Phillip Johnson and Amyraldianism

Phillip Johnson has an article (to which Trey Austin thoughtfully directed me) in which he provides a fairly helpful and quick guide to some distinctions among Evangelical views of the order of decrees, ranging from Supralapsarianism to Arminianism.

In the section on what Johnson prefers to call Amyraldism (as opposed to Amyraldianism), Johnson states: “Puritan Richard Baxter embraced this view, or one very nearly like it. He seems to have been the only major Puritan leader who was not a thoroughgoing Calvinist. Some would dispute whether Baxter was a true Amyraldian. (See, e.g. George Smeaton, The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991 reprint], Appendix, 542.) But Baxter seemed to regard himself as Amyraldian.” (emphases omitted)

He also cautions: “But Amyraldism probably should not be equated with all brands of so-called “four-point Calvinism.” In my own experience, most self-styled four-pointers are unable to articulate any coherent explanation of how the atonement can be universal but election unconditional. So I wouldn’t glorify their position by labeling it Amyraldism. (Would that they were as committed to the doctrine of divine sovereignty as Moise Amyraut! Most who call themselves four-pointers are actually crypto-Arminians.)”

(source) “Notes on Supralapsarianism & Infralapsarianism”

It is very interesting to me that the same folks Tony Byrne, David Ponter, and some of their associates that have been so anxious to misuse Phillip Johnson’s primer on Hyper-Calvinism are completely unwilling to use his notes on Calvinism.

And, of course, when we see Tony’s chart that he handed out to Dr. Allen for the so-called John 3:16 conference, guess who pops up in the “Moderate/Classical Calvinist” column of the chart:

Amyraut – the very person for whom Amyraldianism is named
Baxter – one of the very few Puritan Amyraldians
Dr. Alan Clifford – The Pastor of the Norwich Reformed Church, which has been holding yearly Amyraldianism conferences for at least three years.

Now, certainly, Tony throws other men into the list, some more or less justifiably. Bunyan, for example, may belong there, but Jonathan Edwards almost certainly does not. Here’s some evidence in support of my position on Edwards:

‘Tis Absurd to suppose that Christ Died for the salvation of those that he at the same time Certainly knew never would be saved. What Can be meant by that expression of Christ dying for the salvation of any one, but dying with a design that they should be saved by his death. or dying hoping that he they will be saved or at Least being uncertain but that they will be saved by his death. When we say that one Person does a thing for another, that which is Universally Understood by such an expression is that he does it with a design of some benefit to that other Person. ‘Tis nonsense to say that Any Person does any thing to the End that Another thing that may be done and ’tis Impossible that he should design Any benefit to Another person that he Certainly knows will have no benefit by it.

‘Tis Nonsense to say that Any thing [is done] with a design that Another thing should be done and to that End that it may be Done, at the same time that he has not the Least expectation that that other thing Ever will be done. and much more when he perfectly knows it never will. It matters not in this Controversy whether we suppose an absolute decree or no if we only allow that God knows all things that he knows future things before they Come to Pass as he declares he does in his word and no Christians pretend to deny But if we don’t deny this it implies a plain Contradiction to suppose that Christ died for in a proper sense.

If it Replied that no other is Intended when they say Christ died for all then that by his death all have the offer of salvation so that they may have salvation if they will accept of salvation – without any expectation or design of Christ that they should be saved by his death. if that be all that is Intended they Are Against no body – all that are Called Christians own that By Christ’s death all that live under the Gospel have the offer of salvation.

– Edwards, Jonathan – Sermon on Galatians 2:20


4 Responses to “Phillip Johnson and Amyraldianism”

  1. natamllc Says:

