27 August, 2016

FAQ—What constitutes “Calvinism”? What is “hyper-Calvinism”? What determines “orthodoxy”?




FAQ – What constitutes “Calvinism”? What is “hyper-Calvinism”? What determines “orthodoxy”?



Q. 1. “What is the standard or rule which determines genuine Calvinism?”

The standard against which genuine Calvinism is to be measured is … the Canons of Dordt (which are the original “Five Points of Calvinism”). (Rev. Martyn McGeown)

Check out the following lecture by Rev. Angus Stewart: “Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism and Hypo-Calvinism

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Q. 2. “What are the marks of genuine hyper-Calvinism?”

The hallmark of genuine hyper-Calvinism is the denial or rejection that it is the duty of all men everywhere to repent and believe in Jesus Christ—it is a denial or rejection of what’s known as “duty faith” and “duty repentance.” (Rev. Martyn McGeown)

A hyper-Calvinist, therefore, is not someone who teaches that in predestination, in the death of Christ in the preaching, and in the work of the Spirit, God loves only the elect and intends only their salvation. That is simply Biblical Calvinism.
Rather a hyper-Calvinist (historically and doctrinally) is someone who, because all are not chosen and redeemed, will not command all who hear the gospel to repent and believe. He is someone who starts from the right premises, but draws the wrong conclusions—who does not believe that “God now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).
A true hyper-Calvinist, then, 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.
… 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. (Rev. Ronald Hanko, “What is Hyper-Calvinism?”)

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Q. 3. “Isn’t a hyper-Calvinist simply somebody who preaches the gospel only to their church members and to nobody else?”

That is not the issue—the issue is what does the hyper-Calvinist preach? A person might preach to huge crowds of unbelievers and still be theologically a hyper-Calvinist. The issue is this: to whom do we address the command to repent and believe, and (related to that) to whom do we address the promise, and how are the command and the promise connected? (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

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Q. 4. “Is it really an error to deny ‘duty-faith’ and ‘duty-repentance’ and to refuse to command all men to repent and believe?”

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. (Rev. Ronald Hanko, “What is Hyper-Calvinism?”)

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. (Rev. Ronald Hanko, “What is Hyper-Calvinism?”)

We believe, therefore, that the Word of God in Acts 17:30 must be taken seriously by those who preach the gospel. We reject the notion that the command to repent and believe savingly should be heard only by those who show some evidence of conviction. That would not only limit the preaching of the gospel, but would in the end destroy true gospel preaching.
The command to repent and believe is an integral part of the preaching not only as far as God’s elect are concerned, but also as far as the “reprobate” are concerned. All who come under the preaching MUST hear that command! Not only is it according to the will of God that it be preached to all promiscuously, but it is necessary as far as the gospel itself is concerned. To deny this is to strip the gospel of its power and make it an empty and vain show. (Rev. Ronald Hanko, “What is Hyper-Calvinism?”)

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Q. 5. “How do hyper-Calvinists come to that position? What is their argument for this?”

Both Arminians and hyper-Calvinists make the same basic error. They judge man’s duty according to his ability. The Arminian reasons that, if God commands sinners to repent and believe the gospel (which is true), unregenerate sinners must be able to do this by the power of free will (which is false). The hyper-Calvinist reasons that, if unregenerate sinners are totally depraved and therefore unable to repent and believe (which is true), God cannot command them to repent and believe the gospel (which is false). (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

[The hyper-Calvinist] 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 … 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. (Rev. Ronald Hanko, “What is Hyper-Calvinism?”)

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Q. 6. “But do hyper-Calvinists also use Scripture to support this idea?”

Hyper-Calvinists appeal to various statements of Christ. For example, Christ declares, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32; cf. Matt. 9:12-13; Mark 2:17). Elsewhere, Christ says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). In Luke 4:18, Christ says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor ... to preach deliverance to the captives ...” In Matthew 11:5, Jesus bids the messengers of John to return to John with this message: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
From this, the hyper-Calvinist concludes that the gospel is preached only to the poor (in spirit) or only to the meek (Isa. 61:1) or only to the captives; that the gospel is preached only to the (spiritually) labouring and heavy laden; that God addresses the gospel to no one else, and that therefore the preacher may not address the gospel to anyone else. But the Reformed faith teaches that the promise of the gospel is to be “declared and published” (and therefore addressed) to all men without distinction (Canons II:5). (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”)

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Q. 7. “But doesn’t Scripture teach an ‘external’ and an ‘internal’ call?”

