Brandan's note (May 2022): I wrote this article in 2004 and I still stand by everything that is written here. Thanks for reading!
I have a confession to make. I'm a hyper-calvinist. Yes, that's right, I'm one of those people; you know the type that hates everyone, refuses to preach the Gospel, hates God’s Holy law, breathes fire, and eats nails for breakfast . Anyway, it's not a label I’ve chosen for myself, it’s just that most people in the religious world would label me as such. Usually, there are many negative connotations that are implied in this label and it's not hard to pick up on them in the tones of the voices who slap this label on me. When I jump on Paltalk for a friendly conversation about the Bible and theology, it's a rare occasion when I don't hear a sneering individual boldly claim, "You're a hyper-calvinisssssssssssssssssst!"
You would think that with all the shrill exclamations there is something very terrible about my beliefs. But from my perspective, I don't understand what the big deal is and indeed think there are serious problems with those who would oppose these doctrines which I hold in high esteem. Since you might have heard a lot of bad things about hyper-calvinists, please allow me to explain what I believe, and then you can decide if it is as bad as you have heard. Since this is not a paper designed to teach basic bible truth, I haven’t taken the time to prove my theology with Scripture. That’s not to say I haven’t based my beliefs on the Bible, it’s just that I haven’t taken the time to look up all the proof texts for my beliefs in order to include them in this paper. If you want proof, feel free to contact me and I’ll provide you with the Scriptural proof you request.
I’ve been called a hyper-calvinist for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is I simply believe in Sovereign Grace. In other words, I believe that God is sovereign over salvation and that only those that were elected to salvation before the foundation of the world will experience salvation. They experience salvation not because of what they do or desire, but because of God’s will. Salvation from beginning to end is entirely an act of Grace. There are a lot of people who believe this truth, and many of them are simply known as “Calvinists.” Yet many people who think men have “free will” call this belief hyper-calvinism. Most people in the Calvinistic world are quick to point out that this belief is traditional Calvinism and not hyper-calvinism.
Equal ultimacy and the order of the decrees
I’ve been called a hyper-calvinist because I believe in a doctrine called equal ultimacy. This doctrine is also known as double predestination. Equal ultimacy is the teaching that just as God elected to save a number of people before the foundation of the world He also elected to damn a number of people before the foundation of the world through reprobation. This belief is usually tied to supralapsarianism as opposed to infralapsarianism. Supralapsarianism is the doctrine that the events of history were brought about by God for no other reason other than these events are a fulfillment of His decree to glorify Himself and that these events are brought about as a means to an end. This is also known as Absolute Predestination. In other words, God decreed all the events of the world including the fall of men, redemption, damnation, every drop of rain, every word uttered by men, and every grunt made by beast all before the foundation of the world in order to bring about His desired result. I believe that God predestined His elect to fall in Adam so that they would be saved in Christ.
Most calvinists today are infralapsarians and they believe that God decreed to send Christ and save His people because of the fall. In the infralapsarian scheme God chooses to save individuals out of the mass of fallen humanity and then passes over the rest of humanity in reprobation. Infralapsarians usually claim to be against equal ultimacy, but it is my opinion that they cannot logically escape the conclusion that “passing over” is the same as “not electing” which is really election to the negative. It is my opinion that infralapsarianism is really a scheme of selection and not the biblical doctrine of election. Infralapsarians are often found to be opposed to supralapsarianism because they usually believe that supralapsarianism makes God the “author of sin.” What I find odd about that phrase is that it is nowhere to be found in Scripture, yet it’s a phrase that is often guarded like a sacred cow not to be touched. For the record, I do not believe evil and sin originate in the character of God but that He predestined these events for His purposes. It is impossible for God to sin, so I really don’t see what the big deal is. If you want a good definition of sin or evil, just look to God for the definitions as these things are the exact opposite of His Holy Nature. While infralapsarians often accuse supralapsarians with charging God as the “author of sin,” supralapsarians can equally charge infralapsarians with believing that God allowed sin to happen and did nothing to stop it! If I had to pick which one was worse based solely on logic, I’d have to conclude the infralapsarian scheme is because it depicts God with not getting what He wanted and without power to stop something He did not predestine. Infralapsarians also have difficulty explaining where sin came from and sometimes refer to a strange doctrine known as eternal law that exists outside of God which God Himself is bound to obey. I don’t know where any scriptural foundation for this strange belief is found, so you’ll have to ask an infralapsarian that believes in these things to explain this for you if you’re interested. It is my belief that God is the eternal law if there is such a thing.
