A theological stance emphasizing divine predestination and the limited role of human agency in salvation.

Hyper-Calvinism is a branch of Protestant theology that extends traditional Calvinist principles to a point where they arguably distort the original teachings of John Calvin. It is characterized by a strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God, predestination, and the belief that human actions have no effect on salvation. Hyper-Calvinists assert that God has predetermined not only those who will be saved (the elect) but also those who will be damned (the reprobate), with no potential for change through faith or actions.

Core Beliefs and Controversies

Predestination and Election: Hyper-Calvinism holds to a strict interpretation of predestination, where God has elected certain individuals for salvation and others for damnation, irrespective of any human response or faith. This belief is based on an extreme interpretation of God’s sovereignty, suggesting that human free will plays no role in the salvation process.

Limited Atonement: Central to hyper-Calvinist doctrine is the belief in limited atonement, meaning Christ died only for the elect and not for everyone. This contrasts with the more moderate Calvinist view that Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect.

Gospel Offer: Hyper-Calvinism traditionally denies the duty or necessity of offering the gospel to all people, arguing that since God has already elected those who will be saved, evangelism is unnecessary or even presumptuous. This view has been criticized for undermining the missionary and evangelistic zeal seen in the New Testament.

Duty Faith: The hyper-Calvinist perspective often rejects the notion of “duty faith,” the belief that it is everyone’s duty to have faith in Christ for salvation. Instead, they posit that only those who are elected by God can have true faith, rendering the call to faith irrelevant for the non-elect.

Assurance and Humility: Critics argue that hyper-Calvinism can lead to a sense of fatalism among its adherents, with an overemphasis on God’s sovereignty potentially leading to spiritual coldness and a lack of assurance of faith. However, proponents believe it instills a deep humility and reliance on God’s grace.

Distinctions from Calvinism

While Calvinism emphasizes the sovereignty of God and predestination, it traditionally maintains a balance with human responsibility, the universal offer of the gospel, and the necessity of faith and repentance for salvation. Hyper-Calvinism’s deviation from these points has led to significant debate within Reformed circles about the implications of its teachings on evangelism, the nature of God’s love, and the Christian life.

John Calvin himself and later Reformed theologians like R.C. Sproul have made distinctions between God’s will of decree (His sovereign plan) and His will of command (His moral instructions). They argue that while God’s sovereign will is ultimately fulfilled, He genuinely calls all people to repentance and faith through the gospel.

Contemporary Perspectives

In modern discussions, hyper-Calvinism is often viewed as a theological extreme that fails to capture the nuance and balance of biblical teaching on God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Critics, including those within the Calvinist tradition, argue that it neglects the scriptural command to evangelize and the offer of salvation to all people. This critique points towards a more moderated understanding of Calvinism that seeks to uphold the tension between divine sovereignty and human response in the mystery of salvation.

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