Hyper-Calvinism…What is it?

It’s come to our attention that folks from Pastor Floyd’s church have popped by our house for a visit. I’d like to thank them personally, and I’d like to thank the folks from Woodstock, GA who have also come by to visit us. I hope you found us gracious and welcoming. I gather you’re reading up on what the Baptist blogs are saying about Pastor Floyd.

Let me assure you that any problems our writers have with him or with any other potential candidate are not personal. They are related to things like CP giving, or the infamous confetti baptistry and the mentality that we have to repackage the gospel to make it “relevant,” and the obsession with increasing baptismal numbers while being unable to get 1/3 to 1/2 of your people to worship on Sunday, or the simple wisdom of pastoring two large churches and being SBC President. The big problem has to do with wondering why (a) the SBC needs a megachurch pastor as president nearly every year and (b) why the same folks rotate on and off boards more often than not, control the programming for Pastor’s Conferences and other activities, etc.

Now, that said, I’d like to piggyback on Timmy’s last article to define “hyper-Calvinism,” for those visitors who may be wondering what exactly it is. Hopefully, it will give you something to take back to your pastors for their edification.

From: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/12/hyper-calvinism.html

The term “Hyper-Calvinism” is used in two or three different ways:

1. It is used as a term of abuse for anyone who is more Calvinistic than the accuser. For example, a 4-point Calvinist will accuse a 5-point Calvinist of being a hyper-Calvinist.

In this sense, it is used by someone who wants to strike a compromise between Reformed and Arminian theology. He believes that both are half-right, two halves of a whole, but their relation is one big imponderable paradox.

This usage is unhelpful because it blurs the meaning of a term and confuses what something stands for with what we stand for. I can disagree with something without bending the meaning of the word all out of shape. Labels cease to be useful unless they clearly demarcate a given position and distinguish it from a contrary position. If someone doesn’t believe in 5-point Calvinism, he should just find (or make up) a label for his own position rather than stealing ours.

2. It is used of a preacher who refuses to call everyone in the audience to repent of their sins and believe in Christ.

This begins with a Reformed premise, and derives what it considers to be a more consistently Calvinistic conclusion, to wit: if no one can come to Christ who is not chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Spirit, then it is inappropriate to call on the reprobate or unregenerate to repent of sin and believe in Christ. And since we don’t know the state of grace, or graceless state, of every listener, we shouldn’t call on anyone to repent and believe.

To my knowledge, this is pretty rare. It seems more often to be a scarecrow erected by the enemies of Calvinism to frighten away any passersby who might take an interest in the doctrines of grace.

By way of reply:

i) Since we have examples of indiscriminate preaching in the OT prophets, the Gospels, and the Book of Acts, hyper-Calvinism, in this sense, is overscrupulous and unscriptural.

ii) We can accept the premise, but reject the conclusion. Since the preacher doesn’t know who’s who, he should preach to everyone in order to reach the elect.

iii) Since the preacher has no control over election, redemption, and regeneration, there is nothing he can say to make the reprobate come to Christ, or make the elect stay away. So what is he (the hyper-Calvinist) afraid of?

In the name of God’s sovereignty, he acts as though he might do something to violate God’s sovereignty unless he’s oh-so careful. But if God is sovereign, then there is nothing he can do to mess up God’s plan.

Ironically, the hyper-Calvinist is guilty of playing God. He’s assuming responsibility for certain prior conditions (election, redemption, regeneration) for which God alone is responsible. He’s trying to act on what he doesn’t know, rather than acting on what he does know.

iv) He is also buying into the old Pelagian principle that ability limits responsibility. If the reprobate or unregenerate can’t believe in Christ, then they shouldn’t believe in Christ. Hence, they shouldn’t be told to believe in Christ.

But this is another false inference. A man who is enslaved to a compulsive-addictive behavior (e.g., drugs, booze, gambling, pornography), may be unable to provide for his family. Yet his inability doesn’t discharge him of his familial duties.

3. It is sometimes used of a preacher who does, in fact, call on everyone to repent and exercise faith, but who denies that God loves everyone or wants everyone to be saved or has conferred common grace on everyone.

Ironically, this accuser is the mirror-image of the hyper-Calvinist. For he is saying that the objective offer of the gospel is invalid unless certain divine preconditions are acknowledged and respected. It isn’t enough to call on everyone to repent and believe: unless you (the preacher) believe that God seconds your call from the pulpit, then the offer is insincere and sub-par.

