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David B. Hewitt

Dr. L:

You said:
However, it must be said in fairness that Lemke quoted the definition of these terms directly from Reformed thinkers (pp. 111-112, 140-141), and a refutation is provided, a refutation of these concepts as applied to ministry that came not from Lemke or “another” Arminian, but a strong Calvinist (pp. 140-145).

Since I don't have the benefit of owning or having read Whosoever Will, I was hoping you could help me with something. Who was this strong Calvinist who denied the distinctions between God's revealed will and His decree and the general and special call of the Gospel?

Thanks in advance!


peter lumpkins


Surely. Lemke quotes at length David Engelsma and draws the conclusion from him.

With that, I am...

Tim Rogers

Brother Peter,

You being the non-Calvinist that you are certainly you do not have proof of your claims. All you are doing is trying to stir the pot so someone will get mad over on the Calvinist blog sites. But then when you are asked about the goods but a Brother that doesn't have the book, you produce.

I know you are just some backwoods West Georgia boy, but you certainly can discern when someone either reads the book or not. It does appear that Brother Barrett did not read the article well enough to produce a critique of Dr. Lemke's position neither did he read the other articles. I wonder if his paper was submitted for a doctoral book review? If it was, it certainly would seem he should get a failure and have to write it again, as you have pointed out with precision where his "factual" statement were, shall we say, "fictional."

Oh, also for Brother Hewitt http://www.prca.org/audiosermons/Ministers/Engelsma.htm>here is a bio on Dr. Engelsma.


David B. Hewitt


David B. Hewitt


Isn't David Engelsma part of the Protestant Reformed Church, an organization that denies Common Grace (which would be embraced by all orthodox Calvinists)? If I remember correctly (again, using historical definitions), would that not place him in the camp of hyper-Calvinists?

If so, and if this is the person that Dr. Lemke utilizes to argue against the points mentioned above (which hyper-Calvinists tend to obscure in favor of a very strong emphasis on God's decree without regard to His revealed will), does that not suggest that Lemke may have been using a source that did not accurately represent those he was trying to criticize?


Tony Byrne

For those wanting to check out Lemke's (and other) articles in the free Google books preview of Whosoever Will, one can go here: http://bit.ly/i02KK8 I do own the book myself, so anything I say is not based on a mere incomplete preview ;-)

Malcolm Yarnell

David and Tony,

You seem convinced that David Englesma should be classified a "Hyper-Calvinist." I guess the question, then, is, whether he truly is, especially when, if I understand correctly, he himself seems to want to deny such a label? Two further questions also present themselves, in such a case. First, technically, how have you gone about to define what is a hyper-Calvinist, and how do you justify labeling Englesma as such? Second, who has the authority to determine what is or is not considered "orthodox Calvinism," and who gives them such authority? Mind you, since I claim the names of neither Calvinist nor Arminian for myself, and with all due respect for Matthew Pinson, whom I highly regard, this is in one sense an academic exercise, and yet, there is the matter of Englesma's own self-understanding. If a theologian like Englesma does consider himself a Calvinist, and not a hyper-Calvinist, is it not incumbent upon the second who labels the first as such to prove it? Oh, this endless circle of Calvinist speculation ... And you may doubtless argue a comment stream is not the place to have to prove such a weighty matter as another man's self-identification. Oh, well, c'est la vie ... in the end, it is all somewhat tedious, yet we are speaking of a man's self-understanding in light of wider understanding. No?

Happily if wearily,
Malcolm Yarnell

Steve Lemke

I'll repeat two things about this question, with apologies to those who have actually read Whosoever Will, who have already seen it:

(a) The problem with defining Calvinism (or hyper-Calvinism), as noted in the introduction to Whosoever Will is the slipperiness and differences of belief among those who apply these terms to themselves. Different people mean different things by these labels. I find it interesting that Tony wants to allow an Arminian's definition to decide what hyper-Calvinism is. I hope he will be consisent in allowing Arminians to define all these theological categories in the soteriological discussion of Reformed Theology (:-).

(b) Engelsma (and the Protestant Reformed Church in America) passionately deny the label of hyper-Calvinist (see Engelsma's "Is Denial of the Well-Meant Offer Hyper-Calvinism?" at http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_35.html, cited repeatedly in Whosoever Will. (Indeed, for what it's worth -- perhaps not much -- Engelsma's definition of hyper-Calvinism, from which he and the PRC distinguish themselves, is cited in the Wikipedia definition of "hyper-Calvinism").

