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Hyper-Calvinism is a pejorative term for a theological position that denies that the call of the gospel to repent and believe is universal - that is, for every person. Hyper-Calvinism also asserts that since a person who is not influenced by the Holy Spirit does not have the ability to believe in Christ, he therefore does not have a duty to repent and believe in Christ for salvation.

Hyper-Calvinism historically arose from within the Calvinist tradition among the early Englishmarker Particular Baptists in the mid 1700s. It can be seen in the teachings of men like Joseph Hussey (d. 1726), John Skepp (d. 1721), Lewis Wayman (d. 1764), John Brine (d. 1765), William Gadsby (d. 1844) and to some extent in John Gill (d. 1771). It became widespread among the English Particular Baptists of that day, though Particular Baptists disagreed with the extremes of Wayman, Skepp, and Brine.

While this position has always been a minority view, it may still be found in some small denominations (such as the Gospel Standard Strict Baptists) and church communities today.

The Hyper-Calvinist doctrine

The archetypal Hyper-Calvinist position may be found explicitly set forth in the confessional articles of the Gospel Standard (Baptist) Churches, specifically: Articles of Faith of the Gospel Standard Aid and Poor Relief Societies, (Leicester, England: Oldham & Manton Ltd., n.d.). Article 26 in that publication reads, "We deny duty faith and duty repentance — these terms suggesting that it is every man's duty spiritually and savingly to repent and believe. We deny also that there is any capability in man by nature to any spiritual good whatever. So that we reject the doctrine that man in a state of nature should be exhorted to believe in or turn to God" (emphasis added). And Article 33 says, "Therefore, that for ministers in the present day to address unconverted persons, or indiscriminately all in a mixed congregation, calling upon them to savingly repent, believe, and receive Christ, or perform any other acts dependent upon the new creative power of the Holy Ghost, is, on the one hand, to imply creature power, and on the other, to deny the doctrine of special redemption."

Wayman contends that saving faith was not in the power of man at his best before the fall and therefore makes the following deduction, "What Adam had, we all had in him; and what Adam lost, we all lost in him, and are debtors to God on both accounts; but Adam had not the faith of God's elect before the fall, and did not lose it for his posterity; therefore they are not debtors to God for it while in unregeneracy" (A Further Enquiry after Truth, London: J & J. Marshall, 1738, p. 51).

John Brine gives some insight into Wayman's statement. Brine taught that every duty incumbent on Adam in his unfallen state he also had the ability to perform, and this duty extends to all men in their fallen state regardless of their lack of ability. Brine maintained that a lack of ability does not release a man from duty (with which most Calvinists would agree), but he sees salvation in a different category because, "with respect to special faith in Christ, it seems to me that the powers of man in his perfected state were not fitted and disposed to that act" (A Refutation of Arminian Principles, London, 1743, p. 5.)

Accordingly, saving faith lay not within the powers of man in his unfallen state, because there was no necessity for it. Since, therefore, it was not part of his powers in his unfallen state, it could not now be required of him in his fallen state. On this basis, duty-faith and duty-repentance are denied by the Hyper-Calvinist.

Comparison to the historic Calvinist doctrine

Historic Calvinists regard repentance and faith as the means by which the great commandments to love God and love our neighbor finds fulfillment. Since historic Calvinists believe that this duty to love God and neighbor existed before the fall and that Adam certainly enjoyed the ability to fulfill this obligation, they argue that man's love of God is still obligatory and that the means through which it is to be realized, namely repentance and faith, are likewise obligatory. Therefore, historic Calvinism has rejected Hyper-Calvinism .

Variant Forms of Hyper-Calvinism

Some Hyper-Calvinists do not deny that it is every man's duty to respond to the gospel. However, in almost every other respect they are identical to their Baptist Hyper-Calvinist brethren.

They deny that God offers salvation to all mankind. The argument they use to prove this is that since the Reformers wrote their works primarily in Latin, the word "Offer" when found in their writings does not really mean to "offer" as in English but rather means to "show" or "present" not to "offer." The idea is that the Church does in fact have a duty to "present" or "show" the gospel to the lost but never to "Offer" it, since no one knows if the person to whom the gospel is being "offered" is elect or reprobate.

On this view, the only reason for presenting the gospel to the reprobate is to bring still further condemnation upon them. They believe God hates all mankind except the elect and as supralapsarians, they believe he hated them before they fell and decreed to create them expressly for the purpose of condemning them in order to torment them forever.

Informal usage of the term "Hyper-Calvinism"

The prefix "hyper" may be used generically to refer to anything that goes beyond the accepted norm. For this reason, any Calvinistic view regarded as going beyond orthodox Calvinism is sometimes referred to as "hyper-Calvinism." This non-technical usage, often derogatory, has been applied to a variety of doctrines and ideas sometimes found within Calvinism:

  • That the unregenerate seek out opportunities to perform as much evil as possible.
  • That God is the creator and source of all sin and evil.
  • That the decrees of atonement for the elect and damnation for the reprobate logically precede the decree of the fall (see supralapsarianism).
  • That the decree of reprobation is positive and symmetrical to the decree of election (see equal ultimacy).
  • That men have no independent will, and secondary causes are of no effect.
  • That a sign of election must be sought prior to repentance.
  • That dissent from Calvinist belief is a sign of reprobation among professing Christians.
  • That it is wrong to fellowship with non-Calvinists; Arminians are to be shunned.
  • That all of the elect will ultimately be converted to Calvinism.
  • That there is no common grace.
  • That the gospel should not be offered to all mankind.
  • That God only hates the reprobate and does not desire their salvation in any sense whatever.
  • That faith is merely an evidence of eternal justification not the instrumental means of salvation.


Resources

  1. Sinclair Ferguson, et al., editors, The New Dictionary of Theology (InterVarsity Press, 1988), s.v. "Hyper-Calvinism". ISBN 0-8308-1400-0
  2. Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Non-Conformity, 1689-1765 (London: The Olive Tree, 1967).
  3. David J. Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism & the Call of the Gospel, (Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1994). ISBN 0-916206-50-5
  4. Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1986). ISBN 0-8010-6742-1
  5. Murray, Iain H. Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching. Banner of Truth, 2000. ISBN 0851516920
  6. Daniel, Curt. Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1983.
  7. Oliver, Robert W. History of the English Calvinistic Baptists: 1771-1892. Banner of Truth, 2006. ISBN 0851519202


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