Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism

Question

What's the difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism?

Answer

Most Calvinists hold to the truths of what is commonly referred to by the acronym T.U.L.I.P. These Five Points of Calvinism (1618-1619) did not originate with John Calvin but were a reply to the Five Articles of Remonstrance (1610) by followers of Jacobus Arminius. These five points are as follows:

Total depravity means that the unregenerate is spiritually dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1-3). It means he hates God (Rom. 8:7-8). Essentially, it refers to the fact that all the unregenerate are depraved in all parts of their being so that they are unable and unwilling to come to God and be saved, except and unless the Holy Spirit draws him and sovereignly enables him to repent and believe (John 1:12-13; 3:1-7; 6:44; Rom. 3:11-18; 8:28-30). Please note that this does not mean that the unregenerate cannot appear to do what seems to be good at times. However, since this so-called good is not for the glory of God alone in regards to righteousness, it is but a filthy rag (cf. Isa. 64:6).

Unconditional election means that God chose (without looking for anything good in them as a condition for saving them by grace) those who would be saved from before the foundation of the world (John 15:16; 17:6-10, 20-21; Rom. 9:11-21; Eph. 1:3-6). As Acts 13:48 states, "... as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

Limited atonement means Christ's death accomplished the atonement of his people alone. Jesus' death on the cross actually paid for each and every one of the elects' sins in full (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 7:26-27). He literally purchased his own church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). While his death was sufficient for all, it was only efficient for his chosen people (John 10:11, 27-30; Matt. 7:20-23). So, Christ did not just make it possible that some would be saved, he actually accomplished redemption for all those God gave him before the foundation of the world (John 6:37, 39; 17:2, 24).

Irresistible grace means that God's grace to save a person cannot be ultimately resisted. John states this imperative in John 6:37 saying, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." In essence, God, by his Spirit and Word, conquered the resistance of those whom he sovereignly calls to salvation (John 6:44; Acts 9:1-9, cf. Matt. 11:27; Gal. 1:15-16; Phil. 3:4-8) and makes them willing in the "day of his power" (cf. Psa. 110:3).

Perseverance of the saints means that all whom God has chosen, even though they may wavier at times, will not ultimately fall away but persevere until the end (Matt. 10:22; 1 John 2:19). As Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28; - cf. John 6:39; 17:2, 11, 12; Rom. 8:37-39; Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:18).

Hyper-Calvinism for the most part affirms the above truths, but one distinction most of them hold is that Christians aren't to offer the gospel to any but those they can reasonably presume are God's elect. However, this presumption is false — how do they know who the elect even are?They don't! As Calvin himself wrote, "We are not bidden to distinguish between reprobate and elect – that is for God alone, not for us, to do . . ." (Inst. IV. 1. 3.)

The Bible and Calvinists affirm against hyper-Calvinism in that we are to share the gospel with all people (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 17:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:20). There are some other dangerous tendencies often seen within hyper-Calvinism, which are essentially spinoffs of what was stated in the paragraph above and include the following denials: God loves all people (cf. 1 Tim. 4:10); common grace (cf. Mat. 5:45); faith is the duty of all sinners (cf. Acts 17:30); the gospel call applies to all who hear (cf. Matt. 11:28; Col. 1:23-24). As one may clearly see by the attached Bible verses above these hyper-Calvinist tendencies are easily disproven.

Many who do not accept the Calvinist Doctrines of Grace or the Five Points of Calvinism will mistakenly refer to those who do accept them as hyper-Calvinists. However, this is an error of improper study and understanding of what Calvinism actually is. As the pendulum swings from Arminianism (including all forms of Pelagianism and Semipelagianism) on one side to hyper-Calvinism on the other, genuine Calvinism resides in the middle as the gospel, believing both hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism contain error and are another gospel (Gal. 1:6-7, 11).

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).