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Christian Pilgrim

 

Hypercalvinism



"Hypercalvinism" is a term of derision that is much used in evangelical circles these days, but when people who use it are asked for a definition, they are not so forthcoming with anything distinct, and many different answers are given. In this article we hope to clarify the several different positions taken by evangelicals, to try to ascertain the correct position on each of the main issues involved, and to ask whether the term "Hypercalvinism" can truly be used, and if so, to whom it really refers.

There are several issues involved, the main ones being:
[1.] Whether it is the duty of all men everywhere to repent and believe in Christ.
[2.] Whether the gospel ought to be freely offered to all men everywhere as a promise of salvation conditioned on faith and repentance.
[3.] Whether God loves or "desires to save" or "wills to save" all men everywhere.

There are at least five different church groupings within evangelicalism that take different positions on these issues. These can be summarised as follows:

[A.] denies [1.], [2.] and [3.] = position of the Gospel Standard Baptists
[B.] affirms [1.] but denies [2.] and [3.] = position of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America
[C.] affirms [1.] and [2.] but denies [3.] = the orthodox position we are defending.
[D.] affirms [1.], [2.] and [3.] = position of John Murray, Banner of Truth.
[E.] affirms [1.], [2.] and [3.] = position of John Wesley, Arminianism.

Now let us look at these positions in turn:

[A.]


This position denies all the above points. This is the position of the Gospel Standard Baptists and many Dutch Reformed churches. No less than six of the thirty-five Articles of the Gospel Standard Baptists are relevant here. These are now given in turn and commented upon:



"Article 24. We believe that the invitations of the gospel, being spirit and life (that is, under the influence of the Holy Spirit), are intended only for those who have been made by the blessed Spirit to feel their lost state as sinners and their need of Christ as their Saviour, and to repent of and forsake their sins."


Here we are told that the "invitations of the gospel" are only to be preached to those who have already been regenerated by the Holy Ghost at some point before their hearing the gospel. This regeneration is manifested by the fact that they are "thirsting," "hungering," "heavy-laden" etc. These people are known as "sensible sinners" and will always respond to the gospel when they hear it because God has already regenerated them and therefore granted them the repentance and faith necessary to savingly embrace Christ. Therefore, in this system, no-one is ever condemned for rejecting the gospel.

Passages such as Isaiah 55:1 or Matthew 11:28 are thought of as only applying to those already regenerate and thirsting after spiritual things, i.e. only the elect:

"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1)

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

These passages, however, are referring to unregenerate people thirsting after carnal things, i.e. things that are not bread and that satisfy not (Isaiah 55:2). Indeed the call is to the wicked (v.7). The call is therefore to these people to thirst, buy and eat good things, spiritual things (which by nature they cannot do of course).

How then are the elect saved from amongst this mass of people thirsting after all sorts of things but the truth? It is through the hearing of the gospel that they are saved. In the preaching of the gospel, the elect come to embrace the promises and the reprobate come to harden themselves against the promises. This is the true preaching of the gospel. It is the door to the house of salvation. The elect will enter, because God regenerates them and grants them the conditions required (i.e. faith and repentance) at the time of hearing. The reprobate may hang around for a while but will always end up walking away.

Only in the way of duty is salvation to be received. All men have the duty to repent and believe in Christ. Only in the way of doing this are they saved. Of course they could come to Christ many years after hearing the gospel, so we should never give up on anyone, but never is it possible to come to Christ before or without hearing it (the case of elect infants and imbiciles excluded, as these are a special case incapable of being outwardly called, and will be dealt with later).

The man with the withered hand is our example here:

"And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other." (Mark 3:5)

To stretch forth his hand was something physically impossible for him to do. Yet upon Christ's command, he does so and is healed in the way of doing so. Similarly, it is in the way of repentance and faith - something impossible for the natural man to do - that we are saved. i.e. only in the way of repentance and faith do the elect find that God gives them the repentance and faith necessary to fulfil the command, and not before. The reprobate are condemned by the same gospel because God displays their inability as they reject it accordingly.

The gospel IS the power of God unto salvation, not regeneration at an earlier point in time.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16).

