Hyper-Calvinism

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Hyper-Calvinism, also known as High Calvinism, is a branch of Protestant theology that denies a general design in the death of Jesus Christ, the idea of an indiscriminate free offer of the gospel to all persons and a universal duty to believe the Lord Jesus Christ died for them. It is at times regarded as a variation of Calvinism, but critics emphasize its differences to traditional Calvinistic beliefs.

Definitions[edit]

Peter Toon notes that the expression "Hyper-Calvinism" came to be generally used in the 19th century while the terms "False Calvinism" and "High Calvinism" were used near the end of the 18th century to define the same doctrinal views.[1] Though the doctrine of limited atonement is taught in a common Calvinist creed known as Canons of Dort (1619)[2] the term "Hyper-Calvinism" in previous generations has been used to define those who reject the sufficiency of the atonement or a general design in the death of Christ.

Historic definitions of the term[edit]

In his publication from 1825, George Croft defined Hyper-Calvinism as holding to a particular design of Christ's death and denying a general design. He also notes that Hyper-Calvinists were generally styled High-Calvinists because they had views above genuine Calvinism; such as denying that the death of Christ was "in any respect" intended for the salvation of all, not inviting all to believe in Christ for salvation, contending that invitations should only be given to the "willing" and holding to antinomian doctrines which tend to discourage holiness.[3] In a "Protestant Dictionary" from 1904, Charles Neil defined Hyper-Calvinism as a view that maintains the theory of limited atonement and limits the scope of gospel invitations to the elect.[4]

Modern definitions of the term[edit]

Modern definitions of Hyper-Calvinism usually distinguish it from aspects of orthodox Calvinism such as limited atonement or supralapsarianism.[5] There is not, however, unanimity regarding the definition.

Curt Daniel defines Hyper-Calvinism as "that school of supralapsarian Five Point Calvinism which so stresses the sovereignty of God by overemphasizing the secret over the revealed will and eternity over time, that it minimizes the responsibility of Man, notably with respect to the denial of the word ‘offer’ in relation to the preaching of the Gospel of a finished and limited atonement, thus undermining the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly with assurance that the Lord Jesus Christ died for them." Daniel goes on to suggest that the real difference between "High" and "Hyper-" Calvinism is the word "offer"[6]

Iain Murray adopts a different approach, putting the emphasis on the denial of a "universal command to repent and believe" and the assertion "that we have only warrant to invite to Christ those who are conscious of a sense of sin and need."[7]

Jim Ellis argues that "adequately defining what constitutes the fundamental error of hyper-Calvinism" is problematic because many definitions "blur the distinction between it and legitimate Calvinism", and most of them include an apparent bias against Five Point Calvinism.[5] Ellis goes on to say that Hyper-Calvinism "consists of two fundamental errors: a denial of duty-faith and a resultant denial of the universal call of the gospel."[5]

Adherents[edit]

The term "Hyper-Calvinist" is sometimes used as a pejorative; Jim Ellis suggests that "it seems as if anyone to the right of one's own theological position is fair game to be labeled a hyper-Calvinist."[5] Notwithstanding this, people who have been described as Hyper-Calvinists include John Skepp (d. 1721),[8] Lewis Wayman (d. 1764),[9] John Brine (d. 1765),[9] and John Gill (d. 1771).[9]

David Engelsma notes that his own denomination, the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, has been labelled as "Hyper-Calvinist" for its rejection of the "well-meant offer of the gospel".[10] Engelsma disputes this label, and says that Hyper-Calvinism is instead "the denial that God in the preaching of the gospel calls everyone who hears the preaching to repent and believe... that the church should call everyone in the preaching... that the unregenerated have a duty to repent and believe."[5]

Differences from orthodox Calvinism[edit]

Hyper-Calvinism doctrine[edit]

