December 3, 2012
I am uncomfortable with, and reject all five points of Calvinism. There are Calvinists who are uncomfortable with the extremes of the so-called hyper-Calvinism, but what is hyper-Calvinism? I have found that people vary in their definition of what constitutes a hyper-Calvinist. Some believe, for example, that if a man holds to the Limited Atonement position (Christ’s blood was shed only for the elect) he is a hyper-Calvinist. Although I believe that Calvinism’s limited atonement is out of balance with and contradicts the Scriptures, I do not agree that holding to that position necessarily makes one a hyper-Calvinist.
So how do I specifically define hyper-Calvinism? For me there is one historically definitive mark of hyper-Calvinism. This identifying mark of a hyper-Calvinist is when he refuses to preach the gospel to every sinner, when he has little concern for missions and evangelism, when he refuses to offer an open and universal invitation to every sinner. In his book Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching Iain H. Murray accurately defines this form of hyper-Calvinism,
Hyper-Calvinism views gospel preaching solely as a means for the ingathering of God’s elect. It argues that such words as, “Trust in Christ and you will be saved,” should only be addressed to elect sinners for it is their salvation alone which the preacher should have in view. . . . Gospel preaching for Hyper-Calvinists means a declaration of the facts of the gospel but nothing should be said by way of encouraging individuals to believe that the promises of Christ are made to them particularly until there is evidence that the Spirit of God has begun a saving work in their hearts, convicting them and making them ‘sensible’ of their need. . . . A universal proclamation of good news, with a warrant for every creature, lay at the heart of his (Spurgeon’s) understanding of Scripture.
Another area of concern that flows from Calvinistic theology, which I mentioned above, is: regeneration must precede faith. Earlier I mentioned Calvinism takes the total depravity of man (Jeremiah 17:9), but push it to the position of total inability. The Bible says that man is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1). The problem begins where the Calvinist believes lost men cannot understand or respond to the gospel unless he has first been regenerated, that is: born again by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. The Calvinist maintains that only after a lost man has been regenerated can he express faith in Jesus Christ and call upon the name of the Lord. I address this issue here and elsewhere because it appears to be the position of most pro-Lordship [Salvation] advocates, and is a presupposition that leads to Lordship’s theology.
In my opinion, if a man teaches regeneration must precede faith, he has the ordo salutis (order of salvation) out-of-order. Faith, not regeneration is the trigger for the events that occur simultaneously at the moment of salvation. Those simultaneous events are: faith, repentance, regeneration, conversion, justification and adoption.
Through interaction with Reformed theologians I have found that regeneration before faith, while in my opinion is error in its own right, leads to even greater error. What is the “greater error?” Some of the men I have interacted with in online discussions take the regeneration before faith position to such an extreme they insist God regenerates some infants in the womb, who years later will express faith in Christ. The infant regeneration position is just about as far to the left as one can go in Reformed circles. Men I have interacted with, who hold to infant regeneration, have cited the following passages in support.
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
Doctrinal buildings should not be set up with these ambiguous passages. What happened to Jeremiah and John the Baptist was a totally unique, one of a kind experience. Taking an infant regeneration position places regeneration in a chronological order that can be far removed from personal faith in Jesus Christ. The events in the ordo salutis become chronological far beyond the “casual” or “logical” order as expressed by some Calvinists. Years ago some Puritan types were preaching regeneration as an infant and then acceptance of the gospel well down the road of life. Consequently, one ends up with regenerate unbelievers, which is a true heresy.
Is regeneration before faith a mark of hyper-Calvinism? Admittedly, regeneration before faith does not necessarily fit the classic definition of hyper-Calvinism. As some men slide deeper into extremes, such as infant regeneration, we may one day have to reopen a discussion over the potential inclusion of additional defining characteristics of hyper-Calvinism.
Whenever possible, I choose to exercise Christian charity and allow for a believer to exercise his own conscience, and I allow for the autonomy of local churches. Once, however, a man’s Calvinism leads him to withhold an open proclamation of the gospel, with an invitation to every sinner, I would no longer in good conscience be willing to fellowship with him, and would not hesitate to identify him as a man to be scrutinized and avoided.
Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
If I may recommend an excellent book, which I quoted from above, it would be Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching by Iain H. Murray. There is no doubt that Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was an ardent Calvinist, while at the same time an eminent winner of souls. Spurgeon preached the “whosoever shall call” gospel and passionately invited all sinners to respond the gospel and receive Christ. Many of his early years in ministry were, in part, embroiled in a theological battle against the hyper-Calvinists of England. Spurgeon vigorously resisted the extremes and proliferation of hyper-Calvinism in his day. Many are familiar with Spurgeon’s resistance to modernism and ultimate separation from the Baptist Union of England. That controversy may have led to his early demise. However, the former battle against the advocates of hyper-Calvinism was for Charles Spurgeon just as important and intense with very much at stake.
Ps. George Zeller, The Dangers of Reformed Theology
Ps. George Zeller, The Danger of Teaching the Regeneration PrecedesFaith
Dr. Peter Masters, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness
Ps. Bob Topartzer, Calvinism Today: Neo-Calvinism