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Dave Hunt vs. Charles Haddon Spurgeon – Vintage

Using Obfuscation to Avoid Admission of Simple and Documented Error

It is obvious that a number of truth-loving “Bereans” have been contacting Dave Hunt’s ministry, The Berean Call, and calling him to accountability regarding the documentation of his error concerning the beliefs of Charles Haddon Spurgeon which I presented in my Open Letter responding to the publication of his book, What Love is This?  In the August, 2002 issue of The Berean Call Mr. Hunt attempts some damage-control, but in the process only digs a deeper hole for himself.  He is surely making it impossible for those who have followed his writings to put much trust in his use of sources, and his willingness to stand corrected when need be.

In this article I will provide the original documentation of Hunt’s error, followed by his attempted response, a brief rebuttal of key issues, and most importantly, the majority of the text of the chapter from which Hunt mistakenly derived his initial citation as found in What Love is This?  The text of this chapter is so clear, so compelling, that it simply overwhelms the very weak attempt made to excuse the original error.

A Glowing Example: Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the Atonement
     On page 19 of your book, Dave, you make the assertion that Charles Spurgeon “unequivocally” denied particular redemption (limited atonement).  Every single Calvinist who has done any meaningful reading in Spurgeon will be forced to immediately dismiss you as a very poor researcher on the basis of this statement.  Here I provide the quote as you gave it, placing the materials you did not include in bold (I thank Tom Ascol for first noting this and rushing me the context).  Folks who wonder if you are being fair to Augustine or Calvin should note your willingness to be completely and utterly inaccurate in your representation of someone as recent as Spurgeon:

I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological system needed such a limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy. In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore. There must be sufficient efficacy in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, to have saved not only all in this world, but all in ten thousand worlds, had they transgressed their Maker’s law. Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question. Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent to conceive of limited value; bound and measure are terms inapplicable to the Divine sacrifice. The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work.

Anyone familiar with Spurgeon knows what he means by “the intent of the Divine purpose” here (he means what all us Calvinists mean: it was God’s intention to save the elect in the atonement).  But the rest of the section you quoted from makes it crystal clear:

Blessed be God, His elect on earth are to be counted by millions, I believe, and the days are coming, brighter days than these, when there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought to know the Saviour, and to rejoice in Him.  Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, “It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself,” they say, “to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty.” I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption.

That is on the very next page after the one you quoted!  Spurgeon refers to your position, Dave, as “a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption”!  Yes, Spurgeon was unequivocal alright: only he said the exact opposite of what you indicated!  A quick scan of the relevant materials at reveals just how completely in error your assertion is, and how many sermons affirm Spurgeon’s belief in particular redemption.  Here is one of them:  I quote him directly:

We hold–we are not afraid to say that we believe–that Christ came into this world with the intention of saving “a multitude which no man can number;” and we believe that as the result of this, every person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in blood, before the Father’s throne. We do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned; we dare not think that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to some men’s account, died to save them.

You really should hasten to retract this grossly errant assertion concerning Spurgeon.  For those of us who have even a passing familiarity with the great English preacher, your comments about him were outrageous.  The misuse of the quote from Spurgeon’s biography is simply indefensible, Dave.  Do you not think that we have these sources at hand?  Will you instruct your publisher to retract this statement in the next printing of the book, along with a note apologizing for such an error?  Or will you ignore this word of corrective advice as you have ignored so many others that have been provided to you?

I had not intended to be “prophetic” in that last line, but as the August, 2002 issue of The Berean Call proves, I was.  It should be noted that the question, while mentioning me by name, does not do justice to the actual statement Hunt made.  Keep in mind the statement that is found on page 19 of Dave Hunt’s book, What Love is This?  I quote:

Spurgeon himself, so often quoted by Calvinsts to support their view, rejected Limited Atonement, though it lies at the very heart of Calvinism and follows inevitably from its other points — and he did so in unequivocal language.

Please note the assertion in the final phrase: that Spurgeon rejected the doctrine of limited atonement “in unequivocal language.”  What does unequivocal mean?  It means plain, clear, explicit, without ambiguity.  This part of Hunt’s assertion is left out in what follows, and, as we read the attempt to befuddle the readers of The Berean Call, we see why.  Hunt’s new assertion is that Spurgeon was ambiguous, contradictory, and inconsistent in his teaching and proclamation.  This is not what Hunt said in his book.  And as we shall see, it’s not even true at that!  Here is what appeared in the August, 2002 Q&A section of The Berean Call:

Question:  James White has caught you red-handed misrepresenting Spurgeon in your book. You claim that Spurgeon “rejected Limited Atonement.” You support that assertion with a quote of rejection of any “limit to the merit of the blood of Jesus….” Yet you omitted clear statements In the very section from which you quote that “the intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering…we do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned.” Anyone who knows anything about Spurgeon knows that he taught Limited Atonement. How much longer do we have to wait to see in print your admission of your inexcusable misrepresentation of Spurgeon?

Answer: Spurgeon was torn between what he called “hyper-Calvinism” and the Word of God. In the quote I give he very clearly says, “In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore….Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question.” He then goes on to deny “that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ. according to some men’s account. died to save them….The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work.”

Spurgeon seems to be contradicting himself. How could the “merit” of the atonement be unlimited unless Christ died for all? If He paid the penalty only for the sins of the elect, then the merit of His death is finite, being confined to a definite number. What did he really mean? I think I have good reason to believe that this is just another case of what one historian explained as “The…old Calvinistic phrases were often on Spurgeon’s lips but the genuine Calvinistic meaning had gone out of them.”

I think we find the key to Spurgeon’s real beliefs in his opposition to what he called “hyper-Calvinism.” His preaching sparked the “duty-faith” controversy in which he was accused of holding Arminianism. The controversy raged in England for some years and took its name from Spurgeon’s teaching that it was the “duty” of every person to have faith in Christ.

If Spurgeon believed in “particular redemption,” as the quote above seemed to indicate, it was a peculiar kind. He pressed upon all his hearers the duty of believing the gospel: “Read, write, print, shout—‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.’  Great Saviour, I thank Thee for this text; help Thou me so to preach from it that many may come to Thee, and find eternal life!”

Spurgeon claimed, “I have all the Puritans with me…without a single exception.” Even the Synod of Dort had declared, “As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called…. [God] seriously promises eternal life and rest to as many as shall come to him and believe on him.” That hardly sounds like the Particular Redemption elsewhere taught by Dort. Such are the contradictions inherent within Calvinism, which tries to maintain that God offers salvation to all, even to those whom He has predestined to eternal doom.

