Types of Calvinism – A Comprehensive List

 

This is an attempt at a comprehensive numerical list of categories within Calvinist orthodoxy (and a few that fall outside the realm). There are 9 total categories, 6 of which fall into Calvinistic orthodoxy. There is a summary of doctrines after the list (Important) as well as a few people who historically have (or might have) held to this position below the list. This list is soteriological in nature and does not take into account worship styles, mode of baptism and to whom it may be administered, regional distinctives, or church government. I have selected more doctrinal topics and explanations than other charts have, that I know of. I also believe strongly that I am being more objective than the mainstream evangelicals usually are in many of their lists. On the bottom rung I have Amyraldism and on the top rung I have placed total hyper-Calvinism and partial hyper-Calvinism (1 and 2) toward the top because I believe them to be denials of Calvinism. Everything other than those I believe to be within historic orthodox Calvinism. The term “promiscuous” evangelism has nothing to do with sensual desires but with the fact that all people are to hear the Gospel, in contrast with the selective evangelism of partial and total hyper-calvinism. I have been a student of Calvinism for years, explicitly High Calvinism and have peered into both historic streams and also hyper-calvinist beliefs to represent them fairly. Other than the Amyraldists, all Calvinists will believe in the 5 points and the 5 solas despite what some mainstream evangelicals will tell you. There are many variables so this is why I have included more options than is usual for these types of numerical charts. Don’t forget to scroll down for definitions if you are stuck. Note that because of the number and variety of variables, all possible groupings cannot be covered or else we would have about 30 categories.

1). Total hyper-Calvinism:

Rejects:

Duty / faith

The well-meant offer

Common grace,

Any love for the reprobate by God

Promiscuous evangelism

Affirms:

Eternal Justification

Active Reprobation

That God works ends without means

That providence and moral responsibility are incompatible

Determinism (usually ending up in fatalism in practice)

Supralapsarianism

Selective evangelism

2). Partial hyper-Calvinism:

Rejects:

The well-meant offer

Common grace

Any love for the reprobate

Promiscuous evangelism

Sometimes Duty / Faith

Affirms:

Some form of Eternal Justification (maybe not strongly)

Active reprobation

Determinism (Its hardest version).

Supralapsarianism

Restricted evangelism

No love for the reprobate by God

3). Ultra-High Calvinism

Affirms:

Determinism (Double Predestination)

Many times Supralapsarianism

Promiscuous non-selective evangelism

Many times Active Reprobation

Little to no love for the reprobate by God

Duty-faith

Rejects:

Most times common grace

Well-meant offer

4). Regular High Calvinism

Affirms:

Usually a moderate form of Determinism (many call it compatibilism)

Some Supra, few Infra, usually no Lapsarian position

Sometimes well-meant offer

Many times Common Grace

Promiscuous non-selective evangelism

At least some love for the reprobate by God

Rejects:

Sometimes Common Grace

Many times the well-meant offer

5). Moderate Calvinism

Affirms:

Compatibilism, sometimes a slightly higher form

Few Supras, many Infras, many without a position

Usually Common Grace

Usually the well-meant offer

Promiscuous non-selective evangelism

Love for the reprobate, most say non-salvific

6). Lower Moderate Calvinism (may pre-date the confessions)

Affirms:

Compatibilism (Maybe a lower form of Determinism)

Infralapsarianism or no position

Common Grace

The well-meant offer

Promiscuous non-selective evangelism

Non-salvific love for reprobates, sometimes salvific love as well

Single predestination, sometimes double

7). Lower Calvinism

Affirms:

Compatibilism (maybe even lower than that)

Infralapsarian or no position

Common Grace

The well-meant offer

Promiscuous non-selective evangelism

Many salvific love for the non-elect

Softer forms of Double Predestination

8). Lowest Calvinism

Affirms:

Lowest form of compatibilism (some moderate)

Infralapsarian or no position

Common Grace

The well-meant offer

Promiscuous non-selective evangelism

Salvific love for the non-elect

Single predestination only

9). Amyraldism (4 point Calvinism)

Affirms:

Lowest form of compatibilism

Mostly no lapsarian position

Salvific Grace for all

General Atonement

Common Grace and usually love for all people

Usually some form of election

Single predestination only

Explanation of Doctrinal Positions

 

