Hyper-Calvinism

I’ve bumped up against hyper-calvinism on and off for the past 15 years or so.  For a time I checked it out, dabbled with it, and thought about it.  Thankfully a wise pastor steered me away from its dangers.  What is hyper-calvinism?  I think of it as Calvinism on the steroids of rationalism; I also think of it as a belief system which limits the free grace of God.  J. G. Machen’s quote here is one that has really helped me understand God’s grace in a way that makes me thankful I’m not a hyper-calvinist.

 “Salvation is as free for us as the air we breathe; God’s the dreadful cost, ours the gain.”

Bavinck is also helpful.

“Christ did not die for a few but for many, for a large multitude.  He gives his life as a ransom for many; he sheds his blood for many; he will make many righteous.  It is not a handful but many who by one man’s obedience will be made righteous [Rom. 5:19].  Scripture is not afraid that too many people will be saved.  Therefore based on that same consideration, it says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked and that he wants all humans to repent and be saved, that Christ is the expiation of and has given his life for the world, and that the gospel must be preached to all creatures” (Reformed Dogmatics III.465).

One more – John Murray on page 109 of Redemption Accomplished and Applied.

“The overtures of grace in the gospel addressed to all men without distinction [the universal call] are very real and we must maintain that doctrine with all its implications for God’s grace, on the one hand, and for man’s responsibility and privilege, on the other.”

Machen’s quote above is certainly worth memorizing and the others are worth pondering.  If you’re interested in this topic, I suggest getting The Pattern of Sound Doctrine and reading R. S. Clark’s chapter in it, which covers this very topic in an excellent way.

By the way, Machen’s line above was from chapter 6 of Christianity and Liberalism

shane lems

sunnyside wa

6 thoughts on “Hyper-Calvinism”

  1. The problem with arguing about whether many or a few will be saved is that it depends on what you mean. Very few were saved out of the flood, for example, but they were enough. Today, a group of very many people can still be a small percentage of the global population. In either case, we should not get to hung up on that. The real point is that the gosple should be preached to many people, all nations. Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to save everyone. Even though we know that not everyone will be saved, it is not for us to say that some people do not deserve to be saved. It is not about being deserving. Our task is to share the gospel.

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  2. Hey Shane,
    Ive been researching hypercalvinism for over a decade now. I used to be a member of a Hyper church in Australia, which essentially was Hoeksemian, theologically, but Presbyterian confessionally.

    I am glad to hear you didnt go down the hyper road.

    Ive bee putting together my research on Reformed materials which assert all the points modern day hypers deny. If you are interested, you can click here: Main Index. There will be some things you may not agree with, but there are gobs of primary source resources on the free offer, common grace, the general love of God and many other issues from classic Reformed theologians.

    So anyway, even if you may not agree with me on everything, I think there should be a lot of useful material there for you to find serviceable.

    Thanks,
    David

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  3. Hi Shane,
    Ugghh… Be thankful you had a wise pastor to steer you away from that nonsense. I spent the better part of 3-4 years in a hyper-Calvinist sect. Talk about depressing! No one was sure if they were saved, and everyone was busy looking at their lives hoping to finds “marks of grace” which proved that they were elect… Spurgeon and Bunyan got me through those times. Bunyan’s “Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ” was especially helpful.

    I find it interesting that a rationalistic distortion of a doctrine intended to highlight God’s saving activity leads towards works-righteousness (“I’ve got to get those marks so that I’ll know that God elected me…”).

    It was beautiful to discover the gospel after that. The thought that Jesus was merciful and willing to give salvation without cost was shocking.

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  4. Thanks for the comments, guys. Looking back, I’m pretty confident I would have eventually got out of hypercalvinism as I ran into the rationalism more and more, but this pastor saved me the headache of traveling that faith-shaking route.

    David – thanks for the website; I checked it out. You’ve done your homework. I’ll bookmark it for later use.

    shane

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  5. Corrected formatting. If you can delete the earlier comment, Id appreciate it:

    Hey Ruben,

    I am curious how you define hypercalvinism? I know Winzer hand have tried to interact with him over the years. He is clearly hypercalvinist himself.

    He denies the free and well-meant offer.

    The piece you site has quite a few flaws in it.

