Do You Talk Too Much About God’s Sovereignty?
Hyper-Calvinism Refuted Clearly With 3 Definitions, 3 Charts,
Do You Believe and Practice Both:
By Greg Gibson
Have you ever heard that too much of a good thing is bad for you? For example, you know that spinach is healthy for the body, right? But, eating an imbalanced diet of 3 lbs./day of spinach, will lead to side effects, like iron overload.
Likewise, dwelling too much on God’s sovereignty, while obscuring human responsibility, leads to irresponsible living. And so, a steady diet of too much predestination, election, and effectual calling leads to irresponsibility in the following 4 ways…
The 4 Ways How Hyper-Calvinism Harms Souls
1. Evangelism: “Since all are predestined to heaven or hell, why evangelize?”
2. Less Converts: “I’m waiting for God to effectually call me, and give me repentance & faith.”
3. Less Prayer: “Since all events are already predestined, why pray?”
4. Less Obedience: “Since my sin is already predestined, why obey?”
Are you often tempted by any of those rationalizations? If so, you may have fallen into a very subtle form of Hyper-Calvinism.
Exactly what is Hyper-Calvinism? Sometimes showing is clearer than telling. So, before attempting to define it, let’s look at some examples below. It manifests itself in numerous ways, which can be subdivided into at least 3 different types…
3 Different Types of Hyper-Calvinism
1. Selective-Evangelism, Hyper-Calvinism: A denial that evangelists should exhort sinners to repent, believe, and come to Christ. The gospel is proclaimed only to those who show signs of being elect. Here are some examples of selective evangelism from the Gospel Standard Articles of Faith…
XXIV We believe that the invitations of the Gospel, being spirit and life, are intended only for those who have been made by the blessed Spirit to feel their lost state as sinners and their need of Christ as their Saviour, and to repent of and forsake their sins. (Isa. 55:1, John 7:37, Prov. 28:13, Matt. 11:28-30, John 6:37.)
XXVI We deny duty faith and duty repentance – these terms signifying that it is every man’s duty spiritually and savingly to repent and believe (Gen. 6:5, Gen 8:21, Matt. 15:19, Jer. 17:9, John 6:44, John 6:65.) We deny also that there is any capability in man by nature to any spiritual good whatever. So that we reject the doctrine that men in a state of nature should be exhorted to believe in or turn to God of themselves. (John 12:39-40, Eph. 2:8, Rom. 8:7-8, 1 Cor. 4:7.)
XXXIII Therefore, that for ministers in the present day to address unconverted persons, or indiscriminately all in a mixed congregation, calling upon them savingly to repent, believe, and receive Christ, or perform any other acts dependent upon the new creative power of the Holy Ghost, is, on the one hand, to imply creature power, and, on the other, to deny the doctrine of special redemption.
2. Overvalued-Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism: This type might also be called “Idolatrous-Calvinism.” It turns Calvinism into an idol by giving it a role that God never intended. This usually results from trying to make logical deductions from human wisdom, instead of exegesis. (Satan is more than happy to pervert Bible truths, by transforming them into idols of worship.) Here are 6 examples…
6 Examples of Overvalued-Calvinism:
1. Making the basis of Christian fellowship Calvinism, instead of regeneration.
2. Making the standard of Christian maturity Calvinism, instead of total Christ-likeness.
3. Transforming expository preaching into topical preaching by using passages as springboards to jump into Romans 9, Ephesians 1, John 6, etc. This is accomplished by using an implied hermeneutic (eisegesis,) rather than an explicit hermeneutic (exegesis.)
Real expository preaching gets its main points from one main text. But, topical preaching gets its main points from multiple texts, outside the main text.
4. Claiming that all major revivals have been by Calvinist evangelists, and none by Arminian evangelists. (That view quickly falls apart by studying the evangelical Anabaptists from the time of Augustine to Luther, and the present-day persecuted Church.)
5. Claiming that Calvinism is the gospel, or an essential part of the gospel. (Yes, even some good men like Spurgeon have erred here. Yet thankfully, they all don’t preach like they believe. The gospel is Christ, a person, not Calvinism.)