Duty / faith: All Total Hyper-Calvinists reject what is called the issue of duty / faith (however, many do not reject it. This issue arose in the Gospel Standard Churches of England, a group of Strict Baptist Churches that at times many distinguish between the Primitive Baptists. Most of them could be called also Particular Baptists. Gospel Standard Churches (a group within the Particular Baptist Tradition) members usually tend to reject that the reprobate actually have a duty to have faith or repent in Jesus because, according to them, they are not to be preached to, therefore, they say, it is ridiculous to state that they have a duty to repent and believe. However, Calvinists point to Acts 17:30 to easily refute this notion along with the belief in selective preaching. The Particular Baptist movement eventually failed because of the ministry of William Carey and others who did evangelize to the lost in other regions of the earth, and this is why many churches today are labeled Missionary-Baptists, to counter these hyper-calvinists. They deny the label hyper-calvinist and complain that true Calvinists are “Fullerites” after Andrew Fuller. Calvin’s evangelistic efforts preclude their position as does the whole of the New Testament.

 

Eternal Justification: Some infralapsarians have complained that if, in fact, God viewed the elect as (unfallen) before He created them in time, then were they always justified? How would this conflict with Justification by faith alone in time? Supralapsarians are quick to deny any belief in eternal justification and affirm that because Ephesians 1 speaks of “supra-history,” this does not mean that we must slip into eternal justification. Some infralapsarian, however, wonder concerning what they view as a perceived evasion. Many Calvinists have never heard of this issue. Few people believe in eternal justification, and if they do, they are usually those remnants of the Particular Baptists (Gospel Standard Churches), but not necessarily. One adherent of this position seems to be Don Fortner and another is John Gill. Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed are known to reject this view and even condemn it due to their confessional commitments.

 

Anti-Evangelism vs. Promiscuous Evangelism: The word “promiscuous” here has no pejorative connotations. All Calvinists believe in evangelism. All hyper-calvinists, whether total or partial are anti-evangelism, although they differ as to how restrictive one ought to be. This, again, is usually found in many Particular, Strict, and Primitive Baptist churches, like the Gospel Standard Churches. However, many Primitives do believe in evangelism. Notable hyper-calvinists (mostly partial, but some total) include some Baptist and Congregational ministers in England during the rise of the Particular Baptists in the 1600-1700. Adherents include Joseph Hussey, John Birne, Lewis Wayman, and some say even John Gill.

 

Well-meant offer: This term is not synonymous with “free offer of the Gospel” as some would like to claim. Everyone involved believes that the Gospel should be offered freely. This issue has nothing to do with election and reprobation. It is often mistaken as a synonym with “general offer,” which it is not. All people who affirm or reject the well-meant offer accept Calvinistic election. This issue also has nothing to do with whether we should evangelize to everyone. All Calvinists accept evangelism to all. The issue has to do with whether or not in the Gospel Call itself, God desires the salvation of the reprobate. This issue has to do with the Wills of God, usually separated into Mysterious and Revealed, or better, Decretive Will and Will of precept (or command). Those who reject the well-meant offer believe that God decrees the reprobate to not be saved, therefore that must be consistent with His desire in all senses. However, people who reject the well-meant offer cannot be called hyper-calvinists nor can they be charged with not desiring to evangelize to all (general offer). Those who accept the well-meant offer appeal to verses such as Ezekiel 18:23 and 2 Peter 3:9 to state that although God has decreed the non-salvation of the reprobate, that in the Gospel call itself He desires that they be saved, stating that otherwise it would be a “mock” offer. Rejecters of the well-meant offer state that whatever verse one appeals to, God’s Sovereignty is impinged upon if He does not get what He sets out to do even with the Gospel call, and that the reason for the call itself is that God desires to harden the reprobate, not save them, and it occurs infallibly. John Calvin most likely did not hold to this position since at the time it was not an issue, and Westminster does not condemn its rejection, many would say. The most famous rejecters are the Protestant Reformed churches (Herman Hoeksema, David Engelsma) John Gerstner, and Gordon Clark. A higher number of laypersons than what is usual are beginning to reject the well-meant offer. The most famous affirmers are: the Christian Reformed Church, Ned Stonehouse, C.G Berkouwer, Cornelius Van-Til, and John Murray.

