I have noticed a troubling movement among Fullerite Calvinists to redefine Hyper-Calvinism as being any viewpoint which rejects their view on the atonement* and duty faith (including many traditional 5-point Calvinists and other Predestinarians). Thus, a common attack against Primitive Baptists in recent years has been that we are Hyper-Calvinists.
Many mainstream Fullerite Calvinists have made this a personal vendetta. Countless blog entries and Youtube videos are out there promoting a very narrow definition (and I say a REDEFINED description) of Hyper-Calvinism. The Wikipedia entry on Hypercalvinism has been rewritten in such a way, reflecting the very bias and condemnatory opinion of the writer (at least as of June 2010). There was even a local Fullerite Baptist church which hosted a conference last year in north Alabama entitled the “Quagmire of Hyper-Calvinism.”
I want to share a very thorough definition of Hyper-Calvinism I acquired from Monergism.com with you and contrast the views of historic Hyper-Calvinists with the views of mainstream Primitive Baptists. My comments will be as brief as possible. Also, I have added numbers to each individual article so that my comments can follow.
Monergism.com defines Hyper-Calvinism as follows:
1 – that God is the author of sin and of evil
2 – that men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect
3 – that the number of the elect at any time may be known by men
4 – that it is wrong to evangelize
5 – that assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith
6 – that men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do
7 – that God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others
8 – that the children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned
9 – that God does not command everyone to repent
10 – that the sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone.
11 – that the true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church
12 – that the Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church.
13 – that no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority
14 – that the grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men
15 – that saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination
16 – that only Calvinists are Christians (Neo-gnostic Calvinism)
I will now take each article individually and contrast the Hyper-Calvinist views, as presented, to Primitive Baptist beliefs.
1. God is the author of sin – Primitive Baptists not only deny this, but actually abhor this doctrine. There have been minorities of fatalistic determinists among Primitive Baptists in the last two centuries called “absolute predestinarians” (subscribing to the absolute predestination of all things) who held this view, but they were rejected by mainstream Primitive Baptists and are nearly extinct.
2. Men have no will of their own – Primitive Baptists believe men do indeed have a will of their own. We are made in God’s own image. God has a will. Therefore, we must have a will. We do believe in, as scripture teaches, total depravity and that a man’s will is determined by his nature. Prior to regeneration his nature is totally evil and corrupt because of Adam’s original sin. Thus, natural men cannot “will” to serve Jesus Christ. Yet, after Regeneration (when God gives a new nature) the individual’s will is quite different, and he chooses (wills) between a path of obedience or disobedience.
3. The number of the elect at any time may be known by men – Primitive Baptists certainly do not believe this. Only God knows the scope of His elect. We do know, through scripture, that the elect are out of every nation, kindred, and tongue. However, we do not pretend to be able to identify each of God’s elect at any given time.
4. It is wrong to evangelize – Primitive Baptists believe very strongly in evangelism. What we reject, is the machinery of modern missions, which replaces the influence and enabling of the Spirit with mission boards and money. We also believe that the purpose of evangelism is to educate God’s elect of their salvation, but reject the idea that only evangelized people can be the elect and also the idea that the gospel is the instrument of regeneration. We hold to the belief of “Immediate Spirit Regeneration,” ie regeneration without a mediator. The Spirit regenerates by God’s Grace. Then, the gospel converts such a person to the truth. Primitive Baptists have been blessed to evangelize in modern times in Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Mexico, and the Philippines.
5. Assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith – I have never heard such among our people. We require fruits of repentance prior to baptism and church membership, yet this idea of assurance prior to repentance and faith is confusing at best.
6. Men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do – Primitive Baptists maintain that God’s word teaches God’s children are secure in Jesus Christ regardless of their life’s outcome. There are many examples of good men who fell into gross sin. Some, such as David, repented. Others, such as Solomon and Lot did not. Yet we know they are all in Glory today through Jesus Christ. We do believe there have been so called “false professors,” such as Judas Iscariot, but reject the fear tactic of scaring people into obedience through the accusation of being false. Please see number 3.