The beliefs which have been termed "Hyper-Calvinism" may be seen in historic writings of numerous Calvinistic ministers and clearly in the Gospel Standard Articles of Faith (See Articles 24, 26, 27, 28 and 29).[11] The Hyper-Calvinism of these articles arose in part as a reaction to the Amyraldism of men like Richard Baxter. According to J. I. Packer, Baxter "devised an eclectic middle route between Reformed, Arminian, and Roman doctrines of grace: interpreting the kingdom of God in terms of contemporary political ideas, he explained Christ's death as an act of universal redemption (penal and vicarious, but not substitutionary), in virtue of which God has made a new law offering pardon and amnesty to the penitent. Repentance and faith, being obedience to this law, are the believer's personal saving righteousness."[12]

The Gospel Standard Articles of Faith and statements by ministers[edit]

Denial of sufficient grace in the atonement for all persons
Article 28[13] states a rejection of the general redemption view of Richard Baxter and a denial that there is a residue of grace in Christ for non-elect persons if they will only accept it. The Baptist minister Daniel Whitaker reasoned against "Baxterianism" and defined it as the teaching that Christ died intentionally for the elect only, but sufficiently for the rest. He believed that the Baxterian view allowed a possible and probable salvation for non-elect persons from the sufficiency of the death of Christ.[14] John Stevens, also a Baptist minister, affirmed that the atonement is "insufficient" to save those whom Christ never intended to save. He reasoned that Christ has never benefited any person "unintentionally" and that his meritorious worth should not be divided or confounded.[15]

Denial of indiscriminate offers of the gospel to all persons
Article 24[16] states a confession that invitations of the gospel are only for sensible sinners who are made aware of their need for Christ, article 27[17] states a denial that the non-elect are ever enlightened by the Holy Spirit to receive grace and article 29[18] states a confession that the gospel is to be preached in all the world without indiscriminate offers of the gospel to all. The English Baptist pastor John Gill denied that there are universal offers of grace made to any, but that grace and salvation are published and revealed in the gospel.[19] The English Anglican Church pastor Robert Hawker contended that Jesus only invited the weary and heavy laden. He believed that it is in "direct contradiction to scripture" to invite all. He also reasoned that an attempt to offer Christ is "little short of blasphemy" and those who make invitations to allure the carnal world to faith and repentance know not the scriptures nor the power of God.[20]

Denial of duty-faith
Article 26 states a confession that the natural man should not be given exhortation or duties to "spiritually and savingly" repent and believe.[21] Article 26 has been a subject of controversy concerning what was intended. In his book "What Gospel Standard Baptists Believe", J.H. Gosden clarifies that this article is not meant to minimize the sin of unbelief. He understood this article to be a denial that man is duty bound to believe "each individual is himself" included in the redemption work of Christ and he affirmed that man is "inexcusable in his unbelief" against God's revealed word and works.[22] The Baptist pastor William Styles reasoned that duty-faith blends the covenant of works with the covenant of grace and makes faith a work of the law.[23] W. Kitchen reasoned in a Strict Baptists magazine that duty-faith would imply a universal design in the atonement by calling on all persons to exercise a faith which grants them to believe Jesus gave himself for them.[24]

Orthodox Calvinistic doctrine[edit]

While "Hyper Calvinism" reasons that the sufficiency of the atonement extends no further than its efficiency, "Orthodox Calvinism" reasons that Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect.

John Calvin[edit]

John Calvin denied that the sins of the reprobate have been expiated, but he maintained that Christ died sufficiently for the whole world and only efficiently for the elect.[25] He affirmed that Jesus makes his favor "common to all" and offered "indiscriminately to all", though not "extended to all"; for all do not receive him.[26] He also stated that it is their unbelief which prevents anyone from receiving benefit from the death of Christ.[27] With reference to God's desire concerning the reprobate wicked, Calvin condemns the view of Georgius the Sicilian that "God Would have all men to be saved" and continues by saying "It follows, therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved … why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached to all men indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? why [did] He [suffer] so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death?"[28]

Confessions and Catechisms[edit]

