The Davenant Compromise

John Davenant, Bishop  of Salisbury

This excellent historic profile of John Davenant was found at Biblical Horizons . Predestination is a subject which Anglicans smartly caution and, at times, silence. Anglicanism, like early Methodism, contained and, to some extent, comprehended both Calvinist and Arminian opinions. Between the two, however, it has never been particularly dogmatic. Yet amongst Reformers we can find several soteriological gradations, Amyraldism being one kind. John Davenant was a british divine present at Dordt as royal delegate who tried  bridging the difference between Puritan Calvinists and Anglican Arminians. Bishop Overall’s influence upon Davenant is also worth noting.  Amyraldism is perhaps the closest the 39 articles can approach calvinism without leaving English confessional boundaries. The article below helps identify and locate the theological influences of Amyraldism. Steven Wedgeworth has written a number of articles on the subject of Davenant, including Saumur Theology and Not Amyraldian.

by Steven Wedgeworth

John Davenant was perhaps the single most influential delegate at the Synod of Dort (particularly for what he kept out of the final Canons). Much of his influence was examined in my previous post on the subject, but it is certainly the case that he remains a neglected figure. I had never heard of him until I began my studies on Dort, and as I survey some of the secondary literature, I see that a few commentators have questioned whether or not he ought to be considered a Calvinist. G Michael Thomas addressed Robert Godfrey’s claims on Davenant in his book The Extent of the Atonement, but I would like to address this issue a little myself by contrasting Davenant with John Overall, a man who had great influence on Davenant, but also a man whose historical point of view was quite different from Davenant’s.

Davenant wrote an extended treatise on the extent of the atonement, partly meant to explain the Canons of Dort. This is his A Dissertation on the Death of Christ. It was originally included within his Colossians commentary, but some modern reprints have removed it. In this treatise, Davenant affirms that Christ’s death established the new covenant and that the death of Christ is sufficient for all men, but for the elect alone effectually. Davenant’s two-fold approach to the death of Christ, allowing for a general universal atonement and a particular effectual atonement, was not original to him, however, and as Peter White has noted, Davenant was directly influenced by Bishop John Overall (Predestination, Policy and Polemic, pg. 191). Overall’s treatises on the atonement can all be found in Anthony Milton’s The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (pg. 64- 92).

Bishop Overall was certainly not considered a staunch Calvinist. White shows in his book that Archbishop Abbott would have certainly been less supportive of Davenant, had he known of Overall’s influence upon him. It is also clear in Overall’s letters that he does not himself embrace the title “Calvinist,” but rather prefers to describe himself as a member of the Church of England, which, according to him, charts a middle way between the long-standing tradition of the catholic church and the new developments of the Reformation. A good example can be seen in his On the Five Articles disputed in the Low Countries. In regard to the extent of the atonement, he writes:

The Contra-Remonstrants, by excluding a general and conditional decree, maintain a single, particular and absolute decree, pertaining to certain individuals selected out of the human race, who are alone, and through the efficacious and irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit, all the rest being rejected and damned by an absolute decree. This is the judgment of Zwingli, Calvin, and the puritans, unknown to all of the ancient Fathers, even to Augustine and his followers, and rejected by most papists, all Lutherans, and many others. The Church of England, holding a middle way, joins a particular absolute decree (not from foreknowledge of human faith or will, but from the purpose of the divine will and grace) to free and save those whom God has chosen in Christ, with a general and conditional will, or with a general evangelical promise: teaching that the divine promises are to be embraced in the manner in which they are generally set forth to us in the holy scriptures, and that that will of God is to be followed by us which we have clearly revealed to us in the word, namely: that God gave his son for the world or the whole human race; that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for all the sins of the whole world; that Christ redeemed the whole human race; that Christ ordered the Gospel to be preached to all; that God wills and orders that all should hear Christ and believe in him, and that he has set forth grace and salvation for all in him; that this is an infallible truth in which there can be no error; and that otherwise the Apostles and other ministers of the Gospel who preach this are false witnesses of God, and make God a liar.

(quoted from Milton pg. 64-65)

This selection is complex, as it makes at least two claims. Overall’s doctrinal affirmation is actually quite good and represents nearly exactly Davenant’s position, as well as the British delegation’s interpretation of the Canons of Dortfound in their Collegiat Suffrage (see Milton pg. 226-293). This sort of teaching can be seen in the Heidelberg theologians, as well as the 19th century Americans. It is certainly within the bounds of “Calvinism.”

However, Overall misses exactly this historical point. He has stated that “the judgment of Zwingli, Calvin and the puritans” is the single particular aspect of the atonement, thus putting them in the camp of the high Calvinists among the Contra-Remonstrants and opposing the Church of England. Overall also states that this position was “unknown to all of the ancient Fathers, even Augustine.” Thus, even as his actual doctrinal content falls within the scope of Reformed thought, Overall’s self-identification is clearly outside of it.

