Freewill Part 2: You Are a Hyper-Calvinist
You are a Hyper-Calvinist.
Someone levied this accusation against me. Some context for you: we were discussing freewill, and whether man is able to choose God without the regenerating work of the spirit. My “opponent’s” (I use that term loosely as we are friends) stance is that when we choose God, or choose to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus, it is that point when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. I disagreed with him on this point, stating that I believe that we are dead in our sin. Just as a physically dead man cannot choose to be alive, a spiritually dead man cannot choose to be spiritually alive. Yes we have choice, but being dead in sin, we will always choose selfishly for ourselves and against God, unless He first works faith in hearts. And in order for faith to be worked in our hearts…we need the Holy Spirit prior to our “choosing” him. Then he struck back and said if God chooses us then why would I ever evangelize…at this point he called me a hyper Calvinist. I do not want to get into debates here on this. This example is just for context… so I did not cite scripture… So please keep the comments nice!
I have been called many things, depending on who it is I am speaking with: a legalist, an antinomian, a fundamentalist, ultra-conservative, a liberal, a Calvinist, a bigot, religious nut job, one person even called me an Arminian ( I don’t think he knew what that meant)…but Hyper-Calvinist? This is a first for me. When such an allegation is made, (or any allegation) I usually take a step back and examine what it is I am writing or saying. So I did.
While I am not fond labels, I do accept the label of “Christian.” As well I readily accept the label of “Reformed,” because there is no denying that I am. I am Reformed in life and doctrine. I have summarized what it means to be Reformed here As well, I must accept the label of “5-point Calvinist,” not because I believe everything John Calvin wrote, but because I accept the Canons of Dordt as biblical doctrine. For those who are not familiar with Dutch Reformed theology or Dutch church history, the Canons of Dordt are where we get the “5 points of Calvinism,” more commonly known as TULIP.
As an aside, I have to say that narrowing reformed theology down to 5 points is just plain silly. First of all Calvin had nothing to do with the Synod of Dordt. Second, the 5 points were only issued in response to the 5 points of the Remonstrants (Arminians), and were never meant to be an all-encompassing exposition of the reformed faith.
Since we have seen fit to narrow Calvinsim down to 5 points, let’s also narrow Hyper-Calvinism down to 5 points (because I like irony and simplicity). According to an essay by theologian Phil Johnson, there are 5 major, unbiblical beliefs that if you hold too, you are a hyper-Calvinist. This list is not comprehensive, but they are the 5 points hyper Calvinism.
A hyper-Calvinist is one 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.
According to Johnson,
All five varieties of hyper-Calvinism undermine evangelism or twist the gospel message.
Many modern hyper-Calvinists salve themselves by thinking their view cannot really be hyper-Calvinism because, after all, they believe in proclaiming the gospel to all. However, the “gospel” they proclaim is a truncated soteriology with an undue emphasis on God’s decree as it pertains to the reprobate. One hyper-Calvinist, reacting to my comments about this subject on an e-mail list, declared, “The message of the Gospel is that God saves those who are His own and damns those who are not.” Thus the good news about Christ’s death and resurrection is supplanted by a message about election and reprobation—usually with an inordinate stress on reprobation. In practical terms, the hyper-Calvinist “gospel” often reduces to the message that God simply and single-mindedly hates those whom He has chosen to damn, and there is nothing whatsoever they can do about it.
Deliberately excluded from hyper-Calvinist “evangelism” is any pleading with the sinner to be reconciled with God. Sinners are not told that God offers them forgiveness or salvation. In fact, most hyper-Calvinists categorically deny that God makes any offer in the gospel whatsoever.
In my eyes, the main issue that it always comes down to is the issue of evangelism. If God chooses whom he wants then why evangelize? Because God has ordained the means of salvation…Those means start with the Gospel Message. Hear the Gospel. Repent. Believe. One cannot believe unless one hears the gospel. God has chosen to use believers to spread the message of Christ crucified and resurrected. If we were all Hyper-Calvinists we wouldn’t ever share our faith and would only see church growth through births… Although sometimes I wonder, judging from how often some of my reformed friends interact with unbelievers at a faith based level…. Yes that is a shot…but I say it in love. After all, as chairman of our congregation’s Evangelism Committee, I have a job to do. 🙂
I am a Christian. I am reformed. I am a 5 point Calvinist (but the 5 points do not completely define reformed faith and life). I am not a hyper-Calvinist. When it comes to evangelism I do not know who the elect are, so I must evangelize. The Lord has commanded that we preach the good news, that we share our faith, that we be the light on a hill…out of love for him and the lost. I do, and will continue to, proclaim the gospel of salvation to anyone who will listen. The offer of the gospel is available to all who will hear. Regardless of your soteriology, the Bible is very clear that Salvation is available to all who will believe. How we get to that point of faith is the matter of contention – but that should not change the urgency, the frequency and the necessity of the proclamation of the Gospel to any unbelievers who might listen.
Why did I write this? Because I think that Reformed Theology is totally misunderstood from being whittled down to a dutch flower…TULIP. I hope this post makes sense. If you have questions please feel free to ask!