A Baptist Defense of Calvinism

One of the most influential of all British Baptists wrote these lines-

The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach today, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.

Who was he? None less than C.H. Spurgeon- one of the most widely cited and influential Baptists in all of Baptist history. But that wasn’t his only assertion about Calvin and Calvinism. In his ‘Defense of Calvinism’ he also suggests

I suppose there are some persons whose minds naturally incline towards the doctrine of free-will. I can only say that mine inclines as naturally towards the doctrine of sovereign grace. Sometimes, when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has never let me act as they have done! I have thought, if God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His grace, what a great sinner I should have been! I should have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil, nor should I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me. I feel that I should have been a very king of sinners, if God had let me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace.

This is so very Calvinistic that Calvin himself would have amen-ed. What follows a little further on in the treatise may well be affirmed by Calvin too- had he a say in the matter:

There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer- I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.

Baptists have affirmed the teachings of Calvin, in the main, for a very long time. The rejection of those teachings, in the main, by many among Baptists today (and particularly in the SBC) isn’t so much a return to Baptist roots as it is an aberration.


Jim West

2 Responses to “A Baptist Defense of Calvinism”

  1. Penn Hackney August 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Thanks, Dr. West. I have often enjoyed Spurgeon. Here is the rest of his “Defense of Calvinism”:

    Spurgeon’s comments on free will remind me that my heart “bursting forth in tears” in gratitude to sovereign grace does not, logically, mean that there is no place for human will in its interaction with sovereign grace. The key, which I think Spurgeon would agree, is God’s Sovereignty, not a denegration of human will and responsibility.

  2. Keith Bryant August 21, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Brother West, I hold the John Calvin view as well. Knowing My salvation is totally of Jesus Christ and what he did at Calvary, with nothing I a sinner could have ever have done to save myself! I tell my friends when they say I accepted him, not me i say Jesus Christ accepted me even though I am a sinner! Now that you see where my belief is I attend Meadow Branch Baptist Church in Kennedy Alabama, We might have 40 people that attend reguraly and are in a search for a Pastor. I am contacting different People over the telephone and internet in a search for a God called Minister that would feel led to be a pastor in this direction. We are about 50 miles North of Tuscalloosa and any advice you could give me in our search would be appreciated. Thank You for your Writings and have a Great DAY!

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