 

Common Grace: How is “grace” defined? Can it be used in general or only salvifically? If only salvifically, then God may only have Grace (because Grace leads to mercy, and God has mercy only on the elect) toward the elect and not the reprobate, for He does not desire their salvation in any sense. Those that affirm common grace say it is “reading the doctrine into the Bible” to deny it, and that Grace extends to many if not all reprobates, although it is not salvific but general, and therefore “common.” Both the accepters and rejecters accept that good gifts are given to the elect and reprobate, but the question is “why?” Common-gracers say “because He has grace on them,” but rejecters say “because He is holding them accountable and fattening them up for judgment, not because He has grace on them, since grace would mean love. Some lower Calvinists will say that in one sense, God died for the “elect” and in another sense, Christ’s blood also was sufficient for the reprobate – a position that is very consonant with common grace, and some would say, unfortunately. Some claim that John Calvin himself held to this position, as well as to a looser form of limited atonement. The most famous rejecters are the Protestant Reformed churches (Herman Hoeksema, David Engelsma) and Gordon Clark. A higher number of laypersons than what is usual are beginning to reject common grace. The most famous affirmers are: the Christian Reformed Church, Ned Stonehouse, Abraham Kuyper, H.J Kuiper, Cornelius Van-Til, John Frame, James White, and John Murray.

 

 

Love for reprobates: Many Calvinists would say that God loves the elect and the reprobate although the elect more than the reprobate. Some cry foul. Why would God love those he hates? (Psalms 5:5) He cannot hate them and love them. Affirmers state that since God has one will in two senses, that in one sense He love them and in another He hates them, but others cry foul, as if this were a contradiction. Many say it is only a tension that is due to the Scriptural data we have, and charge that those who deny love altogether are “rationalistic” in their exegesis. Others appeal to logical or philosophical arguments to either deny all or most kinds of love, or affirm some or most kinds of love. This issue is directly tied in with Common Grace and sometimes with the Well-meant offer. Gordon Clark rejects any love for reprobates as does A.W Pink.

 

Lapsarianism: The issue of Lapsarianism pertains to the order (not temporal but logical) of God’s decrees. You may “google” the term for charts and graphs. Many would deny that this order is feasible and would rather not pontificate on it, but others do affirm a logical order and tend to play around with it. Usually Scripture and logic, and sometimes the Calvinistic Confessions are employed in stating one’s lapsarian position. The higher the Calvinist, we many find – the more the supralapsarians abide. The lower the Calvinist, usually the more the infralapsarians will abide. Supras include: Abraham Kuyper, Franciscus Gomarus, Theodore Beza, and Gordon Clark. Infras Include: John Owen, Matthew Henry, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Charles Spurgeon. Many try to modify the positions (Robert Raymond, James White)

 

Predestination (Determinism, Double, Compatibilism, Single): All Calvinists believe in Predestination and Election. However, most will also assign the term “reprobation.” (Romans 9). Some Calvinists view God’s decrees as having more causal efficacy than other Calvinists. Some want to magnify God’s Sovereignty by assigning more causatory power to God even with the reprobates while opponents sometimes charge this higher determinist position with philosophizing rather than attending to the Scriptural data. Double predestination is also relevant here because most Calvinists would charge the Single predestinarians with denying, for emotional reasons, that God reprobates. Some see this as a more “passive” than “active” issue, for (they say) if reprobation is active, then God is the cause of evil in them (some say Author – but at any rate, what does “author of sin” even mean? Cite the definitions but be careful! [Johannes Maccovius comes to mind]), but affirmers of active reprobation (or something close to that effect) shrug their shoulders and say “so what?” God is Sovereign and we do not want to distance Him from any causal activity in the world, for how can it then exist without Him upholding it? If He upholds it, does He not then uphold the reprobate in their wickedness? Virtually all people, however, would use the term “Author of sin” to refer to God for practical or logical reasons, however some people term God as the one who “decrees and is the first cause of evil, sometimes even proximate” (higher forms of reprobation) citing verses like Judges 9:23 and some places in Samuel and Deuteronomy where God causes evil spirits to enter false teachers so that they would utter lies. The question is: “How much does God cause? Does he even “allow?” Gordon Clark, for example, has stated almost verbatim, that “Just because God causes a man to sin does not mean that God sins.” Most, however, would cry foul, complaining that God cannot possibly think or act this way, since it (they would affirm) would impinge on His benevolence. (Van-Til and others use “proximate cause” and leave it there. Others, however, question the formers’ perceived emotional lack of attention to logical deduction. This also ties into the “moral responsibility issue.” Hyper-Calvinists will retort: “It doesn’t matter if they are responsible or not, God has condemned them and that’s it. Who cares about means? Means would distance God from His works!” (Almost nobody holds to this position). Calvinists are quick to say: “Yes, it matters! God’s decree, even if it is active, holds them responsible precisely because they have sinned. Even if God has inclined their wills, they have chosen to sin. Lower Calvinists cry foul and would rather say that it is either a paradox or that it is totally compatible with a permissive decree, freedom, and predestination. You will see some Calvinists using more “causal” language than others: “decree, cause” and not “permit, allow,” etc. for doctrinal and personal reasons. At any rate, one cannot call the “active reprobation” position hyper-Calvinism nor should one  refer to the “passive” or “moderated reprobation” position as “low-Calvinism.”

