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Hyper-Calvinism refers to a group of beliefs which are seen as extreme forms or exaggerations of mainstream Calvinist teaching. It is a pejorative term, and is not used by the adherents of these beliefs, only their critics. There is no one single system of Hyper-Calvinist belief, but there are a number of beliefs to which many Hyper-Calvinists subscribe:
- The damned do not have any duty to believe or repent; only the elect have such a duty.
- It is wrong to offer or encourage people to accept the Gospel, unless one has definitive reasons to believe they may be among the elect.
- God only offers grace to the elect; he does not offer any form of grace to the damned. (According to mainstream Calvinist belief, although God does not extend the grace of salvation to the damned, he does extend them other "common" forms of grace.)
- God only loves the elect; he does not have any form of love for the reprobate, only hatred.
- Only Calvinists are true Christians; Arminians and other non-Calvinists are not Christians, and cannot be saved unless they were destined to convert to Calvinism.
The problem with Hyper-Calvinism is that it contradicts many Biblical passages. For example, Jesus' words in Matthew 5:45 can be understood as saying that God extends grace and love even to the reprobate. Hyper-Calvinists however will proffer their own alternate interpretations of these passages.
Hyper-Calvinists oppose many common forms of evangelism and missions. They are not opposed to spreading purely factual information about the Gospel message, but they believe it is wrong to encourage others to believe in the Gospel. If God wants them to believe in it, he will make them without requiring human effort. If he does not want them to, they won't, regardless of how much any human tries.
Hyper-Calvinism is prevalent in certain Baptist churches. These include the Protestant Baptist Church, Two-Seeds-in-the-Spirit Predestinarians (of whom only a handful of congregations exist) and Primitive Baptists, who are distinguished by ultra-plain churches and the practice of foot-washing. 'Fundamentalist' or 'Independent, Fundamental' Baptists are usually at the other extreme of teaching full free will; David Cloud and Jerry Falwell are on record condemning Calvinism as a heresy unfit for fundamentalist separatist Baptist churches.
In Britain, the Gospel Standard Trust, who see themselves as the legitimate descendants of Reformers and upholders of the purest Bible-based Christianity over-and-above compromises with 'Popery' (Roman Catholicism) or 'modernism', espouse hyper-Calvinism. They are commonly known as Gospel Standard Baptist Chapels but some are known to prefer the term 'Strict and Particular Baptist Meeting House'. 'Strict' refers to the practice of closed communion, 'particular' to the mainstream Calvinist belief in limited atonement, and 'meeting house' is used instead of 'chapel' or 'church' to distinguish the denomination from those they see as compromised. Another reason sometimes given for this name is that the 'church' is biblically understood as the people of God and not a building. Separatist and fatalist, the group embraces strict moral standards and is very rarely heard of within modern Britain; even their existence is not so well-known.
The Westboro Baptist Church is said by some to be Hyper-Calvinist (certainly they endorse all the beliefs of Hyper-Calvinism). Others object that this as unfair to Hyper-Calvinists; Westboro Baptist Church's beliefs are far more extreme than that of historic Hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinist denominations have historically tended to be withdrawn and inward-looking, and by contrast Westboro Baptist Church is very publicity-seeking. Although most denominations seek publicity to bring souls to Christ, Westboro Baptist sees its role as bringing people knowledge of their damnation. In contrast, while many Hyper-Calvinist churches would see the vast majority of humanity as reprobate, they do not see it as being their job to bring that fact to public attention.