Hypothetical Universalism (Paul Helm) | Credo Magazine

Credo MagazineRecently there has been quite a bit of interest in the variety of views held by Reformed theologians within the parameters of confessional orthodoxy. For example, it is argued the view that is described as ‘Amyraldian’ or ‘hypothetical universalist’ is in fact a variety of views. It has been generally assumed that these are two names for the same thing, but recent work has reminded us that Amyraldianism was a more radical set of positions than others in this family, and in fact that ‘hypothetical universalism’ is an umbrella term for various views of differing strengths, each of them distinct from Amyraldianism proper, that is, from the Amyraldianism of Möise Amyraut, and of John Cameron. This is not a new thought but it is novel to most of us, I suspect. Recent scholarship has involved delving into the distinctive views of various Reformed communities and cultures – Dutch, Engish, French, Genevan and so on.

In this post (and maybe in other posts; we’ll see how we get on), my aim is to give the broad outline of these two positions, and to refer to some of the figures involved. Continue reading →

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One Response to Hypothetical Universalism (Paul Helm) | Credo Magazine

  1. parsonsmike says:

    Copied from my reply at the Credo Magazine website:

    You asked:
    ~[a]What’s hypothetical about this version of hypothetical universalism?
    ~[b]How, according to Davenant, is the work of Christ to be understood?
    ~[c]How does his view of the death of Christ (and only this view?) warrant and facilitate the unfettered preaching of the gospel?

    [a] to answer this, I quote from above:
    There are from the death of Christ generally or indiscriminately applicable non-saving benefits, such as Davenant insisted upon, not an actual salvific universalism nor (given the revealed divine purpose) its possibility, by which all could or might by an exercise of their own free will benefit from his death, but a hypothetical universalism.

    The hypothetical part is that the death of Christ CAN NOT benefit everyone salvifically. More than common love, it would seem that Davenant is saying, is needed to actually bring about the conversion of any one person.

    As to [b], I can not say without researching more of what Davenant has said on the subject.

    As to [c], I cannot see that it does. The Gospel is more than “believe in Jesus and you will be saved.” The Gospel is the proclamation that people are sinners before a righteous God, and they have earned eternal death and suffering for their each and every selfish act, and that the only escape is the Lord Jesus Christ, King and Judge, in that trusting in Him and renouncing their old life, they will be saved from the wrath to come.

    That God loved the world and provided a savior does not mean that He loved each person individually. Rather it means that each individual [those who actually hear or read the Gospel must decide if it is true. Those who experience the love of God [Romans 5:8] will see it as the power of God to salvation, while the rest will see it as foolishness, and will continue to love sin and revel in it. The purpose of the Gospel is two fold: One is to call the elect to Himself, while the other is to seal the rest in their sin.

    Certainly there is benefits to all the world, through the church. Through the church women and children have gained worldly esteem. Hunger and poverty, in the community and across the globe, are mitigated. Other human rights are strengthened. Governments where the church has much influence treat the common person better. But to think that non-elect have a chance at salvation remains an unrealizable hypothetical. One can not be saved unless God seeks to save that one. And when God seeks to save them, they get saved. The rest perish in their sins and justly so. Why justly so? because the sacrifice of the Lord was never for them.


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