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What's Wrong with Hyper-Calvinism?

We continue here our examination of hyper-Calvinism in answer to the question posed in the last issue: "What is hyper-Calvinism? How would you define it?"

In that last issue we said that hyper-Calvinism is NOT the denial that God well-meaningly offers salvation to all who hear the gospel, showing a love for all and a desire to save everyone. It IS the denial that the command of the gospel to repent and believe must be preached to all without exception.

The heart of hyper-Calvinism, therefore, is a rejection of so-called "duty faith" and "duty repentance," i.e., that it is the solemn duty and obligation of all who hear the gospel to repent and believe. Hyper-Calvinism concludes that because men are lost in sin and are unable of themselves to repent and believe, it is a mistake to command them to do so. Such a command would imply that they are able to repent and believe.

The hyper-Calvinist, then, makes the same mistake as the Arminians and free-willists, only he draws a different conclusion. Both think that to command or demand repentance and faith of dead sinners must imply that such sinners are not dead and have in themselves the ability to repent and believe. The free-willist says, then: "To command must imply ability, therefore, men have the ability." The hyper-Calvinist says: "To command must imply ability, therefore we will not command any but the elect."

This means that while a true hyper-Calvinist will preach the "facts" of the gospel to all who will hear (and insist that he is preaching the gospel), he will not command a "mixed" audience to repent and believe. Those commands, he thinks, should be preached only to those who show evidence of being "sensible sinners," that is, sinners who have come under conviction by the work of the Holy Spirit.

We reject these notions for various reasons. First, it is difficult to imagine how anyone, without divine inspiration, can ever be sure that he is preaching only to "sensible sinners" in order confidently to bring the command of the gospel. In reality, therefore, the command of the gospel will seldom, if ever, be heard in hyper-Calvinist preaching.

Second, hyper-Calvinism turns the command to repent and believe into a command to continue to repent and believe or to persevere in repenting and believing. So-called "sensible sinners," the only ones who may be called to repent and believe are those who have already begun to do so by the secret operations of the Holy Spirit. The faith called for, in that case, is not saving faith in the truest and deepest sense of the word, i.e., faith that brings a person into communion with Christ, justifies him and gives him salvation, but only faith as it continues to manifest itself in its fruits of assurance and hope.

It is in this connection that true hyper-Calvinists usually teach that person is justified completely in eternity and that justification by faith involves only the assurance of justification. Thus the faith called for in the gospel does not in fact justify us before God, but only assures of a justification that has already taken place.

It is in this connection also that hyper-Calvinists are also accused, and rightly, of a certain antinomianism (anti-lawism or anti-commandism) regarding faith. They do not take seriously the command to repent and believe, exactly because the call to faith is for them only the call to be assured of one's faith. It is on these grounds that we emphatically repudiate hyper-Calvinism.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 6
  • Issue: 16
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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