This is where Davenant is distinct, and thus it is an area which can shed some light on how to classify him, as well as English Calvinism in general. While in basic agreement with Overall’s dual approach to the atonement, Davenant always maintains that the position is in fact that of Calvin as well. In fact, Davenant goes even further and proclaims that this position is the mainstream position of the catholic church throughout the ages. This is not Overall’s “middle way,” but rather an affirmation of agreement and continuity between Calvin, the Church of England, and the Christian Church throughout the centuries.

Davenant begins his Dissertation on the Death of Christ (hereafter DDC) with a chapter entitled “On the Origin of the Controversy.” He does not begin with Arminius or Gomarus, but rather the Church Fathers. He explains Prosper’s response to the Gallicans who opposed Augustine, and shows that “Prosper meets these objections, not by maintaining that Christ suffered only for the elect, but by shewing whence it arises that the passion of Christ is profitable and saving to the elect alone; namely, because these only through the benefit of special grace obtain persevering faith, whereby they are enabled to apply to themselves the death of Christ” (DDC pg. 321).

Davenant also takes a moment to refute Grevinchovius and William Ames in regards to their use of Faustus of Ries in order to teach that Augustine opposed a general atonement. He does not say that these men are the true Augustinians, and that he will instead plot a middle course, but rather that they are mistaken. “Grevinchovius committed a gross error when he thought that the above-mentioned opinion was to be attributed to Pelagius. If he had ever looked into the books of Faustus, he might easily have perceived that in that place he was not writing against the Pelagians, but against those who attribute all to Divine grace and mercy, that is, against Augustine, Prosper, and the rest of the orthodox, whom he babbles against, as unlike the race of sectaries, but like to the Pelagians in impiety (Faustus, lib. i. cap. 3 and 6)” (DDC 325). Here we have Davenant opposing William Ames on a point, but he does not simply say that Ames is a bit too Calvinistic, but rather that Ames is wrong about history. Davenant will stand with Augustine, Prosper, and, as we will see, Calvin and the Reformed tradition.

On pg. 334 of DDC, Davenant begins to show the continuity between the Magisterial Reformers and the medieval tradition. He mentions the Synods of Mentz and Valence and their taking up the dispute between Gottschalk and Hincmar. Unlike certain historical presentation of Gottschalk as a proto-Calvinist, Davenant maintains that the Church disagreed with both Hincmar and Gottschalk, preferring instead to allow the distinction between universal sufficiency and particular efficiency. Davenant states that this continued through the Schoolmen, and finally that, “The Doctors of the Reformed Church also from the beginning spoke in such a manner on the death of Christ, that they afforded no occasion for reviving the contest” (pg. 336). He adds, “For they taught, That it was proposed and offered to all, but apprehended and applied to the obtaining of eternal life, only by those that believe.”

After drawing this line of continuity from the patristics, the medievals, and the Reformed Church, Davenant goes on to begin citing individuals. On pg. 337 we find the names of Melancthon, Calvin, and Bullinger. As we read on we see Musculus (338), Zanchius (339), Pareus (355-356), and Bucer (547). It could perhaps be argued that Davenant was incorrect in his interpretation of these authors, but it should be clear that he did not hold Overall’s opinion. Rather he saw his own views as in harmony with Calvin and the Reformed. Davenant affirms that his position is that of the Church of England, represented in the 39 Articles, and that this position is harmonious both with the Reformed Church as well as the catholic church and the apostles.

A strong illustration of Davenant’s reliance on Reformed authorities in seen in his citation of David Pareus, a widely-known student of Ursinus. Davenant writes:

Lastly, they cannot deny this who are most accustomed to limit the death of Christ. The reverend and most learned Paraeus, in his judgment of the second article of the Remonstrants, which he transmitted to the Synod of Dort, has these words, The cause and matter of the passion of Christ was the sense and sustaining of the anger of God excited against the sin, not of some men, but of the whole human race; whence it arises, that the whole of sin and of the wrath of God against it was endured by Christ, but the whole of reconciliation was not obtained or restored to all. Act. Synod. Dordrect. pg. 217. The force of the argument is, He who willed and ordained that Christ the Mediator should sustain the wrath of God due to the sins not of certain persons, but of the whole human race, He willed that this passion of Christ should be a remedy applicable to the human race, that is to each and every man, and not only to certain individual persons; supreme power being nevertheless left to himself, and full liberty of dispensing and applying this infinite merit according to the secret pleasure of his will.

