Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Still Haven't Met a Hyper-Calvinist

With all the consternation in the SBC over Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism, it seems that it would be easy to find folks of both these persuasions in the convention. I'm a Calvinist and I've met many other Calvinists. However, I've never met a Hyper-Calvinist. In all my time in various SBC churches, at an SBC seminary, and on the mission field, I've never run across even one person who claims to be a Hyper-Calvinist.

Let's set a few definitions as we proceed. Calvinists (also known as "Reformed" or holding to the "Doctrines of Grace"), in a nutshell, believe that God is completely sovereign over all things, including salvation. Calvinists also believe that all Christians should spread the gospel.

Hyper-Calvinists also believe that God is sovereign over salvation. However, they do not believe that Christians should share the gospel. They believe this somehow dishonors God because He elects whomever He chooses.

Therefore, evangelism is the primary difference between Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism.

Based on what I have seen and heard in my travels, I'm beginning to think that there are actually very few people who are Hyper-Calvinists. To all those who are denouncing Hyper-Calvinism, where are they all? I can't find them.

Even at seminary, where I ran into students with wide-ranging beliefs on the definition of church, missions, evangelism, discipleship, etc., I never met even one Hyper-Calvinist.

(By the way, Fred Phelps doesn't count because it is clear that he is not even regenerate.)

My greatest frustration with this entire issue is that some of the opponents of Calvinism within the SBC often confuse Calvinism with Hyper-Calvinism. Whether or not this confusion is deliberate I do not know. What we often hear is simply a straw man argument. The purpose in all of this seems to be a desire to make Calvinists look unbiblical; it is easy to do that when it is claimed that Calvinists are anti-evangelism and/or anti-missions.

We know, based on the historical record, that true Calvinists are missions-minded (or "missional," to use the new trendy word.) Great men like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, and Adoniram Judson were all Calvinists and believed in sharing the gospel.

The same is true today. We all know that John Piper is a Calvinist; he is also a strong supporter of missions. In fact, his book on missions, entitled Let the Nations Be Glad, is the best book on that topic I have ever read.

So where are all these Hyper-Calvinists? I still haven't met one.

To all those opposing Calvinism, please don't confuse us with those who don't share the gospel.

24 comments:

dave woodbury said...

All the hyper-calvinists are hiding out with pastors who encourage people to "booze it up" and half of the 16 million Southern Baptists. And Carmen Sandiego. And Waldo.

Eric said...

Dave,

Thanks for your comment. At least now I know where I can find them.

dave woodbury said...

A couple of years ago I engaged an anti-calvinist blogger in a discussion on this very topic over on the Founders blog. Here's what I said:

Peter-
Tell me if this analogy is valid in your opinion. If I stated that the vast majority of ministers at SBC churches at homosexual, most people would either laugh at that, dismiss it, or cry foul. Based on the normal understanding of the word, that is simply not true. The vast majority of ministers in SBC churches are not attracted sexually to those of the same sex. But technically, I could reason that "homosexual" simply means "of, related to, or involving the same sex." And it is true that the vast majority of ministers in SBC churches are of the same sex...male. Would it therefore be accurate or even defensible for me to, as a matter of habit, to constantly refer to SBC church ministers as homosexuals? I would have taken a word which has been historically and culturally defined one way and use it in a comepletely unorthodox manner. This is exactly what many ae doing when they refer to Calvinists as "hyper-Calvinists." It is a word used to caricature and disparage the defendant and inflame the masses.

The whole thing drives me crazy every time I hear it. And yet so many won't acknowledge that Calvinists are being misrepresented.

Bruce Gerencser said...

Oh they are out there. In Landmark Baptist Churches. Primitive Baptist Churches. Sovereign Grace Baptist Churches and yes some Southern Baptists.

It is more than just the issue of evangelism.

Try and find some books by Best.(can't remember his first name) These books were given away by the thousands.They'll show you hyper-calvinism. There are several hyper-calvinistic publishing houses in the US.

Compare John Gill to Andrew Fuller. Gill the hyper and Fuller the calvinist.