But the contradictions were more apparent in Spurgeon’s preaching, contradictions which were “regarded among many of the Particular Baptists as symptoms of defection from Calvinism.” His chief opponent was James Wells (referred to privately by Spurgeon as “King James”) who for 30 years had been the most popular and powerful Particular Baptist pastor south of the Thames until the arrival of Spurgeon at New Park Street. He pressed his attack to prove that Spurgeon was an Arminian with such damning quotes as this from the sermon “Future Bliss”: “Oh! Dear souls…if you believe in your Christ you are elect; whosoever puts himself on the mercy of Jesus…shall have mercy if he come for it.” Wells argued that “such words quietly set election aside, and rest the whole matter with the creature….” Am I caught red-handed misrepresenting Spurgeon? I don’t think so.

            The reader will immediately see the less-than-subtle shift in Hunt’s defense.  He nowhere makes reference to his own statement that Spurgeon “unequivocally” denies limited atonement, since, obviously, his entire attempted defense is that Spurgeon was not unequivocal at all about his commitment to Calvinism!  He defends himself by asserting that Spurgeon contradicted himself and was “torn” between opposite theologies. Mr. Hunt is in essence abandoning the original assertion and replacing it with its opposite, all the while saying, “I didn’t get caught red-handed!”

            Just a few words in response to these assertions.  First, Spurgeon was not “torn” between hyper-Calvinism and the Word of God.  He rejected hyper-Calvinism and spoke often against it.  Next, Mr. Hunt is simply misreading Spurgeon’s statement about merit.  He is not doing so because Spurgeon was unclear.  He is doing so because he refuses to listen to Reformed writers in their own contexts.  Hunt argues that if Christ dies only for the elect, then the merit of His death is finite.  This is the very point Spurgeon is denying.  And Hunt has no logical basis upon which to base his claim.  Why?  Simple: does Dave Hunt believe we are saved by grace?  Of course.  Does he believe those in hell are saved by grace?  No, of course not.  So, since only a certain number are saved by grace, then grace is therefore limited, right?  No, he would never say God’s grace is finite.  Hence, his position is internally inconsistent and self-contradictory.  Further, since the number of men born over time is a finite number as well, Hunt’s logic would mean that even in his own system Christ’s merit would have to be limited, since the number saved, no matter what, is finite!  But these obvious logical fallacies aside, Spurgeon is not contradicting himself.  The merit of Christ’s death is indeed limitless because of who He was.  The application of that merit is finite in anyone’s system, including Hunt’s, but that does not in any way diminish the limitless nature of the merit.

            It is simply farcical to write, as Hunt does, “If Spurgeon believed in ‘particular redemption,’ as the quote above seemed to indicate, it was a peculiar kind.”  He said he believed it, he defined it in terms identical to those used by all other Reformed writers, and the only reason Mr. Hunt can offer to us to disbelieve the plain words of Spurgeon is that he himself can’t see how you can preach the way Spurgeon preached, call men to Christ the way he called them to Christ, and believe in particular redemption!  Hence, Spurgeon’s theology is to be determined not on the basis of what he actually taught, but on the basis of what Dave Hunt can understand!  There is not a word Hunt quotes from Spurgeon that is not perfectly in harmony with particular redemption.  The fact is, Dave Hunt cannot produce a single word from Spurgeon in support of his original assertion.  He is simply trying to deflect attention from this fact by raising other issues, issues that do not address the topic at hand.

On the Dividing Line for August 10, 2002, I read the entirety of the 16th chapter of Spurgeon’s Autobiography, from which the citation found in What Love is This? was derived.  I noted with irony the title of the chapter: “Defense of Calvinism.”  I will not reproduce the entirety of the text here, but I will produce enough of it to give the reader more than sufficient basis upon which to judge if, indeed, as Dave Hunt continues to maintain to this day, Charles Haddon Spurgeon denied, “in unequivocal language,” the doctrine of limited atonement. 


The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, 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. — C. H. S.

It is a great thing to begin the Christian life by believing good solid doctrine. Some people have received twenty different “gospels” in as many years; how many more they will accept before they get to their journey’s end, it would be difficult to predict. I thank God that He early taught me the gospel, and I have been so perfectly satisfied with it, that I do not want to know any other. Constant change of creed is sure loss. If a tree has to be taken up two or three times a year, you will not need to build a very large loft in which to store the apples. When people are always shifting their doctrinal principles, they are not likely to bring forth much fruit to the glory of God. It is good for young believers to begin with a firm hold upon those great fundamental doctrines which the Lord has taught in His Word.

Why, if I believed what some preach about the temporary, trumpery salvation which only lasts for a time, I would scarcely be at all grateful for it; but when I know that those whom God saves He saves with an everlasting salvation, when I know that He gives to them an everlasting righteousness, when I know that He settles them on an everlasting foundation of everlasting love, and that He will bring them to His everlasting kingdom, oh, then I do wonder, and I am astonished that such a blessing as this should ever have been given to me!

“Pause, my soul! adore, and wonder!
Ask, ‘Oh, why such love to me?’
Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Saviour’s family:
Thanks, eternal thanks, to Thee

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 doctrines 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. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share His glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty grace has saved me from going down into the pit.

Looking back on my past life, I can see that the dawning of it all was of God; of God effectively. I took no torch with which to light the sun, but the sun enlightened me. I did not commence my spiritual life-no, I rather kicked, and struggled against the things of the Spirit: when He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him: there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good. Wooings were lost upon me-warnings were cast to the wind- thunders were despised; and as for the whispers of His love, they were rejected as being less than nothing and vanity. But, sure I am, I can say now, speaking on behalf of myself, “He only is my salvation.” It was He who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him. I can in very deed, say with Doddridge and Toplady, —

“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes o’erflow

and coming to this moment, I can add —

“Tis grace has kept me to this day,
And will not let me go

Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the doctrines of grace in a single instant. Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, [emphasis added! JRW] I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul-when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man-that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God. One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment- I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”

John Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it, too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of election, “Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.” I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine. I recollect an Arminian brother telling me that he had read the Scriptures through a score or more times, and could never find the doctrine of election in them. He added that he was sure he would have done so if it had been there, for he read the Word on his knees. I said to him, “I think you read the Bible in a very uncomfortable posture, and if you had read it in your easy chair, you would have been more likely to understand it. Pray, by all means, and the more, the better, but it is a piece of superstition to think there is anything in the posture in which a man puts himself for reading: and as to reading through the Bible twenty times without having found anything about the doctrine of election, the wonder is that you found anything at all: you must have galloped through it at such a rate that you were not likely to have any intelligible idea of the meaning of the Scriptures.”

