Amyraldism, sometimes called "4-point Calvinism" or "moderate Calvinism," is named after Moses Amyraut, a 16th-century French theologian whose doctrine, in essence, softens the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement. Classic Calvinism centers on five points:
Amyraldism – What is it? What is Four-Point Calvinism?
1. Total Depravity – Man, in his fallen state, is completely incapable of doing any good that is acceptable to God.
2. Unconditional Election – God sovereignly elects some individuals for salvation based solely on His grace.
3. Limited Atonement – God the Father sends His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of the elect and secure their pardon by His death on the cross. This atonement applies only to the elect.
4. Irresistible Grace – The Holy Spirit irresistibly draws the elect to faith and repentance. The elect cannot and will not resist this drawing.
5. Perseverance of the Saints – Those whom God has elected, atoned for, and drawn to Himself are preserved in faith until the last day.
It should be noted that Calvinism isn't limited to just five points, nor was it the invention of John Calvin. Calvin put together his system of five points from the clear doctrines of Scripture in response to Arminianism, another five-point system developed by Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch theologian.
Amyraldism takes issue with limited atonement and replaces it with the concept of "hypothetical universalism," which asserts that Christ died for the sins of all people, but God only elected some to whom He would impart saving faith. By doing this, Amyraldism avoids some of the problems that limited atonement raises in the minds of some, while at the same time preserving the doctrine of unconditional election. This puts Amyraldism somewhere between Calvinism and Arminianism in its view of the extent of the atonement.
Calvinism: the atonement is limited to the elect only; Christ's death on the cross makes salvation a reality for the elect.
Arminianism: Christ's death on the cross makes salvation possible to all and man must exercise faith to make salvation actual.
Amyraldism: Christ died for all men, but God only applies this salvation to those whom He has chosen.
However, the same objection that can be applied to Arminianism regarding the extent of the atonement can also be applied to Amyraldism. If Christ died for all men, then there are people in hell right now who have had their sins atoned for. Whether they are in hell because they didn't exercise faith or because God did not elect them, the sin debt of all men has still been paid, and all should be in heaven, not in hell paying for the same debt for eternity. The key to understanding verses that declare Christ died for all men, such as 1 John 2:2, and resolving any apparent contradictions is looking at the surrounding context.
The five points of Calvinism are links in the same biblical chain that leads to the inescapable conclusion that God is completely sovereign in salvation. The act of saving a people is a testament to God's grace and mercy and displays His glory in a unique way. If any part of the chain is dependent on the will of man to enable it, then God shares the glory with the object of His grace, something He declared He will never do (Isaiah 42:8).
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