How Is “Hyper-Calvinism” Being Redefined?!

It has become all too evident in the socio-political world that if we can change, stretch, or twist the definition of words, we can control the conversation. . . . . and this is also true when it comes to theological discussions!

“Hyper” means “to go beyond. ”  Outside of “hypersonic,” “hyper-anything” is generally not meant as a compliment.
“Hyper-Calvinism” means that one has gone beyond what John Calvin taught.

  • “You are more Calvin than John Calvin!”
  • “Not even John Calvin taught or believed that!” [1]
  • “You have taken what Calvin taught and are running it off the tracks.”

“Hyper-Calvinist” is recognized as an unattractive description, and the easiest way to avoid being called a “hyper-Calvinist” is to redefine the term.

In order to dodge the charge that one is a hyper-Calvinist, the term is redefined in a way to exempt those who are, in fact, on the extreme theological fringes.

AND what is even more advantageous is that by changing the definition, there is no need to change one’s theological-ideology.

√  Change the meaning so that the definition avoids theology and focuses on some supposed after-effects!
√  Change the meaning by setting up a “strawman,” a caricature that exempts most everyone . . . .

. . . . . and the problem is solved.

Here is how “hyper-Calvinism” is being defined today . . . .

“It is a teaching that downplays evangelism, church-planting, and going to the nations, on the basis that God is sovereign.  God is in control, and God has elected his people, so he’s going to save his people whether we speak the truth or not, whether we give our money to foreign missions or not. . . . Hoax-Calvinism . . . mimics Hyper-Calvinsim by never putting the boots on the ground, never befriending unbelievers, and only begrudgingly, at best, telling people about Jesus.” [2]

Sorry  — this is not “hyper-Calvinism,” but a strawman that seeks to distract from legitimate biblical issues.  IT is the “Hoax-Definition” of hyper-Calvinsim!

Such a definition moves the focus away from the genuine theological issues that surround Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism, by repeating this well-known historical extreme parody. [3].

The author’s strawman is disingenuous and duplicitous!

What biblical ministry or local church does not . . . .

  • believe that God’s sovereignty also includes instrumentality?
  • understand that God’s Gospel program includes sharing the Word of God, praying for the souls of men, and living godly before them?
  • financially support foreign missions?
  • encourage telling others about Jesus — putting the boots on the ground?

What biblical ministry teaches or believes that . . . .

  • We should NEVER befriend unbelievers?
  • We should ONLY begrudgingly — and at best begrudgingly — talk to people about Jesus? [4]

These “strawman” definitions are merely an attempt to redefine hyper-Calvinism by calling up some fictional side-effects, without touching the real theology that underpins both Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism!

Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism are about doctrine, not these “fabricated strawman” behaviors! [5]

Hyper-Calvinism primarily revolves around doctrinal issues of “sovereignty,” “limited atonement,” “the perseverance of the saints,” and the push to make grace, along with repentance and faith, all part of God’s gift. [6]

Hyper-Calvinism is NOT “hyper” because it spawns the behaviors cited in its strawman-camouflaged definition. [7]. It is “hyper” because of doctrinal issues that revolve around what is typically called — “The Five Points Of Calvinism.”  Those “Points” are all doctrinal, not behavioral strawmen.

Extreme or “hyper-Calvinsm” results when . . . .

  • Calvinistic-ideology takes precedence over all the other doctrines and truths of Scripture.
  • There is little willingness to balance out the doctrine of God’s sovereignty with human responsibility.
  • Clear biblical passages are marginalized because they “disturb one’s doctrinal consistency & peace.”
  • The demand to be intellectual consistency refuses to allow the doctrines of God’s sovereignty AND human responsibility to co-exist  — unresolved in our minds, but divinely resolved in the mind and plan of God.
  • One downgrades passages that call on believers to pray for, witness to, and live godly lives before those who are without Christ, rather than abandon, amend, and/or temper their doctrinal positions. [8]
  • There is an unwillingness to give room for divine “mystery” – for the fact that there are unknown and unrevealed truths that are not part of God’s revelation to men, that there are truths that are unknown to us and that would resolve our lack of understanding if known.
  • Preachers and pastors are unwilling to invite people to come to Christ because their “doctrine”  holds them back from calling on all men to trust Christ for the forgiveness of their sin.
  • Words no longer mean what words mean (whosoever will, God so loved the world, not willing that any should perish, all men) because it disrupts and disturbs one’s theological ideology.

Calvinism and “Hyper-Calvinism” are doctrinal issues, and there are real-life implications to those doctrinal beliefs! 

If it is biblical accurate that . . . .

  • even lost men, dead in their trespasses and sins, can see and understand that there is a Creator God (Romans 1)
  • the Good News / the Gospel is good news
  • that the Gospel is for all men
  • the “gift” is not grace or faith, but our salvation [9]
  • whosoever will” can take of the water of life freely, [10]
  • the Lord calls on all men to repent
  • God is not willing for any to perish
  • that . . . . .
  • that . . . .