Obviously there are major differences between supralapsarians and infralapsarians and many of them I have not covered in this paper, so please accept my description as only a cursory introduction to the uninitiated. It’s also not uncommon for infralapsarians to label supralapsarians as hyper-calvinists; but, alas, there are more doctrines which will also earn this badge of honor.
Common Grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel?
Many traditional and most modern Calvinists have maintained the strange Arminian doctrine that God loves every single human being and desires that every single person“be saved.” This belief has been called by theologians as “common grace” combined with the “free or well meant / sincere offer of the Gospel.” There are so many things that are wrong with these doctrines that it’s hard to know where to begin in my attempt to show why this is wrong. First of all, those of us who are known as hyper-calvinists believe that those that God elected unto salvation were indeed saved by Christ in His life, death, and resurrection. When we think of salvation, we think of it as a past event – an event that we look upon in awe. When Christ uttered the words, “It is finished,” we believe all that was necessary to save His people was truly accomplished. When we speak of “being saved” in this lifetime, we only mean this in an experimental sense. Because of the misuse of the terminology, we prefer to speak of experimental salvation as regeneration, sanctification, and conversion. Furthermore, because of this understanding of salvation being a past event which took place on the cross, we find it odd that God would desire the salvation of those for whom He did not die for and have already been predestined to eternal damnation! We also believe the notion that God loves the reprobate profanes the idea that Christ loves the Church in the same way that a husband loves his bride. Imagine a groom telling his bride, “I love you, but I also love these other women and even desire to marry them, but I love you in a special way.” The idea is repulsive to brides everywhere, and so it should be to the people of God because the New Testament explicitly describes Christ’s relationship to the Church in the example of a husband and his wife.
Further, we also believe that God does not “offer” salvation to God’s people in the sense that it is something that can be accepted or rejected; but in time God sends His Holy Spirit upon His elect and reveals to them the total depravity of their soul, their utter need for a Savior; and then points them to Christ as their substitute causing them to believe this wonderful gift, this marvelous GRACE is for them. The Gospel message is a proclamation that is spoken to men indiscriminately. It is a message of salvation accomplished. If you ask a hyper-calvinist what role faith played in their salvation, they will tell it is a precious gift granted by God to give them understanding and that their faith is evidence that Christ has made satisfaction for them. Furthermore, they will tell you that faith did not play a role in attaining salvation for them as that was accomplished in Christ; but that it is the means through which they experienced and continue to experience salvation. Yet, if you talked to many modern calvinists, many will respond that faith is a condition that is necessary for attaining salvation. Do you see the difference? One group sees salvation as totally dependent upon Christ and His finished work of redemption with faith as the evidence of this work; whereas the other group sees salvation as something started by Christ and His work but ultimately dependent upon His work in His people. To hyper-calvinists like me, we have difficulty distinguishing between the Roman Catholic dogma of infused righteousness and the idea that faith is necessary for procuring salvation. While we don’t deny that God’s elect will all eventually be regenerated, receive saving faith, and brought to their knees in obedience and humility, we do deny that these things are conditions that must be met before God can pour out His grace on an individual!
In the calvinistic world since the introduction of the “modern question” known as “duty-faith,” those that affirm the doctrine have usually labeled those who have opposed it as hyper-calvinists. So what exactly is duty-faith? Duty-Faith is the doctrine that often is tied to common grace and the free offer of the gospel; and it asserts that every human being has a duty to savingly believe the Gospel. While those of us who deny this doctrine do believe that every person who hears the Gospel has a duty as God’s creation to bow before Christ and give Him the glory that He rightly deserves as their Creator, we do not believe it is their duty to have the precious gift of saving faith. How in the world is a reprobate individual duty-bound to believe something is true for him when it is not? Their only duty is to lay down their arms in rebellion and submit to His authority. Moreover, an individual cannot be required to believe that Christ died for him when Christ did not and in fact has already predestined him to damnation before the foundation of the world. I do not believe faith is a work of duty as the neonomians teach; but instead it is a gift that is experienced by God’s people in time. Those that do not have faith will not be held accountable for not believing the Gospel is true for them, but they will be held accountable for disobeying the Gospel call to lay down their arms and submit to Christ as Lord. Often the charge of denying human responsibility is thrown at hyper-calvinists, but we simply believe that God is responsible for all of salvation including the gift of faith. The notion of human responsibility is foreign to our thinking concerning salvation and we cannot find mention of it in Scripture.
