04 September 2007

Rough Words for Great Evils

A midweek dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.

The following tidbit is from the October 1868 issue of
The Sword and the Trowel. Spurgeon had long opposed the Anglo-Catholicism that dominated the Church of England in the wake of the Oxford Movement. That movement was also known as the "Tractarian Movement," after a series of tractates written to promote that generation's most popular New Perspectives.

When Spurgeon preached against the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, it stirred a great controversy. At the height of that controversy, Spurgeon published some short, satirical tracts of his own, including this one and this one, which were published together in an issue of Spurgeon's magazine and generated an unusual outpouring of protests from people who complained that they were uncharitable and overly "harsh."

Since we've heard from not a few readers who solemnly assure us that Spurgeon would not approve of the Po-Motivators, we wanted to let him speak for himself.

E fear that our two pictures of last month greatly shocked a few of our good readers whose souls are tender of the Establishment; but we do not in any degree apologize to them because the shock, like that of a cold bath early in the morning, will do them good, and strengthen their constitutions.

We can assure them that they cannot be one-half so much shocked by our ridicule of error as we are by the error itself.

We do not make the evil, we only expose it; and if we use words and symbols which strike and stick, and even offend, we believe that they are necessary, and ought to be used far more frequently.

We are not going to handle the abominations of the present Anglican establishment with kid gloves; and if we judge sarcasm and ridicule to be deserved, we shall give the Lord's enemies their full quota of scorn.
C. H. Spurgeon




From the combox below:

David Rudd: "He wasn't speaking about unbelievers who were offended... is that correct?"

Your question is loaded. It presupposes something Spurgeon himself certainly wouldn't have regarded as a given. He was no more willing than we are (and by "we," I mean "we Pyros and most of the fundies and conservative evangelicals who post positive comments here") to assume that just because people call themselves Christians and follow all the current religious fads, they are genuine believers. Spurgeon especially would not have made that assumption about professing believers who constantly hung around in circles where false doctrine was a staple and sound doctrine was constantly under attack.

In this instance, the central issue under debate was baptismal regeneration—and the related question of whether baptism or faith is the instrument of justification. Which side of that line you stand on determines how and to whom you will preach the gospel.

Spurgeon was not happy with the fuzziness evangelical Anglicans were tolerating (and in some cases fostering) in order to avoid strife within the established church. He could see that the clarity of the gospel had been lost. Worse, even among "evangelical" Anglicans, any real commitment to a sound understanding of the gospel was quickly eroding.

That was the second half of the nineteenth century, and a steady trickle of Anglicans influenced by Newman and Pusey had been converting to Roman Catholicism for twenty years or longer (including Newman himself, who ultimately became a cardinal in the church of Rome). As Spurgeon watched that happen and observed that evangelicals within the church of England were becoming progressively more timid about confronting Anglo-Catholicism, he began to speak out against Romish tendencies with great vigor, focusing mainly on baptismal regeneration.

But (as you see from the satirical tracts he published) he was equally forceful in his opposition to the wearing of ornate vestments, the rising tide of sacramentalism, and other manifestations of what he perceived (rightly, I think) as a decadent and hypocritical priesthood in the church of England.

His primary concern, of course, was the gospel. At first, I don't think it occurred to him that any authentic believer could legitimately be offended that someone was trying to defend the gospel. But both public opinion and the preponderance of "evangelicals" within the established church excoriated him for his "tone," his outspokenness, the inflexibility of his opinion, his unwillingness to compromise, and his supposed meddling in Anglican affairs. His use of satire was the final straw. His critics seized on that as "proof" that he was out of control, and they hammered him relentlessly.

He stood his ground.

So who were the offended parties? Since the controversy was featured even in the secular newspapers of that time, Spurgeon's harshest critics included people who were open about their unbelief, people who were manifestly unbiblical in their religious opinions, people who professed to be Christians did not even pretend to be evangelical in their opinions, and people who claimed to be devoted to evangelical truth. Were any of them authentic believers? Some of them probably were. But I don't think Spurgeon himself was deeply troubled by that question. He wasn't interested in mollycoddling the sensitivities of "Christians" who got upset about someone defending the gospel. He was concerned instead with the questions of whether the issues at stake were really that important or not, whether his own motives were pure, and whether he was in the right. The more he studied the issue and prayed about it, the more determined he became.

On the tactical question of whether Spurgeon's satire was effective or not, I think history fully vindicates him. The "evangelicals" within the Anglican church who most vigorously opposed Spurgeon became steadily less evangelical, and their strategy of peace and accommodation did nothing whatsoever to quell the influence of Anglo-Catholicism or strengthen the evangelical contingent in the established church.

