WHAT ABOUT HYPER-CALVINISM?
February 17, 2006 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
Hyper-Calvinism is a label that some Calvinists have put upon other Calvinists. For example, in “Hyper-Calvinism Examined” Jeffrey Khoo, who is a Presbyterian Calvinist and a staunch defender of the Greek Received Text and the King James Bible and a man that I have a high regard for, analyzes a position that he labels “hyper.” He says:
“Calvinism is that system of doctrine derived from the great French theologian--John Calvin. ... What then is Hyper-Calvinism? The prefix ‘hyper’ (Gk: hyper) means ‘above’ or ‘beyond.’ Hyper-Calvinism is a twisted form of Calvinism that goes beyond what Calvin in accordance to Scriptures had taught.”
Dr. Khoo presents two characteristics of Hyper-Calvinism: “(1) denial of common grace, and (2) denial of the free offer of the gospel.”
COMMON GRACE VS. SAVING GRACE, DEGREES OF LOVE
Khoo claims that Calvin taught that there is both a common grace and a saving grace, and that failure to distinguish between the two is a mark of Hyper-Calvinism. Saving grace is “the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work on the sinner through the Gospel,” whereas common grace is “God’s favourable bestowal upon all of mankind of those things necessary for creaturely existence on this sin-plagued earth.”
Khoo says that Hyper-Calvinists reject the doctrine of common grace and that according to them, God hates all non-elect and works all things towards their destruction, whereas John Calvin taught that God does not hate the non-elect and that this is evident because He bestows upon them “common grace.”
Calvin taught that not only does God bestow common grace upon the reprobate, He also loves them to some degree. Expositing on Mark 10:21, which says Jesus loved the rich young ruler, Calvin said: “... God loves all His creatures without exception. It is therefore important to distinguish degrees of love. ... sometimes God is said to love those whom He neither approves nor justifies.”
What do we say about this? If I were the non-elect, I would wonder what kind of grace God has given me and what kind of love God has bestowed upon me, seeing that it is impossible for me to be saved and escape hell! “Common grace” and a degree of love might sound pleasant to ear of the Calvinist theologian, but it won’t get the “reprobate” into heaven.
THE FREE UNIVERSAL OFFER OF THE GOSPEL
Khoo says that the second mark of Hyper-Calvinism is to reject the doctrine that the gospel should be preached to all men indiscriminately and that God sincerely invites everyone, elect and reprobate, to repentance and salvation in Christ; whereas Calvin Calvinists believe these things.
Khoo quotes John Calvin’s comments on John 3:16 and similar passages to prove that he believed that God “invites indiscriminately all to share in life” and “shows He is favourable to the whole world when He calls all without exception to the faith of Christ” and “no man is excluded from calling upon God” and “the gate of salvation is set open to all.”
When reading these quotes, one thinks for a moment that perhaps Calvin truly believed that all men can be saved through the gospel, but this is not at all what he means! While saying that the gospel is universally offered out of one side of his mouth, Calvin rendered the universal aspect of the gospel meaningless in any practical sense with his doctrine of sovereign election, because they are the only ones who are drawn effectively and regenerated and given the “gift of faith.”
Calvin went on to say: “God does not work effectually in all men, but only when the Spirit shines in our hearts as the inward teacher. ... The Gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, its power is not universally manifest.” Commenting on 2 Peter 3:9, Calvin asks the following important question: “If could be asked here, if God does not want any to perish, why do so many in fact perish?” The non-Calvinist Bible believer would reply that so many perish because God has decreed that man not be a robot but that he be given a choice in the matter of the gospel. But John Calvin must fall back upon his doctrine of sovereign election: “My reply is that no mention is made here of the secret decree of God by which the wicked are doomed to their own ruin ... GOD STRETCHES OUT HIS HAND TO ALL ALIKE, BUT HE ONLY GRASPS THOSE (IN SUCH A WAY AS TO LEAD TO HIMSELF) WHOM HE HAS CHOSEN BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.”
DESIDERATIVE VS. DECRETIVE WILL
According to Khoo, the Hyper-Calvinist’s problem in not being able to “see how God can be willing to save all when He has already willed that only the elect would be saved” is solved by the simple solution of understanding that God has both a “decretive” and a “desiderative” (from “desire”) will.
God’s decretive will is His sovereign election of some sinners to eternal salvation, whereas His desiderative will is His general concern for all sinners. According to the decretive vs. desiderative idea, salvation is offered to all mankind but given only to the elect. In the words of Augustine, Christ’s death was “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect.”
My friend, if you think this is some sort of “mumbo jumbo” or “gobbly gook,” you are not alone!
The Hyper-Calvinist would open shop and offer the Gift of Salvation only to the elect, while the “Calvin Calvinist” would open shop and offer the Gift of Salvation to whosoever will but only give it to the elect!
Do you see any significant difference between these two views?
It appears to me that Calvin believed that God plays a cruel joke upon the non-elect or “the reprobate,” as he calls them. He “sincerely” invites “whosoever will” to come and to believe on Christ and to be saved, but He knows that only the elect can do any of that. Thus, the non-elect can do nothing in regard to the “universal offer of salvation
but to confirm his unbelief and his reprobate condition.
In my estimation, Hyper-Calvinism vs. Calvin Calvinism is more of a semantics game than anything else. The “Calvin Calvinist” wants to think that he believes what 1 Timothy 2 and 2 Peter 3 says about God desiring that all men be saved and not being willing that any should perish and with the “whosoever will” calls of the gospel, but when his position is analyzed carefully, he believes no such thing in any practical sense. The elect are still sovereignly elect and the only sinners who can be saved, and the reprobate are still sovereignly reprobate, unable to be saved and eternally locked out of heaven.
The “Calvin Calvinist” is no more faithful to the Scripture than the Hyper-Calvinist. Both twist the Scripture to fit their theology and read their theology into the plain words of Scripture.