Contend Earnestly: Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism

This small book by Iain Murray is one that puts forth a history of Charles Spurgeon's preaching ministry in the midst of great fire against him by other churches in England that were Hyper-Calvinistic in their doctrines.

Iain Murray gives a quick biography on Spurgeon to give the reader a better understanding of where he came from and to catch the reader up to why this conflict was of a serious nature to the Baptist faith at the time. I found it amazing how much Spurgeon was having to fight off from guys that he deeply respected and found to be friends of some sort. The main quibbles that these men, James Wells in particular, had with Spurgeon was that Spurgeon believed in the following:

1. That the gospel should be preached to all men, not just those whom were the elect or had some sort of experience to tell them that they were being drawn by the Spirit

2. What we would call duty faith. Meaning Spurgeon believed in telling his hearers that they should repent, that it was their duty to believe in Christ, etc. Wells and others believed Spurgeon was charging men with something that they could not do.

3. Duty faith tied into human responsibility. Spurgeon believed that human responsibility was real and that it was their responsibility to turn from their sin and to love Jesus. Again, Wells and others believed that this responsibility was not for every man, only those who were "heavy-laden" and felt the Holy Spirit's working within them.

4. The last problem they had with Spurgeon was his belief that God desires for all men, not just the elect, to repent and be saved. This is still a huge discussion with many in the Reformed faith. Some siding with Spurgeon (myself included) and others still siding with Gill and Wells.


The book sets up to show the arguments against Spurgeon and the many writings against him in the various publications around England. There were many claims against Spurgeon because of the above stated beliefs. Because of this, many claimed that Spurgeon was an Arminian and did not believe in God's elected love or in total depravity.

After the charges are shown, the arguments are then put forth to show Spurgeon's responses to these charges, which mostly come from his sermons. I found this to be of great help in the understanding of God's desire for all and also a return to the days of old when verses that included the term "all" were not twisted to mean "some sorts" or "some sorts of different classes of men" etc. Throughout the book Spurgeon shows his honesty in the difficulty of putting all these doctrines together and that there is a good middle ground between the Arminian and the Hyper-Calvinist.

Spurgeon also shows great respect for both the Arminians and the Hyper-Calvinist. Where James Wells said that John Wesley went to hell, Spurgeon gives praise for the gospel preaching of Wesley. Also, John Gill is referred many times as the teacher for the Hypers and at one time called the proverbial head of Hyper-Calvinism, yet Spurgeon still shows much respect for him and also his contemporaries that held to Gill's positions.

The sub-heading for this book is "The Battle for Gospel Preaching" and I found it to be a very appropriate title. If anyone is interested in what historic Calvinism teaches, this is a great primer on the understanding. I would disagree with Spurgeon and Murray's thoughts on the extent of the atonement, but because of their graciousness and admittance that they didn't/don't understand how it could fit with the universal call, I can still recommend this book. They, Murray and Spurgeon, are very honest with their confusion of how limited atonement works within God's universal call for all to repent.

This book deals openly and honestly about the hard doctrines of the faith. It deals honestly with passages like John 3:16, Matthew 23:37; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3,4 and the hoops one has to jump through to make this fit within their theology if they don't take 'all' to simply mean, 'all.'

If you have been approached by a Hyper-Calvinist, want a defense against a Hyper-Calvinist, or you just want to understand more of the heart of true Calvinism, I would highly recommend this book. Spurgeon is very gracious in his defenses, yet puts forth the truth. Link to Buy.

2 comments:

Erik said...

Seth,

Thanks for wetting my appetite for Murray's book. "The Battle for Gospel Preaching" is most certainly an appropriate subtitle to this book...especially in the pulpits these days.

Kent said...

Seth,

Have you seen the new collection of Spurgeon books from Logos Bible Software? I thought you might be interested:

Charles Spurgeon Collection (78 Vols.)

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