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Amyraldianism 2

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(The following is a review by George M Ella of ‘Amyraut Affirmed’: or ‘Owenism, a Caricature of Calvinism’, by Alan C. Clifford. Also see Article by K B Napier, again opposing a booklet written by Clifford, who is an avowed Amyraldian; Amyraldianism is heresy).

In this provocative booklet, Dr Allan C. Clifford’s responds to Ian Hamilton’s Amyraldianism – is it modified Calvinism? by presenting Amyraldianism as orthodox Calvinism and the Westminster Confession as a caricature of it. Clifford’s argument is that both John Calvin (1509-1564) and Moses Amyraut (1596-1664) believed that God had two conflicting wills in salvation.

Clifford is so enamoured with his theory that he dispenses with objective textual proof. He merely quotes speculations he has made in former works “for the benefit of those who have been either unable or unwilling to consult” them, arguing that this is all that is necessary to convince his opponents (see pp. 48, 55 etc.). So Clifford presents the Trinity, Calvin and Amyraut as thinking in Cliffordian terms radically opposed to the Biblical and Reformed position.

Clifford claims that Calvin was an Amyraldian because of his alleged belief in a ‘divine dichotomy’(p. 7), viewing God as having a double will: a revealed, universalistic will to save all men and a secret, decreed will to save some only. However, the gospel of salvation, Clifford concludes, is solely God’s universal will to save all and not His electing will to save some. “If a universal gospel offer is to be made, what precisely is on offer if not a universally-available redemption?”, he argues, and concludes that Christ must be offered freely to all because Christ has died for all.

 

Clifford’s ‘evidence’ is threadbare. On pages 18-19, he quotes Calvin’s straightforward reference to the status of the elect in Christ (Institutes, III, I:1), explaining that Amyraut ‘closely follows’ Calvin with a ‘similar statement’. However, the alleged ‘similar statement’ is a highly ambiguous reference concerning God’s ‘two-fold will’ and ‘two-fold intention’ and ‘the idea of the atonement as a potential universal provision’ which is totally foreign to Calvin’s argument.

 

Clifford holds that Calvin pioneered the idea that sinful man is unwilling to be saved but has, nevertheless, the natural ability to respond, but the proof reference he gives (Institutes II, II:12) says no such thing. Furthermore, though Dr Clifford castigates Owen, the New Divinity men he praises as Owen’s opponents claimed to be Owenites themselves!

Clifford cites 1 John 2:2 as teaching a Godhead divided by His own wills. This verse demonstrates that Christ put an end to sin so that righteousness might reign as in Daniel 9:24, where we read that Christ’s work is “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,” indicating that Heaven’s doors are opened through Christ’s redeeming work.

Neither 1 John 2:2 nor Daniel 9:24 point to Clifford’s theoretical universalism or his self-contradicting god. There is nothing theoretical about Christ’s putting an end to sin! The Synod of Dort men, whom Clifford mistakenly adorns with Amyraldian feathers, made it clear that they were not of the Amyraldian School.

John Davenant, the Dortian arbiter and spokesman, stressed double-predestination as sturdily as Calvin and demonstrated that Cameronian-Amyraldian ideas were Semi-Pelagian. For the Dortians, the universalism of Christ’s death had to do with the natural preserving of the world for the elect and not with saving propensities for all mankind.

In stark contrast to Dort, Clifford speaks of a universal, i.e. common, salvation for all. He sums up himself by saying, “So, to re-quote myself, I emphatically do believe “that a man cannot be a true Calvinist if he fails to believe with Amyraut in a redemption which is both universal and particular,” (p. 11).

Amyraut Affirmed gives us neither Amyraut nor Calvin, but much of Clifford. On page 17, Clifford indicates that Amyraut altered his views and that we must consider him solely in what Clifford believes is his ‘mature form’. The advantage of this strategy is clear. Every time we question Amyraut’s Reformed credentials, Clifford protests that we are talking about the ‘immature’ Amyraut. This argument works both ways. Clifford never seems to quote the mature Calvin but always compares his ‘mature’ ideal, Amyraut, with an ‘immature’, less than real, Calvin.

To define exactly when Calvin ‘matured’ and what that maturity consisted in, is just as difficult and perhaps as pointless as trying to say when Amyraut ‘matured’. The Calvin of 1536 was vastly different to the Calvin of 1559. Looking for a ‘mature’ Calvin leaves Berkof viewing Calvin as a Supralapsarian but Helm, Clifford, and Kendall see him respectively as a fence-sitter in theological matters, an Amyraldian and an Arminian. Maria Faber even denies that Calvin believed in predestination!

Clifford defines Amyraldianism quite inadequately in Fullerite terms (Ed. See A-023 by K B Napier and end note) arguing that the atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect. Calvin denounced such teaching strongly. Andrew Fuller, referring to the Death of Death, Book IV:1, mistakenly thought this was Owen’s position too, but Clifford criticises Owen’s book strongly.

Many who hold to this error, nevertheless still condemn Amyraldianism as ‘Pelagianism dressed up’ because of its basic idea that man can thwart God’s will. Clifford wriggles out of this difficulty by claiming that God’s revealed will is conditional (p. 27). So we are to believe that God’s will is meant to be thwarted. However, Clifford cannot be blind to the fact, which Mosheim stresses, that Amyraldianism quickly brought Geneva spiritually and theologically to its knees after Calvin’s death.

Clifford rejects those who refuse to kiss his Blarney stone as Anti-Scriptural, Pro-Westminster Confession Men. Yet Clifford himself has no Scriptural exegesis to offer except as dubious non-contextual, peripheral, support for his most subjective interpretation of Amyraut and Calvin towards the middle of his booklet. This ‘evidence’ could only convince the few already steeped in Cliffordism. Outside of encouraging that tiny clique, I can see no use whatsoever for Clifford’s far-fetched booklet.

 

Other Recommended Articles:

  1. Christian Bennett’s Review

  2. Review of Iain Murray’s ‘John Wesley and the Men Who Followed Him’

  3. Reformation Today and Justification from Eternity: A Review Article

  4. Mountain Movers’ Review

  5. Particular Redemption and the Free Offer

The above review has been republished, with permission, from Biographia Evangelica.

Ed. In my own, thankfully short, dealings with Clifford, I found him impossible to argue with. He kept saying all the answers are in his prime book, but evidently they are not! He feels his Amyraldianism is sound biblical reasoning, when it is, in fact, heretical. Nor could he give me a straightforward explanation of the failings I found in another of his booklets. Instead, he kept saying I must read his prime book!! What this proves is that he is incapable of giving such explanations, because they would be unscriptural.

© May 2015 George M Ella (Reproduced with permission)

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