One tactic of genuine hyper-Calvinists is to refuse to recognize the distinction between the external call—the command to all to repent and believe—and the internal call—the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit in the elect to bring them to saving faith and repentance. Hyper-Calvinists will not acknowledge that the call of Romans 8:28, 30 and Ephesians 4:4 is different from the call of Matthew 22:14. Moreover, because sometimes Christ restricts His call to repentance to certain kinds of people, hyper-Calvinists restrict the call of the gospel always and only to those whom they call “sensible [i.e., sensitive] sinners.” Hyper-Calvinists might even be zealous in their evangelism; they might preach widely and indiscriminately; they might plant churches; but in their preaching they do not call the hearers to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. A “sensible” sinner is actually a regenerate person, a believer, because a “sensible” sinner is aware of his sin, laments over his misery, and hungers and thirsts after righteousness. According to Canons III/IV:R:4, “to hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery and after life, and to offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken spirit, is peculiar to the regenerate and those that are called blessed (Ps. 51:10, 19; Matt. 5:6).” (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

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Q. 8. “Where does Scripture contradict the denial of ‘duty faith’ and ‘duty repentance’? Where in Scripture is the gospel with the command to repent and believe said to be preached, proclaimed, declared and addressed to all men without distinction, and not only to the elect?”

In one of the earliest examples of Christ’s preaching, we read, “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). This was a general call. In Matthew 11:20, Jesus “began ... to upbraid the cities.” Why? “Because they repented not.” If they were not required to repent, why does Christ upbraid them and threaten them with damnation for not repenting? When Christ sent out His disciples, “they went out, and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12). Before He ascended into heaven, Christ commanded His disciples to “teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19) and “preach the gospel to every creature,” adding that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16), for it is His will “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). No restriction of the call to repentance and faith can be admitted in these passages.

The internal call of grace is limited by election, for “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14), but the external call is not limited—the gospel with the command to repent and believe is to be preached, proclaimed, declared and addressed to all men without distinction. All who come under the hearing of that gospel must be confronted with their duty before God to repent and believe. So serious is God in impressing this duty upon all hearers that He threatens eternal damnation upon all who refuse to believe and repent.

Exactly this is what the apostles did in obedience to their Lord. “Repent, and be baptized,” said Peter (Acts 2:38). “Repent ye therefore, and be converted,” he urged (Acts 3:19). To the unbelieving Sanhedrin, Peter declared, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In Antioch of Pisidia, Paul preached, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins,” adding the warning, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish” (Acts 13:38, 41). To the pagans in Lystra, Paul proclaimed, “[We] preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God” (Acts 14:15). To the trembling Philippian jailor, Paul preached the command and the promise: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). In Thessalonica, according to Acts 17:3, Paul was “Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” To the Athenians, Paul declared, “[God] commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). In Acts 19:4, Paul describes John the Baptist’s preaching thus: “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” In the synagogue of Ephesus, Paul “spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God,” the result of which preaching was that some “were hardened, and believed not” (Acts 19:8-9). Paul describes his ministry in Ephesus as “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). In prison, before the ungodly governor Felix, Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” So searching was Paul’s preaching that Felix “trembled,” but he did not repent, although we can be sure that Paul commanded him to repent (Acts 24:25). To unbelieving Herod Agrippa, Paul exclaims, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:29). At the end of the Acts, we find Paul teaching the gospel, with the result that some believed and some did not believe (Acts 28:23-24, 31).

[Further …]

To the unregenerate, hypocritical and, as far as we can tell, reprobate Pharisees and Sadducees, John the Baptist spoke these words: “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:7-8). To do that is to go beyond repentance—it is to show evidence of genuine conversion! Could these unbelieving religionists do that? No, but they were commanded to do it. To the hypocritical, covetous, erstwhile sorcerer, Simon, whose heart was “not right in the sight of God” and who was, according to Peter’s accurate perception, “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,” The apostle urged, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:20-23). Whatever Simon was (elect or reprobate), he certainly was not a “sensible” (spiritually sensitive) sinner. Can one in the bond of iniquity pray? Can one in the gall of bitterness repent? No, but he was commanded to do it. To King Herod Agrippa, Paul describes his ministry in these words:

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:19-20).

