Free Will: A (Brief) Theological Discourse

Free Will

The argument often goes a little something like this: “Calvinists can’t believe in free-will because humans are just robots.” But is this a proper understanding of free will? In this article I intend to highlight and explain three points: 1) the freedom of the will pre-fall  2) the freedom of the will post-fall and 3) the logical conclusion of the Reformed understanding (in contrast to that of the Arminian/Traditional understanding)

The Freedom of the Will Pre-fall

Man was created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” among the other implications of being made in the image of God, mankind was made with a will that was “good and well-pleasing to God, but yet unstable, so that he might fall from it.” (LBCF 9.2) This will is the primary thing that distinguishes humanity from animals and the rest of creation. By this will Adam and Eve were able to be obedient to their Creator, and ultimately they could have obtained an eternal, perfect standing by their obedience. But you will notice the last phrase of the above quoted portion of the London Baptist Confession, “but yet unstable, so that he might fall from it.” Adam and Eve had the complete, unhindered ability to obey God and all of His commands, but consequently they also had the ability to disobey God– and that is exactly what they did.

For the sake of argumentation, I would like to point out one thing: if Adam and Eve were not created with a will that was “unstable” then they would in that case be nothing more than robots. But God, in His perfect knowledge, created man with a will that was initially pure and appeasing to Him yet was free to rebel against what He had commanded.

Exercising their free will they blatantly disregarded God’s command to not eat of the tree of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:6). Doing so they plunged themselves and all of future humanity into a state of spiritual deadness. They made the most costly mistake that any human could ever make: they rejected God in favor of sin. Immediately after they sinned, Adam and Eve experienced the punishment for their wrong-doing. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” (Genesis 3:7) As soon as they ate of the fruit their eyes were opened, they knew they were naked and God banished them from the garden. Even amid the fall of mankind there was mercy.

The Freedom of the Will Post-fall

I noted earlier that when Adam and Eve sinned, they plunged all of humanity into a state of spiritual deadness. This is why Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.” At this point we must clarify what is meant by the term “free will”. I have no doubt that every evangelical Christian will agree that Adam and Eve were created with a free will, the debate arises when we talk about the state of their will after the fall.
So what do I (and other Reformed believers) mean when we speak of having (or not having) a free will? The London Baptist Confession, the Westminster Confession, Savoy Declaration, and the Philadelphia Confession all state the same thing concerning the state of man’s will. It goes as follows: “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto” (9.3). At this point let’s clear something up. Reformed theology does not teach that after the fall mankind was stripped void of their free will. Rather the proper understanding is stated clearly in the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith,

To be sure, his reason was not taken from him, nor was he deprived of will, and he was not entirely changed into a stone or a tree. But they were so altered and weakened that they no longer can do what they could before the fall. For the understanding is darkened, and the will which was free has become an enslaved will. Now it serves sin, not unwillingly but willingly. And indeed, it is called a will, not an unwill (ing). [Etenim voluntas, non noluntas dicitur.]”

So after the fall man was enslaved to sin. Mankind still has a will, an altered and weakened will. This is evidenced by the fact that even unregenerate people still do good deeds. What sinful man can’t do is save himself. That is the heart of the argument. Free-will Baptists and other Arminian/Arminian-leaning groups embrace (whether explicitly or implicitly) a line of thought that says that man contributes at least something to his salvation. This is known as synergism. The counter-point is known as monergism. Monergism is the line of thought that says that God is the sole contributor to the salvation of mankind. This is the logical conclusion of Ephesians 2:1. As cliché as it is, dead men can not choose.

The Logical Conclusion of the Reformed Understanding (in contrast to that of the Arminian/Traditional understanding)

This may seem like a dark, sad and gloomy concept but seen in the proper light and context, it is actually a very glorious thing. Calvinism is most basically summed up in the acrostic T.U.L.I.P. Because of the fall of Adam, sin’s effect extends to the last particle of man. We are totally depraved.

