Reformed Theology Vs. Hyper-Calvinism

Article by by Michael Horton (original source here)

Before the average believer today learns what Reformed theology (i.e., Calvinism) actually is, he first usually has to learn what it’s not. Often, detractors define Reformed theology not according to what it actually teaches, but according to where they think its logic naturally leads. Even more tragically, some hyper-Calvinists have followed the same course. Either way, “Calvinism” ends up being defined by extreme positions that it does not in fact hold as scriptural. The charges leveled against Reformed theology, of which hyper-Calvinism is actually guilty, received a definitive response at the international Synod of Dort (1618–1619), along with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

Is God the Author of Sin?

The God of Israel “is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut. 32:4–5). In fact, James seems to have real people in mind when he cautions, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). Sin and evil have their origin not in God or creation, but in the personal will and action of creatures.

Scripture sets forth two guardrails here: On one hand, God “works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:15); on the other, God does not — in fact, cannot — do evil. We catch a glimpse of these two guardrails at once in several passages, most notably in Genesis 45 and Acts 2. In the former, Joseph recognizes that while the intention of his brothers in selling him into slavery was evil, God meant it for good, so that many people could be saved during this famine (vv. 4–8). We read in the same breath in Acts 2:23 that “lawless men” are blamed for the crucifixion, and yet Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God….” The challenge is to affirm what Scripture teaches without venturing any further. We know from Scripture that both are true, but not how. Perhaps the most succinct statement of this point is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith (chap. 3.1): “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;” — there’s one guardrail — “yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creature; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established,” and with that, the second guardrail. The same point is made in the Belgic Confession of Faith (Article 13), adding that whatever God has left to His own secret judgment is not for us to probe any further.

Is the Gospel for Everyone?

Isn’t it a bit of false advertising to say on one hand that God has already determined who will be saved and on the other hand to insist that the good news of the Gospel be sincerely and indiscriminately proclaimed to everyone? Continue reading

Calvinism v. Hyper Calvinism

Article: Calvinism Is Not Hyper-Calvinism by Josh Buice (original source Iron Sharpens Iron, on the subject of hyper-Calvinism. It caused me to think about this subject and the importance of using vocabulary properly. As the father of a type 1 diabetic, I spend much of my time explaining to people in random conversations that type 1 diabetes (T1D) is not the same thing as type 2 diabetes (T2D). Therefore, let me begin by clearly stating this point—Calvinism is not hyper-Calvinism. When I engage in conversation with people who want to discuss Calvinism, I’m happy to do so, but I want to be sure that we’re using the same dictionary.

What is Calvinism?

Calvinism is a system of theology that seeks to systemize the teachings of Scripture on the subject of salvation. What is the relationship between the absolute sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man? This is the central issue of Calvinism. It takes the name of the Reformer John Calvin, who was a passionate preacher of Scripture in the Sixteenth Century in Geneva, Switzerland. During the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers were seeking to unleash the true gospel from the intense strangle hold of the Roman Catholic Church. It was through this period of time that the Bible was being printed in the common language of the people and was simultaneously being proclaimed expositionally.

A group of followers of Jacobus Arminius who studied under Theodore Beza (a disciple of John Calvin) drafted a document known as the Remonstrance. It was a detailed refutation of the sovereignty of God in salvation. It elevated the free will of man above the sovereign initiative and power of God. These people were known as Arminians. Their doctrine would eventually become known as Arminianism.

An official meeting was held known as the Synod of Dordt in 1619 in order to respond to the submission of the Arminians in their Remonstrance. The overall conclusion was that the Remonstrance was incorrect and that the biblical view of salvation teaches that God is the author and finisher of saving grace. The “five points” of Calvinism came as an answer to the unscriptural five points authored by the Arminians in 1610 me eventually were organized with an acronym T.U.L.I.P. To explain the key teachings.

