging to the Amyraldian position in this regard is their claim that Calvin himself was an Amyraldian. Knox even goes so far as to say that the statement of Calvin that the atonement of Christ is sufficient for the sins of the whole world but only efficient for the sins of the elect is in fact proof that Calvin was a four point theologian (Knox, p. 266) . He even goes so far as to say that the Canons of Dort do not teach limited atonement (Knox ,p. 266). He should try that argument on the Dutch Reformed! But it is likewise untrue that Calvin advocated only four points. (See below on Calvin's commentary on 1 John 2:1-2). In the historical flow of things the classical Calvinist view is supported by the Dutch Reformed churches at the Council of Dort in 1618-1619. This relates the formal development of Amyraldianism to a time after the Synod of Dort and thus for Knox to read general atonement back into Calvin and the Synod of Dort when both clearly reject that view is completely disingenuous scholarship. Knox justifies this extremely questionable exegesis of the Synod of Dort on his combination of what the Church of England Catechism says and what the Synod of Dort says. But this is an anachronistic argument and highly tendentious at best. For example, Knox says:

In the phrase "Christ died for the elect", the word 'for' is ambiguous. If it implies intention, it is true. Thus Scripture affirms that Christ came to save his people from their sins. But if it applies to the extent of his atonement, it it not true; so that, with the Church of England Catechism, we are right in affirming that "Christ redeemed me, and all mankind"; and with the Synod of Dort that he efficaciously redeemed only the elect. (Knox, p. 262).

It is odd that in his book 39 Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith, Knox says that the Articles take precedence over the Prayer Book. But here he places the Articles and the Canons of Dort below the Prayer Book! Nowhere do the Articles affirm a general atonement. In fact, Article 17 clearly implies a limited atonement. Knox thinks that the Canons of Dort leave open the question of a general atonement. But such could not be further from the truth. This is evident first because the canons start with the doctrine of particular election and particular reprobation and then proceed to limited atonement in the second canon. Paragraph 5 of the errors rejected specifically rejects the Amyraldian view:

Who teach: That all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation and unto the grace of the covenant, so that no one is worthy of condemnation on account of original sin, and that no one shall be condemned because of it, but that all are free from the guilt of original sin. For this opinion is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that we are by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:3).

Also, D.B. Knox cites Calvin's Commentary on Hosea 13:14 in his favor (Knox, p. 266). But the quote is incomplete and fails to mention that Calvin's comment on 1 Timothy 2:4-6 outright rejects the Amyraldian position. Knox only quotes this part of Calvin's commentary on Hosea 13:14: "'God does not here simply promise salvation but shows that he is indeed ready to save . . . the obstinacy of men rejects the grace which has been provided and which God willingly and abundantly offers' [italics mine]." (Knox, p. 266).

That quote seems to be damning but if we read the entire comment in context it says something completely different:

The Prophet, I doubt not, continues here the same subject, namely, that the Israelites could not bear the mercy offered to them by God, though he speaks here more fully. God seems to promise redemption, but he does this conditionally: they are then mistaken, in my judgement, who take these words in the same sense as when God, after having reproved and threatened, mitigates the severity of his instruction, and adds consolation by offering his grace. But the import of this passage is different; for God, as we have already said, does not here simply promise salvation, but shows that he is indeed ready to save, but that the wickedness of the people, as it has been said, was an impediment in the way.


And we may learn from this passage, that when men perish, God still continues like himself, and that neither his power, by which he is mighty to save the world, is extinguished, nor his purpose changed, so as not to be always ready to help; but that the obstinacy of men rejects the grace which has been provided, and which God willingly and bountifully offers. This is one thing. We may secondly learn, that the power of God is not to be measured by our rule: were we lost a hundred times, let God be still regarded as a Saviour. Should then despair at any time so cast us down, that we cannot lay hold on any of God's promises, let this passage come to our minds, which says, that God is the excision of death, and the destruction of the grave. "But death is nigh to us, what then can we hope for any more?" This is to say, that God is not superior to death: but when death claims so much power over men, how much more power has God over death itself? Let us then feel assured that God is the destruction of death, which means that death can no more destroy; that is, that death is deprived of that power by which men are naturally destroyed; and that though we may lie in the grave, God is yet the excision of the grave itself. This is the application of what is here taught. But some one gives this version, "I will be thy perdition to death," as if this was addressed to the people: it is an absurd perversion of the whole passage, and deprives us of a most useful doctrine. [Hosea 13:14, Calvin's Commentaries].

