Amyraldism: Inconsistent Trinitarianism
Amyraldism: Inconsistent Trinitarianism
Amyraldism is the long name for Four-Point Calvinism (from the acronym TULIP). This view maintains that Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints are correct but rejects Limited Atonement. I believe that this view is incorrect for a variety of reasons. Elsewhere on this blog I have laid out John Owen’s famous Double Jeopardy argument for Limited Atonement (also called particular redemption). My goal, at this time, is to address the inconsistency found in Amyraldism.
The Trinity is an absolutely central doctrine to Christianity. Trinitarians have repeatedly maintained that the three members of the Trinity are the same in essence and purpose but different in person and work. The crucial point for the Amyraldian discussion revolves around the matter of the Father and Son having the same purpose for the redemption of men.
The first concern is whether the Father and Son are accomplishing the same work guided by the same purpose. In this matter, Scripture is quite clear. The best place to see this teaching is in John’s gospel. Take, for example, John 4, 6, 10, and 14:
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
30 I and My Father are one.”
31but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
John 4, 6, and 14 are clear that Jesus’ purpose on earth is to carry out the will of the Father. John 10 deserves a bit of clarification. Against one particular heresy (Modalism), it should be noted that Jesus is not proclaiming that He and the Father are the same person. Rather, context instructs us to read the passage as a proclamation of the fact that Jesus and the Father are carrying out the same work united in purpose.
Many other verses could also be appealed to, but one example from Ephesians speaks clearly about the matter. Consider Ephesians 3:
9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
The crucial point in this passage is that the Father is carrying out his eternal purpose through Jesus Christ.
At this point, I hope that it does seem evident that Jesus is carrying out the work of the Father. However, this is exactly the inconsistency found within Amyraldism. It becomes quite inconsistent to say that (1) the Father has declared from eternity past those whom he would save and those whom he would reprobate, while maintaining that (2) the Son has died to make Salvation available to every person. This is tantamount to saying that the Father has purposed to save some and that the Son has to make salvation available to all. This is inconsistent Trinitarianism.
However, this is only half of the question. There are some Amyraldians (In actuality, these are the only true Amyraldians who do not immediately fall into 1-Pt Calvinism) who would object at this stage. They would frame the question as a matter of Extent versus Intent. They would say that Jesus did not intend for all men to be saved (which would reflect a different purpose than the father), but rather that the Extent of his death encompasses all men potentially, but only some men actually. Under this view, the Amyraldian could maintain that the purpose of the Father was to make the extent of Jesus’ blood available to all men with the intent being to save only some. Accordingly, they could maintain that they are not being inconsistent Trinitarians.
In a sense they may be right at this point, but have only made the matter worse for themselves. This would not be inconsistent Trinitarianism, but simply an Inconsistent Father. Calvinists correctly maintain that God has two wills, one that is revealed to his people and a second of secret decrees (eg. Election). However, the Amyraldian takes it a step further by suggesting that the Father has two secret wills! He secretly wills that the Son should die to make Salvation available to all and also secretly wills to elect only some. The Calvinist must vehemently oppose the notion that the Father is inconsistent in His secret decrees. Is there any sense in suggesting that the Father wills to only save some and yet make the blood of his Son potentially available to some (hypothetical Salvation as it is sometimes called)? Is this not inconsistent? Apart from being philosophically unacceptable, there is no reason to assert this position from the Scriptures. Rather than Biblical arguments (which are often soundly refuted) the thrust of the Amyraldian argument is often emotional (eg. “It seems so mean for Jesus to not die for all equally!” or “That’s unfair!”).
For these reasons and more, the Amyraldian view must be abandoned in favor of the traditional Particular Redemption view (Limited Atonement) held by the Reformers.