DDC pg. 355-356

Davenant here teaches the universal saving will of God in sending Christ, as well as the secret will to apply the benefits of the atonement to the elect. In order to so, he does not content himself to disputed passages of Scripture, nor even Calvin, though he does use both elsewhere, but rather Davenant employs a clear and direct statement by David Pareus, widely-respected among all Calvinists, and even more, the quote comes from a letter that Pareus wrote to the Synod of Dort expressly concerning the question of the extent of the atonement. There is no room to object that Davenant is taking the quotation out of context or that he is wrongly interpreting it. If Davenant is not Reformed, then neither is Pareus, thus opening a frightening regress, as Pareus was quite representative of the teachers at Heidelberg. Pareus even makes it intoUrsinus’s Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, which was recently reprinted by P&R. Observing this connection between Davenant and Pareus is essential to understanding Davenant’s place in the theological spectrum….

I wish I had time to write my own version of Davenant’s contribution at Dort. There is scant material on the subject, and Milton’s book on the delegation is somewhat expensive. I am also a bit occupied with marriage for August 14th. Perhaps something in the future. Meanwhile, Mr. Wedgeworth’s earlier essay on Dort is also fascinating, and , alongside the above article, both reference a serious airing out soteriological differences amongst ‘reformed’ northern catholics.  I believe Davenant ultimately vindicated the Church of England’s soteriology vis-a-vis his more puritan colleagues. I also suspect Davenant closer to the historic church than either high calvinist or dutch remonstrant.  It is important to note these subtleties when using terms like ‘calvinist’ or semi-pelegian’, etc.. These are too often used as ad hominem insult.

12 responses to “The Davenant Compromise

  1. Hi, Charles

    Davenant’s claim is correct. The Roman Catholic writer, Fr. Garrigou LaGrange, goes to great lengths in explaining that the “Principle of Predilection” (i.e. that God, for reasons that are inscrutable to us, loves some more than others) was the regnant position in the Latin Church from Augustine to Suarez, and was held by the West’s most prominent theologians. I haven’t read the Institutes in quite a long time, but I think Calvin does hold the position that God merely didn’t pass over the reprobate, but eternally ordained their damnation in a positive decree. But perhaps I conflating him with Beza?


    • You are right, Mark. Calvin’s Institutes do posit double predestination or supralapsarianism. However, I think supralapsarianism differs from mere election in that God additionally plans the reprobation of men. Amyraldism and infralapsarianism disagree. Soteriology, honestly, is not my strong point or main interest. However, when looking at commonalities between ‘northern catholics’, after the sacrament controveries, the manner of atonement became a heated question. Anglicanism’s location between these parties is curious. Through Bucer and Cranmer we have somewhat ecumenical take on sacrament, very close to Melanchthon’s Variata, or “high virtualist”, as Bishop Robinson calls it. This makes some sense given Bucer’s work in Switzerland, trying to unite Lutheran and Reformed cities. Dort was the closest thing to a soliloquy between nordic catholics on soteriological matters, important at the time, and here too the English took a position that comprehended, to some extent, both arminian and calvinist opinions, perhaps “low calvinist” or “high arminian”. While I don’t reduce these efforts to a calculated politik, I think the parties tended to converge upon the older catholic, at least, Western views, and the English, having greater sensitivity to precedent, was found there. This makes the 39 Articles even more precious. Its doctrine speaks for a northern catholicism. Another curious note is northern catholicism never came to fruition by councils, but was most near by royal marriage. I believe the dynamics of monarchism and imperial title is something we tend to underestimate by favor to ‘free churches’. By the mid-eighteenth century, the House of Hanover was an ecclesiastical head of several national churches– German Lutheranism, Dutch Reformed, Scottish Presbyterianism, and, of course, the English Episcopate. Royal patronage, I believe, not only created a wider protestant identity but stimulated theological commonality between confessions.
      BTW. Mark, I broke and bought the book on the British Delegation. It documents the negotiations and final agreement amongst the English at Dordt.


  2. Charles,

    Thanks for the history lesson on this matter. I think, in order to understand the theology of this period (or any), one needs to be very up to speed on the actual historical record… something difficult to do without the time and access to many of the original documents. So, I appreciate your delivering some of that “record” here.



    • Dear Jack,

      Thank the learned studies of Steven Wedgeworth. I have not had time to write my own post, but did order the book on the British delegation and compromise. I look forward to it, and until my wedding and father’s health improves, I’ll have to limit my writing.


  3. But what was the universal position of the Church prior to Augustine? Did the Bishop of Hippo discover that all the fathers of the Church had been in error for 400 years or did he simply not know the Church’s teaching due his self-confessed infelicity with Greek, the primary language of theology at his time?