Sometimes, folks like to point to supralapsarianism and say that this is the essence of hyper-Calvinism. There are several problems with this. First, of all supras and infras both affirm the TULIP, double predestination, etc. All hypers are supras, but the majority of supras are not hypers. Supralapsarianism leads to hyper-Calvinism the way that Arminianism leads to Unitarianism and Socinianism. It’s high time those raising this objection, particularly in the Baptist community, to realize this. John Bunyan was a supra. I don’t see them teaching Bunyan was a hyper-Calvinist.
The anti-missions movement is sometimes attributed to the rise of hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism, as such has a historical definition. Most Calvinists reject this doctrine. It says one or more of the following :

• that God is the author of sin and of evil
• that men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect
• that the number of the elect at any time may be known by men
• that it is wrong to evangelize
• that assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith
• that men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do
• that God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others
• that the children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned
• that God does not command everyone to repent
• that the sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone.
• that the true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church
• that the Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church.
• that no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority
• that the grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men
• that saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination
• that only Calvinists are Christians (Neo-Gnostic Calvinism)

It is undeniable that at least some of those involved in the anti-missions movement fell into this category. At its root, hyper-Calvinism denies the concept of “duty faith,” the obligation of all men, both elect and reprobate, to repent and believe. Historic Calvinism does not deny this. Furthermore, some hyper-Calvinists asserted that persons must look for a warrant to believe, which amounts to an attempt to peer into the sovereign decree of God, very like those today who advocate a similar idea by saying we must gauge the individual will of God on the basis of lining up the various signposts in our lives. Ergo, these groups had an inbuilt proclivity to deny the use of means, viewing them suspiciously as aids to conversion On the other hand, some did not fall into this category, appealing to a biblical literalism, insisting that, because these new societies did not reflect the biblical pattern as they saw it, they were to be rejected.

The roots of hyper-Calvinism itself extend back into the 18th century when some affirming the Second London Baptist Confession asserted that the gospel need not be preached to all men everywhere, denying “duty faith,” and that men must search for a warrant to believe. The Philadelphia Confession, the confession to which all the delegates that created the Southern Baptist Convention subscribed themselves recapitulates the London Baptist Confession of 1689. However, it differs in an important respect. It includes the following statements that add two sections to Article III on God’s Decree :

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so He hath by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto, wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination, is to be handled with special prudence and care; that men attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.

This statement was clearly intended to clarify the antecedent confession in order to mitigate against a hyper-Calvinist interpretation.

Hyper-Calvinists also affirmed a doctrine of eternal justification, the belief that the elect were justified from the time of the atonement forward. Ergo, there was no need to do missions or evangelism, since, in God’s mind, they were already justified. This, of course directly contradicted the Reformed confessions which teach that God has ordained the ends and the means. The Philadelphia Confession and Second London Baptist Confession (Article XI for both), stated plainly, “God did decree from all eternity to justify all the elect…nevertheless, they are not justified personally until the Holy Spirit doth in due time apply Christ unto them.” However, this did not automatically stem the rise of hyper-Calvinism.

On the other hand, some groups split over the issue of methods for more pragmatic reasons. Take the differences between the Kehukee Association and the parent Sandy Creek Association. Between the writing of the 1816 Abstract of the Sandy Creek Association and the founding of Sandy Creek Church itself, controversy erupted in Virginia in the Kehukee Association. That Association began as an association of Arminian churches, until 1765, what today, we would call “Free Will” Baptist churches. Calvinism’s introduction is attributed to Stearns before coming to NC after stopping in Kehukee Association. When they reformed, they adopted the Philadelphia Confession and then later developed their own confession. In 1777, they wrote their own confession. Article seven read, “ We believe in God’s appointed time and way (by means which He has obtained) the elect shall be called, justified and sanctified, and that it is impossible they can utterly refuse the call, but shall be made willing by divine grace to receive the offers of mercy.” (emphasis mine). Article 4 of the 1816 Sandy Creek Association Abstract strongly differs: We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.“ Note the absence of the parenthetical statement.

The Kehukee Association itself was large and influential. In 1820 an anti-missions leader, Joshua Lawrence published a pamphlet that moved the Kehukee Association closer to anti-missions. In 1827, the association issued “A Declaration Against the Modern Missionary Movement and Other Institutions of Men,” and they voted to oppose the mission societies, Bible societies, and seminaries. They favored exclusion of those who disagreed with them. The delegates of the Baltimore Association joined them in this in 1832.

In 1820 Daniel Parker published an anti-missions pamphlet; he went on to publish a monthly newspaper, the Church Advocate to spread his anti-missions views. He formed the Pilgrim Predestinarian Regular Baptist Church in Illinois in 1833 and later moved to Texas. In 1826, Parker began teaching the “two seeds” doctrine, stating that, since the Fall, all men were born with one of two seeds in the spirit, either the seed of the serpent (the reprobate) or the seed of Christ (the elect). This doctrine led to the rise of the “Two-Seed In the Spirit Predestinarian Baptists” among the Primitive Baptists.