Due to us being totally depraved and unable to save ourselves God must do the saving. God does this by electing, unconditionally, certain individuals. We see this most clearly in Romans 9:11-12 when Paul recounts the Old Testament story of the birth of Jacob and Esau in order to illustrate the doctrine of divine election. Paul says that this election done before either were born and wasn’t based on their works. This then contradicts the false notion that God looked out into the future to see whether or not certain individuals would choose Christ and then God bases His election on that decision. Because we are totally depraved the election of persons must be unconditional, otherwise salvation would be works-based.

If we are totally depraved, it follows that election must be unconditional. With election being unconditional it then follows that the atonement must be limited. There is a substantial amount of people who claim the title “Calvinist” who hold to what is sometimes known as Amyraldism, or four-point Calvinism (for more on this view you can read this article). If Christ died for all men, but not all men are saved, then did Christ fail? What about if Christ’s death made everyone “savable” (like Amyraldism argues) but still not everyone is saved, did Christ fail? Universalism does not satisfy the Biblical testament because we all know of people who rejected Christ until their last fleeting breath. Amyraldism also doesn’t satisfy because it poses a hypothetical redemption that, given God’s character as revealed in Scripture, is a logical fallacy. It is illogical to think that the God who meticulously and sovereignly orchestrated every single detail of time would suddenly become lax when it comes to salvation. However, the Reformed doctrine of Limited Atonement not only flows flawlessly with the other four points of TULIP, but more importantly it is consistent with the Biblical testament.

It is here that I would like to interject that the term “limited atonement” is not the most helpful term. I believe that most people who disagree with this point of the TULIP do so not because they disagree with what is actually meant, but that they don’t fully understand what is meant because the term is a bit vague. I personally prefer the term definite atonement (others would prefer particular atonement) . Please don’t misunderstand me, “limited” is a very valid and useful term and the atonement is limited in its effect and scope– to the elect. Both Matthew 1:21 and John 10:15 convey the idea that Christ died for a particular people. In Isaiah 53 the prophet speaks of “God’s people” and bearing the sins of “many”. Perhaps the biggest problem that any view of the atonement, aside from Limited Atonement, must address is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Would Christ become sin for people who would never profess His name? I think not! Therefore, the atonement must be limited.

If we are totally depraved and election is unconditional, the atonement is limited then God’s grace must be irresistible. At this point some people contend that Calvinism at this point presents a God who forces humans into salvation. This, however, is not the case. Because of our spiritual deadness we need God to soften our hearts– and that is exactly what Irresistible Grace is. If you remember Saul’s conversion story, you’ll remember just how hard his heart was. He was undeniably opposed to the God of Christianity. But something spectacular happened to him. On his way to Damascus God showed up. After that brief encounter, Saul left a changed man. When a sinner encounters God the only option is change. The Spirit draws those whom the Father has called and who Jesus died for. This is plain Biblical teaching. In John 1:13 we are taught that rebirth is not by “the will of the flesh” with the point being that regeneration is only done by the working of the Spirit.

The key to all of this is recognizing our state and our need for salvation. The purpose of this post is to defend a Biblical understanding of free will, and this point is where this excurses on TULIP comes to a climax. If the understanding that sinful men can “choose” Christ is true, then the opposite is true– a regenerate man could become “unregenerate”. Doesn’t this fly directly in the face of passages that speak of security? Let us now turn our thoughts towards the last letter of the acronym.

As we have seen, the first four points of Calvinism are each links in a chain that logically fit together in order. The last point is Perseverance of the Saints. Perhaps the most explicit text in defense of this doctrine is John 10:28 (for a great expositional sermon on this text, listen to this sermon by my pastor). Believers are secure in the hands of the Father. Nothing, not famine, not tribulation, or distress, nothing at all can separate us from Christ! Because believers are elected in Christ, and Christ purchased the salvation of the elect, the elect are secure! If it were left up to sinful men, not only would men choose to forsake God for the sinful desires of their hearts, they would live their lives daily in rejection of God. We need God to hold us tightly in His hands.