The PRC insists that the gospel should be preached to all people; they are simply consistent in saying that only those whom God graciously enables can respond. Thus the preaching is not "gracious" to those who are not elect. Engelsma and the PRC "repudiate" the "heresy" and "false doctrine" that the gospel should not be preached to all people (and thus they do not meet all the criteria to be labeled "hyper-Calvinist"). Whosoever will actually read Engelsma's article will find convincing evidence that his position is exactly in line with the Synod of Dort and the Westminster Confession, and the denial of it is the denial of classical Reformed Theology.

Ron Hale

David and Tony

Dr. John H Gerstner writes the following in the "forward" to Engelsma's book entitled Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel... "This is certainly an interesting, informative, lively, learned discussion of the essence of the gospel call to all mankind. In my opinion, Professor Engelsma carefully defines and convincingly avoids 'hyper-Calvinism' himself and clears his denomination, the Protestant Reformed Churches [PRC], of so teaching ... Herman Hoeksema, the Protestant Reformed denomination, and our author David Engelsma in this book emphatically reject the 'well-meant offer' as including God's desire and intention to save reprobates. As a Calvinist ... I feel it absolutely necessary to hold with [the PRC] here where she stands, almost alone today, and suffers massive vituperation and ridicule from Calvinists (no less), for her faithfulness at this point to the gospel of God" (from the "Foreword").

Gerstner, the mentor to R.C. Sproul says the Engelsma is not a hyper-Calvinist ... is that not good enough?


David B. Hewitt

Drs. Lumpkins, Lemke, Yarnell:

I'll let Tony go the route of explaining it, though the denial of common grace did it for me (it would be I suppose a "lesser" kind of error than a hyper Calvinist such as Marc Carpenter, but still an HC error). Dr. Phil Johnson's primer on hyper-Calvinism is something that many people, that is, many Reformed people, have found to be very helpful in understanding the scope of hyper-Calvinism.

However, something strikes me as very interesting. David Engelsma denies common grace and that the Gospel contains an offer of mercy, and you do not label him a hyper Calvinist.

On the other hand, Dr. James White affirms both (though apparently some aren't satisfied with how he has chosen to explain himself about the offer), yet some of you (perhaps all? I don't know for sure as I have not asked) insist on calling him a hyper Calvinist.

How is that consistent?

Anyway, all for now. I'll bow out and allow Tony to deal with the issue as his research and knowledge with regard to Engelsma and the PRCA is much, much greater than my own.


Tony Byrne

Hi Dr. Yarnell,

I believe it is fair to call someone what they are, even if they don't want to use the label of themselves. The problem is not with labels, as such, but whether or not they are being used accurately, and not abusively. So, even if Engelsma rejects the label "hyper-Calvinist" as rightly applying to himself, I think it is still fair to use that description, but not for arbitrary reasons. You ask, "If a theologian like Englesma does consider himself a Calvinist, and not a hyper-Calvinist, is it not incumbent upon the second who labels the first as such to prove it?" Sure, but to establish my case will take up a lot of space, which is why I use my blog (for the most part) to establish my case. It is a virtual Himalayan mountain range of primary sources to establish my case, which Dr. David Allen knows very well. I won't be using Lumpkins' blog to post all my hundreds of Calvinistic sources on the will of God, common grace, the well-meant offer, duty-faith, etc., to establish my case, or the hundreds of sources of on the Calvin and Calvinism blog. As you say, "you may doubtless argue a comment stream is not the place to have to prove such a weighty matter..." Given that the hyper-Calvinist label is used by countless Baptist theologians and historians, it is not merely an endless circle of Calvinist speculation. If it's futile to investigate what the term "hyper-Calvinist" means, then one needs to caution Peter Lumpkins and David Allen for their uses of the term. I don't think Lumpkins and Allen are merely "speculating" or being "tedious." Like them, I think it is possible to make an historical investigation so as to arrive at what mainstream orthodox Calvinism has taught on common grace and the well-ment offer, among other things.

First, technically, a) how have you gone about to define what is a hyper-Calvinist,

Answer: By thoroughly investigating the primary sources within Calvinism itself, as well as thoroughly investigating the studies of those who have done the same, such as (but not exclusively) Dr. Curt Daniel's doctoral dissertation on the subject, as well as his History and Theology of Calvinism. I have also consulted the writings of Iain Murray, Michael Haykin, Donald Dunkerley, Robert A. Peterson (who said, "Who would ever say the Gospel call is not a well meant offer? Hyper-Calvinists.), David Silversides, Anthony Hoekema (who explicitly calls Hoeksema's rationalism "hyper-Calvinism"), Phil Johnson (who called my first blog post on hyper-Calvinism a "terrific article"), D. A. Carson, John Murray, John Frame, Sam Waldron, R. K. McGregor Wright, David Gay, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur, R. L. Dabney, John Flavel, Andrew Fuller, Gerald L. Priest, Robert W. Oliver, Owen Thomas, C. H. Spurgeon, Peter Toon (who wrote on "The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity"), A. C. Clifford. To read some of these sources, go here (click).

b) and how do you justify labeling Englesma as such?

