A good debate

The Southern Baptist Convention, long known for its commitment to missions and evangelism, is engaging more and more in theological debate. The doctrines of grace (aka “Reformed Theology” aka “Calvinism”), which used to be embraced by a large segment of Baptists worldwide, has been rediscovered in recent years. This rediscovery has led many Baptists to embrace these doctrines once again which, in turn, has led to a bit of a … let’s say … “discussion” among Southern Baptists.

The Southern Baptists who hold to the doctrines of grace may be found in organizations like Founders Ministries. They even hosted an event called “Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism.” As Reformed Theology has grown in the Southern Baptist Convention a backlash has developed. Those who hold to an opposing view, called “Arminianism,” held their own conference called the “John 3:16 Conference.” The Baptist Press covered both events.

My view is this: Anything that gets people to dig into Scripture is a good thing. And, as long as we can continue to regard one another as brethren and engage in the discussion with love and humility, then I am all for the debate. None of us have Scripture completely figured out yet. I dare say even the most scholarly among us have still only scratched the surface. We all have plenty to learn and these kinds of theological challenges will, in the long run, be highly beneficial if we approach them with the proper attitude.

I have found one thing rather humorous, though. The proponents of Arminianism have cited Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the 19th century English Baptist minister, in defense of their position. It’s understandable, after all Spurgeon is highly regarded by most Baptists. However, I suspect Spurgeon would not appreciate being used to support the opponents of Calvinism. What makes me think so?

I’ll just let him speak for himself.

Spurgeon Weighs In

I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross. — Spurgeon, Autobiography: 1, The Early Years, p. 168

I do not ask whether you believe Calvinism. It is possible that you do not. But I believe you will before you enter heaven. I am persuaded that as God may have washed your hearts, He will wash your brains before you enter heaven. — Spurgeon, Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 92

Rebellion against divine election is often founded on the idea that the sinner has a sort of right to be saved, and this is to deny the full desert of sin. — Spurgeon, Sermons, Vol. 24, p. 302

I will go as far as Martin Luther, where he says, “If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.” — Spurgeon, Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 395

We declare on scriptural authority that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained toward Christ. — Spurgeon, Sermons, Vol. 4, p. 139

Perhaps there is an argument to be made against the doctrines of grace — but it sure seems you can’t do so by using Spurgeon.

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About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

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