A nuanced interpretation of Calvinism that posits Christ’s atonement as universally intended, conditional upon faith.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Reformed Protestantism
Founder: Moïse Amyraut
Founded: 17th century
Location: France
Other Names: Amyraldism, Amyraldianism

Amyraldism, also known as “four-point Calvinism” or “moderate Calvinism,” represents a theological perspective within the broader Reformed tradition. This doctrine is attributed to Moïse Amyraut, a 16th-century French theologian, who sought to modify the traditional Calvinistic interpretation of predestination and atonement. Central to Amyraldism is the concept of hypothetical universalism, which maintains that Christ’s atonement was made for all humanity on the condition of faith, thereby presenting a universal offer of salvation, distinct from the particular election of individuals to salvation.

Amyraldism retains the classic Calvinistic views on total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints, diverging only on the extent of the atonement. In essence, it rejects the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement in favor of a universal atonement that is effective only for those who believe. Amyraut argued that this interpretation better aligns with the benevolence of God and the scriptural assertions of God’s universal salvific will, without compromising the Calvinist commitment to unconditional election and sovereign grace.

Amyraut’s doctrine sparked considerable debate within Reformed circles in France, the Dutch Republic, and Switzerland. Some theologians, valuing Amyraut’s emphasis on God’s love and justice, found his views consistent with Reformed orthodoxy and the teachings of the Synod of Dort. Others, however, saw it as a departure from traditional Calvinist doctrine or an unwelcome compromise with Arminianism. Despite the controversy, Amyraldism was never deemed heretical but rather was tolerated as a variant within the Reformed tradition, particularly after the national Synods of Alençon (1637), Charenton (1645), and Loudun (1659) decided against excommunicating Amyraut, provided that his teachings did not lead to further division.

Amyraldism has persisted into modern times, finding resonance among various evangelical groups, including Southern Baptists, the Evangelical Free Church of America, and among Anglicans, particularly in the Diocese of Sydney, Australia. It offers a middle ground between strict Calvinism and Arminianism, especially in its approach to the atonement and the universal offer of salvation, while maintaining a Calvinistic framework for understanding election and grace.

Despite its historical significance and continued influence, Amyraldism has been critiqued for potentially undermining the doctrine of limited atonement and for its logical implications regarding the atonement’s efficacy. Critics argue that if Christ died for all but not all are saved, it raises questions about the nature of atonement and divine justice. Nonetheless, Amyraldism represents a thoughtful attempt to grapple with the tensions between divine sovereignty, human responsibility, and the scope of salvation within a Reformed theological context​​​​​​.

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