Historical Timeline Surrounding the Doctrines Known as “Calvinism”

440 Bishop Leo of Rome becomes “Bishop of Bishops.” Asserts Primacy of Rome over the Church; Dark Ages Begin.
1382 John Wycliffe translates Bible.
1384 John Wycliffe martyred by Rome.
1439 (Approximate) Printing press invented.
1517 Luther Nails 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Church Door; The Reformation begins (Post Tenebras Lux).
1522 Luther’s New Testament.
1526 Tyndale’s New Testament.
1536 William Tyndale Martyred by Rome; Institutes of the Christian Religion (John Calvin).
1553 Bloody Mary becomes queen of England and restores power to the RCC. During
Mary’s reign, more than 300 Protestants are burned. John Rogers (publisher of the Matthew’s Bible) is the first to be burned at the stake. Many Protestants flee from England to Geneva.
1559 Calvin opens his college in Geneva. Within five years the college would have over 1500 students.
1560 The Geneva Bible is printed. It was the first Bible with verse references and sold over one million copies between 1560 and 1640. John Foxe publishes Foxe’s book of Martyrs.
1561 Belgic Confession (Guido de Bres).
1563 Heidelberg Catechism (Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus).
1564 John Calvin Dies.
1571 The Synod of Emden (birth of the Dutch Reformed Church).
1609 Jacobus Arminius dies.
1610 Remonstrance (Arminians or Remonstrants led by Johannes Uytenbogaert).
1611 Counter-Remonstrance (led by Pieter Platevoet).
1618 Opening of the Synod of Dort & Opinions of the Remonstrants.
1619 Synod Dismisses the Arminians & Adopts the Canons (AKA – 5-Points of Calvinism).

The system known as Calvinism is really five counter points to Arminianism. Years later, Wesley adopted the Arminian position and thus the Methodist movement was born. Although there are certain exceptions, historically, Baptists and Presbyterians have been more Calvinistic and opposed to the doctrines of Arminianism while the Methodists and groups such as the Assemblies of God have embraced the doctrines known as Arminianism. Today, Calvinism is sometimes known by titles such as Reformed theology and the doctrines of grace.

What is Hyper-Calvinism?

Hyper-Calvinism is not a term used for those who are overly passionate about Calvinism. That’s actually what we refer to as “cage stage Calvinism.” When understood properly, hyper-Calvinism is a technical term for an extreme and unbiblical view that rejects any need for Christians to engage in missions and evangelism. Simply put, hyper-Calvinists forbid the preaching of the gospel and the offer of salvation to the non-elect. Such people believe that God has chosen people in Christ in eternity past and will bring about His results without the help of His people. Hyper-Calvinism is heresy and must be rejected.

To illustrate the views of hyper-Calvinism, consider what happened during a pastors’ meeting years ago. A man named William Carey wanted to organize an effort to get the gospel to what he called heathen nations. Carey stood up and addressed the crowd by requesting that they discuss “the duty of Christians to attempt to spread the gospel among the heathen nations.” Mr. Ryland, and older minister, exclaimed loudly, “Sit down, young man! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.” Carey did not stop. His allegiance was to Christ – not Mr. Ryland. Carey went to India and proclaimed the good news of Christ.

Carey would write a book titled – An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of Heathens. He would argue his case that we should use means to reach heathens – contrary to what Mr. Ryland – the elder minister said in his meeting as he scolded the young Carey for bringing up the subject.

William Carey, in his Enquiry, wrote: “It seems as if many thought the commission was sufficiently put in execution by what the apostles and others have done; that we have enough to do to attend to the salvation of our own countrymen; and that, if God intends the salvation of the heathen, he will some way or other bring them to the gospel, or the gospel to them. It is thus that multitudes sit at ease, and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry.”

It must be pointed out that William Carey was a Calvinist. Although William Carey had only a grammar school education – he would shake the world with the gospel. Carey once preached a sermon where he stated – “Expect Great Things – Attempt Great Things.” It was later added – “Expect Great Things From God – Attempt Great Things For God.” That’s exactly what he did as he proclaimed the true gospel of King Jesus. India would never be the same. The world would never be the same. The way the church viewed missions would never be the same – because of this Christ-exalting Calvinist that has become known to us as the “father of modern missions.”

What’s the Difference?

The difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism is the distance between heaven and hell. Calvinism is full of life and passion for God and desires to make God’s glory shine among the nations. Hyper-Calvinism is lifeless heresy that damns people to hell, kills evangelism, and ruins churches. Take a good look at the missionary movement of church history and you will see Calvinists leading the charge. Men like William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and Charles Spurgeon were all Calvinists. Many people overlook the missionary heart of John Calvin himself. He trained and sent out many missionaries who passionately preached the truth. Many of these men were martyred for their faith.