    • Dear Jack,

      Thank the learned essays of Steven Wedgeworth. I have little time to write my own post, but did order the book on the British delegation at Dort. I look forward to reading it, and until my wedding and/or father’s health improves, I kind of need to limit my writing.

      At another blog, RTBP, a disagreement about calvinism was raised, especially the trouble caused when all continental reformed thought is lumped together into a single theology/soteriology, say ‘double predestination’. German Reformed theologian, John Williamson Nevin, is known for his criticisms against American revivalism, and any Anglican who want to better know the dangers of fundamentalism would be wise to read Nevin’s poignant and relevant essays. Note: The German Reformed and Anglican churches are certainly closer in doctrine than Eastern Orthodox, Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, or Presbyterian, et al. Regarding differences between calvinistic reformed on the continent, mostly between the Heidelberg Catechism and other confessions, Nevin said,

      “The [Heidelberg] Catechism is of course throughout decidedly Protestant. Occassionaly it assumes even an openly polemical aspect, towards the errors of the Church of Rome. It is besides clearly Calvinistic or Reformed, in opposition to the Lutheran confession; particularly in the form in which this last is exhibited, as complete finally in the Form of Concord. At the same time, however, its character is remarkably broad and free. This results from its practical constitution, as just as explained, as well as its German origin. All thorny, dialectic subtleties, of force for the understanding only, and having but little alue for the heart and life, are for the most part carefully avoided. The knotty points of Calvinism, as they have been called, are not brought forward as necessary objects of orthodox belief one way or the other. Only in such form, could the Catechism have gained such universal credit and authority, as we find allowed to it in fact throughout the entire Reformed Church. For there were material differences in the Church itself, with regard to the way in which certain doctrines were to be carried out theoretically to their last consequences, for the understanding. Had the catechism allowed itself to pronounce a definite decision on such points of divergent opinion, it must necessarily have shrunk in the same proportion into the character of a particular rather than general confession. By avoidign this, it became a mirror for the true life of the Reformed Church as a whole. France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland, were not exactly of one mind, as to much that might be comprehended in the Calvinistic system; but they cold move hand in hand together, so far at least as they were required to go by the Heidelberg Catechism; and on this basis accordingly they were willing to join their common faith and common profession, without regard for the time to such differences as might possibly lie beyond.

      It has sometimes been made an objection to the Catechism, that it is not sufficiently definite and explicit n some of these hard points of Calvinism. But we should consider this to be rather one of its highest recommendations. For children particularly, such excursions into the territory of metaphysics, in the name of religious instruction, are ever to be deprecated and deplored. But we may go farther, and say that they are wholly out of character in any church confession or creed. No Church has a right, to incorporate them in any way into its basis of ecclesiastical communion. In any case an extensive, complicated creed must be regarded as a great evil and the Church is to be congratulated, that can be content to measure its orthodoxy by so simple a general formulary as the Heidelberg Catechism, to the exclusion of every more narrow standard.

      Some have pretended indeed that the Catechism carries, occasionally at least, an actually Arminian sense, in the view it takes of the plan of salvation. Arminus himself, as we have seen, appealed to it at times, as being in harmony with his own views; and the same thing was done by his followers. But the appeal was not felt to carry with it any real weight. The Arminians showed plainly enough, that they did not themselves honestly believe the Catechism to be on their side; while the whole Reformed Church, with the Synod of Dort at its head, united in holding it up to the view of the world as a true witness of their common faith. So far as the plan of salvation is concerned, in its relation to human sinfulness on the one hand and God’s grace on the other, the system of doctrine contained in the Heidelberg Catechism, as a whole, is clearly the same that was held by the Evangelical Protestant Church in general, in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the pelagianizing errors of Rome.”

      He goes through each of the points but knotty points of free-will says, 135 “All is of grace; and the divine sovereignty reigns supreme throughout the whole work. But now when we fall back on the deep questions, that concern the relation of this sovereignty to human freedom, the Catechism modestly forbears again to return any answer. Not only does it shrink from asserting the supralapsarian theory of the decrees, the only consistent form of metaphysical Calvinism; but the whole doctrine of the decrees is passed over in silence, except as comprised in the providence of God. The question of predestination is brought no closer to this (Q 20).”

      137 “Here is a material difference, between the Heidelberg Catechism and the symbolic books generally of the Reformed Church. It may be said indeed that the Calvinistic points to which we have now referred, are at least involved in the system which it teaches. So it must have seemed of course to that part of the Reformed body, for which these points had become of confessional authority; otherwise it could not have been endorsed, by the Synod of Dort for instance, as sound and orthodox. But this only shows that the Catechism leaves these points untouched. They lie beyond the horizon. The Belgic Church might consider them necessary to complete its system; but there was always a part of the Reformed Church which thought differently…The authors of it seem to have held their own theological convictions purposely in abeyance, that they might be true to the objective church life with which they were surrounded. This we all know included much, that could never have been satisfied with anything like extreme Calvinism, on the subject of decrees. From all this the catechism was made perfectly to abstain”

      138 “the Catechism, like the Bible, is willing to tolerate such contradictions; and does so in fact. Its orthodoxy is not necessarily that of the Belgic Confession. It allows this of course; but it does not require it.”

