1. It is used as a term of abuse for anyone who is more Calvinistic than the accuser. For example, a 4-point Calvinist will accuse a 5-point Calvinist of being a hyper-Calvinist.
In this sense, it is used by someone who wants to strike a compromise between Reformed and Arminian theology. He believes that both are half-right, two halves of a whole, but their relation is one big imponderable paradox.
This usage is unhelpful because it blurs the meaning of a term and confuses what something stands for with what we stand for. I can disagree with something without bending the meaning of the word all out of shape. Labels cease to be useful unless they clearly demarcate a given position and distinguish it from a contrary position. If someone doesn't believe in 5-point Calvinism, he should just find (or make up) a label for his own position rather than stealing ours.
2. It is used of a preacher who refuses to call everyone in the audience to repent of their sins and believe in Christ.
This begins with a Reformed premise, and derives what it considers to be a more consistently Calvinistic conclusion, to wit: if no one can come to Christ who is not chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Spirit, then it is inappropriate to call on the reprobate or unregenerate to repent of sin and believe in Christ. And since we don't know the state of grace, or graceless state, of every listener, we shouldn't call on anyone to repent and believe.
To my knowledge, this is pretty rare. It seems more often to be a scarecrow erected by the enemies of Calvinism to frighten away any passersby who might take an interest in the doctrines of grace.
By way of reply:
i) Since we have examples of indiscriminate preaching in the OT prophets, the Gospels, and the Book of Acts, hyper-Calvinism, in this sense, is overscrupulous and unscriptural.
ii) We can accept the premise, but reject the conclusion. Since the preacher doesn't know who's who, he should preach to everyone in order to reach the elect.
iii) Since the preacher has no control over election, redemption, and regeneration, there is nothing he can say to make the reprobate come to Christ, or make the elect stay away. So what is he (the hyper-Calvinist) afraid of?
In the name of God's sovereignty, he acts as though he might do something to violate God's sovereignty unless he's oh-so careful. But if God is sovereign, then there is nothing he can do to mess up God's plan.
Ironically, the hyper-Calvinist is guilty of playing God. He's assuming responsibility for certain prior conditions (election, redemption, regeneration) for which God alone is responsible. He's trying to act on what he doesn't know, rather than acting on what he does know.
iv) He is also buying into the old Pelagian principle that ability limits responsibility. If the reprobate or unregenerate can't believe in Christ, then they shouldn't believe in Christ. Hence, they shouldn't be told to believe in Christ.
But this is another false inference. A man who is enslaved to a compulsive-addictive behavior (e.g., drugs, booze, gambling, pornography), may be unable to provide for his family. Yet his inability doesn't discharge him of his familial duties.
3. It is sometimes used of a preacher who does, in fact, call on everyone to repent and exercise faith, but who denies that God loves everyone or wants everyone to be saved or has conferred common grace on everyone.
Ironically, this accuser is the mirror-image of the hyper-Calvinist. For he is saying that the objective offer of the gospel is invalid unless certain divine preconditions are acknowledged and respected. It isn't enough to call on everyone to repent and believe: unless you (the preacher) believe that God seconds your call from the pulpit, then the offer is insincere and sub-par.
For more info on this debate, cf.
I don't quite agree with everything he says, but he does a decent job of untangling the issues.
There is not much more for me to add to what I've already said. What your friend sent you is so confused that it's hard even to make sense of it, much less respond to it.
i) I don't see that the infra/supra debate is relevant to the error of hyper-Calvinism. Infras believe in reprobation, double predestination, special redemption and spiritual inability right along with the supras, so the logic, if we want to call it that, of the hypers is the same under either the infra or supra view.
ii) The summons to repentance and faith is not limited to a one-time conversion experience. Christians always have sins to repent of, and they must always exercise faith in Christ.
iii) As to whether we characterize this summons as an "offer" or something else is one-sided. If you run through the various prooftexts for the offer of the gospel, it is various described as an offer, invitation, command, calling, gift, &c. It is a mistake to insist on one of these formulations to the exclusion of the others. That leads to unscriptural reductionism.
iv) To say that if the Arminian gospel is not the true gospel, then Arminians are not saved is muddled in several respects:
a) Arminian theology is an admixture of truth and error. It can be taken in either a more evangelical direction or else a more Pelagian direction.
b) We are saved by election, but not by believing in election. Because election is true, we should believe in it and commend that belief to others, but one of the things which makes sovereign grace to be sovereign is that it can save men and women with a defective theological understanding--up to a point.
