May 4, 2009

Antinomianism & Hyper Calvinism

As I have mentioned in previous postings, I am continuing my research in regard to an historical definition of "Hyper Calvinism." Recently I have posted several primitive sources wherein Hyper Calvinism was identified with a denial of means in regeneration or new birth, and with what is called "metaphysical regeneration," or one that says regeneration is "physical" (changing the substance or nature of the soul so that it has faculties it did not previously have, and that says that "regeneration," so defined, is previous to love for God and before faith and repentance towards God, being the "implanting" of a "divine holy principle" that is like a dormant seed or germ). I hope to post more citations from writers of the past who identified the "born again before faith" and "anti-means" errors as being elements of "Hyper Calvinism."

I have also pointed out, and will not elaborate upon, how some old writers often used the term "Hyper Calvinism" as a synonym for "Antinomianism." In fact, the previous posting from the leading Presbyerians of the 18th and 19th centuries, in America, those "Constitutional Presbyterians" (in opposition to the "New Basis Brethren"), clearly identified "Antinomianism" with a denial of means in regeneration, and with promoting a "metaphysical regeneration" that precedes any action of faith and repentance on the part of the sinner. It also seems clear that they associated this with "Hyper Calvinism."

Other writers use terms like "hyper-Calvinistic Antinomianism." Some speak of "hyper-Calvinism and Antinomianism," as if they are similar, like cousins, but not the same. Others speak of "the hyper-calvinistic or antinomian spirit," as if they are one and the same. One writer spoke of "the hyper-Calvinism of Antinomians."

Notice these citations.

"Of this truth Mr. Fuller had abundant evidence. In his life and travels, he witnessed the hyper-calvinistic, or antinomian spirit, sweeping over the churches, withering up, like the Sirocco's blast, their vital principle, and converting them into barren wastes." ("Memoir of Roger Williams By James Davis Knowles" pg. 440)


Circular Letter (19th century) -

"The first error we shall mention is that baneful and pernicious principle of Antinomianism (a contemporary and somewhat inaccurate synonym for hyper-Calvinism); that horrid doctrine, which makes God the author of sin, by charging it on his absolute decrees." ("Raccoon John Smith" By John Sparks, pg. 160)


Here Sparks is unwilling to view the terms as synonyms, but simply says that the difference is only "somewhat" inaccurate, implying it is mostly accurate, however.

Another writer, Baptist Jeremiah Jeter, wrote:

"Another cause which favored the progress of the reformation was the prevalence of hyper-Calvinistic, or antinomian views in many Baptist churches." ("Campbellism examined" By Jeremiah Bell Jeter, pg. 79)


He clearly seems to view them as synonyms.

Another writer wrote:

"The Reverend Stephen Capin enumerated the hyper-Calvinist heresies that led so many settlers to Antinomianism, a rejection of all authority in this world:

1. All days are equally holy.

2. The dictates of the spirit are the rule of life.
3. That the spirit strives only with the elect.
4. That the Bible is of no use to the impenitent.
5. That the unconverted have lost natural ability to do duty.
6. The atonement is limited and therefore the invitation is not universal.
7. That there is no propriety in using means with the unrenewed.
8. Above all, the antinomian leven (sic) is secretly and widely diffusing."

("Liberty Men and Great Proprietors" By Alan Taylor, pg. 137)


If the denial of means in regeneration (a position of those Calvinists who promote the born again before faith error), is an elemental principle of "Antinomians," then let us at least call it that. My point is simply to show that it is in keeping with the opinion of historic creedal Calvinists to identify this kind of "antinomianism" as also a kind of "hyper-calvinism."

