Archive for the ‘Historiography’ Category



The Helvetic Consensus Formula (Formula Consensus Helvetica) is the last doctrinal Confession of the Reformed Church of Switzerland, and closes the period of Calvinistic creeds. It has been called a ‘symbolical after-birth.’ It was composed in 1675, one hundred and eleven years after Calvin’s death, by Professor John Henry Heidegger, of Zurich (1633-1698),1 at the request and with the co-operation of the Rev. Lucas Gernler, of Basle (d. 1675), and Professor Francis Turretin, of Geneva (1623-1687).2 It never extended its authority beyond Switzerland, but it is nevertheless a document of considerable importance and interest in the history of Protestant theology. It is a defense of the scholastic Calvinism of the Synod of Dort against the theology of Saumur (Salmurium), especially against the universalism of Amyraldus. Hence it may be called a formula anti-Salmuriensis, or anti-Amyraldensis.


The Twenty-third National Synod of the Reformed Church in France, held at Alais, Oct. 1, 1620, adopted the Canons of Dort (1619), as being in full harmony with the Word of God and the French Confession of 1559, and bound all ministers and elders by a solemn oath to defend them to the last breath. The Twenty-fourth National Synod at Charenton, September, 1623, reaffirmed this adoption.3 But in the theological academy at Saumur, founded by the celebrated statesman Du Plessis Mornay (1604), there arose a more liberal school, headed by three contemporary professors–Josué de la Pace (Placeus, 1596-1655), Louis Cappel (Capellus, 1585-1658), and Moyse Amyraut (Moses Amyraldus, 1596-1664)–which, without sympathizing with Arminianism, departed from the rigid orthodoxy then prevailing in the Lutheran and Reformed Churches on three points–the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, the particular predestination, and the imputation of Adam’s sin.

Saumur acquired under these leaders great celebrity, and attracted many students from Switzerland. It became for the Reformed Church of France what Helmstädt, under the lead of Calixtus, was for the Lutheran Church in Germany; and the Helvetic Consensus Formula of Heidegger may be compared to the ‘Consensus repetitus‘ of Calovius (1664), which was intended to be a still more rigorous symbolical protest against Syncretism, although it failed to receive any public recognition.4

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Benjamin Inman on Turretin on Amyraldianism

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


Turretin’s Evaluation of Amyraldianism As noted in the introduction of the present study, the significance of Turretin for much previous scholarship has been his role in the Amyraldian controversy. Without question he resisted this recasting of Reformed theology both in his writings and in his official capacity in Geneva, but his estimation of Amyraldianism must not be described, perhaps anachronistically, as unmitigated rejection. Pitassi takes Turretin’s role in the querelle de fa grace as exemplaric of a suspicion and intolerance akin to Roman Catholicism in that era.57 Dennison portrays the influence of Amyraldianism as the breaching of orthodoxy’s dam.58 Whether this is true or not, Turretin does not seem to anticipate such effects. His two published volumes of sermons seem to reflect no conspicuous concern; instead, their primary polemical concern is pastoral refutation of Roman Catholicism.59 Turretin rejects Amyraldianism, but he does not declare it beyond the pale.

Turretin says the question of the satisfaction’s object “has been (and still is) agitated by various persons.” He traces the universalist position from the time of Augustine to his own time, attributing it to both the Lutherans and Arminians. Lastly, he speaks of the Amyraldians. “Those of our ministers who defend universal grace yield to this position, if not entirely yet in great measure.”60 He does not put them outside the Reformed camp. Elsewhere he refers to them as “those among the Reformed who hold to universal grace” although in their formulation of the divine decrees “in various particulars they approach to the hypotheses of the Remonstrants.”61 They describe the death of Christ as decreed and performed for all human beings, such that “[God] did not absolutely intend so much salvation in him, as the possibility of salvation." They then introduce the discrimination of divine election. Because God foresaw that human depravity would preclude faith on the part of anyone, “they contend that God (by another special decree) determined to give faith to some by which they might believe on Christ.”62 Though Turretin sees here similarity to the Arminians, he takes this particularism as a substantive matter: "In this they rightly differ from the Arminians.”63

