Tuesday, June 15, 2010


So often today you read about the dangers and horrors of Hyper-Calvinism but what is it exactly?  To Arminians that believe a Christian cannot lose salvation (or so-called 1 point Calvinists e.g. John Rice) anyone holding to the other 4 points is a Hyper-Calvinist, to an Amyraldian (or so-called 4 point Calvinists denying Limited Atonement e.g. Norwich Reformed Church) those who hold to Limited Atonement are hyper, and Infralapsarians often refer to Supralapsarians as hyper( e.g. R.C. Sproul ). Hyper-Calvinism is blamed on people picketing homosexual funerals (e.g. Westboro Baptist Church) and those who hold to "Doctrinal Perfectionism" ( groups that believe a Christian's doctrine will be perfect e.g. Outside the Camp ). I have even recently read someone referred to as a Hyper-Calvinist for denying the charismatic gifts. Usually you see hypers defined by a set of doctrines as in Iain Murray's book Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, where he says hypers are those who deny gospel invitations are universal, the warrant of faith, human responsibility and the love of God for everyone. Someone once wrote that Hyper-Calvinism is anyone more calvinistic than me, and while I find that funny, I do believe there is an error that can be rightfully called "Hyper-Calvinism".

The word "hyper" means "above or beyond" and so added to calvinism would mean anyone who takes the teachings of Calvin to an unprecedented extreme. Therefore to determine what "hyper-calvinism" is one must first know what Calvin held to. This automatically discounts anyone who claims as hyper people who hold to predestination as Calvin himself held to this doctrine. There are some doctrines in which there is some controversy on what exactly Calvin held, for instance both Amyraldians and Infralapsarians claim Calvin for there own and even quote him in there defence, muddying the waters. The key to discussing this properly however is to focus on doctrine and not on Calvin personally due to the confusion.

Hyper-Calvinism is in a nutshell a denial of a natural means of grace. These "calvinists" take the doctrines of grace to the unprecedented extreme of denying, contrary to the Bible, that preaching or any form of teaching is necessary in bringing someone to the faith. An example of this can be seen in the teaching of the Primitive Baptist Church. Elder Kirby of this group says in a statement of their beliefs " 1. What is the basic difference between Primitive Baptists and other religious societies?
Answer: The basic difference is that Primitive Baptists believe in salvation by grace. There are really only two positions that a person can occupy on this matter. One is that salvation is by grace, and the other is that 
salvation is by works. It cannot be a combination of the two. A person may say that he believes in salvation by grace, but if he sets forth any act of man's will, such as repentance, faith, baptism, or hearing the gospel, as a condition for obtaining it, then this position must be put on the works side. Primitive Baptists believe that salvation is of the Lord, that it is by His grace, and that nothing needs to be added to it." he goes on to say again later " 10. Don't you believe that the preaching of the gospel is God's ordained means of bringing eternal salvation to the sinner? Answer: No, only by the direct operation of the Holy Spirit can eternal life be brought to the dead sinner (John 3 : 6-8) .The gospel brings life and immortality to light, but doesn't produce life (llTim.1: 10)."  This is in clear contrast to the scriptures which say that "it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (1 Cor. 1:21) and in Romans 10:17 we learn that "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

 Now this denial does lead to other doctrines such as anti-missionism and can lead to "eternal justification" but it is the denial of a natural means of grace that is the root of this teaching. Incidentally, it is often assumed that all supralapsarians are hypers and definately that all hypers are supralapsarian but this again is an error. Curt Daniel in his book The History and Theology of Calvinism states that "while all Hyper-Calvinists have been Supralapsarians, not all Supralapsarians have been Hyper-Calvinists" p.89. I would question the necessity of all hypers being supra. Elder Kirby states on predestination "  4. What is their position on predestination? Answer: They believe that God has predestinated a great number to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom.8: 28-30) .While some object to this doctrine because they say it is unfajr, Primitive Baptists rejoice in it, for they see that had it not been for predestination, the whole human family would have been lost forever. Predestination is not the thing that condemns a man, or puts him in a ruined condition, but the very thing that gets him out of such a state. Predestination concerns not "what" but "whom." It is the great purpose of God to lift a people up from sin and corruption and make them like Jesus Christ. That's glorious ! " Notice here we see he denies the doctrine of reprobation which is essential to true double predestinationism and thereby supralapsarianism.