The Canons of Dort affirm an abundant sufficiency in the death of Christ of "infinite worth and value" for the whole world.[29] The word "offer" or "free offer" was used in the Westminster Standards[30] and the Westminster Larger Catechism leaves no room for doubt that the phrase "grace offered" is used in reference to persons who "never truly come" to Christ.[31] In his "Question & Answers on the Shorter Catechism", John Brown addressed and answered questions concerning the free offer of the gospel; he reasoned that God commands every person that hears the gospel to "take his gift Christ out of his hand", that Christ offers himself "Fully, freely, earnestly, and indefinitely" to all persons that hear the gospel "without exception", that this offer is for every persons case "as if he was named in it" and that to embrace the offer of Christ is to be persuaded that "Christ in the promise is mine."[32]

Opposition to the doctrine[edit]

Several bible passages are urged as contradicting the doctrines which are considered to be Hyper-Calvinism or High Calvinism. Verification that such scripture citations were a matter of doctrinal controversy may be seen in William Styles' "A Manual of Faith and Practice", Andrew Fuller's "The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation", John Gill's "The Cause of God and Truth", Richard Baxter's "Universal Redemption", Daniel Whitby's "A Discourse Concerning Election and Reprobation" and William Button's "The Nature of Special Faith in Christ Considered.

Scriptural proof texts for gospel invitations to all persons[edit]

Additional Scriptures
John 5:34 is addressed by William Styles (A Manual of Faith and Practice, pg. 274). John 10:31 is addressed by William Styles (A Manual of Faith and Practice, pg. 245).

Scriptural proof text for duty-faith[edit]

Additional Scriptures
Isaiah 55:6-7 is addressed by William Button (The Nature of Special Faith in Christ Considered, pg. 30). Acts 16:30-31 is addressed by John Gill (The Cause of God and Truth, pg. 574).

Support for the doctrine[edit]

Several bible passages are urged as supporting the doctrines which are considered to be Hyper-Calvinism or High Calvinism. Verification that such scripture citations were a matter of doctrinal controversy may be seen in William Styles' "A Manual of Faith and Practice", Andrew Fuller's "The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation", John Gill's "The Cause of God and Truth", Richard Baxter's "Universal Redemption", Daniel Whitby's "A Discourse Concerning Election and Reprobation" and William Button's "The Nature of Special Faith in Christ Considered

Scriptural proof texts for gospel invitations to certain persons only[edit]

