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Spurgeon is a Heretic?

December 15, 2007

I’m writing to ask, “Where is the consistency?” Your newsletter regularly promotes the book, The Other Side of Calvinism. It’s proclaimed to be “...the best book exposing the heresies of Calvinism....” Yet, in your Nov-Dec 2007 newsletter, you have an article featuring Charles Spurgeon, one of the biggest Calvinists of all time. So, where is the consistency? If Calvinism is a heresy, then Spurgeon is a heretic. Yes, or no?
Michael answers:

There prevails a misconception, historically promoted by Calvinists, that the great doctrines of the faith are the product of, and exclusive to, Augustinian Calvinism. I have read and appreciated many wonderful works written by professed Calvinists. I graduated from a strong Calvinist Bible College. If you have read much of Spurgeon, you know that you will read a thousand pages and not come across anything that is exclusively Calvinistic. He teaches the same gospel that is taught by so-called Arminians, like Wesley and Finney. The old Methodist and the General Baptist churches preached the wonderful words of grace and life exactly as Spurgeon did. Long before Luther or Calvin, the gospel Spurgeon preached was believed and taught by many non-Catholic groups throughout the Dark Ages, and even all the way back to the Apostle Paul. If the Apostle Paul were to preach in a Calvinist School, he would be labeled a Pelagian or an Arminian and never invited back.

Sound Biblical exegetes do not reject all that a professing Calvinist believes; we reject those doctrines in particular that interpret the total depravity of man as an inability of the sinner to choose Christ after having been drawn by the Holy Spirit. I have read thousands of pages of Spurgeon and only found one place where I found him to be in error regarding this subject.

If I say your apple pie is no good because it has too much salt, that doesn’t mean I don’t like apples, brown sugar, and spices.

Finally, if Spurgeon were representative of all Calvinists, the “kinky” twists of Calvinism would never be known. Old-fashioned Methodists and Bible-believing Baptists would invite him to preach an autumn revival.

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7 comments on “Spurgeon is a Heretic?”

  1. "we reject those doctrines in particular that interpret the total depravity of man as an inability of the sinner to choose Christ after having been drawn by the Holy Spirit."
    Michael. You terribly misunderstand total depravity. Inability is his natural state. He chooses darkness, not light, until the Holy Spirit by God's grace, begins to work. Eph 2:1-3, John 6:44
    You imply that the Holy Spirit could be at odds with God's saving work saying that the Holy Spirit might draw some, that God had not elected. This is fiction.

  2. "...we reject those doctrines in particular that interpret the total depravity of man as an inability of the sinner to choose Christ after having been drawn by the Holy Spirit."
    After having read this several times and still not understanding it, I've realized that you, Mr. Pearl, have misinterpreted what us Calvinists believe. We do not believe that a sinner can reject Christ after being drawn by the Holy Spirit. One of the tenets of Calvinism is "irresistible grace", that is, if/when God chooses us to redeem through grace, we cannot walk away from Him. When God starts a good work in us, when He gives us faith and life through Christ, when he draws us to Him by means of the Holy Spirit, no one that He truly calls can resist that. On the contrary, a sinner is unable NOT "to choose" Christ once he is drawn. I would be interested to find out why you think Calvinists believe this. Perhaps some do, but I would say that true Calvinism (the way Paul taught it) would teach otherwise.

  3. With all due respect Mike, I am curious as to what abridgment of Spurgeon's sermons you are reading? Aside from the innumerable times Spurgeon boldly proclaims his Calvinistic theology I have a copy of one of his sermons entitled "In Defense of Calvinism" wherein he vigorously defends the doctrines of grace. Spurgeon subscribed to all five points of Calvinism and went so far as to say in one of his sermons that "Calvinism is the Gospel." As much as I appreciate your teaching on child training, I am very disturbed with your lack of familiarity of Reformed doctrines. These same doctrines that you consistently misrepresent and charicature are rooted in the greatest movements away from the RCC. I would be interested to know if you have read works by such men as John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, R. Albert Mohler, J.C. Ryle, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, any Puritan or John Calvin himself? You'll will find that up until the revivals of the Pelagian Charles Finney and the arrival of the Pentecostal churches in the early 20th century, the majority of Christendom in Europe and America was Calvinistic. Are you telling me that until the Finney and the Pentecostals arrived on the scene most professing Christians were doomed heretics? My friend, I do not think so. I would encourage you as one brother in Christ to another to not limit yourself to the writings of Laurence Vance but look for yourself into the theological works of Reformers past and present. Thanks for your time and may the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry.

  4. Dear Michael,

    When God has elected us we can except His gift of salvation or not because he has already chosen us,(at least those in which he did choose)We have a choice to except or not.How can ones theology take these scriptures on predestination and election out of the word of God?
    If we have chosen God ourselves we would be putting ourselves in a God possition and therefore saying we are equal to God. How could we look apon God as not having all power over man kind? We can do nothing above God. It is only through Christ who can enable us which gives all power to God. We must remember the garden of eden when Adam and e
    Eve were asked by the devil to choose. They could not without sinning. It is only through the shedding blood at calvary that gives us any hope at all. It is through His grace and our faith in believing that , that gives us any hope in knowing anything.I am a calvinist and I also love the testimony of Westley, and other Methodists. I have a book called "Up and down the North Pacific Coast" by Thomas Crosby. I love to hear the Gospel Preached and taught. Thank you for your time and I appreciate your books on child training.