Conclusion

As we have seen, man was created in the image of God which included a will completely free, yet mutable. As a result of this freedom man chose sin over obedience. This choice cursed all of creation and damned every future human soul. It is completely by grace that any human is pulled from the fiery pits of hell and shown mercy! If it were not solely of grace, every human would be destined for hell. Calvinism, in my estimation, presents a robust and thoroughly biblical lens by which to properly understand the doctrine of free will. Free will is intrinsically tied to soteriology, and as such the way you understand one will determine the other. No matter where you fall on the soteriology/free will spectrum, whether you are an Arminian, Calvinist, Molinist or some other -ist, the words of my pastor are profoundly useful: “It is ok to let the tension of Scripture stand.”- Dan Smetana

At the end of the day every believer can give a hearty “amen” to the Psalmist when he says “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalms 3:8).

No Mulligans

Today we as Evangelicals get to once and for all decide what our values are. We get to determine if we’re going to hand over values and morality for political power, or if “values” and “morality” actually mean something. Today we have to determine if we have any spine left. Or if we’re just Evanjellyfish

Let me be very clear. This is not a critique of the Church. I think too often we speak of the political realm like the Church as an institution must say something and I don’t think that’s the case. In fact that may be how we got here in the first place. What I am critiquing is the American Evangelical culture that we’ve developed over the last few decades. What I’m speaking about is something that I’m not sure can be called Christianity at all. Yes it’s adherants are professing believers; but I’m not sure it can be called Christianity.

I have sat down, and by and large kept my mouth shut while our President says and does things that are not only immature, but also below the actions not just of a president, but of a leader in any regard. But my critique is mostly not of the President. Shocking as it may be, I’ve given up. Wicked people do wicked things. It’s not a surprise. It shouldn’t be anyway.

But let’s catch everybody up on what’s going on as of late. It is being alleged that the President had an inappropriate relationship with an adult film star before running for office. That is to say that he cheated on his third wife with an adult entertainer. Not only that, but then as a candidate, paid hush money to said actress in order to keep her quiet. That is what we face. Of course these have all been denied.

But let’s be very clear. If the President at any time cheated on his wife and had an inappropriate relationship with anybody, he is a liar and an adulterer. He has desecrated the sanctity of marriage. He has not only lied, but with money has coerced others to lie for him. He is a sinner. He should repent. If these allegations are true as the woman’s 2011 interview suggests, then shame on him. Shame.

But that’s not my issue. Oh no, as shameful as that is I’ve got an even bigger bee in my bonnet. Because while I certainly expect sinners to do sinful things, I think Christian leaders who at this point still pretend like he’s never done anything wrong can jump off a cliff. Seriosuly, at this point they’re doing more harm than good. Oh, we can say “The President is surrounding himself with faithful Evangelicals.” But what’s the point of all they are are yes men; false prophets and brown nosers? Robert Jeffress has his choir sing a song about Trump. If that isn’t blatant idolatry I don’t know what is. Tony Perkins has come and said that we as Evangelicals are giving Trump a mulligan on this adultry issue. Yes that’s right. A mulligan. A do over.

Understand dear reader, I know my lane. We’re a small blog. I get it. I’m thankful for every single one of you who read Late Night Theology. You are all great. I highly doubt That Tony Perkins is going to read this.

But

He should know that forgiveness does not come without repentance. That’s like, a major tenant of the faith. You want to be forgiven, you must repent and confess that your a sinner. That hasn’t happened yet. He should know that David was a man after God’s heart because he repented, not because he slept with (raped?) Uriah’s wife. He should know that exchanging the birthright of the Gospel for the red soup of power is a really bad step for the Church. He should know he doesn’t speak for all of us. He should know he’s a charlatan, and he’s not fooling anybody.