Notice what Paul does not say: “I preached that only the elect or sensible sinners or spiritually qualified sinners should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Paul issued general commands in his preaching and so must all true Calvinists. The risen and exalted Lord Jesus issued a command of repentance to the wicked, stubbornly impenitent, false prophetess Jezebel of Thyatira: “And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not” (Rev. 2:21). Christ adds a warning for her impenitent children: “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds” (Rev. 2:22).

We could multiply quotations but one entrenched in hyper-Calvinism will rarely be convinced. Noteworthy about these and many other examples in Scripture is that (1) the command to repent is addressed to all indiscriminately; (2) the preacher, whether John, Peter, Paul or Christ, never promises all the hearers salvation, even conditionally if they repent and believe; and (3) the preacher does not make an offer or express a sincere desire in God to save the reprobate. The command is general but the promise is particular.

(Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

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Scripture says in Acts 17:30 that “God now commandeth all men every where to repent.” John the Baptist in his preaching even called the unbelieving Pharisees and Saducees to repentance (Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8). Jesus, too, called all to repentance in His preaching (Matt. 4:17) and upbraided the cities of Galilee because they did not repent (Matt. 11:20). When He sent out the 70 He sent them also to those who would reject the gospel and even warned them about this rejection (Mark 6:10-11), yet we read that they went out and preached that men should repent (Mark 6:12).
Nor is there any evidence that when Peter, in the temple after the healing of the lame man, preached “repent ye and be converted” (Acts 3:19), that he was preaching only to “sensible sinners.” Certainly, Simon the sorcerer was not a “sensible sinner” when Peter said to him: “Repent therefore of this wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 7:22).
Several of the passages already cited (Acts 3:19; 7:22) also imply that the gospel calls for faith on the part of all who hear. Faith is part of conversion, and one cannot pray to God for forgiveness without also praying in faith. So, too, it is not possible that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for not believing if believing was not required of them (Matt. 21:25; Luke 22:67; John 10:25-26). (Rev. Ronald Hanko, “What is Hyper-Calvinism?”)

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Q. 9. “How do hyper-Calvinists respond to all these Scripture texts?”

The hyper-Calvinist gets around these verses by speaking of different kinds of repentance and faith. He speaks of “Jewish repentance,” “reformation repentance,” “circumstantial repentance,” “collective repentance,” etc., and claims that Scripture also calls for different kinds of faith. So he insists that many of the verses we have referred to call only for such kinds of faith and repentance, but not for saving repentance and faith.
We do not deny, of course, that Scripture speaks of “faith” and “repentance” that are not saving (Acts 8:13; II Cor. 7:10; James 2:19; Heb. 12:17). But these, as we know, are simply hypocrisy, and do not find favor with God. They cannot possibly, then, be something God calls for. How could God, who does not lie, speaking through the gospel, call men to a repentance or faith which is not sincere and saving? There is not the slightest evidence in Scripture that He does so, either. (Rev. Ronald Hanko, “What is Hyper-Calvinism?”)

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Q. 10. “Is there creedal/confessional support for the idea that God commands all men (including the reprobate) to repent?”

Canons II:6 teaches that “many who are called by the gospel do not repent, nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief.” Canons III/IV:9 also states that “[some of] those who are called by the ministry of Word refuse to come and be converted.” Canons III/IV:10 adds “that others who are called by the gospel obey the call and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will.” Moreover, Canons I:3 avers that by the gospel ministry “men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified.” [That the reference here is to the external call is clear from Canons I:4, which speaks of those “who believe not”]. In Canons III/IV:17, the fathers at Dordt remind us that “the most wise God has ordained [the preaching of the gospel] to be the seed of regeneration and food of the soul.” In addition, the Heidelberg Catechism explains the relationship between God’s command and man’s (in)ability: “God made man capable of performing it [i.e., obedience to His law]; but man ... deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts” (A. 9). The same catechism explains the duty of the sinner to repent: “it is declared and testified to all unbelievers, and such as do not sincerely repent, that they stand exposed to the wrath of God and eternal condemnation, so long as they are unconverted ...” (A. 84).

[Further …]

Canons II:5 states,

Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.