      161, “One thing is certain; the German Church is not Puritan; and there is no good reason, why she should be required now to succumb absolutely to Puritan forms, and Puritan modes of thought, from whatever quarter they may be presented”


    • hello Death,

      Trying to find Augustine amongst earlier fathers is like trying to find Calvin in Luther. While early reformers commonly agreed upon justification, a precision with soteriology came later, yet for mid-16th century Augustinian justification was generally enough. Rather, what dominated discussions between protestants, as you know, was the manner of sacrament. Likewise, the pre-Augustinian period was consumed by questions on trinity. You just don’t have any kind of systematic consensus but something more pastoral and practically informed. Though the Articles and Declaration forbid unprofitable speculation on predestination, they are not exclusively Arminian but privilege Augustine and western doctors. If an earlier precedent is needed, perhaps Jerome was known for a higher treatment on predestination, but like many early fathers his approach is neither comprehensive nor “scientific”. The articles say predestination is “for our comfort”. In this same sense they are more pastoral in their concern than counting exact points. I believe the 39 Articles are better located amongst the very earliest protestant confessions rather than those following the Augsburg Peace where divisions between Lutheran and Reformed grew very acute.


      • Death Bredon

        “You just don’t have any kind of systematic consensus but something more pastorally and practically informed.”

        This is simply demonstrably false. Prior to Augustine, divine monergism was simply unknown and salvation through divine-human synergy was universally taught in a fairly systematic form.

        * * *

        As for the Articles, I find it requires astounding mental gymnastics to read in combination Articles IX, X, and XVII and come to any other than a synergistic view of soterilology, of which Arminianism is but one species, and not the one informing the drafters and ratifies of the Articles.

        In any event, when the Articles are further read in light of the BCP and the patristic methodological enshrined in the Act of Uniformity, the only possible soteriology for an authentic Anglican is synergistic. In sum, the formularies preclude divine monergism, which is outside Anglicanism proper.


  4. Dear Death,

    I think we are suffering from a number of misunderstandings. I wish you would indulge me, either agreeing or rejecting outlined particulars below, so I better know where we stand. The points have also been outlined at RTBP.

    First, let me be clear I don’t think either of us are deferential to full-blown, 5pt Calvinism. Nor do either of us see a full-blown calvinism in the articles. Keep in mind, I’m exploring the upper and lower boundaries of anglicanism and do not see a tempered calvinism necessarily excluded or even ‘heretical’. Yet it is healthy to know the ‘centre’, and my Lord Peter has described central church soteriology as Arminianism that approves predestination. Perhaps if we both agree there is no room for the absolute, 5pt-kind, then we might wonder what the heck we are disagreeing about?

    Second, the purpose of the above article was to show that “calvinism” at the time of the early 17th century could not be stereotyped as merely “double predestination”. Nor was it spoken for by a single, monolithic ‘system’. Perhaps the nuances don’t interest you, but please let’s be specific about what we criticize? The diversity of opinion between so-called ‘calvinists’ was also demonstrated in the friendly brief submitted by the British delegation who took a middle position at Dort. Southern Germans also disagreed with more systematic calvinists, and they might be called ‘Philipist’. After the hardening of gnesio-Lutheran opinion, ‘philipists’ in Germany gravitated toward the Dutch and French orbits, but the early history of “calvinism” resists definition as a neat or tidy system, and the multiplicity of continental confessions prove it. If a mainstream ‘calvinist’ view must be invoked, it would indeed reject some of the charges you have against it, namely, “utter depravity” and “double predestination”. Likewise, calvinists, even the WCF-variety, grant synergism in salvation, though doing so only after separating sanctification and justification. This ‘mainstream take’ is found in Templeton and Wilson’s exposition on the 39 articles– which my Lord Peter seems to recommend (scroll down to ‘what anglicans believe’). Also, see R.T. Kendall’s book Calvinism and English Calvinism to 1649 which argues the difficulty in squaring late-15th century calvinism with calvin.

    Third, one might have to ask what is left of so-called ‘calvinism’ when reduced to 3 or 4pts as exemplified in Amyraldism or more predestinarian Arminianism. At this point, you get into something that is more pastorally driven than systematic or logical’; the apparent inconsistency of which often irritates. Therefore, charging these less calvinistic schools with ‘inconsistency’ imposes a precision that neither the universal church nor our articles have ever required. The lack of absolute consensus is proven by the vehemence which Eastern churches have toward the wide and long reception of Augustinianism in the West.

