Books Read in 2012: No. 5 – A Defense of Calvinism

Title: A Defense of Calvinism
Author: Charles Spurgeon
Completed on January 20, 2012

The Calvinism verses Armenian debate is one that has been waged for quite awhile and seems to be heating up lately. For the record, I lean towards Calvinism in my theology. If you are unfamiliar with the term, the five points of Calvinism can be summed up with the acronym TULIP:

T: Total Depravity of Mankind – Sin has infected man to his very core. Our hearts, minds, and bodies are all affected by the disease of sin. Because of this, no effort of our own will can achieve salvation.

U: Unconditional Election – God elects the saved through an act of His own gracious will. Some are elected while some are not.

L: Limited Atonement – Jesus died for the elect. While His sacrifice was sufficient for all, it is not efficacious for all.

I: Irresistible Grace – Those who are elected by God are unable to resist His calling.

P: Perseverance of the Saints – Because election is an act of God, those who are so called are eternally secure in their salvation. Once saved, they are always saved.

As I mentioned earlier, I lean towards Calvinism. This isn’t to suggest that I am entirely comfortable with the manner in which it is often expressed. For instance, while the concept of Unconditional Election may be true, I don’t feel the discourse that surrounds it is always beneficial. I also have trouble with the concept of Limited Atonement as defined by Spurgeon. The Bible teaches that while it is easy to love those who love you in return, it is more rewarding to love those who are your enemies (Read Luke, Chapter 6). It is for this reason that I reject the notion that Christ only died for the elect. The notion  that Christ only died for those who would ultimately love Him seems to suggest that He acted in a particularly “un-Christ-like” fashion. I’m not suggesting that His sacrifice achieved salvation for everyone, but merely suggesting that His sacrifice affords everyone the opportunity of salvation.  That Christ died for everyone is the beauty of the Gospel. It is for this reason that I often say I believe in Unlimited Limited Atonement (a phrase borrowed from Mark Driscoll). Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all, but not efficacious for all.

Spurgeon vehemently disagrees with me. In this short essay, he makes an impassioned plea for Calvinism and argues that “to think [Christ] died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain.”

In my opinion, my quibble with Spurgeon seems to be one that is mostly semantic. Spurgeon, however, seems to find it a critical point of contention, “That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities.”

Certainly, Spurgeon and I would both agree there is a hell and that some will unfortunately spend eternity in it. Likewise we would agree that the elect have a responsibility to respond to that irresistible call of God. Where we deviate from one another is in my suggestion that Christ loves humanity enough to die for everyone – even those who choose to ultimately reject Him. It is because of this conviction that I can look any person in the eye and tell them that Christ died for them.

Spurgeon’s essay is beneficial for those who are struggling to define their own doctrinal beliefs. It can easily be read in one sitting and is available on the Kindle for less than a dollar.

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2 thoughts on “Books Read in 2012: No. 5 – A Defense of Calvinism

  1. Where did Jesus or any Apostle tell anyone “Christ died for you”? My Bible says they issued a command over and over: “Repent and Believe”. Am I missing something?

    Cary

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  2. Hi Cary,

    Thanks for visiting the ID Blog! I’ll do my best to answer your question. To begin with, a correct understanding of repentance is important. Christ called all humans who have offended God with their sin (which is all of us) to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven near. Repentance is an awareness that we have sinned that brings us before God with a contrite and broken heart. It is essential for a Christian to recognize their sin and repent.

    Now, as for Scripture’s view on the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross, the Apostle Paul teaches that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US” (Romans 5:8). The oft quoted passage from John, chapter 3 says that “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever BELIEVES in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). What is it that we are to believe about Christ? I would suggest that it is necessary for is to believe 1 Peter 2:24 when it says that Christ “bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

    It is because we are sinners that have offended God that Christ bore our sins on the cross. His death gives us access to the righteousness and restoration that is necessary to live in a right relationship with God. It is through His wounds that we are healed … thus, it can rightly be said that He died for us.

    I hope that helps,
    Clark

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