For example, I have no reason to doubt the salvation of John and Charles Wesley, or Moody, or Billy Graham. I'm not so sure about Finney.
c) What, exactly, is there in the offer of the gospel (or whatever we want to call it) that we should not urge upon elect and reprobate alike?
Take repentance. Don't all men have a moral duty to obey God? And if they sin, don't they have an obligation to repent?
Total depravity subtracts from their ability, but not their duty. To say otherwise is to say that the more wicked I am, the less responsible I am for my sin. By that line of logic, the more evil I am, the more innocent I am. Talk about another gospel--that sounds like how the Devil would rewrite the gospel! :-)
What about faith in Christ? If it is true that Christ is the Savior of the world and the Lord of the universe, then shouldn't everyone believe that and trust in him? Isn't there a standing obligation on the part of everyone to believe in whatever is true?
Ah, but if Christ didn't die for the reprobate, then they are not qualified to believe in him, right?
Wrong! It's Arminians who define the offer of the gospel in those terms. In the examples of Gospel preaching in the NT, you never run across a conversion formula which consists of believing that Christ died for me as a condition of salvation.
The *fact* that Christ died for the elect alone is a condition of salvation, but *believing* that Christ died for the elect alone is not a condition of salvation. Since the Scriptural offer of the gospel is never framed in those terms, it is applicable to elect and reprobate alike.
As, as a practical matter, the reprobate will never believe it any way, while only the elect will believe it, so where's the harm?
The elect will believe that Christ died for them as a result of believing in him. Let's not get the cart before the horse.
Again, the point is not that the preacher goes self-consciously out of his way to target the reprobate. No, the point is that he shouldn't be inhibited by any self-conscious scruples and anxieties. Leave the sorting out of the sheep and the goats to God on the day of judgment!
I actually don't seem much point in getting into an argument with a hyper. Its like debating with a Shaker. Some problems have a way of taking care of themselves. Just as cults which insist on celibacy have a way of dying out of their own accord, for lack of physical offspring--cults which don't evangelize have a way of dying out for lack of spiritual offspring. They lose by winning!
A few other points:
i) Most of the folks on this website are nobodies. Those worth reading are: Brine, Hoeksema, Owen, Pink, Romaine, Rushton, Spurgeon, and Toplady.
ii) As to Hoeksema, I think Hoeksema is right about the well-meant offer, and Murray is wrong; I think that Murray is right about common grace, and Hoeksema is wrong.
Hoeksema's strong points are as follows: he has a very logical mind. As a restored backslider, he has a heavy doctrinal and existential emphasis on the grace of God. He is also a clear-headed critic of Arminian theology and Arminian tendencies in theology.
But his strengths can also be weaknesses. He is not much of an exegete. Yes, he did commentaries on Romans and Revelation, but these are really exercises in systematic theology under the garb of expository preaching.
He is something of a Johnny-one-note on his pet causes. In addition, his reactionary fixation betrats him into some half-truths and errors.
As to Murray, Murray is a much better exegete. Murray is not nearly as polemical. In addition, Murray has no hobby horse to ride. With Murray, you get a more panoramic vision of Biblical truth.
iii) Puritans and neo-Puritans are excellent at systematic theology and practical theology. They are not as good at exegetical theology. They show their age.
Systematic and practical theology do not date in the same that exegetical theology does. Systematics is dependent on having a good eye for the broad contours of Biblical theology. You can make some mistakes on the interpretation of individual verses, and still get it right on the big picture.
But the art of commentary writing has made advances over the centuries. If you want to know what the Bible means at a verse-by-verse level, you should read a good modern commentary rather than a Puritan or neo-Puritan writer.
Of course, commentators have a theological slant, too. One must be mindful of that. But too many modern-day Calvinists are getting their exegesis from the Puritans. And, frankly, they are inhabiting an allegorical cloud land. It needs to have a firmer footing in the text as it was originally heard.