Calvinism vs. Hyper Calvinism

“Remember… while some Arminians are Armenians and some Armenians are Arminians, Armenians and Arminians are two very different groups. Second, while it’s true that some Calvinists can be a bit hyper, that doesn’t make them Hyper-Calvinists.” – Justin Taylor

It is indeed unfortunate that a man’s name (John Calvin) has come to be associated with the doctrines of grace. It is actually something that I am sure Calvin would have opposed himself. Calvin was a humble man of God who spoke very rarely about himself. Even his greatest critics will acknowledge that it is indeed hard to find personal references in his sermons. He actually made his wish known that he would be buried in an unmarked grave so that no undue adulation or veneration would occur at his gravesite after death. This wish was carried out (by the way). In visiting Geneva, Switzerland, I was never able to visit Calvin’s grave for the simple reason that, even to this day, no one knows where it is.

Calvin was by no means the first person to articulate the doctrines of election and predestination. For example, there was nothing in Calvin that was not first in Luther. Yet it was Calvin who was the chief systematizer of these doctrines through his widely influential book “The Institutes of the Christian Religion.”

I think what is even more unfortunate is the fact that some errant doctrines, having no basis in Scripture, has come to be called “Hyper Calvinism.” It would better to describe these doctrines as “sub” rather than ” hyper” Calvinism, as they are so far below the dignity and, dare I say it, “the balance” of the doctrines espoused by Calvin. Hyper Calvinism denies the need for evangelism. More than that, it opposes evangelism. In contrast, Calvin’s doctrines of predestination and election did not make evangelism a rarity, but Geneva, under Calvin, was something of a missions center, as men were sent out to many nations with the Gospel – many of them, knowing full well that certain death awaited them. A great missions movement began under the ministry of John Calvin.

Pastor Phil Johnson writes, “some critics unthinkingly slap the label “hyper” on any variety of Calvinism that is higher than the view they hold to. Arminians like to equate all five-point Calvinism with hyper-Calvinism (as Calvary-Chapel author George Bryson does in his horrible little book, The Five Points of Calvinism: “Weighed and Found Wanting” [Costa Mesa: Word for Today, 1996]). That approach lacks integrity and only serves to confuse people.”

Pastor Johnson goes on to define hyper Calvinism in the following way:

“A hyper-Calvinist is someone who either:

1. Denies that the gospel call applies to all who hear, OR
2. Denies that faith is the duty of every sinner, OR
3. Denies that the gospel makes any “offer” of Christ, salvation, or mercy to the non-elect (or denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal), OR
4. Denies that there is such a thing as “common grace,” OR
5. Denies that God has any sort of love for the non-elect.

Hyper-Calvinism, simply stated, is a doctrine that emphasizes divine sovereignty to the exclusion of human responsibility. To call it “hyper-Calvinism” is something of a misnomer. It is actually a rejection of historic Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism entails a denial of what is taught in both Scripture and the major Calvinistic creeds, substituting instead an imbalanced and unbiblical notion of divine sovereignty.”

I completely agree and very much recommend the rest of Phil Johnson’s insightful article on this here.

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