Clearest of all is Canons III/IV:8, where we read,

As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly shown in His Word, what is pleasing to Him, namely, that those who are called should come to Him. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life and rest to as many as shall come to Him and believe on Him.

(Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

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Q. 11. “How to hyper-Calvinists respond to these truths?”

To these obvious truths, the hyper-Calvinist responds with unbiblical distinctions. English hyper-Calvinist Joseph Hussey (1660-1726) called preachers to “preach the Gospel of the kingdom to [unbelievers]” but “do not preach the Gospel of the blood of Christ to them.” Unbelievers are called, he said, to believe in Christ naturally but not with true faith, and to repent with a legal, but not evangelical, repentance.3 As if the Bible knows of different gospels or different kinds of repentance! One hyper-Calvinist whom I encountered recently argued that the “all men every where” of Acts 17:30 must refer to the elect alone. His argument was that Paul goes on to say that God “hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him [i.e., Jesus] from the dead” (v. 31). Since the word for assurance in verse 31 is pistis, which is commonly translated “faith,” and since God gives faith as a gift only to His elect, the “all men” in both verses 30-31 must refer only to the elect. Strange exegesis indeed! The word pistis does indeed mean faith, but its meaning is not determined merely from a lexicon, but from the context. The meaning of the phrase here is to furnish proof, to demonstrate something, that is, the resurrection of Christ proves to all men that Christ will judge the world on the Last Day. The resurrection of Christ is clear, objective proof—whether men will believe or not—that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4).

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Q. 12. “Why must the command to repent and believe be preached not only to those whom God has chosen to save, but also to those whom He has not chosen, i.e., to elect and reprobate both? Is there a specific reason for this?”

There are two reasons.

First, as far as the elect are concerned, the call or command of the gospel is the power by which God brings them to faith and repentance (according to His purpose and by the sovereign operations of the Holy Spirit). This is what we sometimes refer to as the effectual call of the gospel. When the gospel is preached, it is with saving effect!
Augustine showed that he understood this when he said of the rebukes of the gospel that “the rebuke is the grace,” the grace, that is, by which God convicts His elect of sin, and begins to draw them to Himself (John 6:44). In that too the gospel is, then, the means by which God sovereignly, powerfully, irresistibly calls to Himself His own.
Psalm 19 speaks of this when it says that God’s law converts the soul, His testimony makes the simple wise, His commandment enlightens the eyes (vv. 7, 8). Romans 1:16 adds that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Romans 10:17-18 tells us that faith comes by hearing the word of God. I Corinthians 1:18 says that the preaching of the cross is the power of God (cf. also verse 21).
Preaching is this because Christ Himself speaks through gospel preaching. Hyper-Calvinists have said that the call of the gospel as preached by Christ and the Apostles could be such a power, but not the preaching of preachers today. Nevertheless Scripture assures us that all preaching is the means by which Christ Himself sovereignly calls His own.
He says in John 10:27, “My sheep (and there are no exceptions) hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Indeed, it is only because they hear Christ’s voice that they can be saved. No other voice has the power to give them life like Lazarus and bring them out of darkness into marvellous light. So too, we read in Ephesians 2:17, that He came and preached peace not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles, to those who were far off.

Second, with respect to those who are not chosen, the preaching of the call of the gospel is also important. Because Christ speaks through it no one can ever come under the preaching of the gospel and not be affected for good or for ill. To those who are not chosen and who continue in unbelief, the gospel is the means for hardening and condemnation.
This is the difficult part of preaching, the part concerning which Paul is thinking most of all when he says, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (II Cor. 2:16). No preacher wants to see this negative fruit nor does he actually seek to be a means of hardening, but if He understands Scripture and his own calling then he cannot avoid it. If the gospel is to be the power of God unto salvation it must also be a power unto condemnation.
Scripture itself speaks of this in Isaiah 6:8-13 (notice Isaiah’s response) and in II Corinthians 2:16, where we read that the gospel is a savor of death unto death to some.
The sweet savor of Christ is unto death to some in the preaching of the gospel!
All this is simply to say that the gospel is its own power. It needs not the eloquence of the preacher, nor anything else. Its power is manifested in all that is preached but especially in the glorious call of the gospel, the call to repent and believe, the call that brings and gives repentance and faith to those whom God has chosen.