What these court Evanjellyfish leaders are doing won’t stop. You think this is Trump’s last mulligan? You think it’s his first? They’re just going to keep finding ways to excuse it. Franklin Graham was asked last night the difference between the Daniels affair and the Lewinsky scandal was. His response? Trump wasn’t in office at the time.

Shocking as it is, he’s absolutely right. I was upset at first, but he’s shown his hand. The emphasis on morality depends who sits in the chair. See if it’s Clinton, this is a scandal. We have a culture of falsehood, adultry, and sin. But now that it’s Trump, it’s all about what he will do as a president. Let’s not focus on his sin, let’s vote for the worldview. This isn’t just favoritism, this is hypocracy. Oh you thought Post-Modern gymnastics was just a thing at those “liberal universities”? No, sadly morality is relative to Jeffress, Graham, and Perkins. All my life I’ve heard about how we need to vote our values; and that’s good. Our morals and values are the spine of our political life. But these are Evanjellyfish.

Today, we as Evangelicals, true Bible believing Evangelicals have to decide. Are we going to let these people sell out for thirty pieces of silver and access to the Oval Office? Are we going to pretend that we don’t care about morality? Was that just lip service for power? Maybe so. While they be willing to overlook the President’s sins; I’m not giving Perkins, Jeffress, or Graham any mulligans.

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Transitions

transitions

Over the last 7 and a half years, what started out as an occasional hobby with for 4 or 5 nominally interested followers turned into a community where we’ve made friends and sparked conversations.

With my recent call to the pastorate at Mount Carmel Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and my wedding date soon approaching, I feel that it is time that I let something go. I’m a pastor, and soon I will be a husband. That being said, I will still make posts from time to time, and occasionally offer commentary on theological issues of the day… RIGHT HERE ON LNT! (*cue a cheap Mick Foley pop*)

But for now, I feel that it is time to hand to reins over my friend and colleague, Jay Sawrie. He will be taking on the role of lead contributor.

Followers, thank you for all your love and support.

Don’t Just Do Something! Stand There!

The greatest threat facing the Church isn’t political Evangelicalism. It isn’t the loss of religious liberty, the Democrats or Darwinism. Our greatest threat isn’t George Soros, the “Gay Agenda”, or mainstream media. It isn’t Donald Trump, Arminianism, Dispensationalism, Federal Vision, or even John Piper’s really bad Sanctification views. The greatest threat we face is that we stop preaching the Gospel. The worst thing that we could do is to think that Christ is more glorified in something else. This includes social justice.

Yes, social justice is sexy right now. It is tangible, we can see who’s acting for justice and who isn’t. Caring for the poor, speaking up for those who are oppressed due to their race or socioeconomic condition; when we perform these works, they are true, tangible acts of mercy. To deny that we are called to perform these works is to outright deny one of the logical applications of the Gospel. The Gospel calls us to seek the justice of those around us.

But social justice isn’t the Gospel.

Which is essientially what Tim Keller tweeted yesterday.

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But judging by the response from the Mainline liberals (PCUSA, ELCA, Rachel Held Evans was pretty aggressive with it, but she wasn’t the only one) you’d have thought that Keller denied the virgin birth, the authority of Scripture, that homosexuality is a sin, and that miracles exist. I’m not saying the mainline liberals are making social justice a bigger issue than all of these. I’m just saying that’s apparently the hill to die on.

But isn’t it interesting that this is apparently the bill to die on. While they may all use this flowery language: “Christ didn’t come to merely forgive sins but also to bring shalom to all of creation and restore justice”. While that sounds really good they give up their hand. Mainline liberalism has not just denied the virgin birth, the reliability of Scripture, or the deity of Christ. They’ve denied the fundamental human problem. It’s not so much that you and I are sinners. That’s not the real issue. The real issue for them is all this injustice in the world. So then justification is not something Christ has done for us. It’s something he’s initiated that we must then work out. Granted that seems rather odd because the New Testament writers seem to have left that out. But this imperative driven call isn’t new. Isn’t it interesting? The same duty based, “do this because it’s the most important thing” psudeo-piety of the Mainliners is the same Pharisaical, don’t dance, drink, or chew, if there’s hair on your ears there’s sin your heart, legalism they hate in the Hyper-fundamentalists. They hate each other so much, but really they’re just cousins of the same imperative driven “gospel”.