    Fourth, while I believe the 39 articles might allow a low or mid-calvinist opinion, I agree with you the WCF is quite alien to the 39 articles. Comparing WCF to the 39 is somewhat like comparing nectarines to coconuts. More proper would be an examination of earlier protestant confessions written between 1530-50’s– a golden period where divines still had one foot in the catholic church (also scholasticism). These confessions also lack the party spirit that sadly became characteristic within protestantism by the mid-1550’s.

    Fifth, Anglicanism can have distinctions characteristic of its western patrimony without ceasing to be ‘catholic’. These might include the more pessimistic view of the fall, lending to an emphasis upon penance and Christ’s passion. Compare that with the East’s more energetic pneumatology, the ascension and glorification of Christ, etc.. Yet far from calling either Western or Eastern views ‘heretical’, which I believe is extremely uncharitable, isn’t it kinder to see them as compliments yet nonetheless specific to certain historical and cultural tendencies? Nonetheless, to read the primitivism of the standards as exclusively eastern goes too far, and here is my disagreement with you.

    Sixth, Anglican standards do not reject the western medieval wholesale. Anglicanism is not Western Rite Orthodoxy. Some might want to turn it into an imagined, pre-schismatic church before the Norman crusade, but this would be an outright rejection of five hundred years not all deserving the epithet of ‘accretion’. What I believe is most impressive about Anglicanism, making it superior to various WRO experiments, is the stressing of continuity even with the middle ages. We see this not only in our own ornament rubric but with our soteriology which is indeed Augustinian. This ‘continuity’ with the medieval is also a mark distinguishing the CofE with Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

    Seventh, regarding Article 13 and various ‘twisting’ of standards, you’ve said, “while good “[w]orks done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God,” it does not go so far as to utterly deny to possibility of such works or to categorically brand such works as sins.” I am not sure what you are getting at? If you mean calvinists call all good works sins, this ignores puritan opinion on common grace. If you mean some works indeed merit, then you are outside the bounds of the articles which explicitly reject both the co-dignity and congruity of grace.

    And, eighth, you have asked for an answer regarding the patristic witness of Augustine. All I can say it would be infinitely better to harmonize Augustine to earlier, more fragmented thought than to polarize. If you do this, I suspect you’ll end up with something very similar to our articles, namely a Arminianism that approves predestination, or a low-calvinism that rejects limited atonement. This is very frustrating because we want pat answers, but I suspect primitive ‘consensus’ was not ‘pat’. Where the 39 Articles fall is probably not far from the Philipist view, though very far from the Presbyterian, gnesio-lutheran, and Roman. I believe this is where settlement anglicans wished to be located, and of course their formula of five centuries of reliable primitivism moved them there.

    In all this, Death, I hope I have not been super abrasive. I just think Augustinian protestantism or ‘northern catholicism’ deserves an articulation apart from EO, RC, or the more radical side of Calvin.


  5. I’ll try to address each of your points.

    1. My main point about Articles is that they were formed completely apart from any sort of Calvinism or Arminianism proper, so no Formulary Anglican ought to be trying to ascertain how much Calvinism is tolerable under the Articles. Rather, a Formulary Anglican should be striving to grapple with systematic dogma on the same basis that the Framers of the Articles did. And, namely, that is Scripture as understood and witnessed by the consensus patrum. If some aspect of of something that might be characterized as Calvinist is consistent with the Articles and the Patristic method of Anglicanism proper, then and mere Anglican hold that that position in spite of the fact that it is Calvinistic, not because of it. In sum, we don’t work from Calvin to Anglicanism, but rather we work from within Anglicanism and allow it to form us independently of external systems or methods. When we does this, the notion of sort of soteriological monergism is the furtherst thing from our minds, because it was the furthest thing from the consenus fidelium of the first five centuries and also because it is very difficult to read such a doctrine back into the Articles.

    2. Third, I agree that Calvinism in its broad sense is very broad. Perhaps so diverse as to lack coherence, much like Anglicanism in the generic and broad sense of the word.

    3. As an Anglican, I really am unconcerned about 3 or 4 or any point Calvinsim, because as a mere Formulary Anglican, I am not trying to bridge over to Calvinism, but rather be formed by Scripture and the patristic method of Anglicanism. That most folks in the C of E have, for practical purpose, sought some sort of detante with English Calvinist in no way changes the meaning of the Anglican Formularies or what it means to be an Anglican proper. Indeed, that would be to confuse the C of E, or the Lambeth Communion, with Anglicanism. Anglicans are historically but one party within the C of E, albeit the party faithful to and authentically representing the English Religious Settlement. Thus being in the C of E or the Lambeth Communion and having certain views no more ensures that those views, however widespread in the Communion, are with the lattitudes of Anglicanism than does the extent of liberal theology in the Lambeth Communion demonstrate its Anglican authenticity.

