September 18, 2007

Richard Muller on Amyraut and Confessional Boundaries: Part 1

Prompted by a post by Marty Foord, I have been checking what Dr. Muller has to say about Amyraut and the Saumur school of theology in his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. Muller writes:
There were also bitter battles among the Reformed—over Cocceian theology, over the espousal of Cartesian principles, and over the various teachings of the Academy of Saumur, over the soteriology of Richard Baxter, and over various responses to the Socinian denial of an essential or ad intra divine attribute of punitive justice. On none of these issues, however, did the Reformed churches rupture into separate confessional bodies or identify a particular theologically defined group as beyond the bounds of the confessions, as had been the case at the Synod of Dort. Amyraut was, after all, exonerated by several national synods in France, and the debate over his "hypothetical universalism" did not lead to the charge of heterodoxy against others, like Davenant, Martinius, and Alsted, who had, both at Dort and afterward, maintained similar lines of argument concerning the extent of Christ's satisfaction.[104] The Westminster Confession was in fact written with this diversity in view, encompassing confessionally the variant Reformed views on the nature of the limitation of Christ's satisfaction to the elect, just as it was written to be inclusive of the infra- and the supralapsarian views on predestination[105]. Amyraut, moreover, arguably stood in agreement with the intraconfessional adversaries like Turretin on such issues as the fundamental articles of faith.[106]

Even when it was censured in the Formula Consensus Helvetica, the Salmurian theology was not identified as a heresy but as a problematic teaching that troubled the confessional orthodoxy of the church: the preface to the Formula specifically identifies the faculty of Saumur as "respected foreign brethren," who stand on the same "foundation of faith" but whose recent teachings have become a matter of grave dispute. The Formula consciously refrained from any reference to Cocceian theology, despite the desire of a few theologians to censure this variety of Reformed thought as well.[107] Nor, indeed, did the adoption of a modified Cartesian philosophy by thinkers like Heidanus, Burman, or Tronchin take them beyond the pale of orthodoxy. This is not to diminish the controversies or to claim that Cocceian federalism, the Salmurian theology, and the rise of Cartesian tendencies among the Reformed did not place enormous strains on orthodoxy – nor does it ignore the fact that the critical techniques of Cappel and the adoption of Cartesian principles by various Reformed thinkers pointed toward the beginning of a new era in which confessional orthodoxy would fade.
104. Cf., e.g., John Davenant, A Dissertation on the Death of Christ, as to the Extent of its Benefits, trans., Josiah Allport (London: Hamilton, Adams and Co., 1832); also note Davenant's On the Controversy among the French Divines of the Reformed Church, concerning the Gracious and Saving Will of God toward Men, in ibid., pp. 561–569, where Davenant indicates his differences with Cameron.

105. See Benjamin B. Warfield, The Westminster Assembly and its Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), p. 56.

106. Moyse Amyraut, De mysterio trinitatis, deque vocibus ac Phrasibus quibus tam Scriptura quam apud Patres explicatur, Dissertatio, septem partibus absoluta (Saumur: Isaac Desbordes, 1661), pars I (pp. 3–5); see below, 9.1 (A.2; B.2) and see the description of the treatise in PRRD IV, 2.2 (D.2). Also note Amyraut, A Treatise Concerning Religions, in Refutation of the Opinion which accounts all Indifferent. Wherein is also evinc'd the Necessity of a particular Revelation and the Verity and preeminence of the Christian Religion (London: M. Simons, 1660).

107. Formula Consensus Helvetica, praefatio, in Niemeyer, Collectio confessionum, II, p. 730. Also see Martin I. Klauber, "The Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675): An Introduction and Translation," in Trinity Journal, 11 (Spring 1990), pp. 103–123 (a useful history which, unfortunately omits the preface of the Formula from its translation); and
note the remarks of Schaff in Creeds of Christendom, I, p. 486.
Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1:76–77.

Also, see Richard Muller on Amyraut and Confessional Boundaries: Part 2.

1 comment:

Marty said...

Dear Tony,

Thanks for the tip bro. I was amazed the first time I read Muller's comments in PRRD. He also makes the same noises in After Calvin if I remember rightly.

Stay in touch.

God bless,