January 15, 2021

Riffs 10:29:06: Unfortunately, this needs to be said…

logo1.gifWho cares where I found it, it’s sad to realize this needs to be said….several times.

Spurgeon is not, however, the final arbiter between orthodoxy and what some imagine to be “heresy.” Neither he, nor his preaching, is infallible. Preachers are the servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God – not the mysteries of Spurgeon….Your appeal to the authority of Spurgeon in the endless indictments you hand down upon servants of the same Lord Spurgeon served is misplaced, to say the least. If you believe Spurgeon is above criticism by other men, or that Spurgeon’s preaching is not liable to criticism or error, then your self-styled crusade against all those who don’t measure up to him makes perfect, if not regretful, sense…For my part, I will continue to thank God for men like Spurgeon, all the while remembering Paul’s words, “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.” There is only one final court of appeal in the judging of men, and it is not Spurgeon’s. There is only One who deserves the place you seem to give Spurgeon, and that One is no man.

I love Spurgeon, but I don’t like Spurgeon as the way to judge other men. I don’t like exegetical preachers ignoring the fact that Spurgeon was topical. I don’t like the fact that Spurgeon did a lot of innovation in ministry that get’s winked at, while today’s innovators are criticized for selling out the Gospel.

Spurgeon’s quick wit and constant humor were considered by some to be highly inappropriate for a clergyman of his day, but his fans today won’t grant others the same right to use humor. (And I don’t just mean the Driscoll business. I mean the caricature of emerging preaching in general.)

Spurgeon was a cage phase Calvinist as a young man, but a generous one- maybe too much so in some opinions- as an older man. How many of today’s TRs would have Moody in their church?

Spurgeon’s lack of education may be providential, but that shouldn’t become a reason to list Spurgeon as anti-education. I like the fact that Spurgeon wasn’t a scholar, and he knew it. He quoted scholars and published reviews of helpful scholarly works. He knew what we owed to scholarly preparation, and what the dangers were as well.

Spurgeon loved the Puritans…and criticized them. He was a Calvinist who knew how to give invitations, tell stories, press the emotions….all things denounced today.

And he charged for tickets!

If the emerging cited Mclaren as a standard the way some reformed cite Spurgeon, it would come off as very unhealthy. Does it strike anyone else as odd that the reformed celebrate their heroes in a way that’s unlike any other group in Christianity except…..I won’t say it. It’s too crazy.

A good man. A great man. But give him his time and place, and give today’s young preachers THEIRS.


  1. “Does it strike anyone else as odd that the reformed celebrate their heroes in a way that’s unlike any other group in Christianity except…..I won’t say it. It’s too crazy.”

    Just for fun, I’ll take a stab at it: Catholic saints.

    During my short-lived tenure on a Reformed discussion forum, it was amazing to me how much more the Five Points and long-handed quotes from John Calvin and the Westminster Confession were used to argue against others more than scripture. Of course, the arguments that did involve citing scripture quickly degenerated into “my verse is more right than your verse,” but that’s another topic I think.

  2. Speaking of saints, here’s what one of the most important said:

    ‘We, who preach and write books, write in a manner altogether different from the manner in which the canon of Scriptures has been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We dictate at the same time as we explore. We speak as we still knock for understanding. … I urge your charity, on my behalf and in my own case, that you should not take any previous book or preaching of mine as Holy Scripture. … If anyone criticises me when I have said what is right, he does not do right. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth (canonicum) than the one who criticises me unfairly.’
    – Augustine, Sermon 347.62

    I’d just posted this comment on my blog when I found yours.

  3. One of the problems, in my opinion, is that we judge a person’s worth by the effect they had. Spurgeon was effective. So we begin to analyse his methods and either canonize them or condemn them. Spurgeon’s gift was the ability to communicate the gospel in his time to people of his time. We have to step back in time, I think, to analyse him fairly. Too many analyse him by our modern categories, and that’s not fair.

  4. Kipp Wilson says

    Shame on you, Michael, for speaking against one whose name is written in the holy Word of God. For does it not say in Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how we may Spurgeon another on toward love and good deeds”?

    And does not 1 Samuel 18:24 likewise say, “The woman had a fatted Calvin the house”?

    Okay, enough puns. Good reminder to us not to elevate the words of former (or even current) theologians and preachers to the level of canon. And I think I’ll steal the Augustine quote above to use in class. My students sometimes need to hear things like that.

  5. Excellent.

  6. dpaultaylor57 says

    No, it’s not too crazy, and I would agree with your first commenter. That concept of saints seems to lift the concept of heroes out of Roman/Greek mythology and put a halo over their heads.

    But if you go a little further back, couldn’t the “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos” mentality in Corinth spring from the same roots? I think it does, and with the same results, setting one faction against another, which is where we are today.

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