    4. Again, I don’t think the Articles allow for non-Anglican or foreign readings, whether Lutheran, Calvinism or any variety, or Tridetinism. To the contrary, they allow only for Anglican readings and, for all intents and purposes, Jewel, Hooker, Andrewes and the Caroline Divines more or less explored the boundaries of those views.

    5. The consensus patrum of the primitive Church was not exclusively Eastern or Greek. Western Fathers such as Irenaeus, Ambrose, Jerome were part and parcel of it. As is much of what Augustine wrote that was not in a speculative vein. To the extent that, since the time of Augustine, the West has concentrated on Augustine’s innovative views, its has ventured into material heresy, though not formal heresay–in making this crucial distinction, I hope you see that I do mean to exercise charity without falling into indifferntialism.

    6. While I agree that Anglicanism is not Western Rite Orthodox, I believe that this is so because Formulary Anglicanism rejects all medieval accretions both Latin and Greek. Of course, those part of the medieval Church that remained consistent with the early Church are approved, and, of course, Anglicanism adapts (not necessarily adopts) the Latin idioms thereof. But, the dialectical theological method so characteristic of the Augustinian synthesis and the medieval Latin schoolmen is decidedly inconsistent with primitivist/patristic approach of Anglicanism–Lancelot Andrewes “Rule of Five” jumps to mind as a quick illustration.

    7. I mean that, while works of law never are never deserving of merit, that some works before faith are still “pleasing” to God, not in the term-of-art sense “pleasing,” but in the colloquial sense. That is God certainly would prefer a that a heathen’s behavior was upright than not, though He would not see this as sufficient to bridge the Fall. Perhaps, Calvin believed this himself–though his Institute certainly give me a completely different impression.

    8. While too agree that we ought to salvage as much of Augustine as is possible, reading him consistently with the consensus patrum as it stood when he took up the quill, I doubt that in so doing the result is any variety of monergistic view of predestination, but rather the synergistic view of the sensus fidelium and consensus Patrum before Latin theology diverged into rationalistic, dialect, sectarian paths on this.

    My final observation would be that the is that contemporary, conservative Central Churchmanship of the type that Bishop Robinson so well represents and manifests is not really High Churchmanship at all but rather a variety Broad Churchmanship. Indeed, before the term Broad Churchman was use or even Latitudinarian was coined, the sort of Bishop Robinson’s Churchmanship was first called “Low.” Not low in the contemporary sense, but low because, though such men are Churchmen in the sense of personal fidelity to the Formularies, and thus outwardly aligned with High Churchmen, they allow for moderate Puritanism or Calvinsim within the umbrella of the Formularies. In contrast, and authentic High Churchman has such “high spirit” for Church principles, i.e., the Formularies, that even moderate Puritanism or Calvinsim is only to be tolerate outside the Church–never comprehended within it. Hence, while the latitude-minded men were personally Churchmen, they had low feeling for Church principles and were willing to compromise them for peace and comprehensive National Church. In sum, the difference between the Archbishop Laud and Father Robinson is that the former was right and confident of it, the later is right but willing to give see formal imprimatur given to “pluriform truth,” though perhaps not quite so broadly, liberally, and generously as is 815 or Lambeth.

    In sum, I remain a High Churchmen, stiff necked for the formularies and the formal principles of the Anglicanism and what once were the formal and legal principles of the Church of England, and I am willing to brook no comprise for the sake of peace within a comprehensive communion. For those who want to wear the mantle of mere Anglicanism or Formulary Anglican or Anglican proper, all other “-isms” must be checked at the door.


  6. Dear Brother Death,

    1. I agree to an extent, especially with 5pt calvinism. But I disagree with your equivocation of anti-calvinism for anti-monergism. That’s an unnecessary conflation. Nor do I think Augustine was external or marginal to the articles. Augustine himself is a patristic witness to St. Paul’s ‘justification by faith alone’, and Jerome likewise anticipated Augustine’s doctrines on predestination. So, I don’t see an alleged patristic consensus between the West and East on these finer points. Why should the articles? Otherwise I suspect we are dealing with EO propaganda which is insanely anti-Augustine. Anyway, I can go half-way with you on this one.

