Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Downgrade Controversy

"Spurgeon and the Down-Grade Controversy" is an incredibly informative, and timeless article written by John MacArthur Jr. who is himself a noted and distinguished Christian author and pastor-teacher.

While I admittedly diverge from Spurgeon and MacArthur on the subject of Calvinistic thought - a discussion for another time perhaps! - the subject matter contained in the linked article is cogent, insightful and fully applicable to today's modern form of American evangelicalism, even though the "Down Grade Controversy" occurred in England almost 120 years ago!

Below are a couple of excerpts from Spurgeon's newsletter, "The Sword and the Trowel" which contain stinging rebukes from a bygone era, yet are as fresh and relevant to America's modern evangelicals as they were to the English Baptists on the day the were penned!

"The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. All the while a man bows to the authority of God's Word, he will not entertain any sentiment contrary to its teaching. "To the law and to the testimony," is his appeal concerning every doctrine. He esteems that holy Book, concerning all things, to be right, and therefore he hates every false way. But let a man question, or entertain low views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and he is without chart to guide him, and without anchor to hold him.
In looking carefully over the history of the times, and the movement of the times, of which we have written briefly, this fact is apparent: that where ministers and Christian churches have held fast to the truth that the Holy Scriptures have been given by God as an authoritative and infallible rule of faith and practice, they have never wandered very seriously out of the right way. But when, on the other hand, reason has been exalted above revelation, and made the exponent of revelation, all kinds of errors and mischiefs have been the result."

And again:

"I have long since found," says [Orton] "(and every year that I live increases my conviction of it), that when ministers entertain their people with lively and pretty things, confine themselves to general harangues, insist principally on moral duties, without enforcing them warmly and affectionately by evangelical motives; while they neglect the peculiars of the gospel, never or seldom display the grace of God, and the love of Christ in our redemption; the necessity of regeneration and sanctification by a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit of God for assistance and strength in the duties of the Christian life, their congregations are in a wretched state; some are dwindling to nothing, as is the case with several in this neighbourhood, where there are now not as many scores as there were hundreds in their meeting-places, fifty years ago. . . . There is a fatal deadness spread over the congregation. They run in 'the course of this world,' follow every fashionable folly, and family and personal godliness seems in general to be lost among them. There is scarcely any appearance of life and zeal."[19]

The enemy's ecumenical church of deceit is alive and well. Like a cancerous tumor that rapidly metastasizes, growing in bulk while feeding treacherously upon its host, the American church has been co-opted and corrupted by ravenous wolves who teach another gospel.

In Matthew 7:15-23 the Lord provides us with a glimpse of both the visible church - the broader Christian culture which professes orthodox Christianity - and His invisible church - the true church hidden away within the visible church who actually belong to Him and will be partakers in His Kingdom.

Those who wish to redefine the church by subtly introducing damnable heresies and false doctrines are guilty of the grievous error of conflating the visible church with the invisible and by logical extension they fail to discern any theological difference - or indeed the possibility of such a distinction! - between the professing Christian and the true Christian! They are deceived into believing that by fattening church membership rosters or whipping crowds up into an emotional frenzy whereby they make a "decision" for Christ that they are somehow enlarging the kingdom of heaven! How shameful! The arrogance and ignorance is simply breathtaking!

Sadly a heretical man-centered false gospel is the calling card of today's professing church in America. "Christian" self-help books are advanced through shameless self-promotion in place of the plain preaching of scripture and application of sound doctrine. Laser-light rock shows replete with the latest catchy jingles pass as "praise and worship" instead of edifying, scriptural God-honoring adoration. The pulpits are staffed by unholy hirelings who forsake the expository preaching and teaching of the whole counsel of God in favor of presenting a man-pleasing watered down Nerf theology that is careful to tiptoe around unsavory subject matter such as sin, repentance, judgment and hell for fear of losing the precious dollars of "Bob Benchwarmer" and "Sally Sundaymorning" from the offering plate. How revolting!

Oh how wretched and unfit must the bride appear to the Bridegroom! Oh how we've trampled underfoot His vesture and soiled our garments!

Revive us O' Lord! May we hold fast to Your eternal, infallible Word! May we confess Your absolute sovereignty, holiness, and righteousness with boldness and power! May we be as lamps burning brightly with the glorious light of Your truth, proclaiming the unmerited grace of Christ crucified and the terror of the unspeakable wrath to come!