I am not a Calvinist. Used to be.
I met more than a few hyper-calvinists in my travels in Texas and Ohio.

Of course..........there are those who are practical hyper-calvinists. Lots more of these folks than we might care to admit. Hey let God save them. Let's go to the lake.

Eric said...

Dave,

I agree with you completely about the misrepresentation of what Calvinism really is. It seems that no matter what Calvinists say Calvinists believe, others will distort this. I'm as frustrated as you are. I guess we have to just keep teaching the bible for what it says and hope that others will see the light.

Eric said...

Bruce,

Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it.

I'll admit that there probably are some Hyper-Calvinists out there. I'm just surprised that I haven't run into any of them.

Other than evangelism, what are the main differences between Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism? This is not some sort of challenge; I'd really just like to know for my own sake.

I'll need to go back and compare Gill to Fuller.

It seems that the Hypers would be coming out of the woodwork based upon the fears often brought up in the SBC. Those opposing Calvinism seem to never tire of making Calvinists look and sound like Hyper-Calvinists. The lack of Hypers in the SBC should show people how silly this really is.

RHEA said...

This is slightly off-topic, but it does relate to Calvinism...do you think that it's possible for someone to be a reprobate and know it? So....they know everything about the Bible (well, not EVERYTHING) and they understand salvation, and they understand election, yet at the same time, know that they are not part of the elect???

Jason Fisher said...

I will admit some ignorance as a recovering evangelical moving toward a reformed position.

I can't understand why what is characterized as 'hyper-Calvinism' isn't just the logical conclusion to Calvinism. If God saves who he wills by his divine grace then why does it matter if we evangelize? Is it jus that God chooses to condescend to use our preaching and evangelizing to exercise his will?

Billy Birch said...

Eric,

Would hyper-Calvinism include supralapsarianism? Because if so I could introduce you to some students at SEBTS who hold to it (as well as John Piper).

Billy

Joe Blackmon said...

Eric

I don't know---after I've had a couple of cups of coffee in Sunday School you could probably label me a "Hyper"-calvanist. Haa That might make a good parady over at "the box", maybe?

Eric said...

Rhea,

You ask an excellent question. Thanks for bringing it up.

There are certainly plenty of people who know a lot about the bible, but are not saved. For example, there are many professors at secular universities who are not Christians, yet specialize in the teaching of the bible.

As for the gospel, all people are given the command to repent and believe. This is open to them as long as they are alive.

Therefore, a person could say they know they are reprobate, but then later repent and believe. If this happens, then they obviously were not reprobate.

Everyone who wants to know God, be saved, and go to heaven can be saved. Salvation is only denied to those who reject God.

A person may think he is reprobate, but I don't think he can be certain until he dies.

Eric said...

Jason,

Thanks for commenting.

I'm both an evangelical and Reformed.

This may seem simplistic, but the main difference I see between Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism is evangelism. Calvinists should be sharing the gospel. Hyper-Calvinists should, but do not.

God saves by His grace alone. His plan for the salvation of His elect is through the proclamation of the gospel. We evangelize because we love God, because we love others, and because we want to obey God's command to proclaim the gospel to all creation.

Eric said...

Billy,

Thanks for commenting and asking your question.

The main difference I see, and I will admit that this may be too simplistic for some, between Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism is evangelism.

Therefore, if someone holds a supralapsarian position and also shares his faith, then I would not call him a Hyper-Calvinist. If he doesn't witness because he thinks it would dishonor God, then he sure is a Hyper.

I hold to a supralapsarian position, but I also share my faith. I don't consider myself to be a Hyper-Calvinist.

Eric said...

Joe,

Having an extra dose of caffeine should make you want to share your faith, not inhibit you. Ha Ha.

Brian said...

maybe they are just not in the SBC or are at the moment not influential enough to be known - I have a calvinist friend from college I recently reconnected with through facebook and he has activities listed as like to drink, smoke, etc, and in a wall conversation openly uses swearing and the like - just don't understand it really - maybe he went hyper and thinks he can love God and live like the world?

