May 1, 2010

Donald Grohman on Francis Turretin, Conditional Decrees and the Saumur Theologians as Reformed Brethren

...Turretin states that he is in opposition to the Arminians and the Salmurians. He explains first that those who hold to the idea of universal mercy must necessarily understand the order of the decrees to be different from the order normally accepted by the Reformed theologians.4 Moreover, Turretin says again that although some of the Saumur theologians would not admit that they hold to a "conditional decree," since this terminology had been condemned by the Gallic Synod, nevertheless it is obvious that they do hold to this idea.1 The chief writers among them—and here Turretin names Amyraut, Testard, De la Place, and Cappel—frequently use the term "conditional decree," and Turretin argues further that their theological position requires a conditional decree. He says that "since no act of proper and intrinsic will in God concerning the event of anything can be granted, which does not imply a decree, whoever recognizes a conditional will in God, must necessarily admit a conditional decree in him."2

At this point, Turretin feels it is necessary to comment on the opinion of those who argue that the whole matter is not worthy of being seriously debated, because what is involved is just a difference in the method of instruction, not a difference in doctrine. Turretin rejects this idea, arguing that questions involving mercy, redemption, and universal calling cannot be confined simply to method.3

Nevertheless, even Turretin goes on to admit that the doctrine will remain sound just as long as both parties are willing to accept the following points: (1) that all men are corrupt and unable to overcome their sin without the grace of God; (2) that God elects some to salvation and passes over many whom he leaves in their misery by a just judgment; (3) that efficacious grace, without which salvation is impossible, is a gift given by God only to the elect; and (4) that the only way of creating faith within us is for the Spirit to present the Gospel to us. All of thse points, Turretin says, are held in common against the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians.1 It is presumably because the Saumur theologians accepted these points that Turretin continually refers to them as his brethren of the Reformed faith. Although he strongly disagrees with their position, it is interesting to note that he does not feel that the issue at stake concerns the fundamentals of the faith.
4. Ibid., IV, xvii, 2-4. See infra, pp. 92–104.

1. The use of this term was one of the issues raised against Amyraut and Testard at the Synod of Alençon in 1637 (Armstrong, pp. 91-94). See supra, pp. 15, 62.
2. Turretin, IV, xvii, 9.

3. Ibid., IV, xvii, 11.

1. Ibid., IV, xvii, 12.
Donald Davis Grohman, The Genevan Reactions to the Saumur Doctrines of Hypothetical Universalism: 1635–1685 (Th.D. thesis, Knox College, Toronto School of Theology, 1971), 73–74.

[Note: Grohman interprets Turretin like Richard Muller. For Muller, see here and here. Muller says, "Turretin, similarly, indicates his disagreement with the Saumur theologians on various issues, but consistently identifies them as Reformed and as "our ministers." Owen and Baxter acknowledged each other's theologies as belonging to the same confessional tradition." See Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1:79–80.]

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