Monday, May 24, 2010

The link between Hyper-Calvinism and Pelagianism

Today I was struck that the same logic undergirds both Hyper-Calvinism and Pelagianism. And by Hyper-Calvinism, be clear that I mean the technical and historical sense of the word, not the populist rhetorical polemic.

So, for the Hyper-Calvinist:
1. No one can believe unless they are first regenerate
2. God cannot require from us what we are unable to do
3. Therefore God does not require the unregenerate to believe
4. Therefore we should not tell people who might be unregenerate to believe

And for the Pelagian:
1. God cannot require from us what we are unable to do
2. God requires that we should be perfect
3. Therefore we must be able to be perfect

In both cases the premise that 'God cannot require from us what we are unable to do' is rooted in an understanding of moral obligation that considers it cruel and unethical to demand people to do what they cannot. And yet, it is no natural inability, but our very moral inability that means we cannot keep God's righteous decrees. This is but one reason why I am a Calvinist: it is our very immorality that keeps us from doing the morally right - in this is no contradiction but the penetrating insight into the human nature.


Derek Ashton said...


Great observation! I've noticed there is a kind of "easy logic" that seems to characterize most bad theology (then again, some bad theology is built on plain old illogic - which is another problem altogether). I'd never considered the fact that ability-to-do-that-which-is-commanded is a key component of both Pelagian heresy and hyper-Calvinist heresy.

Grace & peace,
Derek Ashton

Seumas Macdonald said...

Yes, it had never particularly occured to me either. I just had it pointed out to me in both cases quite separately, and then I noticed that it was the same step of logic that undergirded both of them.