    In Christ,

  5. Calvinism seems to be blaming God for sinners' continued rebellion, which makes their punishments now and especially in eternity make absolutely no sense. Even Calvinists don't believe Calvinism when they are cuddling with their newborns. Scripture warns us to only follow Jesus, not imperfect human preachers, as godly and well intentioned and most often Biblically accurate as they can be. There is only One worthy of our 100% allegiance, one true doctrine. 1 Cor 1:11-13. I believe that God does not randomly preselect a few people to offer grace to, nor force anyone to choose to love Him back with irresistible grace. He reaches out to all, initiating I do agree on based on 1 John 4, but all are free to accept or reject His grace. Love requires choice. I prefer to hang around people who choose to hang around me. Robots are only fun for awhile. Kids get bored with them quickly, but a buddy relationship with the dog is fun for life, even beyond the life of the dog because of the memories. Forced friendships aren't friendships at all, but merely a business deal. Do they still even sell pet rocks anymore? If Ephesians 5 shows how marriage between a man and wife represents the relationship between Jesus and His bride the church, then doesn't that make it seem that both get to choose each other with their free will? Yes it's appropriate that the man initiate so the woman feels cherished and wanted, and men lead the family starting with initiating the romance, but the woman isn't forced to marry him just because he wants her to say yes. She can say no to his invitation for marriage. She isn't powerless, at least in American culture and among followers of Jesus anyway.) No man has an irresistible power over any woman, though many millions have been made selling products promising this power to desperate men with low character and even lower morals and commitment level. Romans 1:20 proves that all learn the gospel one way or another and I believe from a very young age as children are more interested and fascinated with creation and more open to spiritual things than most adults. If a doctrine cannot be easily understood by small children, then it's probably way too complicated (adulterated...adultery...idolatry?) and likely false. Adults think too much of themselves. Is it hard for a Calvinist to be humble if they think they are chosen and others are doomed nomatter how bad they seek God and believe the gospel? Matthew 18:4, Luke 18:7 There is a big difference between God knowing in advance what people will think/do and forcing them to think/do. I often know what my children are thinking and about to do, though I'm not controlling it, but I can influence them based on how I know them, for their safety and the good of all. They still make the choice to act as they do though. If I've proven my love and wisdom and reliability, they love me back easily, but freely. Sometimes, they are just plain selfish nomatter how wonderful I am and that hurts me. How horrible that cross must have been after all the love, visiting & healing Jesus did. I'll bet the physical pain was the "easy" part by comparison.
    Mathew 23:37 clearly shows the choice to be saved is in all human hands to accept God's grace and that grace isn't irresistible. God makes sure all hear the gospel one way or another, so even people can't end up in Hell by the laziness of believers who don't spread the gospel enough by human language. Jesus will come back sooner if we complete the job though! And people will be safer and happier if they believe the gospel at a younger age, not to mention less sin in the world because of that. How fun it is to find something lost! God knows who they are and helps us find them. He doesn't force them to be willing to accept the gospel, but He knows what they will choose. He prevents no one from saying yes, but the choice is not His. He would actually like ALL men to say yes to the gospel, but knows most won't and that makes Him sad I am sure. But there must be choice for love nonetheless. I wouldn't have my marriage and relationship with my kids any other way. Adoption is an even better picture than biological birth for showing love. In fact, marriage is like two adults (male/female) adopting each other! God makes them real family upon their promises to each other and acting married. It's a shame most in-laws treat them as though they aren't blood related like the grandkids are, like it's only temporary considering the divorce rate in America today, even among Christians. I've never heard of marriage as like adoption. Someone should speak up. God says that He adopts believers into His family, as sons and daughters not just servants. So Jesus marrying His bride the church is also an adoption, so human marriage is adoption too. Most people would think a parent horrible for legally divorcing their adopted child. Once adopted, always adopted, right? Emotions don't affect the commitment. That's another example of salvation security I guess. Good night, God bless!

  6. I've heard a good baptist preacher say "I'm a 5 point Spurgeonist!" and even famous "calvinistic" preachers like Whitfield said "I've never read anything by John Calvin"

    In other words, sometimes the label may help a person understand in a minute where you stand, but many times it only clouds the issues. I have listened to a number of your messages from Romans and Matthew as well as others where you address the issues of salvation and I find both your descriptions of an Arminian as well as a Calvinist to be exaggerated straw men. As far as Spurgeon goes, I'll quote him here from the book in my lap:

    "the word calvinism, is frequently used here as the short word which embraces that part of divine truth which teaches that salvation is by grace alone, but it is not hence to be imagined that we attach any authority to the opinion of John Calvin, other than that which is due to every holy man who is ordained of God to proclaim His truth. We use the word simply for shortness of expression, and because the enemies of free grace will then be quite sure of what we mean. It is our firm belief, that what is commonly called Calvinism, is neither more nor less than the good old gospel of the puritans, the martyrs, the apostles, and of our Lord Jesus Christ." New Park Street Pulpit volume 1, 1855 ISBN # 978-0-8010-1298-3

    perhaps Spurgeon was fighting different battles in his day and in 21st century Tennesee he would drop the name for the sake of the gospel, BUT, there is his opinion.

  7. After reading a biography of Spurgeon I understand where the confusion comes from. In Spurgeon's day there were "hyper-Calvinists" just like in our day. He strongly stood against their corruptions and was denounced as a worldly weakling. While he called himself a “Calvinist” his teaching is closer to our old time Baptist preachers than our modern Calvinists. Labels are just terms usually used to bring division and disagreement. He had no doubt as to eternal security and salvation by grace and faith. Even his brush of “election” swept a broad path.
    Thank you for introducing me to Charles H. Spurgeon. It is wonderful to be able to sit under the teaching of such a truth filled Godly man even if it is only through his writings.