Some critics of Calvinism persist in referring to the doctrines of grace as “hyper-Calvinism.” But as that great philosopher Inigo Montoya once said, “You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.”

A helpful introduction to the word and its historical context is Iain Murray’s book, Spurgeon v. Hyper Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching.

Phil Johnson has a helpful primer on the subject, offering a fivefold definition:

The definition I am proposing outlines five varieties of hyper-Calvinism, listed here in a declining order, from the worst kind to a less extreme variety (which some might prefer to class as “ultra-high Calvinism”):

A hyper-Calvinist is someone who either:

  1. Denies that the gospel call applies to all who hear,
  2. OR Denies that faith is the duty of every sinner,
  3. OR Denies that the gospel makes any “offer” of Christ, salvation, or mercy to the non-elect (or denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal),
  4. OR Denies that there is such a thing as “common grace,”
  5. OR Denies that God has any sort of love for the non-elect.

All five varieties of hyper-Calvinism undermine evangelism or twist the gospel message.

You can read the whole thing.

For more on this subject, see Iain Murray’s book, Spurgeon v. Hyper Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching.

I agree with Johnson: Hyper-Calvinism undermines the gospel and should be opposed. But it should also not be used as a label against those who explicitly repudiate it.

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Comments:


39 thoughts on “Hyper-Calvinists Are Not the Same as Hyper Calvinists”

  1. Michael says:

    Many people want to call themselves “Calvinist” because it’s cool, but they don’t believe in the doctrines of grace. So they label true Calvinists “hyper calvinists”. William Lane Craig even said Calvin was a hyper calvinist!

    1. Jonathan says:

      William Lane Craig is at the top. So please be careful if you’re saying what I think you’re saying. Define “true Calvinism” That alone is a logical fallacy known as “No true Scotsman”. Craig would probably say that hyper-calvinism is the logical and inevitable conclusion from the doctrines

      1. Michael says:

        Christ is at the top, and no man is above critiquing for his bad theology. I was clear as to what I was saying, which is “William Lane Craig even said Calvin was a hyper Calvinist!”

        Listen to him here, Lesson 13, around 27 minutes:
        http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-1-podcast/s17

  2. John Mahan says:

    How is this defining list based on an objective standard? It appears to be a convenient way of excepting oneself from a pejorative term while reserving the right to use it of others.

    1. Brian says:

      Historic biblical Calvinism is well-documented (creating a reasonable standard) as well as various forms of Hyper-Calvinism. In the 18th century the church of Scotland divided over the points Phil Johnson lists. He’s not making this stuff up.

      1. John Mahan says:

        I am questioning attaching term Hyper-Calvinist to the various doctrines Phil Johnson lists. I am aware that those doctrines listed have been the source of much past and present controversy. But who decides what doctrine gets called “Hyper-Calvinist”? The church of Scotland? I have not heard of anyone who embraces term to themselves, hence why I think the term is pejorative.

  3. Clark Palmer says:

    Love the Inigo Montoya reference.

  4. It’s so much easier to offer caricatures of those with whom you disagree than to engage in honest debate.

  5. Jacob Riggs says:

    “I agree with Johnson: Hyper-Calvinism undermines the gospel and should be opposed. But it should also not be used as a label against those who explicitly repudiate it.”

    The same should be said of Classical Arminians who are called Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian.

    1. Jason McGrath says:

      I was thinking the same thing. It’s easy to stir up passions when labels are thrown around indiscriminately.

      1. Jacob, as a Calvinist agree with you. It bugs me when Arminians are misrepresented as well as when Calvinists are.

        We should all disagree passionately if need be but respectfully. Respect means representing opposing views accurately and charitably.

    2. Scott C says:

      I have argued elsewhere that the Classical Arminian view of Prevenient Grace amounts to SemiPelagianism. See:
      http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/Prevenient%20Grace%20&%20SemiPelagianism.pdf

      1. A.M. Mallett says:

        Your argument elsewhere does not lend credibility in light of Arminius’ particular comments concerning the will of man. Perhaps you should define “Classical Arminianism” before assuming you can categorize it as something we generally reject.