Spurgeon, on the other hand, was a major influence in the strengthening of Victorian evangelicalism, and it seems clear that in the long run his critiques severely weakened the influence of Anglo-Catholicism in the Victorian age. Of course, his influence continues today.

And we're doing our best to remind people that Spurgeon was never one of the gelatinous, compromising types who were a dime a dozen in the second half of the nineteenth century, and he wasn't too "nice" to use sanctified mockery against the religious fads and secular fashions of his day. His magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, represents the model we would most like to emulate here at TeamPyro.

Thanks for asking.
Phil's signature

Oh, yes. Spurgeon's critics also lampooned him. Constantly.


38 comments:

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

Spurgeon - "and if we judge sarcasm and ridicule to be deserved, we shall give the Lord's enemies their full quota of scorn."

Paul - "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves"

Jesus - "Love your enemies."

Spurgeon has hundreds upon hundreds of incredibly anointed sermons on the cross, the resurrection, Jesus, faith, mercy, love, peace, heaven, hell, and the list goes on. So when we cull out a portion like this it leaves little doubt as to why.

rick said...

Any chance that you guys will ever return to promoting Scripture and lifting up Christ?

I understood from your 31 August post that you were tired of the persecution that came with godliness and you were resigned to this sophomoric behavior but I thought you were better men than this. I really believed you wouldn't continue.

I ask you again, let it go and get back to what you did so well.

DJP said...

Trenchant, on-target, apropos, dead-on.

Well-chosen and well done. Once again, the dogs who yelp are the dogs who were hit.

DJP said...

Gosh, is this Silly Rick Day, and my calendar doesn't show it?

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

"silly dogs" = I disagree.

DJP said...

"I disagree" = "I make myself feel noble, but look like an idiot at best, or a petulant and stubbon child at worst, by commenting as if I haven't even read what I'm commenting on, let alone the scores and scores of patient, detailed, and decisive responses that have already been offered"

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

We will accept the "scores and scores of patient, detailed, and decisive responses that have already been offered" as an announcement that the reservoir of patience has previously run out, there will be no more of that kind forthcoming.

If you happened to have missed it, ask around. I am hoping that does not completely represent the attitude of the overseers here, I am sure it doesn't represent THE Overseer's heart.

rick said...

Dan - I'll ignore your comments regarding "dog" and "silly". I believe you are a better man than this. You jeer when I don't reply. You jeer when I do. But I still care.

My point is that you said in previous posts that you were tired of serious engagement. I would like you to return to that. Do you not want to?

Seriously, have you guys given up and is this the best you can offer your readers?

David said...

What is becoming clear to me is that (some) emergents have no understanding of the word love.

wordsmith said...

Wow, Spurgeon's like so relevant for a dead white guy! ;)

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

"What is becoming clear to me is that (some) emergents have no understanding of the word love."

I would suggest that runs through the entire gamut of theological persuasions and is not limited to the over arching emergent canopy.

The "while we were yet sinners" and the "love your enemies" brands seems to be the most commonly abrogated.

centuri0n said...

What is apparent to me, insofar as anything is apparent to me, is that the wide-and-far list of objectors to our approach to criticism -- which is, btw, to criticize and not to negotiate, in line with such classic pieces of Scripture as Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Mat 23, Rev 2-3, the preaching of Elijah and John the Baptist, and so on -- cannot account for harsh words in Scripture, do not understand them or why they are equally-important expressions of God's love and mercy, and in the end only want to issue their own third-rate versions of those admonitions.

Here's my suggestion: pick one aspect of what you-all see as the problem, and have a go at a limited-scope discussion where you can air out your questions and frustrations (and hopefully, have something constructive to say) with either Dan or I without someone else interrupting or saying something (for lack of a better term) stupid which distracts from the point you think you are trying to make.

Here's the question which eludes even the best and brightest among you allegedly-nice saints alive: what is the difference between insult and satire?

Answer that question; find a way to consider it as part of your flagrante dilecto, and then you might have some way to reproach our criticism as sinful. Otherwise, go play someplace else. I'm not going to ban anyone for being intransigent, but I'm willing to ignore or forget about all the people who frankly don't even understand what kind of criticism they are trying to make.

Answer the question, or get another hobby. If you can't answer the question, you are not qualified to complain -- you don't understand the issues. You're like a baseball fan watching soccer -- you don't even understand the philosophy of the game, let alone the strategy.

centuri0n said...

And before Rick I. says it, let me say plainly that his pseudo-spiritual invocation of the name of Satan to say I'm a bad person is perhaps the least-compelling criticism of what we do here of all the self-ignorant complaints we get.

