4 Reasons Why I Dislike Hyper-Calvinism more than Arminianism

Posted: December 4, 2009 by Matthew Masiewicz in Calvinism, Debates
Tags: , ,

Today I was pondering evangelism because I’m going to be teaching on the subject soon. I was thinking of my upbringing  which was basically Arminian,  I grew up at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. I am happy to say that saw much fruit from that place. I was introduced to Jesus, taught the importance of scripture and encouraged to follow Jesus. I was saved in THAT context.  I do have some problems with some of their methodology, but not to their commitment and veal. Unfortunately this denomination has been vocal lately against the Doctrines of Grace through their radio and print media. George Bryson and Chuck Smith in particular are actively warning people about Calvinism. Yet, what they describe is inevitably Hyper-Calvinism. But as a Calvinist I feel I must correct their misunderstanding while at the same time stand against the caricture that they are presenting. I infact like Arminianism better than Hyper-Calvinism, here is why.

Reason 1. Hyper-Calvinism mostly denies the well mean offer of the Gospel. Many Hyper-Calvinists only see the Gospel call as simply heaping hotter into their future in Hell.While I disagree with the Arminian on the nature and extent of the Atonement I will happily embrace the notion that God’s gospel call is a sincere plea and command for sinners to repent and believe. This is a tenant of historical Calvinism. We call all men to repent and believe in Jesus and declare that God will save all who turn to His Son in faith.

Reason 2. Many Hyper-Calvinists deny God’s common grace. They say that any good shown to the non elect merely is a by-product of His love for His chosen and will ultimately add to their condemnation. This is pure nonsense. God over and over points to His care for all people as proof of his goodness and love. The very fact that God doesn’t eternally condemn us the moment we sin is proof enough. While I would disagree with the Arminian that God MUST love every person in the same way without distinction such as is a common theme with both Dave Hunt and George Bryson, I would agree that God loves all people.

Reason 3. Hyper-Calvinists lack evangelistic  fervor. True Calvinism drives missions with passion, knowing that God will advance His Kingdom and call out His elect from all nations for His glory.  Arminians likewise seek the salvation of the lost to which I say amen. I much rather hear an Arminian leaning gospel than none at all.

Reason 4. Hyper-Calvinism is the caricature that true Calvinism is portrayed as. When someone asks me if I am a Calvinist I am almost afraid to answer. Usually I ask “What do you mean by the term Calvinist”? The answer I get more often than not is some form of Hyper-Calvinism. They say that Calvinists don’t love the lost, evangelize, are mean-spirited, etc. Unfortunately most Arminians don’t care to differentiate.

It is my sincere hope that Calvary Chapel would at least learn enough about Reformed people to see that we are not the monster in the closet that they think.

  1. Charles Page says:

    is it assumed that all Arminians love the lost; are all evangelistically zealous and are witnessing to all?

    frtankly I don’t know hardly any Arminians nor hypo-Calvinist for that matter who are aggressively evangelizing the lost. Their pastors are doing all the evangelizing and few are comming forward to accept Christ.

    Why attack the Calvinist for not evangelizing?

  2. george bryson says:

    Dear Matthew

    I appreciate the respectful tone in which you point out the differences between hyper-Calvinism and what some have referred to as hypo-Calvinism. This approach has shown to be more effective in generating light and less likely to produce heat. If you read either one of my books-The Five Points of Calvinism-Weighed and Found Wanting and The Dark Side of Calvinism you should have noticed that I do not confuse the two but clearly differentiate between them. Some mainstream Calvinists have chosen to use the views of the more extreme Calvinists to duck questions about what Calvin taught and historic and mainstream Calvinism teaches explicitly or implicitly. There is a reason Doug Wilson says that my representation of Calvinism is both fair and accurate. It is fair and accurate. The main reason that so many Calvinists take offense at my books (once they have read them) is that I have this nasty habit of quoting mainstream Calvinists and Calvin himself at length-to insure context. When I ask a Calvinist to point what it is I say that Sproul, Piper, MacArthur, White, Packer, Boice (etc) say that they do not agree with or that they do not agree that they said it, I am usually met with a blank stare. If you do not agree with what I say Calvinism teaches you do not agree with Calvinism. Both books are on line and free. Have a great day. In Christ, George

    • Matthew says:

