Hyper-Calvinism: the perennial misnomer

GRANT SWART

In response to those who often refer to a group of people mistakenly labeled “hyper”-Calvinists, I felt it imperative to outline a few important distinctions between true Calvinist doctrine and what is referred to as “hyper”-Calvinism. If the 17 points I have listed below are those which supposedly distinguish and constitute “hyper”-Calvinism, then by that very implication, those points cannot also be what Calvinists believe. If those are the points which allegedly separate “hyper”-Calvinists from Calvinists, then those points cannot be ascribed to both sides, for then they would not be distinguishing points.

Nowhere in Calvin’s theology did he teach any of the 17 points which I list toward the end of this article, yet these points are perennially ascribed to those who agree with the doctrines of Grace. I might remind the reader here that TULIP was not Calvin’s invention, but was an acronym for the pronouncements of the Synod of Dort (1618) tasked with defending biblical doctrine, not Calvinism per se, against obvious destructive heresies of the time. Even so, it is clear that, when the doctrines as laid out in the five points of Calvinism or TULIP are understood, none of the distinguishing 17 points as I have listed below can be ascribed to TULIP. It is quite clear therefore that the term “hyper”-Calvinism is a misnomer and has no foundation in or relation to true Calvinism.

“Hyper”-Calvinism is a term which has been brandished as a whimsical weapon by those who for whatsoever reason, are compelled to be driven by pride and sense of personal achievement in having had a part role in helping God in their salvation. Those are the same people who erroneously believe or have been tragically led to believe that they have made a decision “for Christ”. The same people who continually overlook the fact that they are jars of clay in the hands of the potter who formed them and can use them for whatsoever purpose He deems fit (Romans 9:21). The same people who simply cannot or will not accept the absolute Sovereignty of an omnipotent and Holy God. The same people who, by way of their man-centered beliefs, oppose the words in Romans 9:18-24 and Ephesians 2:8-9 and are thereby themselves party to errors equal to those of their contrived “hyper”-Calvinistic victims.

“Hyper”-Calvinism, like Arminianism, are intentional perversions of the truth and can seem rational when taken at face value. The good Berean will realize that both “hyper”-Calvinism and Arminianism are deceptively unbiblical. Whereas Arminianism destroys the sovereignty of God, “hyper”-Calvinism destroys the responsibility of man. The irony is that both Arminianism and “hyper”-Calvinism originate from the same erroneous thought that man’s ability and responsibility are in perfect equilibrium. In other words, they must match up exactly or else it is unfair. Incorrectly it is assumed that if a man is held responsible for something, then surely he must have the ability to do it. On the other hand, it is also incorrectly proffered that, if a man does not have the ability to perform it, he cannot be responsible for it.

Arminianism proclaims that all men are held responsible to repent and believe and therefore believe that all men have the ability in themselves to repent and believe. While it is true that all men are held responsible to repent and believe in order to be saved, it is clear from the verses I have referred to above, that no man has the ability or the will to do so in themselves. Therefore, Arminians erroneously believe that unregenerate people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe.

“Hyper”-Calvinism reputedly is blamed for a similar error: that all men are without spiritual ability to repent and believe, therefore that unregenerate people are not responsible to repent and believe the gospel.

While both of the above seem reasonable, neither of them are in accordance with biblical truth. The Bible teaches both that fallen man is without spiritual ability and that he is responsible to repent and believe. The Bible further tells us that only by the regenerating power and work of the Holy Spirit, does man gain the ability to repent and believe.

I include here a few thoughts, representative of biblical Grace and with which I’m sure most Calvinists would agree, but which are clearly contrary to “hyper”-Calvinism:

(1) God’s desire is for all people to obey the gospel, repent and be saved

(2) God does not desire to save the reprobate but He does desire that they repent and be saved. Of course they will not do it because they love darkness. Jesus says on this matter, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”

(3) All those who want to be saved, can be saved and will be saved by the Grace of God. Those who want    to be saved are given that will and are enabled to believe by that same Grace.

(4) None of those who do not want to be saved will be forced into salvation, just as none of those who are saved will be forced not to sin. None of those who truly want to be saved, to believe and repent will be lost. (Rev 22:11) He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.