People who believe that regeneration is before the preaching of the gospel would call any other position than their own "mediate regeneration," i.e. regeneration through something other than a direct act of God on the soul (e.g. a response in the sinner to a gospel call), which they would repudiate. But so would we! This would be the position of [D.] and [E.] to be dealt with below, and it is the opposite error. We agree that regeneration is immediate, performed directly by God alone, but, ordinarily, only at the moment of hearing the gospel, not before and not after.



"Article 26. We deny duty-faith and duty-repentance - these terms signifying 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 men in a state of nature should be exhorted to believe in or turn to God."


This is the denial of what is derisorily termed "duty-faith" and "duty-repentance" - that is the truth that it is the duty of all men everywhere to repent and believe in Christ for salvation (i.e. point [1.] in the introduction above).

It is rightly pointed out that there is no "capability in man by nature to any spiritual good whatever," but it is wrongly concluded from this that men in a state of nature should therefore not be exhorted to believe in or turn to God. Just like the Arminian (position [E.] below), they equate responsibility with ability. In this case, they say that natural man is not capable of responding to the gospel therefore he is not responsible for doing so, whereas the Arminian says that natural man is capable of responding therefore he is responsible.

However, the truth is that God can command men to do things they have not got the ability to perform. Just because the non-elect have no ability in themselves to repent and believe in Christ (and for that matter neither has God decreed that they should ever repent and believe in Christ), nevertheless they are still commanded to repent and believe in Christ despite their inability. It is argued that God would never command men to do something that they have not got the ability to perform as this would make God a mocker of men, but this does not follow because:

"God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

When God created the world He made man upright, but man fell in Adam his federal head.

"The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression." (Westminster Shorter Catechism 16).

Just because man has made himself unable any longer to keep the law of God (let alone repent and believe in Christ), that does not change his duty towards God:

"God that made the world and all things therein, .... hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, .... That they should seek the Lord" (Acts 17:24-27)

"And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent...." (Acts 17:30)

"And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:21)

For example, if we were given some money by a rich landowner to build a house, and instead of building the house we spent it all on a luxurious holiday somewhere and had no money left afterwards to build the house, it would still be our duty to build it with what we had been given, even if we had squandered all those resources elsewhere.

All men are responsible for their not being able to repent and believe in Christ despite their current inability to do these things. It is not God that is at fault in any way for this, because He originally made man upright (even though Adam's fall was within God's eternal decree). Unregenerate men will be punished by God justly for their unbelief and unrepentant ways.



"Article 29. While we believe the gospel is to be preached in or proclaimed to all the world, we deny offers of grace; that is to say, that the gospel is to be offered indiscriminately to all."


Here we see that not only are commands to all men to repent and believe denied, but offers are as well.

They argue that:
(1) God only loves the elect (which is a true statement)
(2) God has not provided salvation for the non-elect (which is also a true statement);
therefore (they falsely conclude) the non-elect cannot be offered a salvation that is not available for them.

As we shall be talking more of the "offer" of the gospel when speaking about point [B.] below, we shall forego it here and pass on.



"Article 32. We believe that it would be unsafe, from the brief records we have of the way in which the apostles, under the immediate direction of the Lord, addressed their hearers in certain special cases and circumstances, to derive absolute and universal rules for ministerial addresses in the present day under widely different circumstances. And we further believe that an assumption that others have been inspired as the apostles were has led to the grossest errors among both Romanists and professed Protestants.

Article 33. 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.

Article 34. We believe that any such expressions as convey to the hearers the belief that they possess a certain power to flee to the Saviour, to close in with Christ, to receive Christ, while in an unregenerate state, so that unless they do thus close with Christ, etc., they shall perish, are untrue, and must therefore be rejected. And we further believe that we have no Scripture warrant to take the exhortations in the Old Testament intended for the Jews in national covenant with God, and apply them in a spiritual and saving sense to unregenerate men."


All these three Articles hang together. Again we see a denial that the gospel is to be preached to unregenerate men (or indiscriminately to a mixed congregation) because, to holders of this position, it implies "creature-power," i.e. it implies that it is within the power of the creature to respond, and would be dismissed by them as Arminianism. This implication is not true of course, as explained above.