Then, in the fulness 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. But even till now I should have resisted Him, had it not been for His grace. Well, then since He purchased me when I was dead in sins, does it not follow, as a consequence necessary and logical, that He must have loved me first? Did my Saviour die for me because I believed on Him? No; I was not then in existence; I had then no being. Could the Saviour, therefore, have died because I had faith, when I myself was not yet born? Could that have been possible? Could that have been the origin of the Saviour’s love towards me? Oh! no; my Saviour died for me long before I believed. “But,” says someone, “He foresaw that you would have faith; and, therefore, He loved you.” What did He foresee about my faith? Did He foresee that I should get that faith myself, and that I should believe on Him of myself? No; Christ could not foresee that, because no Christian man will ever say that faith came of itself without the gift and without the working of the Holy Spirit. I have met with a great many believers, and talked with them about this matter; but I never knew one who could put his hand on his heart, and say, “I believed in Jesus without the assistance of the Holy Spirit.”

I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing. If God enters into covenant with unfallen man, man is so insignificant a creature that it must be an act of gracious condescension on the Lord’s part; but if God enters into covenant with sinful man, he is then so offensive a creature that it must be, on God’s part, an act of pure, free, rich, sovereign grace. When the Lord entered into covenant with me, I am sure that it was all of grace, nothing else but grace. When I remember what a den of unclean beasts and birds my heart was, and how strong was my unrenewed will, how obstinate and rebellious against the sovereignty of the Divine rule, I always feel inclined to take the very lowest room in my Father’s house, and when I enter Heaven, it will be to go among the less than the least of all saints, and with the chief of sinners.

The late lamented Mr. Denham has put, at the foot of his portrait, a most admirable text, “Salvation is of the Lord.” That is just an epitome of Calvinism; it is the sum and substance of it. If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, “He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord.” I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, “God is my rock and my salvation.” What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ-the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? [emphasis added! JRW]  Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own Private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.

“If ever it should come to pass,
That sheep of Christ might fall away,
My fickle, feeble soul, alas!
Would fall a thousand times a da

If one dear saint of God had perished, so might all; if one of the covenant ones be lost, so may all be; and then there is no gospel promise true, but the Bible is a lie, and there is nothing in it worth my acceptance. I will be an infidel at once when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. If God hath loved me once, then He will love me for ever. God has a mastermind; He arranged everything in His gigantic intellect long before He did it; and once having settled it, He never alters it, ‘This shall be done,” saith He, and the iron hand of destiny marks it down, and it is brought to pass. “This is My purpose,” and it stands, nor can earth or hell alter it. “This is My decree,” saith He, “promulgate it, ye holy angels; rend it down from the gate of Heaven, ye devils, if ye can; but ye cannot alter the decree, it shall stand for ever.” God altereth not His plans; why should He? He is Almighty, and therefore can perform His pleasure. Why should He? He is the All-wise, and therefore cannot have planned wrongly. Why should He? He is the everlasting God, and therefore cannot die before His plan is accomplished. Why should He change? Ye worthless atoms of earth, ephemera of a day, ye creeping insects upon this bay-leaf of existence, ye may change your plans, but He shall never, never change His. Has He told me that His plan is to save me? If so, I am for ever safe.

“My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impress’d on His heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace

I do not know how some people, who believe that a Christian can fall from grace, manage to be happy. It must be a very commendable thing in them to be able to get through a day without despair. f I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort. I could not say, whatever state of heart I came into, that I should be like a well- spring of water, whose stream fails not; I should rather have to take the comparison of an intermittent spring, that might stop on a sudden, or a reservoir, which I had no reason to expect would always be full. I believe that the happiest of Christians and the truest of Christians are those who never dare to doubt God, but who take His Word simply as it stands, and believe it, and ask no questions, just feeling assured that if God has said it, it will be so. I bear my willing testimony that I have no reason, nor even the shadow of a reason, to doubt my Lord, and I challenge Heaven, and earth, and hell, to bring any proof that God is untrue. From the depths of hell I call the fiends, and from this earth I call the tried and afflicted believers, and to Heaven I appeal, and challenge the long experience of the blood-washed host, and there is not to be found in the three realms a single person who can bear witness to one fact which can disprove the faithfulness of God, or weaken His claim to be trusted by His servants. There are many things that may or may not happen, but this I know shall happen —

“He shall present my soul,
Unblemish’d and complete,
Before the glory of His face,
With joys divinely grea

All the purposes of man have been defeated, but not the purposes of God. The promises of man may be broken-many of them are made to be broken-but the promises of God shall all be fulfilled. He is a promise-maker, but He never was a promise- breaker; He is a promise-keeping God, and every one of His people shall prove it to be so. This is my grateful, personal confidence, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me”-unworthy me, lost and ruined me. He will yet save me; and —

“I, among the blood-wash’d throng,
Shall wave the palm, and wear the crown,
And shout loud victor

I go to a land which the plough of earth hath never upturned, where it is greener than earth’s best pastures, and richer than her most abundant harvests ever saw. I go to a building of more gorgeous architecture than man hath ever builded; it is not of mortal design; it is “a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.” All I shall know and enjoy in Heaven, will be given to me by the Lord, and I shall say, when at last I appear before Him —

“Grace all the work shall crown
Through everlasting days;
It lays in Heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the prais

I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological system needed such a limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy. In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore. There must be sufficient efficacy in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, [emphasis added, JRW] to have saved not only all in this world, but all in ten thousand worlds, had they transgressed their Maker’s law. Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question. Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent to conceive of limited value; bound and measure are terms inapplicable to the Divine sacrifice. The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work. Think of the numbers upon whom God has bestowed His grace already. Think of the countless hosts in Heaven: if thou wert introduced there to-day, thou wouldst find it as easy to tell the stars, or the sands of the sea, as to count the multitudes that are before the throne even now. They have come from the East, and from the West, from the North, and from the South, and they are sitting down with Abraham, and with Isaac, and with Jacob in the Kingdom of God; and beside those in Heaven, think of the saved ones on earth. Blessed be God, His elect on earth are to be counted by millions, I believe, and the days are coming, brighter days than these, when there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought to know the Savior, and to rejoice in Him. The Father’s love is not for a few only, but for an exceeding great company. “A great multitude, which no man could number,” will be found in Heaven. A man can reckon up to very high figures; set to work your Newtons, your mightiest calculators, and they can count great numbers, but God and God alone can tell the multitude of His redeemed. I believe there will be more in Heaven than in hell. If anyone asks me why I think so, I answer, because Christ, in everything, is to “have the pre-eminence,” and I cannot conceive how He could have the pre-eminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in Paradise. Moreover, I have never read that there is to be in hell a great multitude, which no man could number. I rejoice to know that the souls of all infants, as soon as they die, speed their way to Paradise. Think what a multitude there is of them! Then there are already in Heaven unnumbered myriads of the spirits of just men made perfect-the redeemed of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues up till now; and there are better times coming, when the religion of Christ shall be universal; when —

“He shall reign from pole to pole,
With illimitable sway

when whole kingdoms shall bow down before Him, and nations shall be born in a day, and in the thousand years of the great millennial state there will be enough saved to make up all the deficiencies of the thousands of years that have gone before. Christ shall be Master everywhere, and His praise shall be sounded in every land. Christ shall have the pre-eminence at last; His train shall be far larger than that which shall attend the chariot of the grim monarch of hell.

Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, “It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself,” they say, “to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty.” I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption. To think that my Savior died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice. That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very 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. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise and good! [emphasis added throughout, JRW.  Yes, this is unequivocal indeed!]

There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, [emphasis added, JRW] 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. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one “of whom the world was not worthy.” I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Savior, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.

It is often said that the doctrines we believe have a tendency to lead us to sin. I have heard it asserted most positively, that those high doctrines which we love, and which we find in the Scriptures, are licentious ones. I do not know who will have the hardihood to make that assertion, when they consider that the holiest of men have been believers in them. I ask the man who dares to say that Calvinism is a licentious religion, what he thinks of the character of Augustine, or Calvin, or Whitefield, [emphasis added, JRW: Hunt vociferously and unfairly attacks the character of both Augustine and Calvin] who in successive ages were the great exponents of the system of grace; or what will he say of the Puritans, whose works are full of them? Had a man been an Arminian in those days, he would have been accounted the vilest heretic breathing, but now we are looked upon as the heretics, and they as the orthodox. We have gone back to the old school; we can trace our descent from the apostles. It is that vein of free-grace, running through the sermonizing of Baptists, which has saved us as a denomination. Were it not for that, we should not stand where we are today. We can run a golden line up to Jesus Christ Himself, through a holy succession of mighty fathers, who all held these glorious truths; and we can ask concerning them, “Where will you find holier and better men in the world?” No doctrine is so calculated to preserve a man from sin as the doctrine of the grace of God. Those who have called it “a licentious doctrine” did not know anything at all about it. Poor ignorant things, they little knew that their own vile stuff was the most licentious doctrine under Heaven. If they knew the grace of God in truth, they would soon see that there was no preservative from lying like a knowledge that we are elect of God from the foundation of the world. There is nothing like a belief in my eternal perseverance, and the immutability of my Father’s affection, which can keep me near to Him from a motive of simple gratitude. Nothing makes a man so virtuous as belief of the truth. A lying doctrine will soon beget a lying practice. A man cannot have an erroneous belief without by-and-by having an erroneous life. I believe the one thing naturally begets the other. Of all men, those have the most disinterested piety, the sublimest reverence, the most ardent devotion, who believe that they are saved by grace, without works, through faith, and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God. Christians should take heed, and see that it always is so, lest by any means Christ should be crucified afresh, and put to an open shame.

            It is simply beyond comprehension how, in the light of this chapter, penned by Spurgeon himself, anyone can possibly maintain that He “unequivocally” denied the particular redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  One might as well read the King Follett Funeral Discourse of Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of Mormonism, and as a result, call him a “monotheist” as maintain the completely backwards assertion of Dave Hunt that Spurgeon denied the doctrine.  Let the reader recall that it is this very chapter that Hunt cites as “unequivocally” denying the doctrine, yet, on the very next page of the chapter titled “Defense of Calvinism,” these words appear: “That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption.”  Spurgeon says, “Limited atonement is a Christian doctrine.”  Dave Hunt isolates a section from a preceding page, imports his own misunderstandings into it, and says, “Spurgeon unequivocally denied limited atonement.”  The facts are plain.  The only question is, will Dave Hunt have the honesty and integrity to stop trying to blow smoke across the landscape and simply admit his mistake and withdraw, with apologies, his assertion? 

            Someone might ask, “So what’s the big deal?  Spurgeon isn’t Scripture.”  Quite true.  However, this example shows everyone exactly how Dave Hunt uses sources, whether they be historical or biblical sources.  Mr. Hunt sees only what he wants to see.  He ignores anything, even if it is a direct counter-statement, that does not fit with his “thesis” concerning a topic.  His books are filled with this kind of “research.”  He can come up with new “translations” of biblical passages such as Acts 13:48 that end up being identical with the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses through the very same willy-nilly use of sources that has produced this glaring error. And the worst part is, he will not admit the errors.  Instead, he chooses to blame Spurgeon, or, when shown to have completely misrepresented the Greek text, or engaged in gross eisegesis of the text, he identifies those who seek to correct his errors as “elitists.”  Is He who is the truth served by this kind of attitude and activity?

America’s New Religiosity: “God Bless America, But Don’t You Dare Tell Us To Repent!” – Vintage

Christians are unpopular folks today.  I mean by that, anyone who takes seriously biblical truth and biblical principles will find himself on the sharp end of angry stares if we dare speak the truth in the midst of today’s national crisis.  To what do I refer?

            America has all of a sudden gotten very religious.  There are vigils and candlelight prayer services on every corner.  People who hadn’t said “God” except in profanity for years are all of a sudden very pious and reflective.  Radio personalities who were focused upon tax cuts or some other political issue on Monday, September 10th are now mulling over the role of “evil” in our world.  The past week has turned the landscape upside down in many ways, to be sure.

            Lest anyone think this new religiosity is a reason for rejoicing for Christians, it most surely is not.  Oh yes, we are hearing old Christian hymns being sung.  Ostensibly Christian churches were full this past Lord’s day.  But there is no such thing as “partial Christianity,” nor is there any such thing as a Christianity that stands side by side with Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism, and says, “We worship one God under many names.”  And surely, there is no Christianity that does not speak of repentance from sin.  The new religiosity of America has two basic foundational pillars: there is one God, unknown, but addressable under any variety of religious epithets, who has revealed absolutely nothing of objective value regarding His will regarding worship or human behavior; and second, this God has no wrath; knows nothing of sin or judgment; and hence, any person who dares to say that God would punish a person, or a nation, is a glowing heretic to the new American religiosity.

            The problem is easily seen: Christians believe, fundamentally, of necessity, that there is one true God.  This true God is not Allah.  This true God is not Krishna.  This true God is not the god of Joseph Smith or Buddha or the Sikhs or the Bahais.  Our God went to great lengths to differentiate Himself from all the gods of the peoples and religions that surrounded His ancient people, and that for a purpose He Himself proclaimed: He seeks true worship, worship based upon a knowledge of who He is in reality, based upon His revelation to man.  He does not grant to man the freedom to make images of Him, to worship Him in a manner that pleases the creature rather than the Creator.  God is particular about His worship.  His worship is intimately, vitally connected to truth.  Without truth, there is no worship of the Christian God.

