Hypothetical universalism

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In Reformed theology, hypothetical universalism or Calvinistic universalism[1] is the belief that Christ died in some sense for every person, but his death effected salvation only for those who were predestined for salvation.[2] In the history of Reformed theology, there have been several examples of hypothetical universalist systems. Amyraldism is one of these, but hypothetical universalism as a whole is sometimes erroneously equated with it.[3] Hypothetical universalism is sometimes believed to be outside the bounds of the Reformed tradition, but it has never been condemned by a Reformed council or symbol.[4]


Hypothetical universalist teachings may be found in the writings of early Reformed theologians including Heinrich Bullinger, Wolfgang Musculus, Zacharias Ursinus, and Girolamo Zanchi. Several theologians who signed the Canons of Dort were hypothetical universalists.[5]

English hypothetical universalism was developed by John Preston, John Davenant, and James Ussher.[6] This scheme teaches that God ineffectually decrees that all men be saved, but because God knows that some men will not have faith he makes an effectual decree to save those whom he predestines to salvation.[7]

Amyraldian hypothetical universalism, associated with John Cameron and Moïse Amyraut, differs by asserting that God decrees the election of some to salvation logically subsequent to the decree to provide salvation through Christ. This represents a change to the traditional infralapsarian scheme of the logical order of God's decrees, where God's decree to save some was conceived of as logically preceding his decree to provide salvation. It is the same order as that advocated by Jacobus Arminius and his followers, though Amyraldians differed from Arminians by asserting that there are two phases to God's decree to save some. First, God decrees the salvation of all through Christ, but this decree is ineffectual because some people do not have faith. God then decrees that some will have faith and be saved.[3]


  1. ^ Crisp 2014, p. 176.
  2. ^ MacLeod 2014, p. 121.
  3. ^ a b Crisp 2014, p. 185.
  4. ^ Crisp 2014, p. 178.
  5. ^ Muller 2008.
  6. ^ Crisp 2014, pp. 184–185.
  7. ^ Crisp 2014, p. 189.