The really worrying aspect seen here though, is the denial of the use of Scripture as a guide to how we should live our lives today. In this particular instance it is the preaching of the gospel which is in view, but the danger is that this argument could be used with regards almost anything, and so all the major truths of the Bible could be denied thereby. We would agree thoroughly that God does not work in men any more by direct inspiration. Now we have a complete canon of Scripture, any direct way of God's revealing His will to men is no longer necessary. However, it is very dangerous to then use this truth to say that vast areas of Scripture are not relevant to us any more. We cannot use the argument that all direct means of communication by God have now ceased to deny that Scripture is our guide and example in life, because, on the contrary, we have nothing else to guide us..... because all other direct means have now ceased!!! To use this argument to conclude that we can no longer preach the gospel in the way the apostles did is just an excuse to get rid of the clear passages in Scripture where the apostles command all men everywhere to repent and believe in Christ for salvation.



[B.]


This position affirms point [1.] but denies points [2.] and [3.]. This is the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America (PRC). Seeing the error of position [A.] in denying "duty-faith" and "duty-repentance," they would indeed preach that it is the duty of all men everywhere to repent and believe in Christ, and their gospel consists of the command that all men everywhere should do so. They see no problem with commanding men to do something they do not have the ability to perform, for the reasons given above. However, they would not preach the gospel as a "well-meant offer" of salvation to all men, because they again believe that there is no salvation available for the non-elect, and therefore any offer would not be "well-meant" to them.

Consequently we see that, according to the holders of position [B.], an offer to repent and believe in Christ implies (to them) power in the creature to respond, which would immediately be classed by them as Arminianism and dismissed accordingly. A command, however, is seen by them to be quite orthodox.

This whole position actually sounds very plausible, as on the one hand the denial of "duty-faith" and "duty-repentance" is rejected, yet at the same time the awkward idea of "offering" salvation to men whom it is not for (i.e. the non-elect) is also solved by denying that the gospel is a "well-meant" offer to them, but rather a bare command instead. To make this argument more powerful, it is true that the Bible nowhere uses the word "offer" or "invitation" with regards the gospel. There are passages that may appear as such on first glance, but actually are bare commands:

"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:22)

"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6,7)

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2:38.39)

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19)

None of these are "invitations" or "offers" but commands. The words "offer" and "invitation" are not wrong if used properly, but it is best not to use them because they immediately produce wrong thoughts of God in people's minds. When we invite people to a party, for example, we automatically assume without thinking that we want all those we invite to come. This is the usual use of the word "invite" in modern English. Similarly with the word offer. Therefore to use these words in relation to God is misleading, not because the words in and of themselves are wrong - the invitation of a king for example is a command: you had better attend or you get your head chopped off! - but because of the implication the use of them produces in people's minds today. People will automatically think that all those God invites to salvation He wants to come, in line with the modern everyday use of the word. This is the mistake. At all costs we must not present God as an impotent being who either wants to save all men but does not (which is position [D.] below) or worse, one who cannot or will not save them unless they respond, which is Arminianism (position [E.], below).

This position [B.] therefore is very convincing, and a breath of fresh air for anyone who has become disillusioned with mainstream Evangelicalism and its quasi-Arminianism. It is so close to the truth. But there is a problem with it.

The PRC suffered a split in 1953, when nearly two-thirds of the total membership left the church. In 1950, before the split, the PRC Synod provisionally adopted a "Brief Declaration of Principles," which was fully adopted at the Synod of 1951. The relevant passages of interest are as follows:

"That the preaching of the gospel is not a gracious offer of salvation on the part of God to all men, nor a conditional offer to all that are born in the historical dispensation of the covenant, that is, to all that are baptised, but an oath of God that He will infallibly lead all the elect unto salvation and eternal glory through faith."


"This preaching of the particular promise is promiscuous to all that hear the gospel, with the command, not a condition, to repent and believe."



