Calvinism versus Hyper-Calvinism
In a previous Chapter (Summary of Calvinism and Arminianism), we looked at the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism. Over the years, the word "Calvinist" had developed a large number of meanings. This has created a great deal of confusion and problems.
A Calvinist, 400 years ago, was someone who adhered to the teachings of John Calvin. A central theme these people dearly embraced back then was the doctrine of selective salvation. This was the original definition of Calvinism and it still holds true today.
As a general rule, a group’s name usually belongs to the group that has historically held the title. This is especially true when the original belief is still being held by a large group of people. The present day "Calvinist" still holds to the core beliefs of the historical Calvinist.
Today, we have two basic groups who call themselves "Calvinists." The first group of people are those who still hold to the core teachings of John Calvin, especially selective salvation. The second group of people are those who strongly oppose Arminianism. They believe a person can’t work their way to Heaven and can’t lose their salvation (common teaching of Arminianism). Since Calvinism is often viewed as being the "opposite" of Arminianism, they think they must be Calvinists. This belief is reinforced by the teachings of some of the true Calvinists. Following are some of their statements:
As you can see, an "either-or" picture is being painted. Either you are an Arminian who is "not following the Bible" or you’re a doctrinally sound Calvinist. (Look at the Chapters Are You a Calvinist, Arminian, or in-between? and This is not an Attack for more information about the "either-or" polarization.) As a result, many people call themselves Calvinists, even though they are not true Calvinists.
The people in the second group do not believe in selective salvation. They believe salvation is open to all people. Interestingly, this second group of people has developed a new word for the true Calvinists: Hyper-Calvinists. They make it sound like the true Calvinists have added something extra to their doctrine that makes them "hyper" or extreme. In reality, those in the first group of people are the ones who have remained faithful to the original tenants of Calvinism.
Are the people in the second group actually Calvinists? No, of course not. They can, of course, call themselves Calvinists, if they want. A person has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If a person wants to call himself a Calvinist, even though he doesn’t adhere to the main doctrine of Calvinism, he can do it. It’s like a person who believes in God calling himself an "atheist." He has the right to do that, but it would cause a great deal of confusion.
It doesn’t really matter to me what people call themselves. I am, however, concerned about the problems this confusion produces. In the chapter Why is this Issue Important, I talk about these problems. I point out unless a person is truly convinced God wants everyone to be saved, he will not sacrifice to reach unsaved people with the gospel. Selective Salvationists counter this argument by saying "Calvinists" have had, and still have, the largest missionary outreach of all Protestant groups. Therefore, they say, the doctrine of Selective Salvation actually increases missionary efforts, not diminishes it.
Selective Salvationists do have missionaries, but its size is not very large. The reason Selective Salvationists say they have the largest missionary outreach is because they include all of the other churches who mistakenly call themselves "Calvinists." If you do not include all of these churches, the number of missionaries teaching selective salvation is greatly reduced.
I want to point out again (as I did in the chapter This is not an Attack) I am not trying to criticize or attack a person who is a true Calvinist. I think it is important, however, to clear up this misunderstanding. I believe the doctrine of selective salvation produces complacency and I think people are going to Hell because of it. I firmly believe the fates of billions of people are affected by this doctrine.
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