      Greetings in the Lord George,
      I’m honored that a man with so many responsibilities took the time to read and respond to my blog. Let me say that I have read with joy the many articles in Calvary Chapel’s Missions magazine about your work abroad. Like I said in the article, I love Calvary Chapel. In fact I was saved listening to Greg Laurie on the radio. I do have your book “Weighed and found wanting”, and I have read it and remain a convinced Calvinist. I have not had the privilege to read your more current book as of yet. As to what I agree with, I agree with what I find in the scriptures as i’m sure you strive for as well. While I find what Piper, or Sproul might say useful, my theology is not resting on their opinions. When I exegetically go through a passage such as John 6, Rom 9, etc, I am driven to certain conclusions about the Nature of God and of salvation. The thrust of my post however isn’t to contrast our respective positions but to contrast what I have been hearing on the radio form “Pastors Perspective” and from your lectures at various conference (I was a Calvary pastor and have just about every conference up to 2005). I know that some people that become reformed can be a pain in the rear at first. They can cause all sorts of trouble as they evangelize the saved. But that is not only Calvinists. I have met people in bible collage (Calvary Chapel) that came from other back grounds that came to Calvary’s perspective and caused trouble in their former circles as well. Like wanting to see their cessesionist friends speak in tongues and receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We are all striving to get it right on this side of heaven. What my heart yearns for is a mutual respect and camaraderie around the banner of Christ. I think that both you and Spurgeon are “soul winners”, and I praise God for my Calvinist and non Calvinist brothers.


  3. […] 4 Reasons Why I Dislike Hyper-Calvinism more than Arminianism […]

  4. george bryson says:

    Hey Matthew

    Again, allow me to say that it is refreshing to correspond with someone who says that they are a Calvinist and that can still have a mutually respectful conversation with a non-Calvinist. I am sure that there are many but evidently I just do not move in wide enough circles. I understand that there is just a thing as hyper-Calvinism and I understand why mainstream Calvinists are troubled over it.

    Nevertheless, I have to take my hat off to some hyper-Calvinists for making a serious attempt at being consistent. I would agree with you that hyper-Calvinists makes it difficult to be and do what the Bible calls us to be and do. I also think they often get misrepresented by mainstream Calvinists-even though on some key issues-they are often much more consistent with Calvin than is there mainstream counterparts.

    If and when you get a chance to read The Dark Side you will see what I mean. It also seems strange to me that a movement that is openly committed to a non-Reformed view is often attacked (by mainstream Calvinists) because it has “removed Calvinists because of their Calvinism”. I have never even heard of a Calvinist church that would allow a non-Calvinist to teach his non-Calvinism inside the Calvinist church doors. It is indeed a double standard. A non-Calvinist church movement is cruel and mean for keeping the movement free of Calvinism, but a Calvinist movement is only doing with is right and reasonable when the shoe is on the other foot. Have a great day my “calm, cool and collected” Calvinist friend. If there were a few more of you there would be more conversation and less conflict. In Christ, George

    P.S. I have yet to hear from a Calvinist that has documented that I attribute to mainstream Calvinism beliefs that really belong to hyper-Calvinism. A number of people (i.e., Johnson make this charge but then fail to point out when and where I have done this. If there is anything I say mainstream Calvinism teaches that mainstream Calvinism does not teach, I would love to know what it is.

  5. Matthew says:

    Thank you for your reply George. Some of the comments that you made seemed to be replying to Rick’s response, I never mentioned anything about people not allowed to speak. You are right, we would not let a non Calvinist speak from our pulpit on a position that we don’t affirm in our statement of faith, unless it was in a debate type setting. But we haven’t had any such things, as that isn’t the tenor of our church. I agree as well that cool heads prevail in such discussions, and I believe it pleases the Lord that we can disagree without being disagreeable. As to the documentation that you have asked for, let me loosely quote you. If you require an exact quote I’ll upload the mp3 of your lecture, but I didn’t want to disrespect your material by posting something without permission. But you said at a Calvary conference that.
    1. Reformed theology is sterile and it cannot reproduce.
    2. That we want sheep, but we can’t get any of our own.
    3. So we go after other peoples sheep (Calvary Chapels)
    Now I don’t know if it is exactly a caricature of a hyper-Calvinist forced upon us, but It seems so. Many Reformed churches do in fact reproduce in all sorts of ways. Look at Pipers church which is extremely missions minded. The Acts 29 network of churches is built exclusively on church planting in urban areas where there is no Christian witness. Look at Mars Hill in Seattle for example. Historically we have the great awakening that was largely but not solely a reformed movement. The modern Missionary movement was largely by Calvinists. William Cary, Judson. The SBC in it’s heyday was Calvinist. The protestant reformation was evangelistic in as much as people heard the gospel of grace apart from works and believed and were saved. So I don’t know how it can be said that we don’t reproduce. It’s like saying to me, a father of six kids that I don’t reproduce. I’ll just turn around and say “Hey Phillip, Avery, Josiah, Bennett, Sophia and Gavin come here and meet Mr. Bryson”. My Church Baptizes and brings in new members all the time. Nor have I EVER heard of a reformed church sneaking into non reformed churches to “Fish in the aquarium” and get new converts. But it is true that Reformed Churches are full of Calvary people, but why is that? Could it be that Calvary values exposition, and Reformed expositors write the best commentaries? I don’t know? I also have a message of yours where you tag team with an Ex-Calvinist that took his church into Calvinism and thereby destroyed it. You made a lot of caricatures of us there as well. I know of a Pentecostal pastor that tried to teach the bible book by book because he said that his people only wanted signs and wonders and prophetic words and they ran him out for that. When anyone forces a change on comfortable people, it will cause a stir. But that Calvary Pastor said that he told his people that God might not love them and that they might not be able to be saved! That is Hyper-Calvinism. So it is those statements that I find unhelpful. Perhaps you have only encountered the young angry Calvinist who just figured out that there is such a thing as election, I don’t know. But if you came to one of our worship services, I think you would be very comfortable and would be “Amening” quite a bit, as I do when I hear Calvary teachers. In fact my former pastor just sent me some CD’s on the Gifts of the Spirit AT MY REQUEST to edify me. We do have our differences, but my goodness look at the common ground! Most Calvinists are not as angry or prideful as Darth Vader (You know who I’m talking bout). I believe that a spirit of candid, biblical discussion is needed in this area. Not Calvin said this or that or the other. I’m a Sovereign Grace, Charismatic, Baptist, I don’t care what Calvin said. Now Spurgeon is a different matter altogether. God bless you George.


