30 January 2011

A Simple Test for Distinguishing Heresy from Sound Doctrine

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 "Self-Sufficiency Slain," a sermon preached on Sunday morning, 11 November 1860 at Exeter Hall.

t is a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian Church have had a decided tendency to dishonor God and to flatter man. They have always had for their covert, if not for their open aim, the exaltation of human nature, and the casting down of the sovereignty of divine grace.

Robbing God of the glory which is due unto his name, these false prophets would shed a counterfeit lustre upon the head of the rebellious and depraved creature. On the other hand, the doctrines of the gospel, commonly known as the doctrines of grace, are distinguished for this peculiarity above every other, namely, that they sink the creature very low, and present the Lord Jehovah before us as sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.

So true is this, that the most uneducated Christian may, even if he is incapable of refuting an erroneous discourse, always be able to discover its untruthfulness, if it glorifies man at the expense of God. The merest babe in grace may carry this test with him: in the midst of the diversities of opinion with which he is surrounded, he may always judge, and judge infallibly too, of the truth or falsehood of a doctrine by testing it thus—

"Does it glorify God?" If it be so it is true.

"Does it exalt man?" Then it must be false.

On the other hand, does it lay man very low, and speak of him in terms which tend to make him feel his degradation? Then doubtless it is full of truth. And does it put the crown upon the head of God, and not upon the head of man's free-will, or free-agency, or good works? Then assuredly it is a doctrine according to godliness for it is the very truth of the Lord our God.

C. H. Spurgeon


Unknown said...


"Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness." Psalm 115:1

Bryan Cross said...

The "Does it exalt man?" test would exclude the incarnation, because God taking on human nature ipso facto exalts that nature.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew said...

Interesting test.

What about the fact that man, and only man, is the bearer of the image of God? Surely an exalted position--although said exaltation does not result in the de-glorification of God.

Of course the great paradox is that man is only truly exalted (lifted up) when he humbles himself before God.

Just trying to wrap my head around the content of the post. Good food for thought.

Paula Bolyard said...

"So true is this, that the most uneducated Christian may, even if he is incapable of refuting an erroneous discourse, always be able to discover its untruthfulness, if it glorifies man at the expense of God."

I am overwhelmed and amazed at the truth and simplicity of this statement.

Tyrone said...

Good old Spurgeon, the most balanced man I have yet read. We can learn much from this brother who has passed from death to life, and yet he still speaks.

Steve Berven said...

One litmus test that always seems to work for me, in determining the value or the credibility of a Christian speaker or teacher is this: Do they say, "Listen to Me," or do they say, "Listen to God?"

The Bible teachers for whom I have the most respect are those who say, "Don't just take my word for it, look it up!"

Watchman said...

Great post thank you.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Question: Are you familiar with a little book by John Eldridge called "Epic?" This came to my mind as I read this post. We had a group at church go through his material (DVD and all) about a year ago, and it was like a workout each week for me, pointing out all the subtle problems I detected on nearly every page. It felt more like a contemporary English class with a Christian twist to it. I'm just interested in your thoughts on what category you find him to be in.

Halcyon said...

Perhaps (just perhaps) Spurgeon is not saying that the gospel calls all men dirt but rather sinners.

Just a thought.

Work in Progress said...

I would be very cautious of anything written by John Eldridge.

Definitely apply the tests laid out in this blog post to Eldridge's teachings for sure.

Tyrone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyrone said...

Halcyon, hello mate, just a thought on your thought...don't sinners come from the dirt?

Unknown said...

ah, spurgeon. thank you again my friend, your spiritual common sense has been very helpful in practice and teaching throughout the years. :)