27 November 2010

A Warning about Academic Hubris

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Icoboclast," a sermon preached on Sunday morning 13 November 1870 at the Met Tab in London.

n the Christian church there is, I am afraid, at this moment too much exaltation of talent and dependence upon education, I mean especially in reference to ministers.

I do not believe that a man of God who is called constantly to preach to the same people can be too thoroughly educated, neither do I believe that the highest degree of mental culture should be any injury to the Christian minister, but rather should be very helpful to him. By all means let the religious teacher intermeddle with all knowledge, let him give himself unto reading and be able mentally as well as spiritually to take the lead, but, O church of God, never set thou up human learning in the place of the Eternal Spirit, for "it is not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord."

The great wonders of apostolic times were mainly wrought by men who were illiterate in the world's judgment; they had been taught of Christ and so had received the noblest education, but in classical studies and in philosophical speculations they were but little versed, with the exception of the apostle Paul, and he came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom. Yet the apostles and their followers preached with such power, that the world soon felt their presence.

On the slabs of stone which mark the burial places of the early Christians in the catacombs of Rome, the inscriptions are nearly all ill spelt, many of them have here a letter in Greek and there a letter in Latin, grammar is forgotten, and orthography is violated, a proof that the early Christians who thus commemorated the martyred dead were many of them uneducated persons: but for all that they crushed the wisdom of the sages and smote the gods of classic lands. They smote Jupiter and Saturn, until they were broken in pieces, and Venus and Diana fell from their seats of power. Their conquests were not by the, learning of the schools; that hindered them—the Gnostic heresy, the heresy of pretended knowledge hindered but never helped the church of God.

Even thus at this hour the culture so much vaunted in certain places is opposed to the simplicity of the gospel. Therefore I say we do not despise true learning, but we dare not depend upon it. We believe that God can bless and does bless thousands by very simple and humble testimonies; we are none of us to hold our tongues for Christ, because we cannot speak as the learned; we are none of us to refuse the Lord's message to ourselves because it is spoken by an unlettered messenger.

We are not to select our pastors simply because of their talents and acquirements; we must regard their unction, we must look at their call, and see whether the Spirit of God is with them; if not, we shall make learning to be our brazen serpent, and it will need to be broken in pieces.

C. H. Spurgeon


donsands said...

Excellent quote! And that's quite a fine picture of the prince of preachers. My favorite up to now.

It's nice when a local church can have a pastor who has studied the Hebrew and Greek, ans understands the grammar, but it's just like the pastor tells us here:

"Therefore I say we do not despise true learning, but we dare not depend upon it."

Unknown said...

I enjoy Charles Spurgeon. I recently enjoyed reading his sermon entitled 'The First Christmas Carol'. I am currently reading'No Room for Christ in the Inn' and he discusses the very issue that is raised in the sermon you published here.
I am glad to read more of his ideas on the matter. Thank you for this post.

Bonnie Shelton www.scripturallyspeaking.org

Boerseuntjie said...

An excellent warning against the idoltary that is rife amongts us today -The brazen serpent in itself was gifted of the LORD to direct faith to Him; but once that bronze serpent was personified and replaved Him - it was accursed as another idol of Israel.

We MUST learn from this. And may I say not look too much upon men such as Pastor-Elders Spurgeon, Edwards, Calvin, MacArthur, Sproul or indeed our beloved local Elder-Pastors... WE MUST remain dependant upon the Spirit Himself and Sola Scriptura is the means He is pleased to apply in all our cases (Learned or foolish).

All glory to our Triune LORD YAHWEH Alone.

A needful exhortation in this celebrity cult that pervades our Churches and people today.

Thank you Pastor,

Your fellow bondslave captivated by everlating adoptive love and supernatural mercy Alone,

luke's mother said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The Prince of Preachers is a relevant today as when he was alive.

How we worship at the alter of "education". True if a man can attain a formal education he should do so but it is not always in the providence of God for this to happen.

I am saddened that in the Oklahoma City area right now there are at least three churches who have been seeking a pastor long term and in all three cases one of the main qualifications is that the next man God has for them must have a ThD. Sadly Mr. Spurgeon would not have been called by any of them, for that matter neither would Paul or Timothy.

thomas4881 said...

Hal Lindsey says that a preacher needs two degrees. One is the B.D.(Backside of the desert degree) and the other is the Bachelors of Divinity degree. The Backside of the desert degree is shown to have been earned by Moses and David. We learn to walk by faith and not by sight.

Phil Johnson said...

Luke's mother:

Why are you trolling for an atheistic blog with off-topic comments here? Your debate with Triablogue belongs on Triablogue. I think it's funny--and, of course, typical of atheist "ethics"--that you'd deliberately flout our rules as a means of complaining about an ethical breach supposedly committed by someone else. But it's not funny enough for me to waive the rule, so I have deleted your comment.

If you have a beef with someone at Triablogue, go there and discuss it with them. Adios.

J Keith Johnson said...

Great post!! It is interesting how closely this relates to James White's recent entry.