John Taylor took a more moderate approach. He opposed salaried education, trained pastors, and missions. He saw men like Luther Rice as “Tetzels” who peddled the gospel for profit. His influence was primarily in KY and VA. We can already see here the seeds for the Old Missionary Baptist Association were forming.

If there are hyper-Calvinists in the SBC, I would like Johnny Hunt, Ronnie Floyd, Paige Patterson, Danny O’Guinn, Jack Graham, Steve Gaines, Herb Reavis, and the others who have continued to beat this drum to do the SBC a favor and name both the individuals involved and the errors of which they are guilty. Where are the hyper-Calvinists in the SBC? Who are they? Which of the errors listed above, which comes from the standard literature I might add, have they committed? If these individuals are going to discuss hyper-Calvinism, then (a) they need to define what they mean and (b) name names. We’re more than happy to listen.

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16 Comments on “Hyper-Calvinism…What is it?”

  1. Timmy Says:

    Thank you Gene for making this post and clarifying what hypercalvinism is. I wanted to delve into this in my post but felt like it would be too much for one article. Your theological and historical analysis is greatly needed and appreciated.

    Let me encourage all of you who hear preachers throwing around the term “hypercalvinism” without defining or qualifying it to ask them to explain what and who they are talking about. Anti-Cavlinists in the SBC have long painted anyone who believes in the doctrines of grace with with a dark ominous black marker. It is time that the fog be lifted and the truth preeminent over any and all rhetoric – regardless from which side it comes from.

    If our beliefs are so bad, then why are they found in all the confessions?

    If our doctrines are so wrong, then why hasn’t anyone in the SBC come out and soundly refuted them with Scripture (the latest attempt being Ergun Caner’s exegesis of Romans 9).

    If our theology is so much in error, then why is so much of baptist history and its leading theologians found teaching this theology?

    And finally, if we are such bad, arrogant, divisive people, then why we not choosing to remain anonymous, kicking off anyone on SBF who does not agree with us, and encourging churches to get rid of pastors who believe in Arminian doctrines?

  2. scripturesearcher2 Says:

    The more I read STRANGE BAPTIST FIRE the more I enjoy it. My
    sincere thanks for sharing your knowledge, courage and zeal.

    PERSEVERE!
    PERSEVERE!


  3. “If our theology is so much in error, then why is so much of baptist history and its leading theologians found teaching this theology?” by Timmy

    The problem is most baptist dont read about baptist history. A lot do not read what the preachers of the past wrote. They only know what they hear in church.

  4. John Weaver Says:

    Will Baptists change their soteriology such that persons
    are no longer seen as having any capacity to respond to God’s invitation to salvation?
    Will Baptists take a “hyper-Calvinist turn” than hinders missions and evangelism?
    Steve Lemke

    It’s pretty clear what the critics consider “hyper-Calvinism”, the teaching that persons have no ability to respond. But that is Calvinism, if they respond it’s because that ability was given them. As the article rightly points out the pastor has no idea who this ability is given too, so he treats all the same and makes the invitation to all. But of themselves they have no inate ability, it’s the gift of Gods grace. There will be many to whom this invitation will be given who have no capacity. This however is not our decision it is Gods, so let us submit to Gods will and let Him make it. And this is what the critics object too, and what they define as “hyper-calvinism”.

  5. Timmy Says:

    Bingo Johnnie. I must admit that I am not the Baptist historian I want to be. To correct this, I have been laboring recently to be more acquainted with what leading Baptist theologians have said in the past. Over the past couple of days I have been reading about Herschel Hobbs and his soteriology, and I am blown away at some of the things he said! And he was the president of the SBC during the formulation of the ’63 Baptist Faith & Message.

    For quite some time I felt I had little motivation to study baptist theologians and baptist history. Just in the past six months I have reason enough to invest a lot of my reading into this subject matter. I think it is important to have perspective and historical bearings with all the shifting sands of contemporary controversy.

    Many preachers today are reciting what, for example, Hobbs has said regarding the doctrine of election through his book What Baptists Believe or Fundamentals of Our Faith. Hobbs has been known to be “Mr. Southern Baptist” and the leading denominational statements of the twentieth century. If that is the case, no wonder why the struggle for reform is so great.