In April 1951 a PRC minister said from the pulpit to a mixed congregation of elect and non-elect alike: "God promises every one of you that if you believe, you will be saved." This caused turmoil in the church and eventually in 1953 those who took the side of this minister were put out of the church, and those who remained kept the name "Protestant Reformed Churches."

The result of all this is such that, for the PRC today to justify their separate position, they have to take a stand that denies that the gospel is a general conditional promise of salvation to all men. This would be their definition of an offer.

Therefore the PRC would be able to say to an indiscriminate audience "Repent and believe the gospel" (which would be a command), but they cannot say "If you repent and believe, you will be saved" (which is a general conditional promise, i.e. an offer), because, to them, this implies power in the creature to perform the conditions.

In truth, there is actually no difference between a command and a general conditional promise. Both are legitimate expressions of the same gospel message, because it is in the way of repenting and believing in Christ that God saves His elect by granting them the faith and repentance required at the moment of hearing. So the proclaiming of a general conditional promise to all men everywhere is not wrong as it does not imply that God has a salvation waiting for the non-elect if only they would respond, neither does it imply they have the ability to do so. It merely calls them to do their duty despite their inability.

So, we see again, like holders of position [A.], they make the mistake of believing that God grants regeneration (and therefore the faith and repentance required) in the elect before giving them the gospel at a later date:

"And when the apostle teaches here that regeneration takes place through the living Word itself, that is, through Christ, it certainly is not proper to replace that living Word simply by the preaching of the gospel. It is true that the preaching of the Word stands in connection with regeneration in the broader sense of the word: for without the proclamation of the gospel it is impossible that regeneration will ever become conscious in the people of God." (Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, chapter on Regeneration explaining 1 Peter 1:23).

"In that deepest sense, regeneration is not even as such a matter of his own experience, seeing that it does not take place within, but below the threshold of his consciousness. It is therefore independent of age and can take place in the smallest infants. We may even take for granted that in the sphere of the covenant of God He usually regenerates His elect children from infancy." (Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, chapter on Regeneration).

Here we also see that the PRC believe that it is actually God's ordinary way of working to regenerate His elect from the womb or infancy, particularly those born in the line of the Covenant. However, it seems from the Bible that the ordinary way of regeneration is rather through the preaching of the gospel, otherwise, why bother preaching it at all if most believers are saved before hearing it anyway? Of course the particular cases of infants and imbeciles are mentioned by the Westminster Confession:

"Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word." (Westminster Confession of Faith 10:3).

The special case is for those incapable of being called by the ministry of the Word, not the other way around, as the PRC would have us believe if most of the elect are actually regenerated in the womb or as infant children of believers, rather than upon hearing the gospel! Gospel preaching is vital to salvation, ordinarily. We are saved as truth is revealed and comes home to us as we embrace it. We can of course only embrace it by God's Spirit working in us.

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:14,15).

Another objection is that when such general conditional promises are used, it is very likely for the hearer to conclude that he has got the ability to fulfil the conditions required in and of himself, without grace. This is indeed the case and many people do think that they are "saved" when they are not. This is what the parable of the sower indicates will happen. The natural man in and of himself will never truly repent or truly believe, just as he will never keep the law of God, but he could well kid himself that he has done these things. The command to repent and believe is good, but if people believe they can do these things in their own strength they have got it wrong.

Gospel preaching will therefore manifest three types of persons:
(1.) those who do not respond,
(2.) those who seem to respond outwardly, but think they can do these things in their own strength,
(3.) those who respond fully and properly, because God has given them the faith and repentance required to do so.

We need to distinguish those in group (2) from those in group (3). Hence it is always a very useful exercise to look for marks of grace to discern true believers from hypocrites, something the PRC seem very reluctant to do. Experimental religion is hardly known in their circles.

So we see that there is no problem as such with proclaiming the gospel as a general conditional promise to all men, so long as we neither imply ability in man to respond by himself [E.], nor present a God longing or desiring salvation in any way without doing anything about it [D.]. The PRC believe that this is not possible using general conditional promises, but only possible using a command.



[C.]