If one reads the context carefully, Calvin is speaking to the issue of assurance of the resurrection and of God's redemption of the elect from death and the grave. Clearly all men without exception are not redeemed from death so it is a bit of a stretch to say that this comment supports the Amyraldian position. It is not strange that Calvin would emphasize God's conditions upon blessings when dealing with issues from below. But this does not in and of itself support the Amyraldian position. Calvin's comment on 1 Timothy 2:6 and 1 John 2:2 clearly and unequivocally contradict the Amyraldian position:
The universal term "all" must always be referred to classes: of men, and not to persons; as if he had said, that not only Jews, but Gentiles also, not only persons of humble rank, but princes also, were redeemed by the death of Christ. Since, therefore, he wishes the benefit of his death to be common to all, an insult is offered to him by those who, by their opinion, shut out any person from the hope of salvation. [1 Timothy 2:5-7, Calvin's Commentaries].

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. [1 John 2:1-2, Calvin's Commentaries].

This last comment is the most damning to the Amyraldian position since 1 John 2:2 is one of their strongest proof texts. It is my contention that Knox's theological approach is from below or from an anthropocentric concern for evangelism rather than beginning with God, as Genesis 1:1 does. The implications from such an approach should be obvious to all. I noted in several places in volume 1 that Knox even implies synergism in salvation (Knox, p. 130), though technically he believes in the sovereignty of God. So Amyraldianism leads to the compromise and confusion of all of the other four points of Reformed theology just as Professor Hanko has said. Unfortunately, Robert Reymond himself endorses common grace (Reymond, pp. 402-403), even though to his credit Reymond is himself a supralapsarian:
In my opinion the supralapsarian vision of God's eternal plan of salvation holds the exegetical and deductive edge. It satisfies better than the infralapsarian vision does the demands of all the pertinent teachings of Scripture, integrates more intelligibly the myriad parts of the one divine purpose to magnify the particularizing grace of God in Jesus Christ, and elucidates better the teleological principle that governs the whole of the order of the decrees of God, who does everything that he does for a purpose and as an aspect of his one, overarching eternal purpose. . . . And far from his doctrine of predestination being an impediment to his carrying out the Great Commission, in concert with the infralapsarian he sees it as the guarantee and surety that his ministry will not be in vain. As he preaches the gospel to people everywhere, he knows that God by his Word and Spirit will call his elect to salvation. . . . No doctrine signalizes the soli Deo gloria more and no doctrine humbles proud people more than the supralapsarian vision of predestination. It should not surprise even the saintliest Christian to find his heart reacting at first against it. (Reymond, p. 500-501).
I myself am undecided on whether I am a supralapsarian or an infralapsarian but it seems to me that the variations of supralapsarianism offered by Reymond sound a lot like infralapsarianism. However, Reymond's arguments are compelling and a worthy read for anyone who is supra-, infra-, or Amyraldian. Be that as it may, Amyraldianism is at best one point Arminianism and at worst compromises all five points. It is also disappointing that the doctrine of common grace led Charles Hodge to compromise the doctrine of limited atonement as well:
This is a question between Augustinians and Anti-Augustinians. The former believing that God from all eternity having elected some to everlasting life, had a special reference to their salvation in the mission and work of his Son. The latter, denying that there has been any such election of a part of the human family to salvation, maintain that the mission and work of Christ had an equal reference to all mankind. . . .