Contrary to Pitassi’s characterization of Turretin as intolerant, his response to Amyraldianism is moderate. Turretin apparently showed such a disposition in other areas of controversy.64 Turretin himself studied with the Amyraldians in Saumur and Paris, and maintained a long correspondence with Jean Daille, a noted and published Amyraldian.65 Turretin even served as editor for volumes of Daille’s sermons published in Geneva.66 Apart from these congenial associations with Amyraldianism, Turretin’s attitude toward the Amyraldians can be best understood in terms of his estimation that their error does not harm the fundamental articles, though it is contrary to orthodoxy. Turretin played a significant role in the adoption of the The Helvetic Consensus which specifically rejects Amyraldian positions.67 In a 1676 letter, Turretin defended the confessional exclusion of Amyraldianism. He rehearses the history of the debate at Geneva over the previous decades and the various actions to exclude Amyraldianism taken by the Venerable company. His evaluation of these opinions gives reason for his moderate tone as cited above in IET. Amyraldianism does not touch on the fundamentals of the faith, but it is more than the theological diversity that characterizes academic discussion. It comes so near to the fundamentals that it must be opposed for the sake of the church’s health. Unlike the correct views it cannot properly foster healthy piety.

There are purely doubtful questions of the School, upon which one can take the position one wishes without danger, but we do not believe that the points which they agitate are of the same nature, although we continue to agree that they are not fundamental nor absolutely necessary for salvation. Nevertheless, we think that they can’t avoid approaching the necessary doctrines and are so important that we are obliged to instruct the people regarding them.68

Benjamin T. Inman, “God Covenant in Christ: The Unifying Role of Theology Proper in the Systematic Theology of Francis Turretin” (Ph. D diss., Westminster Theological Seminary), 390-393. [footnote values and content original and underlining mine.]


57Maria-Cristina Pitassi, “Evolution,” 187.

58Dennison., Jr. "The Twilight of Scholasticism," 244-55.

59Francois Turrettini, Sermons sur divers passages de l’Ecriture Sainle (Geneva.. 1676), and Recueil de sermons sur divers lextes de l’Ecriture Sainle pour l’elal presenl de l’Eglise (Geneva.. 1687).





64Francois Laplanche, L Eenture, Ie saere et l ‘histoire: erudits et politiques Protestants devant la Bible en France au XVII siecle (Amsterdam: Holland University Press, 1973), 580-81. Keizer, Francois Turrettini, 92-95.

65Correspondance de J.-A Turretinni, f105-261. Jean Daille, Vindiciae apologiae pro duabus ecclesiarum in Gallia Protestantium Synodis nationalibus (Amsterdam: Joannis Ravesteynii, 1657).

66Correspondente de J.-A. Turretinni, f130-140.

67Philip Schaff, "The Helvetic Consensus Formula," in The Creeds a/Christendom with a History and Critical Notes, vol. 1, The History of Creeds, ed. Philip Schaff, revised by David S. Schaff (Grand Rapids. MI: Baker Book House. from the 1931 edition published by Harper and Row; reprinted, 1990).477-489.

68"Il y a des Questions d ‘Ecole purement problematiques. sur lesquelles on peut prendre le parti qu’on veut, sans danger, Mais nous ne croyons pas, que les points, dont il s’agit, soient de meme nature, quoi que nous demeurions d’accord, qu’ils ne sont pas fondamentaux ni absolument necessaires au Salut; Nous estimons pourtant, qu’ils ne laissent pas d’approcher des necessaires, & d’etrc asses importants pour nous obliger a en instruire le peuple. Et comme nous nous jpersadons, que les sentimens, que nous en avons, sont fondez sur la Parole de Dieu, & nce contribuent pas peu a l’a affermissement de notre Foy, & de notre Consolation, & a l’avancement de la vraye piete, nous crayons, que les autres n ‘y etant pas conformnes, ne peuvent pas produire les memes effets.” Francis Turretin, "Response de Msr. Francois Turretin. Datee de 16 Fevrier 1676," 28.


1.2 Debate Within the Reformed Tradition

The eras of the Reformation and of Reformed orthodoxy were times of intense polemic and debate, initially over issues of reform and, as the Reformation progressed and the church divided, over issues of confessional identity and confessional boundaries. There were also a large number or debates, varying in intensity, which took place over theological and philosophical issues not immediately related to confessional definition. A tentative distinction of these different types of debate–recognizing that the categories are not rigidly defined and include some overlapping aspects–can serve both to clarify the nature of Reformed orthodoxy and to characterize the direction of investigation undertaken by the present volume. The main point of the categories is to highlight not only the diversity of Reformed theology in the era of orthodoxy but also the diversity of the debates as they played out across a spectrum from major encounters requiring Confessional statement and, indeed, condemnation or disapproval, to often bitter arguments of considerably lesser weight that addressed issues of preference in theological formulation without directly broaching questions of confessionality or leading to new confessional formulae.