(Rev. Ronald Hanko, “What is Hyper-Calvinism?”)

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Q. 13. “You say that the reprobate are not commanded to be assured that Jesus actually died for them. Why is that?”

God does not command all sinners to be assured that Christ died for them—how could He, when Christ did not die for all men?—but He does command all sinners to believe in Jesus Christ, promising eternal life to all who do. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

That the faith commanded in the Gospel is not a direct and immediate belief that Christ died for me, appears from this consideration: that when it is enjoined either by Christ or his apostles, no mention is made of its being applied to this or that man, in particular. It is set forth only in a general relation to duty, or to blessings promised to those who believe; as in Matt.xvi.16. (Francis Turretin (1623-1687): “The Atonement of Christ” [Michigan: Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978], pp.179 -181)

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Q. 14. “If God does not command the reprobate to believe that Christ died for them or to believe that God loves them or to believe that they have eternal life, what exactly does God command the reprobate to believe?

The preacher must declare to the unbeliever who God is, what sin is, who Christ is and what Christ has done for sinners, and then call that person to repent and believe. These former steps of explanation are usually skipped by Arminians looking for premature decisions. To say, “Repent and believe in Christ crucified” is not the same as “Repent and believe in Christ who died for you.”
No unbeliever has any right to believe that he has eternal life, so long as he remains unbelieving. In fact, the opposite is true: an unbeliever is commanded to believe that the wrath of God remains on him so long as he remains in a state of unbelief. This is “declared and testified to all unbelievers” in the preaching of the gospel (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 84; cf. John 3:36). (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

All men must believe that God is. Atheism is sin, for it is the refusal to believe and confess the one true and living God. An unbeliever cannot please God because he does not believe that God is. Unbelievers also do not believe that God rewards those who diligently seek Him, which is why they refuse to seek Him. “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Ps. 10:4). The reprobate is, however, not commanded to believe that God has a reward for him personally. He is commanded to believe in the God who rewards the seeker. And he is commanded to seek that God …
… We need to understand several things. First, we do not know who is elect and reprobate. Second, since we cannot know who is elect and reprobate, we can only issue general commands, which God then applies to individual souls for their salvation or hardening according to His sovereign good pleasure. Third, therefore, we can never command an unbeliever, “Believe that Christ died for your sins” or “Believe that Christ did not die for your sins.” We command simply this, “Believe in Jesus Christ, who was crucified for sinners.” And we add the promise, “He who believes will have salvation and will have assurance that Christ died for his sins.” Beyond that we cannot go. Suffice to say, God does not command a reprobate to believe a lie, nor does He command a reprobate to hypocritical repentance or to counterfeit faith. He commands all men, including the reprobate, to repent and to believe in Jesus Christ. The ground of that command is not in the hearer’s ability, but in the sovereign will and unchangeable righteousness of God. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

Peter, in his celebrated declaration of faith, professes no more than this: that he believes Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. John vi. 69: “We believe and are sure, that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” Paul demands no more of those who believe unto salvation, than “to confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus, and to believe with the heart that God raised him from the dead.”—Rom.x.9. Thus, when the saints are commanded to believe in the Son of God, they are bound indeed to believe that Christ is the true Messiah, and to fly to him as the only author of salvation, to those who, through faith and repentance, betake themselves to him; and these acts must take place before they are bound to believe that Christ died for them. (Francis Turretin (1623-1687): “The Atonement of Christ” [Michigan: Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978], pp.179 -181)

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Q. 15. “But the Anglican Peter Toon, in the New Dictionary of Theology, under the entry ‘Hyper-Calvinism,’ states that the main features of hyper-Calvinism are (1) an overemphasis on God’s sovereignty with a minimising of the moral and spiritual responsibility of sinners, (2) an undermining of the universal duty of sinners to believe in the Lord Jesus and (3) the denial of the word “offer” with respect to the preaching of the gospel …”

