February 12, 2013

Dr. Samuel Waldron's Admonition Against Hyper-Calvinism

After outlining the ways that God loves people according to the teaching concerning the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 8 and 9, Waldron in his sermon (click) focuses on 4 applications of the text for people today. He says the first one is this (see minute 39:10–41:53):
There is an admonition against Hyper-Calvinism. There is a warning against Hyper-Calvinism. We live in the day of what's called the Reformed resurgence, and if you believe that Reformed theology historically is biblical theology, you have to be happy about this. But whenever men start getting a hold of God's sovereignty in salvation, there seems to be a native tendency in their hearts (well, there certainly was in my heart) to go to the extreme of Hyper-Calvinism. One of the evils of Hyper-Calvinism is its persistent tendency to deny God's general love for all mankind. It reasons, and it thinks it reasons quite logically, that [since] God only elects some people to salvation, then He must have no love in any sense for anyone else. This, it seems to the Hyper-Calvinist, is what logic requires. This being the case, the free offer of the gospel cannot be true, because God cannot truly desire all the men who hear the gospel to turn and be saved. If He did, then He would have elected them, right? Finally, the logic of such people argues that if election is true, there can be no such thing as common grace. The Hyper-Calvinist, therefore, denies the general love of God, and he denies the free offer of the gospel, and he denies the doctrine of common grace.
What is the problem with the Hyper-Calvinist? Well, actually it's the same problem as with the Arminian. Both of them think they know too much about God. The Hyper-Calvinist thinks he knows altogether too much about God. He thinks he knows what God can do and what He can't do, and what God can feel and what He can't feel. And the fact is, he doesn't! The Spirit of God only knows what is in the spirit of God and the mind of God. This person trusts his own logic more than the bible to tell him what God can be and what God can feel, and passages like the one in front of us this morning make [it] very clear that God loves people, and He loves humanity in general! And the bible makes clear that the doctrines of the general love of God, and the free offer of the gospel, and the common grace of God, are true! And they are true whether or not the logic of the Hyper-Calvinist thinks they can be, because the bible is clear [on this]. And our doctrine is not finally based upon our finite, fallen and frail logic. It is based on the story of the bible.
Update on 12-13-14:

Also, during a a recent conference (1689 Conference in 2014, November 13–15th, Q&A session on Day 3 [YouTube version here]), it was asked how one would use the confession against some of the tenets of hyper-Calvinism. Sam Waldron has this response around minute 46:49–47:38:
I just want to make three doctrinal comments. First of all, with regard to Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism, there's certain language that has become the language of Calvinism that has been rejected by hyper-Calvinism over the last 100 years. And we discover that the confession uses the language of Calvinism, and language that's been rejected by hyper-Calvinism in chapter 7.

There's the language of the free offer of the gospel. In chapter 14 (I think it's in chapter 14), of saving faith, there's the language of common grace. And [in] that way, the confession shows that it's, I think plainly, in the tradition the Canons of Dort, which I think plainly teach common grace and the free offer of the gospel.

The other area where I would set our confession over against hyper-Calvinism is that think—I want to put this carefully so you don't misunderstand me—but there's a caution about the doctrine of double predestination in chapter 3 of our confession. There's a caution about that doctrine that is commendable. Don't get me wrong, I think in some sense we should hold double predestination, but we need to hold it carefully, and with qualification. I think the way it's presented in our confession, even as opposed to say the Westminster, is commendable and cautious. And I think that's an important thing to remember with regard to our confession and hyper-Calvinism as well.
Update on 8-15-16:

At the 2015 Reformation Preaching Conference (RP15), Dr. Waldron addressed Misunderstandings of Reformed Thinking, or 21 Misunderstandings of Calvinism. It is posted on YouTube here (link). The audio clip is here (link). In minutes 30:05–35:04, he addressed several sub-points under the topic of “Misunderstandings related to Unconditional Election,” and he posted the section on the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary blog here (link). He said this (with audio additions put brackets): 
II. Misunderstandings related to Unconditional Election

(7) It is not the duty of the non-elect to believe in Christ for salvation. Calvinists do not believe in the free offer of the gospel.

This is, indeed, the doctrine of a few Hyper-Calvinists, but it has never been the doctrine of mainstream Calvinism. The 1689 Baptist Confession (7:2) affirms: “Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace, wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved.” Listen once more to the Canons of Dort:

    THIRD AND FOURTH HEAD: ARTICLE 9. It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the Word refuse to come and be converted. The fault lies in themselves; some of whom when called, regardless of their danger, reject the Word of life

[Added in audio: “Men are called, regardless of whether they are elect or not, to believe the gospel, and when they do not respond they sin, and are condemned for that sin.”]

(8) God does not desire the salvation of the non-elect, but has only hatred for them.

There are again some High Calvinists that teach that [audio omits “High Calvinists,” but has “there are some who teach that...”], even though God commands the non-elect to come to Christ, He really has no desire that they come. [audio adds: “But again, this is contrary to historic Calvinism”] But listen again to the Canons of Dort:

    THIRD AND FOURTH HEAD: ARTICLE 8. As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God has most earnestly and truly declared in His Word what is acceptable to Him, namely, that those who are called should come unto Him. He also seriously promises rest of soul and eternal life to all who come to Him and believe.

In Audio: “I believe this is the well-meant offer and it’s there in the Canons of Dort.”

(9) There is no such thing as common grace.

Once more the 1689 Baptist Confession contradicts this claim. At 14:3 it speaks of “the faith and common grace of temporary believers…”

This is a good place to stop and make a comment or two about what is going wrong when Hyper-Calvinism denies duty-faith, the free and well-meant offer of the gospel, and common grace. What is going wrong is that they have adopted an imbalanced doctrine of the divine will. They are identifying the divine will simply with God’s decree. The Bible, however, teaches that the divine will is also revealed in God’s precepts. Consider a few texts:

    Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.
    Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. [audio adds: “evil as it’s defined by the word of God is contradiction and violation of God’s will expressed in the law.”]
    Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’
    Romans 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, [audio omits these last two texts]

Hyper-Calvinism refuses to value, or undervalues God’s preceptive or revealed will in favor of His decretive or secret will. But these two dimensions of God’s will must be equally valued. God as holy, righteous, and good, desires and must desire that men act in a way that is holy, righteous, and good. For mysterious reasons of His own He has not predestined in His decretive will that men should always act according to His preceptive will. Sometimes it is God’s decretive will that men violate His preceptive will and do what Joseph calls “evil.” [audio adds: “‘you meant evil against me.’ But, in doing that, at one and the same time, they are fulfilling God’s decretive will, and we must, rather than trying to explain away this  mystery and entangling ourselves in terrible difficulties...”] We must bow to this mystery and not try to explain it away!
Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary