Monday, September 17, 2012

Will The Real Spurgeon Please Stand Up?

Over the years I have made note of the liberal quotation of Charles Spurgeon by men whose doctrine of salvation runs across the continuum from Arminianism to Calvinism and all points in between and beyond. It seems that the blue-carpet, sign-the-card, mourner's-bench, raise-your-hand Arminian wants Spurgeon on "his side" of the battle every bit as much as the most strident of Calvinists. I suggest that this is the case because Spurgeon possessed a double-minded soteriology, believing that both God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are involved in the salvation of men's souls. As a result, he was unstable where his preaching on salvation is concerned - at times affirming great truths, at other times denying them.  

Spurgeon's Contradiction in His Own Words

Consider the following, contradictory quotes:

QUOTE 1:  If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners."  (The Warrant of Faith, C.H. Spurgeon, Pilgrim Publications, 1978, emphasis mine)
Here Spurgeon is stating that his preaching is for the unregenerate and that it is required to create in them the capacity of faith unto their eternal salvation. This is in direct contradiction to the teaching of the apostle Paul who said, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (I Corinthians 2:14) Perhaps more revealing of Spurgeon's inconsistencies on the matter, his previous quote is contradictory to other statements made by the "prince of preachers":
QUOTE 2:  Election is the greatest possible encouragement to seeking souls, because it declares that every sinner, who feels need of and longs for God's holy salvation, is already alive from the death of sin, because he has been quickened by God the Spirit. (Church History, Hassell, p.656, emphasis mine)
In this quote, Spurgeon makes it clear that if any man thirsts, he is already in a state of eternal salvation. In other words, man must be regenerate in order to have either the desire of the capacity to receive the spiritual truth of the gospel. This statement harmonizes with Paul's affirmation in I Corinthians 2:14, but flatly contradicts his previous assertion about preaching to the unregenerate.

Summarizing Spurgeon's Contradiction

So Spurgeon claims that 1) preaching is to the unregenerate , but also that 2) only the regenerate have an interest in spiritual truth, and that 3) the regenerate are already in possession of eternal life. If statements 2 and 3 are true, and they are, they also establish the futility of statement 1, even as our Lord Jesus Christ taught saying, "He who is of God heareth God's words. Ye, therefore, hear them not because ye are not of God." (John 8:47) Simply put, Spurgeon's assertions are a hot mess of contradictions. They are an unsure footing upon which to rest one's understanding of the biblical doctrine of salvation.

The Unpardonable Sin - Questioning Spurgeon

I realize that in the context of modern evangelicalism, to call the teaching of Charles Spurgeon into question is regarded as nigh-on the unpardonable sin. But if we are to rightly divide the word of truth and affirm that the word of God alone is sufficient to establish our standard of faith and practice, then we must not allow the evangelical saints of old to confound the word of God they endeavored to preach. Even men such as Spurgeon, who were so evidently blessed of God in manifold ways, are prone to theological error. We should never exalt a man's teaching of the scriptures above the scriptures themselves, especially when the two do not agree. Where our brethren in the faith are wrong, we should seek to correct them as well as those who would follow after them, and in so doing hide a multitude of sins (James 5:20). Gideon was in many ways an example for us to follow (Hebrews 11:32); but he also created a golden ephod and "all Israel went thither a whoring after it." (Judges 8:27)  If one listed in the "Hall of Faith" can set bad examples in practice and doctrine, we should find it no strange thing when evangelical heroes throughout history are shown to be guilty of the same. As for Spurgeon's contradictory teachings, I can only say that he knows now what he did not fully see while here on earth - knowing now even as he is and was known (I Corinthians 13:12).

Unassailable Biblical Statements We Should All Embrace

Finally, lest there be any confusion regarding the bible's teaching on salvation by grace, I submit to you the following unassailable biblical statements for your consideration:

1.  God chose a people in Christ before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)
2.  He sent his son to die for their sins (John 10:11) not for all of humanity (v26).
3.  He sends his Spirit to regenerate his Sons and give them faith (Galatians 4:6).
4.  That those for whom Christ died will live in glory with God. (Romans 8:30-39).
5.  That man is incapable of doing anything to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:26).
6.  That salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done. (Titus 3:5).
7.  That salvation is by Christ's obedience (Romans 5:19) not ours (II Timothy 1:9).
8.  That salvation is by Christ's mediation (I Timothy 2:5) not ours (John 3:4, Romans 9:16).
9.  That faith is a fruit of salvation (Galatians 5:22) not a prerequisite (Psalm 10:4).
10.  That faith is an evidence of salvation (Hebrews 11:1) not condition (Romans 3:10-18).
11.  That faith is a provision of the covenant (Philippians 1:29) not a condition (Hebrews 11:6).
13.  That a man must be born again in order to believe the gospel (I Corinthians 2:11).
14.  That men believe because they have eternal life (I John 5:1) not to get it.
12.  That salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).

All of the work of our eternal salvation, from start to finish and all points in between, was accomplished by God apart from any works or merit on our part. As a result any spiritual capacity ever exercised by a man is never anything more than an evidence of something God has already done for him.  Faith, repentance, obedience, baptism and good works are all "too late to the party" to ever account for the impartation of eternal life to God's people.

That is salvation by sovereign grace.  

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