    Let me say that I quite agree with your position on Edwards.:::>"….Certainly knew never would be [saved]…."Where I think the thinking bogs down is with one's own free will.One advantage I have, if you would so agree with that, that I have an advantage here, is the fact that I did not start reading the writings of others before I was trained in Scriptures. In fact, after so many years, since 1975, I have centered most of my "knowledge" learning of these things in Scripture. It has only been just recently, say maybe a year or two prior to coming in here and commenting on your blog that my focus has been on the minds of these Reformed Thinkers.I have no ax to grind. I did not have a position as to supra or infra, Arminianism or Amyraldianism, Francis Turretin or Goodwin or Owens or or or, just throw them all on the table, Luther, Calvin and so on before coming to understand these great minds and reading their thoughts in writing and their assertions about this doctrine or that one. My focus has been on the great minds of the thinkers of the Bible, from Moses through to John. Each of these authors have captivated my thinking most. I have the great benefit as you, to have the "same" Holy Ghost interpreting what "He" meant when He was moving upon the writers of these 66 books. So the position I take, hopefully, first comes from understanding the meaning of Scripture and God's Heart and Soul to so align myself with assertions as you are making today about Edwards?I have embraced fully the Arminian position equally as I have the Calvinistic and the Lutheran. I have studied somewhat, the histories too and the sciences to find the historical parallels with Scripture. Some want to go beyond those 66 books and add to them to prove a point. I choose not too. I read these thinkers now and the comments of those wanting to assert a position in support of their position about things revealed or the reasonings of those opposed only to listen for the Bible's assertion in the words.It really has been in the last several months that I have started to harden my beliefs about these things. I have, for months been refering to Johnson's overview, the four charts. I notice that I did not see that TF, the point you make about Amyraldism as opposed to Amyraldianism. I immediate opened up his quick guide to confirm it though, not relying upon your claim, :)! to see what you were saying.Back to this point you are making confirms it for me about Jonathan Edwards and the other side, like, maybe, Charles and John Wesley and so on.The basis for my firm commitment to this position does not come from understanding the way you think either, TF as first in importance. I find I am relying heavily on a lot of this stuff more so after coming in here and weighing your positions and insights, which I find bright to say the least as well as deep and broad.It is solely based in Scripture.I guess we all believe as much about ourselves, huh?So, to the point then, that quote from Jonathan Edwards I find the position in Scripture here and it is here that my foundation is laid upon and my thinking is based that reassures me of your position to refute others claims about him and his thinking about these things. I simply say, he too was given the anointing, the touch, the revelation about these mysteries of "common salvation and for Whom Christ died, to be saved, for him to make such an argument as you posted in the article above:::>Mat 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Mat 1:19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. Mat 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Mat 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Mat 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Mat 1:23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). Mat 1:24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, Mat 1:25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. The Story of Jesus as told by those under the anointing of the Holy Ghost is told to those God elects as we can clearly see here.Joseph named "Him" Jesus just as the Angel told him too. Who's free will was at work then? That to me is the crux of it all. It was his free will. That to me is what distinguishes the Elect from the reprobate. What is my definition of the Elect? One who hates evil and is angry with the wicked everyday and predestined to choose Christ. What is my definition of the reprobate? One who honestly is from the devil, hates God and man and have not been created for the common Salvation so as to be saved."It is He, Who will SAVE "His" people from "THEIR" sins.I don't know why some reject that? I don't.Someone needs to answer the question as to why God would send Christ to die for those whose very hearts are reprobate and turned against the King and the Kingdom?The whole exercise, if I can so use that term, begins at the accounting of these things in the book of Genesis where fully 6 and a half days had past before God gets around to making man, male and female out of "pre-existing" matter. That in and of itself should be a tip off as to Predestination? But I digressed there.How does one account for Genesis 1:2 and the fruit of "darkness" in light of the revelation the Same Holy Ghost gave John? Well, I have been taught that Scripture is the best interpretation for Scripture:::>Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Joh 1:2 He was in the beginning with God. Joh 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Joh 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. Joh 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. and:::>1Jn 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 1Jn 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. Does anyone with an opposition to this position put forth here have something that can be posted hereon to persuade me otherwise? I am open in my thinking to hear it and give it consideration.

  2. Turretinfan Says:

    I think you are right to start from Scripture and end with Scripture. Edwards was a genius of a man, and so were many others that we have studied, but they are all fallible human beings. We must always go back to the Book and check what it says, earnestly desiring to be fed by the Word of God.-TurretinFan

  3. GeneMBridges Says:

    This is quite plain. We’re now watching the Quasi-Amyraldians attempt to rewrite historical theology in order to put anybody and everybody on their side. They’ve tried it with Charles Hodge; now they’re after Edwards. Since they can’t make a sound exegetical argument, they are trying the Roman Catholic maneuver – resorting to the Reformed “Fathers.” I’m not surprised Byrne has gone this route given his connection to TX Baptists. SWBTS itself is attempting to rewrite Baptist history itself to make sure we are connected to Anabaptistism itself not the Particular Baptists of the 17th century.

  4. Turretinfan Says:

    Not only Ponter but no less than Dr. Alan Clifford (an open Amyraldian) have been advocating such ideas. Mr. Ponter has a web page on Edwards that so weakly supports a thesis that Edwards was Amyraldian, that I must commend him for putting it up at all. But Clifford tries to go further and positively assert Amyraldian influence in Edwards, pointing (for example) to the moral /natural inability distinction which (says he) was first promoted by Amyraut.-TurretinFan

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