            And the truth revealed by the Christian God in the Scriptures is without question when it comes to the matter of His law, sin, rebellion, punishment, wrath, and judgment.  One of the most amazing things to observe is the willingness shown by “evangelicals” to jump right onto the “we shall never utter a word about wrath or sin or punishment” bandwagon.  Is the remnant so small that almost no voices will be raised to cry out against this foolishness?  To withhold the truth about sin and judgment out of fear of man’s opinions and feelings is to make the cross of Jesus Christ a travesty!  There is no cross, there is no sacrifice, where there is no sin, no offense that demands forgiveness be wrought through His perfect sacrifice!  The person who refrains from speaking of sin and judgment to “win” a person over is doing so through unfaithfulness to the very gospel itself!  And to what has such a person been won over?  Where is the gospel when there is no sin to be forgiven at Calvary?  

            But it is right here that the new American religiosity clamps its hands over its ears and refuses to hear.  America wants God’s blessing.  America wants God to protect us from more horrific visions of airliners flying purposefully, relentlessly into our national monuments.  We want God to be near us as we board our aircraft.  We want Him to protect us from the horror of thinking about what it was like when the towers collapsed.  We want Him to guide our military and allow us to flex our muscle and launch our missiles with impunity.  We want a blessing God, a caring God, who simply panders to our wants and whims.  This is the “God” of the new American religiosity.

            But what America does not want is a God who is holy, who is just, and who has revealed His will concerning how we, His creatures, are to live.  America is a land soaked in blood.  We glory in violence.  We are so selfish, so bound in our avarice, fornication, and sexual lust, that we murder our own offspring in the womb (or at birth as in partial-birth infanticide).  Our hands are covered in blood, and yet we think lighting a candle and lifting them up while mumbling “God Bless America” is going to bring God’s favor?  Listen to the words of God to another nation that likewise was “religious” but refused to hear the word of repentance:

“So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.”  (Isaiah 1:15).

Is America so arrogant, so utterly self-absorbed, so diseased by religious liberalism and philosophical subjectivism, that she thinks she can ignore all of history itself and demand from God blessings when she refuses to repent of her evils?  Do we really need to be reminded that Planned Parenthood has killed more little children in our land in the week since the attacks than died in the attacks themselves?  Are we so blind?

            Surely the scourge of abortion would be enough to warrant the unleashing of the wrath of God, but there is so much more!  We are a nation on a crusade–a crusade to wipe from our history books every vestige of our former religious past.  The religion of scientism, with its chief idol in the person of Darwin, has become enshrined in our very governmental policies.  There is no creator, we are told, to express His law for us in the first place. We want to banish God and His law from our courtrooms, our schools, our every public institution.  If God says it is wrong, we celebrate it.  Every form of sexual debauchery is found in the land.  The airwaves are filled with programs that exalt fornication and adultery.  Major film stars are lauded for the most sinful lifestyles.  Homosexuality is not only turned into an acceptable “lifestyle,” it is made a political right, a political force, a test-case for being properly “tolerant.”  The list goes on and on and on.  The widow and orphan is oppressed, while the nation indulges in every creature comfort, sits back in its luxury, looks about upon the bounty of the land, and says, “Ah, what the labor of my own hands, my own intelligence, my own insight, has accomplished.”

            Religious liberals may mock our “literalistic” reading of the Bible at this point, preferring to simply label us “fundamentalists” and ignorant, but the fact of the matter is, they know they could never win a scholarly debate on whether the Bible actually teaches that these things are sins which must, inevitably, bring God’s judgment upon a people.  They know that is exactly what the Bible teaches.  They are just embarrassed by it, and hence seek to suppress that truth. 

            As I said, Christians who believe the Bible are an unpopular lot today. If they speak in accordance with the Word they may well find themselves being called “unpatriotic” and “judgmental.”.  In fact, given that the new orthodoxy demands of us the confession “Everyone is God’s child” over against such clear biblical teaching as John 1:12 (remember how Christians refused to say “Caesar is lord” and died as a result?), we must be ready to “count the cost” in engaging in formal, cultural “heresy” by speaking the truth.  We need to realize: this new American religiosity can take on the same kind of fanatic zeal that kept the hi-jackers’ hands steady all the way to their end.  May God grant His people the strength to proclaim loudly God’s demands upon a wicked nation, and may He be pleased to bring repentance and revival in a land where darkness reigns.

[The Dividing Line of September 15, 2001 touched on all these issues as well.  You can listen to this program by clicking here.]


I. The Attributes of God:

A. Natural:

    1. Spirituality (John 4:24)
    2. Personality (Exodus 3:14)
    3. Life (Jeremiah 10:6-11)

B. Pertaining to His Infinity

    1. Absoluteness – Uniqueness
    2. Sovereignty/Supremacy (Isaiah 40:12-17, 43:12-13, 46:9-10, Psalm 135:6)
    3. Self-existence
    4. Immutability – He doesn’t change – Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17
    5. Unity – one substance, one ousia (Deuteronomy 6:4)
    6. Perfection (Matthew 5:48)
    7. Immensity (2 Chronicles 6:18)
    8. Eternity (Exodus 3:14, Psalm 90:2, 1 Timothy 1:17, Jude 25)

C. Pertaining to Creation

    1. Omnipresence – Psalm 139:7-10, Jeremiah 23:23-24
    2. Omniscience – Hebrews 4:13, Matthew 10:29-30, Romans 11:33
    3. Omnipotence – Genesis 17:1, Revelation 1:8, Romans 4:17

II. Moral Attributes of God

    A. Holiness
    B. Righteousness
    C. Love
    D. Truth

III. The Tri-Unity of God

    A. The Creeds:

The Nicene: “We believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of all things both visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten born of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father; God from God, light from light, true God from true God; begotten, not created, consubstantial with the Father; through Him all things were made, those in heaven and those on the earth as well…And we believe in the Holy Spirit. As for those who say: ‘There was a time when He did not exist’ and ‘before He was begotten, He did not exist;’ and ‘He was made from nothing, or from another hypostasis or essence,’ alleging that the Son of God is mutable or subject to change – such persons the Catholic and apostolic church condemns.”

The Athanasian: “We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity; we distinguish among the persons, but we do not divide the substance. [Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct persons still they] have one divinity, equal in glory and coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is. [Each, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is uncreated, has immensity, is eternal, is omnipotent, is God, is Lord, yet there is] but one eternal being…one uncreated being…one being that has immensity…one omnipotent being…one God…one Lord…The Father is not made by anyone, nor created by anyone, nor generated by anyone. The Son is not made nor created, but He is generated by the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is not made nor created nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son. There is, then, one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. In this Trinity there is nothing antecedent, nothing subsequent to anything else. There is nothing greater, nothing less than anything else. But the entire three persons are coeternal and coequal with one another, so that, as we have said, we worship complete unity in Trinity and Trinity in unity…we believe and profess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man. As God He was begotten of the substance of the Father before time; as man He was born in time of the substance of His mother. He is perfect God and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh. He is equal to the Father in His divinity but is inferior to the Father in His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two but one Christ…because He is one person.