People who invoke superstitious language to make someone stop arguing are exactly -- the identical type and disposition -- like witchdoctors and jungle shaman who want to scare people into submission. When Rick trades up to something slightly-more Biblical -- like trying to buy the apostolic gifts, or maybe doing what the sons of Sceva did -- I'll take him more seriously.

steve said...

Spurgeon said, We can assure them that they cannot be one-half so much shocked by our ridicule of error as we are by the error itself.

Well said.

The pomo posters have revealed the spirit of the age: Stone those who are so bold as to expose error, and extend the right hand of fellowship to those who teach error.

rick said...

Cent - did I miss it or did you not answer the question ... again?

pseudo-spiritual? self-ignorant? etc.. What am I saying about you that is different than what you are saying about others?

Cent - you've discounted every tact I've tried. You haven't engaged in a single critique I provided.

And so I return to my original question here. Time to man up, is there any chance that you guys will ever return to promoting Scripture and lifting up Christ and stop providing people what you think they want (from you 31 August post)?

Connie said...

Well, call me heartless and unloving, but I enjoy and appreciate satire! What's more, I understand its purpose and find no offense in it.

I have very little patience for all the whining...

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

Centurian - Your first comment in its entirety will suffice as exhibit A about which I object. You are so intellectually snobberish that it seems it renders you incapable of even offering one comment without the ingredients that poison any humble and heartfelt Christian dialogue.

It isn't your doctrine, I have no complete knowledge of that, it is your approach that is objectionable to many (or not many) of us. For what it's worth, I continue to be in earnest which can be a sign of weakness and vulnerability which can be dangerous on some threads.

Some think its much ado over nothing while others believe even a little tweeking could be considered.

Ken Silva said...

"We do not make the evil, we only expose it; and if we use words and symbols which strike and stick, and even offend, we believe that they are necessary, and ought to be used far more frequently."

Thank you for placing this up. As I said when I linked it onto Slice of Laodicea and Christian Research Net this morning, it reveals the timidness of evangelical leaders today.

DJP said...

SteveStone those who are so bold as to expose error, and extend the right hand of fellowship to those who teach error.

Bore repeating.

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

"Stone those who are so bold as to expose error, and extend the right hand of fellowship to those who teach error."

Who is stoning? Which right hand of fellowship are we extending to those who teach error? What error do you mean? And asking for some tempered dialogue is "stoning"?

The atmosphere remains toxic.

Phil Johnson said...

Rick: "Any chance that you guys will ever return to promoting Scripture and lifting up Christ?"

"Return"?

Rick, as we've said repeatedly. We're convinced that an essential aspect of "promoting Scripture and lifting up Christ" involves defending the truth of Scripture and standing up for Christ by challenging those who want to redefine Him in their own terms.

Your whole dispute with us seems to stem from your naive belief that whatever errors or false teachers may be driving the EC agenda are not worth fighting about.

We disagree, but we've tried to be nice to you about it—despite your increasingly shrill imprecations.

Henry (Rick) Frueh:

"The atmosphere remains toxic."

You've been saying that for weeks, and doing your best to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't think anyone here has replied to you unkindly or in a deliberately insulting way. We just disagree with your perspective. And we'll probably still disagree if you say it another 200 times.

But if you sincerely believe it, it would seem to me that you're obliged to stop reading what we post.

OK?

Now: This post was a qote from Spurgeon. Let's talk about that. Any further posts in this thread that merely recycle old complaints about our blog will be deemed off topic and summarily deleted. The same goes for anyone who merely argues against those who are making said complaints. If you want to comment in THIS thread today, you're going to have to try to work some reference in to the actual Spurgeon material.

Clear enough?

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

OK. The Spurgeon post represents a miniscule flavor of his overall ministry which sometimes seems at odds with...

Never mind.

"But if you sincerely believe it, it would seem to me that you're obliged to stop reading what we post."

I do not "regularly" comment here, only certain subjects. But if that represents the solution I will de-thorn you.

tnpotts said...

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...
Spurgeon - "and if we judge sarcasm and ridicule to be deserved, we shall give the Lord's enemies their full quota of scorn."

Paul - "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves"

Jesus - "Love your enemies

I'm not theologian - but I think the meekness has to do with knowing your standing with Christ - not with NOT being powerful in instruction. Furthermore; is loving your enemies telling them what they want to hear - or telling them the brutal truth?

centuri0n said...

Case Closed.

Phil Johnson said...

Frank:

I'm going to interpret that as a reference to the Spurgeon quote, so I that I don't have to delete it.