Answer: I justify it based on the historical evidence. I know what Calvinists have said historically about common grace, and I know that Engelsma's novel Hoeksemian denial of that doctrine represents a departure from even those Calvinists who are very high supralapsarian types. Even someone like John Gill didn't go so far as to deny common grace. Gill's novelty was to gut it of any interest on God's part for the *eternal* well-being of those given that kind of grace, so that it was only and merely given with a view to the temporal/physical well-being of the non-elect. The Hoeksemians say that no grace or favor at all is shown to the non-elect. Nothing but pure hate, devoid of any kindness or love for them, exists in God. Even such supralapsarians like Samuel Rutherford (who reportedly said Arminians are unregenerate) acknowledged that God loves all men. Other strict Calvinists (but infralapsarians) like Francis Turretin acknowledge God's universal love and grace for all men. The Hoeksemian denial of both God's love and grace for all men represents a very significant and novel departure from historic Calvinism. To show this, however, would require a book, or my blog, to demonstrate.

Moreover, consistent with their denial of God's love for all men, the Hoeksemians deny that God desires the salvation of all men in the revealed will. Again, that is a very extreme position. When one examines the Calvinistic literature, particularly among the Puritans, one can see that they not only acknowledge God's willingness and desire to save all men, but some of them even use the terminology of God "begging" sinners to come to him. I've shown these sources to David Allen, so he also knows about this stuff and can see it. Mainstream Calvinism has taught that God's commands reflect a willingness on His part that men comply with these commands, which necessitates that He wants all men to repent since He commands all to do so. To say that God doesn't want men to keep his commandments is blasphemy and antinomianism. Louis Berkhof (Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969], p. 462), just as strongly, says:

"When God calls the sinner to accept Christ by faith, He earnestly desires this...It is blasphemous to think that God would be guilty of equivocation and deception, that He would say one thing and mean another, that He would earnestly plead with the sinner to repent and believe unto salvation, and at the same time not desire it in any sense of the word."

That's a standard, mainstream Calvinistic response to anyone who would suggest that God doesn't desire all men to repent and believe unto eternal salvation, to which He is calling all men that hear the gospel. Take a look at some historic Calvinistic language on the revealed will of God and you will see how strongly they sometimes speak of the revealed desire of God for the salvaiton of all men, contrary to Engelsma and the Protestant Reformed Church. The Puritan Nathanael Vincent even uses the expression "well-offered" when issuing a gospel invitation to his lost listeners. Not only is the terminology of a well-meant offer there (the same with "common grace"), but the concept is thoroughly documented in all my sources as well.

Second, who has the authority to determine what is or is not considered "orthodox Calvinism," and who gives them such authority?

The same kinds of people who have authority to say what is or is not "classical Arminianism," or "Augustinianism," or "Pelagianism," or "Semi-Pelagianism," or any other historical description. They should be people who have diligently studied the primary sources with sound hermeutical principles. In other words, sound historians, since "orthodox Calvinism" and "hyper-Calvinism" are historical descriptions. One does not need to be in some ecclesiastical heirarchy to speak the truth with authority in these matters. One needs only investigate the sources in a careful, impartial, and honest manner, I think. Though the descriptive label "hyper-Calvinism" gets complicated to unpack, what it stands for is knowable, just as the label "Arminian," or "Open View Theist," or "Augustinian," or any other historical description can be known. While there is variation within these groups, one can still pinpoint the essential characteristics.

I'd say the essential characteristics of hyper-Calvinism are the following:
1) The denial that God loves the non-elect, OR
2) The denial that God is gracious to the non-elect, OR
3) The denial that God desires the salvation of the non-elect (the well-meant or free offer), OR
4) The denial that the non-elect are duty-bound or responsible to evangelically believe the gospel.