This position is the true position. It affirms [1.] and [2.] but denies [3.] above. This position sits firmly between the two "railway tracks" of, on the one hand denying general conditional promises and believing in a regeneration before hearing the gospel (i.e. [A.] and [B.]), and on the other hand believing that the only way we can preach a free offer of salvation to all men properly is to believe that God has some sort of desire for the salvation of all men (i.e. [D.] and [E.]). We must stay within these "railway tracks" or we will go wildly astray.

God has His elect. They are a fixed number, and God knows who they are. We don't. We must preach commands or general conditional promises freely to all men indiscriminately, and all the elect (and no more and no less) will be saved through responding to this, by God's regenerating them and granting them faith and repentance, which is the only way they can respond. This is the true "free offer of the gospel," and is the ordinary means of salvation. It is an offer free to all men. If they believe, they surely shall be saved. Indeed if they could and would believe of their own strength (which they cannot and will not, because of their inability and unwillingness to do so due to their fallen nature in Adam) they would indeed be saved. So the gospel, in and of itself taken in isolation, is genuine good news to all men, if they would fulfil the conditions. The non-elect will never be willing or able to fulfil these conditions, and God knows this of course. The elect will fulfil them, because God will regenerate them and grant them the faith and repentance to do so. The PRC say that the gospel is a "savour of death unto death" to the reprobate (quoting 2 Corinthians 2:16), but this is not quite true as such. In and of itself the gospel is always a conditional promise of good news - however, the effect in the reprobate will always be of death unto death, because they can never fulfil the conditions, neither will God ever grant the conditions to them.

The important point to note here (to distinguish position [C.] from position [D.]), is that the true free offer of the gospel is not based in any way on a perceived desire of God for the salvation of all men, but it is rather based solely on the command to preach the gospel to every creature.



[D.]


This position, just like Arminianism [E.], affirms points [1.], [2.] and [3.], and is the predominant view in most general so-called "Calvinistic" evangelical churches today. People who hold to this position are Calvinists in name, but in reality their theology is completely wrong because they base it on a desire, or at the very least a "delight" within God for the salvation of all men. They cannot bear to believe the truth that God does not actually love all men or desire the salvation of all men, so they invent ways of trying to pretend that God does have some sort of love for them all, even though they are constrained by their lip service to Calvinism to believe in a limited atonement. They would have God pleading with sinners to come to him. They would say that God "is willing" and able to save sinners, the onus being on the sinner to come. They would invent a "love" in God that embraces the non-elect. These things cannot be. God is indeed able to save all men if He wants to. This fact is not in doubt. However, God has decreed that only a fixed number shall display His mercy by being saved, whereas the rest display His justice by going to hell, which is the perfect punishment for their sins - indeed we should all be in hell if justice was the only attribute God wished to display. If one sinner is kept from hell, it is a marvellous thing. But to say that God "wills" or "is willing" that all men are saved is just a plain lie, because we know that there is a fixed number only who are saved, a number which can neither be increased or decreased.

"III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.
IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
" (Westminster Confession of Faith 3:3,4)

As God decrees all things in this world that come to pass to His greatest glory, so fixed is the number of the elect that if one more or one less than this number were saved, His glory would not be displayed as much in them as a total body as in the fixed number that He has decreed. The fact that not all men are saved means that God either is unable to save them (which cannot be as He is Almighty) or is unwilling. God therefore must be unwilling to save the ones He has decreed not to save. That is the bottom line. To say that He "wills" all to be saved, but that His holy nature must (reluctantly) punish them in hell if they do not repent and believe is a nonsense. This view makes God a schizophrenic ("schizophrenia" from the Greek "split mind") with a will opposed to His nature.

