Sunday, December 10, 2006

Logic, Four Point Calvinism, and Undoing Amyraldianism

We Calvinists consider ourselves to be students of the Bible, of theology, and -- not incidentally -- of logic. If many of us are not students of logic as a formal discipline, we at least find ourselves drawn to logic and resorting to logic in our interpretation of scripture and in our apologetic for the Calvinistic system of theology. And why not? We feel ourselves committed to the stern truths of the Bible even though those truths may be uncomfortable or counterintuitive. We seek to bring our minds in subjection to truth, regardless of the cost. This commitment to truth brings us necessarily into the realm of logic, which is the science of truth and falsity.

Calvinist theologians have historically resorted to logic as an arbiter. I was reminded of this by a comment in an article by John Hendryx at The article is entitled "The Amyraldian View Undone." In that article, Hendryx quotes B. B. Warfield as saying that Amyraut's view is "a logically inconsistent and therefore unstable form of Calvinism."

In his article, Hendryx equates Amyraldianism with four-point Calvinism. From what little I know of Amyraut's theology, I believe this is an inaccurate representation of Amyraut, though the term "Amyraldianism" has come to be associated in the minds of many with four-point Calvinism. Without conceding that particular point, I wish to treat this question: is four point Calvinism logically inconsistent?

In one of the comments posted in response to Hendryx's article, Bob Hayton provided a link to a brief article by Dr. Kevin Bauder. ( Bauder points out that all Christians (apart from absolute universalists) agree that the application of Christ's atonement is limited to believers. Four-point Calvinists would agree with their higher Calvinist friends that the application of the atonement is intended only for the elect. But Bauder asks about the provision of salvation, not the application of salvation. Has Christ died to provide salvation for all men, though the application of salvation is limited to the elect? Bauder asserts -- quite correctly -- that if we distinguish between the provision of salvation and the application of salvation, it is perfectly logical to assert that Christ died to provide salvation for all men and to apply salvation only to the elect.

I posed this argument to Hendryx in the comment section of his blog. He responded that he had shown the "inconsistency of the fact that four-point calvinists fail to connect the effectual work of the Holy Spirit to the work of Christ on the cross." Hendryx has simply missed the point. The four-point Calvinist could agree completely that Christ's work on the cross obtains or purchases the work of the Holy Spirit on behalf of the elect. But that is not the question. The simple response to Hendryx's argument is that the effectual work of the Holy Spirit relates to (using Bauder's terms) application, not provision.

Hendryx fails to "undo" Amyraldianism, or even Amyraldianism's illegitimate heir, four-point Calvinism, through a misunderstanding of the logic involved.


P.S. I hasten to add that the theory that Christ "purchased" or "obtained" the work of the Holy Spirit on behalf of the elect is a highly questionable one in this writer's opinion. I would urge my readers to reconsider this issue. But this relates more to systematic theology than logic, so I'll leave the question for others for the time being. :-)

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Anonymous said...

How do you understand the decrees of God? Are the elect still chosen to be regenerationed so that they may come to faith?

Steve said...

I don't deny the traditional reformed order of salvation. I do see regeneration as logically prior to faith. I am undecided whether the logical order mandates a particular chronological order. We often deny that the logical order indicates a chronological order. I wonder whether regeneration is instantaneous and I wonder whether the logical order might occur over a period of time in a different order chronologically. In my experience -- caveat emptor -- the chronological order can be different from the theologically required logical order.