Scriptural proof texts against duty-faith[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity.
  2. ^ "Canons of Dort". SECOND HEAD: ARTICLE 8. 
  3. ^ George Croft, The Christian instructor, 1825 pg. 169-173.
  4. ^ A Protestant Dictionary by Charles Henry Hamilton Wright, Charles Neil, 1904, pg. 575, Column 2.
  5. ^ a b c d e Ellis, Jim (April 2008). "What is Hyper-Calvinism?". Reformed Perspectives Magazine 10 (15). Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Curt Daniel, Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill, 1983.
  7. ^ Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1998), p. 47.
  8. ^ Howson, Barry H. (2001). Erroneous and Schismatical Opinions: The Question of Orthodoxy Regarding the Theology of Hanserd Knollys (c.1599-1691). Brill. p. 133. 
  9. ^ a b c Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity. Part Three: The Propagation of Hyper-Calvinism.
  10. ^ David J. Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel.
  11. ^ The Gospel Standard Articles of Faith and Rules
  12. ^ Packer, J. I., "Introduction," in Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (1656; The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), 9-10.
  13. ^ Gospel Standard Articles of Faith, Article 28, Baxterianism Denied
  14. ^ Daniel Whitaker, The Nature and Design of Gospel Invitations, (pg. 5.)
  15. ^ John Stevens, Help for the True Disciples of Immanuel, Section 18 (pg. 15)
  16. ^ Gospel Standard Articles of Faith, Article 24, Gospel Invitations
  17. ^ Gospel Standard Articles of Faith, Article 27, The Non-Elect Incapable of Receiving Grace
  18. ^ Gospel Standard Articles of Faith, Article 29, Indiscriminate Offers of Grace Denied
  19. ^ Sermon 7: The Doctrine of Predestination Stated, and Set in the Scripture Light by John Gill.
  20. ^ Robert Hawker, Commentary on Philippians 4 (pg. 47-53 of his commentary on Philippians)
  21. ^ Gospel Standard Articles of Faith, Article 26, Duty Faith and Duty Repentance Denied
  22. ^ J.H. Gosden, Commentary on the Gospel Standard Baptist Articles of Faith, (pg. 129-130)
  23. ^ William Styles, A Manual of Faith and Practice, (pg. 230)
  24. ^ W. Kitchen, The Voice of Truth; or, Strict baptists' magazine, January 1867, (pg. 5-7, continued on pg. 27)
  25. ^ John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, 1 John 2:2
  26. ^ John Calvin, Commentary on Romans, Romans 5:18
  27. ^ John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews, Hebrews 9:28
  28. ^ "A Treatise on the Doctrine of Predestination," in Calvin’s Calvinism (RFPA: Grand Rapids, USA, 1987), p. 166
  29. ^ Canons of Dort, Second Head: Article 3
  30. ^ Westminster Confession of Faith VII/III; Larger Catechism, Ans. 32, 63, 68; Shorter Catechism, Ans. 31 and 86.
  31. ^ Larger Catechism, Ans. 68
  32. ^ John Brown, Questions & Answers on the Shorter Catechism, Of Effectual Calling (pg. 142-143)
  33. ^ Adam Clarke, Commentary on Matthew 23, Matthew 23:37
  34. ^ Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption, (pg. 135)
  35. ^ John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 23, Matthew 23:37
  36. ^ John Gill, Commentary on Matthew 23, Matthew 23:37
  37. ^ Albert Barnes, Commentary on John 1, John 1:7-8
  38. ^ John Calvin, Commentary on John 1, John 1:6-8
  39. ^ John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth, (pg. 118-119)
  40. ^ Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption, (pg. 304)
  41. ^ John Calvin, Commentary on John 3, John 3:17
  42. ^ John Gill, Commentary on John 3, John 3:17
  43. ^ Adam Clarke, Commentary on Romans 3, Romans 3:22-23
  44. ^ John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 3, Romans 3:22-23
  45. ^ John Gill, Commentary on Romans 3, Romans 3:22-23
  46. ^ Albert Barnes, Commentary on Revelation 3, Revelation 3:20
  47. ^ William Styles, A Manual of Faith and Practice, (pg. 111)
  48. ^ Andrew Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, (pg. 24-25)
  49. ^ William Button, The Nature of Special Faith in Christ Considered, (pg. 25-26)
  50. ^ Andrew Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, (pg. 29)
  51. ^ William Styles, A Manual of Faith and Practice, (pg. 244-245)
  52. ^ Andrew Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, (pg. 48-49)
  53. ^ Albert Barnes, Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 5:20
  54. ^ John Calvin, Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 5:20
  55. ^ John Gill, Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 5:20
  56. ^ John Gill, Commentary on Isaiah 55, Isaiah 55:1
  57. ^ Andrew Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, (pg. 26)
  58. ^ John Gill, Commentary on Matthew 11, Matthew 11:28
  59. ^ John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 11, Matthew 11:28
  60. ^ John Gill, Commentary on Mark 2, Mark 2:17
  61. ^ Job Hupton, A Blow Struck at the Root of Fullerism, (pg. 6)
  62. ^ William Button, The Nature of Special Faith in Christ Considered, (pg. 22-23)
  63. ^ William Wales Horne, The Faith of the Gospel Vindicated, (pg. 12)
  64. ^ John Foreman, Duty Faith, (pg. 12)
  65. ^ John Foreman, Duty Faith, (pg. 28)

External links[edit]

Historical sources[edit]

Modern sources[edit]

Audio sources[edit]