The next time you’re talking to someone with type 1 diabetes, just remember—it’s not the same thing as type 2 diabetes. Also, the next time you’re talking to a Calvinist, remember, Calvinism is not hyper-Calvinism. To call faithful Calvinistic Christians hyper-Calvinists is to consign a massive number of people from church history to the flames of hell (including people like Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, Martin Luther, Andrew Fuller, Adoniram Judson, and George Whitefield). What’s the difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Calvinism proclaims the true gospel while hyper-Calvinism proclaims no gospel at all.

Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism – What’s the Difference?

questionmarkredstandingArticle: What’s the Difference Between Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism? by Tom Ascol (original source the following summary reveals the basic differences between Arminianism, Calvinism, and hyper-Calvinism.

In one sense, hyper-Calvinism, like Arminianism, is a rationalistic perversion of true Calvinism. Whereas Arminianism undermines divine sovereignty, hyper-Calvinism undermines human responsibility. The irony is that both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism start from the same, erroneous rationalistic presupposition, namely that human ability and responsibility are coextensive. That is, they must match up exactly or else it is irrational. If a man is to be held responsible for something, then he must have the ability to do it. On the other hand, if a man does not have the ability to perform it, he cannot be obligated to do it.

The Arminian looks at this premise and says, “Agreed! We know that the Bible holds all people responsible to repent and believe [which is true]. Therefore we must conclude that all men have the ability in themselves to repent and believe [which is false, according to the Bible].” Thus, Arminians teach that unconverted people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe, albeit such ability must be aided by grace.

The hyper-Calvinist takes the same premise (that man’s ability and responsibility are coextensive) and says, “Agreed! We know that the Bible teaches that in and of themselves all men are without spiritual ability to repent and believe [which is true]. Therefore we must conclude that unconverted people are not under obligation to repent and believe the gospel [which is false, according to the Bible].”

In contrast to both of these, the Calvinist looks at the premise and says, “Wrong! While it looks reasonable, it is not biblical. The Bible teaches both that fallen man is without spiritual ability and that he is obligated to repent and believe. Only by the powerful, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is man given the ability to fulfill his duty to repent and believe.” And though this may seem unreasonable to rationalistic minds, there is no contradiction, and it is precisely the position the Bible teaches. The Calvinist view may appear irrational but in reality is supra-rational—it is revealed.

Hyper Calvinism

Dr. James White, though accused of being a “hyper Calvinist” is no such thing, as the video below clearly demonstrates:

Dr. White writes, “Even though I had fully responded to David Allen in 2008, the need arose to do so again, fully, in reference to his accusation that I am a hyper-Calvinist. This allowed me to address the entire issue of hyper-Calvinism, provide some descriptions and definitions, and finally get to the real issue, whether you must deny that God’s redemptive love is specifically for the elect of God, or not. Discussions of prescriptive and decretive wills, etc., will abound in this 75 minute program, but hopefully it will be of assistance to those interested in this field of study.”

Reformed Theology Vs. Hyper-Calvinism

hortonDr. Michael S. Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary, California. He writes:

Before the average believer today learns what Reformed theology (i.e., Calvinism) actually is, he first usually has to learn what it’s not. Often, detractors define Reformed theology not according to what it actually teaches, but according to where they think its logic naturally leads. Even more tragically, some hyper-Calvinists have followed the same course. Either way, “Calvinism” ends up being defined by extreme positions that it does not in fact hold as scriptural. The charges leveled against Reformed theology, of which hyper-Calvinism is actually guilty, received a definitive response at the international Synod of Dort (1618–1619), along with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

Is God the Author of Sin?

The God of Israel “is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut. 32:4–5). In fact, James seems to have real people in mind when he cautions, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). Sin and evil have their origin not in God or creation, but in the personal will and action of creatures.

Scripture sets forth two guardrails here: On one hand, God “works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:15); on the other, God does not — in fact, cannot — do evil. We catch a glimpse of these two guardrails at once in several passages, most notably in Genesis 45 and Acts 2. In the former, Joseph recognizes that while the intention of his brothers in selling him into slavery was evil, God meant it for good, so that many people could be saved during this famine (vv. 4–8). We read in the same breath in Acts 2:23 that “lawless men” are blamed for the crucifixion, and yet Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God….” The challenge is to affirm what Scripture teaches without venturing any further. We know from Scripture that both are true, but not how. Perhaps the most succinct statement of this point is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith (chap. 3.1): “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;” — there’s one guardrail — “yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creature; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established,” and with that, the second guardrail. The same point is made in the Belgic Confession of Faith (Article 13), adding that whatever God has left to His own secret judgment is not for us to probe any further.

