19 May, 2016

“NOT SO SURE WITH MR. SPURGEON…”


A CRITIQUE OF SOME UNFORTUNATE “EXEGESIS” OF I TIMOTHY 2:3–4



J. E. North & H. L. Williams


[The following was originally published in the British Reformed Journal, Issue No. 14 (AprilJune 1996) pp. 41–48]






In late 1995 the Banner of Truth Trust published Spurgeon versus Hyper-Calvinism, written by Iain H. Murray. This small volume is essentially an attack on what is perceived as the Hyper-Calvinist threat (sic) which some fear is lurking in the British Isles today. The author holds up C.H. Spurgeon as the rallying point against this dreaded heresy (!) and in the process, Dr. John Gill and William Huntington are illustrative examples of the Hyper-Calvinist bogeyman. Says Murray: "The keystone of Hyper-Calvinist thinking is clearly to be found in Gill and especially in his two volumes, The Cause of God and Truth, published to refute Arminianism" (p. 128) As an example of what Murray considers to be the truth in these matters, an excerpt from one of Spurgeon’s sermons is given in some six pages comprising chapter 11 in the book, and evidently is intended to "put the cap on it" as it were, with a "thus saith Spurgeon" . . . , and who would dare contradict the great man? The sermon excerpt is appropriately entitled "A Crucial Text—C. H. Spurgeon on 1 Timothy 2:3-4,” and is underwritten with a footnote by Murray to the effect that it "provides an excellent summary of Spurgeon’s thought on one of the principal issues relating to the Hyper-Calvinist controversy" (p. 149). The sermon was originally published, we are informed, in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 26, pp. 49-52, and it evinces that Spurgeon considered that the gospel contained in it a testimony that God wants all men without exception to be saved. This is presented as being the true scriptural gospel over against "Hyper-Calvinists" who insist that such an assertion is Arminian. Ipso facto, then, following this kind of presentation, anyone not acquiescing in Spurgeon’s views gets categorized with the Hyper-Calvinist heresy.

What? Criticise Spurgeon? The temerity of it! The utter audacity of it! If CHS said it, it must be right mustn’t it? What here follows will doubtless explode like an incendiary in those quarters where, in common with all too many on the modern evangelical and neo-Calvinist scene, great stalwarts of the faith from past ages get trotted out as "final authorities" on Scripture. Like the Eastern Orthodox, the modern neo-Calvinists have their "icons" which act in some intermediary way between them and God, and Spurgeon, much I am sure, to his disgust were he to know, gets heralded and presented forth with a veneration and hero-worship that rivals anything seen in Catholicism or the East. They might not pray to "Saint CHS" as yet, though I have over the years noticed a few busts of Spurgeon adorning study desks here and there. Not far away, I feel, from the "images of saints" found in Romanist and Eastern Orthodox Churches. A few generations more, and maybe they will be praying to Saint CHS of Newington Butts. But at the moment CHS certainly gets to be intruded between the believer and his Saviour in an authoritative way, contrary to the dictates of our Lord in Matthew 23 verses 8-12. Only Christ is to be our "Rabbi," we sit as His feet, and His alone. Only Christ is to be our Master, and all other men, preachers, elders, deacons, expositors, whatever, may never take this place. Therefore we are not prepared to "take it from Mr. Spurgeon," but like the Bereans, who did not even "take it from St. Paul," (Cf. Acts 17:10-11), we shall search carefully the Scriptures, the very inspired Word of God, to see "whether those things were so" as Mr. Spurgeon claimed.

First, the text, that "Crucial Text" as Mr. Murray calls it: 

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:3–4).

