January 15, 2009

Samuel Ward (1577–1640): The "Semi-Arminian" Synodist

It is evident, however, that their [the English divines] unwearied labours in softening the synodal decrees, and the moderation of their conciliar conduct, had rendered them objects of suspicion to many in the Synod [at Dort]. Dr Ward, in a letter to Archbishop Usher says:—
We had somewhat to do when we came to frame canons with the provincials, and some of the exteri touching some points, especially touching the second Article. Some of us were held by some [as] half Remonstrants, for extending the oblation made to the Father to all, and for holding sundry effects thereof offered serio, and some really communicated to the reprobate: I had somewhat to do with a principal man on this point: somewhat passed between us privately. We were careful that nothing should be defined which might gainsay the Confession of the Church of England, which was effected, for that they were desirous to have all things in the Canons defined unanimi consensu.
From Morris Fuller's The Life, Letters & Writings of John Davenant. (London: Methuen & Co. 1897), 90.


If you hold to a moderate view of Christ's death and ground the "serious offers" of the gospel upon his oblation made to the Father for all, be prepared to be looked upon suspiciously, and to be slandered as either an Arminian or semi-Arminian ("half remonstrant"). It's nothing new. Samuel Ward, James Ussher and Ezekiel Culverwell (and many others) were all treated that way.


Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Samuel:

I too have been treated badly by many Calvinists. They can be downright mean-spirited when they want to be.

I am a Calvinist, but I hope I do not display the arrogant kind.



Martin said...

I share your concern. All the more reason to continue to address their errors and not to give up.
Despite all the protestations that Calvinist doctrines are humbling, it is not surprising that non-Calvinists frequently speak of Calvinists as arrogant and proud. Sadly, for many, it seems that the finer points of theology are more important than living godly lives in a crooked generation and enjoying an-ever more intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ (from which godliness is the fruit). In fact, in my brief time amongst hyper-Calvinists, any attempt at suggesting that godliness was more important than many of their theological debates (in which the object seemed to be a combination of seeing who could most magnify God's sovereignty and attacking anyone who disagreed) was met with derision.

Of course, this does have implications for us in that we moderates, in believing that our doctrines are a more faithful representation of scripture, should strive to set a better example. After all, the main purpose of theology is practical, and if we believe our theology to be better then it should make a practical difference in our lives.

However, let us remember that by ourselves we cannot produce this godly life. It is the fruit of our union with christ, that is, when we walk in line with the truth of the Gospel. Let us then, first and foremost, remember the gospel, for if Christ gave Himself for the World then we need not doubt whether He loves us and if He loves us then we need not worry what those who lack such assurance of His love may throw at us in their vain attempts to find their identity elsewhere than in Christ (this being what I believe is the root of such mean-spiritedness as we have encountered). Make sense?