  6. pduggie says:

    Interesting. I recall when the federal vision controversy was in full swing, one otherwise orthodox PCA critic of the FV declared that when the gospel promises came to the non-elect, they were ‘reading somebody else’s mail’

  7. pduggie says:

    One of the interesting paradoxes that plagues this issue is that since it is true that non-believers and non-elect (everyone really) have a duty to believe the gospel, then when you preach the gospel, you create a “duty” to be performed.

    This freaks people out, because Luther[ans] and non-pro-nomians said that the gospel NEVER is a message of a duty or something to be ‘done’.

    So the horns of a dilemma.

  8. Melody says:

    So would a person that claims that nothing can be done about abortion because it is the law of the land and until God wills it nothing will change be a hyper-Calvinist?
    Do hyper-calvinist ignore personal responsibility in most areas?

  9. christopher says:

    Does #3 apply to a gospel presentation that declares Christ died only for the elect? In other words, can a strict limited atonement view really be understood to “offer Christ” to the non-elect?

  10. It seems that some subscribe to some definitions that exceed this list. It appears that some non-Calvinists would include adherence to Limited Atonement as being hyper-Calvinistic, for example.

  11. AJG says:

    3. OR Denies that the gospel makes any “offer” of Christ, salvation, or mercy to the non-elect (or denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal)

    So is anyone who adheres to double predestination (which SHOULD be any Calvinist) a hyper-Calvinist according to this definition? How can the offer of divine mercy be universal if the reprobate are destined for damnation since before the formation of the world?

    1. Scott C says:

      The operative word here is “offer.” The offer is universal, salvation is not.

      1. AJG says:

        Is an offer than can’t possibly be accepted an offer in any meaningful sense of the word?

        1. Of course it can be accepted. It just won’t be. If they were to repent, they would be saved. They just are of the group that won’t.

        2. Scott C says:

          Studied Calvinism generally endorses compatibilism. Subsequently, every offer of salvation is genuine due to the fact that every person who exercises saving faith does so because they desire to. Conversely, every one who does not exercise saving faith acts equally (but oppositely) according to his desires. Thus, in Calvinism nobody is forced against their will to believe or not believe the gospel.

          Many people do not understand the relationship between Calvinism and compatibilism. It behooves those that criticize Calvinism to fully understand what it teaches.

    2. This is a common category error.

  12. Cody Kingham says:

    Sounds like a lot of this was motivated by what is going on at Louisiana College. An anti-Calvinist war is being waged to cover up major issues such as accreditation problems. http://thedailybleat.com/while-louisiana-college-burns-social-media-and-blogging-explosion/

  13. Seta Nagiar says:

    Why can’t We just Preach Christ ? Why all these names and Labels ? so caught up in thoelogical terms and conditions ! Jesus is the Truth , Just Preach Jesus The Gospel Truth His Grace ! The Finished Work ! This should lead us to only one place of Unity! The Way The Truth and The Life ! The Reserected Christ ,His Precious Blood poured out for Us , The Exchanged life , and Our Identinty In Him ! Who We are in Him and What We have Inhereted in Him ! isn’t this The Gospel ? Grace and Peace to All You Precious saints ! the Beloveds of God ! The Already Blessed Ones !

    1. Michael says:

      Because these groups preach Christ differently and to different groups.

  14. Armando V says:

    “An expression of readiness to do or give something if desired”.AJG maybe this definition of an offer will help you out some..

  15. Melody says:

    So no one was saved before Calvin? How did the Holy Spirit ever manage without him.

    1. Michael says:

      Yep, No one was saved before Arminius either, except maybe Pelagius!

    2. Scott C says:

      Wow! Melody, you need to do a little more study of Church History and of the Bible itself.

