TO get back to Hyper-Calvinism I wanted to share this exchange. Over a week ago I e-mailed my friend and former-minister of my church a commentary I found on the internet regarding Hyper-Calvinsim. I included his response which I just received today -
I have a quick question, what exactly is hyper-Calvinism?
And is it fair for the likes of John Gill, William Gadsby, John Warburton, and J. C. Philpot to be labeled hyper-Calvinsits? I do realize they are all Baptists.
In my research I've encountered hyper-calvinism defined as:
* Denies that the gospel call applies to all who hear, OR
* Denies that faith is the duty of every sinner, OR
* Denies that the gospel makes any "offer" of Christ, salvation, or mercy to the non-elect (or denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal), OR
* Denies that there is such a thing as "common grace," OR
* Denies that God has any sort of love for the non-elect.
"All five varieties of hyper-Calvinism undermine evangelism or twist the gospel message.
Many modern hyper-Calvinists salve themselves by thinking their view cannot really be hyper-Calvinism because, after all, they believe in proclaiming the gospel to all. However, the "gospel" they proclaim is a truncated soteriology with an undue emphasis on God's decree as it pertains to the reprobate. One hyper-Calvinist declared, "The message of the Gospel is
that God saves those who are His own and damns those who are not." Thus the good news about Christ's death and resurrection is supplanted by a message about election and
reprobation—usually with an inordinate stress on reprobation. In practical terms, the hyper-Calvinist "gospel" often reduces to the message that God simply and single-mindedly
hates those whom He has chosen to damn, and there is nothing whatsoever they can do about it.
Deliberately excluded from hyper-Calvinist "evangelism" is any pleading with the sinner to be reconciled with God. Sinners are not told that God offers them forgiveness or salvation.
In fact, most hyper-Calvinists categorically deny that God makes any offer in the gospel whatsoever.
The hyper-Calvinist position at this point amounts to a repudiation of the very gist of 2 Corinthians 5:20: "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." The whole thrust of the gospel, properly presented, is to convey an offer (in the sense of a tender, a proffer, or a proposal) of
divine peace and mercy to all who come under its hearing. The apostle's language is even stronger, suggesting the true gospel preacher begs sinners to be reconciled to God—or
rather he stands "in Christ's stead," pleading thus with the sinner. Hyper-Calvinism in essence denies the concept of human responsibility, and so it must eliminate any such
pleading, resulting in a skewed presentation of the gospel."
You are asking a question which is not so easy to answer. It is exactly as you point out, “hyper-Calvinism” has many “definitions.” It is a term which apparently has been coined to refer to a doctrine that seems to go “beyond” Calvin’s doctrine concerning the sovereignty of God. You see in the very list of definitions you have found, that it is often an accusation by those who feel that in the preaching, the “gospel offer” is not “free” enough. In other words, they say that the minister does not “call” those who are insensible of their sin to “come to Christ” freely enough.
Let me try to explain something in order to make clear the complexity of this matter in the preaching by using a natural example. Let us suppose that you were in a room
with 10 people, all of which you know have cancer. Five of them know this, however, and five do not. What would you feel to be your responsibility? Would you tell all of
them to go to the physician? Indeed, I think I would. If you know they all are sick, you know they all need the physician, and I’m sure there is not anyone with any
compassion in their heart that would not tell them all to go to the physician. However, in a practical way, only five of them will listen to you, since the others see no need to
go. What are you going to do with the other five? Will you merely keep pleading with them to go to the physician? No, you would know very well in your own heart what you
would need to do, namely, you must begin at the beginning with them. You must endeavor to convince them that they are sick. This may not be very easy. You will have
to point out the symptoms, etc. As soon as they believe that they are indeed sick, convincing them to go to the physician is not difficult anymore.
Let me try to bring this example over, for a moment, to the preaching. I agree that the outward call goes out to the whole congregation. There is no other end that we desire
than that every person in the congregation would “go to Christ.” Certainly, they need to be told this. However, if this becomes the focus of my message to the unconverted,
my aim can never be reached. Though the call does go out to them, we must in a practical manner try to lead them there, step by step. The first and most important step
is to attempt to convince man of his misery. This he simply does not believe by nature and without truly believing this, he will never see any beauty in Christ or any reason
to “go to Him.” On the other hand, when a person is convinced of his misery, the greatest objection against “going to Christ” is taken away. At that point he often feels so sinful and unworthy that he will need to be encouraged to “go to Christ” just as he is, though he is “unworthy that He should come under his roof.” It is just for this reason that we read of those blessed invitations such as, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” and declarations such as “for the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost,” or “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
It is remarkable to me how people sometimes harp on this subject of the “gospel offer.” If I look at all the discourses of Christ Himself in the Bible, His parables, etc., I do not find much at all of this sort of thing. Instead, I find a very strong emphasis on “distinguishing” or “separating” or “taking forth the precious from the vile.” In other words, the Lord Jesus often made distinctions between those who were truly His Own people, and those who are not. Just think of the parables, for example, of the wise and foolish virgins, the rich man and Lazarus, the seed falling into different types of grounds, the good and bad fishes, the wheat and tares, the house built upon the rock and sand, etc, etc. In other words, the Lord Jesus often warned men not to deceive themselves, lest they “think to enter in and not be able.”
In the passage you quoted, it accuses Hyper-Calvinists of “twisting the gospel message” and “supplanting the good news about Christ’s death and resurrection by a
message about election and reprobation.” If a person thinks that the doctrine of predestination is a “supplantation” of the gospel message, he has obviously never truly
come into agreement with the sovereignty of God. As soon as a person is brought to the true realization of what he deserves because of his sin, and that God is right and
just to cast him away forever, that this is what he justly deserves, election becomes his only hope. If it were not for the fact that God has elected a Church to Himself,
every person in this world would have to be condemned. Thus, election is no “supplantation” of the gospel message. These two concur in every particular. Not only is it
“good news” to such a person that God has elected a people, but He has also sent His Son into the world to seek and to save them. Oh, how this opens a way to person
who indeed views himself as such a sinner. Then there is a possibility for me also! Wonder of wonders! Is this not the way that “the poor have hope?” So it is fulfilled that
the hungry are filled with good things, and the rich are sent empty away.
There is no other comfort in life or in death. We must ask the Lord to take away all that stands in the way, namely, all that is of myself. That is nothing more than a praying against ourselves. Of ourselves we will not do it. We maintain ourselves. And if the Lord will hear our
supplication, then we may be sure it will go very much against our flesh. But it will be to the profit of our souls. This is our wish for you and yours.
It is true that the Baptist ministers you mention do not speak so directly to the unconverted, as we try to do. On the other hand, their sermons are filled with spiritual life. If people condemn such sermons, I can hardly believe that they know spiritual life themselves. How much food for the souls of God’s people is contained therein, which sadly
is greatly lacking in our days. How much an “unconverted” person has to be jealous of when he hears such preaching! Thus, it far from lacks a message to the unconverted, if we may only listen with a little attention.