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AMYRAUT ON PREDESTINATION: The first published translation from the French by Dr Matthew Harding Paperback – 6 January 2017
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Translated by Dr Matthew Harding, a biographical outline of Amyaut's life is provided by Dr Alan Clifford.
From the Translator’s Introduction
The work which you hold in your hand is priceless. It is priceless not because it is intrinsically more valuable than any other great work of the seventeenth century or beyond, or because it is a free book to you the interested reader—you have paid an exact, fair price in acquiring this copy no doubt—but this text is priceless rather because not everybody gets a second chance to be heard in this lifetime. For most of us, God grants a short season in this life in which we find our usefulness for His kingdom and then, well, we expire; sadly, most of us will be unreservedly forgotten after we leave this earth. Our ideas, our works, our impact in our generation, and our voices are extinguished for the ages when we die. Forgotten, we are relegated to the annals of history, and then most of the world will never know we even existed. However, this is not always true! For some, for those that God would use to be a voice of change and hope for many generations after them, their voices, though faint, are still heard. This is the case with Moses Amyraut (French spelling is Moïse Amyraut), a seventeenth century (1596-1664) Frenchman whose voice carries on today with a message as relevant as the day he penned it.
From the biographical outline
Amyraut is chiefly remembered for setting the cat among the pigeons over the theology of predestination. When a Roman Catholic nobleman – otherwise sympathetic to the Reformed Faith – expressed doubts about what he perceived to be Calvin’s teaching, Amyraut responded with his first work on the subject. However, his Brief Treatise on Predestination (1634)# aroused the wrath of the Reformed world when he expounded a position on election, the extent of the atonement and ‘universal grace’ at odds with accepted wisdom. Starting what Bayle described as a ‘kind of civil war among the Protestant divines of France’, it soon became clear that Amyraut – heavily influenced by Calvin – was pursuing a very different theological agenda from ‘orthodox’ theologians like the ‘French John Owen’ Pierre du Moulin, but one that was not exposed to many of the biblical objections raised by many then and subsequently.
About the Author
THE TRANSLATOR Besides studying at various academic institutions in the United States since the 1990s, Dr Matthew Scott Harding (b. 1973) has also pursued post-doctoral studies on this side of the Atlantic: at Universite De Geneve from 2010-13 (Reformation Theology) and Regents Park, Oxford University in 2012 (British Reformation). Utilizing his wide-ranging linguistic skills (Hebrew, Greek, French and German), the present work originated as his Ph.D. dissertation: 'A Critical Analysis of Moise Amyraut's Atonement Theory Based on a New and Critical Translation of a Brief Treatise on Predestination (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2014). Author of several articles and papers, Dr Harding's varied activities have extended his ministry to India and China. A member of several professional societies (including the Sixteenth Century Society, the American Society of Church History, the American Academy of Religion and the Calvin Studies Society), he currently combines a guest lectureship at Dallas Theological Seminary with serving as the Lead Pastor of The WELL Community Church, Argyle, Texas. Married to Jennifer, Dr and Mrs Harding have a daughter, Sarai and a son, Jonathan.
THE BIOGRAPHER Dr Alan C. Clifford (b. 1941) has been interested in Amyraldian theology for many years. It emerged during his doctoral research, an in-depth study of Arminianism and Calvinism. His thesis Atonement and Justification was published by Oxford University Press in 1990. Author of several books, articles and papers (and a few hymns) on this and related themes (including biographies of Philip Doddridge, John Calvin & the Huguenots, and the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist preacher John Jones, Talsarn), Dr Clifford has been absorbed in Baxter studies in recent years. His latest book Richard Baxter: The Gospel Truth (Charenton Reformed Publishing, 2016) is a detailed vindication of the 'authentic Calvinism' affirmed by both Amyraut and Baxter. Married to Marian (with a grown-up family), Dr Clifford is currently Pastor of Norwich Reformed Church.
- Publisher : Charenton Reformed Publishing (6 January 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 190 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0992946557
- ISBN-13 : 978-0992946555
- Dimensions : 14.81 x 1.12 x 21.01 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 549,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This edition begins with helpful introductory material: an Introduction; “A Quick Look at Amyraut” [which points out, “Calvin’s rationalistic successor Theodore Beza deleted the ‘universal’ aspect of Calvin’s scheme in favor of limited atonement… Amyraut was persuaded that Calvin’s original position alone possessed biblical integrity”; pg. 19]; a Biographical Outline; and an essay on “Translation Theory & Technique.” Then follows Amyraut’s “A Brief Treatise concerning Predestination and Its Dependent Principles” (1634).