7. God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others – Again, Primitive Baptists believe that God has a people OUT OF every nation, kindred, and tongue.
8. The children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned – This is lunacy and no Primitive Baptist believes such. Most Primitive Baptists lean towards the idea that all dying in infancy are elect, and have died early due to persecution and afflictions that elect people experience.
9. God does not command everyone to repent – This depends on the definition of repent. God certainly does not call upon ANYONE to become Spiritually alive of their own power. Christ calls His children out of death and places them into life in Christ. But, this is Lazarus like. We are dead, then the Spirit quickens and we are instantaneously made alive. Yet, this applies only to elect people. Calling upon people to turn from sin, however, is general. We call upon everyone to cease from sinning.
10. The sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone – I am assuming that “sacraments” here means the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We do in fact deny that the ordinances are means of salvation. This is purely scriptural. However, we certainly do not believe they are obstacles to salvation (by GRACE alone).
11. The true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church – Primitive Baptists believe that the true church is a subgroup within the elect (sometimes called the Militant Church), who have been called by the gospel, been baptized, and follow Christ as disciples. The true church is known by her ordinances, doctrine, and practices. We reject the idea of Ecumenism. However, though the church is full of saved people, it does not give eternal salvation. Eternal life is to all of God’s children, regardless of their interaction with the true church. Finally, the church is a place where people are saved from “this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).
12. The Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church – I am sure this definition made more sense in the age of Catholic power and brutality. We believe the church is known by her doctrine. Primitive Baptist Articles of Faith generally agree on fundamental doctrines. To be a Primitive Baptist church in good fellowship with other PB churches, there must be agreement on these crucial points. However, the true church lacks a central governing body. Each local church answers directly to Christ. So, no universal dictate can emanate from “the church.”
13. No government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority – This is certainly not the view of Primitive Baptists. We believe in a separation of Church and State, yet we seek leaders who are guided by Biblical principles. We do, however, believe we ought to obey God rather than men. Accordingly, laws which violate God’s laws are to be disregarded (see Daniel, Peter and John, etc). Laws which do not violate God’s laws are to be obeyed.
14. The grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men – Primitive Baptists believe the grace of God that “bringeth salvation” is only for the betterment of the elect. However, God does indeed act graciously to all men in general. This is revealed daily in nature. The rain falls upon the just and the unjust, so all are the beneficiaries of His Gracious Mercy upon His creation. However, as noted above, salvation by Grace is only for God’s elect.
15. Saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination – Primitive Baptists do not use the terminology of “saving faith.” We believe faith comes in regeneration, apart from man’s free will or any human instrumentality. Jesus Christ alone is the author and finisher of our faith. This “faith” is a gift, upon which all biblical knowledge is built (ie, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge). Knowledge of sound doctrine (such as predestination) is achieved through studying God’s word BY FAITH.
16. Only Calvinists are Christians – By Calvinist I assume they mean Predestinarian (we are not descendants of Calvin). We do deny Ecumenism, thus rejecting the idea that anything called “Christian” is the true church (see number 11), we do not assume that only Predestinarians are the only ones who should be considered Christian. We most certainly do not believe that only Predestinarians are saved.
The main place of similarity between Primitive Baptists and Hyper-Calvinists is admittedly in the area of evangelism and duty faith. Regardless of the frequent ridicule on this subject, God’s Word declares that only a soft, regenerated heart can receive the word and that a natural man rejects the Word as foolishness. Faith, therefore, is a product of the New Birth rather than the cause. Aside from this, as illustrated above, we have very little in common with traditional Hyper-Calvinists.
I am convinced that HC is a term of ridicule used by Fullerite Calvinists as a defense for the poor scriptural support for their position.
* Fullerites claim to believe in limited atonement (particular redemption), yet subscribe to Andrew Fuller’s view of a more universal atonement, rather than the historic Baptist view that redemption was particular for the elect only.