In expounding this text, CHS purports right at the beginning of his second paragraph "I do not intend to treat my text controversially. . ." (p. 149) but then he proceeds to do precisely that, hitting out at what he evidently regards as the "Hyper" brethren thereafter in several paragraphs, and couching his polemic in pejorative language. Right at the start, however, in this second paragraph CHS evinces his view of Scripture as being, to some extent at least, supra-logical, and beyond human comprehension, for he says that here in this text "two sides of the building of truth meet here" and hence he sets the scene for a gambol with "paradox" theology, (or more accurately, "Contradictionalist" theology—a kind of neo-Calvinist transcendentalism). "In many a village," he goes on, "there is a corner where the idle and the quarrelsome gather together; and theology has such corners." Really? True, Biblical theology, exegeted from God’s precious wholesome Word, has nasty, disreputable corners like that? Now this is pejorative language Mr. CHS is using here. It is true that the Scriptures contain many difficult matters which, as St. Peter says (II Peter 3:16) "are some things hard to be understood" and which "they that are unlearned and unstable wrest . . . unto their own destruction." But it is the calling of the ministers of the Gospel to seek out the correct interpretations of such matters, and to teach God’s people these correct explanations, showing them how their explanations agree with the Word of God. It is pejorative to consider such activity as some dark corner as it were, where the "idle and quarrelsome gather together." Anyway, CHS regards this "crucial text" as one such dingy and unwholesome corner, but strangely he’s there to do a bit of idle quarrelling himself. For ourselves, we prefer to regard it in more sanctified, Scriptural, and non-pejorative terms. It is indeed one of those kind of texts St. Peter refers to, and proper exegetical consideration of its meaning is slandered when it is regarded in the terms CHS uses here.

CHS follows on now with an atrocious piece of exegesis. He bends the Word of God to fit what is evidently his own presuppositions and predilections. He first throws up the "contradiction" that is superficially apparent between the text and the divine decrees of election and reprobation, whereon he insinuates that the text would have to be bent in order to eradicate its contradiction with the divine decrees. And some do this bending, he says, in the interests of logical consistency. But he won’t. Evidently he considers that the truth can be in both sides of a contradiction simultaneously. (At this juncture methinks I hear the ghost of Karl Barth chuckling away, and saying, in sepulchral tones "Ha ha! These evangelicals! These Calvinists!"). This is shocking, that CHS should consider that faithfulness to the Word of God will lead to the inconsistency of logical contradiction, i.e., strictly speaking, lies.

At the outset, CHS quite uncritically asserts that "all men" in the text (v. 4) must mean, and can only mean, "all men without exception." He then speaks of certain "older Calvinistic friends" (p. 150) as insisting that this "all men" have said ‘some men.’ "‘All men,’ say they ‘that is, some of all sorts of men,’ as if He (the Holy Ghost) had meant that". Accordingly, in line with his predilections, CHS goes on to assert: "The Holy Ghost by the Apostle has written ‘all men’ and unquestionably [emph. Ed.] he meant all men. I know how to get rid of the force of the ‘alls’ according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to the truth." CHS goes on then to adumbrate what he had been reading in "the exposition of a very able doctor [Dr. Gill?] who explains the text so as to explain it away, he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it." (Notice the pejoratives I have emphasized here, which CHS is unable to back up with objective evidence. Ed.) "I thought," CHS continues, "when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text, if it [the text] had read ‘Who will not have all men to be saved, nor come to the knowledge of the truth.’"

Love of consistency, CHS now avers, must not interfere with our faithfulness to Scripture. (p. 151). This begs the question, "Is Scripture inconsistent then?" CHS is concerned about this, because he evidently feels the embarrassment between his interpretation of the text and the rest of Scripture on matters of God’s decretive will with regards to the non-elect. But he shies away from the destination that this implication will take him to by seeking refuge in what is clearly irrationality, though doubtless he would not have called it by that name. "I am a most unreasonable being" he asserts, even "when I am most reasonable, and when my judgment is most accurate I dare not trust it" (!!) (But of course, he trusts his judgment here, in his interpretation of this text, nevertheless! And what is more, de facto he expects his hearers and readers to trust in his judgment because he evidently expects them to swallow what he is saying). "I had rather trust my God" he goes on. (Cf. pp. 151–153) But that is not the question up for debate. The question up for debate is the correct meaning of a text of God’s Word. In that Word, when we know what it means, we trust. It is our contention that Mr. CHS exegeted this text incorrectly, and we trust the Word no less than he.

But the venerable CHS now comes to the nub of it all, in the face of the contradiction which He believes our human reason cannot resolve, the contradiction between his interpretation of the text and the decree of reprobation, he tells us that if the Scriptures appear to us to be contradictory, then we are to "swallow it at once" (!!! p. 153. emph. Ed.). Like some of the Doctor’s nasty medicine, CHS tells us "In the same way there are some things in the Word of God which are undoubtedly true which must be swallowed at once by an effort of faith" (emph. Ed.). (Karl Barth’s ghost is having hysterics now, and shouting, "but this is what I spent a lifetime trying to teach everybody . . . Why wouldn't these Calvinists listen?"). And CHS, like Barth, can then point out to us a plethora of things in Scripture which appear contradictory, (pp. 152 and 153). At least, they appeared contradictory to CHS. Personally I'm amazed to discover what a superficial exegete he must have been in so many areas. He considers, amongst other things, the question: "If God be infinitely good and powerful, why does not His power carry out to the full His beneficence?" (p. 152). He intimates that this question is unanswerable. That a Calvinist should flounder on such matters is staggering, and begs an array of questions, like: "Has he never fully studied his Bible?" "Has he never really studied Reformed theology?"