The ramifications to this way of thinking are widespread. As we have already discussed it denies the need for witnessing and missions. Parents in this group often will not even teach their children to pray or worship or anything scriptural as they expect the Lord to do it without them and thus raise up a generation of degenerates. This thinking also leads to a lack of emphasis on education or studying, as God will give as he sees fit and therefore a quietist anti-intellectualism is characteristic of this group. They will pick on or forbid college and reading of books. The pastors in these groups often do not study a sermon as they expect God to give them "direct revelation" in the pulpit and thus they are very similar to charismatic/pentecostal groups. I heard one Primitive Baptist preacher say that he does not work his sermons up but gets them worked down. Finally, this group will be presuppositional in its thinking. This group will not hear of anyone giving proof for God or the Bible as everyone is supposed to just know the truth of these things. Thus there sermons will be more moralistic and less Christocentric as they will preach to the "heart" and not the "head". After all to them salvation is about the will and not the intellect. People are damned not for what they do not know but what they willfully reject.


Anyone familiar with God's word will clearly see the faults to this mindset. Proverbs 22:6 commands us to train our children. Timothy we learn was trained by his mother and grandmother and thus came to faith ( 2 Tim. 1:5, 3:14-15. We are commanded to study to show ourselves approved in 2 Tim. 2:15. God gives the church teachers (Eph. 4:11, 1 Cor. 12:28). Lastly, we are told in John 14:6 that people that do not know the good news of Jesus Christ will go to Hell. A.W. Pink has put it succinctly in saying concerning the "causes of salvation:

" The Original Cause is the sovereign will of God, for nothing can come into being save that which He decreed before the foundation of the world.

The Meritorious Cause is the mediatorial work of Christ, who "obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:22) for His people, purchasing for them all the blessings of it by His perfect obedience to the Law and His sacrificial death.

The Efficient Cause is the varied operations of the Holy Spirit, who applies to the elect the benefits purchased by Christ, capacitating them to enjoy the same and making them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

The Ministerial Cause and means is the preaching of the Word (James 1:21), because it discovers to us where salvation is to be obtained.

The Instrumental Cause is faith, by which the soul receives or comes into possession of and obtains an interest in Christ and His redemption.

Such distinctions as these are not merely technicalities for theologians, but are part of the faith once delivered unto the saints, and unless they apprehend the same they are liable to be deceived by any Scripture-quoting false prophet who accosts them."

Quoted in Curt Daniel's booklet Biblical Calvinism from A.W. Pinks book Sermon on the Mount.


Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill by Curt Daniel - This and his above named resources are only available at Good Books 2456 Devonshire Rd. Springfield, IL 62703 USA

Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass South by John Crowley

A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism by Phil Johnson at  http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/hypercal.htm

Hyper-Calvinism is the Truth: Darth Gill responds to Phil Johnson at http://www.predestinarian.net/content/21-Hyper-Calvinism-is-the-Truth

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Double Honor

Once in a while the question of whether Elders should receive a salary is raised. Some denominations such as the Primitive Baptists deny paying salaries. One Elder in this church writes:

"18. Do Primitive Baptist ministers receive a salary?Answer: No, they devote their time and substance to the service of God out of love, and as the Lord blesses their labors among His people, those among whom the minister has labored contribute willingly to his needs (ICor. 9:9-14)."

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "salary" as fixed compensation paid regularly for services. Let us look to see if Scripture has anything to say on this subject or whether it is a human invention. At the outset let me say I only intend, in this discussion, to look at the question of paying Elders a salary in general and do not intend on taking up the discussion of whether or not there is a distinction in Elders commonly demarcated "Teaching" Elders and "Ruling" Elders, and whether both classes of Elders are to receive a salary. For a discussion of this debate, see chapter 10 of A Scottish Christian Heritage entitled "The Problem of the Elders" by Scottish Theologian Iain Murray.

In 1 Timothy 5:17,18 we read "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,' and, 'The laborer is worthy of his wages.' " indicating that a man is to be paid for his services. While the term "double honor" is debated as to its precise meaning, the clear understanding of this passage that those occupying the office of Elder, who labor in word and doctrine are entitled to a wage.