As Machen said

“Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity–liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.”

While the mainline liberals will say “Don’t just stand there! Do something!” Christ calls out to us, “Don’t just do something! Stand there!” Stand strong, grounded that Christ has redeemed us; yes us as individuals. Stand firm! The Gospel not only matters, but is the only hope we have. Five years ago I was told I had no place in the Baptist Missionary Association partly because beer tastes good, but also because I had the nerve to tell the Dean of Spiritual Life at Central Baptist College that people weren’t preaching the Gospel in Chapel. I was called a “preaching snob” because I thought Scripture was more important than motivation speaking and “catching my vision”. But we shouldn’t give up the Gospel for motivational speaking and we shouldn’t give it up for social justice. Because motivational speaking or social justice isn’t the Gospel. It’s about time we started acting like it.

At What Cost?

AT WHAT COST_

I’ve been doing my best today to stay quiet and just can’t. We have a saying in our writer’s group: Bleed On the Blog. What we mean is that the best writing sometimes comes when we expose our soul for all to see. We pull back the curtain and just say what we’ve been thinking, throwing the consequences to the wind.

I rise today to take up the article D.C. McAllister wrote, Eric Metaxsas defended, and Roy Moore and President Trump inspired. The premise is simple: We’re all fallen and sinners. But just because someone is a sinner doesn’t mean that God doesn’t use us for His means and therefore, we are justified to vote for a man accused of sexual assault of then young girls. In fact McAllister seems to uses a perverted system of Two Kingdoms to justify such a view. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the theonomic nerds come out of their IPA induced hibernation to hold her up as an example of why Two Kingdoms is a dangerous teaching.

But I digress.

Let’s start with this “sacred” and “secular” confusion. McAllister writes “Unfortunately, many social conservatives, and Christians in particular, treat secular leaders as if they’re spiritual leaders, as if any stain on their character, fault from their distant past, or even theological apostasy disqualifies them from political leadership. They seem to fear that the personal sinfulness of a man will bring about the ruin of an entire party or nation…By erecting this standard, these critics come dangerously close to confusing the secular and the sacred, the city of man and the city of God.”

Let’s start by pointing out the obvious: No. As a Christian, I’m by no means asking for perfection. I know I’ll never get it. There will always be something about a candidate that I don’t like, be that moral, ideological, or theological. The only candidate I know I will 100% agree with is me. However, and I can’t stress this enough, sexual assault (especially with a minor) is the deal breaker. I’m not asking for perfect, I’m asking for the candidate to not be a sexual deviant. I’m not asking for theological purity. I’ll vote with those who hold to different interpretations. I’m asking for them to not think it’s acceptable to assault someone. That a pretty low bar.

But on the nature of Two Kingdoms, let’s address this as well. Yes I hold that there is both the City of God and City of Man, both in which Christ is King, and rules and overrules in those Cities differently. But they are not so divorced that we give a pass to one of the most heinous of sins. They are not so separated that the City of God cannot speak to the City of Man and say, “No this is the standard”. This is not utopia seeking. This is maintaining our witness.

“Political leaders, however, are not spiritual leaders with the same responsibilities, burdens, and covenantal obligations of leaders within Scripture. This doesn’t mean we can willy-nilly vote for immoral men” I agree. The Church is not the State, and the standards are different. However, what McAllister is justifying in this article isn’t to just vote willy-nilly. It’s to excuse sexual assault. She is asking us to vote for immoral men. This does not mean that we only have Christian doctors, and only do business with Christians. What it does mean, is that when choosing our leaders, morality matters.

