Musings on Sovereignty 15

We do not forget the words of one long since passed away, namely, that “Denunciation is the last resort of a defeated opponent.” To dismiss this book with the contemptuous epithet—“Hyper-Calvinism”! will not be worthy of notice. For controversy we have no taste, and we shall not accept any challenge to enter the lists against those who might desire to debate the truths discussed in these pages. So far as our personal reputation is concerned, that we leave our Lord to take care of, and unto Him we would now commit this volume and whatever fruit it may bear, praying Him to use it for the enlightening of His own dear people (insofar as it is in accord with His Holy Word) and to pardon the writer for and preserve the reader from the injurious effects of any false teaching that may have crept into it. If the joy and comfort which have come to the author while penning these pages are shared by those who may scan them, then we shall be devoutly thankful to the One whose grace alone enables us to discern spiritual things. (A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God)

In thinking through just how sovereign God is, it is easy to find many people who want to think of God as sovereign and yet limit Him and His work to a mere persuasion. When people have that mindset, it is very easy to look at those who hold to a stronger view of sovereignty and think of them as Hyper-Calvinists. As Pink notes, something like that is really not worthy of notice. In our day it appears that men who are in reality Arminians or perhaps practical Arminians think of consistent Calvinists with the sneering term “Hyper-Calvinist.” That is a term of contempt, but it may also reflect more on those who use it rather than those it is used against.

Pink’s original book on Sovereignty had a chapter on reprobation, but when Banner of Truth published his book they took that chapter out as well as sections from other places. The question is not who is this or that, but who is biblical. Was Pink leaning toward Hyper-Calvinism or is the Banner of Truth leaning toward a practical Arminianism? Phillip Johnson clearly thinks of Pink as being a Hyper-Calvinist in one area of six indicators that he believes makes a person a Hyper-Calvinist. On the other hand, despite a claim to be a Calvinist it may be that Johnson and others who make that claim have accepted certain presuppositions that in reality make them practical Arminians. The issue has been argued for centuries and will not be settled at any point in the near future, but the simple point at the moment is that these things are not so easy and clear as some try to say.

The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is more important than many (if not most) realize. Apart from God’s sovereignty there is no true Christianity. It is that important. Any attempt to minimize or categorize the sovereignty of God is an attempt to conceptually free men from their bondage and deliver them into their own hands. When men are left in their own hands and they think that they are free to do in accordance with their own wisdom and desires, the reality of the matter is that be described as Arminianism. While men stress the responsibility of man, they should not stress that in a way that minimizes sovereignty. They should also not just throw out the word “responsibility” as if there are no parameters for it and just basically assume (to speak directly) the same position as Pelagians do. Just because God has commanded something does not mean we have the ability to obey.

The “contemptuous epithet” of being termed a Hyper-Calvinist is usually used in a way that assumes more ability for man that man has and less sovereignty for God than He has. Some shy away from holding to the sovereignty of God when it is taught with clarity and strength, yet others flee to those who shy away because it leaves them in control of their lives (they think). It is far better to be biblical in the matter rather than line up on sides and bash away at each other. Like it or not, the Christian Church has not figured out everything and even its boldest Reformers were not perfect either. As long as God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, He will be and cannot be other than perfectly and completely sovereign. As long as God is infinitely wise, no one can figure a way out of His complete sovereignty. Until those things happen, and they never will, it would be wise of men to be careful of throwing out the term “Hyper-Calvinist” to others. While Hyper-Calvinism is a real thing, it is perhaps quite rare. The Bible must be our guide and not these epithets which are not accurate.

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