Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spurgeon's Lapse, Part I

For the last few days, I’ve been reading “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented” by authors David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, and S. Lance Quinn. The book is mostly composed of an explanation of each of the five tenets of Calvinism, followed by Scriptural justification. At the end of the book, however, are appendices. I read one of them tonight, called “A Defense of Calvinism” by the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Spurgeon commits an “Arminian blunder” (an inconsistent Calvinist remark) when he writes the following:

“Then, in the fullness of time, He purchased me with His blood: He let His heart run out in one deep gaping wound for me, long ere I loved Him. Yea, WHEN HE FIRST CAME TO ME, DID I NOT SPURN HIM? When He knocked at the door, and ASKED for entrance, DID I NOT DRIVE HIM AWAY, AND DO DESPITE TO HIS GRACE? Ah, I CAN REMEMBER THAT I FULL OFTEN DID SO until, at last, by the power of HIS EFFECTUAL GRACE, He said, ‘I MUST, I WILL COME IN,’ and then HE TURNED MY HEART, AND MADE ME LOVE HIM” (Steele, Thomas, & Quinn, “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented.” Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2004, page 175).

Spurgeon is telling here of just how he came to faith in Christ. Notice that he asks the question, “When He [Christ] first came to me, DID I NOT SPURN HIM?” Here is the definition of the word “spurn”:

intransitive verb 1 obsolete a : stumble b : kick 1a
2 archaic : to reject something disdainfully transitive verb 1 : to tread sharply or heavily upon : trample
2 : to reject with disdain or contempt : scorn
synonyms: decline

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (as quoted above), to “spurn” involves a rejection of something. And rejection is an open decision to NOT choose something. One chooses against it. As is clearly seen, choice is involved in rejection.

The next question of Spurgeon’s is, “When He knocked at the door, and ASKED FOR ENTRANCE, did I not DRIVE HIM AWAY and DO DESPITE TO HIS GRACE?”

The Lord knocked at the door of Spurgeon’s heart, and ASKED for entrance—He did not force Himself into Spurgeon’s heart. He did not break the door down; He simply opened it and asked that Spurgeon let Him in. This is the same thing a guest does. A guest does not kick the door in to gain entrance—he knocks and waits for the homeowner to open the door and allow entrance.

Here’s a definition of the word “ask”:

transitive verb 1 a : to call on for an answer b : to put a question about c : SPEAK, UTTER
2 a : to make a request of b : to make a request for
3 : to call for : REQUIRE
4 : to set as a price
5 : INVITEintransitive verb 1 : to seek information
2 : to make a request
3 : LOOK —often used in the phrase ask for trouble

There are a few definitions given by Merriam Webster here that I like most: “TO CALL for” and to “invite.” The Lord “calls” for all to come to Himself:

28 "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (B) 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, (C) because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. (Matthew 11:28-29, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

And the Lord did the same thing in the parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22:
8 "Then he told his slaves, 'The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. (E) 9 Therefore, go to where the roads exit the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet. (F) ' 10 So those slaves went out on the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding banquet was filled with guests. (Matthew 22:8-10, HCSB).

Everyone the King’s servants could find was “invited” to the banquet. Notice that, earlier in the chapter, prior to verse 8, those who were “invited” to the banquet refused to come—all for various reasons. So there were guests invited who were allowed to REFUSE the invitation! No one was DRAGGED into the banquet unwillingly!
Spurgeon said that, when the Lord came to him and called him, he refused the invitation—he “drove Him away” and “did despite unto His grace.” The Lord knocked on the door of his heart for entrance; but, instead of knocking down the door, the Lord KNOCKED. And when He knocked, Spurgeon “answered the door” and “drove Him away,” sent the Lord packing. He told the Lord, “go away”—and went back inside. Not only did he drive the Lord away; he also “did despite to His grace.” What does this phrase mean?

I also looked up the word “despite” in Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:

1: the feeling or attitude of despising : CONTEMPT 2: MALICE, SPITE 3 a: an act showing contempt or defiance b: DETRIMENT, DISADVANTAGE.

I like definition number 3a: “An act showing CONTEMPT or DEFIANCE.” When Spurgeon says that he “did despite to His grace,” this means that he trampled it, he “spat on it,” he cared nothing for it and wanted nothing of it. What does it mean to show “contempt”?

b: lack of respect or reverence for something2: the state of being despised3: willful disobedience to or open disrespect of a court, judge, or legislative body.

Definition 1b tells us that contempt is “lack of respect or reverence for something.” So when the Lord invited Spurgeon into His family, initially, he had no reverence for the Lord or His invitation. He was a bit like Pharaoh when Moses first went to him and told him the words of the Lord:

2 But Pharaoh responded, "Who is the LORD that I should obey Him by letting Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and what's more, I will not let Israel go." (Exodus 5:2, HCSB)

Pharaoh responded, “Who is the LORD…?” essentially, he was saying, “Who does the Lord think He is?” The name of the LORD didn’t even shock Pharaoh or cause him to tremble. And this was Spurgeon’s response when the Lord came knocking on the door of his heart.

But the last definition of the word “contempt” above is number 3—“WILLFUL DISOBEDIENCE to or OPEN DISRESPECT” of something. When a person is said to have WILLFUL DISOBEDIENCE, this indicates an inner intention to rebel against something. So the desire to rebel stems from the person; and the person is allowed to rebel. Spurgeon CHOSE to rebel.

However, he states that at one point, the Lord decides to get through to him and so “MADE me to love Him.” So the only way Spurgeon comes to Christ is that Christ “MAKES” Spurgeon come to Himself. The problem with Spurgeon’s assessment of his conversion is that, initially, he is allowed to REJECT the Spirit of Grace. Is Spurgeon saying that God allows the person to reject Him, and “kick” against Him? I think he is.

This what makes the Calvinist assessment so hard to reconcile: when mankind is in sin, he does what HE DESIRES to do; but, when he accepts Christ, now the Lord MAKES HIM do what the Lord wants him to do! If the person can do what he desires before Christ, why can’t he do what Christ desires AFTER CHRIST? The Calvinist acknowledges that man does his own thing BEFORE CHRIST; but at the moment of conversion and after Christ, the Spirit FORCES people to do things, MAKES them confess their sins, and MAKES them do His bidding.

Spurgeon’s lapse in his “Defense” is that he actually recalls a time when he rebelled against the Lord’s plea to be saved. In the Calvinist system, however, God is not one who KNOCKS, but one who INVADES and PLUNDERS!

I will cover more on Spurgeon’s Lapse in my next post.

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