One of the first errors many noted in Hunt’s work was his utter misrepresentation of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Since the books original appearance numerous writers, myself included, have pointed out Hunt’s error, but he has remained doggedly unwilling to admit what is so obvious to any unbiased observer. In my original open letter to him I wrote:
- 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 www.spurgeon.org 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: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0181.htm. 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?
But did this kind of documentation (and others went far more into depth on the topic) dissuade Hunt? No indeed. It seems once Dave Hunt says “X” all the documentation in the world will not get him to admit X is untrue. But don’t get me wrong: Dave knows he is wrong. He knows Spurgeon promoted limited atonement in that sermon (I doubt he knew it when he wrote the book, but he knows it now). So what did he do? He began saying Spurgeon contradicted himself! But, of course, any careful reader knows that saying “Spurgeon contradicted himself” is the polar opposite of what he wrote on page 18 when introducing the quote, “Spurgeon himself, so often quoted by Calvinists 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.” What does “unequivocal” mean? Webster’s New World Dictionary says, “not equivocal; not ambiguous; plain; clear,” with the definition of equivocal being, “that can have more than one interpretation; having two or more meanings; purposely vague, misleading, or ambiguous.” So, Dave Hunt first said Spurgeon denied Limited Atonement without question, without contradiction. His words, we were told, were not vague or misleading or ambiguous. But, the fact is, Spurgeon believed the opposite. So, what do we read in the new edition of WLIT? Do we find an apology for the misrepresentation? The misuse of the term “unequivocal”? Surely not. Here is the new section:
- Spurgeon himself,so often quoted by Calvinists to support their view, was torn between his evangelist ‘s heart that desired the salvation of all and his Calvinistic beliefs. At times he seemed to reject Limited Atonement, though he often firmly preached it. Sometimes he seemed to contradict himself almost within the same breath:
I suppose we should be thankful for small movements toward the truth. It may well be a great victory to get Dave Hunt to say “though he often firmly preached it.” Of course, the reader of this work would have no idea what Hunt had originally said, and far be it from him to admit his error or acknowledge all those who had corrected him. But even here, Hunt is seeking to protect himself from his own errors at the cost of truth and Spurgeon’s own reputation. He shows his utter unwillingness to allow the writers of the past to define their own contexts when he writes:
- must apply to the effect of the Cross. If the Cross is intended for a limited number (the elect),its merit and value are necessarily limited. “If God had so willed it “is the key clause -which Spurgeon clearly denied at times. On the other hand,that Spurgeon believed salvation was available to all mankind is evident from many of his sermons. The contradiction is clear -a fact that Calvinists are reluctant to admit. Thus I have been accused of misrepresenting,and even misquoting, C.H.Spurgeon. Sufficient further statements by Spurgeon (see index)will be presented herein to enable readers to come to their own conclusions.
You really have to work at deception like this. Yes, I said deception. Dave is so wedded to his “my tradition is the Word of God” equation that he is willing to twist words and do his best at misdirection, all in the service of what he thinks is right. He seems to feel that admitting that Spurgeon was a far more consistent Calvinist than he has said would destroy his position en toto, and hence he wishes to make us believe that Spurgeon could not keep his theologies straight. Notice the very first assertion, “Merit and value must apply to the effect of the Cross.” Spurgeon is addressing the issue of the value of Christ’s death. He denies that the value of Christ’s death is limited. But in the very quote given you see his Reformed theology, for he asserts Christ’s death could, if God willed, save all men. He plainly, repeatedly, and vociferously, said it was not God’s will. And hence he can continue on in discussing the extent of the atonement (the issue at hand in “limited atonement” or “particular redemption”) by plainly, and indeed, unequivocally, affirm the very doctrine Hunt denies. Hunt’s unwillingness to make the same distinction between discussing the unlimited merit of Christ’s death and the intended scope and intention of Christ’s death is not Spurgeon’s fault! How utterly and grossly unfair to accuse Spurgeon of inconstancy based upon Hunt’s ignorance or lack of fairness? Hunt’s continued attempt, through the selective citation of various passages (can anyone trust Hunt’s provision of proper context? After examining his writings, the answer is clearly no) from Spurgeon cannot possibly overthrow the work of fair scholars who have collected, in context, Spurgeon’s overwhelming testimony to the sovereignty of God in salvation. Though Hunt will repeatedly quote Spurgeon on 1 Timothy 2:4, he cannot even begin to deal with the positive presentation of Spurgeon’s theology. Once again, Hunt is proven either incapable, or, I believe, unwilling, to accurately handle the facts.