After sitting through church history class last night, I got a much better picture of the various soteriological positions presented at the Synod of Dort in 1618-19. This was the first time I heard of the phrase “hypothetical universalism” used to describe one of the viewpoints. I don’t want to confuse anyone, so let me lay out the ground of these four main soteriological views:
1. “Straight” universalism: everyone is saved and heading to heaven.
2. Synergistic universalism: Christ died for everyone, making it possible for them to go to heaven if only they will believe.
3. Hypothetical universalism: Christ died for everyone, but the Holy Spirit applies that salvation to the elect only.
4. Particularism: Christ died for His elect and the Holy Spirit applies that salvation to the elect only.
It is apparent to me that the “synergistic universalism” could conceivably apply to both Pelagianism as well as Arminianism. That’s why it makes sense to me that many Arminians end up moving over into outright Pelagianism. Some self-described Arminians I know are actually closer to Amyraldianism which falls under the category of “hypothetical universalism.”
For those who are scratching their heads and wondering what Amyraldianism is, this is so-called “Four Point Calvinism” in which the doctrine of limited atonement is rejected. Of course of the fourth viewpoint expressed in the list above applies to Calvinism which prevailed at Dort. I consider “hypothetical universalism” problematic for many reasons, but I digress.
I wanted to lay out these four main viewpoints because I see a definite connection between Pelagianism and Arminianism on a very fundamental level. There’s still a distinction there and I’m not denying that, but it seems to me that they both fall under that same category. An interesting discussion for sure.