6. Believing that Arminians can’t be saved.
3. Half-Truth Hyper-Calvinism: An imbalanced over-emphasis on God’s sovereignty, while minimizing our responsibility. For example, in public teaching or private fellowship, a Hyper-Calvinist may speak twice as often about God’s sovereignty as man’s duty. By using an implied hermeneutic, half-truth hyper-calvinists may read sovereign grace, election, etc. into passages, where the Holy Spirit intentionally omitted them.
Too much about what God does, and not enough about what we must do: A mere half-truth.
3 Examples of Half-Truth Hyper-Calvinism:
1. Overemphasizing God’s secret will (predestination) while minimizing His revealed will (commands.)
2. Overemphasizing how God gives the gifts of repentance and faith, while minimizing your responsibility to repent and believe.
3. Overemphasizing Christ’s imputed righteousness and santification, while minimizing your duty for practical righteousness and sanctification.
The definition for this third form of Hyper-Calvinism is similar to that excerpted below, from J.I. Packer, Sinclair Ferguson, and David Wright’s New Dictionary of Theology…
“Hypercalvinism, an exaggerated or imbalanced type of Reformed theology…minimizing the moral & spiritual responsibility of sinners. It puts excessive emphasis on acts belonging to God’s…It emphasizes irresistible grace to such an extent that there appears to be no real need to evangelize…so stresses the sovereignty of God by over-emphasizing the secret over the revealed will of God & eternity over time, that it minimizes the responsibility of sinners…thus it undermines the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly in the Lord Jesus Christ…and it encourages introspection in the search to know whether or not one is elect.”
It is this third form or Hyper-Calvinism (Half-Truth Hyper-Calvinism) that is the topic of this study…
Half-Truth Hyper-Calvinism is found among most of those who also believe in the first 2 forms, “Selective Evangelism” and “Overvalued Calvinism.” Plus, this half-truth imbalance is also found among some who deny selective evangelism – such as some (not all) denominations, movements, and local churches named after their soteriology: “Reformed…,” “Sovereign Grace…,” etc.
Yes, the Bible is true that no one seeks God, can choose Him, or come to Him. Also it’s true, He effectually calls, and gives repentance and faith. And yes, election and the new birth are monergistic, not synergistic. But, repentance and faith are synergistic, not monergistic.
The Sovereignty of God in Conversion Is Only a Half-Truth
Really, “the sovereignty of God in conversion is only a half-truth.” For, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are like a 2-sided coin.
You see, once He gives the gifts of repentance and faith, you must exercise them. (Yes, He gets 100% of the glory for giving you the desire and ability to repent and believe.) In other words, you must repent from your sins, and believe on Jesus Christ. A famous Calvinist pastor once warned, “God will not repent and believe for you!”
Are These Statements Arminianism,
How do you respond when people make statements like these…
…do you criticize them for denying the sovereignty of God? Or, do you realize that they’re telling the truth, yet only half the truth, about the responsibility of man (if they’re truly regenerate? Granted, many who make those statements have responded to a false gospel presentation.)
The point is that Christians really did make a decision for Christ, repent, believe, and accept Him. And, it’s not wrong to speak of our human actions, without speaking of God’s sovereignty, or vice-versa.
Notice in the verses below, the Holy Spirit spoke only of man’s responsibility, not of God’s sovereignty. The Spirit did not sin by neglecting to mention God’s sovereignty…
Have you made a decision for Christ?
“choose (decide) life…that you may love the Lord your God” (Deut. 30:19-20)
Have you repented of your sin?
“the men of Ninevah…they repented at the preaching of Jonah” (Mt. 12:41)
Have you believed on Christ?
“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.” (Jn. 20:29)
“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household.” (Acts 18:8)
“Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:3)
“even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ (Gal. 2:16)
“For we who have believed do enter that rest” (Heb. 4:3)
Have you accepted Christ?
“But, as many as received (accepted) Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12)
Sometimes in the Bible, like the verses above, the Spirit speaks of responsibility alone. Other times, He speaks of sovereignty alone. And a few times, He speaks of both divine sovereignty and human responsibility together. (For example see, Acts 13:48; 18:27.)
Passages Don’t Need to Be Fixed or Improved
We don’t need to try to improve or fix the text by reading God’s sovereignty into passages (eisegesis) where He chose not to mention it. If He wanted His sovereignty always mentioned, then He would have mentioned it explicitly.