A popular way of trying to get Calvinists to believe that God wants all men to be saved is to attribute two "wills" to God. Now there is a correct way of looking at this, although the use of the word "will" is rather misleading. Firstly it is said that God has a "decretive will" or "secret will," which is what He decrees, one aspect of which is that there is a fixed number of elect and no more that will be saved (although this fact is not secret, we know about it! Only the number and names of the elect are hidden from us). This we are all agreed upon. Secondly it is said that God has a "preceptive will" or "revealed will," which is simply the rule of life for the believer, which is the moral law, which is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments. This also includes the commandment given to all men to repent and believe in Christ of course. Now it is argued that because God has given this rule to all men, He therefore "delights" when men keep this law, i.e. He "delights" that men repent and turn to him, i.e. He "wants" or "desires" all men to do so, hence it is said that God "wants" all men to be saved. This is not a logical train of thought, and takes what was originally the correct concept (although poor terminology) of a "preceptive will" in God too far. God indeed has given all men a rule of life, which is the moral law, and indeed all men are commanded to repent and turn to Christ. But God knows what He wants, and performs all His pleasure ("desire"), sometimes overruling "right" with "wrong," e.g. the crucifixion of Christ was truly a wicked act for which the perpetrators are fully responsible and will be punished accordingly; but God allowed it to come to pass because He ordained such an evil act to be the means of salvation for His people. In any case, to say that God "desires" or "delights in" anything is really a misnomer because He does not have like passions as we have (Acts 14:15, Westminster Confession of Faith 2:1), but it is possible to use the word when talking about the will of God in that God "desires" all that He wills. He cannot will anything that He does not "desire."

"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:9,10)

"But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth." (Job 23:13)

God wants some men to display His wrath, e.g. Pharoah:

"For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." (Romans 9:17,18)

"What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" (Romans 9:22-24)

Another twist that is attempted by proponents of position [D.] is to say that Christ has two wills, a divine and a human; in His divine nature He only wants the elect to be saved, but in His human nature He wants all men to be saved. However, this is a heresy as well. Christ, being one Person, only has one will. It is a separate will from God the Father and from God the Holy Spirit, otherwise His sacrifice would not have been voluntary. However, in every point at all times (even in Gethsemane), all three wills of all three Persons of the Trinity work in complete harmony. Christ was no schizophrenic with two opposing wills struggling inside Him. To affirm such is blasphemy.

God cannot have a "desire" that He does not fulfil. This may be possible with men, but cannot be so with God. God commands the reprobate to repent and turn to him (indeed genuinely offering them salvation if they should do so), knowing full well that they do not have the ability to do so themselves, neither is He ever going to give them that ability (even though He could if He had wanted to). Therefore the whole purpose of preaching the gospel to the reprobate is purely to show, display or magnify their guilt before God. This is the effect of what is otherwise a general conditional promise of good news for them. Similarly He says to them, "Keep the law and you will be saved," knowing that they cannot keep the law and that He is not going to give them the ability to do that either.

Again, many people may object by saying that this is God "mocking" men by commanding them to do something knowing that they will never be able to do it. However nothing could be further from the truth. Man is fallen and no man deserves to be saved from "most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell-fire for ever" (Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 29). If God sent all of us into hell for ever it would be just and perfect and right for Him to do so, without demanding anything from us or doing anything unjust at all. By nature we are all fallen in Adam. So anyone who is saved from hell is saved by grace alone, they certainly do not deserve it. In fact it is the people who say that God desires the salvation of all men that are the ones who make God a mocker. If God does desire the salvation of all men then the reprobate are mocked by God because He supposedly "desires" their salvation, but knows they cannot save themselves and neither is He going to save them! The truth is that those who refuse the gospel are not mocked by God at all because He has no "desire" to save them, neither have they any desire to be saved. They get exactly what they justly deserve.

Another argument used is that there are passages in the Bible that appear to have God longing for the repentance of sinners, e.g.

"Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!" (Psalm 81:13)

However, we run into serious difficulties if we start to think that God "longs" for anything when He has the power to do something about it but does not use that power. God will perform all His pleasure. All things work in His own providence to His greatest glory. Nothing happens in this world without it being decreed of God for His own glory. So He cannot "long" for anything that He does not immediately bring to pass to fulfil that "longing." Therefore there are no unfulfilled longings in God.

"My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10)

Also it is argued that there are passages in the Bible which state that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, e.g.:

"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 33:11)

It is commonly thought that the opposite of God's pleasure is His sadness. God cannot be sad for the same reason that He cannot have unfulfilled longings. The opposite of God's pleasure is His anger, not His sadness.

