Hyper-Calvinism: Origins and Definition
"An exaggerated or imbalanced type of Reformed theology associated with Strict and Particular Baptists of English origin and with Dutch-American Reformed groups. Originating in the 18th century, it has always been the theology of a minority, which today is extremely small. It is a system of theology framed to exalt the honor and glory of God and does so by acutely minimizing the moral and spiritual responsibility of sinners. . . It emphasizes irresistible grace to such an extent that there appears to be no real need to evangelize; furthermore, Christ may be offered only to the elect.”1
The origins of Hyper-Calvinism can be found in the writings of John Gill. He says "Justification is not only before faith, but it is from eternity, being an immanent act in the divine mind, and so an internal and eternal one; as may be concluded…”2
It is unfortunate that Gill chose this wording. Gill himself was not a Hyper-Calvinist and we know this because he did indeed, present the Gospel and urge men to repentance. Many believe he overstated his beliefs in an attempt to strengthen the defense of Calvinism against Arminianism.
What the Hyper-Calvinist believes is that since God has decreed all that will come to past, and since there is already the decree of all those who are elect, then the presentation of the Gospel and the call to men to repent and believe is unnecessary. While Arminianism wants to emphasize the will of man, Hyper- Calvinism seeks to emphasize the decree of election.
They deny the universal call of the Gospel as a legitimate offer to salvation. In fact, they deny the necessity of presenting the Gospel and of doing missions work. The attitude is that "if God elected them then they will be saved." This implies that they will be saved regardless if they repent and believe or not. They deny the necessity of repentance and the duty of faith as a means of justification.
Some take this one step farther and deny common grace. There is the particular grace that is given to the elect that they might be illumined by the Holy Spirit to respond to the Word of God when they hear it. This is the root of regeneration. So "special grace" refers broadly to the particular act of God in saving those whom He has elected.
Common grace, as the name implies, is that grace that is granted to all creation so that the world continues to function despite the fact of the Fall. The sun, moon and the stars continue in their orbit. The rain falls and the grass grows. Birds sing and babies are birthed. It would have been just for God to destroy the world after the Fall but by His grace, He continues to sustain the world. The non-elect receive the benefits of this grace. This is not the grace that saves but the grace that sustained creation.
First, we need to address the idea that justification is eternal. The key to understanding what Gill means is found in the phrase "being an immanent act in the divine mind." Just as election occurred before time, so in the mind of God, justification has been settled. The Hyper-Calvinist conflates the decree to salvation with the application of redemption. While all that has been decreed will occur, it will occur in time.
We see an example of this in Acts 2:23
"This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death."
It was the plan and the decree of God that Jesus would be crucified. But the crucifixion occurred at a specific point in time. It would be utterly absurd to say that Jesus has always been crucified. And it is equally absurd to say that those decreed to election have "always been saved."
The Hyper-Calvinists are ignoring a key point. The Scripture is clear that faith is a necessary condition of salvation. Romans 10:9 and other verses make this clear.
"that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved"
This is not to say that faith is merit nor to even say that faith is from the free-will of man. But the point is that without faith and belief one cannot be saved. Consider the words of John Flavel:
"If we cannot be justified or saved till we believe, then faith is the condition on which those consequent benefits are suspended. But we cannot be justified or saved till we believe."(3)
Finally, the Hyper-Calvinists deny means. Certainly, all that has been decreed shall come to pass in time. Furthermore, what God has decreed to occur, He has also decreed the means by which an event will occur. God planned that Christ would be crucified and He ordained the means by which it would occur (the betrayal of Judas, the hatefulness of the Jews, the Roman court, etc.). So it is with salvation. God has elected men to salvation and the means by which they will be saved is their belief and faith in the Gospel message.
See the article on CALVINISM
1- Sinclair Ferguson, et. al., editors, The New Dictionary of Theology (InterVarsity Press, 1988), s.v. Hyper-Calvinism, p. 324.
2- John Gill, “JUSTIFICATION AS AN ETERNAL AND IMMANENT ACT OF GOD, from A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book II, Chapter V, section II.
3- John Flavel, "A Reply to Baptist Hypercalvinism," from Vindiciæ Legis et Fœderis; London, M. Wotton at the Three Daggers in Fleetstreet, 1690.