To all: I'm serious about not derailing our comment-threads with recycled, dripping-faucet complaints about our blog. I'll delete all such posts in the future without any pang of regret.

If someone wants to wage a campaign against our blog, they don't get to hijack the blog to do it. We'll return the favor: If we have a complaint about what you do at your blog, we'll say so here, rather than spamming your comment-threads with the same complaint over and over.

Or, more likely, we'll just ignore you, which is what we try to do with obsessive critics at least 98% of the time.


Now, carry on.

Gilbert said...

Rick (not Henry) said:

>Any chance that you guys will
>ever return to promoting
>Scripture and lifting up Christ?

That's exactly what they're doing, in a loving, but strong way. I wouldn't even call it brutal. Meekness in defending the Gospel
is something I have been good at and am repenting of when I see it in me. The Pyros have the tone levels set appropriately.

As for Mr. Spurgeon, his intellectual and spiritual grasp of Christ was among the best of anyone I've seen. And notice he, too, used strong satire and images (the "Po-Motivators" were an idea used by Spurgeon and long before him) to defend the Gospel in a way that rattled the cages of those stubborn enough to believe bad/false theology. And as you can see, he also got rained down on by his critics, and I more than bet intellectual snobbery was amongst the criticisms. Some things never change...but I'll say this. It isn't intellectual snobbery that you see, but the fruit of the Spirit and men grounded firmly in the word and able to defend it.

And the Pyros want people to go to heaven so bad that they'll love their enemies by taking unsubstantiated criticism from them...as members of the body should expect.

donsands said...

"we shall give the Lord's enemies their full quota of scorn."

I'm still learning how to do this.

Scorn but sin not.

Most times I confront someone who is belittling the truth, or taking the Gospel and twisting it, I find my anger is less then it should be, or perhaps more than it should be.

And there are times when I'm way too timid. And that's worse I believe.

Luther said there are times to condemn the false apsotles as Paul did.
I agree. And Paul did it with tears.
And he even wished himself accursed for these enemies of the Cross. And yet he said let them be accursed.

SolaMeanie said...

It seems to me that people who think this example from Spurgeon is chumming the water should review Charles Spurgeon's sermons and comments throughout the whole Downgrade Controversy. That might well disabuse them of the notion that Spurgeon treated error with kid gloves. His rhetoric could be quite withering.

As an aside, I am looking for an electric chair avatar that would activate whenever deletion of a comment or post is necessary. It would preferably be accompanied with a zapping, sizzling sound to it. For this generation, audio and visual aids frequently help make the point.

david rudd said...

phil,

can you give a little context on this ? (i know you did a little already)

is it safe to assume that those who were "shocked" by spurgeon's pamphlets were those deeply in bed with the Anglican (or other religious) establishment?

He wasn't speaking about unbelievers who were offended... is that correct?

thanks.

IronWill said...

Absolutely excellent! Spurgeon was always at the front lines of battle when it came time to face the attacks of Satan on the Church. Spurgeon was dead right on this issue. The Apostle Paul also had no problem exposing heretics and 'turning them over to Satan.' Spurgeon's comments were right on target. Thanks for this great post.

Phil Johnson said...

David Rudd: "He wasn't speaking about unbelievers who were offended... is that correct?"

Your question is loaded. It presupposes something Spurgeon himself certainly wouldn't have regarded as a given. He was no more willing than we are (and by "we," I mean "we Pyros and most of the fundies and conservative evangelicals who post positive comments here") to assume that just because people call themselves Christians and follow all the current religious fads, they are genuine believers. Spurgeon especially would not have made that assumption about professing believers who constantly hung around in circles where false doctrine was a staple and sound doctrine was constantly under attack.

In this instance, the central issue under debate was baptismal regeneration—and the related question of whether baptism or faith is the instrument of justification. Which side of that line you stand on determines how and to whom you will preach the gospel.

Spurgeon was not happy with the fuzziness evangelical Anglicans were tolerating (and in some cases fostering) in order to avoid strife within the established church. He could see that the clarity of the gospel had been lost. Worse, even among "evangelical" Anglicans, any real commitment to a sound understanding of the gospel was quickly eroding.

That was the second half of the nineteenth century, and a steady trickle of Anglicans influenced by Newman and Pusey had been converting to Roman Catholicism for twenty years or longer (including Newman himself, who ultimately became a cardinal in the church of Rome). As Spurgeon watched that happen and observed that evangelicals within the church of England were becoming progressively more timid about confronting Anglo-Catholicism, he began to speak out against Romish tendencies with great vigor, focusing mainly on baptismal regeneration.

