Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Gospel and its proclamation (part 3): Sincere desire for the salvation of all?

[continued from here and here]

Does God honestly desire for all Man to be saved? Is there biblical evidence for or against the idea? Secondly, regardless of the answer: Is it biblical to tell everyone that Christ desires your salvaion during the Gospel proclamation?

It must be admitted fist of all that the idea of God desiring all men to be saved is not a Reformed idea; it comes from the Arminian tradition. In this article, I would assume the Scriptural fidelity and orthodoxy of Calvinism, which I have proven from the Scriptures elsewhere[1]. Anyway, calvinists of all stripes unanimously affirm that Christ intends to die for only His elect (Definite or Limited Atonement), as a cursory look at the major Reformed creeds like the Canons of the Synod of Dordt, the Wesminster Confession of Faith etc shows. Since God intends for the salvation of the elect, and of them only, it seems strange, even contradictory, to say that God intends to save the elect while desiring the salvation of all. The only middle way proposed during the Reformation era which strives to hold on to unconditional election and predestination while postulating universal atonement was Amyraldism, named after the unorthodox French theologian Moses Amyrald. Only in this system, which denies Limited atonement, could a statement be made that God desires the salvation of all but only particularly save the elect. However, it still remains to be seen as of then how one can hold to TULIP[2] while arguing that God desires the salvation of all.

In Amyraldism, the doctrine of Definite or Limited Atonement was denied in favor of universal atonement, while the other four points (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption & Perseverance of the Saints) were kept. This was done by making the intention of Christ's atonement that Christ would make a hypothetical universal atonement for all, but logically after that God decreed to save only the elect as no one could by and of themselves avail of the benefits of the atonement due to the Fall[3]. Now, all of these decrees are not temporal but logical and happen only in the mind of God before the Creation of the world. By using such mental gymnastics, Amyrald could consistently preseve the other 4 points of Calvinism while holding on to universal atonement[4]. Such mental gymnastics would of logical necessity split the will of God into at least two parts, of which one part of God's will would desire the salvation of all Man and Christ's atoning work was made available on their behalf, while the other part would intend somehow for the salvation of the elect who would appropriate the merits of the atonement by faith, which can be termed the sine qua non of Amyraldism (trying to be Calvinistic but being not quite there). Granted, these two parts of the will do not function at the same level, as one is logically antecedent to the other, but both of them would be present at the same time in the mind of God.

Through a sophisicated look at the decrees of God, Moses Amyrald has seemingly made it possible for Christians to accept Calvinism (minus the hard truth 'L') while still embracing Universal atonement. It is only through this supposedly reformed scheme that it would be possible for God to be said to sincerely desire the salvation of all Man.

In modern times, Pastor John Piper has embraced just such a view. Due to his reformed leaning convictions, Piper has attempted to incorporate the tenets of Calvinism with such a view of his, thus giving rise to his views concerning the two wills of God[5].We would look at his arguments for his position soon, but suffice it is to say for now that his view is quaintessentially Amyraldian, and the only difference is that somehow he holds to Limited Atonement. This could be probably be due to the fact that, instead of putting God's atoning work as 'sufficient for all', he shifted it to the 'efficient for the elect' part. In other words, whereas in Amyrald's system God desired the salvation of all through making available the partaking of the merits of the Atonement, and then applied to the elect only, Piper's system would mean that God desired the salvation of all, and then intending and giving the merits of the Atonement to the elect. In both systems, the two wills of God are operative, while the intention of the atonement changes from being linked to one will to the other will.

Now, of course, the two views are definitely different, as Piper affirms TULIP while Amyrald denies 'L', making it TUIP, but fundamentally they are the same. Piper's view can therefore be termed pseudo- or neo-Amyraldism (I prefer the latter term) as it is more in line with Amyrald's position than the Calvinist one. That doesn't necessarily makes it wrong of course, but at least it could be identified correctly and not be confused to be that believed by true Calvinists.

In the next post, I would like to analyze the compromise positions of Amyraldism and neo-Amyraldism according to Scripture.

[to be continued]


[1] For proof from Scripture, see my articles here and here.

[2] TULIP stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional election, Limited Atonement, Irrisistable grace, and Pereseverance of the Saints

[3] Notes on supralapsarianism and infralasarianism

[4] Of course, this creates other problems in terms of consistency in theology, but at least all seems well within the narrow scope of TULIP.

[5] Are there two wills in God? (

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