Is the Gospel for Everyone?

Isn’t it a bit of false advertising to say on one hand that God has already determined who will be saved and on the other hand to insist that the good news of the Gospel be sincerely and indiscriminately proclaimed to everyone? Continue reading

Calvinism, Arminianism & Hyper-Calvinism

tom-ascolTom Ascol, at the Founders blog writes:

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once observed that “the ignorant Arminian does not know the difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism.” The good news is that not all Arminians are ignorant. The bad news, however, is that such ignorance is not limited to Arminians.

Throughout evangelical history, where evangelical Calvinism as spread among Bible believing Christians, charges of hyper-Calvinism inevitably arise from those who do not know the difference. That pattern is being repeated today both within and beyond the borders of the Southern Baptist Convention. Examples of such careless accusations are not hard to find.

One of the most recent and most egregious came in the exhibit hall during the recent Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas. On Monday, June 10, 2013, the day before the convention actually began, Baptist21 interviewed the president of Louisiana College about the treatment of some Calvinistic professors whose contracts were not renewed by the administration. In the course of responding to questions that he had been sent in advance, Dr. Joe Aguillard (though he probably would not identify himself as an Arminian) proved Lloyd-Jones’ point.

That display of doctrinal misunderstanding reminded me of the present need to clarify repeatedly and rigorously difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. Some writers and teachers seem to confuse them so often and so willingly that one must wonder if the practice is intentional. In one sense, hyper-Calvinism, like Arminianism, is a rationalistic perversion of true Calvinism. Whereas Arminianism destroys the sovereignty of God, hyper-Calvinism destroys the responsibility of man. The irony is that both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism start from the same, erroneous rationalistic presupposition: Man’s ability and responsibility are coextensive. That is, they must match up exactly or else it is irrational. If a man is to be held responsible for something, then he must have the ability to do it. On the other hand, if a man does not have the ability to perform it, he cannot be obligated to do it.

The Arminian looks at this premise and says, “Agreed! We know that all men are held responsible to repent and believe the gospel [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that all men have the ability in themselves to repent and believe [which is false, according to the Bible].” Thus, Arminians teach that unconverted people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe.

The hyper-Calvinist takes the same premise (that man’s ability and responsibility are coextensive) and says, “Agreed! We know that, in and of themselves, all men are without spiritual ability to repent and believe [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that unconverted people are not under obligation to repent and believe the gospel [which is false, according to the Bible].”

In contrast to both of these, the Calvinist looks at the premise and says, “Wrong! While it looks reasonable, it is not biblical. The Bible teaches both that fallen man is without spiritual ability and that he is obligated to repent and believe. Only by the powerful, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is man given the ability to fulfill his duty to repent and believe.” And though this may seem unreasonable to rationalistic minds, there is no contradiction, and it is precisely the position the Bible teaches.

Why are these things so important to our discussion? Baptists have been confronted with these theological issues throughout their history. The Arminianism–Calvinism–hyper-Calvinism debate has played a decisive role in shaping our identity as Baptists, and particularly our identity as Southern Baptists. The Southern Baptist Convention has never welcomed either Arminians or hyper-Calvinists within their ranks. It has, however, from its beginning been home to evangelical Calvinists. In fact, though we cannot say there were only Calvinists among the original generation of Southern Baptists, Calvinism was certainly the overwhelming doctrinal consensus among the delegates that met in 1845 to form the convention.

A Few Thoughts on 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

Amongst the archives at www.aomin.org here I found this, written by my friend Dr. James White; a response to a man I shall call Brian (not his real name). It is rather lengthy but I think you will find it worthwhile. To allow for easy reading I will make James White’s words appear in bold type:

James writes:
The following exchange took place around the year 2000. If I am recalling correctly, an unsolicited e-mail arrived with a large “cc” list of people. As you will see, my initial response was very brief, because I learned long ago that these kinds of impromptu e-mail lists will suck the life right out of you if you let them. False teachers have, seemingly, unlimited time resources. In any case, when the reply came, I did invest a few moments to type out a few thoughts I have had on the subject of the demands of hyper-Calvinists. I hope they are useful to others as well.
Continue reading

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.