[Theological] dictionaries do not determine theology. The creeds do. They—not theological dictionaries—were officially adopted by the church …
This definition is too broad—it includes real hyper-Calvinism (a denial of duty faith) but it muddies the waters by including some theological positions which are not definitive of hyper-Calvinism (avoidance of the word “offer,” an “overemphasis” on God’s sovereignty, etc.)
Toon is [also] a hypo-Calvinist (see his Born Again: A Biblical and Theological Study of Regeneration [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1987]) and even in his dictionary article he speaks of “the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly in the Lord Jesus with the assurance that Christ actually died for them” (p. 324), contrary to the truth of particular atonement! The same dictionary notes that Augustine (p. 636) and Gottschalk (p. 259) denied that God desires to save the reprobate, yet they are not called hyper-Calvinists! Not only did the New Dictionary of Theology publish a hypo-Calvinist author and article defining hyper-Calvinism, but it has N. T. Wright promoting New Perspective on Paul ideas in his treatments of “Justification” (pp. 359-361) and “Righteousness” (pp. 590-592), over against Reformed teaching on this article of a standing or falling church. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

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Q. 16. “But isn’t ‘too much emphasis’ on God’s sovereignty a mark of hyper-Calvinism?”

[It] is impossible to emphasize the sovereignty of God excessively, especially as regards the sovereignty of grace. Stand before the incarnation, the cross, and the wonder of regeneration, and try to de-emphasize sovereign grace. The ‘charge’ that a theologian excessively emphasizes sovereign grace is in fact the highest praise that one can give that theologian, praise that identifies him as a faithful servant of the gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus … Not in an emphasis on God’s sovereignty but in a denial of man’s responsibility must the characteristic flaw of hyper-Calvinism be located (Prof. David J. Engelsma, “Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel” [Grandville, MI: RFPA, repr. 1993], p. 200).

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Q. 17. “You say that the promises of the gospel are limited to the elect only … but isn’t that a form of hyper-Calvinism?”

This simply is not true. And it is not true because this view is the traditional view of those theologians from the time of Calvin on who have maintained the particular character of salvation and grace. If this is hyper-Calvinism, all the fathers at Dort were hyper-Calvinists! (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, “The History of the Free Offer,” chapter 6)

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Q. 18. “How do we reconcile the eternal decree of election and reprobation with the idea that the reprobate have a responsibility to repent and believe, even though they cannot?”

Regarding your question, no reconciliation between reprobation and the responsibility of the totally depraved, reprobate sinner is necessary, because there is no opposition between the two truths. The inability of the sinner to believe does not relieve him of the duty to believe, or deflect from him the solemn calling of God that he believe. It is the sinner’s fault that he cannot believe. God made man upright, but man’s present condition of depravity is man’s fault. Question 9 of the Heidelberg Catechism explains the justice of God to require faith and perfect obedience of fallen, unable man:

Q. 9. Doth not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in His law that which he cannot perform?

A. Not at all; for God made man capable of performing it; but man ... deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts.
   
As for reprobation and responsibility, the decree appointing some humans to eternal perdition includes that the condemnation of the sinner takes place in the way of his own unbelief and other sins and on account of his unbelief. Article 15 of the Reformed creed, the Canons of Dordt, confessing reprobation, states: 

[God] hath decreed [in reprobation] to leave [some] in the common misery into which they have wilfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but leaving them in His just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of His justice to condemn and punish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins ...

Reprobation is not God’s forcing men to sin and abide in unbelief. God is not, according to the Reformed faith, the “author of sin.” Reprobation confesses that men plunge themselves, “wilfully,” into sin and themselves willingly refuse to believe and commit all their other sins. God decrees not to save some of them, which salvation He owes no one, but graciously gives to the others. As for the ultimate explanation of God’s decree that some perish in their sins, God is sovereign as God. He may do with His creature, man, as seems good to Him. Read Romans 9 carefully, especially verses 20 onwards. The potter may do with the clay as he pleases. Man may not criticize God: “Who art thou, O man,” etc. (v. 20)?

One who questions the eternal decree of predestination, including reprobation, takes the positions that God owes salvation to all humans and that mere man may call God to account. (Prof. David J. Engelsma)

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Q. 19. “Who or what determines ‘orthodoxy’?”

For Reformed churches the creeds are decisive; they are the criterion according to which any view is to be judged. They are the standard of what is orthodox and what is not orthodox. (Source: Prof. Homer. C. Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer, vol. 50, issue 7, Jan. 1974 [emphasis added])

Wherefore, this Synod of Dordrecht, in the name of the Lord, conjures as many as piously call upon the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, to judge of the faith of the Reformed churches, not from the calumnies, which on every side, are heaped upon it; nor from the private expressions of a few among ancient and modern teachers, often dishonestly quoted, or corrupted, and wrested to a meaning quite foreign to their intentions; but from the public confessions of the churches themselves, and from the declaration of the orthodox doctrine, confirmed by the unanimous consent of all and each of the members of the whole Synod. (Canons of Dordrecht, Conclusion [emphasis added])

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Q. 20. “How do we determine if a man or a group of people is guilty of heresy?”

