Roger Nicole On Amyraut’s Testimony At Alençon (1637)

1. Naturally enough, in the explanations they gave, Amyraut and Testard sought to conform their presentation and language as closely as they could to the traditional Reformed views without making an outright disavowal of their previously printed sentiments. It would be difficult to maintain that they were wholly free of dissimulation in this matter. For instance, it seems fairly obvious that their printed utterances were ill in keeping with the Canons of the Synod of Dort, to which they pledged allegiance. In view of what they wrote later, the conclusion is inevitable either that they were not very forthright or that they did not yet grasp well the implications of their own position.

2. The Synod pronounced mild censure upon them by prohibiting certain expressions that they had used, such as, ‘conditional decrees’,
‘Christ died equally for all’, ‘God’s velleity, or vehement desire of things that do not come to pass’, and others. In blaming these forms of language, they indirectly blamed the views of which they were the natural formulation. The explanation, given by Amyraut, that these were simply anthropomorphic is rather unconvincing. The question here is not merely one of terms chosen or of method pursued: rather, it relates to the fundamental question of the nature and order of the divine decrees. To suggest that in God the decree is one and that there is no order is subversive of the whole plan of salvation (cf. B. B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, Grand Rapids, 1942.)

3. The suggestion was made, and entertained at the Synod, that some of Amyraut’s and Testard’s opponents had personal rather than theological grievances against them; also that their representations of Saumurian views were unreliable and extreme (outré). The latter was probably true of du Moulin, who had not been content to quote, but had, with devastating effect, drawn the logical implications which he saw in the position.

4. The fact that the views of Amyraut and Testard paralleled quite closely those of their teacher J. Cameron was an incentive for leniency. It seemed awkward and unjust to condemn posthumously one whose great services in the controversies against Arminians and Roman Catholics deserved the lasting gratitude of the Reformed Churches of France.

5. If it was desired not to deal with utmost severity by deposing Amyraut and Testard from their charges on the ground of heresy, there was rather little room left to express the Synod’s dissatisfaction. Indeed, to censure them outright without deposing them would greatly impair their usefulness, perhaps wreck the Academy of Saumur. Short of dismissal, there seemed only one course open to the Synod: mild censure. It may be thought that the majority intended just this in the decision rendered.

6. In order to preclude further complications, the Synod forbad discussion on the points raised. This decision proved ineffective, since jurisdiction was lacking outside of France. Furthermore, it erroneously suggested that discussion on these topics was wrong rather than that certain opinions on these issues were false. Unless there are purely personal factors at work, one can scarcely hope to solve a theological dispute by shutting off debate.
For some time the controversy seemed to abate, although in 1638 the Arminian E. de Courcelles (Curcellaeus, 1586–1659), having secured a copy of du Moulin’s refutation, maliciously published it without the consent of its author under the title Examen de la Doctrine de Messieurs Amyraut et Testard … (Amsterdam, 1638).

—Roger Nicole, “Brief Survey on the Controversy on Universal Grace (1634–1661)”

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