June 28, 2006

An Explanation of a Few Calvinistic Labels

I've had to explain some of my terminology to a few people recently, so I may as well put the material on my blog, as usual :-) I posted the following material on a discussion board:

By "High Calvinism," I mean those who adhere to a strictly limited view of the design of Christ's death (the intent was to save the elect alone). It's the most popular view today due to the recent proliferation of Puritan literature and/or Protestant Scholastic writings. Some people associate High Calvinism with supralapsarianism (rather than with infralapsarianism). So, in their view, infralapsarianism is Moderate or Low. That's very common way of categorizing, but erroneous in my opinion. Here's how I would classify things:

HYPER-CALVINISM = Strict particularist supralapsarian Calvinism that denies either 1) the universal love of God or 2) common grace or 3) the free/well-meant gospel offer or 4) duty-faith, or all the above. Some [not all] of these may even believe in equivalentism, such that Christ suffered just so much for so many elect sins.

HIGH CALVINISM = Strict Particularist Calvinism that is either supralapsarianism (not all supras are hyper) or infralapsarian. There are higher highs (supras) and lower highs (infras). Some in this group may even reject lapsarianism (such as H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, ed. by John Bolt and trans. by John Vriend [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004], 2:388-392). They believe there is a universal love of God, common grace, free/good-will offers and duty-faith. They hold to the sufficiency of Christ’s death in the sense that it’s of infinite intrinsic value (a bare sufficiency), but not in the sense that he bore the guilt for the sins of all mankind (which is historically called an ordained or extrinsic sufficiency). They believe that Christ was punished for the guilt of the elect alone as their sins alone were imputed to Christ, but most of these reject equivalentism. The majority of them also believe that common grace flows to all because of Christ’s satisfaction.

CLASSIC OR MODERATE CALVINISM = Non-strict Calvinism, or those who believe in a universal substitution, that may or may not hold to a form of ordered decretalism/lapsarianism (if so, they would most likely be infralapsarian). They say that Christ suffered sufficiently for all (an ordained sufficiency), but especially for the elect (limited special intent and special effectual application). Basically, they are dualists. They also usually see a connection betwen Christ’s death and common grace as well.

LOW CALVINISM = Those who profess to hold the other four points, but say that Christ died for all without making careful qualifications. It seems that they teach that Christ intended to die EQUALLY for all. I tend to put self-described “three-pointers” in this group as well, but they are difficult to categorize.

For more on this, you may wish to check this chart that I made. It lists some of the representatives. I discussed this chart in a radio interview with Gene Cook in Nov. of 2008.


MacoMan said...

Tony, you forgot one: "Slow Calvinism." That's those who either are just above Low Calvinism or slightly below High Calvinism and are uncertain about which direction to go.

David Ponter said...

And high slow calvinism, those folk hastily reading Owen, but still clueless nonetheless.

a slow mod
with hasty overtones

Anonymous said...

its well worth going back to the definitions :). it clears all the confusion as I get easily confused


Constantine_Levin said...

In some usages the term “hyper-Calvinist” seems to have approached the meaning of “fundamentalist” – as the term “fundamentalist” is defined by Alvin Plantinga. (See http://ateam.blogware.com/blog/TimbosPosts/_archives/2005/12/9/1443917.html )


Van Helsing

rgbrao said...

I go with a few labels:

1. Moderate Calvinism and Immoderate Calvinism - moderate would describe R.C. Sprouls version, which I believe I can trust. Immoderate for everything else.

2. More Reformed Than Thou - for all those guys who keep climbing up the reformed ladder and call all those below them, Arminians, whether they are Arminians or not.

God bless, and keep up the good work.
Raj Rao