Despite the warnings of some, I do not believe the Southern Baptist Convention (or conservative evangelicalism for that matter) is currently facing the threat of Hyper-Calvinism. When properly defined, Hyper-Calvinism denies the universal intent of God’s love and denies the free offer of the gospel. I have never met a Calvinist who fits this description.
But I do believe that the current Reformed Resurgence taking place among young evangelicals will probably spawn off some cases of Hyper-Calvinism over the next decade or so. This prediction is not made as a slight against my Calvinist brethren. Just as a resurgence of Arminianism may lead to the heresy of Open Theism, a resurgence of Calvinism can lead to its counter-heresy of Hyper-Calvinism as well.
Iain Murray’s Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching(Banner of Truth, 2002) is a short book that describes the great Charles Spurgeon’s battles with the Hyper-Calvinists of his day. While many Calvinists point to Spurgeon as a hero against Arminian theology, it is rare to see him held up as an example of avoiding the Hyper-Calvinist tendencies occasionally manifested among adherents to Calvinist theology. Murray’s book is a good pointer in the right direction. Read this from his introduction:
“While I know of no evidence that Hyper-Calvinism is recovering strength, it would appear that the priority which soul-winning had in Spurgeon’s ministry is not commonly seen to be our priority. The revival of doctrine has scarcely been matched by a revival of evangelism… Doctrine without usefulness is no prize.” (xiv)
Murray wants us to see the other side of Spurgeon. Not only his Calvinist convictions over against Arminianism, but his Calvinist convictions against the heresy of the Hyper-Calvinists of his day. I agree with Murray when he states the reasons why viewing Spurgeon in this light is necessary:
“Hyper-Calvinism only arises whenever and wherever the truth of the sovereignty of God in salvation is firmly believed. The reason why Spurgeon’s first controversy has been so little thought of in these last hundred years is not that the subject is insignificant. It is rather that doctrinal Christianity as a whole has been too largely ignored. At the present time, when evangelical Calvinism is again being recovered in many parts of the earth, the danger of Hyper-Calvinism is once more a possibility and the lessons to be drawn from this old controversy have again become relevant.” (40)
The central thrust of the attack against Spurgeon is his view of “duty-faith.” Spurgeon believed in calling sinners to repentance. The Hyper-Calvinists believed that “saving faith in Christ cannot be the duty of sinners, for if we exhort the dead in trespasses and sins to trust in Christ we are attributing a power to them which they do not have.” (58).
The main source of conflict for Spurgeon’s opponents is doctrinal. However, Murray’s account shows that a fair amount of politics and intrigue were involved as well. Spurgeon’s rising popularity did not endear him to many of the traditionalist churches in town.
Murray does not shy away from the harsh aspects of Hyper-Calvinism. He quotes one preacher as saying:
“I believe that God does hate some of you and that he always will! Do what you will he will hate you, whether you believe or not – whether you pray or not – whether you repent or not – God hates you and will hate you!” (63)
Spurgeon responds to this heretical twisting of Calvinism by turning to the Scriptures. He argues that gospel invitations are universal in their scope, that faith is demanded of all, that man is wholly responsible for his own sin, and that the character of God is love.
I strongly recommend that Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike read Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism. Perhaps it will help us keep the neo-Reformed movement from careening off track. It might even help Calvinists and non-Calvinists find some common ground, as they join hands in rejecting this heresy. Those who are now embracing Spurgeon’s Calvinist theology would do well to embrace his antipathy toward the Hyper-Calvinist error.