A Critique of Hyper-Calvinism

Hyper-Calvinism is a multipronged error so it is necessary to address each of its false teachings individually to present a comprehensive response to it. I will be using the “ABC’s of Hyper-Calvinism” that I presented earlier as my outline.

Antinomianism

Because hyper-Calvinists do not believe that unregenerate man has the ability to do anything pleasing to God (Rom 8:7-9), they conclude that God does not hold them responsible for their sins. While they are correct that the lost cannot please God apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, they are completely wrong on the relationship between ability and responsibility. I have already addressed this same objection in my response to Pelagianism. It is not true that responsibility always implies the ability to carry something out. Jesus calls us to be perfect “as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). The fact that we cannot be holy as God is holy does not negate the responsibility that we have as those created in his image (Lev 19:2). Hyper-Calvinists are therefore hesitant to preach the demands of the law to the lost. Because they believe that God does not hold the lost accountable for their sins, the basis on which they are condemned to hell is not for their sins, but for the fact that they are not among the elect. Thus, in hyper-Calvinism, the non-elect are consigned to hell for not being among the elect rather than for their sins. But in Revelation 20:12-15, we see that the dead are judged “each one of them, according to what they had done.” The sins of the damned are the basis for their condemnation as we see throughout the Bible (Eccles 12:14; Matt 12:36; 16:27; Rom 2:6; Heb 4:13; 1 Pet 4:5). Sometimes, those who do not teach the salvation of all dying infants are accused of hyper-Calvinism for this reason. While I agree that all infants dying in infancy are saved, I do not believe this is a fair argument since these people believe that the sin of Adam is the basis for their condemnation. Remember, this kind of antinomianism is one mark of hyper-Calvinism, but someone can be a hyper-Calvinist without being an antinomian in this sense. Just as there is more than one kind of hyper-Calvinism, there is more than one kind of antinomianism.

Belief is not a commanded duty; the non-elect are not responsible for their unbelief

This argument is actually a subset of the previous proposition which means every response to hyper-Calvinistic antinomianism is applicable here. Since unbelievers do not have the ability to repent and believe apart from the Holy Spirit, hyper-Calvinists argue that God will not hold them accountable for their unbelief. Rather, they are condemned for not being among the elect instead of for their unbelief. But there are numerous places in Scripture where God calls all men to repent and believe the gospel and holds them accountable for their unbelief. God says in Isaiah 45:22, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” This command is addressed not just to Israel, but to all the pagan nations around her as well. I recommend reading the sermons of Charles Spurgeon on this verse if you want to see a great example of what it looks like to invite sinners to Christ. God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). I do not see how the many commands to repentance and faith in Scripture can be reduced to only the church or the elect. The call to believe in Jesus is a command from God as 1 John 3:23 states, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” Paul calls faith an act of obedience (Rom 1:5).

Call of the gospel not offered to all men, but only to the “awakened”

This proposition states that God does not offer the gospel to all men, but only to those who are among the elect. Therefore, the preacher of the gospel should only offer it to those he can discern are among the elect. Sinners are only invited to turn to Christ when the evangelist believes that God is giving him evidence that this person is among the elect based on how he or she responds to the preaching. Since they believe we cannot command someone to do something they are unable to accomplish, we must wait until the Holy Spirit moves in a person before we call them to believe in Christ. We must discern that they are regenerate before inviting them to Christ since only the regenerate can believe in him. This distinctive of hyper-Calvinism makes the evangelist’s subjective discernment of the workings of the Holy Spirit the determining factor in whether a call to faith and repentance is given. While this aspect of hyper-Calvinism may seem bizarre to us today, we can accidentally sound like hyper-Calvinists in our preaching of the gospel by restricting the invitation to follow Christ to the end of the sermon rather than making the entire sermon an invitation.

We are called to invite all sinners to Christ regardless of how the Holy Spirit is working in their lives. Jesus commanded his disciples to “compel them to come in” while not denying that the lost who rejected the gospel “were invited” (Luke 14:23-24). See Charles Spurgeon’s sermon “Compel Them to Come In.” Jesus desired the salvation of the Pharisees in John 5:34 when he said, “I say these things so that you may be saved.” Jesus did not wait for the Holy Spirit to bring about change in the hearts of those who heard before preaching to them. Rather, the preaching of the gospel is the means by which the Holy Spirit works (2 Thess 2:13; Jam 1:18). The first message that Jesus preached was one of repentance (Mark 1:15). Jesus did not believe the call to repentance was inconsistent with fallen man’s enslavement to sin. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ who plead with sinners to turn from their wicked ways (2 Cor 5:19-20). The voice of the gospel is “turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?” (Eze 33:11). Hyper-Calvinists will argue on the basis of passages like Isaiah 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” that the call to “come” is restricted to only those who recognize their need of salvation – that they are thirsty and therefore regenerate. But the fact that the lost do not recognize their horrible condition does not change who they are. All of those who are not saved are dying of hunger and thirst (John 6:35). A man who is deluded into believing that he is immortal and has no need to eat is still starving and hungry at the end of the day. The problem with hyper-Calvinism is that it is more logical than biblical. As Spurgeon once said, “I never desired to be reputed so excessively Calvinistic as to neglect one part of Scripture in order to maintain another. If I am thought to be inconsistent with myself, I am very glad to be so, so long as I am not inconsistent with holy Scripture.”