Amyraut explains in his own Introduction, “The reasons which led me not so long ago to write this little treatise concerning predestination have also required that it be very brief and permit that I write only in the fashion and language of the people. Hence, there is no point in seeking truly profound speculations of the type which were produced in those schools when subject matter like the present is discussed. My intention has solely been to render this doctrine that is commonly evaluated to be both difficult and problematic [thorny] as capable to be understood by all and to take it back from the subtlety of the controversy, where too often passion negatively taints the mind and prejudices of the partisans which also hinders the capacity for (1) true understanding, (2) the practice of piety, and (3) the edification and consolation of the conscience. Herein, I have only dealt with those subjects which are especially erroneous and have prevented the desired outcome of clarity. Further, I know that the present subject is so imposing that it would take more dexterity than I possess to truly render it easily grasped by each person. Nevertheless, I think I have offered this discussion in such a manner that those who will pay as much attention to the reading of this booklet as they do to the least important subjects of no comparison, they will find here specially that which can encourage their heart.”
He says, “To say that God gave to man a certain freedom of will upon which his actions so depend from the beginning that God was not able to hinder it without doing some sort of violence to him and not able to strip him of it without removing inseparable conditions from his nature which God has graciously given him in creation, is to limit strictly the power of God and conversely to extend even further (unnatural) human powers to man… the Apostle says expressly that Adam ‘was deceived’ (2 Cor 3:6)… Could not God therefore, without having in any violated his understanding, have made him realize the vanity and falsity of these reasons so that he might have rather remained true to the God of truth than allowed himself to be moved by the persuasions of the ‘father of lies’?... Truly at this point modesty is very much recommended to us, since it seems that the Holy Spirit expressly joins out modesty through His own silence… However, here where it is a question of the first of all sins which consequently resulted in all others, the original sin which opened the door for death to envelop the whole human race … neither does history recount to us nor do all the books of the Old and New Testaments … in any way speak of the intervention of the providence of God in the administration of the things which occur here. It is as if the Holy Spirit expressly wanted to pull the curtain over this matter and teach us that in it there are abysses which are impossible to sound.” (Pg. 74-76)
He continues, “He is God indeed, in that He is good. But He is also God in that He is elevated infinitely above all His creatures and is not obligated to anyone for anything. Had God left man in the nothingness from which he was created and left him in a condition very inferior to the one in which God had placed him, could He have been subjected to complaint in that?... No matter how little use the goodness of God may have been to him because of the inconsistency of his spirit, it doesn’t mean that it was not still marvelous in its place.” (Pg. 77)
He points out, “If, therefore, God had created man so that it was impossible for him to sin, He would not have placed him in the state of nature, but rather in a supernatural condition… And to raise man from the state of non-existence out of which he was drawn to an existence and then to a supernatural state, without allowing him to experience the environment of the natural condition, would not have been suitable to this intelligence which conducts all things with such marvelous wisdom. It was necessary, therefore, that the first man, created from the earth, have earthly (natural) qualities suitable to his origin---an origin that is corruptible and mutable as all the things which are made of the material elements…” (Pg. 79-80)
He suggests, “since God also knew to just what extent the devil would force his temptation… it was impossible for god to have avoided foreseeing this event with certainty. For knowing that the efficacy of the temptation would most assuredly exceed the measure of resistance and having for the reasons given above and for others of which we are still ignorant, God resolved not to prevent it; how, then, could He have been mistaken concerning the outcome?” (Pg. 91-92)
He asks, “Would God, therefore, lead men to repentance for nothing, and by intention, if they came to obey the invitation and repented, to exclude them from His grace? God is too good, and, if one must use the term, too serious, to present to men vain hopes. This is why it is foolish to doubt that IF in some nation of the world where even the name of Christ is now known, if it happened that He had come across someone who, touched by the testimonies of God’s mercy which He presents to all parts of men in the administration of the things within the universe, and was truly converted to Him as to obtain the salvation of his grace… it would only give Him joy. Also, even though one may not know distinctly the name of Christ and has learned nothing of the manner in which He obtained redemption for us, he would not be left out, however, from being a participant in the remission of his sins, in the sanctification of his spirit, or in the glorious immortality.” (Pg. 102-103)