In the fourth place, the question does not concern the actual application of the redemption purchased by Christ. The parties to this controversy are agreed that some only, and not all of mankind are to be actually saved.

The whole question, therefore, concerns simply the purpose of God in the mission of his Son. What was the design of Christ's coming into the world, and doing and suffering all He actually did and suffered? Was it merely to make the salvation of all men possible; to remove the obstacles which stood in the way of the offer of pardon and acceptance to sinners? or, Was it specially to render certain the salvation of his own people, i. e., of those given to Him by the Father? The latter question is affirmed by Augustinians, and denied by their opponents. It is obvious that if there be no election of some to everlasting life, the atonement can have no special reference to the elect. It must have equal reference to all mankind. But it does not follow from the assertion of its having a special reference to the elect that it had no reference to the non-elect. Augustinians readily admit that the death of Christ had a relation to man, to the whole human family, which it had not to the fallen angels. It is the ground on which salvation is offered to every creature under heaven who hears the gospel; but it gives no authority for a like offer to apostate angels. It moreover secures to the whole race at large, and to all classes of men, innumerable blessings, both providential and religious. It was, of course, designed to produce these effects; and, therefore, He died to secure them. In view of the effects which the death of Christ produces in the relation of all mankind to God, it has in all ages been customary with Augustinians to say that Christ died "sufficienter pro omnibus, efficaciter tantum pro electis;" sufficiently for all, efficaciously only for the elect. There is a sense, therefore, in which He died for all, and there is a sense in which He died for the elect alone. The simple question is, Had the death of Christ a reference to the elect which it had not to other men? Did He come into the world to secure the salvation of those given to Him by the Father, so that the other effects of his work are merely incidental to what was done for the attainment of that object? [Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, ch. VIII, "For Whom Did Christ Die?", $1, "The State of the Question,"]

If this quote from Hodge proves anything, it is that equivocation and ambiguity is the strength of the common grace position. Hodge cannot for the life of him decide if he believes in particular atonement or general atonement. This statement is particularly damning, "
But it does not follow from the assertion of its having a special reference to the elect that it had no reference to the non-elect." There is no place in Scripture which specifically says that Christ died for the reprobate and it is a huge stretch for proponents of common grace to say that it does. Not even Hodge bothered to read Calvin's commentary on 1 John 2:2 where Calvin specifically denies that sufficiency and efficiency applies to 1 John 2:2, even though he concedes the point reluctantly if it is applied elsewhere.

Regarding Hodge's dissimulating remarks, I am compelled to say that it is precisely this sort of ambiguity to which the Amyraldians have attached themselves. Calvin himself was imprecise because particular atonement and general atonement were not being debated in his day, although Calvin seems to speak to evangelistic concerns without falling victim to general atonement, especially in his comments on 1 John 2:2. The real issue here is that apparently the doctrine of common grace has corrupted modern Calvinism and the neo-Calvinist position, which endorses common grace. Common grace is really an incipient form of Amyraldianism -- which in turn, compromises all five points of Calvinism in practice if not in theory. It is therefore anachronistic to read Amyraldianism back into Calvin as well as disengenuous. If Calvin's notes on 1 Timothy 2:6 and 1 John 2:2 prove anything it is that he would have rejected any Arminian or Amyraldian idea of the atonement as being general or of being sufficient for the sins of the whole world and efficient only for the elect.

Sincerely in Christ,


Post Script Note:

On pages 263-264, Knox says the following:

Salvation and redemption are terms which properly belong to the elect (see, for example, the 'new song' of the living creatures and the elders before the Throne in Revelation 5:9). But in a secondary sense, salvation and redemption through the death of Christ are spoken of in Scripture as applying to all men. A recognition of this terminology will prevent a harsh classification of humanity into the savable and the non-savable, after the fashion of the Valintinians. [Footnote 28]

28. The Valentinians were a 2nd century gnostic sect who divided all mankind into three distinct categories: the pneumatics (i.e. themselves) who alone had access to the secret 'gnosis' (or knowledge) of salvation and would enjoy eternal bliss; other Christians (the 'psychics'" who might inhabit a lower level of heaven; and the rest of mankind (the 'hylics') who were destined for damnation. (Knox, pp. 263-264).

