April 28, 2009

Dating the Saumur Controversy

In September, 1634, Moyse Amyraut published his Brief traitté de la prestination, a little volume that was destined in the years following to stir up a lot of dust. In view of the date of this publication the beginning of the controversy could therefore be pinpointed in the month of September, 1634.

It is more correct, however, to date it in 1635, for it was in the course of that year that the first criticisms of Amyraut's book came out. It needs to be mentioned here that as early as the beginning of 1633 serious objections were raised against a book of Paul Testard, a preacher in the French city of Blois. This volume contained the same ideas advanced in Amyraut's book. However, criticism of Testard's book was too incidental a phenomenon to date the conflict surrounding the theology of Saumur by its appearance. The situation is rather that the criticism of Amyraut's theology re-activated the existing criticism of Testard's book. Amyraut's critics took it ill of him, among other things, that he had published the book in French, thus making it accessible to many people. Also, whereas Testard's book was written in Latin and was full of technical jargon, Amyraut's work was written popularly. Another reason for not dating the beginning of the conflict in 1633 is that, after the National Synod of Alençon in 1637, the Amyraut-conflict remained alive but Testard was hardly mentioned anymore.

The end of the conflict can be put in 1650. An official accord was struck between the representatives of the various parties to the conflict in October of the preceding year, but for a number of months afterwards it was still doubtful whether it would hold. In the course of 1650, however, there was an evident readiness among those who had opposed each other previously to regard the conflict as settled.
Frans Pieter Van Stam, The Controversy Over the Theology of Saumur, 1635-1650 (APA-Holland University Press, 1988), 22–23.

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