17 Sections
Calvinism versus Hyper-Calvinism


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Chapter: 14.08
(Section 14: Selective Salvation)
Copyright © Michael Bronson 1998 - 2005

In a previous Chapter (Summary of Calvinism and Arminianism), we looked at the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism. Over the years, the word "Calvinist" had developed a large number of meanings. This has created a great deal of confusion and problems.

A Calvinist, 400 years ago, was someone who adhered to the teachings of John Calvin. A central theme these people dearly embraced back then was the doctrine of selective salvation. This was the original definition of Calvinism and it still holds true today.

As a general rule, a group’s name usually belongs to the group that has historically held the title. This is especially true when the original belief is still being held by a large group of people. The present day "Calvinist" still holds to the core beliefs of the historical Calvinist.

Today, we have two basic groups who call themselves "Calvinists." The first group of people are those who still hold to the core teachings of John Calvin, especially selective salvation. The second group of people are those who strongly oppose Arminianism. They believe a person can’t work their way to Heaven and can’t lose their salvation (common teaching of Arminianism). Since Calvinism is often viewed as being the "opposite" of Arminianism, they think they must be Calvinists. This belief is reinforced by the teachings of some of the true Calvinists. Following are some of their statements:

  • "It must be evident that there are just two theories which can be maintained by evangelical Christians upon this important subject; that all men who have made any study of it, and who have reached any settled conclusions regarding  it, must be either Calvinists or Arminians. There is no other position which a ‘Christian’ can take." (Boettner, Predestination, p. 333)

  • "… only these two general schemes of Christian doctrine are logically possible … in the future, as the past, all evangelical believers will belong either to one dogmatic division or the other" (W. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, 1986, p. 149)

As you can see, an "either-or" picture is being painted. Either you are an Arminian who is "not following the Bible" or you’re a doctrinally sound Calvinist. (Look at the Chapters Are You a Calvinist, Arminian, or in-between? and This is not an Attack for more information about the "either-or" polarization.) As a result, many people call themselves Calvinists, even though they are not true Calvinists.

The people in the second group do not believe in selective salvation. They believe salvation is open to all people. Interestingly, this second group of people has developed a new word for the true Calvinists: Hyper-Calvinists. They make it sound like the true Calvinists have added something extra to their doctrine that makes them "hyper" or extreme. In reality, those in the first group of people are the ones who have remained faithful to the original tenants of Calvinism.

Are the people in the second group actually Calvinists? No, of course not. They can, of course, call themselves Calvinists, if they want. A person has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If a person wants to call himself a Calvinist, even though he doesn’t adhere to the main doctrine of Calvinism, he can do it. It’s like a person who believes in God calling himself an "atheist." He has the right to do that, but it would cause a great deal of confusion.

It doesn’t really matter to me what people call themselves. I am, however, concerned about the problems this confusion produces. In the chapter Why is this Issue Important, I talk about these problems. I point out unless a person is truly convinced God wants everyone to be saved, he will not sacrifice to reach unsaved people with the gospel. Selective Salvationists counter this argument by saying "Calvinists" have had, and still have, the largest missionary outreach of all Protestant groups. Therefore, they say, the doctrine of Selective Salvation actually increases missionary efforts, not diminishes it.

Selective Salvationists do have missionaries, but its size is not very large. The reason Selective Salvationists say they have the largest missionary outreach is because they include all of the other churches who mistakenly call themselves "Calvinists." If you do not include all of these churches, the number of missionaries teaching selective salvation is greatly reduced.

I want to point out again (as I did in the chapter This is not an Attack) I am not trying to criticize or attack a person who is a true Calvinist. I think it is important, however, to clear up this misunderstanding. I believe the doctrine of selective salvation produces complacency and I think people are going to Hell because of it. I firmly believe the fates of billions of people are affected by this doctrine.


Interesting Side Note about Name Changing

The framers of the U.S. Constitution never envisioned a two-party political system. In fact, they didn’t even want a party system at all. Having just been freed from the tyranny of Europe, party affiliation was considered "sinister" and "contemptible." George Washington’s farewell speech warned people against creating a party system.

America’s founding politicians didn’t have allegiances to a specific party or "political machine." Originally, the framers of the Constitution envisioned an ideal situation where leaders would "take sides" in a debate simply because of the issue at hand. Once they finished debating the issue, the politicians would fall back into non-alignment while waiting for the next issue.

Human nature, being what it is, has caused personality clashes, which have resulted in people siding with their friends and against their enemies. After a while these alliances (based on friendship) became more important than the issues themselves. It didn’t take long for dominant personalities to polarize and divide the politicians into factions.



The rivalry between Jefferson and Hamilton sowed the seeds for the creation of a party system. These two men strongly opposed each other on how strong the Central government should be. People starting calling those who wanted a strong central government "Federalist" and those who opposed them were called "Anti-Federalist." In 1796 the Anti-Federalists grouped together and adopted the name "Democratic Republicans." Later they changed it to "Republicans." Then, during the Andrew Jackson Presidency, it was renamed "Democratic."

As you can see, this type of name changing is fertile ground for confusion and misunderstandings.



Other Chapters in this Section

PART 1: What is Selective Salvation?

What is Selective Salvation?
Summary of Why Selective Salvation can't be True
The Chosen Few
Summary of Calvinism and Armininism
Are You a Calvinist, Armenian, or in-between?
Highlights from from the Canons of Dort
Calvinism Versus Hyper-Calvinism
The "Privilege" of Being one of the Elect
How Long has Selective Salvation been Popular?
Why did Selective Salvation gain Popularity?
Are All Men Created Equal?
Interesting Facts about Slavery and Equality
Open Salvation
This is not an Attack
Being Misunderstood
Why is this Issue Important?

PART 2: What Does the Bible say about Selective Salvation?
PART 3: Problems with Selective Salvation
PART 4: “Choice” –The Achilles’ Heel of Selective Salvation
PART 5: Difficult Questions Answered

Appendix: Foundational Documents used by Selective Salvationists

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