To sanctify something means to set something apart. I believe that the sanctification of God’s people originally took place in eternity when God separated the elect from the reprobate. In time, the elect experience cleansing from sin and consecration for service to God. This is a continuous event with a definite starting point in time; but there are many today that teach Christians continue to progress in holiness over time. While it is true that Christians do grow in spiritual knowledge and maturity, it is not true that they achieve greater or lesser holiness as they live out their lives. A Christian is not any more sanctified if he does more good works for the day, nor is he any less sanctified if he fails to keep his good works for the day as many modern day calvinists teach. What those who teach the doctrine of progressive sanctification fail to realize is that Christ is the sanctification for every Christian. Every Christian’s holiness is complete in Christ and their sanctification is held securely by Him! Sanctification is entirely a work of Grace. Christ’s perfect holiness – His perfect obedience is the surety every elect child of God needs and has to be viewed with pleasure by their Father in Heaven. Good works are not necessary to earn the pleasure of God as He is already pleased with His children based on Christ’s merit alone. Usually those who maintain that the Christian is responsible for progressing in sanctification call those who disagree with them hyper-calvinists. We believe in “continuous sanctification” not “progressive sanctification.” There is a big difference in this terminology!
Justification by Christ Alone and Justification from Eternity
If you mention that God has thought of His elect as righteous from before the foundation of the world in Christ, you’re probably going to be called a hyper-calvinist. It is the common understanding in the calvinistic world that God’s condemnation rested upon every child of God either up until God removed that condemnation at the cross or at conversion. Those that believe actual condemnation is removed at conversion call those who believe condemnation is removed at the cross hyper-calvinists. It is my belief that condemnation has never rested upon God’s elect; but that they only suffer the consequences of condemnation (not knowing Christ) for a time before their conversion. In this sense, all Christians were at one point “children of wrath,” but God’s wrath never actually rested upon them nor were they ever hated by their Father. They were never in real danger of falling into hell, and they have always been held securely in His sovereign hand by His grace, even before conversion. To say that God’s elect were ever in danger of falling into hell is to suggest that God’s decrees are not absolute! God has decreed that each and every one of His elect would be saved by Christ and this decree was efficacious. Further, how is it that God can set His love upon anyone that is not seen as perfectly righteous? It is impossible as God hates the wicked. Many have clamored that justification before time eliminates the need for the cross. My reply is that God saw His elect as righteous due to imputation that took place in eternity with a view to Christ’s work on the cross as if it had already happened. God is transcendent of time; indeed, He is the creator of time, and sees all of it at once – from the beginning to the end. Therefore, it is my opinion that this doctrine is implicitly taught in Scripture and that all of salvation including sanctification, justification, adoption, and even glorification has already occurred from God’s perspective. Christians are temporal creatures and have yet to experience glorification, but we know that God already sees us as glorified saints. There is an already / not-yet aspect of salvation, and this has existed from the foundation of the world – yes, even before the elect were even created in time!
Assurance by Grace Alone through Faith Alone
How does a Christian receive assurance that He is numbered amongst the elect and that Christ has made satisfaction for him? This is easy, but believe it or not the answer will often draw the charge of hyper-calvinism! The answer is that assurance and faith are inexorably tied to one another. If a person has faith that Christ has made satisfaction for him, then this individual should also have hope and assurance that they are saved. While I believe there are degrees of assurance, for example, there may be times in the Christian’s life that his assurance may seem weak or completely non-existent. Yet if the believer finds that his assurance has vanished, he can always rest upon the hope that God gives all of His children in sanctification and conversion. If an individual has ever communed with Christ, that is he has enjoyed fellowship with Christ and has experienced the joy of having his sins removed, then quite simply, his hope based on certainty should produce assurance that his status has not changed at all. Christ does not remove his promises based on the performance of the individual, nor will He take away an individual’s assurance based on their performance. Furthermore, Christ does not commune with unbelievers! Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ, and that includes my own actions as well. Yet there are some that teach you need to do good works in order to know that you’re a Christian. What these people fail to realize is that a Christian who has experienced Grace will be irresistibly moved toward obedience. His heart will be overrun with joy and he will not be able to help but perform good works in service to his Savior. Yet, the Christian does not rejoice in his works as he sees them as filthy rags. He realizes that he can never compete with Christ, the perfect standard of righteousness. He brings all that he has to the table, but realizes his standing before God is perfect based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. As a Christian, if I had to determine if I was a Christian or not based upon my works of obedience, I’d have to conclude I am not a Christian.
