Saturday, March 20, 2010

Calvinist or "Hyper-Calvinist"? Or, the more careful use of labels...

Not long ago, someone dropped by my study who was dropping something off for an event. While there, she said, "I have a question for you: are you a Calvinist or a Hyper-Calvinist?"

I realized this was a loaded question; usually people don't speak with that sort of language of comparison unless they have a particular pre-disposition about both. It's sort of like the label "TR" which can be used pejoratively, meaning "more 'Reformed' than me;" or it can be used haughtily, meaning, "more 'Reformed' than YOU." Either way, it's always done relative to the speaker.

So it turned out to be with my curious visitor. I answered, "I would call myself a Calvinist" at which point she relaxed with relief. But I came to find out that by "Calvinist" she meant, essentially, that God's election of the saints was conditioned on His foreknowledge that they would respond to His offer of grace with faith.

I recognize that position, and I don't begrudge someone their right to conclude that from Scripture if their study so leads them (though I confess I don't see how it does; I've tried to examine the Bible through the "lens" of the Arminian position and it simply isn't my prescription). But what she articulated was not Calvinism.

It reminded me of how carefully we must use such labels. By this lady's estimation, she would conclude that I am, in fact, a "Hyper-Calvinist" (though I would deny it with some enthusiasm). In fact, she probably doesn't really know what either term meant.

I just read last night that, when David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was asked why, in his preaching through the first two chapters of Ephesians, he never once mentioned Calvinism. "The Apostle Paul didn't choose to use that term," said he.

Perhaps we might follow Dr. Lloyd-Jones's model more frequently.

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