Believers in Christ have existed from Adam’s time to ours. At some point they were known as children of Abraham or Israelites. In New Testament times they were known as people of “The Way” (Acts 9:2). Later
they would be called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). Names were given after pioneers of a new theological emphasis (e.g. Christian) or after a new point of emphasis (e.g. The Way). Yet all were given for purposes of identification. So, came the Roman Catholics, the Reformers, the Arminians, the Calvinists and Hyper-Calvinists. This issue of Reformation Zambia devotes itself to three prevalent views on the Doctrines of Grace between the 1500 and 1800, these being Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism. Philosophically defined, Arminianism is the humanistic extreme of Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism is the fatalistic extreme of Calvinism. From a theological standpoint, Arminianism surrenders to man’s capabilities for eternal salvation, Hyper-Calvinism robs man of them all. Rather than state what Calvinism is, in the following short analysis I will define it by its antitheses. In other words, I will define it by the two extreme views with which it is historically associated, views that overemphasis human ability on the one extreme and divine sovereignty on the other.

Arminianism’s problem

Arminianism suffers from the “partial depravity” problem: The guilt and pollution from Adam to all humans is minimised in Arminianism. Persons are considered capable of becoming believers with the barest of nudges from the Spirit. Man is not considered dead spiritually. He has just fainted. The fall did not result in moral corruption and incapacitation of mind, heart and will. It only breathed a bad odour on these faculties.
Arminianism suffers from the “speculative-atonement” problem: The death of Christ, according to Arminianism, had no specific design or beneficiaries. It was arbitrary and non-substitutional. In its effects it was dependent on human appropriation. This contradicts Scripture’s teaching that the atonement was specifically for Christ’s chosen people, and that it fully met the demands of justice on their behalf and its benefits are applied to them.
Arminianism suffers from the “eavesdropping-predestination” problem: To the Arminian, God’s election or predestination is based not on his sovereign grace but farsightedness. The God who determines everything must peep into the future to know who deserves to be chosen; who has impressive faith! Election becomes meritorious. The diagram below summarises the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism.

ARMINIANISM CALVINISM Man’s moral state Partially depraved Totally depraved Man’s election Provisionally elect Unconditionally elect
Man’s redemption Sin universally atoned for Sin particularly atoned for
Man’s will in salvation Absolute freedom of will Irresistibly drawn by grace
Man’s perseverance Salvation is losable Salvation is eternal

Hyper-Calvinism’s problem

Hyper-Calvinism suffers from the “multi-function election” problem: According to the Hyper-Calvinist, election takes care of all that God requires for the salvation of his people. With election and the atonement done, the Spirit of God has a way of converting the elect to salvation. The sovereignty of God nullifies all human responsibility.
Hyper-Calvinism suffers from the “organic imputation” problem: Hyper- Calvinists in Andrew Fuller’s time (18th century) believed that imputation of sin to Christ and imputation of righteousness to the sinner (2 Cor. 5:21), amounts to change of moral standing in both. Since imputed righteousness makes the sinner intrinsically righteous, he or she is without sin. As a result, repentance, faith and gospel appeals are all irrelevant.
Hyper-Calvinism suffers from the “amputated-gospel” problem: Truths of the gospel may be preached as objective facts, according to Hyper-Calvinism. However, sinners should never be urged to believe in Christ. The gospel does not oblige ALL but elect persons to repent and believe. And none can respond to the gospel anyway. It should not be the evangeliser’s business, therefore, to urge them to. God will save his elect how and when he chooses. Away with “evangelistic” sermons! this position claims. The diagram below summarises the difference between Hyper-Calvinism and Calvinism.

Believers in Christ have existed from Adam’s time to ours. At some point they were known as children of Abraham or Israelites. In New Testament times they were known as people of “The Way” (Acts 9:2). Later

they  would  be  called  “Christians”  (Acts  11:26).  Names  were  given  after pioneers of a new theological emphasis (e.g. Christian) or after a new point of emphasis (e.g. The Way). Yet all were given for purposes of identification. So, came the Roman Catholics, the Reformers, the Arminians, the Calvinists and Hyper-Calvinists.  This  issue  of  Reformation  Zambia  devotes  itself  to  three prevalent views on the Doctrines of Grace between the 1500 and 1800, these being Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism. Philosophically defined, Arminianism is the humanistic extreme of Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism is the fatalistic  extreme  of Calvinism.  From  a theological  standpoint,  Arminianism surrenders  to  man’s  capabilities  for  eternal  salvation,  Hyper-Calvinism  robs man of them  all. Rather than state what Calvinism is, in the following short analysis I will define it by its antitheses. In other words, I will define it by the two   extreme   views   with   which   it   is   historically  associated,   views   that overemphasis human ability on the one extreme and divine sovereignty on the other.

Arminianism’s problem

Arminianism  suffers  from  the  “partial  depravity”  problem:  The  guilt  and pollution from Adam to all humans is minimised in Arminianism. Persons are considered capable of becoming believers with the barest of nudges from the Spirit. Man is not considered dead spiritually. He has just fainted. The fall did not result in moral corruption and incapacitation of mind, heart and will. It only breathed a bad odour on these faculties.

Arminianism suffers from the “speculative-atonement”  problem: The death   of   Christ,   according   to   Arminianism,   had   no   specific   design   or beneficiaries.  It  was  arbitrary  and  non-substitutional.  In  its  effects  it  was dependent on human appropriation. This contradicts Scripture’s teaching that the atonement was specifically for Christ’s chosen people, and that it fully met the demands of justice on their behalf and its benefits are applied to them.

Arminianism    suffers    from    the    “eavesdropping-predestination” problem: To the Arminian, God’s election or predestination is based not on his sovereign grace but farsightedness. The God who determines everything must peep into the future to know who deserves to be chosen; who has impressive faith!  Election  becomes  meritorious.  The  diagram  below  summarises  the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism.

ARMINIANISM                   CALVINISM Man’s moral state               Partially depraved                 Totally depraved Man’s election                     Provisionally elect                 Unconditionally elect

Man’s redemption              Sin universally atoned for     Sin particularly atoned for

Man’s will in salvation       Absolute freedom of will      Irresistibly     drawn     by grace

Man’s perseverance            Salvation is losable               Salvation is eternal

Hyper-Calvinism’s problem

Hyper-Calvinism    suffers    from   the    “multi-function    election”    problem: According to the Hyper-Calvinist, election takes care of all that God requires for the salvation of his people. With election and the atonement done, the Spirit of God has a way of converting the elect to salvation. The sovereignty of God nullifies all human responsibility.

Hyper-Calvinism suffers from the “organic imputation” problem: Hyper- Calvinists in Andrew Fuller’s time (18th century) believed that imputation of sin to Christ and imputation of righteousness to the sinner (2 Cor. 5:21), amounts to change of moral standing in both. Since imputed righteousness makes the sinner intrinsically righteous, he or she is without sin. As a result, repentance, faith and gospel appeals are all irrelevant.

Hyper-Calvinism suffers from the “amputated-gospel” problem: Truths of the gospel may be preached as objective facts, according to Hyper-Calvinism. However, sinners should never be urged to believe in Christ. The gospel does not oblige ALL but elect persons to repent and believe. And none can respond to the gospel anyway. It should not be the evangeliser’s business, therefore, to urge them to. God will save his elect how and when he chooses. Away with “evangelistic” sermons! this position claims. The diagram below summarises the difference between Hyper-Calvinism and Calvinism.

HYPER-CALVINISM               CALVINISM

Atonement                Death of Christ had a particular design but no general design

Imputation                Imputation transforms the very nature of Christ or the

sinner

Death of Christ had both a particular and general design

Imputation only alters the legal status of Christ or the sinner

Order of salvation

Regeneration is simultaneous with faith and justification

Regeneration is prior to faith and justification

Warrant of faith       Inward work of the Spirit is warrant for faith

Gospel message        Gospel should be proclaimed with no exhortations to believe

Gospel offers             Gospel is offered NOT to all, but to those enlightened by

the Spirit

Gospel is warrant for faith

Gospel should be proclaimed with exhortations to repent and believe

Gospel is offered to ALL

sinners indiscriminately

Importance of theological identity To  properly  appreciate  who  we  are  theologically,  it  is  important  that  we familiarise  ourselves  with  movements  that  helped  give  us  identification  and distinction historically. Some have mocked the use of labels as love for frivolity and  party  affiliation.  It  is  not.  Christians  that  avoid  historical  labels  that appropriately categorise doctrinal positions are either ignorant or disingenuous and duplicitous. They cowardly refuse to identify who they are theologically. In the  milieu  of  numerous 

HYPER-CALVINISM CALVINISM
Atonement Death of Christ had a particular design but no general design
Imputation Imputation transforms the very nature of Christ or the
sinner

Death of Christ had both a particular and general design

Imputation only alters the legal status of Christ or the sinner
Order of salvation

Regeneration is simultaneous with faith and justification

Regeneration is prior to faith and justification
Warrant of faith Inward work of the Spirit is warrant for faith
Gospel message Gospel should be proclaimed with no exhortations to believe
Gospel offers Gospel is offered NOT to all, but to those enlightened by
the Spirit

Gospel is warrant for faith

Gospel should be proclaimed with exhortations to repent and believe
Gospel is offered to ALL
sinners indiscriminately

Importance of theological identity

To properly appreciate who we are theologically, it is important that we familiarise ourselves with movements that helped give us identification and distinction historically. Some have mocked the use of labels as love for frivolity and party affiliation. It is not. Christians that avoid historical labels that appropriately categorise doctrinal positions are either ignorant or disingenuous and duplicitous. They cowardly refuse to identify who they are theologically. In the milieu of numerous