In Reformed churches a man is guilty of heresy when he is convicted on the basis of the confessions; there is no need to proceed any further. Why? Because all agree to abide by the teaching of the confessions as the doctrine set forth by the Scriptures; and all agree not to militate against the teaching of the confessions. Hence, it is not necessary to judge a doctrine except on the basis of the confessions. It is not necessary to prove over and over again that the doctrine of the confessions is that of Scriptureunless objections to the confessions themselves should arise by way of filing a gravamen, a charge of error, against them. And it is wrong to by-pass the confessions either to support or to contradict some view that is contrary to them. (Source: Prof. Homer. C. Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer, vol. 50, issue 7, [Jan. 1974])

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Q. 21. “You state that the objective standard or rule of orthodoxy for what constitutes ‘Calvinism’ is the Canons of Dordt, and not the majority consensus of theological opinion of the 16th-17th century; but does not the following statement of Richard Muller contradict that?:

Calvinism or, better, Reformed teaching, as defined by the great Reformed confessions does include the so-called five points. Just as it is improper, however, to identify Calvin as the sole progenitor of Reformed theology, so also is it incorrect to identify the five points or the document from which they have been drawn, the Canons of Dort, as a full confession of the Reformed faith, whole and entire unto itself. In other words, it would be a major error—both historically and doctrinally—if the five points of Calvinism were understood either as the sole or even as the absolutely primary basis for identifying someone as holding the Calvinistic or Reformed faith. In fact, the Canons of Dort contain five points only because the Arminian articles, the Remonstrance of 1610, to which they responded, had five points. The number five, far from being sacrosanct, is the result of a particular historical circumstance and was determined negatively by the number of articles in the Arminian objection to confessional Calvinism.

Richard Muller’s statement doesn’t refute our position at all. We would fully agree with it. Muller is there only stating what all Reformed men know. His statement opposes Baptists who claim to be Reformed and people who reject the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper or church government, e.g. We mean by Calvinism the soteriological aspect of the Reformed faith expressed creedally at Dordt. We hold the full creedal Reformed faith as stated in all 3 creedal documents of our Three Forms of Unity. (Rev. Angus Stewart)

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Q. 22. “How do we respond to the charge of ‘hyper-Calvinist’ being given to label our position?”

Simply put all the doctrines often classified as “high” Calvinism into the “hyper” category ... since so-called “high” Calvinism is usually comprised of areas of theology that “go beyond” Calvin’s writings in one degree or another.
This is, of course, if our correspondent uses “John Calvin” as the standard of Calvinism (and not the Canons of Dordt, as they should).
If John Calvin and his writings alone really are the official standard of “Calvinism,” then inevitably this implies that practically 90%+ of the Reformed church world today are all Hyper-Calvinists—for it is an undeniable fact that there was doctrinal development after Calvin.
This doctrinal development includes either the adoption of or the purifying of the following:

(1) The doctrine of Limited Atonement
(2) The issue of Supralapsarianism vs Infralapsarianism
(3) The “Active and Passive” obedience of Christ distinction.
(4) The Imputation of Adam's guilt to the human race.

These are just four (of many) areas where there has been significant development.

Are ministers and theologians that hold to the above four doctrines classified as Hyper-Calvinists? (since all four points “go beyond” John Calvin). Usually not (in fact, never).

So why are “denial of common grace” and “denial of the well-meant offer” classified as Hyper-Calvinism? (since, it is said, denial of these two things “goes beyond” John Calvin).

Notice the inconsistency in our opponents’ position?

The Banner of Truth are big into referring to the denial of common grace and the well-meant offer as “hyper-Calvinism” ... But, in all honesty, that is extremely hypocritical of that publishing company—for the Banner of Truth publish books and articles that advocate the four areas of doctrinal development that are mentioned above: e.g. John Owen’s “Death of Death”—an exposition of Limited Atonement!









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