Elder (Dr.) John M. Watson, Hardshell founding father, wrote:

"The Antinomian will not regard any thing in the light of means, and in his doctrine will not allow even the Lord to employ them, says that the Lord is not dependent on means, and can do all His work without them. Now, the truth is, had it been the will or the way of the Lord, He could have breathed upon the dry bones as well without the prophesying of the prophet as with it, and could have given repentance to John's converts, or to Paul's, without their preaching; but their preaching to such, even to those dead in tresspasses and sins, had been included in the divine plan, and it needs must be done, let it be termed means, the will or way of the Lord, as you please." ("Old Baptist Test," pages 327, 328)

"We call on sinners to awake from the sleep of death by faith, believing that God will give them life; to repent because he has promised to give repentance; to believe because He gives faith, to persevere because He is the finisher of our faith. Shall we give up this part of the work of the ministry because it has been Armianized, and call all Arminians who carry it out? Faith divests all these things of Arminianism; faith which has regard to what the Lord will do, and not a false trust in what we may do ourselves." (Pg. 537)

"Our system should not only embrace the doctrine of salvation by grace, but also the method or way of grace. The way of grace is to call on sinners to live as well as to give life, to exhort them to repent, as well as to give repentance, to exhort unbelievers to believe as well as to give faith. It both leads by the spirit, and exhorts by the word." (Pg. 537)

Clearly the denial of means in regeneration is a kind of "antinomianism" and "hyperism."

Dr. A. H. Strong wrote:

"Brethren, let us make an end of Antinomianism and hyper-Calvinism in missions."

("Christ in creation and ethical monism" - pg. 276)


Notice how Dr. Strong puts these two errors together.

S. Hassell, another 19th century Hardshell leader, writes:

"...these Divine and eternal truths being stigmatized as "Hyper-Calvinism" and "Antinomianism " by those who erred because not knowing the, Scriptures nor the power of God." (pg. 536)

("History of the Church of God" By Cushing Biggs Hassell, Sylvester Hassell)


"This scheme was condemned by Mr Flavel, Dr Williams, and other orthodox divines, as strongly as it could possibly be by the followers of Dr Crisp. The Antinomian tenets which they opposed, namely, that all true believers are justified from eternity; that an elect person is never chargeable with sin before God; that the moral law is not of perpetual obligation, or the rule of life to believers, and that sin can do a believer no injury: the animadverting upon these and similar tenets, led them to state strongly the doctrine of Scripture opposed to them. In particular, they maintained that personal salvation is obtained only through sanctification of the Spirit, and the belief of the truth; that no sinner is justified before God till he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, and that it is only when man believes that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him. When they spoke of faith as a means or instrument of personal salvation, they did not ascribe merit to faith—they did not say, that it is on account of his faith, as a meritorious ground, that sinful man is justified before God. But they affirmed, in conformity with the declarations of Scripture, that faith, even that faith which is the gift of God, is so connected with a participation in the salvation of the gospel, that the latter is not enjoyed where the former does not exist. They also maintained that this faith in the heart is productive of good fruits in the life, and that those who are under its purifying influence live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world.

The most distinguished man in recent times of the hyper-Calvinistic and Antinomian school, was Dr Hawker, Vicar of Chorles, near Plymouth. He professed to be an Antinomian, and he is said to have gloried in the name.

The Antinomian creed is of greater or less dimensions at different periods, and in different circumstances. It is summed up by Flavel in the following ten propositions:—

1. That the justification of the elect is eternal; that is, the act of God from all eternity.

2. That justification by faith is no more than a manifestation of eternal justification.

3. That men ought not to doubt of their faith.

4. That believers are not bound to confess or mourn for their sins, because they are eternally pardoned.

5. That God sees no sin in believers.

6. That God is not angry with the elect.

7. That, by God's laying our iniquities upon Christ, He became as completely sinful as we, and believers as completely righteous as Christ. 8. That believers need not fear their own sins, nor do any duty for their salvation.

9. That the new covenant is not made with us, but with Christ; and that faith, repentance, and obedience, are conditions on His part, not ours.

10. That sanctification is no evidence of justification, but rather darkens it.

According to Flavel, Antinomianism proceeds from four causes: the anguish of a perplexed conscience leading persons to snatch at the relief held out by such doctrines;—zeal against Popish errors relative to the doctrine of justification;—separating the Spirit from the written Word, and acting under a supposed inward light and guidance apart from Scripture;—and zeal without knowledge or judgment."

This is quite clear that this author identified "antinomianism" with a denial of means in regeneration.

More to come.

Elements of systematic divinity
By Daniel Dewar
Published by T. Murray, 1866
Item notes: v. 3
Original from Harvard University



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