To my astonishment I learned last week that Thomas Chalmers has been accused of both Sandemanianism and Amyraldianism.

Frankly, I’m not sure which is worse.

Does anyone know if there is any substance to these accusations? If you google, you’ll only find people with axes to grind. So don’t google. Just tell me off your own bat what you know about Chalmers and his orthodoxy.


6 thoughts on “chalmers

  1. Catherine I am not surprised by the suggestion of Amyraldianism – although, I will have a good look through both Stewart Brown’s book on Thomas Chalmers and the Godly Commonwealth and his standard life before responding to that one. The Sandemanism is I fear correct… there are very few church historians whose views I would take on trust but the scrupulous Rev Donald Beaton is one who I have learnt not to doubt. In his book on Some Noted Ministers of the Northern Highlands (and I have the paperback recent reprint) on p.184 which is the life of Stewart of Dingwall he comments that Stewart was a Sandemanian and so was Thomas Chalmers and Dr. J. Brown. I am sure that this would be proved by looking at Chalmers book on Theology – which I am pretty sure my dad has….. if you want to test Beaton!

    Warm Regards


  2. Catherine – You grabbed my interest and I had a look for the Amyraldian comments in Brown and couldnt find anything that suggested it – and Brown is perfectly prepared to critique Chalmers. However, in Volume 2 of Institutes of Theology (Chalmers) on p.424 to 442, there is a lecture on particular redemption. In this lecture he is far from clear on the subject in the way that we have come to expect in others (John Murray or Louis Berkhof for example). Indeed, Chalmers speaks of ultra Calvinists who deny the universality of redemption – which while it is not necessarily Amyraldian – it would certainly leave him open to that suggestion….

    Hope that helps,


  3. Andrew, thanks for this.

    It was Donald Beaton’s comment that really surprised me. Then I heard that also apparently Rabbi Duncan said Chalmers’ “definition of faith” was problematic in some way (unspecified as far as I know, but I haven’t read much of Rabbi Duncan and don’t have a source for his comment.)

    I looked up Chalmers’ comments on faith in his “Institutes,” although he may have discussed it elsewhere too. There I found him arguing for perhaps an unusual view of faith but not something so grossly faulty as to deserve the slur of Sandemanianism. From what I saw, he majored on the role of the intellect in saving faith, excluding any role for the will (‘consent’), which perhaps does result in a different “definition of faith” from the standard definition, but surely it takes more than that to make someone guilty of S’ism.

    As for Amyraldianism – why would you not be surprised? I wouldn’t be surprised if some sermons including the free offer get labelled Amyraldian by people who know they’re Calvinists and have no concept of the free offer. But since you don’t belong to that category (!) i’d be keen to know more about the evidence.


  4. The whole issue of where Chalmers stood on Amyraldianism ( or the extent of the Atonement) is one needing deeper research by some competent scholar. Dr Alan Clifford of the Amyraldian Reformed Church of Norwich is convinced he is and has a quote that superficially might persuade some- but as you say, he has an axe to grind! My own reading in Chalmers ( as I suspect is the case with many Free/Free Presbyterian/A.P.C/FCC !) is pretty restricted but I did at one time own his Sabbath Scripture Readings and I am pretty sure in there he has a sort of coutervailing comment to the Clifford extract. He also wrote an enthusisatic introduction to the Strict Baptist minister, the Rev Abraham Booth’s superlative ‘The Reign of Grace’. Now Booth was a major proponent of Limited/Definite/Particular Atonement but also of the Free Offer. This suggests strongly to me that Booth’s views on these two closely interrelated doctrines must have more or less been Chalmers: why else would he have endorsed Booth so warmly by bothering to write the commendatory Introduction?
    Of course Chalmers was not quite in the same theological league as the likes of William Cunningham or George Smeaton and he did espouse some views that sound uncomfortably accomodatory of early ‘science’ such as his infamous ( and frankly very silly) ‘Gap Theory’. At least that had the merit of attempting to keep within Confessional bounds ( though we might today regard it as otherwise) The same couldn’t be said for Amyraldian tendencies. The Confession is decidedly ‘Particularist’ on the Atonement. Thus Chalmers would have to be prepared to blatantly breach his ordination vows to uphold the Westminster Confession.
    For those interested in the wider issue of Limited/Particular Atonement I would highly, highly recommend three books-
    James Haldane- The Doctrine of the Atonement
    The Will of God and the Cross by the late Dr Jonathan Rainbow
    Particular Redemtion and the Free Offer by David H.J. Gay


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