Benjamin Inman on Turretin on Amyraldianism

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Historiography


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.

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