The Danger of Hypo-Calvinism

The dangers of both hyper-Calvinism and hypo-Calvinism

In medical terminology, hypo is the opposite of hyper (too much), so hypo-Calvinism is the problem of not enough of Calvin.   This is the diagnosis often over looked in the PCA today. If we would read more Calvin and follow his teachings, as he reflected on the Scriptures, we would be more catholic, more liturgical, more sacramental, more Gospel focused, more confessional, more evangelistic and more engaged in our culture than we are in our current state.  

 

We often hear about the dangers of hyper-Calvinism in our Reformed churches, and without a doubt, too much emphasis on divine election without the twin truth of human responsibility can indeed lead to a dreadful view of God’s love that is nothing short of fatalism.  Such a distortion of election is a joy robbing and mission killing heresy that has nothing in common with true Calvinism.

But there is another danger lurking around and yet seldom addressed and it is hypo-Calvinism.  In medical terminology, hypo is the opposite of hyper (too much), so hypo-Calvinism is the problem of not enough of Calvin.   This is the diagnosis often over looked in the PCA today. If we would read more Calvin and follow his teachings, as he reflected on the Scriptures, we would be more catholic, more liturgical, more sacramental, more Gospel focused, more confessional, more evangelistic and more engaged in our culture than we are in our current state.   Hypo-Calvinism is our bigger problem. We need the balance and wisdom of Calvin in our churches, which claim him, but rarely read him.

We should be more catholic than we often are, meaning we should reclaim the truth that the Reformers were both evangelical and catholic and that the two blend quite well together as an expression that the true apostolic Church which is founded and renewed by the Gospel.  Papal supremacy and its abuse of power and the Anabaptist impulse for autonomy are two great threats to the Church.

Calvin restored biblical liturgy to the Lord’s Day service.  He got rid of the “bells and smells” of medieval appropriation of religious window dressings and went for the simple beauty of the true and the biblical.  Regulative worship is not being more “spontaneous than thou” or one historical frozen form.   Calvin’s theology of the sacraments was expressed in a strong connection of these sacred actions to the normal or “ordinary” routine of worship.  Many traditions that are heavy on sacraments end up being light or fuzzy on the Gospel of free grace. Why that happens is a puzzle, except in my experience when a Reformed Church gets it “right” on this balance it is a beautiful thing, and so I believe we are in the best position to foster this kind of middle way between extremes.

Finally, a robust confessional body of believers who take their confessional life seriously will provide an intellectually vacuous culture slipping into relativistic goop a place to stand, or as Captain Ahab cried out “something a person can hold onto in a slippery world.”  This is the kind of faith that can engage our culture, where we know where we stand and upon shoulders of faithful forbearers we can speak words of sanity.

Todd Douglas Baucum, is a minister in the Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Enterprise, AL. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.