    Just quickly reviewing, for example,

    1) Winzer:

    Hence, some warrant seems to be afforded for the view that God bears a general love to the creature as His creature; and that not on the basis of a disposition or tendency of the Divine nature, but because of the eternal decree to be disposed in this way towards the creature.

    That reflects Owen’s voluntarism. For Owen, God is never naturally inclined to love, but only wills to love. He is never moved to pity. This actually not a reflection of standard Reformed orthodoxy, eg a’ Brakel, and others. Owen later rejected his own earlier Voluntarism.

    Winzer:

    What should be kept in mind with regard to this love as expounded by these divines is its generality. If it is appropriate to say that God bears a general love to the creature as His creature, such a love must, by its very nature, be without reference to particular persons or any special purpose. In other words, it is God’s love to mankind considered as a whole, or as the apostle describes it, as a lump of clay (Rom. 9:21).

    Can yous see how incoherent that is? God has a general love which has no particular persons as its its referent. What then does God love with this general love? An impersonal mass of humanity?

    But as God did not only decree to create man, but also “of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour,” the one to love and the other to hate, it is impossible to speak of God’s love to this or that man for this or that purpose without predicating something of God’s special electing love. As John Knox has said: “You make the love of God common to all men; and that do we constantly deny, and say, that before all beginning God hath loved his Elect in Christ Jesus his Sonne, and that from the same eternitie he hath reprobated others.”

    Again that’s actually incoherent as it says Gods general love terminates on an abstraction or impersonal mass. And Knox clearly did affirm a general love to all men, as men. See all the evidence for the Reformed doctrine of general love here: The Historicity of the Reformed Doctrine of Electing and non-Electing Love

    2) Winzer:

    Those who reject Prof. Murray’s predication of a desire in God for the salvation of all men, do so for this very reason: because his report does not give proper regard to the anthropomorphic language of Scripture.

    Every predication about God is anthropomorphic. God is immortal, ie not mortal. God is invisible, ie not visible. God is immutable, ie not mutable. But anthropomorphic language still speaks to God.

    Consequently, it represents God, not as incompetent to obtain what He desires, but as unwilling to have what He apparently desires and is fully competent to obtain. Hence, the rejection of Prof. Murray’s formulation proceeds, not on the basis that it contradicts the light of nature, but that it contradicts the light of Scripture. Moreover, the Scriptural references which Prof. Murray has alleged in favour of his formulation, do not teach what he has endeavoured so earnestly to extract from them.

    The believe that God desires the salvation of all men by will revealed is standard Reformed theology. For example on two levels:

    i) God desires compliance to his commands. God Desires Compliance to his Will and Commands as Standard Reformed Doctrine

    ii) God desires the salvation of all men. God’s Will for the Salvation of all Men Rutherford and many many others speak of Gods’ desire or ardent desire for the salvation of all men.

    Anyway to critique Winzer’s article line by line would be impossible in this context.

    3) John Calvin.

    What is interesting is that Winzer’s own rejection of Murray also rejects Calvin. Murray and Calvin take the same verses in the same way.

    With regard to: Deuteronomy 5:29; 32:29; Psalm 81:13; Isaiah 48:18, Winzer says:

    It is undoubtedly true that the Lord represents Himself in this manner. The question is, what is the nature of this representation? Prof. Murray did not offer any comment by way of substantiating a literal interpretation of the wording of these texts. Which is somewhat disappointing in view of the fact that John Calvin understood three of these four texts to be God speaking “after the manner of men.” As his comments pertinently state the case for a figurative interpretation of the wording, it might be appropriate to quote these in answer to the report’s assertion that these texts bear upon the point at issue.

    Why doesnt he lay out for his readers Calvin’s exact comments on Ps 81:13?

    But now, dont you think it borders on being dishonest when Winzer never points out that Calvin on Matthew 23:37, 2 Peter 3:9 adopts the same identical reading as Murray does on those verses? Winzer leaves that piece of information out. Where is Calvin on Eze 33:11, 18:23? And other critical verses too, Do you see any discussion of Calvin on John 3:16? Other verses? No, and yet Winzer will tell his readers that his view is THE Reformed view and that the position of Murray is the deviant position.

    So what is hypercalvinism? How does someone like Winzer absolve themselves from the hyper charge?

    If you want to chat or dialogue, feel free to email me.

    Thanks,
    David

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