Muller Comes Through For Us

In the latest issue of the Calvin Theological Journal, Richard Muller reviews Jonathan Moore’s English Hypothetical Universalism: John Preston and the Softening of Reformed Theology. He mostly likes the book, but he does take issue with Moore’s presentation of “hypothetical universalism” in relation to the Reformed Tradition. Muller writes:

Moore also underestimates the presence of non-Amyraldian or non-speculative forms of hypothetical universalism in the Reformed tradition as a whole and thereby, in the opinion of this reviewer, misconstrues Preston’s position as a “softening” of Reformed theology rather than as a continuation of one trajectory of Reformed thought that had been present from the early sixteenth century onward. Clear statements of nonspeculative hypothetical universalism can be found (as Davenant recognized) in Heinrich Bullinger’s Decades and commentary on the Apocalypse, in Wolfgang Musculus’ Loci communes, in Ursinus’ catechetical lectures, and in Zanchi’s Tractatus de praedestinatione sanctorum, among other places. In addition, the Canons of Dort, in affirming the standard distinction of a sufficiency of Christ’s death for all and its efficiency for the elect, actually refrain from canonizing either the early form of hypothetical universalism or the assumption that Christ’s sufficiency serves only to leave the nonelect without excuse. Although Moore can cite statements from the York conference that Dort “either apertly or covertly denied the universality of man’s redemption” (156), it remains that various of the signatories of the Canons were hypothetical universalists- not only the English delegation (Carleton, Davenant, Ward, Goad, and Hall) but also the [sic] some of the delegates from Bremen and Nassau (Martinius, Crocius, and Alsted)- that Carleton and the other delegates continued to affirm the doctrinal points of Dort while distancing themselves from the church discipline of the Belgic Confession, and that in the course of seventeenth-century debate even the Amyraldians were able to argue that their teaching did not run contrary to the Canons. In other words, the nonspeculative, non-Amyraldian form of hypothetical universalism was new in neither the decades after Dort nor a “softening” of the tradition: The views of Davenant, Ussher, and Preston followed out a resident trajectory long recognized as orthodox among the Reformed.

~CTJ, 43.1 pg. 150

I would add that the thought of the “English hypothetical universalists” is nearly identical with that of the University of Heidelberg, namely Ursinus, Paraeus, and Kimedoncius. Davenant quotes Paraeus directly in his Dissertation on the Death of Christ. Thus, there is little unique to England among the English hypothetical universalists.


9 thoughts on “Muller Comes Through For Us

  1. Oh come on Mark, you just have to broaden your horizons.

    There is plenty of GREAT scholarship out there. It is just being done by folks at “big” schools and even across the pond.

  2. We have a long way to go, but it is a start. Take Bucanus for example, Muller is not quite there yet. Bucanus affirmed the classic version of the sufficient-efficient formula, and thus affirmed an unlimited expiation and redemption in the classic sense of Bullinger, Musculus, Gualther, and many others.

    See William Bucanus on Unlimited and Limited Redemption

    Take care,

  3. Good find, Steven 🙂 I have to admit. I share Mark’s low expectations of the “scholarship” out there, particularly and especially at Westminster (west) in the area of historical theology. I wouldn’t go there to learn history even if it was free.

  4. Dear Steven,

    Thanks for the heads up on this. Really good stuff. Muller has made problems for the Torrances / Barth intepretations of the 17th century, but he is also creating problems for the high calvinist reading of 17th century history. I love it.

    One person he didn’t mention as a foil for Moore’s take on Perkins was William Twisse, who was a supralapsarian but held the sufficient / efficient formula. The supra position didn’t demand the Bezan / Perkins take on the atonement.

    God bless.

  5. Something else is interesting here. Note that Muller says Bucanus was not Federalist. Does that mean Bucanus was less than a true Calvinist, less than Reformed?

    I know I speak rhetorically, but from all the claims on the net, sometimes you get the impression that Federalism exhausts Calvinism and Reformed theology, that you cant be a true Calvinist and be a true Reformed theologian if you dont embrace Federalist categories. I mean, could Bucanus have been invited by Westminster (West) to take up a chair of theology?


  6. Pingback: ‘English Hypothetical Universalism’ « διαθήκη

  7. Pingback: Calvin and Calvinism » Blog Archive » Richard Muller on Non-Amyraldian Precedents to Hypothetical Universalism

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