IV. Foundation of the Trinity: The doctrine of the Trinity is based on three Biblical truths that together form its foundation: 1. There is only one God (monotheism); 2. There are three Persons – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is in direct contradiction of modalism, Sabellianism, or the “Jesus Only” teachings that deny the separate personhood of Father, Son and Spirit; 3. There is full equality of the Persons. This is in direct contradiction of Arianism and all systems that would deny the full Deity and equality of the Son and the Spirit. Each of these truths is part of God’s revelation of Himself, and no system can claim to be based on the Bible unless these truths are taken into account. The denial of any one of these Biblical teachings leads directly to heresy and false doctrine – denial of monotheism leads to polytheism (such as in Mormonism); denial of the three Persons leads into modalism (such as the United Pentecostal movement); and denial of the equality of the Persons leads to subordination-ism (Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Way International, etc.).

A. There is One God:  Deuteronomy 4:35, 6:4, 10:14, Psalm 96:5, 97:9, Isaiah 43:10, 44:6-8, 44:24, 45:5-6, 45:21-23, 46:9, 48:11-12, John 17:3, 1 Timothy 2:5, Revelation 1:8, (Hosea 13:4). He is not, in His essential nature, a man: Hosea 11:9, Numbers 23:19.

B. There are three Persons: Father, Son and Spirit:  Matthew 3:16-17, 11:27, 17:1-9, 27:46, John 1:18, 14:16-17. The Pre-existence of the Son:  Colossians 1:13-17, Hebrews 1:2-3, John 1:1.

C. Equality: the Deity of Christ: Colossians 2:9, John 20:28, Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1, John 1:18; identification as Yahweh: John 6:39-41/Isaiah 6, Hebrews 1:10-12/Psalm 102:25-27.

V. The Personality of God: He is Trinal

A. Scriptural Evidence: (Quotations from The Works of B. B. Warfield, vol. 2, pages 133-135).

     The term “Trinity” is not a Biblical term, and we are not using Biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence. A doctrine so defined can be spoken of as a Biblical doctrine only on the principle that the sense of Scripture is Scripture. And the definition of a Biblical doctrine in such unBiblical language can be justified only on the principle that it is better to preserve the truth of Scripture than the words of Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be Scriptural, but only comes into clearer view. Or, to speak without figure, the doctrine of the Trinity is given to us in Scripture, not in formulated definition, but in fragmentary allusions; when we assemble the disjecta membra into their organic unity, we are not passing from Scripture, but entering more thoroughly into the meaning of Scripture. We may state the doctrine in technical terms, supplied by philosophical reflection; but the doctrine stated is a genuinely Scriptural doctrine…In point of fact, the doctrine of the Trinity is purely a revealed doctrine. That is to say, it embodies a truth which has never been discovered, and is indiscoverable, by natural reason. With all his searching, man has not been able to find out for himself the deep things of God. Accordingly, ethnic thought has never attained a Trinitarian concept of God, nor does any ethnic religion present in its representations of the Divine Being any analogy to the doctrine of the Trinity.
     As the doctrine of the Trinity is indiscoverable by reason, so it is incapable of proof from reason. There are no analogies to it in Nature, not even in the spiritual nature of man, who is made in the image of God. In His trinitarian mode of being, God is unique; and, as there is nothing in the universe like Him in this respect, so there is nothing which can help us to comprehend Him.
     The fundamental proof that God is a Trinity is supplied thus by the fundamental revelation of the Trinity in fact:

that is to say, in the incarnation of God the Son and the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit. In a word, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the fundamental proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. This is as much as to say that all the evidence of whatever kind, and from whatever source derived, that Jesus Christ is God manifested in the flesh, and that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, is just so much evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity; and that when we go to the New Testament for the evidence of the Trinity we are to seek it, not merely in the scattered allusions to the Trinity as such, numerous and instructive as they are, but primarily in the whole mass of evidence which the New Testament provides of the Deity of Christ and the Divine personality of the Holy Spirit. When we have said this, we have said in effect that the whole mass of the New Testament is evidence for the Trinity. For the New Testament is saturated with evidence of the Deity of Christ and the Divine personality of the Holy Spirit. Precisely what the New Testament is, is the documentation of the religion of the incarnate Son and outpoured Spirit, that is to say, of the religion of the Trinity, and what we mean by the doctrine of the Trinity is nothing but the formulation in exact language of the conception of God presupposed in the religion of the incarnate Son and outpoured Spirit.

B. OT: “Let us”; tri-hagion of Isaiah 6; plural Yahwehs in Genesis 19:24.

C. NT: Deity of the Son & Spirit in correlation with the fact that there is only one God. Matthew 28:19-20. On this section: Deuteronomy 28:58 – “this glorious and fearful name, Yahweh thy God.” Jeremiah 14:9: “Yet Thou art in our midst, O Yahweh, and we are called by Thy name.” Jeremiah 15:6: “I have been called by Thy name, O Yahweh God of hosts.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 literally: “and My people over whom My name is called…” c.f. Daniel 9:18-19. When, therefore, our Lord commanded His disciples to baptize those whom they brought to His obedience “into the name of…,” He was using language charged to them with high meaning. He could not have been understood otherwise than as substituting for the Name of [Yahweh] this other Name “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit]”; and this could not possibly have meant to His disciples anything else than that [Yahweh] was now to be known to them by the new name, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit…There is no alternative, therefore, to understanding Jesus here to be giving for His community a new Name to Yahweh and that new Name to be the threefold Name of “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Nor is there any room for doubt that by “the Son” in this threefold Name, He meant just Himself with all the implications of distinct personality of “the Father” and “the Holy Spirit,” with whom “the Son” is here associated, and from whom alike “the Son” is here distinguished. This is a direct ascription to Yahweh God of Israel, of a threefold personality, and is therewith the direct enunciation of the doctrine of the Trinity.

D. Triadic formulae: 1 Thessalonians 1:3-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 2:2-5, 6:11, 12:4-6, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 13:14, Romans 8:26-27, 14:17-18, 15:16, 15:30, Colossians 1:6-8,Ephesians 2:18, 3:16-17, 4:4-6.

E. Statement of the Doctrine: 1. There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence (ousia, essentia). 2. In this one Divine Being there are three Persons or individual subsistences, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 3. The whole undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons. 4. The subsistence and operation of the three persons in the divine Being is marked by a certain definite order. 5. There are certain personal attributes by which the three persons are distinguished. 6. The Church confesses the Trinity to be a mystery beyond the comprehension of man.

