How Representative Of Reformed Orthodoxy Was Davenant?

However, does Lynch fully make his case that hypothetical universalists taught that Christ died for all human beings in one sense and for the elect alone in another sense? He appears persistently to blur the lines between the impetration and application of redemption on this issue. For example, while noting that Davenant taught that God gave Christ for sinners two respects, he explains, “the second way of understanding the giving of Christ is as he is offered in the gospel proclamation, in which the benefits of Christ work to be applied our promised on condition of faith” (p. 108). While this state (and others like it) may, indeed represent Davenant’s views, the idea presses into the application of redemption, rather than it’s accomplishment. Apparently, Christ died for all men in only one sense after all, though the application of redemption is restricted to the elect. This raises questions from both historical and dogmatic standpoints. If Christ work, including his active and passive righteousness, benefited all people (p. 107), then what is the nature of Christ’s work? Was he a substitute for all human beings? If so, how can God bring any charges of sin against any human being? Also, if Christ died for all in one sense to make them savable, then does this revise the reformed conception of Christ death as surety and substitute? It appears either that Davenant’s universal sense in which Christ died for all is an indefinable vacuous idea, or he shifts the “second way “in which Christ “died “to the application of redemption instead of his death properly….

Lynch expounds well what Davenant taught, but readers can begin to perceive why his brand of hypothetical universalism was a decided minority in historical Reformed Christianity….

Elsewhere, Lynch seems to overreach his conclusions from his evidence. For instance, chapter 6 highlights Davenant’s view that the covenant of grace is universal with all mankind, though conditioned on faith (p. 136). Lynch contends that Davenant’s “universal” covenant of grace was not unusual in Reformed theology (p. 141). While his point about the conditionality of the covenant of grace was more standard than many scholars realize, it is a stretch to say that universalizing the covenant of grace was common among Reformed theologians at the time. Davenant’s view does not appear to be equivalent to distinguishing universal and particular aspects of the covenant of grace, though Lynch contends that this was the case (pp. 141–142). Lynch here conflates the nature of the covenant as universal with its administration, which is particular. Particular administration of a universal covenant is simply not the same thing as saying that a universal evangelical covenant has particular aspects, when in reality it only has particular application.

Ryan M. McGraw | Review of Michael J. Lynch, John Davenant’s Hypothetical Universalism: A Defense of Catholic and Reformed Orthodoxy. Oxford Studies in Historical Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021 in Westminster Theological Journal 85.2 (2023), 360–61.


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  1. Didn’t Ursinus in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism assert that there is at least a sense in which Christ died for all? At least to my lights, Ursinus seemed to be reiterating the Lombardian sufficiency/efficiency distinction in parts of the commentary.

  2. I think it is very confusing to make faith and repentance conditions for salvation, rather than fruits of God’s electing grace. Covenantal nomists, like the Federal Vision, have championed Davenant’s conditional covenant of grace in support of their teachings of faith and faithfulness as requirements for final salvation. Seems like it confuses law and gospel.

  3. Everywhere I turn here lately the Davenant Institute is being touted on some Reformed and Confessional podcast. What’s up with this?

    • They’ve got money. The Reformed podcasters who take their ad money are not discerning enough to realize what they’re advertising.
      Down with Davenant!
      Those in NAPARC churches should disown and dis-associate with the Davenant Institute and all its works.
      They claim not to have an “agenda,” but they are decidedly in favor of latitudinarianism, and against not only limited atonement, but also against Reformed confessionalism, the Regulative Principle, and (jure divino) Presbyterianism. They are also pro-espiscopalian Establishmentarians.
      They use a professed “neutral” teaching about historical theology to promote their confessionally un-Reformed views.

      • Yes, those are very good points. Most disturbingly, they use Davenant’s hypothetical universalism as a way of claiming that OUR faith is really the deciding factor in salvation because Christ died for all. This makes OUR faith, and faithfulness to the covenant, and not what God has done, the condition in the covenant of grace. Throughout redemptive history there have always been those that, for whatever reason, have tried to deny the unconditional covenant of grace, and make it a covenant of works. Hypothetical Universalism, which makes the atonement unlimited, is diametrically opposite to the limited atonement of Reformed theology, which teaches that God the Father decided to save a peculiar people through the sacrifice of His Son, and the work of His Holy Spirit. Hypothetical Universalism is most definitely not just another acceptable Reformed teaching.


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