Calvinism, Moïses Amyraut, and the Extent of the Atonement
What follows is a sneak peek from a forthcoming essay about Calvinism and Limited Atonement with a specific focus on French theologian Moïses Amyraut.
Despite the fact that “Limited Atonement,” whereby Jesus dies only for the elect and not for the whole world, is affirmed by Calvinists and some Protestant churches, it is not universal in Protestantism. Lutheran and Anglican theologies of atonement, themselves rooted in the Reformation, each with their own Reformed Confessions, affirm the universal extent of the atonement. That is, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. That said, while the topic of the extent of the atonement came to a head at the Synod of Dort (1618-19) with a definitive and dogmatic defense of limited atonement, prior to that point, even the Reformed churches of Scotland and the Continent were wrestling with the Calvinistic tradition and what it meant in light of scriptural passages that implied that Jesus did for “all” or “every person” or “the world.”
One prominent Reformed theologian writing the topic of Calvin and the extent of the atonement was Moïses Amyraut (1596–1664). Amyraut was “a dogmatic theologian, exegete, moralist, and renowned preacher” of the Saumer academy, a Huguenot seminary in western France, in the seventeenth century. Amyraut, like his teacher John Cameron (1579–1625), was concerned about the hardening of Calvinism into a scholastic and dogmatic system with little room for a universal grace as arguably took place under Theodore Beza (1519–1605) in Geneva and by the declarations of the Synod of Dort (1618–19). Amyraut rejected the supralapsarian and infralapsarian ordering of divine decrees in election and reprobation. He advocated instead the logical priority of the appointment of Christ as the Saviour of humanity ahead of the divine decree to save the elect, while also rejecting a decree to deliberately reprobate anyone. Christ becomes, then, the Saviour of the whole human race, not merely a chosen group from among fallen humanity.
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