A wee note on ‘hypothetical universalism’ in the Reformed tradition

John_Owen by John_Greenhill

One of the recurring themes that crops up in conversations with my students is over the various articulations of and arguments for and against soteriological universalism. And, from time to time, some of my students are even interested in knowing what the Reformed tradition (my students are, after all, trying to be Presbyterians!) has to say on the subject. And so I was delighted to find (among some less salutary material, to be sure) a helpful wee discussion on non-Amyraldian hypothetical universalism in English Reformed orthodoxy in Richard’s Muller’s essay ‘Diversity in the Reformed Tradition: A Historiographical Introduction’ wherein Muller writes:

‘Given that there was a significant hypothetical universalist trajectory in the Reformed tradition from its beginnings, it is arguably less than useful to describe its continuance as a softening of the tradition [as Jonathan Moore does]. More importantly, the presence of various forms of hypothetical universalism as well as various approaches to a more particularistic definition renders it rather problematic to describe the tradition as “on the whole” particularistic and thereby to identify hypothetical universalism as a dissident, subordinate stream of the tradition, rather than as one significant stream (or, perhaps two!) among others, having equal claim to confessional orthodoxy’.


  1. I am indeed–I’m attending the Institute for Christian Studies, where Nik teaches, currently. I’ve been able to take a look through the text already, and it’s wonderful. Are you associated with the ICS folks?


  2. No, I have no association with ICS, and I’ve never met Nik. I did, however, read his doctoral thesis many years ago and thought it was a very stimulating piece of work. I am delighted to know that it is finally coming into print, and hope that it is widely read.


  3. That is a very helpful quote that I may find a place for in one of my hypothetically universalist sermons. No? You’re right – I’m not a hypothetical universalist, I’m a real one!


  4. A blast from the past. I read it at Knox in 78-79 I think, but was much more into Liberation and political theology to think of it as being of importance. Just goes to show doesn’t it, where influences may reside.


Comments welcome here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.