A pity CHS had more regard for his own predilections than for the careful exegesis of Dr. Gill. Not that we regard Dr. Gill as an infallible icon, either, but he was much, much more sure-footed than the much vaunted CHS. But now, what saith the Scripture at this point? CHS has asserted that the text means that "the Holy Ghost by the Apostle has written ‘all men,’ and unquestionably he means ‘all men.’"

This is wrong. The Holy Ghost did not by the apostle write "all men." He wrote pantas anthropous. Now the question is what does that original Greek phrase mean, not what the English translation of it can be construed to mean. In particular, what does pantas mean?

CHS has assumed that it means "all" in the sense of "all without exception." As such he betrays a lack of linguistic understanding, which, sadly, was the sorry lot of most evangelicals in the Victorian era, when the old principles of Reformation exegesis had become eclipsed by etymological studies that eventually vitiated the reliability of concordances, dictionaries, Word Studies, and lexicons. Much of the lexicographical work of the Victorian era and of the early 20th Century has been shown to be seriously faulty, riddled with the error of an overriding philosophy known amongst linguistic scholars as "etymologism." This very error in fact bolstered the Baptist view of immersionism, and gave it an air of validity the Word of God never gave it. CHS evidently fell for that, and fell for a whole plethora of similar errors. The old Reformed exegesis put heavy emphasis on proper semantic study, and the usage of the analogia fidei, or the analogy of the faith, whereby difficult or obscure scriptures were to be interpreted in the light of their contexts, and in the light of the general scope and tenor of Scripture as a whole. As the Westminster Confession states: "The infallible rule of interpretation of any Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture, (which is not manifold, but one,) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly" (Ch. 2 Para. IX). Again, more recently the rising science of linguistics has rolled back the darkness in this respect, and we see how the old Reformers had it right, after all. With regard to pantas in this text, linguistic studies bearing on New Testament Greek indicate that this word, like most words in most languages, does not have one fixed meaning. It has a spectrum of meanings, known in linguistic science as a "semantic range." Within the semantic range of pantas the lexicographers supply us with a whole set of different meanings, or "elements." Which element of meaning is active in any given usage of a word is determined by its context. So first, what is the semantic range of pantas?

For the set pas, (nominative singular masculine of which pantas is the accusative masculine plural) we find the following meaning elements listed in Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains (United Bible Societies 1st edit. 1988):

pas     a. all
b. any
c. total
d. whole
e. every kind of

Now “a.” above will unparcel to reveal:  A1: All without exception, and, A2: All without distinction. And “e.” above will unparcel to reveal: E1: Some of all sorts, and E2: All manner of.

Now which of these meanings did the Holy Ghost intend us to take as being the correct one to fit I Tim. 2:4? What do we do? Shall we say, “Oh, I like this one, I’ll make it this one”? Or, “I feel led to A1, I'm certain that’s what God intended, I feel the witness within me”? The Arminians insist on A1. So did CHS, surprise! surprise! On what grounds? CHS gives us none. In this sermon he can only hold, and rather bombastically at that, to bald insistence on it, "the Holy ghost by the apostle has written ‘all men.’"

But now, what about the context? And what about the whole analogia fidei, by which we are to be guided when interpreting any difficult text such as this? Well first, the whole scope and tenor of Scripture shout that the CHS and the Arminian interpretation, A1, will put the text in contradiction to the divine decrees. Knowing this, the Arminians do their utmost to extract as much anti-Calvinist mileage out of this text as they possibly can. (Strange, that CHS and the Arminians are fellow-travellers along the same road, in the same direction here!) But CHS, and it seems, his "backers" at the Banner of Truth, are not as canny as the Arminians—they want A1 as well, and the contradiction it throws up against the divine decrees and the divine nature of God as revealed elsewhere in Scripture! And this massive contradiction must, so it seems, in Spurgeon’s words, "be swallowed at once by an effort of faith." (I can still hear Karl Barth’s ghost laughing and droning out: "Leap of faith, leap of faith . . . indeed . . . they’ve gone as far as that!").