1. One essence, substance, or ousia.

2. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father. 3 subsistences – “personal self-distinctions within the Divine essence.” 3 modes of existence – there are personal relations between the three.

3. Naturally following from the indivisibility of the ousia of God. Hence, there can be no subordination of one Person to another with respect to essential being. Turretin once said, “The mind of the worshiper will not be distracted by the consideration that there are three Divine persons, if he remembers that the whole Divine essence is in each of the persons, so that if he worships one he worships all.”

4. Father, Son, Spirit. Son is begotten by the Father (book example). Spirit is spirited or proceeds from both Father and Son (Western) – also seen in the positions each took in the Eternal Covenant of Redemption.

5. opera ad intra: Father generation; Son filiation; Spirit procession. opera ad extra:  creation, redemption, sanctification.

6. Finite versus infinite existence.

F. Eternal Covenant of Redemption

Remember the voluntariness of Christ’s humiliation, His unique new position, how that explains the “my God” passages and how this reflects the inherent positions within the eternal Trinity.

“In interpreting those passages in which omnipotence and divine exaltation (Phil. 2:9) are said to be “given” to the incarnate Son, it must be recollected that it requires an infinite nature to receive and wield such infinite gifts… They are communicable only to an infinite person.” (Shedd, vol. 1., p. 318).

Exegetica: Roman Catholic Apologists Practice Eisegesis in Scripture and Patristics – Vintage

In scanning a recent article by Mark Bonocore I noted an interesting example of the constant presence of anachronism in Roman Catholic apologetic treatments of both the Bible and patristic sources.  In this case, he is responding to an un-named Protestant who wrote the following:

Clement wrote only a little earlier than Ignatius and clearly didn’t share Ignatius’ ecclesiastical view. Granted, Clement is from the West, but from him it seems clear that both Rome and Corinth of about 100 CE didn’t have an Ignatian like monarchical episcopate but just local presbyter governance. It is true that Ignatius like the NT speaks of episkopoi; but also like the NT, he only means local presbyters.

This anonymous writer is surely correct.  Indeed, he is supported in his position by the vast majority of historical scholarship, both Catholic and Protestant.  For example, Roman Catholic scholar Joseph F. Kelly wrote in The Concise Dictionary of Early Christianity (1992, p. 2), “The word ‘pope’ was not used exclusively of the bishop of Rome until the ninth century, and it is likely that in the earliest Roman community a college of presbyters rather than a single bishop provided the leadership.”  This is echoed by Protestant church historian J.N.D. Kelly who wrote:

In the late 2nd or early 3rd cent. the tradition identified Peter as the first bishop of Rome. This was a natural development once the monarchical episcopate, i.e., government of the local church by a single bishop as distinct from a group of presbyter-bishops, finally emerged in Rome in the mid-2nd cent. (p. 6).

When speaking of Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, Telesphorus, and Hyginus (to A.D. 142), Kelly consistently notes the same thing: there was no monarchical episcopate in Rome at this time.

When we combine this fact with a fair reading of the anonymous epistle traditionally attributed to “Clement” we certainly discover that the churches at Rome and Corinth did indeed have a plurality of elders, not a monarchical episcopate.  The fact that Rome could write to Corinth and consistently use the plural of “elders” and never once speak in the singular name of the “bishop of Rome” at the time shows this clearly.  At the same time, Ignatius’ epistles plainly present the monarchical idea existing at the very same period of time, primarily in the Eastern churches.  The unnamed Protestant writer is certainly speaking in line with the majority of scholarship on both sides of the Catholic/Protestant divide.

Now we should note at the very beginning that Mr. Bonocore’s response is obviously little more than an e-mail (or possibly a post on a discussion board), so it may not be fair to look overly closely at it. But since it has been posted as an article on a website it seems fair to respond to it.  The first assertion Bonocore makes is that since Ignatius uses episkopos in the monarchical sense, when he speaks of bishops who are “settled everywhere” (Eph. 3) that this somehow means that Rome must have had a monarchical episcopate as well. But the idea that Ignatius is saying something about the organization of the church at Rome by his comment is unfounded.  Upon what basis is this assumption made?  We are not told. When Ignatius wrote to the church at Rome, did he address this monarchical bishop?  No.  In fact, his letter to the Romans is the only one where he does not address the bishop by name.  This is considered strong testimony by most scholars in support of what J.N.D. Kelly said above.

But most troubling was the citation given of Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians.  Remember that the title is traditional: the epistle does not give a name of the writer(s).  The first troubling item is the way in which the quotation is given:

“Since then these things are manifest to us, and we have looked into the depths of the Divine knowledge, we ought to do in order all things which the Master commanded us to perform at appointed times. He commanded us to celebrate Sacrifices and services (the Eucharist), and that it should not be thoughtlessly or disorderly ….He has Himself fixed by His supreme will the places and persons (the appointed presbyters) whom He desires for these celebrations, in order that all things may be done piously according to His good pleasure, and be acceptable to His will. So then those who offer their oblations at the appointed times are acceptable and blessed, but they follow the laws of the Master and do not sin. For to the high priest (the bishop) his proper ministrations are allotted, and to the priests (the presbyters) the proper place has been appointed, and on the Levites (the deacons) their proper services have been imposed. The layman is bound by the ordinances for the laity. ……Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices.” (1 Clement to the Corinthians, 44:4)

I say this is troubling because this is not merely from section 44 of the epistle: it is actually cobbled together from a number of places in the epistle.  It is hard for almost any reader to follow any flow or context when the only reference given is to the very last line of the quotation, nothing more.  The second troubling thing is the insertion, without notification or explanation, of parenthetical commentary that is not found in the original text.  Taking out these a-contextual comments, utilizing a standard translation, providing the actual context, and providing references, we get:

These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behooves us to do all things in [their proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable unto Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen. (40)

Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. Not in every place, brethren, are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin-offerings and the trespass-offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. Ye see, brethren, that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed. (41)

The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labors], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.” (42)

And what wonder is it if those in Christ who were entrusted with such a duty by God, appointed those [ministers] before mentioned, when the blessed Moses also, “a faithful servant in all his house,” noted down in the sacred books all the injunctions which were given him, and when the other prophets also followed him, bearing witness with one consent to the ordinances which he had appointed? For, when rivalry arose concerning the priesthood, and the tribes were contending among themselves as to which of them should be adorned with that glorious title, he commanded the twelve princes of the tribes to bring him their rods, each one being inscribed with the name of the tribe. And he took them and bound them [together], and sealed them with the rings of the princes of the tribes, and laid them up in the tabernacle of witness on the table of God. And having shut the doors of the tabernacle, he sealed the keys, as he had done the rods, and said to them, Men and brethren, the tribe whose rod shall blossom has God chosen to fulfill the office of the priesthood, and to minister unto Him. And when the morning was come, he assembled all Israel, six hundred thousand men, and showed the seals to the princes of the tribes, and opened the tabernacle of witness, and brought forth the rods. And the rod of Aaron was found not only to have blossomed, but to bear fruit upon it. What think ye, beloved? Did not Moses know beforehand that this would happen? Undoubtedly he knew; but he acted thus, that there might be no sedition in Israel, and that the name of the true and only God might be glorified; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (43)

Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office (literally, “name”) of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behavior from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honor. (44)

A careful reading of the text reveals a few basic things.  First, the author(s) of the letter are reproving the Corinthian church for having ejected their elders.  They demonstrate that the church is a place of order (a problem Corinth had long before, as evidenced by Paul’s letter to them).  The Old Testament witness is brought forward in the first sections, demonstrating that God has the right to order His worship as He sees fit.  Unfortunately, Mr. Bonocore draws from this Old Testament section as if it is applied in detail by the authors to the current situation (an unwarranted action).  Clement knows only of elders and deacons in the church at Corinth.  A quick scan of the relevant Greek data in the Thesaurus Lingaue Graece demonstrates that Clement’s normal usage when referring to those who filled the office is plural.  The singular uses of episkope are made in reference to the episcopate as a whole.  There is not a shred of evidence that Clement differentiated between the office of bishop and presbyter within the text itself.  Despite this, after giving the parenthetically-filled citation noted above, Bonocore says,

So, the three-fold ministy (sic) was indeed recognized by Clement of Rome.

He bases this upon a misreading of the above text, focusing upon the Old Testament illustration used by Clement.  However, as J.B. Lightfoot rightly commented on this passage, “Does the analogy then extend to three orders?  The answer to this seems to be that…this epistle throughout only recognizes two orders, presbyters and deacons, existing at Corinth….Later writers indeed did dwell on the analogy of the threefold ministry; but we cannot argue back from them to Clement, in whose epistle the very element of threefoldness which gives force to such a comparison, is wanting.”  (J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, Clement, Volume 2, 123).  Bonocore then provides more anachronistic eisegesis of the text in Clement by moving more then two centuries into the future, and a thousand miles away geographically, to a quotation by Athanasius, where Athanasius does use the term “Levite” of a deacon.  Are we to conclude that because one writer in the fourth century uses “Levite” of “deacon” that every writer in all preceding centuries followed the same path?  Surely not.  But this is all that is offered in support of this assertion.  A fair reading of the text forces us to reject such fanciful interpretation.

Bonocore goes on to admit that the terms presbyter and bishop were used interchangeably (he seems to limit this to Europe, for some reason).  Such is surely the case.  Interestingly, Jerome commented upon this very fact in the late fourth and early fifth century.  Note his words:

In both epistles commandment is given that only monogamists should, be chosen for the clerical office whether as bishops or as presbyters. Indeed with the ancients these names were synonymous, one alluding to the office, the other to the age of the clergy. NPNF2: Vol. VI, The Letters of St. Jerome, Letter 69 – To Oceanus, 3.

However, Bonocore errs in that he assumes, incorrectly, that Ignatius’ words, quoted above, mean that a three-fold ministry existed in Rome (it didn’t), and that Clement likewise presents such a distinction (the epistle, as we have seen, does not).  From this faulty basis he moves on to rightly say that the terms were used interchangeably in the Bible as well.  There is surely no distinction made between episkopos and presbuteros in the New Testament as to office, qualifications, and duties.  For the person who follows the advice given by Clement above regarding God’s right to define His own worship and those who will carry it out, this should be enough: the inspired Scriptures give us two offices in the church (elders and deacons), and woe to the one who will add to what He Himself has commanded!  But Rome has, surely, gone far beyond the Scriptures at this point.  Following her lead, Bonocore sees evidence of a three fold ministry in the text of Scripture.  But this is another example of eisegesis, this time reading into the text of Scripture itself.  He writes,

Yet, even in NT times, while the TERMS “bishop” and “presbyter” were still being used interchangeably, it is also clear that each city-church possessed an “arch-presbyter” (what we would call a “bishop”) — a singular leader of the church. For example, this was clearly the role of James in Jerusalem:

Acts 21:17-19: “When we reached Jerusalem the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day, Paul accompanied us on a visit to James, and all the presbyters were present. He greeted them and proceeded to tell them in detail what God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry.”

Galatians 2:12: “For until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles…”

There is no question that James had a position of leadership in Jerusalem: but making Jerusalem normative for all churches, as Bonocore does, is utterly unwarranted.  Where do we find Paul ordaining “arch-presbyters” in the churches?  We do not.  James’ position was apostolic and unique: to extend his unique ministry in Jerusalem to the entirety of the church is as unwarranted as the conclusions drawn earlier from the words of Ignatius.  But his error becomes even more pronounced when he attempts to find more scriptural backing:

Similarly, Timothy held the office of monarchical leader in Ephesus. For, using the singular “you” in Greek, Paul instructs Timothy how to manage the Ephesian church saying,

1 Tim 5:17-22 — “Presbyters who preside well deserve double honor …Do not accept (you singular) an accusation against a presbyter unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. Reprimand (you singular) publicly those who do sin, so that the rest also will be afraid. I charge you (singular) before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to keep these rules without prejudice, doing nothing out of favoritism. Do not lay hands (you singular) too readily on anyone…”

Therefore, Timothy was the one who both ordained presbyters and sat in judgment of them.

So, while there was yet no distinction between the TERMS “bishop” and “presbyter,” the practical distinction of the offices was already fully established.

Is it a sound argument to note that Paul wrote a letter to a single elder (Timothy), and since he used singular personal pronouns in writing to him, this means Timothy was the only elder, or, held a position of priority over anyone else?  Surely not!  Such involves the same kind of leap in logic we have seen previously.  There is no rational reason to conclude from these words that Timothy was an “arch-presbyter” and hence a three-fold ministry existed in the New Testament.  Paul is giving general instructions to Timothy (and through him to the entire church, knowing that Timothy, ministering in Ephesus as he did, would pass these truths along just as the gospel had gone forth from Ephesus into all of Asia Minor).  He is not creating in Timothy a new office, higher than elder, by addressing the letter to him.  These commands are just as valid today.  All elders in Christ’s church receive these words and operate upon their basis to this very day.

And so we see that this attempt at inserting a three-fold ministry into the Scriptures fails.  And just as importantly, in the field of Roman Catholic apologetics, we are again reminded of the fact of history that Rome itself did not see the need for a monarchical episcopate until the middle of the second century.  How very strange if, indeed, the concept of the singular bishop of Rome as the singular successor of Peter is actually “apostolic” in origin.