      1. Melody says:

        Wow Scott seriously? Maybe I’m just tired of the arguing especially since it is the same stupid arguments over and over and nothing gets solved. In the mean time not a single person answered my question. What that tells me is that you all just like to argue to sound smart and don’t really care about helping anyone.

        By the way, none of you know when or if someone is really saved anyway. Only God knows that and people are always just trying to find a loop hole that allows them to declare one person is saved and another is not.

        if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
        For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for

        “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”

        1. Scott C says:

          Yes Melody – seriously. You act as if the principles commonly associated with Calvinism started with Calvin. It shows your disregard of Church history since the early Church Fathers held to the same views of divine sovereignty especially Augustine. Furthermore, Calvinism is derived primarily from a proper interpretation of the exegetical data. Calvin, Luther, et. al. recovered a strong exegetical focus on Scripture that had long since been dispensed with during the Middle Ages. It explains why the Reformation itself was a recovery of Biblical Christianity.

          This is not the forum to engage in all the exegesis that supports Calvinism. But if you are truly interested check out the articles at Monergism.com and enlighten yourself instead of panning the comments.

        2. Michael says:

          “don’t really care about helping anyone.

          What do you need help with?

  16. Melody says:

    Well you sounded extremely intelligent and condescending but you still didn’t answer the question. Church history is not required for salvation. I will get to when the LORD wants me to get to it. I have learned not to ask application questions. Thank you

    1. Mike Stephan says:

      Melody,

      The questions you asked, in my mind, are not really “application questions” but rather accusations.

      1)”So would a person that claims that nothing can be done about abortion because it is the law of the land and until God wills it nothing will change be a hyper-Calvinist?
      Do hyper-calvinist ignore personal responsibility in most areas?”

      Do you really believe that is the conclusion that a hyper-calvinist comes to? While I do believe in personal responsibility, I also believe in God’s sovereignty. He uses means, people, their decisions, and His direct action to achieve His ends.

      2)”So no one was saved before Calvin? How did the Holy Spirit ever manage without him.”

      This is a question to provoke a response. It is not an honest question. Calvin drew his thoughts and conclusions from Scripture. As did the other theologians mentioned in this meta. You know that as well as I. Again, this is not an application question. It is a question that tries to provoke a fight. If you do not believe this, read this question again and honestly think, “If I was a calvinist, how would I interpret the phrasing of this question?”

      Melody, it appears that you have a real heart to try and help people. I commend you for that; deeds of love, mercy, and justice are greatly needed in this world and the gospel call is most certainly a part of that. But when you say things like, “What that tells me is that you all just like to argue to sound smart and don’t really care about helping anyone.” Do you think a statement like this helps your cause, or the cause of Christ for that matter?

      Making accusations regarding your brothers and sisters in the faith, essentially calling them uncaring or unfeeling (you did not use those words but that is the message you clearly sent) is disingenuious at best and hateful at worst.

      I do not know your personal experience but you come across as very passionate for the lost. May God bless you ministry to them. I am a Calvinist and deeply desire the lost to be saved. As does every scripture believing Christian throughout our history; from the apostles, to the church fathers, the reformers, to us today. Christ died for the broken, shamed, sinful, and lost. We, too, were lost non-believing souls who have been called from death to life. Our beliefs shape how we present our message but not who or when we present it.

      Blessings to you as we share the ministry of making disciples for God’s Kingdom.

  17. mark mcculley says:

    Nobody should be called an Arminian if they teach in the gospel that Christ died to take away God’s wrath from the elect alone. ( God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ.) On the other hand, if a person goes out of their way to explicitly say that they also believe everything Arminians believe (and more, without antithesis), then it’s seems fair to say that they are also Arminians.

  18. Michael H. says:

    While we’re on the subject, I’ve heard many Arminians use “hyper Calvinism” and “5 point Calvinism” synonymously. Surely this is also incorrect?

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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