The Geneva Theses (1649)

The Geneva Theses (1649) were drafted by Antoine Léger (1594-1661) and Théodore Tronchin (1582-1657) at the commission of the Council of Geneva and the approval of the Company of Pastors (i.e. the Genevan Classis). While in Constantinople as the chaplain of the Dutch embassy, Léger became an intimate friend of Cyril Lukaris (1572-1638), whose creed he also published, and also helped collate the Greek New Testament text of Maximos of Gallipoli. [1] Léger also wrote the preface to the Waldensian Confession of 1662. [2] Tronchin was Theodore Beza’s grandson, studied widely at Geneva, Basel, Heidelberg, Franeker, and Leiden, and was a Genevan delegate to the Synod of Dort. “Tronchin was succeeded in his chair of theology at the Genevan Academy by no less than Francis Turretin (1623-1687), who signed and strenuously defended the Geneva Theses.” [3] The Geneva Theses were written to combat the errors coming out of the Saumur Academy in France at the time, namely that of John Cameron, Moses Amyrald, Josué de la Place, and Louis Cappel, commonly called Hypothetical Universalism, or specifically Amyraldianism.

The Geneva Theses (1649)

James T. Dennison Jr., Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries, vol. 4, pp. 413-422.

I. Concerning Original Sin

1. The first sin (παράπτωμα) of Adam is imputed to his descendants by the ordination and judgment of the justice of God, and the evil of corruption spreads in each and every one coming into the world naturally descended from that one. For that reason, there are three things which constitute men guilty before God: (1) the guilt flowing from the fact that we have all sinned in Adam; (2) the corruption which is the penalty of this guilt imposed upon both Adam and his descendants; (3) the sins which men commit as adults.

2. The imputation of the sin of Adam and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ correspond to their opposite in this way: as truly as the sin of Adam is imputed to his descendants so truly is the righteousness of Christ imputed to his elect. The imputation of the sin of Adam precedes corruption; the imputation of the righteousness of Christ precedes sanctification.

3. The imputation of the sin of Adam and impure generation, are indeed two ways of deriving original sin, themselves mutually connected and plainly inseparable, nevertheless distinct as antecedent and consequent, as cause and effect; for this reason, the corruption of nature in us is derived from Adam because in him we have sinned and have been made guilty.

Rejection of the error of those:

Who deny that the sin of Adam is imputed to his descendants; who, appearing to establish imputation, in truth destroy or overthrow it, not acknowledging that it has first been diffused into each one by natural corruption.

II. Concerning Predestination

1. Fallen men are the object of predestination, yet not as unbelieving and rebellious to the call.

2. Sacred Scripture occasionally represents election to salvation and to the means of salvation distinctly and for that reason they may be distinctly considered: Christ was sent and died according to the counsel of God the Father, proceeding from His eternal love toward the elect.

3. Those whom God elected in Christ out of His good pleasure alone, and those only, He decreed to give to the Son, and to give them faith in order that they would be brought all the way to eternal life.

4. The matchless love and mercy of God is the sole cause both of the sending of the Son and of the satisfaction appointed beforehand through Him, even the conferring of faith and application of merit through it: which benefits should not be objects of separation or be torn asunder from themselves.

Rejection of the error of those:

1. Who teach that in God there is granted, under the condition of faith and repentance, some good will of saving those who perish.

2. Who, using economy (ὂικονομίας) for an excuse, ascribe to God the inclination or volition or disposition or affection or less ardent love or power or intention or desire or will or counsel or decree or covenant or necessary or universal conditional loving kindness, by which He wills each and every man to be saved if they believe in Christ.

3. Who assign to God a design previous to election in which He determined to be merciful to the whole human race without limit.

4. Who attribute to God a twofold loving-kindness, one clear or first and universal by which He willed each and every person to be saved: the other more clear, second, and particular towards the elect.

III. Concerning Redemption

1. Because the end has been destined only to those to whom the means have been destined, the advent of Jesus Christ into the world, His death, satisfaction, and salvation are destined only to those whom God decreed from eternity from His mere good pleasure to give faith and repentance, to whom He confers those very things in time. Scripture and the experience of all the ages is opposed to the universality of saving grace.

2. Christ, out of the mere good pleasure (εὐδοκία) of the Father, has been destined and given as a mediator to a certain number of men who make up His mystical body on account of the election of God.

3. For these, Christ Himself, perfectly conscious of His vocation, willed and resolved to die and to add to the infinite value of His death, the most efficacious and singular purpose of His will.

4. The universal propositions which are observed in Scripture do not declare that Christ died, made satisfaction, etc. for each and every person in consequence of the counsel of the Father and His will, but either they are to be restricted to the universality of the body of Christ or ought to be related to that economy (ὂικονομίαν) of the new covenant in which the outward distinction of all people having been canceled, the Son having adopted all nations to Himself, they are joined to His inheritance, i.e., in respect to any nation and people in general without distinction, He opens and offers the grace of preaching according to His will, gathers His church from them because this is the basis of the universal preaching of the gospel.

Rejection of the error of those:

Who teach that Christ died for each and every one sufficiently, not merely by reason of worth, but also by reason of intention; or for all conditionally, if they were to believe; or who assert that Scripture teaches that Christ died for all men universally; and most especially the places of Scripture (Ezek. 18:21 etc. and 31:11; John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) ought to be extended to each and every man and by these the universality of love and grace ought to be proved.

IV. Concerning the Disposition of Man to Grace

1. Since the requisite conditions for salvation are impossible to the reprobate, God does not intend the salvation of them conditionally if they believe and repent unless it is supposed that there is an empty, deceptive, and useless intention and will of God.

2. The good use of the light of nature either subjective or objective is unable to draw men over to salvation, not even to gain from God any other measure of light appointed for salvation.

Rejection of the error of those:

1. Who teach a universal and common call to all men to salvation and to the author of salvation; and (who teach) that each and every man, if he wishes, is able to believe and be saved.

2. Who teach that by His revealed disposition, God wills the salvation of each and every one.

V. Concerning Promises Made to Believers and Their Prerogatives

1. Life, of which the promise annexed to the Law is exhibited by its stipulation, is not only earthly and temporal, but also heavenly and eternal.

2. Believers even before Christ was born had the same Mediator and Savior we have and the same spirit of adoption.

Rejection of the error of those:

1. Who teach that the reward of the legal covenant as a duty is no other than natural and temporary.

2. Who teach that the fathers of the Old Testament were blind to the pledge [arrabon] of the Holy Spirit.

[1] Antoine Léger der Ältere [Antoine Léger the Elder], Wikideck.

[2] James T. Dennison Jr., Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries, vol. 4, pp. 154-155, 496-498.

[3] Angus Stewart, The Geneva Theses (1649): A Recently Uncovered Jewel, British Reformed Journal 62 (2014), p. 21.


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