. . . . then this is not about two equally tenable positions, and the souls of men and women, adults and children, are at stake. 

And that has real-life eternal repercussions! [11]

Theological-ideology matters!

1 – Interestingly, John Calvin did not teach that faith is a gift!
“Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.” — John Calvin

2 – Humble Calvinism, by Medders, pg 120

3 –  “At a meeting of Baptist leaders in the late 1700s, a newly ordained minister stood to argue for the value of overseas missions. He was abruptly interrupted by an older minister who said, ‘Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.'”

As the author notes, “such an attitude is inconceivable today,” and it is!

Do not let such a strawman distract from the real theological issues that surround both Calvinism and “hyper-Calvinism.”  There are legitimate and relevant theological issues that surround both, and the proof is found in the many articles that attempt to argue that Calvinism does not dampen evangelistic zeal!

4 –  Using the word “never” and “only begrudgingly” reveals the true nature of this strawman!

Sadly, “Hoax-Calvinism” is not the strawman that explains the excesses that pervade the theological world today.  “Hoax-Calvinism” is a distraction!  “Calvinism,” “Extreme Calvinism,” and “Hyper-Calvinism” are theological movements that deserve serious conversation and examination.

5 – Obviously, one could find a church or ministry that believes and/or practices such absurd positions, but that hardly makes such a strawman anything less than disingenuous!

6 – One could easily include “God’s granting of repentance,” which is also taken out of its context.  The passage is focused on those who have stubbornly, and to their own spiritual demise, hardened their hearts.   Interestingly, Paul states that it will be by our patience and demeanor that we might perhaps soften their hearts to the truths of the Gospel.

7 – It is worth noting that both Calvinism and “hyper-Calvinism” have historically, presently, and repeatedly precipitated some very real practical repercussions.  They include a general lack of evangelistic zeal, the paucity of sermons that preach a clear and direct Gospel message, the unwillingness to give public invitations to call on Christ, a portrayal of “a God of judgment” more than a God of love, grace, and reconciliation, and a general coldness towards Gospel winsomeness and persuasion.

I taught at Baptist Bible College, Clarks Summit, Pa.  I was moving from Tennessee Temple to BBC in the late 70s.  During my 2-3 hour interview at BBC, I was asked if I had any questions or reservations about joining the faculty.  I indicated that I did. . . .

“I am struggling with the reputation that BBC has about its Calvinistic / hyper-Calvinistic position, and I have had some compare BBC to an evangelistic dustbowl.”

They responded that the reputation was due to “poor press” and that they had failed to make the case that they were evangelistic.  In fact, they stated that one of the reasons they were interested in having me join the faculty was that I taught at Tennesse Temple College and Seminary.  They wanted some men and women on their faculty who had taught at such evangelistically recognized schools.

Let me assure you that it was not just “poor press.”

I recall a chapel message by the President of BBC – Mark Jackson.  He exhorted the students about the historic tradition and position of Baptists as it relates to Gospel preaching and the giving of invitations.  After that chapel service, a faculty meeting, President Jackson was challenged by the Bible faculty and others about that chapel message and, even more specifically, about giving public invitations.  I was taken back that the President had to defend that position.

8 – How absurd are these comments if both are not true — #1 – That God is sovereignly working, and #2 – that men also have some level of “free will” that can be appealed to by preaching.

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.”

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”

9 -The implications are significant if it is God who gives them “faith” to believe.  Making “faith” the gift is far different than making grace or salvation a gift.  As soon as you make the agent of salvation, “faith,” the gift of God, you now make God the sole person responsible for one’s salvation.  If He alone can give “faith,” and that “faith” is now a gift to whosoever He wills, you now have Him as the one responsible for whether a person does or does not believe and accept His Son as their Saviour!

10 – “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

11 – Unlike the “camouflaged strawman attempt” used to deflect from the real doctrinal issues, the real-life implications of hyper-Calvinism carry with them potentially damnable consequences. 

Fortunately, there is a lot of inconsistency in “theology” and “practicology” — between what Calvinists/hyper-Calvinist say they believe and what they actually practice and/or allow!  Those who need Christ still come to know the forgiveness of sin, even when men twist biblical truths to fit their ideology!

A pastor’s Calvinistic-ideology is often dismissed as unimportant because the church still engages in significant evangelistic endeavors.  
“Whatever our pastor believes . . . . what does it matter . . . . we support missions and engage in outreach ministries.”

At other times, a pastor’s Calvinistic-ideology is hidden from plain sight by weasel words and biblical statements that seem to imply that they are not on the extreme fringes of Calvinism.
“Our pastor talks about reaching the lost, salvation by grace through faith alone, and the need to share Christ.”

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