This position also effectively puts God's act of regeneration after the sinner's choice to repent and believe, which is really Arminianism (i.e. [E.]) in disguise. Holders of this position would deny this vehemently of course, and call themselves "Calvinists," trying to make us believe that their position is the same as [C.], i.e. that God regenerates in the way of faith and repentance. However, in practice, in their preaching of the gospel, they go too far in emphasising the sinner's required response in order to try to push the sinner into the kingdom of God; to urge him, plead with him and beseech him with earnest overtures to embrace Christ. In this, they are not relying on the power of the Holy Ghost to regenerate at all, but, conversely, the more they urge and plead, the more they are persuading all who hear to believe that it is within their own power to embrace or reject Christ as they will. This view therefore tends towards filling the church with hypocrites who outwardly respond in their own power, without inwardly responding through the power of the Holy Ghost working in them. The reprobate trying to please God in their own efforts is more abominable to God than if they had not bothered, even though it is always their duty to perform good works.

Understanding these simple principles shows clearly that position [D.] is very wrong.

Many good Scots Presbyterians, including Rutherford, Halyburton and John Knox, held position [C.]. In the last few years however, those of position [D.] persuasion have been more and more aggressive in proclaiming the lie that position [C.] is really position [B.] in disguise, and promoting the view that position [D.] is the historic Calvinistic position. This is not true at all. It is position [D.] that is gone astray, its proponents leaning more and more in the wrong direction towards Arminianism (i.e. [E.]wards.)



[E.]


This is Arminianism, which, sadly, it is so prevalent in modern day evangelical circles. It is identical to [D.] in that it affirms points [1.], [2.] and [3.], but unlike [D.] it goes further in that these people do not even bother to give lip service to the truths of "Calvinism," but rather deny it completely (most of them, like John Wesley, hating it), believing in a universal atonement, which "makes salvation possible" for everyone, now giving all men the "opportunity for salvation" if only they exercise their free will to repent and believe in Christ. The idea is, that God deliberately restricts His power with regards the salvation of men, and leaves them completely free to choose or reject Him as they will. God really wants everyone to be saved (again an identical position to [D.]) but has left it up to them whether they choose him or not. So, regeneration in this case is again only ever granted by God after the hearing of the gospel and responding to it. This is completely wrong, simply because if God had left us to our own supposed "free will," no-one would ever be saved. Not one of us would choose God, we would always choose our sin. We are all slaves to sin. All we can do is sin. We are vile. God has not left us with "free will" to choose the good at all. Our own experience proves this to us if we are honest with ourselves. Salvation must be of the Lord, God must be the one who grants faith and repentance, there is no other way.



What is Hypercalvinism?


Now we have seen all five views, we return to the question at the beginning: How do we define Hypercalvinism? Well, the fact is that:

1. Holders of position [E.] define [A.], [B.], [C.] and [D.] as all being "Hypercalvinism."
2. Holders of position [D.] define [A.], [B.] and [C.] as "Hypercalvinism" and [E.] as "Arminianism."
3. Holders of position [C.] define [A.] and [B.] as "Hypercalvinism" and [D.] and [E.] as "Arminianism" (This is the correct position).
4. Holders of position [B.] define [A.] as "Hypercalvinism" and [C.], [D.] and [E.] as "Arminianism."
5. Holders of position [A.] define [B.], [C.], [D.] and [E.] as all being "Arminianism."

So one's definition of "Hypercalvinism" (and "Arminianism" for that matter) is different depending on the position one holds! So when one hears someone using either of these words, we must make sure we know where the person stands on these issues beforehand in order to know what they are talking about.

However, if we embrace the true position, i.e. [C.], we do have a marker that we can use, in that we can look for where regeneration logically comes (ordinarily) in each scheme of things. If regeneration is found to come before the preaching of the gospel (as in [A.] and [B.]) we can safely use the term "Hypercalvinism;" whereas if regeneration is found to come after the preaching of the gospel upon man's response to it (as in [D.] and [E.]), we can safely use the term "Arminianism." Only if regeneration ordinarily comes upon the preaching of the gospel, as a gift from God granting men faith and repentance to respond, do we begin to have a correct view of things.