Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

C.H. Spurgeon's Paradoxical Calvinism

Here are two quotes from Charles Spurgeon I recently came across:

"That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring." (New Park Street Pulpit, 4:337)

I'm no hyper-Calvinist
"Men who are morbidly anxious to possess a self-consistent creed, a creed which will put together and form a square like a Chinese puzzle, are very apt to narrow their souls. Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation. Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them all." ("Faith," Sword and Trowel, 1872)

In my Arminian days, I considered Spurgeon to be an arch-enemy and possibly a heretic. Now, he has become like a dear friend!

Recently I realized that every argument I had against Calvinism in those days was really about "hyper-Calvinism," not the balanced doctrine presented in the Bible, in the early church councils and by the 16th century reformers. I believed Calvinism presented a God who was unloving, who hated sinners, who arbitrarily chose some for salvation and predestined others to hell. Calvinism seemed to suggest that man is not responsible. It was a loathesome system of doctrine, though I could see that it explained some Biblical texts in what seemed to be the most plausible way. Yet it seemed to ignore other passages entirely. Or worse, its proponents explained those passages away and stripped the Word of God of its power.

It seems that the Arminians on one side and the hyper-Calvinists on the other have both fallen into this trap.

A few years ago I was privileged to attend a sermon series by Brad Bigney of Grace Fellowship Church in Kentucky. Each week, he would lay out a long, thick rope across the front of the church auditorium. On one end of the rope he attached a sign that said, "Human Choice," and on the other end was a sign reading, "God's Electing Love." The middle of the rope ran through a box covered by a black curtain. On the front of the curtain was a sign that said, "MYSTERY." Then this man, whom I considered to be extremely Calvinistic, explained how we can hold to both ends of the rope because Scripture teaches both. Suddenly I was set free. I realized for the first time that I could become a Calvinist without throwing "whosoever will" and human responsibility off the back of the truck. But far better, my eyes were opened to a God more loving, more sovereign, and more amazing than I had ever fathomed.

Only the dog sees the paradox
These days I am a thousand times more grateful for what God has done in my heart. I realize that it is a work of grace and electing love that saved me. My choice was involved, but behind my choice was God's everlasting grace and sovereignty. I can't explain how it all works, but I know this for certain: God did it.

1 comment:

  1. Derek,

    You were not alone in thinking that all Calvinism was hyper Calvinism. Some day you should check out Dr. James White's interaction with Ergun Caner (President of Liberty University) in the tempestuous run-up to their "almost" debate last year.

    The stunning ignorance of Caner about the very Calvinism he criticizes is absolutely flabbergasting, considering the responsibility of his office. And, whether it's a matter of chicken or egg, the fact that hundreds at his own university sit in silent homage to his blatant errors simply illustrates how widespread the ignorance about true Calvinism is.

    Here's a video put together by Lane Chaplin showing a Caner sermon interspersed with comments from James White.

    Good post. Personal, real and true all at the same time.



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