Doctrinal Decay and the Reformed Downgrade

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Doctrinal decay

Doctrinal decay always leads to destruction. When we lose sight of infallible Word, when we allow it to be mixed with culture, or colored by our own desires, a downgrade is certain to follow.

2 Timothy 3: 18-17, 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The downgrade in Spurgeon’s day

In 1857, nearing the end of his life (just five years hence), Charles Spurgeon penned these words on the downgrade the church of his day was experiencing. His words pierce to the heart of the controversy in our day, also.

Mr. Spurgeon said:

No lover of the gospel can conceal from himself the fact that the days are evil. We are willing to make a large discount from our apprehensions on the score of natural timidity, the caution of age, and the weakness produced by pain; but yet our solemn conviction is that things are much worse in many churches than they seem to be, and are rapidly tending downward. Read those newspapers which represent the Broad School of Dissent, and ask yourself, How much farther could they go? What doctrine remains to be abandoned? What other truth to be the object of contempt?

A new religion has been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese; and this religion, being destitute of moral honesty, palms itself off as the old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for gospel preaching. The Atonement is scouted, the inspiration of Scripture is derided, the Holy Spirit is degraded into an influence, the punishment of sin is turned into fiction, and the resurrection into a myth, and yet these enemies of our faith expect us to call them brethren, and maintain a confederacy with them!

The case is mournful. Certain ministers are making infidels. Avowed atheists are not a tenth as dangerous as those preachers who scatter doubt and stab at faith… Germany was made unbelieving by her preachers, and England is following in her tracks.

Standing alone

Spurgeon’s stance wasn’t popular. The graduates of Spurgeon’s College turned against him. The Baptist Union ridiculed him as did the Baptist Union Council voted 95-5 to censure him. The Baptist Union voted 2000-7 to support a compromise doctrinal statement, a statement weak on truth. Spurgeon opposed the statement but few would listen to him; thus the vote to support it was, in effect, a second vote against Spurgeon. His own brother seconded the motion to pass the compromise doctrinal statement.

Nevertheless, Charles Spurgeon, in pain, in much illness, and in the throes of depression, made this statement: “I am quite willing to be eaten of dogs for the next fifty years, but the more distant future shall vindicate me.”

Charles Spurgeon has been vindicated. He was right.


The downgrade of Spurgeon’s day eventually gave way to the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy of the 1920s and the SBC Controversy and its continued controversy.

Doctrinal decay always brings about rot.

The modern reformed downgrade

We’ve given in on so many points. From the downgrade in Spurgeon’s day to Darwinism attacking creation and the flood-and thus the Gospel itself, to higher criticism which saw the Scriptures not as God-breathed, infallible, and inerrant but as human writings subject to the prejudices and limitations as any other type of literature, to feminism which attacked God’s mandate for the roles of men and women and marriage, and so on and so on. If the men of these times had stood firm, perhaps the controversy would have stopped with the men of these times. Instead, all these years and decades later we’re still dealing with the fallout of their failure to lead and to stand for truth.

2 Timothy 4: 2-4, Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

What will be said about us?

I wonder, what will people say about us one day? When they look back at the downgrade of our times, when the writings of our people are broken down, looked into, and picked apart will they find a Spurgeon among our men? Will they see one or more who stood for truth no matter how many attacked? Or will they see many who, like Spurgeon’s brother, should have known better but nonetheless cast their hat into the camp of the enemy?

Soli Deo Gloria!

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