But (as you see from the satirical tracts he published) he was equally forceful in his opposition to the wearing of ornate vestments, the rising tide of sacramentalism, and other manifestations of what he perceived (rightly, I think) as a decadent and hypocritical priesthood in the church of England.

His primary concern, of course, was the gospel. At first, I don't think it occurred to him that any authentic believer could legitimately be offended that someone was trying to defend the gospel. But both public opinion and the preponderance of "evangelicals" within the established church excoriated him for his "tone," his outspokenness, the inflexibility of his opinion, his unwillingness to compromise, and his supposed meddling in Anglican affairs. His use of satire was the final straw. His critics seized on that as "proof" that he was out of control, and they hammered him relentlessly.

He stood his ground.

So who were the offended parties? Since the controversy was featured even in the secular newspapers of that time, Spurgeon's harshest critics included people who were open about their unbelief, people who were manifestly unbiblical in their religious opinions, people who professed to be Christians did not even pretend to be evangelical in their opinions, and people who claimed to be devoted to evangelical truth. Were any of them authentic believers? Some of them probably were. But I don't think Spurgeon himself was deeply troubled by that question. He wasn't interested in mollycoddling the sensitivities of "Christians" who got upset about someone defending the gospel. He was concerned instead with the questions of whether the issues at stake were really that important or not, whether his own motives were pure, and whether he was in the right. The more he studied the issue and prayed about it, the more determined he became.

On the tactical question of whether Spurgeon's satire was effective or not, I think history fully vindicates him. The "evangelicals" within the Anglican church who most vigorously opposed Spurgeon became steadily less evangelical, and their strategy of peace and accommodation did nothing whatsoever to quell the influence of Anglo-Catholicism or strengthen the evangelical contingent in the established church.

Spurgeon, on the other hand, was a major influence in the strengthening of Victorian evangelicalism, and it seems clear that in the long run his critiques severely weakened the influence of Anglo-Catholicism in the Victorian age. Of course, his influence continues today. Most of his critics' names have long been forgotten.

We're doing our best to remind people who have canonized Spurgeon as a soft-spoken man with a kind of Mother Teresa temperament that he was never one of the gelatinous, compromising types who were a dime a dozen in the second half of the nineteenth century, and he wasn't too "nice" to use sanctified mockery against the religious fads and secular fashions of his day. His magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, represents the model we would most like to emulate here at TeamPyro.

Thanks for asking.

steve said...

Spurgeon as a soft-spoken man with a kind of Mother Teresa temperament

Brilliant imagery.

Now I'm gonna have nightmares of Spurgeon wearing a nun's habit.

terriergal said...

Spurgeon - "and if we judge sarcasm and ridicule to be deserved, we shall give the Lord's enemies their full quota of scorn."

"We can assure them that they cannot be one-half so much shocked by our ridicule of error as we are by the error itself."

AHHH! Like a cool drink of water in a dry and thirsty land!

:-)

one busy mom said...

Spurgeon uses the tools of the English language well to get his point accross, as do the Team Pyro bloggers. Sarcasm and wit are brief, pointed, precisely targetted and tend to be remembered - probably much better than long winded discertations!

I am far more a lurker here than a poster, and certainly do not have the theological training of many who comment regularly. But, none the less, I am seriously surprised by the level of offense taken to this whole issue over the last several weeks.

Are we in Christiandom becoming a household of wimps? We're told that "iron sharpens iron", but what on earth can a feather duster sharpen?

Since when has the process of growing and maturing in Christ been accomplished by only hearing what we want to hear - rather than what we need to hear? And where in Scripture has love been divorced from truth to become some sort of warm fuzzy gutless emotion - that confronts no error and says nothing which could be construed as harsh? Or perhaps I should ask where in Scripture are false doctrines or teachers coddled lest they become offended?

Silly questions....you bet...at least they should be to anyone who has even minimally read the Word.

Ok, I'm off my soap box now and done ranting....back to lurking.

David said...

thanks phil. i didn't expect to get bumped to the front page!

that was exactly the information i was wondering about.

appreciate it.

David said...

oh yeah,

i think your clarification that Spurgeon wasn't concerned with the "unbeliever" vs. "believer" label is spot on. it clarifies my question.

the anglican bit was really what i was looking for.

Daryl said...

Quote of the day from One busy Mom:

"We're told that "iron sharpens iron", but what on earth can a feather duster sharpen? "

Excellent!

Sewing said...

That was exactly the line I was about to quote. Very well put!

Actually, One Busy Mom's whole comment is very well put. Great points.