You see, we must be careful to maintain the Holy-Spirit’s inspired balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. That’s one of the advantages of passage-by-passage expository teaching: It prevents hobbyhorses, and preserves balance.
The Hyper-Calvinist may interpret one set of verses at the expense of another set of verses – so one set is true, while the other is twisted, or has no interpretation. But, both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are balanced together in the verses in the 3 charts below…
|Most Calvinistic preaching on righteousness is about Christ’s righteousness. But, have you heard much teaching exhorting us to “be righteous,” “practice righteousness,” and do “righteous works?” For, after the Father credits Christ’s righteousness to us, it results in our righteous living..|
|The half-truth Hyper-Calvinist may even try to justify and spiritualize his error by claiming it’s “God-centered”…|
“…no one who believes the gospel of God’s free & sovereign grace can consistently embrace a man-centered doctrine of sanctification which would make this vital aspect of salvation something that man does. Sanctification as it is revealed in the Bible is God-centered. It is God who sanctifies his elect. We do not sanctify ourselves…our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS”…In the N.T., wherever the doctrine of sanctification is taught, we are told that the Sanctifier is God & that the work of sanctification is God’s work (Jn. 10:36; 17:17, 19; Acts 20:32; Rom. 15:16; I Cor. 1:2, 30; 6:11; Eph. 5:26; I Thes. 5:23; II Thes. 2:13; Heb. 2:11; 10:10, 14; 13:12; I Pet. 1:2; Jude 1). These passages of Scripture are heavy, heavy reading for those who teach that sanctification is a work that we do by the enabling of the Spirit…” (God-Centered Sanctification, Jude 1, by Don Fortner, grace-for-today.com/430.htm)
|In reply, yes the Bible is God-cen”Sovereign Grace” and “Responsible Grace?” “Since all are predestined to heaven or hespan style=”font-size: 12pt; font-family:
ll, why evangelize?”tr
quot;;”tered, but not God-imbalanced, man-irresponsible, or man-neglectful! Yet, specific passages may be God-centered, or man-centered. When the text uses the pronoun “He” it often refers to God. But, the pronouns “you,” “we,” and “us” often refer to humans. Just preach what is in the text.
|Fortner’s Hyper-Calvinist claims quoted above can be tested by any baby Christian able to do a simple, topical word study with a Bible and concordance…|
(Want to see another chart? Try doing a topical concordance, word study on “works” in the New Testament. Then, divide your chart into 2 columns: Bad Works vs. Good Works. Liberals deny or minimize bad works, self-righteous works. While Hyper-Calvinists deny or minimize good works, works of faith.)
In conclusion, may I ask you, “How balanced is your teaching? And, how balanced is your life? How fully do you obey? How often do you pray? And, how often do you evangelize?
More of ‘Responsible Grace’ and ‘The Doctrines of Responsibility’
Many Calvinists are gluttons for “sovereign grace,” while suffering malnourishment for faithful obedience. It’s time they focused more on “the doctrines of responsibility,” and “responsible grace.”
Enough glorying in “the doctrines of grace.” It’s time to grow up, and glory in Christ. Let’s major on the major (the gospel,) more than the minors (Calvinism, etc.)
No doubt, the message God used to transform the 1st century world was the gospel about Jesus Christ Himself: He lived, died, rose, ascended, and will return. All other truths (like Calvinism) were like mere planets orbiting the glorious sun (the gospel.)
Calvinism has far too often been over-systematized, denominationalized, and idolatrized, until devolving into Half-Truth Hyper-Calvinism! One solution to preserve the balance between sovereignty-responsibility, is to consider teaching “Calvinism” exegetically-expositorily (each point isolated) instead of systematically-topically (all 5 points together: T.U.L.I.P.)
Before you balk too loud, be careful not to also criticize Christ and the apostles. Remember, they never systematized the 5 points into T.U.L.I.P. Consider their example (and results!)
Why Some Arminians Witness, Pray, & Obey
Have you ever wondered why some Arminians evangelize more than some Calvinists? One reason is they’re more focused on doing (practice,) than thinking (doctrine.) We need both. Arminians need more doctrine, and Calvinists need more practice.
So, if you’re a Calvinist struggling with lack of desire to evangelize, obey, or pray, it’s probably due to 1 of 2 problems: Either a sin problem or a doctrinal (sin) problem. And, if there’s no unrepentant sin in your life, then consider your doctrine. Do you think and talk more about God’s sovereignty than actually doing?
