by Mike Ratliff
11 ”Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11 NASB)
At a former church in Oklahoma in 1997 I donated a great deal of my free time to rewire the office areas for network access, configured the networking gear they had and helped them get their peer-to-peer network operational. Not long after that, the church staff had the pastor’s secretary call me to come up to the church after work, which I did. When I got there, they presented me with a gift in gratitude. It was a John MacArthur Study Bible, which had just been released on the market. I still have it. One Sunday not long after this, I was talking with some fellow deacons in between services. One noticed my new Bible and told me that John MacArthur was a Hyper-Calvinist. That was actually the first time I had ever heard that term so I was not sure what he meant. I was not even sure what Calvinism was. I had never heard of the term Arminianism either.
A lot has changed since then. When I began studying doctrine I kept running into the vestiges of some very intense debates between Arminians and Calvinists. I studied them both and discovered that my own theology (such as it was) was simply a mishmash of both systems. I think this is the state of most Southern Baptists since doctrine is so lightly taught and, therefore, not understood well across the majority of the churches in that denomination. Over several months of study, prayer, and repentance, I came to the place where I became a five-point Calvinist. It was tough. When I began blogging and participating in “discussions” across the Internet about these things, I experienced my first taste of ridicule, accusation, and outright hostility because I was a Calvinist. The term Hyper-Calvinist was “hurled” a great deal against all Reformed believers in those discussions. To be honest, I was not prepared for that.
I did more research and found excellent resources at Monergism.com, A Puritans Mind, and many others that had scholarly articles that laid out the differences between Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, Calvinism, and Hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism interested me quite a bit because of the accusations. It was as I studied it that I saw clearly that it was not genuine Calvinism at all and, in fact, was the culprit behind the ending of the Great Awakening in the mid-18th Century. Follow this link to a fine article that clearly lays out what Hyper-Calvinism really is. It was also through this study that I saw that true Calvinism is highly evangelical. No one would argue that Charles Spurgeon was a Hyper-Calvinist since he was called the “Prince of Preachers” and preached the gospel fervently until his death. However, He was a 5-point Calvinist as was John Broadus and Asahel Nettlton. John MacArthur is no Hyper-Calvinist either.
What each of us should do who are Calvinists is examine ourselves to see if we are leaning too far towards the hyper side of Reformed theology. We must never forget that God created a system of salvation based on His Sovereignty while Man is still responsible to repent and believe. We are under orders to make disciples from all nations. We elect no one. That is God’s purview not ours. Just as we deny that people are saved through “decisional regeneration” we also deny that people are saved through “doctrinal regeneration.”
I am amazed when I run across a person who is just as I was before 2004 when God changed everything. Their spiritual immaturity is amazingly blind. This makes them vulnerable to all sorts of bad theology and wrong focus as those who know how to manipulate people do so within them with a vengeance. Their devotion to their local church or denomination is idolatrous and their pride in belonging to their “group” who believes just like them is the evidence of that blindness. I am speaking from my own experience here my brethren. I remember very well what I was like back then. I also remember very well as I was awakened from that spiritual confusion how many who I thought were my friends became quite vicious with me, calling me a Hyper-Calvinist, as I told them the truth. What struck me about that though was that they had no basis for their wrath. They could not give me a concrete reason for their resistance let alone any scripture to back up why they hated Reformed Theology so. The reason is, of course, that they were ensnared by the idol of Free Will. It keeps its victims in ignorance because any serious study of God’s Word reveals the fallacy of it. It is very similar to the idol of Hyper-Calvinism, however; in its case, the blinding mechanism is doctrinal pride rather then ignorance.
My brethren, as I stated above, we should examine ourselves and repent of what God shows us. Let us forsake doctrinal pride of any type. We are nothing nor can we do anything good outside of God’s grace as we abide in Christ (John 15).
Soli Deo Gloria!