 Thank you for your participation.

Regards,

Felipe Diez III

Minister_of_Music@yahoo.com

 

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9 Responses to Types of Calvinism – A Comprehensive List

  1. Pingback: Types of Calvinism: A Comprehensive List [Soteriology] + Explanation of Doctrinal Positions & Key Figures Who Hold Them – Felipe Diez III | The Confessing Baptist

  2. Quite a work! Great job, man!!!

  3. Thanks for this, brother Felipe. However, I have a few serious issues that perhaps you can clear up.

    “Particular Baptist” simply cannot be equated with Hypercalvinism. That is a dangerous confusion of a historical term. The 17th century Particular Baptists were simply what we would today call “Reformed Baptists.” Don’t take my word for it, contact Dr. Renihan or someone else familiar with the course of Particular Baptist history and theology. As one who self-identifies as a Particular Baptist but eschews Hyper-Calvinism’s rejection of promiscuous evangelism, I think this error needs to be clarified immediately.

    The second issue is with “Eternal Justification.” If the doctrine meant what its opponents think it meant, then yes, it belongs in the “hyper” category. But Justification from Eternity as presented by John Gill, for example, is in complete harmony with Justification by Faith Alone in time. It is speaking of two different(!) aspects of how/why/when God declares sinners righteous. It may be good to familiarize yourself with Gill’s “Justification as an Eternal and Immanent Act of God” (available online) and perhaps carefully summarize what the actual position is.

    A minor note is that Gordon Clark’s Supralapsarianism is a modification of what one normally hears from Supras. I think (not sure though, off the top of my head) he was in line with Reymond, but I’d have to check to make sure.

    I do not want to come across as too harsh a critic, because there’s a lot of good material here, but I think the issues I mentioned (especially the first one) need quick, serious attention.

    • Thank you very much for your input Patrick. I will certainly take your advice into account as I receive input from people so that I could better represent people’s views.

    • brandonadams says:

      their [Particular Baptist] view of the church made evangelism necessary. Membership in the church by merely being an English person did not make one a Christian. Infant baptism, contrary to the claims of the baptismal ritual of the Anglican liturgy, made no one a member of Christ’s body, forgave no one’s sins, and bestowed the Spirit on no one. Hearing and believing the gospel was necessary. Both General and Particular Baptists preached widely with a view to conversion. Without conversion growth, Baptist churches would cease to exist.

      The eighteenth century brought difficulties to the evangelistic impetus of both groups. The General Baptist decline into Socinianism diluted their evangelism by redefining the character of the Redeemer. Some Particular Baptists became infected with hyper-Calvinism and seldom, if ever, called the unregenerate to repent of sin and believe in Jesus. Andrew Fuller and others recovered the original theology of [Particular Baptist] evangelism. This theological recovery had massive implications as it led to the preaching of the gospel in all the world. The organized mission movement of modern day evangelicalism came to birth in the theological recovery of the Particular Baptists.

      The Baptists: Beginnings in Britain, Tom Nettles, p. 318-319

      Regarding supralapsarianism: I think Clark would agree with Reymond, but I don’t believe he ever explicitly commented on Reymond’s modification. I don’t consider Reymond’s modification to be anything major (as far as I can tell, he does not reject the “unmodified” supralapsarian position – he is merely offering a refinement). I don’t recall reading any modification from Clark, though perhaps his arguments for arriving at the position were uniquely articulated.

      Categorizations like this are very difficult (as evidenced by the frequent use of “usually”, “few”, “sometimes”, “many”). I would recommend reading the individual authors to find out who you agree with, rather than adherence to a label (in this particular context) – though I think your primer is decent. Thanks Felipe.

      (I would suggest adding James White to the list of those who reject the well-meant offer, since you list him as a well known figure under common grace)

  4. Pingback: Grace, Jesus, Romans 9, and a Village | The Disciple

  5. jm says:

    According to this definition I’m a Hyper Calvinist. The “Calvinism Chart” reflects the degrees of Calvinism much better.
    http://feileadhmor.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/calvinism-chart/
    see also John Brine’s work titled “A Defense of the Doctrine of Eternal Justification,” Job Hupton’s work “Thoughts upon The Date of Justification” and sermons by Don Fortner. Thank you.

  6. billhi says:

    I don’t think that Calvinism Chart does a better job than Felipe did with this article; quite the reverse, in fact.

  7. billhi says:

    Felipe, you had mentioned expanding this article.
    Are you still going to do that?

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