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.