Moses Amyraut (1596-1664), after whom Amyraldism is named.
Amyraldism (or sometimes Amyraldianism, the School of Saumur, hypothetical universalism, or Post Redemptionism), also known as "hypothetical universalism" or "four-point Calvinism", primarily refers to a modified form of Calvinist theology. It rejects one of the Five points of Calvinism, the doctrine of limited atonement, in favour of an unlimited atonement similar to that of Hugo Grotius. Simply stated, Amyraldism holds that God has provided Christ's atonement for all alike, but seeing that none would believe on their own, he then elected those whom he will bring to faith in Christ, thereby preserving the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.
Named after its formulator Moses Amyraut, this doctrine is still viewed as a variety of Calvinism in that it maintains the particularity of sovereign grace in the application of the atonement. However, detractors like B. B. Warfield have termed it "an inconsistent and therefore unstable form of Calvinism."
Amyraldism in 17th century England and Scotland
John Davenant (1576-1641), like Amyraut a student of John Cameron, was an English delegate at the Synod of Dort and influenced some of the members of the Westminster Assembly. He promoted "hypothetical universalism, a general atonement in the sense of intention as well as sufficiency, a common blessing of the cross, and a conditional salvation. The "root principle of the Davenant School" was the "notion of a universal desire in God for the salvation of all men." In the floor debate on redemption at the Westminster Assembly, Edmund Calamy the Elder of the Davenant School attempted to insert Amyraldism into the Catechism.
Richard Baxter held to a form of Amyraldism, although he was less Calvinistic than Amyraut. He "devised an eclectic middle route between Reformed, Arminian, and Roman doctrines of grace: interpreting the kingdom of God in terms of contemporary political ideas, he explained Christ’s death as an act of universal redemption (penal and vicarious, but not substitutionary), in virtue of which God has made a new law offering pardon and amnesty to the penitent. Repentance and faith, being obedience to this law, are the believer’s personal saving righteousness. . . the fruit of the seeds which Baxter sowed was neonomian Moderatism in Scotland and moralistic Unitarianism in England."
Popularised in England by the Reformed pastor Richard Baxter, Amyraldism also gained strong adherence among the Congregationalists and some Presbyterians in the American colonies, during the 17th and 18th centuries.
In the United States, Amyraldism can be found among various evangelical groups, perhaps most notably among dispensationalists in independent Bible Churches and independent Baptist churches. In Australia, many in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney hold to a modified "four point" Calvinism, while in England, Amyraldism has been defended in the recently published pamphlet, Amyraut Affirmed. Yet "Five point" Calvinism remains prevalent especially in conservative groups among the Reformed and Presbyterian churches, Reformed Baptists, among evangelical Anglicans in England and in some non-denominational evangelical churches.
Seventeenth century opponents
There were a number of theologians who defended Calvinistic orthodoxy against Amyraut and Saumur, including Friedrich Spanheim (1600-1649) and Francis Turretin (1623-1687). Ultimately, the Helvetic Consensus was drafted to counteract the theology of Saumur and Amyraldism.