As with other groups, hyper-Calvinists disagree among themselves. Some may admit that 1) God loves all men, but 2) deny that God desires the eternal salvation of all men. That's John Gill's position. Others may admit that all sinners are duty-bound to evangelically believe the gospel, but deny that God loves all men, is gracious to all men, or desires the salvation of all men in the revealed will. That's Hoeksemianism. There are some today who believe that God loves all men, is gracious to all men and that all men are responsible to evangelically believe, but deny that the bible teaches that God desires the salvation of any of the non-elect. That's James White's position, and apparently the position of Robert Reymond (If any White supporters think otherwise, then let them tell us which biblical verse White thinks teaches that God desires the salvation of anyone who is non-elect. He's wiped away **all** the ones that Calvinists themselves have used, including John 5:34 [in his debate with Brown], contra Sam Waldron's interpretation of that verse in his exposition of the 1689 LBC). The Hoeksemians and the Carpenterites (of Outside the Camp) are the most extreme variety, as they go beyond classic forms of hyper-Calvinism in the time of Gill and afterwards.

peter lumpkins


Just a note. I took a comment down since it quoted from an article yet to be published. Please ask for no more explanation. And, of course, it was neither posted nor removed with any ill-intent whatsoever. Consequently, there may be some incoherence in the flow of the thread

Also, speaking of the comment thread--it is clearly running away from target. I do not want a thread on either the history of Calvinism-hyper-Calvinism nor on whether Calvinism is generally true. Rather the question is, did Barrett succeed in his critique of Lemke. My post denies it and offers some reasons.

Not irrelevant, however, is the question both David Hewitt raised and Tony Byrne followed pertaining to whether David Engelsma stands as a suitable example upon which Steve Lemke leans for support of his view. Thanks to Drs. Lemke & Yarnell for their contributions.

With that, I am...

Tony Byrne

I'll quickly respond to Ron (with Lumpkins' kind permission :-) before possibly getting to Lemke's comments, although I now see Peter wants to keep us on track. Perhaps I'll leave my response to him for some other time or context.

Hi Ron,

I am well-aware of Gerstner's forward, in addition to other things he said in his latter days on the well-meant offer. It should be noted that Gerstner changed his views later in life, which is when he endorsed the PRC and Engelsma's book. Gerstner earlier accepted the well-meant offer or God's revealed desire for the salvation of all men, and it is the early Gerstner (as well as John Murray) that Robert Reymond criticizes in his New Systematic Theology. The later John Gerstner was seen as rejecting the orthodox understanding of the free offer of the gospel and was criticized by Al Martin and other Reformed Baptists. Further, although Gerstner had some influence on R. C. Sproul, Sproul should not be associated with the later Gerstner's denial of the well-meant offer since Sproul explicitly accepts the position of John Murray.

The later Gerstner was wrong for thinking the Protestant Reformed Church is orthodox in these matters. You would think Gerstner would have learned something from Jonathan Edwards in this area, but he apparently did not. Edwards taught that God wills, designs, desires, wishes, seeks, tries, woos, entreats, beseeches, and begs all men to be saved in the gospel call, including the non-elect. Edwards said:

"There is all in God that is good, and perfect, and excellent in our desires and wishes for the conversion and salvation of wicked men...There is all in God that belongs to our desire of the holiness and happiness of unconverted men and reprobates, excepting what implies imperfection."

Anyone denying that God desires the salvation of all men and pretending like they are in the Calvinistic stream of Edwards is ignorant, at least, if not dishonest in their reading of the sources, like many of those in the PRC. The later Gerstner was no Edwardsian, and his later views on the well-meant offer are a departure of the Puritanism is said he admired.

peter lumpkins


Allow me to make a few observations if I might.

First, it’s not often the author of a work will log onto blog threads and converse concerning the words he or she published. For this reason I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to Dr. Steve Lemke for logging a comment or two in his defense (as well as Dr. Yarnell for his contribution). And, quite honestly, I realize why many authors will not consider doing so.  The fact remains, far too often bloggers/blog commenters will take positions about which he or she hasn’t a clue what’s involved. As an example, one commenter logged onto my first critique of Barrett’s paper making assertions about Barrett’s paper, a paper he did not take the time to thoroughly read (and I supplied a link to Barrett’s paper!). The same commenter admits he hasn’t read Whosoever Will and implies no intention of doing so. For me, this is entirely unacceptable and displays a penchant for debate not dialog.

Thus, thank you Dr. Lemke for logging on.

Second, while there seems at least some bite in criticizing Dr. Lemke’s use of Engelsma as a source—though it must be observed Lemke did not concede such a point—I’m wondering precisely what effect this has on Lemke’s overall thesis.  Granting for argument’s sake we place Engelsma into the “questionable” category of source citation as critics imply, one must ask, “what follows concerning Lemke’s paper?”  Is Dr. Lemke therefore wrong in his thesis because he cited who some suggest is a questionable source?  Hardly.  The fact is, Lemke did not overly depend upon Engelsma for his conclusions not to mention exclusively depend upon Engelsma.  Rather, Lemke cited several sources in constructing his premises on irresistible grace.


