Jared Smith, Bits And Pieces

What Is Hyper-Calvinism? This same question appears as the title for an article written by Ronald Hanko for the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA). You may view the full article here.

Hanko admits that his group (PRCA) is often maliciously charged with being hyper-Calvinists, because it rejects the well-meant offer of the gospel. However, he argues the historic definition for hyper-Calvinism is restricted to those who deny the doctrine of duty-faith, rather than those who reject the free-offer. He writes,

“Historically, the name has been applied to those who deny that the command of the gospel to repent and believe must be preached to all who hear the gospel.”

He goes on to explain:

“A hyper-Calvinist (historically and doctrinally) is…one who believes rightly in sovereign, double predestination and in particular redemption – who denies a universal love of God and a will of God to save all men. Yet he concludes wrongly that because God has determined who will be saved, sent Christ for them only, and gives to them salvation as a free gift, therefore only the elect should be commanded to repent and believe in the preaching of the gospel. This, we believe, is a serious error. It is an error that effectively destroys both gospel preaching and evangelism – an error that must be avoided.”

My Response:

First, I appreciate Hanko’s effort to distance himself from a fringe group of Calvinists often maligned as “hypers”. After all, who would want to be identified with those who have presumably pushed the gospel beyond the boundary? Having said that, the article leaves me questioning whether Hanko has a clear enough understanding to write against hyper-Calvinism.

Second, if it be true that mainstream Calvinism has historically rejected the well-meant offer of the gospel, then he makes a strong case that the PRCA cannot be called hyper-Calvinists. However, I do not believe he is correct on the matter. Mainstream Calvinism, especially that of the last few hundred years, has subscribed in one form or another to…

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Those who follow my teaching ministry will know that I am not a fan of Gospel Tracts, such as the Romans Road to Salvation or the Sinner’s Bridge of Salvation. First, these tracts misrepresent the gospel and the sinner’s duty towards God; Second, these tracts are designed to serve as proselyting tools, rather than evangelistic helps; Third, these tracts are used as crutches by those who do not have the knowledge or confidence to speak the truth in their own words.

I have been asked on occasion (in various ways), “If you do not believe Gospel Tracts should be used for evangelism, then how would you present the simplicity of the gospel, during a five minute visit at the hospital, to an unregenerate sinner on his/her deathbed?”

First, I would point out to the one asking the question that the salvation of the one on his/her deathbed does not depend on me sharing the gospel to him/her. If that person is numbered among God’s elect people, then he/she is already set apart as a special object of the Father’s love. Likewise, that person has already been freely justified by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. All that remains is the…

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Churches are among the only communities in the world which view ‘elders’ as an appointed or elected office. The universal and historically recognized meaning of the term refers to unofficial leaders of a community, distinguished by their age, wisdom, wealth and influence. They are not appointed or elected to an office of eldership. Rather, they assume an…

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One of the reasons many Reformed believers assert it is the duty of all sinners to savingly believe on Christ is because they distinguish between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace. They believe the covenant of redemption was made between the Father, the Son and the Spirit from eternity, whereas the covenant of grace is made between Jehovah and the sinner in time. They view the covenant of redemption as existing in the background of God’s plan for the ages, whereas the covenant of grace is set in the foreground of man’s responsibility for today.

R. C. Sproul outlined this view in his book, “What Is Reformed Theology”. He explained Reformed Theology is primarily concerned with three major covenants—the covenant of redemption, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

With reference to the covenant of redemption, page 127:

“The first covenant we consider in the scope of Reformed theology does not directly include human beings, but is nevertheless critically important. The covenant of redemption involves the parties who work together to effect human redemption: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This covenant is rooted in eternity.”

With reference to the covenant of works, pages 128,129:

”The initial covenant God made with mankind was a covenant of works. In this covenant, according to the Westminster Confession, “life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” It is important to note that a “condition” is attached to this first covenant. The condition is personal and perfect obedience. This is a condition of works, and this is the covenant’s chief stipulation. Life is promised as a reward for obedience, for satisfying the condition of the covenant.”

With reference to the covenant of grace, pages 131,132:

“The Westminster Confession declares this about the covenant of grace: ‘Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.’

Perhaps the chief difference between the covenant of grace and the first covenant, and the reason why it is called a covenant of grace, is that this covenant is made between God and sinners. The covenant of works was made between God and his unfallen creatures. Once that covenant was violated and the fall had occurred, mankind’s only hope was rooted totally in grace.”

In an effort to help the reader better understand the relationship between these three covenants, Sproul includes this diagram:

Here is my response:

First, I wish to highlight my view of the covenants.

1. A covenant is an agreement between two or more people, with certain obligations binding them together. There are three parts to every covenant—(1) the parties; (2) the conditions; (3) the rewards/penalties.

2. Every relationship is based upon the authority of a covenant. Whether it be the relationship between a husband and wife, or parent and child, or friend and friend, or citizen and…

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In an article entitled, “The Need For Persuasion In The Preaching Of The Gospel”, Peter Masters wrote:

“The hyper-Calvinist regards the regenerating work of the Spirit as a total and complete work of conversion carried on in the heart by the Spirit in a direct manner…Believing that the whole of regeneration and conversion is accomplished by a direct work of the Spirit in the heart, and that repentance and faith are the fruit and evidence of a soul already saved, the preacher has no exhortation left to make!”

This is a classic Reformed (Fullerite) Baptist position. I respond:

First, the “hyper-Calvinist” does believe the regenerating work of the Spirt is total and complete.

Second, the “hyper-Calvinist” does believe that repentance and faith are the fruit and evidence of a soul already saved.

Third, the “hyper-Calvinist” distinguishes between the work of regeneration and that of conversion—regeneration is the Spirit of God working in the sinner both to will and to do of His good pleasure (impartation of a new nature); conversion is the…

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