Denial of Common Grace

A distinctive feature of hyper-Calvinism is that God has no love for the non-elect. They believe God only shows love and kindness to the elect. They ask, “How can God love the wicked when he hates them and their sin?” (Pss 5:5; 11:5). But the problem with this argument is that it fails to recognize the distinctions that exist within God’s love. Just as we have differing degrees of love for one another (the love that a husband has for his wife is not the same kind of love that he has for his sisters in Christ or even for his children), God has both a universal love displayed in common grace and a unique love for the bride of Christ (Eph 5:25). This is the same mistake Arminians make with regard to God’s love except they go in the exact opposite direction. Common grace includes God’s kindness and love displayed in providing for and sustaining all creatures (Deut 10:18-19; Ps 145:9, 15-16; Jonah 4:11; Matt 5:43-48; 15:32; Luke 6:35-36; Acts 14:17; Rom 2:4). We see the love of Christ for the lost in Mark 10:21 in the encounter with the rich young ruler whom Jesus loved despite his rejection of the gospel.

Eternal Justification

Another feature of Hyper-Calvinism is eternal justification – the belief that all the elect were justified by God in eternity past in the mind of God. But if the elect can be eternally justified, can they be eternally glorified as well? If we can speak of eternal justification, then shouldn’t we also speak of eternal glorification since God is eternal? Of course, this is absurd. The elect are not glorified until their death or when Christ returns. Likewise, justification is a one-time event in the past when we were declared righteous by God. That’s why Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That means at one time we did not have peace with God. Once we were “enemies” who had to be reconciled through the cross (Rom 5:10). Before our justification, we were under the just sentence of God’s wrath (John 3:36). We all were “children of wrath” deserving of the condemnation of God (Eph 2:1-3). See John Piper’s chapter in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her for a great analysis of these verses.

Full knowledge of God’s sovereignty in salvation is necessary for justification

The last two features of hyper-Calvinism are the most dangerous as well as the most unbiblical. Some hyper-Calvinists argue that a person is not saved unless they believe in Calvinism. Didn’t Jesus say in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice”? But this confuses justification with sanctification. A person does not need to have a detailed knowledge of theology and the ability to untie every Gordian knot before they can be saved. The thief on the cross was saved through simple faith in Christ alone. Jesus compares saving faith to the simple trust of a child (Matt 18:3). Confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God has raised him from the dead has always been the way to eternal life (Rom 10:9-13). This perspective also fails to take into account that people are inconsistent in their beliefs and change them over time. Even after salvation, the noetic effects of sin are still present. Not every Christian is as far along on the path to Christlikeness and doctrinal purity as they should be. That does not make them lost, but there are many Christians who are simply untaught in matters related to the sovereignty of God. Remember that Spurgeon was saved through Methodist preaching. This proposition would consign everyone to hell who believes differently than the hyper-Calvinists do which is more cultic than Christian.

“Go and make disciples of all nations” is not binding on Christians today

Hyper-Calvinists in the 18th century believed that the great commission had either already been fulfilled, was only binding on the apostles, or that we needed a second Pentecost before we could take the gospel to the nations. How could God expect us to carry the gospel to the nations unless he miraculously gives us the power to speak their languages? They concluded that since God had not granted them the supernatural ability to speak foreign languages in the gift of tongues, it was not yet God’s will for them to do world evangelism. William Carey actually had to write a book defending the thesis that the great commission was still relevant for Christians today. The church was so preoccupied with itself that it had little concern for the lost around the world. While we may repudiate the hyper-Calvinistic reluctance to work for the spread of the gospel, how many churches in America are practically hyper-Calvinistic in their practice? It does not matter if we are doctrinally opposed to hyper-Calvinism if we are still practically hyper-Calvinists. The great commission has become the great omission in too many churches. If we are not concerned with reaching the lost overseas, how could we be concerned with reaching the lost in our community when there are so many churches around us? Those churches that are most evangelistic at home are the ones who are most concerned for the spread of the gospel around the world through prayer, financial giving, and taking short-term mission trips. And don’t use the excuse that you aren’t good at learning foreign languages to avoid missionary work. When you do that, you are channeling the spirit of hyper-Calvinism.

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