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The Vanity of Hyper-Calvinism

The third of four Lessons from the Conflict with the Hyper-Calvinists of Spurgeons day is the vanity of expecting to answer every question satisfactorily to human reason. Murray writes:

imageThis controversy directs us to our need for profound humility before God. It reminds us forcefully of questions about which we can only say, behold, God is great, and we know him not (Job 36:26), and, O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Rom. 11:33). We do not know why God has purposed to save some and not others, nor why, given his desire for the good of all, many are left in their sin. We cannot say why his love to all men is not the same to the elect. We do not know how God works in us to will and to do and yet leaves us wholly responsible for our own actions, nor how invitations to all to believe on Christ are to be harmonised with electing grace. As Crawford said, various attempts have been made to solve such mysteries, but, it must be owned, they have been signally unsuccessful. He concludes: We do well to be exceedingly diffident in our judgments respecting matters so unsearchable as the secret purposes of God.

It is to be feared that sharp contentions between Christians on these issues have too often risen from a wrong confidence in our powers of reasoning and our assumed ability to draw logical inferences. It is arguable that in the eclipse of Calvinistic beliefs at the beginning of the eighteenth century, at a time when reason was being made the test of all religious belief, the would-be defenders of orthodoxy who became Hyper-Calvinistic fell into the very mistake which they were seeking to correct. As J. I. Packer writes, In an increasingly rationalistic age, the reaction itself was rationalistic, within the Reformed supernaturalistic frame. Joseph Hussey, the standard bearer of the movement, certainly gave justification of that charge. The contentious spirit in which he advocated his views was a discredit to the truth. John Newton was not the only Calvinist to complain that in Husseys writings, I frequently found more bones than meat, and seasoned with much of an angry and self-important spirit.

Spurgeon, like all the children of men, had to learn humility, and he was not always entirely blameless in this regard in his early years, but it was given to him to see how a system which sought to attribute all to the grace of God had itself too much confidence in the powers of reason. His mature judgment on that point, given below, constitutes a statement of great value. Probably as a young man Spurgeon was, at times, over concerned to assert his agreement with Calvin but in his deepening humility before God, and his refusal to trust in human reason, he truly followed in the spirit of that leader and of all true teachers in the church of God. imageIt was Calvin, shortly before his death, who, on the words, have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? (Ezek. 18:3) said this: If any one again objects this is making God act with duplicity, the answer is ready, that God always wishes the same thing, though by different ways, and in a manner inscrutable to us. Although, therefore, Gods will is simple, yet great variety is involved in it, as far as our senses are concerned. Besides, it is not surprising that our eyes should be blinded by intense light, so that we cannot judge how God wishes all to be saved, and yet has devoted all the reprobate to eternal destruction, and wishes them to perish. While we now look through a glass darkly, we should be content with the measure of our own intelligence (1 Cor. 13:12).

Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 117119.

Posted 2009·12·17 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Church History · Iain Murray · J I Packer · John Calvin · Soteriology & the Gospel · Spurgeon v Hyper-Calvinism · T J Crawford
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