Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Finnical" faith


[Comments: Do not post in the combox. Mail comments to be posted to]

Brother Ian Elsasser has astutely remarked about Professor Nathan Finn's recent post on the Between the Times blog at Southeastern Baptist Seminary:

Nathan Finn in a follow up article to Alvin Reid's 'exhortation to Calvinists' has issued his 'exhortation to non-Calvinists' which, it seems to me, carries some caricatures unbefitting a scholar and Professor at a Seminary.

For example, in his second point Finn says:

Second, be sure to never give the impression that the decision to become a Christian is a mere decision. Sometimes I hear non-Calvinists imply that “all you have to do” if you want to be a Christian is believe in Christ. This makes it sound like faith is a simple free will decision that can be made apart from the gracious work of the Holy Spirit.

Professor Finn makes it sound like that non-Calvinists teach that faith is a simple free will decision that can be made apart from the gracious work of the Holy Spirit.

First, all one need do is believe, which is the call of the gospel. If one believes the good news, will that one not be saved? Or is there more that the person should do to meet the standards of the modern brand of Calvinism now at play?

Secondly, who is the "non-Calvinist" who thinks that the Spirit is not involved in the work of salvation, including believing? I would like Dr. Finn to point this out from non-Calvinist Theologies and writings and to point out which Baptist preachers and church members believe it. Does the unbeliever himself need to know that his decision is aided by the Spirit's work for it to be valid? Or, does is it not simply the sinner's part to believe the gospel?

At least if one is to critique a position, should it not be accurate?



"Christ puts the crown of salvation upon the head of faith" (C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 57, page 572).

It seems that the hardest thing in the world to accept is that salvation is simply by faith.

Men -- even some Baptist theologians -- evidently want to add something to faith and thereby make salvation to depend upon some type of work.

It is even difficult, it appears, for some "sovereign grace" Seminary professors such as Nathan Finn and pastors such as Tom Ascol of the Flounders to accept that salvation is by simple faith and simply by faith. Their "doctrines of grace" model does not appear to have room for simple faith.

The thing which Hybrid Calvinists obviously miss about faith is that perhaps the most unique attribute of faith is its utter simplicity.

Jesus illustrated the simplicity of faith by referring to children's faith (Luke 18:17). They do not need to know the "5 points of Calvinism," or "Reformed" theology, or somebody's notion about "Lordship Salvation," or the Hybrid Calvinist "ordo salutis," or even "monergism." Jesus even said that if a person but had faith as a grain of mustard seed, he could move a mountain (Matthew 17:20).

C. H. Spurgeon remarked that "not a grain of faith exists in all the world except that which He has Himself created" (MTP, Vol. 33, page 279).

Spurgeon emphasized salvation by "Simple Faith."

He said, "O simple faith, thou hast the key to the kingdom! Come, and welcome into my heart" (Vol. 38, MTP, page 201).

Spurgeon preached a sermon on John 1:12, 13, and he opened it by saying, "Everything here is simple; everything is sublime. Here is that simple gospel by which the most ignorant may be saved" (Vol. 38, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, The Simplicity and Sublimity of Salvation, page 265).

Spurgeon preached that faith is so simple that "children of three and four years of age have doubtless been capable of it; and there have been many persons, but very little removed from absolute idiocy, who have been able to believe; a doctrine which needs to be reasoned out may require a high degree of mental development, but the simple act of trusting requires nothing of the kind" (Vol. 12, MTP, page 19).

This is probably one reason why Spurgeon had many converts -- he preached the simple Gospel. The reason Spurgeon believed it was so simple is because he believed that the Word of God is creative and powerful, because the Holy Spirit accompanies the Word, and that is what it takes to meet the resistance of human nature, and make it easy to believe.

"This is a very simple matter," he said, "One grain of faith is worth more than a diamond the size of the world . . . Salvation is a very simple business. God help us to look at it simply, and practically, and to receive Christ, and believe on his name! . . . I go over and over and over with this, and never get one jot further, because I find that this medicine cures all soul sicknesses, while human quackery cures none. Christ alone is the one remedy for sin-sick souls." (Vol. 38, MTP, page 268, 269, 272).

There was a woman who attended Spurgeon's preaching, but she had a problem believing and being saved. So she asked Spurgeon to pray for her, that she would be saved. But Spurgeon refused to do so. He said --

"No, I will not pray for you . . . I set before you Christ crucified, and I beg you to believe in him. If you will not believe in him, you will be lost; and I shall not pray God to make any different way of salvation for you. You deserve to be lost if you will not believe in Christ."

The result was, the woman saw he light and exclaimed, "Oh, I see now! I do look to Christ, and trust him" (Vol. 38, MTP, page 388).

Spurgeon had thousands of children come to simple faith under his ministry, as well as adults. In his sermon, Faith and Its Attendant Privileges, Spurgeon emphasized the simplicity of faith :

Faith is the simplest thing conceivable! When we hear people sing, “Only believe and you shall be saved,” they sing the Truth of God, for we have the Divine assurance that “whoever believes on Him is not condemned.” The Gospel message is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

The act of faith is the simplest in the world. It may be performed by a little child. It has often been performed by persons so short-witted that they have been almost incapable of any other intellectual act. And yet faith is as sublime as it is simple, as potent as it is plain! It is the connecting link between impotence and Omnipotence, between necessity and all-sufficiency. He that by faith lays hold on God has accomplished the simplest and yet the grandest act of the mind.

Faith is apparently so small a matter that many [such as Dr. Finn?] who hear the Gospel can hardly believe it possible that we can really mean to teach that it brings salvation to the soul. They have even misunderstood us and imagined that we have meant to say that if persons believed they were saved, they were saved. If that were the doctrine of Justification by Faith, it would be the most wicked of delusions. It is not so! Faith in Jesus as our Savior is a very different thing from persuading ourselves to believe that we are saved when we are not! We believe that men are saved by faith, alone—but not by a faith which is alone. They are saved by faith without works, but not by a faith which is without works. The faith which saves is the most operative principle known to the human mind, for he that believes in Jesus for salvation, being saved, and knowing that he is saved, loves Him that saved him—and that love is the key of the whole matter! (MTP, Vol. 21, pages 25, 26)

I read the item by Nathan Finn, and Professor Finn's comments about faith strike me that he is actually downgrading the very element which produces the good works which please God. Of course, we realize that this was not his intention, but he demonstrates the type of thinking which detracts from the simple Gospel message of salvation by faith.

"The act of faith is a very simple thing, but it is the most God-glorifying act that a man can perform. . . . Christ puts the crown of salvation upon the head of faith" (C. H. Spurgeon, MTP, Volume 57, page 572).


Spurgeon versus Hyperism.


Post a Comment

<< Home