August 27, 2012

Amyraldism vs. Four-Point Calvinism

I've been musing about the idea of Limited Atonement, and there are a few posts that I intend to write about it. In preperation though, I would like to make a point about a distinction which I see between what is known as four-point Calvinism and the classic view called Amyraldism.

Both of these views are a form of Calvinism which rejects the Dortian view that the atonement is limited. Indeed, if one merely considers them by what they affirm and don't affirm from TULIP, then they would be considered the same thing, or at least one being a type of the other. However, I think that there is a difference between Amyraldism and what is currently referred to as five point Calvinism.

The distinction lies in the character of the views. Four point Calvinists are essentially people who have been convinced of Calvinism, and embrace the label passionately, but recognize that the doctrine of limited atonement is completely and utterly contradictory to Scripture. So therefore they reject it, and merely affirm the opposite.

Amyraldism though is based on the beliefs of Moses Amyraut, and who had attempted to fully integrate a general atonement theory in with Calvinist teaching. Amyraut felt that he was following the beliefs of Calvin himself, and there are many who believe that Calvin did in fact teach a general view of the atonement. is at least interesting to note that John Calvin himself did not believe in this doctrine [Limited Atonement]. In 1979 researcher R. T. Kendall (b. 1935) published a powerful argument that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement: Calvin and English CAlvinism to 1649. -Roger Olson, Against Calvinist, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011), 145.
Because of this, we can see a big difference from the common Four-point Calvinist and the Amyraldian: one is a pragmatically formed view which is unconcerned with logical consistency, while the other is a carefully articulated theological view.

This brings us to another distinction. Amyraut integrated a general atonement by use of high decretal theology. I'll explain this fuller next week, but today it suffices to say that decretal theology involves technical theological languages which is not used by the average person. Therefore, for most Calvinist laymen, Amyraldism is rather inaccessible, or at least requires additional intentional study. On the other hand, anyone who understands what TULIP is can appreciate four-point Calvinism. You merely drop the 'L'!

In summary, while one may simply see Amyraldism a form of four-point Calvinism, I think four-point Calvinism can be considered a distinct phenomenon, where Amyraldism is a careful and technical articulated position, four-point Calvinism is a guileless attempt to be biblical while holding to Calvinist teaching. Where Amyraldism can be admired for its sophistication, four-point Calvinism can be admired for its honesty and naivete.

Next week, I'll be looking more exactly at what Amyraldism is, and after that we'll start talking about their true value in theology, and how they relate to Calvinism and Arminianism.

August 20, 2012

Reflections on Fatherhood: My How They Grow


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It is amazing that in only 16 months, Marty has gone from being the size of my head, to being the size of my torso. Where before, we were excited when he learned to hold up his own head, now we are having trouble stopping him from climbing on to the arms of the couch... starting from the floor. He used to only cry. Now we have counted 34 words. It is incredible how fast he is growing.

Now I know everyone always says that, but there's a reason for it! I mean, holy cow in India, where has the time gone?! He is looking less and less like a baby and more and more like a boy. It simply boggles my mind.

I wonder what the passage of time feels like to him. I remember when I was a kid, a year was such a long period of time. Now years pass by the way a month used to. I wonder if the passage of a day for him is like a passage of a month. It would be a similar kind of percentage of our lives.

Anyway, I'm probably just rambling. I really just enjoying watching my son grow.

August 13, 2012

Molinism, Calvinism, and I Corinthians

I just finished Dr. Olson's book Against Calvinism (It is really difficult to find time to read when you have a one year old). In appendix 1, Dr. Olson goes over several attempts by Calvinists to protect God's character despite their theology. One particular argument caught my eye: the use of middle knowledge.
Roger Olson explains:
Molinism... is the belief that God possesses "middle knowledge" -- knowledge of what any creature would do freely in any possible set of circumstances. The creature may possess libertarian freedom -- freedom not compatible with determinism and able to do other than it does -- but God knows what he or she wold do with that ability in an conceivable situation. [Roger Olson, Against Calvinism, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011), 184]
Molinism wasn't originally conceived to support Calvinism, but Semiaugustian (which similar to Arminianism). However, some Calvinists have attempted to use it nonetheless. Again Olson explains:
In order to assure that the sin God wants to happen does happen without him being its direct cause of responsible for it (in a guilty sense), God simply places the creature in a situation where he knows the creature will develop a controlling motive of his own accord and act sinfully out of it. [Ibid]
None of this is new to me. Olson does a very good job of explaining why this concept doesn't work (essentially no matter how much space you put between the cause and the effect, if the cause makes the effect definite, it is culpable). Still, as I was reading this I remembered this verse:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. -1 Corinthians 10:13
This is exactly the opposite of what a Molinist Calvinist claims. According to Scripture, God will never tempt you beyond what you are capable of resisting. According to the Molinist Calvinist, God determines the limits of what you are capable of resisting, and then intentionally tempts you in that exact way, when that sin would be for His glory of course.

I wonder how regular Calvinism would deal with this verse as well. The very fact God always provides a way of escape strongly implies, if not describes, the concept of contrary choice (i.e. libertarian free will): the capacity to have done other than what you actually do. If God forces you to sin (and yes Calvinists, I said "force". Just own it), then how does He also give you a way out? I don't think it makes sense.

August 7, 2012


This week, I am just feeling a sense of valeity about writing something. Sorry.