Next let us take a look at the passage affixed to the quotation by Elder Kirby of the Primitive Baptists above, only let us start at 1 Cor. 9:6 where Paul questions whether or not Barnabas and him have a right to refrain from working. In verse 7 he goes on to ask who goes to war at his own expense, who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit and who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock. Paul uses this rhetoric for the purpose of showing the need for churches to support their Elders with a fixed income or salary. Later in verse 11 we are asked if it is a great thing for Elders to reap material things in return for spiritual things they give, to which the clear answer for anyone who serves God and not mammon (Matt. 6:24) is a resounding "NO"! Verse 13 instructs us that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar. In verse 14 what has been implicit becomes explicit as Paul declares "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel."

In 2 Corinthians 11:7,8 we learn that Paul preached to the Corinthians free of charge, but that he was paid a wage from other churches to minister to them. Finally, in 2 Thessalonians 3:9 Paul indicates that he had authority to compel a wage or salary but he chose not to, to be an example and as verse 8 says, to not be a burden. While it is true that Elders, as every Christian, live by faith and not by sight and congregations incomes do vary according to a number of factors such as size and income capacity, it is the responsibility of the church to provide support in the form of a salary, however large or small, to its Elders. An Elder may have to, like Paul did as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3), work another job but he should be paid for his services. This does not mean that churches have to pay for airplanes, boats, new vehicles or even homes but they are obligated to pay them a wage. While the gospel is not for sale (Acts 8:18-21) we are to take care of our own.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Preaching the Word; Out of Season

"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." 2 Timothy 4:2-4

Preaching God's holy word is at an all time low today. Entertainment in the form of (christian?) rock/country/folk concerts, dramatic presentations, magic acts, powerlifting, shouting, dancing, running the aisles, screaming, barking, howling and even the so-claimed miraculous acts of healing and speaking in tongues fill many of churches on the typical Sunday morning. In some congregations politics is the raison d'etre and not the gospel of Christ. In this discussion, I want to look at the scriptures to see what preachers should be doing instead of using worldly substitutes. I am going to be using the text of 2 Timothy 4:2-4 as my base.

In the second verse of chapter 4 in Second Timothy we see Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, command Timothy to preach the word whether it is popular to do so or not. Timothy was to be ready or prepared regardless of how he was received, whether congratulatory or critique. He was to convince and exhort as well as rebuke. Many "conservative" preachers have the rebuking part down as they jump headlong into some diatribe about sin, but neglect the important truth of convincing and with that exhorting. Integral to "convincing" is the presenting of evidence and proof for why either not to do something or why to do something. Notice this is to be done with longsuffering or patiently, and with teaching. Preachers should be patient with a congregation realizing that just as you have to potty train a child so to there are babes in Christ needing time to mature.Paul had to do this with the Corinthian church as we read in 1Corinthians 3:1-3 "And I, brethren could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" . This does not mean that a preacher should cater to babes, however, but he should inspire growth. This is only possible by "leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ" and moving on to "perfection"(Heb. 6:1).

Teaching is the communication of the sound doctrine taught in scripture. Paul exhorted Timothy to "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me" in 2 Tim. 1:13 and commanded him to "commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" in 2Tim. 2:2. The ability to teach is an imperative to being a preacher. In 1 Tim. 3:2 we learn that a bishop (pastor, preacher, elder) is to be able to teach and Titus 1:9 expounds on this saying that he is to be "holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." As a matter of fact there is no distinction between a pastor and teacher as we learn in Ephesians 4:11.

In verse 3 of Second Timothy chapter 4 we are told the outcome of hearts being unreceptive to the truth. They not enduring sound doctrine, get in exchange teachers they do like, who entertain their itching ears according to their own desires and not that which God would have for them. Realize that a pastor can be faithful to the truth and a church still go bad as we learn in Hebrews 4:2 that faith is necessary for truth to profit. By looking at what these unbelievers reject we can also see the pattern of a good preacher. They reject sound doctrine, so he is teaching this and they get different teachers, again alluding to the fact that this pastor was a teacher.
Verse 4 carries on this line of thinking as they "turn their ears away from the truth" and are "turned aside to fables". There is no in-between; you either believe the truth or a lie. A preacher is either preaching the truth of God or he is cheating and lying to people, diverting their attention to unimportant distractions.