(5) It is of real importance to firstly understand and accept that none of us deserve to be saved, neither can we earn salvation by our good works or honourable intentions. Those of Pelagian or Arminian persuasion, being those who hold to synergistic beliefs and therefore refuse, or are unable to accept the biblical doctrine of election, more often than not, attack the doctrines of Grace under the guise of opposing “hyper”-Calvinism. In so doing, they choose to err on the side of caution by aiming fabricated accusations of hypothetical “hyper”-Calvinism against monergists, rather than openly disputing biblical doctrine, which is  in fact what they do.

(6) Based on point (5) therefore, it cannot be said that God is “unfair” in not saving the reprobate. None deserve to be saved to begin with (Romans 3). If all likewise deserve to be eternally punished, how can it be justifiable to say that those whom are not saved are treated unfairly? They are simply receiving deserved and just punishment.

(7) Furthermore, how can it be said of those who are being saved, that they are receiving unfair favouritism, when it is them who are called by God and justified by faith in the atonement of Jesus? John Hendryx wrote on this matter by paraphrasing what God could have said on this matter: “For God to desire both be true is as if He said, “I want you to obey because rebellion is a breach of my holy law and an offense against Me so it is deserving of my just wrath. I want you to come but you won’t. And for very good and just reasons (My sovereign will) though not yet discernable to you, I refuse to do it for you. My affection and help is reserved for those in my family.”

The following is a list of 17 of the points which are regularly ascribed to “hyper”-Calvinists, none of which can be ascribed to Calvin’s teaching. Neither are any of these points in agreement with the doctrines of Grace, which are doctrines I hold dear and which are far too precious and humbling to reject. I fail to understand why anyone would knowingly refuse free Grace in preference of some fallible man-centered heretical religion, but I do recognize the source of such deception.

Those who believe in the Doctrines of Grace, and most Calvinists, do not and by the very nature of biblical truth, cannot accept:

1)     that God is the author of sin and the creator of evil

2)     that men have no free will

3)     that exactly who are the elect may be known by men

4)     that evangelization is unnecessary

5)     that one must be sure that one is elect before repenting and believing

6)     that those who profess to be believers are saved regardless of what they do later

7)     that some nations or races are elect while others are not

8)     that the children of unbelievers who die in infancy are eternally doomed

9)     that repentance is not commanded of every man by God

10)  that the sacraments are not means of Grace, but are hindrances to salvation by faith alone

11)  that the true church is only invisible and that salvation is in no way connected to the visible church

12)  that the Scriptures are only to be understood by the individual and not by the church

13)  that all governments who do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour are not to be obeyed

14)  that all governments who do not have the Bible as the sole source of authority are not to be obeyed

15)  that the Grace of God is not to the advantage and improvement of all men

16)  that salvation is dependant entirely on the belief in the doctrine of predestination

17)  that one must hold to Calvinistic beliefs in order to be a true Christian

(Please be so kind as to add to these points in the comment section, as I’m sure to have omitted certain common unfounded accusations which are regularly leveled at those who hold to many biblical doctrines)

Arminianism and “hyper”-Calvinism are twin errors on opposing ends of the same problem. Proponents of either of these false belief systems are consistently hammering at the other with intricate unbiblical reasoning, doctrines and attitudes. Each one’s pre-occupation with the other’s perceived problems serve only to keep them from the truth and in bondage to one another’s deception.

But this, of course, is by no means a new development and has served to keep both groups shrouded in the fog of salvific doubt. The doctrine of election should be declared with unwavering certainty because the Bible does. Man cannot save himself and without the working of the Holy Spirit man cannot and will not believe the Gospel. The Holy Spirit freely enables those whom He intends to save, to have faith (1 Cor 12:9). The Holy Spirit works in the hearts of the elect, those of whom Jesus speaks in John 6:37-39 and Ephesians 1:4-5.

The term “hyper”-Calvinism arose in the mid 1700’s and has certainly not been relegated to the mists of time. It is my contention that it is certainly high time that the misnomer which is “hyper”-Calvinism at least be more honestly renamed to be descriptive of what it is intended to indicate. At the very least it would be helpful in solving many pointless arguments before they erupt and will serve to eliminate gross misconceptions and confusion, particularly for those who are new converts to the Christian Faith.

 

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4 thoughts on “Hyper-Calvinism: the perennial misnomer

  1. Pingback: Do infants deserve hell since they are born in a sinful nature? - Page 57 - Christian Forums

  2. Pingback: John Calvin: Murderer? | For the Love of His Truth

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