But manifestly, meaning elements “e.”, in the list above, and E1, and E2 will fit beautifully, and eliminate any contradiction with the rest of Scripture. That is, that God "will have all manner of men to be saved." In an age like the 1st Century A.D., long before the rise of egalitarian democracies, when society was heavily stratified socially, and racial prejudices inflamed, it would have been vitally important to draw attention to the fact that God’s salvation was not only for one racial group, (the Jews, for instance—and much of the New Testament addresses precisely that question) or for one class of Society. Not only peasants, and slaves, but even middle class professionals and even rulers were to be addressed with the Gospel ("every creature," was emphasized, Mark 16:15). It was important to emphasize that "some of all sorts" of people were to be saved, by the divine decree. And in historical practice, that is precisely how it has worked out, not all men without exception, but some of all sorts.

Now, it remains to examine the immediate context to the verse concerned. Notice how the phrase "all men" is coupled not only to the phrase "to be saved," but also to the clause: "to come unto the knowledge of the truth." In fact, in the Greek the coupling is closer than in the English. So it is God’s will that "all men" come "unto the knowledge of the truth" as well as that they be saved. Manifestly, they cannot be saved, without first coming unto the knowledge of the truth (Cf. Rom. 10:14). And equally manifest is the fact that down through all the Old Testament period, and through the New Testament period, it has not been the will of God that "all men without exception" should come "unto the knowledge of the truth," but it has manifestly and indubitably been His will that "all manner of men," or "all kinds of men" should so come, and be saved. Some indeed, as St. John says, "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9; Cf. Rev. 11:9). Not all without exception.

Let the reader judge: What about all the billions of human beings absolutely excluded from the knowledge of the Gospel, and therefore salvation, for millennia? The millions of pre-Columbian America, the vast billions of China, and the East, and the manifold tribes of Africa . . . all precluded from viewing the Gospel dispensation for most of the history of the world. Which interpretation of I Tim. 2:3-4 fits with reality? that of Mr. CHS, or the one of the grand phalanx of the old Reformed exegetes, like Calvin in his sermons and commentaries on this text, the very one we have advanced above?

But this is not all. Again looking at the immediate context of our verse we see in verse one preceding it the phrase "all men" used by the apostle again. The same Greek words are used as in verse 4 except for a change in the flexions for case endings. The apostle exhorts us to pray for "all men"—an impossible task, if "all without exception” is meant, for we are not allowed to pray for the dead, or for those who have committed the unpardonable sin (I John 5:16). The Apostle makes it clear in verse two that by "all" in verse one he means "all kinds of" men, when he specifies that prayers should be made even for kings and all those in authority, that is, for those even of that exalted type of men who in most instances in those days were enemies that persecuted Christians, but from amongst whom God was pleased to save some.

We conclude therefore that the Holy Ghost wrote by the apostle that God willed "all kinds of men" to be saved. The interpretation is in beautiful harmony with the analogia fidei, the context and all the sound principles of exegesis, and the science of linguistics. A threefold cord is not quickly broken (Eccl. 4:12).

But Mr. CHS surprisingly, finds his exegetical medicine a little difficult to swallow himself. The contradiction it throws in his face is a bit big "to be swallowed at once." He has an embarrassing problem now with that word "will" in verse 4 of our text: "Who will have all men to be saved . . ." A spoonful of hermeneutic sugar (heaped, not level) is called for here by Mr. CHS to help with the swallowing of this nasty medicine, this nasty ‘contradiction’ (sic) in God’s Word. The word "will" here, he roundly asserts, cannot mean that God "wills it with the force of a decree or a divine purpose, for if He did, then all men would be saved" (p. 150). Rather, he says, "does not the text mean that it is the ‘wish’ of God that (all) men be saved?" So that the passage should read, he continues, "whose wish it is that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth?" (Ibid, p. 151). Notice now, that Mr. CHS is not saying now: "The Holy Ghost wrote by his apostle ‘Who will have all men . . . etc.’ and that is what the Holy Ghost meant." No, no, that sort of approach would do for the "all men" part of this text. But not for this part! Mr. CHS will hold us to the good old plain English translation and his construing of it for "all men," but to follow that principle through consistently in his exegesis would get him in a mess with "will" in verse 4! What to do then? Well he does the very thing he criticises the "Hypers" for doing with "all men" right next door to "will." Mr. CHS it would seem, is nothing if not inconsistent! As it suits him! And what is staggering is the way he performs this trick! In looking for an alternative meaning for "will" he alights on "wish" without in any way undertaking an exegetic, linguistic or semantic examination of the word concerned. In short he "plumps" for the meaning that suits him!