The Christian’s Rule of Living is not the Law
Christ’s redemption of His people was not just a simple transfer of individuals to glorification, but it is something to be experienced in time. Every one of His precious elect will experience sinning in the likeness of Adam and being redeemed in the same manner as Adam. There is a point in every Christian’s life where he realizes he is utterly unable to live up to the perfect standard of God’s law. He recognizes experientially that his righteousness is as filthy rags and there is nothing that distinguishes him from any other awful person in this world. Like Adam, he realizes he stands before God as a naked sinner with absolutely no ability to please his Creator. Yet also like Adam, God clothes him and points him to Christ as His righteousness! This experience is an act that is entirely an act of God’s Sovereign Grace, and requires no assistance on behalf of the newly regenerate individual. At this point, there are some who will now saddle the new believer with all sorts of rules and regulations such as, “do not touch,” “do not eat,” “follow the ten commandments.” Instead of pointing the new believer to Christ as the individual’s sole rule for living, it is popular instead to point them away from Christ to the Decalogue. As a hyper-calvinist, I’m completely opposed to this because I believe the Bible teaches that Christ fulfilled all of the law on behalf of His people and that our motivation for living is not to be found on tablets of stone, but in Christ who has taken up residence in every Christian. The Christian’s life is one of experiencing Christ and Him crucified! It is about daily communion with one’s Savior and resting upon Him as the fulfillment of all obedience necessary to please God. It's about walking with Christ and emulating His earthly walk. There is no need to point an individual to the law as the law is wrapped up in Christ. No believer is free from the law, nor does he desire to break the law in which he delights; but it is wrong to point a believer to the law as a rule for living as it takes the believer’s eyes off of Christ. Motivation to obey Christ and His commandments must flow from the influence of the Holy Spirit working gratitude for Christ, love for Christ, and desire to serve Christ. I don’t pray or try to honor my Lord because it’s “the law” or because “I have to,” but because I love Christ and am thankful for His work of redemption for me. I am motivated solely because of my relationship with Christ, not because I perceive myself to be under some sort of law.
The New Testament teaches that every aspect of salvation is secured for the believer by Christ Alone. This includes justification, sanctification, hope, and assurance. Because of Christ’s ransom, believers are now slaves to Christ and have freely given everything to Him. Christ is the center of the believer’s life, and this center includes being the rule for living. The law was not given as a “rule of living” to begin with and its purpose was to shine light on sin and shut people up in Christ. The law was given as a “curse” in order to increase the transgressions of those to whom it was given. Nobody but Christ could ever meet the demands of the law. The good news of the Gospel is not only did Christ atone for the sins of the elect, but that He met the demands of the law for His people and freely imputes the righteousness wrought through His obedience to every one of His sheep. He is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes and there is no righteousness to be found at all by any works of obedience to the law. Further, the Bible teaches that all Christians are “dead to the law by the body of Christ.” When Christ died, as far as the law of God is concerned, the Christian is dead as well. The law can make no demands or requirements upon the Christian. The only thing it brings is misery to the Christian who would ignorantly place himself under it.
Hyper-calvinists usually stand dogmatically against all who would oppose this doctrine. The rationale is that a person who turns to the law would be robbing Christ the glory of His grace and would make a part of salvation dependent upon obedience to the law. The believer who turns to the law will be robbed of the joy of faith, assurance, and even service to Christ. As mentioned earlier, there are some who teach that assurance is based upon obedience, and ultimately will end in works of obligation instead of works of love. This doctrine often draws the charge of antinomianism because of the assumed notion that Christ’s people have no motivation for obedience. It is reasoned by many religionists today that men are able to keep the law with Christ’s help; but these are the real antinomians because they lower God’s law to their ability to keep the law and thus attempt to destroy the high standard God requires – perfection.
Christ Alone, Grace Alone, and Faith Alone
Ultimately, if you affirm that every aspect of salvation is accomplished entirely by Christ alone because of God’s sovereign grace alone and experienced solely through the gift of faith, you will probably at some point in your life be labeled a hyper-calvinist. At first this charge might cause you grief because you might have and probably have heard a lot of bad stuff concerning “hyper-calvinism.” You might have heard that there are “mean old hypers” that don’t believe in preaching the gospel at all. It is true there have been some people in history who have made this mistake. There are others who have turned God’s grace into a cause for lasciviousness as well as some who have stated that men are saved to glorification but not necessarily the experience of salvation in time. These are ugly errors that should draw the charge of false doctrine, but not necessarily hyper-calvinism. Almost all of the authors I admire: John Gill, J.C. Philpot, William Gadsby, William Huntington, Augustus Toplady, Gilbert Beebe and Silas Durand to name a few are considered by most to have been hyper-calvinists, but none as far as I’m concerned stood by the errors previously mentioned. These men were honorable Gospel stewards and deserve our respect, and to be numbered amongst them is in my mind to be considered an honor. So while I specifically don’t approve of the label, “hyper-calvinist,” as I personally do not believe that the doctrines of grace have any business being named after a man, I am honored to be known as such. That is my confession, and I call upon all who agree with the doctrines briefly described in this paper to make this confession as well.
Brandan Kraft - 11/28/2004