We Are Not Hyper-Calvinists

Oftentimes, from a lack of knowledge about the Reformed faith, people mistakenly accuse Calvinists of being Hyper-Calvinists. They know hyper-Calvinism is bad, but because they are not sure of the differences between it and true Calvinism, they think most if not all Calvinists are hyper. To set the record straight, the following is a brief exposition of what hyper-Calvinism is and its differences from true Calvinism. From this explanation, hopefully you will see that TRBC is not hyper-Calvinist and desires for all to be saved.

A Brief History of Calvinism

Before discussing the differences between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism, it is important to know the history of Calvinism. The great reformer, John Calvin, would not have known anything of the Five Points of Calvinism. They were formulated over 50 years after his death (1564) by the Synod of Dordt which met in the city of Dordrecht in the Netherlands in 1618-19.

The Synod of Dordt was held in order to settle a serious controversy in the Dutch churches initiated by the rise of Arminianism. A theological professor at Leiden University named Jacob Arminius began questioning the teaching of Calvin and the Reformers on a number of important points. After Arminius's death, his followers presented their views on five of these points in the Remonstrance of 1610. The Arminians taught election based on foreseen faith, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace. The Synod of Dordt rejected the five points of Arminianism and answered them with a short affirmation of Reformed doctrine which would become known as the five points of Calvinism.

The Five Points of Calvinismred tulips

While the term Calvinism sometimes refers to the whole of Reformed theology (much of which is in contained in Calvin's great work the Institutes of the Christian Religion), the term most accurately refers to the five points formed at the Synod of Dordt. These points sum up the Reformed teachings on sorteriology or the doctrine of salvation. The five points of Calvinism are:

  1. Total depravity – Everyone is born with a sin nature which is inherited from Adam and Eve. “Total” does not mean that people are as evil as they can be, but instead means that sin affects the totality of their being: the mind, the will, and the emotions. The corruption of all of a person's faculties leaves them unable to do good in God's sight until He gives them a new heart. (Jer. 13:23; 17:9 ; John 8:34; Rom. 3:10-11; 8:7-8; Eph. 2:1-3)

  2. Unconditional election – Before God created the world, He ordained that the human race would fall from grace. Out of His great love, he elected a predetermined number of people to salvation through the work of Christ. There are no conditions for this election outside of the will of God. (John 1:12-13; Rom. 9:10-24; Eph. 1:4)

  3. Limited atonement – Sometimes called “particular redemption,” this is the most controversial of the five points. Although not expressly taught by Calvin, many Christians believe that Calvin's teachings are in agreement with this point. Limited atonement teaches that the atoning work of Christ on the cross is limited to the elect. The power of the atonement is not limited, merely the scope. (Matt. 1:21; John 10:14-15; Eph. 5:25)

  4. Irresistible grace – Sometimes called “effectual grace” because it refers to the effect of the call of the Holy Spirit on an unbeliever. For the elect, when God calls them to repentance in faith, He sovereignly applies salvation to them by the work of the Holy Spirit. He regenerates them and gives them a new heart capable of responding to the gospel, which they inevitably do because of their love for God. (John 6:37-39, 44-45, 64-65; Acts 9:1-19; Eph. 2:8-10)

  5. Perseverance of the saints – All whom God elects, calls, and regenerates, He keeps them in the faith until their eventual glorification by His Holy Spirit. It is impossible for a true believer to lose their salvation. Anyone who expresses faith but later falls away from that faith shows that they were never really saved. (Psalm 31:23; 37:28; 1 Cor. 1:6-8; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 2:19)

The Errors of Hyper-Calvinism

While Calvinists are in general agreement on the five points of Calvinism represented by the acronym TULIP detailed above, hyper-Calvinism comes in many different varieties. For the sake of brevity, Reformed Baptist pastor and theologian Phil Johnson's definition will be used here. A hyper-Calvinist is anyone who:

  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.

Basically, hyper-Calvinists reject the notion of freely extending a call to repentance to unbelievers. Not only do Arminians reject these perversions of Scripture, but true Calvinists also reject these ideas. Hyper-Calvinists do not witness to unbelievers or send out missionaries, but true Calvinists have been some of the most prolific evangelists in Christian history. Notable Calvinists include George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, and the “father of modern missions” William Carey.

Conclusion

The Bible is clear in its command to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). TRBC is bold in its proclamation of the gospel. We call sinners to repentance from the pulpit, practice personal evangelism, and send out missionaries to unreached nations around the world.

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