Three kinds of kinds of debate have been most frequently referenced in the older scholarship–namely I) the polemical debates with other confessionalities, whether Lutheran, Roman, Socinian, or Anabaptist; 2) debates concerning particular lines of doctrinal argument that transgressed acknowledged confessional boundaries-notably the controversies over Samuel Huber’s universalism and Jacob Arminius’ views on grace and predestination; and 3) debates internal to the Reformed confessional tradition that, in one way or another, pressed questions of the precise meaning of the confessional documents, such as the debates over eschatology or over various elements of Salmurian theology as proposed by Moises Amyraut, Paul Testard, Josue La Place, Samuel Morus, but that did not result in synodical decisions of heresy–although sometimes yielding, as in the case of the Articles of Morus and the Formula Consensus Helvetica, confessional documents of a more limited scope.

There are also several other types of debate characteristic of the era, debates that took place far more frequently, but that have generally been given less attention. Thus there were 4) debates over philosophical issues, often concerned with the impact of the new rationalisms on fundamental understandings in logic, physics, and metaphysics and, by extension, on theological formulation. There were also, 5) debates concerning non- or sub-confessional issues that were nevertheless of a fairly significant theological weight that threatened to rise to the confessional level. Here we count the supralapsarian-infralapsarian debates, debates over what for lack of a better term can be called non-Amyraldian hypothetical universalism, over the imputation mediate or immediate of Adam’s sin to his posterity, over the imputation of Christ’s active obedience to believers, and the debates related to elements of Cocceian theology. Finally, 6) there were a large number of theological topics subject to rather different formulations on the part of the Reformed orthodox that sometimes issued in fairly heated interchanges among theologians but that, arguably, did not rise to the level of the debates just noted in the fifth category. By way of example, there were differences in understanding of divine simplicity in relation to the predication of divine attributes and the problem of divine knowledge of future propositions.

1.3 Debates Concerning Confessional Boundaries–Crossing Over or Pressing the Boundary

Leaving aside the first category, the debates with other confessionalities, as not belonging to the scope of the present study and concentrating specifically on debates within the Reformed tradition, some comment is necessary concerning the difference between the second and third kinds of debate namely those identifying transgressions of confessional boundaries and those remaining within the confessional limits – given the way in which such differences were typically glossed over in the older scholarship, particularly when the debates were analyzed in terms of the “Calvin against the Calvinists” paradigm. The late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century debates over universalistic and synergistic soteriologies, notably those over Huber’s and Arminius’ understandings of grace and predestination arose over the thought of theologians who were Reformed in terms of their ecclesial or confessional location but whose thought contradicted basic statements of the Reformed confessions, rendering these debates rather different from the debates over Amyraut’s theology, given that not only was Amyraut Reformed in ecclesial and confessional location but his theology also arguably fell within the boundaries established by the Gallican Confession and the Canons of Dort. Huber’s and Arminius’ theologies did not fall within the boundaries established by such confessional documents as the Second Helvetic Confession, the Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism.18

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William Cunningham (1805-1861) on Calvin and Heshusius

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism

[comments below]


III. It has been contended very frequently, and very confidently, that Calvin did not sanction the views which have been generally held by Calvinistic divines, in regard to the extent of the atonement,-that he did not believe in the doctrine of particular redemption, that is, that Christ did not die for all men, but only for the elect, for those who are actually saved,–but that, on the contrary, he asserted a universal, unlimited, or indefinite atonement. Amyraut, in defending his doctrine of universal atonement in combination with Calvinistic views upon other points, appealed confidently to the authority of Calvin; and, indeed, he wrote a treatise entitled, Eschantillon de la Doctrine de Calvin touchant la Pdestination, chiefly for the purpose of showing that Calvin supported his views about the extent of the atonement, and was in all respects a very moderate Calvinist. Daillee, in his Apologia pro duabus Synodis, which is a very elaborate defense, in reply to Spanheim, of Amyraut’s views about universal grace and universal atonement, fills above forty pages with extracts from Calvin in as testimonies in his favour. Indeed, the whole of the last portion of this work of Daillee, consisting of nearly five hundred pages, is occupied with extracts, produced as testimonies in favor universal grace and universal atonement, from almost every eminent writer, from Clemens Romanus down to the middle of the seventeenth century; and we doubt if the whole history of theological controversy furnishes a stronger case of the adduction of irrelevant and inconclusive materials. It was chiefly the surrey of this vast collection of testimonies, that suggested to us the observations which we hare laid before our readers in our discussion of the views of Melancthon.1

