where the Hotel de Ville stands today.
We saw previously, when discussing Davenant’s view of the death of Christ, that it is a variant of ‘hypothetical universalism’. But then we also saw that any view that regarded Christ’s death as of infinite value, can be thought of as hypothetical universalistic as well. For such a view is committed to the proposition that if God had ‘arranged’ (Davenant’s preferred verb) or had decreed that the salvific effects of the Christ’s death would have a universal effect, issuing in the salvation of everyone, then everyone would have been saved. A hypothesis leading to a consequence about universalism. Even John Gill is committed to that. He does not hold that had the number of the elect been greater than in fact it is, the sufferings of Christ would have to have been correspondingly greater! Any hypothesis that has universalism as a consequence, or aim, or possibility is a case of hypothetical universalism. So that the term ‘hypothetical universalism’ is pretty useless at discriminating one version of the scope of the death of Christ from another.
Wherefore, we can not agree with the opinion of those who teach: l) that God, moved by philanthropy, or a kind of special love for the fallen of the human race, did, in a kind of conditioned willing, first moving of pity, as they call it, or inefficacious desire, determine the salvation of all, conditionally, i.e., if they would believe, 2) that he appointed Christ Mediator for all and each of the fallen; and 3) that, at length, certain ones whom he regarded, not simply as sinners in the first Adam, but as redeemed in the second Adam, he elected, that is, he determined graciously to bestow on these, in time, the saving gift of faith; and in this sole act election properly so called is complete. For these and all other similar teachings are in no way insignificant deviations from the proper teaching concerning divine election; because the Scriptures do not extend unto all and each God's purpose of showing mercy to man, but restrict it to the elect alone, the reprobate being excluded even by name, as Esau, whom God hated with an eternal hatred (Rom 9:11). The same Holy Scriptures testify that the counsel and will of God do not change, but stand immovable, and God in the, heavens does whatsoever he will (Ps 115:3; Isa 47:10); for God is in finitely removed from all that human imperfection which characterizes inefficacious affections and desires, rashness, repentance and change of purpose. The appointment, also, of Christ, as Mediator, equally with the salvation of those who were given to him for a possession and an inheritance that can not be taken away, proceeds from one and the same election, and does not form the basis of election.
A pastoral strategy?
But maybe this is not the agendum. Maybe what concerns them is that in the proclamation of the gospel everything relevant to a positive response to that proclamation is and should be manifest. Who is among the number of God's elect and who not, is not manifest, as it would be if a list of such people was publicly available. It is secret; and the question, am I one of the elect? can only be answered a posteriori, in terms of a person's response to the gospel, so that Christ and a person's relation to him is, as Calvin put it, the mirror of that person's election.
So the argument may be, a person's response to the gospel ought not to have to surmount the doctrine of 'limited atonement' which logically depends on election. t clutters up the free offer of the gospel, Christ's atonement is not sufficient in some abstract sense only. He died for the world, as John 3.16 teaches, and with his finger on that text the preacher can say ex animo and in an unqualified sense to his hearers, that 'Christ died for you'. If that's the concern, then Davenant's hypothetical universalism is the neater fit. But Calvin's point seems me to meet these concerns of Davenant and Amyraut, if indeed they had such concerns. But perhaps not, and so perhaps the hypothetical universalists we have been thinking about are on to something - a pastoral strategy with a textual basis in the NT - that is important. It is all a bit murky.
affirmed a double intention on Christ's part in His work of redemption, declaring that He died absolutely for the elect and conditionally for the reprobate. Theologically his position, which has its closest affinities with the declarations of the English Divines at Dort, was an improvement upon the Amyraldian; but logically it was open, perhaps, to all the objections which were fatal to it as well as to others arising from its own lack of consistency.' (The Westminster Assembly and Its Work, 139)Lacking consistency not because it posits a second decree arising because of the divine foreknowledge of the failure of the first decree, (as the Amyraldians did), but because Christ is now thought of having two intentions at odds with each other, the fruit of one unconditional divine decree and the other conditional decree, and the foreseen failure of his conditional decree. This was the objection of Edward Reynolds to Calamy in the debate, that his ‘universal hypothetical’ proposal was: ‘upon a condition that they cannot perform, and God never intended to give them’. (140) Reynolds went on to state that ‘The [Dort] Synod intended no more than to declare the sufficiency of the death of Christ…and to be salvable is a benefit and therefore belongs only to them that have interest in Christ’. (142) It is interesting that in later life, due to the pressure of Laudians on Puritan clergy to conform, the ‘deviant Calvinist’ Calamy became a hot Presbyterian, while during the Restoration the undeviating Calvinist Reynolds became Warden of Merton College, Oxford, and then the Bishop of Norwich.
More could of course be said, but that's sufficient for now.