Hyper-Calvinism is a
pejorativefor a theological position which holds that it is wrong to tell unbelievers to repent and believe the gospel. Hyper-Calvinism arose from within the Calvinist tradition among the early English Particular Baptistsin the mid 1700s, and 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), and to some extent in John Gill (d. 1771). They denied the free offer of the gospel, and rejected the idea that a person who is not influenced by the Holy Spirithas a duty to "repent and believe" in Christ for salvation, on the basis that he does not have the ability to do so.
These teachings were called Hyper-Calvinism by critics who maintained that they deviated from the Calvinist understanding of the
gospel. Although Hyper-Calvinism became widespread among the English Particular Baptists of that day, many Particular Baptists disagreed with the extremes of Wayman, Skepp, and Brine. While this doctrine is a distinct minority view, it may still be found in some small denominations 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 fulfilment. 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 this form of Hyper-Calvinism.
Informal and/or erroneous 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:
* 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 decree of
atonementfor the elect logically precedes the decree of the fall (see supralapsarianism).
* That the decree of
reprobationis "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 it is wrong to actively proselytize, as it is a form of
* That there is no
common gracefor the unregenerate.
* That God cares only for his elect and has nothing but hatred for the non-elect.
* 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.
Sinclair Ferguson, et al., editors, "The New Dictionary of Theology" (InterVarsity Press, 1988), s.v. "Hyper-Calvinism". ISBN 0-8308-1400-0
# Peter Toon, "The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Non-Conformity, 1689-1765" (London: The Olive Tree, 1967).
# David J. Engelsma, "Hyper-Calvinism & the Call of the Gospel", (Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1994). ISBN 0-916206-50-5
# 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
# Murray, Iain H. "Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching". Banner of Truth, 2000. ISBN 0851516920
# Daniel, Curt. "Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill". Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1983.
# Oliver, Robert W. "History of the English Calvinistic Baptists: 1771-1892". Banner of Truth, 2006. ISBN 0851519202
* [http://www.pristinegrace.org Pristine Grace] , a website advocating the views of the Gospel Standard Articles of Faith and accepting the name "Hyper-Calvinism"
* [http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/hypercal.htm A primer on Hyper-Calvinism] - written by
Phillip R. Johnson, from a Calvinist perspective.
* [http://www.anglicanbooksrevitalized.us/Peter_Toons_Books_Online/History/hypercal1.htm The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity, 1689-1765] by Peter Toon.
* [http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/histtheocalvin.html The History and Theology of Calvinism] by Dr. Curt Daniel.
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