  6. Thanks for the explanation Gene. The whole issue of Hyper-Calvinism, at least for me, stems from ignorance of what the Doctrines of Grace say. This is both the result of many that hold to the Doctrines of Grace not teaching them . If I remember correctly from reading things on Spurgeon’s life he was accused of being both a Hyper-Calvinist and an Arminian simply because he did not fit the false construct of his accusers

    I get so frustrated by what I hear by supposed men of learning that I was wondering if there should not be a book entitled “The Calvinism Code.” The premise is that there is just enough truth, Calvin existed, with plenty of error, Calvinists are anit-missionial. This seems to be the way most that are threatened by the Doctrines of Grace preach so that their people simply are not discerning enough to ask questions and just buy into it.

    Keep up the good work. Any word on where Baptist Fire went?

  7. Hashman Says:

    Has anyone noticed that the baptist fire website has been down for atleast two days? Or is it just my computer that can’t get access?
    Hashman


  8. Thanks for your efforts…thinking and writing about this kind of stuff takes time…especially with family, work, school and church…So really, thanks for taking the time.

    I was reading in David Wells book, No Place For Truth (still very insightful and relevant) he makes the following statement regarding movements:”Movements must exhibit three characteristics: (1) there must be a common owned direction, (2) there must be a common basis on which that direction is owned, and (3) there must be an espirit that informs and motivates those who are thus joined in their common cause.”

    I read that yesterday, while giving plasma, and thought, “Whoa, that sounds like the reformed resurgence happening in the SBC. That sounds like us!” So, I am encouraged, curious and a bit cautious as these things seem to “heat up” in the midst of Baptist life.

    I imagine, if we consider these truths essential (which I do), then we might need to be quite resolved in the battles and mudslinging which are probably ahead of us. Resolved as well to maintain our devotion to Christ and not fight man against man, to hold fast to the doctrines of Grace because they so magnify and exalt our Lord and to do all of this with “winsomeness.” Moreover, an “end outcome” should be in sight as we do all of this. I want change. I want the legitimacy and truth of the doctrines of grace embraced by the SBC. I want healing between those who struggle to agree (Caners and White/Ascol and/or the reformed and less reformed elements). I don’t want sides, ultimately; even though there are sides now. So, I think having some sort of clear end for what we’re doing, you’re doing (on the blogs) and in our minstry to the churches is necessary.

    The Memphis Declaration names several problems, all of which are valid. But, even as a first step, we need a clear vision for who we are and what we are doing. Are we really sitting around wondering if the next SBC president will give it to us? We need to pray to God to raise all of us up. Did anyone listen to Pipers sermon at the TG4? If not, do so. It does not sum all things up but it certainly helps narrow the focus of the kind of preachers and leadership necessary for authentic Christ exalting change.

    There should be an evident joy in all of this as well since really if our hope was ever in the SBC we’d be lost. But (man I’m feeling this!) our hope is in our King.

    We have much to proclaim and need to be careful not be heard as dissenters only. I mean, James White is very right to ask repeatedly to the Caners, “Am I your brother?” This changes everything and demands so much more from us. We say these things and fight for these things because (1) they are true and honor God and (2) we love our brothers and sisters in Christ and want them to see the depth, mystery and majesty of Christ.

    Otherwise, we’ll easily be accused of being bloodthirsty, foaming at the mouth neophytes too enamored with other reformed personalities. This charge is probably true of many new to the doctrines of Grace or new to this debate, conversation and community of blogs. Everyone gets excited and runs to see when someone yells, “Fight! Fight!” at least they did when I was in school. There are various levels of motivation for those who fight and those who encourage the ruckus. Let’s pray over these things!

    Anyway, this started as a thank you for your efforts, but seems to have turned into exhortation as well. We performe according to giftedness, I hope;>

    Grace and Peace,
    Kelly Bridenstine

  9. Timmy Says:

    Hash,

    No one at this point really knows what happened to BaptistFire. One person said that it was hacked, but that info is not credible since we cannot confirm the source being from BaptistFire themselves. We too are awaiting to find out the status of BaptistFire . . .

  10. Steve Grose Says:

    G’day from Australia,
    That was a truly great article. I am very thankful for your discernment and capacity in presenting this material. You have avoided polemics and presented a very very good presentation of balanced reformed belief. I wish I had read this 25 years ago, when I was perceived as a firebrand calvinist in my own country. It has only been the compassion and grace of some of your less reformed SBC pastors that have softened a hard liner.
    May I add a couple of further descriptives of hyper calvinism that are not doctrinal, but rather pragmatic characteristics.
    I have noticed a tendency sometimes for we folk to be more committed to our doctrinal position, loving the doctrines of grace, more than loving the gracious God who gave them. We sometimes exhibit a fervour for the debate, rather than a fervour for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
    I have noticed a tendency to be able to quote chapter and verse from various calvinistic publications (our favourite authors) rather than from the Word of God itself. Do we not love the Word?
    I have noticed a fervour for triumph in our positions rather than a graciousness in ur relationships that should charactise we who understand grace (Col 3).
    I hope I am not being ungracious in bringing this to our attention, although I must say I have more deeply enjoyed Strange Baptist Fire. Every Blessing, Steve

  11. Gordan Says:

    Steve Grose,

    I personally would not call those things you mention hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism is a fairly well-defined set of doctrines. You are highlighting some (sadly) common attitudes that can be found among the Reformed, which are not strictly doctrinal.