So now Mr. CHS can swallow his sugared brew by changing "will" to "wish." Unfortunately this nasty ‘pharmaceutical’ concoction has drastic side effects that are deleterious right across our conception of God and His revelation. Mr. CHS has hereby portrayed for us a God who is able to save all men without exception, and yet . . . and yet . . . will not put forth His mighty arm and save them—and this, despite the fact that the prophet tells us that the "Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save . . ." (Isaiah 59:1) Now manifestly this is a hideous portrayal of God.

What would we think of a lifeguard on a beach, who, looking out to sea and seeing someone struggling, drowning, yearns to save that person, desires that that person be saved, and having all the strength, skill, and opportunity necessary to effectuate a rescue, yet remains immobile, and knowing that none else, nor the victim himself can effect deliverance, nevertheless leaves the victim to drown? And as the person gasps his way to oblivion, our lifeguard says, "I wish sincerely that that person be saved." What kind of lifeguard is that? A contemptible one. And CHS’s portrayal of God here is akin to that lifeguard. CHS immediately sees the incongruence of his theology here, and spends most of pages 152–154 trying, vainly, to justify it. He considers the question: "But if he (God) wishes it to be so, why does he not make it so?" This question he deflects, "I cannot tell" he says, (p. 152) and "I have never set up to be an explainer of all difficulties, and I have no desire to do so." (emph. Ed.). But of course, this is where, with Mr. CHS, we now are bidden to take this incongruity to be true, and it must be "swallowed at once by an effort of faith, and must not be chewed by perpetual questioning" (p. 153). Or, this text means what Mr. CHS says it means, and we are to swallow that and not re-examine his exegesis! However it is revealing to peel back the surface of Mr. Spurgeon’s exegesis here, what lurks underneath will not stand the light of day. The Greek word underlying the English here is the verb thelo. Now CHS has done in his interpretation here what he vetoes others for doing with respect to the "all" of verse 4—he has spotted a semantic variant. The Greek thelo, he seems to have discovered, can mean "I wish," as well as "I will." Opportunist-like, he picks this one up like a ripe plum. It’s just the semantic variant he needed at this point! Never mind that he has censured others (like Dr. Gill?) for examining semantic ranges before determining which meaning element is active in a given usage. Never mind that he won’t allow any possibility for variant semantics in his interpretation of "all." "I do not see," he bombastically and baldly asserts (p. 150) "how it can be applied here (to ‘all’) with due regard to truth." But on "will" CHS sings a different tune. It suits him.

But it will not do to enter linguistics in such a cavalier fashion. All the meaning elements of thelo must be set out, and examined, the context consulted, and the analogia fidei. Then we must logically and systematically isolate which element of the verb is active here, not just pull one out like Little Jack Horner pulling out the plum, the one that happens to suit our predilections. It must be the one that fits all the threefold considerations adumbrated above. Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, again, gives us the semantic range:

thelo   a. I purpose
b. I am of the opinion
c. I desire (I wish)
d. I enjoy.

Manifestly, “b.” and “d.” would take us into realms unfitting to the verse in question. “a.” and “c.” remain the only options. Now of these two the context and the analogia fidei will have to be the deciding factors—not personal whim, not personal preference, not personal pietistic "feelings." If it is “c.” as CHS specifies, in his opportunistic manner, then this leaves us with a portrayal of God as being someone with frustrated desires, indeed with frustrated desires that He must cope with eternally, otherwise He would change. And therefore He would be eternally imperfect. “c.” also flatly contradicts those manifold Scriptures which assert unequivocally that God is sovereign, and that He accomplishes all His desires. For example:

"My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10);

"My Word . . . shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please" (Isaiah 55:10-11);

"He is of one mind, and who can turn him? And what His soul desireth, even that He doeth" (Job 23:13);

"But our God is in the heavens, He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased." (Psalm 115:3);

"Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places" (Psalm 135:6);

"He shall see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied", (Isaiah 53:11).

Indubitably, therefore, meaning element “c.” [desire] will not fit.

This leaves us with “a.” [purpose], which fits the analogia fidei, fits the context, in that it harmonizes beautifully with "all kinds of men", and is arrived at by a rational and honest process of investigation. A three-fold cord, again, not quickly broken. (Eccl. 4:12).