  6. Shane McGrath says:

    Very interesting that I posed a very similar (if not exact) question to Bryson last week. After begging him to respond…he told me that he was refusing and would not. He gave me multiple lengthy responses, but none that directly dealt with what I see as the considerable “fruit” (both historical and modern) of Reformed Theology. His insistence that it is “sterile” and doesn’t reproduce is obviously false.

    So I guess he is conceding the point Matthew.

    • Yeah, Bryson is tough to figure out, as are the Calvary Chapel folks. I have stories that I ought not share about the flippant dismissal of Calvinism and accusations that I;m not a Calvinist because my understanding of Calvinism doesn’t fit their preconceived notions. They pretend to be the experts on the matter and have the gall to tell others that they don’t understand Calvinism. I doubt that very few of these guys have actually read all of Calvin’s Institutes.

  7. Shane McGrath says:

    I’m a CCBC graduate and used to work for Costa Mesa at the CC Murrieta Conference Center. I was in the Calvary system for about 10 years. I certainly understand some of their concerns having seen many immature young reformed dudes at the Bible College, etc. cause problems for them. But the way that they are choosing to deal with these issues hasn’t been very wise. They’ve created a “boogey-man” out of all things Reformed. They consider this on the same level as “word-faith, emergent, ” heresies and that’s not very helpful in having a meaningful discussion. As far as I can tell, both Arminianism and Calvinism have a place at the “orthodox” table. I see more evidence to support the Reformed perspective, but I do value other perspectives.

    If you haven’t already, I’d recommend you listen to James White’s debate with Michael Brown. You can download it for free on his website. They both did a great job of “respectfully” debating the topic of Calvinism. I was VERY impressed with how Brown interacted with White. It’s a good example for all of us.

    God bless,

  8. Shane McGrath says:

    I’m working full-time as an Associate Pastor at an Acts 29/SBC church. God has been very good to us. Much of the things that we appreciated about CC, we have found in Acts 29. There was a lot to appreciate in Calvary Chapel. But reformed theology doesn’t mix very well in those circles so we decided it would be best to find other like-minded churches/affiliations.

    Who would have known that groups like Acts 29, Sovereign Grace, etc., etc., would have exploded into such considerable movements? It’s unbelievable just how explosive things have become on the Reformed side. It’s a blessing to be a part of God’s work!

  9. Matthew says:

    Is George done with the dialog? It was just getting interesting? Oh well, I wish him the best in his ministry.

  10. Ken Sarber says:

    Thank you for your charity toward Arminians. I’m more Calvinistic than most people in my denomination (Assembly of God), but theologically, and even though I resist these titles, I’m classified as a classical Arminian. I have friends who are Calvinists and have great respect and love for them. Unfortunately, the Calvinism/Arminian debate, in my eyes at least, does more harm than good. I never seen any good fruit come out of it, which is why I never involve myself in it.

    • Thank you brother Ken,
      You are very kind. While I believe that the issues are important I don’t believe that they should divide the Universal Church. I actually find “Classical” Arminians to be muck closer to Calvinists than perhaps either would care to admit, modern Arminians..not so much. I have been greatly blessed by many AG brethren over the years.


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