Founders Ministries executive director, Tom Ascol, seems to think Southern Baptist Theological Seminary PhD student, Ben Rogers, capably challenged Dr. David Allen’s chapter on limited atonement by questioning Allen’s citation of John Bunyan as an adherent of limited atonement.  Ascol says, “Ben Rogers exposes some of the historical inaccuracies in David Allen’s chapter on the atonement” (FJ, 81, p.3). Allen’s historical survey includes expositional summaries of over three dozen Calvinist theologians whom Allen (as well as other historical theologians) cite as rejecting limited atonement. Yet Ben Rogers’ “expose’” of Allen’s “historical inaccuracies” concerns John Bunyan exclusively. He deals with no other data in Allen’s entire chapter.

So what follows? 

Even if we grant, for argument’s sake, Rogers is correct about Bunyan—and it’s hardly accurate to suggest Rogers is correct for there exists a formidable list of accomplished scholar-theologians who precisely take Allen’s position, scholars Rogers completely ignores in his own treatment—the only conclusion is, Allen employed a questionable name in his list of citations from over three dozen mainstream Calvinists.  Hence, because Lemke employed several sources, it no more follows Lemke’s point is substantially affected anymore than is Allen’s.

Third, supposing again those criticizing Lemke’s use of Engelsma to be a soft spot in his presentation, strengthens rather than weakens both my original posts. How?  One of my chief complaints has been Matthew Barrett’s critique of Steve Lemke is an academic flop.  It simply possesses no bite whatsoever.  He circularly reasons and offers no substantial critique of Lemke’s handling of biblical passages, the very issue with which he explicitly noted he would contend. Hence, his critique is little more than a strong young Calvinist firmly suggesting something like,

“Lemke’s wrong because Lemke’s not Reformed. I know this to be so, and you can know too if you read all these Reformed authors!”

I don’t want to be unkind but honestly, that’s a fairly accurate summary of Barrett’s critique—at least the substance of his critique.

Now, if those protesting Lemke’s use of Engelsma are correct—even taking for granted they are--what does this suggest about Barrett’s critique?  So far as I know, Barrett offered no question whatsoever toward Lemke’s use of Engelsma.  Why?  Was it because he agrees with Engelsma?  Or he saw quoting Engelsma as insignificant? Or, he had no space to log his dissent?  Whatever the case, at minimum, Barrett apparently viewed any criticism of Lemke employing a Hyper-Calvinist as of less significance than all other factors he did address.

If I am correct, I suppose Lemke’s critics surely are more apt to agree with me—Matthew Barrett’s critique of Steve Lemke is definitively weak and innocuous. Founders would have served the dialog better had they chosen to solicit accomplished scholars rather than students to critique Whosoever Will.

With that, I am…


Malcolm Yarnell


Without veering off too far again into the area Peter wants us to avoid, I thank you for answering my queries. I also note that my own definition of hyper-Calvinism, which I have stated elsewhere, does not emanate from within the Calvinist discussion itself but from within Baptist discourse.


Thank you for your reminder. It really is a problem when those who respond to an argument do not dwell upon the substance of the original argument itself. This insubstantial and inappropriate tactic has unfortunately happened in a few of the responses to "Whosoever Will," although I have been pleasantly surprised to see how many are actually dealing with the text itself.

In Christ,

Tony Byrne

I almost forgot about the following quote. If one does not care for my sources on hyper-Calvinism, then consider what one of the other contributors to the book Whosoever Will (besides Dr. Allen) elsewhere wrote:

"In his book Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, supralapsarian Calvinist David Engelsma denies that the gospel is offered to everyone who hears it. He contends that no one who adheres to five-point Calvinism and to reprobation according to God's inscrutable decree can consistently hold to a "well-meant offer." He claims that his position is not hyper-Calvinism but consistent Calvinism. I believe Engelsma is in fact a hyper-Calvinist, but his argument highlights the problem Reformed theology has with affirming that the gospel is presented to every hearer in good faith." Ken Keathley, "A Molinist View of Election, or How to be a Consistent Infralapsarian," in Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, ed. E. Ray Clendenen and Brad J. Waggoner (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008), 211-212.

According to the criteria of James Leo Garrett in his preface to Whosoever Will (xi, n.6), Engelsma qualifies as a hyper-Calvinist. At least three contributors so far to Whosoever Will think (at least by implication) that Engelsma qualifies as one.

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