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English Hypothetical Universalism: John Preston and the Softening of Reformed Theology [Paperback]

By Jonathan D. Moore (Author)
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Item Number 144019  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   304
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.15" Width: 6.28" Height: 0.85"
Weight:   1.05 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2007
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802820573  
EAN  9780802820570  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The last two decades have seen nothing short of a renaissance of interest in the theological world of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is against this background of nuanced studies of the period that Jonathan Moore's outstanding monograph is to be understood. Where Muller and Milton have laid out their detailed arguments on a broad canvas, Moore has focused in detail on the particular individual John Preston as a means of exploring issues surrounding the development of English Reformed Orthodoxy during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. The results are significant contributions to a number of debates in the current historiography. This book should be required reading not just for the scholar, but to any who have an active interest in the Reformed tradition, not as a blueprint for restoring "the old paths,' but as an example of how one great Puritan pastor wrestled with the interface of theology and practice.

Publishers Description

John Preston (1587?1628) stands as a key figure in the development of English Reformed orthodoxy in the courts of Elizabeth??I and James??VI. Often cited as a favorite of the English and American Puritans who came after him, he nevertheless stood as a bridge between the crown and the nonconformists. Jonathan D. Moore retrieves Preston from his traditional place as one of the "Calvinists against Calvin," provides a convincing argument for Preston's unique hypothetical universalism, and calls into question common misperceptions about Reformed theology and Puritanism.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Heterogeneity Within Early English Calvinism  Aug 28, 2008
What were the lineaments of late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries' Reformed theological identity: were such lineaments homogeneous or heterogeneous? What place did context play in forming and informing the contours of such a Reformed theological identity? Jonathan Moore sets forth a superb analysis of one such feature of a Reformed soteriological identity (i.e.) the extent of the atonement. Moore lays bare the myth of a monolithic "Calvinistic consensus" vis-à-vis Arminianism (p.224). Moore notes that "the example of Preston is a timely reminder of the heterogeneity of English Calvinism," a diversity of opinion within the so called "Calvinistic consensus" of Jacobean England (pp. 224-225).
John Preston represents a "softening" of Calvinistic theology, a path of "least offense," a via media between the High Calvinism of particularism, on the one hand, and Arminianism, on the other hand (pp. 138-142). Moore teaches us that the label "Calvinist consensus" is helpful only when a diverse range of "predestinarian beliefs" and conceptualizations are acknowledged (p.225). The so called "softening" of Calvinistic theology is in relation to the more rigid unconditionally particular, absolute redemptionism ala William Perkins, a particularism that does not desire the salvation of the reprobate (i.e.) a "bare sufficiency," a bare sufficiency consistent with the high Calvinism of the Cannons of Dort (pp. 183-190).
Preston refutes such a bare sufficiency by arguing that the offer of God's grace to the reprobate is not only a sufficient offer, but a genuine, sincere proposal and desire on God's behalf to save the reprobate: that is if (i.e., hypothetically) the reprobate accepts Gods offer of salvation through Christ, then he or she can and will be saved even though such an offer is not and will not be efficacious due to the contention--both the high Calvinist and low--that Christ does not intercede to save the elect; for Preston, Christ's prayers of intercession are the necessary ground, and locus of application of the efficacious work of satisfaction.
Moore's focused study of Preston is justified due to Preston's distinguished service as Chaplain to Prince Charles and Doctor of Divinity through personal mandate by the king (pp. 6-8). Preston's universalism vis-à-vis Perkinsian particularism is no fringe theological alternative on the edges of respectable thought, but a reputable option among others within the English Reformed Orthodoxy, an option that eventually became the mainstream
Moore also contends that not only was Calvinism in general more nuanced, but so was "universal redemptionism" within the non-particularism of late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries' international Calvinism. Moore bemoans the fact that the terms "hypothetical universalism" and "Amyraldianism" have been used as synonyms by historians and scholars of that age (p.217).
Preston's English Hypothetical Universalism is distinct from other non-particular stances ala Cameron, Amyraut. The origin of Preston's Universalism is in fact Irish via Preston's mentor Bishop James Ussher (pp. 173-186). Moore argues that Amyraldianism is a far more radical and speculative revision of particularism; where hypothetical universalism is in line with the Reformed ordo decretorum (both in either a supralapsarian or infralapsarian form), Amyraldianism breaks with that order and favors placing the "decree to give Christ before the decree of election" (p. 218). This is an order that Preston qua a hypothetical universalist will not countenance (p.158).
For Moore, these two systems are functionally tangential due to "...sharing the same broad polemical context..." as a path of least offense, relegating Amyraldianism as a distinct and later French form or branch of non-particularism vis-à-vis English non-particularism (pp.218-219). Moore points to the conflation of these distinct systems and places the burden of such conflation upon Richard Baxter for the purpose of buttressing his version of the "middle way" (p. 219).
I agree with Moore that these two systems are distinct without mixture or confusion, but Moore has not demonstrated that these two systems' are merely, or tangentially similar. Their similarity seem to be essentially the same in the end: (i.e.) the offering of God's grace to the reprobate as not only a sufficient offer, but a genuine, sincere offer. Different means (i.e. ordo decretorum) but the same end.
Moore has superbly demonstrated that contrary to previous modern academic consensus late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century Calvinism was anything but homogeneous. Contrary to the perception of rigidity, early Calvinism was fluid along a nuanced continuum between particularism and universalism, and between the contexts of French (Amyraut) and English (Preston) universalism.

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