    That said, I agree with all those points you mentioned, and have personally been guilty of many of them, especially right after my “conversion” to the Doctrines of Grace.

    Your post reminds me very much of Dr. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, the old preacher in London, who used to warn his fellow Calvinists of what he called “wooden Calvinism.” His contention was that once the joy and life and passion of the Holy Spirit is no longer found in us, then we’ve really no right to call ourselves Calvinists any longer. He repeatedly pointed out that the Calvinistic Welsh Revivals were primarily revivals of adoration for the Lord Jesus Christ.


  12. […] Now I can certainly understand the perception that many Calvinists actively seek interaction on these topics. In fact, in the comment section of a recent post here, Steve Grose said: “We sometimes exhibit a fervour for the debate, rather than a fervour for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself”, which rightly hits on the popular perception that Calvinists are debaters. But the fact that Calvinists seek interaction is not a point that many would deny, and I am thankful for Steve’s concern here. There is a desire to debate these issues, particularly when certain high-profile leaders openly and vigorously attack the reformed position. But for the most part, I believe that using the phrase ‘love for debating’ is a little strong, and that ‘dialogue’ and ‘interaction’ are probably more accurate terms to describe our desire to seek and proclaim the truth. […]

  13. Savedandsure Says:

    There are no HYPER Calvinists in the SBC and those who use this
    “strawman” aka “scarecrow” know it….

    NO, wait! Maybe they really do not know the difference between Calvinism and HYPER (perverted) Calvinism.

    The frequency with which these carping, caustic critics of BIBLE CHRISTIANITY (my preferred term for Calvinism) continue to use this “scarecrow strawman” would indicate their GREAT need of additional information which your fine article provides.

    Also helpful is Phil Johnson’s Primer on Hypercalvinism located at
    http://www.spurgeon.org/phil/article/hypercal.htm

    Those you have named, and many others, would do well to learn to correctly define their terms before trying to scare folks of something and someone that does not exist in the SBC.

    And for those who know the difference between scriptural Calvinism and unscriptural hypercalvinism, and yet persist in castigating the former….

    well, they should REPENT and offer a PUBLIC APOLOGY for their efforts to lead people astray from the TRUTH.

  14. john nevils Says:

    I think that what you all do on this web site is waste of time. Especially to your family.

  15. Timmy Says:

    John,

    I see that you have chosen an old post to express you comments, so let me assume that very few people (say the contributors) are those you intended to write this to. Since, I am one of them, could you please explain to me why you think this is a waste of time. Futhermore, could you do us/me a favor and please explain your time management? I don’t mean this in a pejorative way, but I work hard at being disciplined with time as I priortize the matters in my life. Since you have expressed so negatively your sentiments towards SBF, maybe could try saying something positive about time management and why this web site is “such a waste of time.” Thanks and hope to see you around.

  16. Gene Says:

    Mr. Nevils,

    I am the author of this article. How is this a “waste of time” with respect to my family? I am a single adult male with no plans to marry. How is my family being neglected by my participation in this website, when I am unmarried and have no children? In addition, I am an only child and have no brothers or sisters and consequently no nieces and nephews.

    I suppose you must be trotting out that old zinger that this takes away from our time witnessing. Uh-huh, and thus saith the one who is spending time on the internet.

    You know, if I had a dime for every time I have read this in the comment sections of a blog, I’d be able to retire and move to Club Med. This little canard gets trotted out way to much, and its always from somebody complaining about others. First, if you really believed this applied to you too, you wouldn’t take the time to write the comment on a blog. Second, let me borrow from my friend James Spurgeon out in TX by way of reply: Evangleism is a God-given command. It is also a joy and we do so regularly and in a meaningful way. But we don’t do so 24/7 and neither do you, nor does God expect that of us. I’m sure you wasted 2-3 hours last week on something that could have been time better spent. Oh well. We will each answer to God for how we spent our hours, until then, I suggest you consider 1 Cor. 4:4-5 carefully. Thank-you, though, for caring enough to remind us of that truth.


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