Jason Fisher said...

Thanks for the response Eric, I didn't mean to indicate that Reformed and Evangelical are diametrically opposed, I understand that they are not.

We understand that God saves by his grace alone, and so we proclaim the good news for many reasons but to what end? Will the elect not be saved if we don't? I can't make the logical connection here and I appreciate any help you can offer.

If as you said "His plan for the salvation of His elect is through the proclamation of the gospel." Then can we thwart the grace of God by not preaching? If not then what is the point? Is it simply obedience?

Keep up the good work.

Eric said...

Brian,

There is a weird string of Hyper-Calvinism that borders on (maybe even embraces) a sort of antinomianism. They feel that since we are free from the law, then they can do whatever they want.

They seem to be ignoring all sorts of scripture that deal with living holy lives that honor God. It gives the church a black eye when Christians live like the world.

Eric said...

Jason,

You are asking excellent questions that many people have grappled with over the years. I certainly do not claim to be an expert, but I'll tell you what I think.

As Calvinists, we proclaim the gospel to the end that God is glorified. He is honored whenever and wherever His gospel is preached.

We cannot thwart God's grace in any way. He obviously does not need us. However, He has chosen to use us to proclaim His great gospel.

God elects. We witness out of obedience and love to Him.

Even though God does not need me, I'm thrilled to be part of His plan to reach the nations.

To summarize, the end goal of evangelism is the glory of God.

Aussie John said...

Eric,

Even though I am aware of the goings-on in the USA Baptist community,I find it rather sad that this issue has created more comment on your blog than most others.

It is with that same sense of sadness that I tell you that there are quite a few HyCal's in this country. Those I know would generally fit in to the following, and I know very basic and simplistic categories:

1.Deny the call of the gospel,to repent and believe,is;
a. offered indiscriminately to
ALL mankind, and,
b. that ALL mankind is called to
repentance
2.Deny that God's love reaches out to the non-elect as well as the elect.
3.Deny common grace.
4.Believes that God, from eternity past, actively desired and chose some to be saved, and some to be reprobate (double predestination), that the fall was a God caused event.

Eric said...

john,

I'm sorry to hear that there are many Hyper-Calvinists in your country.

Thanks for listing the categories that you have. It helps me think through this issue.

Although the SBC has its many faults, I am glad to say that the importance of gospel proclamation is still affirmed by most everyone.

I honestly do not know how anyone can read the scriptures fairly and come to Hyper-Calvinistic conclusions. This seems to be an example of folks placing a theological system over scripture, and forcing the bible to fit the system.

Bruce Gerencser said...

The Hyper-Calvinists I met were all unconcerned as far as evangelism was concerned. Many of them were antinomian.

My favorite comment. I asked a young man "How long have you been a Christian?"

His reply? "I have been a Christian from before the foundation of the world."

He couldn't be "saved" because there was never a time he was "lost"

It it fatalism.

While I am not a Calvinist, I do agree that Calvinism is often misrepresented when critics confuse it with hypercalvinism (though I could say the same when people confuse arminianism for pelagianism)

Bruce

Eric said...

Bruce,

Thanks for your comment.

The young man you mention seems to be in a very dangerous place spiritually. Statements like his make me wonder if he has ever repented of his sin, which brings his very salvation into question.

I agree with you that there is much misrepresentation going on on both sides of the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. Both sides should be more honest.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Just a correction. Gill has been accused of being hyper, but he is not. A thoughtful reading of Gill brings this out.

A.W. Pink was falsely accused of the same thing. Hyper-Calvinist seems to be a word more thrown around in order to insult than based on actual fact. One who is labeled hyper shouldn't even attempt to defend it. Most times the accuser is just name calling or saying it out of ignorance of Calvinism.

Eric said...

Debbie,

Thanks for your input. I agree about Gill. I'm not sure why anyone would accuse him of being hyper.

I also agree that the term is often used unfairly as an insult. As usual, it is an example of people not communicating about their differences, but instead talking past one another.