    2. We completely agree here. Calvinism was open to a variety of appropriations, especially prior to Dort. More precisionist varieties of calvinism came by way the French and Scottish confessions, but the German (Phillipians) were akin to the 39 while others had veered too close to RC (Lutheran) or trucked with Anabaptists (Swiss-Helvetic) . The third strain (Phillipian) gets little attention (the German Reformed church was small and disappeared relatively early), so Anglicanism usually is the church credited for ‘via media’. Nevertheless, we agree here.

    3.& 4. You only need to worry about 3 or 4pt calvinism when these churchmen are your brothers. The question is how can less center-views be incorporated without breaching standards? This has somewhat always plagued Anglicanism, so I believe there’s value familiarizing ourselves with canonically specific upper and lower bounds. But I understand your angst with continental theology, even monergism, especially when people want more complete expositions of faith.

    5. Here is the real crux of our disagreement. We agree on the errancy of certain continental thought, say calvinism. But the real issue is Augustine. You seem to view Augustine or historical ‘monergism’ outside the consensus, and therefore might believe it borders (if not actually crosses) into heresy. I am not totally clear how far you may go with this mentality, so I’m assuming you believe an Augustinian reading indeed possible, even legitimate. If so, then we agree, though we might disagree on priority,and I pray this is the case.

    6. Yes, Andrewes “rule of five”, and in some cases only three, but with scripture as the final authority. The Vincetian canon assumes scripture. Our articles also take a more critical view of ‘holy tradition’, admitting some uncertainty, since neither Fathers nor councils are infallible, and in some cases their opinions have not been received. Anyway, no major disagreement here.

    7. & 8. I think we’re already discussing these points w/ Dr. Carey’s essay at the ‘Moderate Monergism‘ post, etc..

    Death, we agree on what’s outside the standards. However, we disagree on the priority certain moderate synergist vs. monergist readings have in the same. Though I think it’s pretty obvious the standards favor the latter, I actually don’t have a problem with a second opinion. I would not go so far to exclude an Arminianism; though I believe Arminianism to be more a reaction to absolute Calvinism than something original or positive to the earlier Settlement. Nonetheless, the inclusion of both has been my constant position and real concern from the start. I also suspect most churchmen don’t care too much for this sort of parsing, being rightfully broad in their soteriology. The articles give us places to be broad and places not to be.

    Lastly, my Lord Bp. Peter Robinson would not agree with everything written here. It would be interesting to get his reverend opinion. But your comment on low-churchmanship doesn’t seem off-mark. At least old ‘low’ and ‘high’ shared agreement on what constituted Anglican standards. Today our problem is much worst, and any serious anglican re-circling will demand a degree of comprehension (at least at the outset) merely to reign in the more advanced AC and rowdy neo-Evangelical elements. Lines of canonical orthodoxy might even undergo slight revision to better address hardened and long-standing deviance. Yet, the acuteness of the present chaos requires us to consider the ‘orthodox’ envelope we have to work within. As intolerable as this might sound, for me the alternative is fatally worst, namely Anglicanism disintegrating into congregationalism. For St. Louis churches, this is more immanent, yet I believe Bishop Robinson offers the best solution– i.e., continuers regroup around ‘evangelical’ and ‘catholic’ centers, and from there find unity on the basis of the historic broad church interpretation of standards. ?


    • A footnote:

      Why consider Davenant? It’s the fullest kind of calvinism possible according to Anglican standards. Interestingly, Davenant, according to the same standards could not refute unlimited atonement. Yet calvinistic perseverance was treated in an ambiguous way, so I must conclude the nature of ‘falling away’ is rather unspecified even in homilies. Since many of these questions are bound up in the secret counsel of predestination, they can be pressed only so far. Anglicanism consequently opts to use them in the pastoral rather than dogmatic sense. Nonetheless, amyraldism is calvinist opinion can be integrated. Otherwise, we are more properly speaking of traditional augustinianism– “sovereign” grace applied through word and sacrament.

      In retrospect this ‘debate’ on soteriology was an unfortunate one. I did not realize how inflammatory Augustine (and monergism) was amongst contemporary Anglicans. It appears to have caused some resentment with good friends moving elsewhere. I really had no idea how hot or destructive soteriological questions were amongst Anglicans. I thought our standards much more broad. Since then I have changed the titles of a couple links that might otherwise offend those who admire eastern churches.

      I too have an affection for ROC/Antiochian western orthodoxy but believe Anglican reassertion of classical standards is preconditional to any restored relation. It seems very important Anglicans are not ‘gobbled up’ in the course of realignment. Perhaps when our weakness passes we can return to the more positive relations Anglicans had with the Russians at the first-half of the twentieth century. This is a deep hope of mine. Until then, let’s hope Anglicans can find better ways to come to a mutual understanding of Augustine? For too many, he is the elephant in the room, and in my estimation this poses real problems with Anglican standards.


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