One popular method of preaching today is called expository preaching. If understood properly and done right I do not have a problem with this method and even consider what has been done in the above discussion as expository. This is a conservative method and its goal is to teach the word of God verse by verse in its proper context. Unfortunately it has become linked with the Biblical Theology movement which dichotomizes biblical theology with systematic theology. Systematic theology is seen as human philosophy and untenable with scriptural truth. This, however, is ears, deaf to truth, turning to fables. As we see in 2 Tim. 1:13 the sound words of scripture form a pattern or system. Systematic theology takes all the scriptures dealing with a particular topic or doctrine and exposits them to teach and convince people of the truth of this teaching. Topical or, as I prefer, doctrinal preaching when done right utilizes expository preaching. Churches should be grounded in the doctrines of the faith and not left in ignorance. Another problem with the expository method is the tendency to get bogged down with peripheral issues involving textual criticism and historical analysis instead of teaching the truth. 1 Tim. 6:4 warns of people "obsessed with disputes and arguments over words". Finally, expository preaching at least implicitly denies the perspicuity(clarity) of scripture. One leading proponent of the expository method and critic of the topical method has reputedly took a decade to teach through the book of Luke. I doubt it took Luke a decade to write it. I have heard some of them brag about how long they have been on a particular verse as if it is a badge of honor. If scripture is clear it should not take us ten years to teach through the whole bible much less a book of it. How grounded in the faith is a church that does not get the whole counsel of God in the other books of the Bible if they are on one book for 10 years?


Another conservative movement that needs to be considered in this discussion is revivalism. This movement seeks the salvation of souls fervently and desires to inspire other christians in this endeavor. This is a noble aspiration and one I affirm, again when understood and done properly. I do not intend an in depth discussion of this movement here and may take this up at a later date more thoroughly but I do want to touch on how it affects preaching. Sometimes proponents of revivalism make the preaching of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ the only truth in scripture to be taught. They misunderstand 1 Cor. 2:2 and errantly take it to mean this very thing. Acts 20:27-30 informs us that we are to declare the whole counsel of God taking heed to ourselves and the flock. More often in revivalism you see the gnostic dichotomy of a head and heart and a word and power distinction. Revivalists often use 1 Cor. 2:4 and 1 Thess. 1:5 to distinguish between these things. I heard one speaker of this tradition say that in the classroom he teaches to the head but in the pulpit he preaches to the heart. Iain Murray, who is probably the most vocal advocate of this tradition, complains that he "once had the misfortune to hear addresses on 'the five points of calvinism' delivered as though we were attending a chemistry lecture" (John Calvin: A Heart For Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology edited by Burk Parsons p. xv). I am not completely sure I understand his criticism. If he is saying the presentation was boring, is it okay to give a boring delivery of chemistry? I personally try to put my "heart" into whatever I am teaching and would therefore hate to give a boring lecture on chemistry as much as I would on calvinism. Whatever truth you are teaching deserves the same exhortation, if for nothing else so you will not have a bunch of people fail the test. I also find this funny because I have personally sat under Iain at a conference and did not find it edifying and would even go as far as to say it was a boring presentation. Thankfully his books are of a better sort. As to whether there is a distinction between word and power, Paul in both the above listed scriptures is simply meaning that the Holy Spirit gave them an understanding of the truth and not the words only. 1 Cor. 1:18 tells us the message of the cross is foolish to the perishing but to the saved it is the power of God, Rom. 1:16 tells us the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes and Heb. 4:12 tells us the word of God is living and powerful. Reject anyone who believes the bible to be a "dead word".


Preaching is to pass on the pattern of sound doctrine left to us in the scriptures from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and written by the apostles through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the power of salvation to all who believe. It is clear and we should teach the whole counsel in orderly and timely fashion. It is alive and powerful not needing methods, emotion or a particular style to deliver it. Every member of the church ought to be able to give a defense of the hope that is in them 1 Peter 3:15. Every member needs to know what they believe about the trinity, inerrancy and sole authority of scripture, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and everything else. If they do not, you may lose them and even lose your job as they will look for a teacher to scratch their itching ears.

"And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright- words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd." Ecclesiastes 12:9-11

Soli Deo Gloria