It is evident that CHS in this sermon carried out cavalier exegesis, and parted company with the Word of God, controlled exegetics, and logic, and, it must be said, consistency of principle. It is also evident, sadly, that his "backer" in this volume [Iain H. Murray] has effectively de facto endorsed what CHS is saying by utilising this excerpt in the manner he has.

I have a deep respect for Iain Murray and all his life-long labours in publishing good Reformed theology, I give heartfelt thanks to God for what positive good has been accomplished by the Banner of Truth over the last forty years. But I cannot "swallow" their view of the gospel, which Mr. Murray has espoused and presented in this small volume. It is at once, I am personally convinced, unscriptural, illogical, irrational, contradictory, and deleterious to the Scripture truth. It was deleterious to me in all the years that I followed it, and to many, many others I know. What is staggering, is how CHS and by association, Mr. Murray and the Banner of Truth herewith, ipso facto, admit that their interpretation of Scripture on this matter does not make sense, and, to use Spurgeon’s words, it must be "swallowed at once by an effort of faith." Even more staggering is their strongly implied censure of those who refuse to "swallow" and would assay to question and examine the crass hermeneutic procedures that produce things that have to be "swallowed."

It is not for nothing, that the "ghost of Karl Barth" has poked his nose into this discussion. The "New Modernism," (as Van Til called it) runs on the logic engine of contradiction, yet is couched in all the language of Reformed theology, a theology of the Word. Far wider than just Barth, it is nevertheless all powered by Hegelian dialecticism, and essentially proclaims faith as being belief in mutually simultaneous contradictories that are supra-logical to humans, viz. the Bible is the Word of God, and the Bible is the word of mere man full of errors and contradictions. All men are simultaneously elect and reprobate. Effectively, this makes God and His Word speak with a forked tongue. And in articulating this ‘Barthian’ system, the eminent Scots theologian T. F. Torrance, in speaking of faith in relation to the Word of God, has virtually re-articulated Spurgeon’s viewpoint here, thus:

"To suspend judgment is not to be irrational; rather it is the part of reason which behaves obediently in terms of its object, in this instance, an objective revelation which even in the event of revelation remains a mysterion, and will not yield its secret to analytical and logical investigation". (T. F. Torrance: Review of Warfield’s The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, in: The Scottish Journal of Theology, vol. 7, 1954, p. 106, cited in Fere: "Language, Logic, and God," Fontana 1970, p. 131).

Note the "mysterion" here. And note "an objective revelation which even in the event of revelation remains a mysterion. . ." Even "revelation" is still a mystery, before which human analytical thinking is to be suspended, indeed, is stymied. How chillingly parallel to the words of CHS who, in this sermon tells us, with respect to the "contradictions" his exegesis throws up from God’s Word, "Let the difficult doctrines go down whole into your very soul, by a grand exercise of faith," and that such "must not be chewed by perpetual questioning" (Murray, p. 153).

All this of course begs the question: "Is this revelation revelation?"

How can it be "revelation" if all it manifests is a contradiction that stonewalls rational understanding, i.e., a "mysterion"? But across this epistemological gap Barthian faith has to "leap": never mind the contradictions, never mind the "mysterion." "Believe it" (despite Barth’s protestations that he did not teach "a leap of faith"), and the kinship to Spurgeon’s dictum to be "swallowed at once" is immediately evident. No wonder hosts of erstwhile Calvinist preachers have gone on a one-way excursion down Hegel Street in the last fifty years. If you can "swallow" Spurgeon’s kind of exegesis, well it’s easy to go on and "swallow" Barth, after all, his contradictions are, if more numerous, each less of a mouthful than this gargantuan dollop CHS bids us ingest "by an effort of faith."

In conclusion, let the reader judge again, who in these matters has been treating I Tim. 2:4 with, in Spurgeon’s own words, "grammatical gunpowder" and "exploding it by way of expounding it"? The likes of Dr. Gill? The likes of Calvin and the classical Reformed exegetes? Or is it none other than dear Mr. CHS himself?


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4 comments:

  1. Amen. Calvin on 1 Timothy 2:4 is MUCH better  
    http://www.the-highway.com/Salvation_of_All.html

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  2. Spurgeon was incorrect on his assertion that all infants who die are saved as well. Unless it can be shown that God killed the first-born males in Egypt, but then saved them all.

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  3. Hugh
    Apparently Calvin was also a Hyper-Calvinist.

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    Replies
    1. Precisely. And Spurgeon had some miserably off days!

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