Ultimately, what McAllister is asking for us to do, and Metaxas is defending is we sellout our witness for power. It’s the exchange of Gospel for the red stew of politics. It is the Temptation all over again, “If we surrender our vote, we will have all the kingdoms of the world.” But this City of Man is passing away. We are not Esau. If we give up our victorious message for “one more Senate seat” we will lose what is most dear.

I refuse to sit quietly by as the Moral (can we still call them this?) Majority Evangelical baptizes wicked individuals for more power. At what cost? Where do we then draw the line? Growing up, I was told to never give up the Gospel. I was taught to stand firm. That we are more faithful to God than we are to man. That’s counter to what McAllister is saying. She may say, “Am I concerned when I hear people saying morality doesn’t matter at all, as if we could put a complete miscreant in office and not care?.. Character matters!” but that is exactly what she is saying. “Character matters” when “they” on the other side of the aisle refuse to show it. But when a Senate seat or Oval Office is up for grabs, it’s time to not let moral failure be our guide.

So yes D.C. a sinner can still serve faithfully. However, the Church is called to reject these people, call them to repentance. Not baptize them and excuse their sins. It’s not worth it.

The Exilic Identity of Believers (Part 1)

It is no secret that Christians feel lost in this sinful world. Often times we go through our day and we feel out of place. Sin is rampant, holiness is scarce. We are seen as “odd” because we wont partake in the folly of the world.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”- 1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV

But in 1 Peter, Peter is writing to Jews who are dispersed throughout the Roman Empire; and are likely under the rule of Nero. They live in a world that is very similar to ours. They are outcasts, misfits, they know that they don’t belong to this world anymore. They live in a time of severe persecution. And though our persecution likely isn’t anywhere near the level of theirs, the principles we draw from Peter’s two letters are nonetheless as valuable to us as they were to them.

Peter opens his letter by giving his readers an identity of hope: those who are elect exiles. That may not sound like an identity you would like to have, because who really wants to be an exile? But its really a term of endearment rather than a negative one. Yes they are exiles, but they are far more than that! They are elect exiles! Without a doubt this wording brought about the memories of the stories that they had heard many times from family members of how their ancestors lived in exile in Egypt and the freedom they finally experienced.

In verse 2 Peter gives his readers four reasons why they must endure the persecution and continue to live as exiles. First, their exile is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”. Second it is “for the sanctification of the Spirit”. Third, it is “for obedience to Jesus”. Lastly, it is “for sprinkling with blood”. Your exilic state has a purpose, namely to sanctify you.

If you take anything from 1 Peter 1:1-2  my desire is that you find your identity. You are an elect exile. Purposefully chosen and placed in your specific context to spread the Gospel. Take hope in Christ, who was pierced and died so that you could glorify Him in the world that hates Him.

The Ghostly Tale of Spurgeon and the Séance of 1928 by Christian George

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[The original link to this article can be found here. For all things Spurgeon, please visit The Spurgeon Center.]

On October 21, 1928, the ghost of Charles Spurgeon was raised from the dead. Or so the clairvoyant claimed. In a series of séances supervised by Canadian surgeon and paranormal researcher Thomas Glen Hamilton, the “entity” of the late Victorian evangelist made his presence known several times to a group of hand-clasped gatherers. According to Hamilton’s published report, Spurgeon even requested a hymn to be sung.

Three years later, Spurgeon’s ghost “returned” to preach a sermon on revival. His text—preached from beyond the grave—was Isaiah 52:10: “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

In a pitch-dark room on April 26, 1931, the entranced medium closed her eyes and scribbled the words (allegedly spoken by Spurgeon): “The main instrumental cause of a great revival must be the bold, faithful, fearless preaching of the truth of the Divine Spirit from the Lord our God.”

Raising Spurgeon from the Grave

Spurgeon often suffered from “depression of spirit.” At times the preacher’s emotions peaked; at times they plummeted. “I am much tossed up and down,” Spurgeon said, “and although my joy is greater than the most of men, my depression of spirit is such as few can have an idea of.” The majority of his life was forged on the “anvil of affliction.”