He argues, “Thus, if you consider the care that God has taken to procure the salvation of the human race by sending His Son into the world … God’s grace is universal and presented to all men. But if you consider the condition that is inescapably appointed, which is to believe in His Son, you will find again this care of giving men a Redeemer \that proceeds from a marvelous love towards the human race, nevertheless this love does not exceed the following limit, to give salvation to men provided that they do not refuse it. If they refuse it, he deprives them of hope and by their own unbelief they aggravate their condemnation. And in giving these words, ‘God desires the salvation of all men’ [1 Tim 2:4] this truth receives this necessary limitation, ‘providing that they believe.’ If they do not believe, He does not desire it. This will to make the grace of salvation universal and common to all men is in this way conditional, that without the accomplishing of the condition, it is entirely ineffectual.” (Pg. 106)
He asserts, “when it is said that ‘God knows the way of the righteous’ [Ps 1:6]---the foreknowledge spoken of here is a love which precedes every condition and all considerations of some lovable quality in the creature… It is true that since this foreknowledge or God’s love is the motive of our election and predestination to faith, and since predestination depends on it as a consequence, St. Peter takes it for this particular predestination by which Christ was ordained to be sent to the earth for the redemption of the world [1 Pet 1:20].” (Pg. 115)
He contends, “If His election if efficacious for some really and actually to accomplish the condition upon which salvation depends, the unbelief of the others does not come from divine reprobation, as the cause which activates it by its own efficacy, for from their own blindness and moral perversity. But always in that He uses such mercy towards some in whom He wishes to overcome that blindness and perversity, and where He does not use it toward the others and especially in those He has given over to the hardness of their hearts in much greater number than the others, there is a just severity.” (Pg. 116)
He notes, “that one can give some reason for the goodness which God shows to his creatures if they preserve the integrity from their origin---and the justice which He exercises over them when they degenerate from it… Scripture itself does not reveal the reasons for the dispensation of these things. Neither does Scripture teach us any reason for this choice which God makes of certain ones to enlarge the salutary gift of faith or of His having left other men behind in their condition, other than the free will of God… So where else could you find a suitable answer? Could it be in our works which God has from all eternity foreseen that we would do? Certainly not!” (Pg. 117)
He explains, “From the perspective that God must have ordained to foresee the will of those individuals with His preceding gifts and not to foresee that of the others, and that the will of all men being equally enslaved to the corruption of sin, it is entirely unimaginable how it could have been equally foreseen in some and nevertheless the outcomes be dissimilar… from what He has enacted in some, elsewhere, He has plainly not done it to others; thus, it is concerning this that we seek a reason and cannot find anything other than the free will of God Himself.” (Pg. 119)
He asks, “As for God being the author of sin, there is still less occasion to accuse Him. For of what sin would it be?... Would it be in man’s very act of unbelief, as one speaks, by which they reject the grace He offers to them? Still no. For if he does not give them belief, this is not the same as saying that He gives them to unbelief. If, as I say, God does not engender faith in them, it does not follow that He engenders the contrary.” (Pg. 123-124)
He asserts, “God foreknows certainly and undoubtedly who will be saved because He has resolved to give them belief, and He knows who will not believe because He has ordained not to give faith in the same way for them… And God knows all that will take place, not because such and such a condition should certainly precede it, but because he resolutely determined to do it.” (Pg. 128)
He proposes, “what interest do we have in the conservation of this freedom, if its effect is to keep us in such a state that we might be inclined to reject Jesus Christ as much as to receive Him, or to deprive ourselves of salvation as much as to embrace it when the gospel is presented to us? Certainly if this condition of being saved… could only be acquired through the loss of our freedom, we would render it over cheerfully…” (Pg. 135-136)
He states, “Is there someone who does not believe and who persists in his unbelief to the end? That is truly undeniable evidence that he was not elected to have saving faith, since he did not have nor demonstrate it; yet, this unbelief does not excuse himself before God!... supposing the case… that there was one of the number of those to whom God has not ordained to give faith who nevertheless truly believed… that one would be saved without God doing any damage to his decree of eternal predestination. For on the one hand He has ordained not to exclude from salvation any of those who believe, but just the opposite; and on the other hand, although He has predestined some to believe… He has nevertheless not … decreed to prevent them from not believing.” (Pg. 147)
Amyraut’s views are most often presented, these days, from second-hand information. This book will be of immense help to anyone who wants to seriously study his own views first-hand---whether agreeing with them or not.