It is certain that Beza held the doctrine of particular redemption, or of a limited atonement, as it has since been held by most Calvinists and brought it out fully in his controversies with the Lutherans on the subject of predestination; though he was not, as has sometimes been asserted, the first who maintained it. It has been confidently alleged that Calvin did not concur in this view, but held the opposite doctrine of universal redemption and unlimited atonement. Now it is true, that we do not find in Calvin’s writings explicit statements as to any limitation in the object of the atonement, or in the number of those for whom Christ died; and no Calvinist, not even Dr Twisse, the great champion of high Supralapsarianism, has ever denied that there is a sense in which it may be affirmed that Christ died for all men. But we think it is likewise true, that no sufficient evidence has been produced that Calvin believed in a universal or unlimited atonement. Of all the passages in Calvin’s writings, bearing more or less directly upon this subject,–which we remember to have read or have seen produced on either side,–there is only one which, with anything like confidence, can be regarded as formally and explicitly denying an unlimited atonement; and notwithstanding all the pains that have been taken to bring out the views of Calvin upon this question, we do not recollect to have seen it adverted to except by a single popish writer. It occurs in his treatise De Vera participatione Christi in cœna, in reply to Heshusius, a violent Lutheran defender of the corporal presence of Christ in the eucharist. The passage is this:–Scire velim quomodo Christi carnem edant impii pro huibus non est crncifixg et quomodo sanguinem bibant qui expiandis eorum peccatis non eat effusus.2 This is a very explicit denial of the universality of the atonement. But it stands alone,–so far as we know,–in Calvin’s writings, and for this reason we do not found much upon it; though, at the same time, we must observe, that it is not easy to understand how, if Calvin really believed in a universal atonement for the human race, such a statement could ever have dropped from him. We admit, however, that he has not usually given any distinct indication, that he believed in any limitation as to the objects of the atonement; and that upon a survey of all that has been produced from his writings, there is fair ground for a difference of opinion as to what his doctrine upon this point really was. The truth is, that no satisfactory evidence has been or can be derived from his writings, that the precise question upon the extent of the atonement which has been mooted in more modern times, in the only sense in which it can become a question among mm who concur in holding the doctrine of unconditional personal election to everlasting life, ever exercised Calvin’s mind, or was made by him the subject of any formal or explicit deliverance. The topic was not then formally discussed as a distinct subject of controversy; and Calvin does not seem to have been ever led, in discussing cognate questions, to take up this one and to give a deliverance regarding it. We believe that no sufficient evidence has been brought forward that Calvin held that Christ died for all men, or for the whole world, in any such sense as to warrant Calvinistic universalists,–that is, men who, though holding Calvinistic doctrines upon other points, yet believe in a universal or unlimited atonement,-in asserting that he sanctioned their peculiar principles.

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Donald Grohman on Turretin on Amyraut as Reformed

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


Also, it should be pointed out again that the doctrinal difference between the Saumur theologians and Turretin do not involve any of the fundamental tenets of the Reformed faith. Turretin himself mentions this fact in a letter to Jean Claude which we shall consider later in this thesis. As we have seen various times in this chapter, Turretin refers to the Salmurians as fellow Reformed pastors and theologians, and the Salmurians certainly view themselves as being within the Reformed tradition. In fact, Amyraut goes to great lengths in attempting to prove that the orthodox Reformed theologians are in agreement with him. Thus, even though this controversy was a serious and lengthy one, nevertheless it was entirely an internal dispute within the Reformed churches concerning nonfundamental matters.

It might seem that in a sense the doctrinal differences between the Salmurians and the orthodox theologians are only theoretical. The “universalism” of the Saumur theologians is merely hypothetical, and in the final analysis, the Salmurians accept the particularism of the Reformed doctrine of predestination: namely, that only the elect are granted faith and salvation. In fact, since hypothetical universalism was basically intended to be a new way of presenting the doctrine of predestination so as to make it seem less objectionable, it was often called a new method rather than a new doctrine. However, if one examines the arguments on both sides, it becomes apparent that there are certain real differences between the two positions.

Donald Davis Grohman, “The Genevan Reactions to the Saumur Doctrines of Hypothetical Universalism: 1635-1685″ ( Th.D. diss, Knox College in cooperation with Toronto School of Theology. 1971), 120–121.

[Note: On the same point, c.f.  Richard Muller, and Carl Truman, and the related comments by Robert Letham.]

[Credit to Tony for the find.]