Yet God raised Spurgeon from the grave on more than one occasion. Like in 1856, when seven people died at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall and Spurgeon almost quit the ministry. Or when Spurgeon came under attack in the media and fell into great anxiety.

In the late 1880s, Spurgeon couldn’t even open his hand because rheumatoid gout had frozen his fingers closed. Each of these dark seasons in his life prepared Spurgeon to say, “There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health.”

“Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library.”

Suffering was the secret of Spurgeon’s ministry because it enabled him to emphathize with others whose spirits were low. In other words, God never let Spurgeon suffer from having never to suffer.

For the Christian, sinking spirits produce “perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). What is hope without suffering? How would we identify light without darkness? God often uses our own darkness to show others the Light of World. He uses our own weakness to make others strong. Hope must always be extracted from affliction, for, as the Puritans used to say, only in the valley do we receive the vision.

Spiritual Revival Cannot Be Conjured

Did the medium really raise Spurgeon’s spirit from the grave in 1928? Sorry for the Halloween mythbust, but no. As it turns out, she had memorized a few cherrypicked paragraphs from Spurgeon’s 1858 sermon “The Great Revival.”

Ironically, the point of Spurgeon’s sermon, spoken through the spiritualist, was that true revival cannot be conjured up by our clever tactics, innovative inventions, or even by preaching great sermons. “Do not imagine,” Spurgeon said, “when you hear of a sermon being made useful, that it was the sermon itself that did the work.”

“If men were not such idiots as to doubt God, they would never sink so low as to believe in spiritualism.”

Spiritual revival cannot be summoned; it must be sent. From first to last, spiritual awakening is the work of God—designed, manufactured, and delivered by the One who specializes in resurrection. Spurgeon said:

“Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and my down castings, and get the victory through it; and so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it. In your most depressed seasons you are to get joy and peace through believing.”

In 1887, the Downgrade Controversy plummetted Spurgeon into a stressful spiral that resulted in his betrayal, abandonment, depression, illness, and eventual death. His wife, Susannah, claimed that the controversy killed him prematurely at the age of 57. Yet even in that midnight moment, Spurgeon saw a light flickering in the future.

Spurgeon prophesied, “I am quite willing to be eaten by dogs for the next fifty years. But the more distant future shall vindicate me.”

Spurgeon’s Spirit Still Speaks

Did Spurgeon believe in ghosts? Yes and no. He acknowledged the strange return of Samuel’s spirit (1 Samuel 28). But Spurgeon also denounced the “pretended communion” of spiritualism gaining popularly in London. He believed séances capitalized on the suffering of the bereft and took advantage of those who lost loved ones.

The spookiest thing about the séances of the 1920s and 30s is that if the medium had kept quoting from Spurgeon’s sermon, she would have uttered the following words:

“My soul has been made exceedingly full of happiness, by the tidings of a great revival of religion throughout the United States.”

The clairvoyant was correct. Spurgeon’s spirit has returned through the legacies of the Spurgeon LibrarySpurgeon’s College, and Spurgeons Children’s Charity, which celebrated their 150th anniversary this year and continues to offer light, love, and compassion to families throughout the United Kingdom.

Christians have always lived with the forward-looking hope that God will not leave his children in the dark. As John saw from his Patmos cave, one day God will “wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). True hope is not found through incantations or spiritual gimmicks. It’s not found in self-help remedies or sola bootsrapa doctrines. Instead, our hope derives from the triumphant Christ who stormed the gates of Hell, put the devil on the defensive, and declares, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

On this Halloween, keep in mind that the enemy is afraid of you! You are making noises beneath his bed. You are hiding in his closet.

Like Abel who “still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4), Spurgeon’s spirit still speaks. So treat yourself to one of his sermons and see how God raises your own spirit from the grave.

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Volume 1 and 2 of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon can be purchased in Standard or Collector’s Editions.

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