Knox is reading the issue of "savable" and "non-savable" into the text. There is no place in Scripture where the two terms are taught either implicitly or explicitly. But the Bible does say that all men are cursed because of Adam's sin (Romans 5:12ff) and all men are sinners (Romans 3:23). Therefore, the correct doctrine is that all deserve hell and all are bound over to disobedience for God's greater glory (Romans 11:32). The fact of the matter is that Scripture over and over says that no one is "savable." What it does say is that all deserve damnation (Romans 3:9, 20, 23). God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy and He will harden whom He wills (Romans 9:18-20). So God determines who is saved, not who is "savable." The term is completely foreign to the Apostle Paul.

Furthermore, there is nothing "gnostic" about five point Calvinism. God does not work secretly in providing the means of salvation. There is an outward and general call to repentance to all who hear the Gospel preached (Romans 10:4ff; John 12:38; 17:20; Galatians 3:2, 5; Titus 1:3). But many are called and few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). Notice Matthew does not say that "all" are called but "many." This is in line with Romans 1:18ff which says that natural revelation only provides sufficient revelation to make them without excuse, as natural religions prove. There is only one way of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:10, 12). So for Knox to say that classical five point Calvinism is gnostic is silly, particularly when the Reformed confessions univocally say that the appointed means of God's saving of the elect is through the right preaching of the law and gospel and through the right administration of the sacraments. If the Gospel is hidden, it is hidden to the reprobate (John 12:36-43). By Knox's view it would appear that he agrees with liberal theologians who attribute the Gospel according to John to gnostic Christianity in the second century. I might add that this same criticism could be leveled at Amyraldians who also claim to believe in election and reprobation after the decree for Christ to redeem all men without exception.  In other words, Amyraldians do not really believe that all men are going to be saved.  If unconditional election is true, then it logically follows that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.  That would mean that from God's eternal decree it was never possible for the reprobate to be saved whatsoever.  (Romans 9:11-13; 1 Peter 2:8).

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect.

LORD, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Reformation said...


Catching up on much mail. This one will require multiple re-re-reads. I most seriously engaged this from 1976-78. RES taught 5-point Calvinism before their syncretisms.

I'll come back at this again. Good work in several respects.


Reformation said...

You won't find this kind of stuff amongst the Manglican syncretists.

Good work.

It won't appear on ACNA reading lists, seminary curricula, with rectors or bishops in the main.

As to Australian Amyraldians, e.g. Knox, not impressed.

Reformation said...

This must be the only Anglican blog that even gets to issues. That even makes the effort. Commendations.

The syncretists, e.g. hint, hint, ACNA, can't even go near this stuff.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks, Phil. I put much work into this one because I think it is an important issue.

God bless you in your efforts at Reformation.


Charlie J. Ray said...

Reymond is rich & right on, isn't he?!


For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. ~ Romans 5:17 ~

Charlie J. Ray said...

Hi, Hugh...

Yes, I learned more about supra and infra lapsarianism from Reymond than any other single theologian I've read. My only complaint is that he endorses common grace on pp. 402-3. I bought this book some years ago and still refer to it often.

The reason I'm critiquing Knox is that I recently bought his 3 vol. Selected Works for 1/2 price. So far I think he is not that good at theology. He frequently confuses synergistic views on cooperation with monergistic ones. Though to his credit he does believe in predestination. His son, who is my rector, says that his father recommended Loraine Boettner's book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. I think that's where he gets his ideas on predestination but unfortunately he isn't consistent even on that.

His theology is essentially eclectic where he borrows from whomever seems to fit the illogical scheme of Amyraldianism. As you could tell from the portion I quoted he can't seem to follow propositional truth, despite the fact that he upholds propositional truth in his small book on the 39 Articles.


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