The perfect example of balancing God’s sovereignty with human responsibility is the life of Jesus Christ. He lived on earth, as fully God and fully man. Although, He understood His Father’s sovereignty, still He believed, obeyed, prayed, evangelized, and persevered to the end.
That’s right, even God the Son had to believe, obey, pray, evangelize, and persevere. So do you and I, right? Therefore, let us walk as He walked. Follow Him.
The 11 Points of Anti-Hyper-Calvinism
Most of the following verses on human responsibility are imperatives (prescriptions,) while some are indicatives (descriptions.) For both, the action must be done by you, not God.
These 11 points are not to be understood as conscious steps to salvation. Rather, they will flow naturally from a regenerated heart…
1. Seek- You must seek God, or you will not be saved.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found.” (Is. 55:6-7)
“He…has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:26-27, cf. 15:17)
2. Choose/Will- You must choose Christ, or you will not be saved.
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; choose life, that both you and your descendents may live; that you may love the Lord your God” (Deut. 30:19)
“You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves to serve Him.” (Josh. 24:22; cf. Jn. 7:17)
3. Come- You must come to Christ, or you will not be saved.
“Come to Me, all you who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest.” Mt. 11:28)
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mt. 19:21)
“Again, he sent out other servants, saying,’…Come to the wedding.’” (Mt. 22:4)
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (Jn. 7:37;
“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me’…” (Mt. 19:14)
4. Call- You must call on God, or you will not be saved.
“Call upon Him while He is near.” (Is. 55:6-7)
“…whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21; c.f. Rom. 10:13; Joel 2:21)
5. Repent- You must repent from your sins, or you will not be saved.
“John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
“unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Lk. 13:3)
“Repent,and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission off sins.” (Acts 2:38)
“Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19)
“Repent therefore, of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may bee forgiven you.” (Acts 8:22)
“these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30)
“I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mt. 9:13)
“So they went out and preached that people should repent.” (Mk. 6:12)
6. Believe- You must believe on Christ, or you will not be saved.
“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (Jn. 6:28-29
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)
“that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth…” (2 Th. 2:12)
7. Pray- You must pray.
“Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mt. 5:44)
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” (Mt. 6:6-9)
“Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Mt. 9:38)
“And, pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.” (Mt. 24:20)
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. (Mt. 26:41)
“Take heed, watch and pray for you do not know when the time is.” (Mk. 13:33)
“Then, He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Lk. 18:1)
“Be…continuing steadfastly in prayer” Rom. 12:12)
“strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” (Rom. 15:30)
“praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18)
“but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6)
“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2)
“pray without ceasing” (1 Th. 5:17)
“Brethren, pray for us.” (1 Th. 5:25)
“pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified” (2 Th. 3:1)
“I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1 Tim. 2:1)
“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands” (1 Tim. 2:8)
“Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience” (Heb. 13:18)
‘Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” (Jas. 5:13-16)
8. Evangelize- You must evangelize sinners.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Mt. 28:19-20)
“always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15)
9. Obey- You must obey, or you will not be saved (glorified.)
“in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospelof our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Th. 1:8)
“He became the author of salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9)
“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:20)
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34)
“If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15)
“These things I command you, that you love one another.’ (Jn. 15:17)
“these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30)
10. Persevere- You must persevere, or you will not be saved (glorified.)
“But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mt. 10:22, 24:13)
“For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” (Rom. 11:20-22)
“the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:1-2)
“And you…now He has reconciled…to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard” (Col. 1:22-23)
“If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” (2 Tim. 2:12)
“Christ…whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” (Heb. 3:6)
“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” (Heb. 3:14; cf. Jn. 8:31, 15:6; 1 Cor. 9:25-27; Heb. 2:2-3, 6:4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-21; Rev. 22:19)
11. Accountability- You are accountable for your sins, both in this life, and on the Judgment Day.
“whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of he Lord. But let a man examine himself…For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (1 Cor. 11:27-32)
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10)
“And the dead were judged according to their works…” (Rev. 20:12)
More Bible studies related to Hyper-Calvinism from
“The Bible’s Main Message Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ Himself”
“Calvinism, Arminianism, So What?”
“Why Limited Atonement Is Not Part of the Gospel”