01 October 2011

"Charity" Toward Heresy?

With a wry remark about the doctrine of "justification by doubt"

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt comes from chapter 15 of The Soul Winner, a chapter titled "Encouragement to Soul-Winners."

here are some truths which must be believed; they are essential to salvation, and if not heartily accepted, the soul will be ruined.

Now, in [the early church], the saints did not say, as the sham saints do now, "We must be largely charitable, and leave this brother to his own opinion; he sees truth from a different standpoint, and has a rather different way of putting it, but his opinions are as good as our own, and we must not say that he is in error."

That is at present the fashionable way of trifling with divine truth, and making things pleasant all round. Thus the gospel is debased, and "another gospel" propagated.

I should like to ask modern broad churchmen whether there is any doctrine of any sort for which it would be worth a man's while to burn or to lie in prison. I do not believe they could give me an answer, for if their latitudinarianism be correct, the martyrs were fools of the first magnitude.

From what I see of their writings and their teachings, it appears to me that the modern thinkers treat the whole compass of revealed truth with entire indifference; and, though perhaps they may feel sorry that wilder spirits should go too far in free thinking, and though they had rather they would be more moderate, yet, upon the whole, so large is their liberality that they are not sure enough of anything to be able to condemn the reverse of it as a deadly error.

To them black and white are terms which may be applied to the same colour, as you view it from different standpoints. Yea and nay are equally true in their esteem. Their theology shifts like the Goodwin Sands, and they regard all firmness as so much bigotry. Errors and truths are equally comprehensible within the circle of their charity.

It was not in this way that the apostles regarded error. They did not prescribe large-hearted charity towards falsehood, or hold up the errorist as a man of deep thought, whose views were "refreshingly original"; far less did they utter some wicked nonsense about the probability of there living more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds. They did not believe in justification by doubting, as our neologians do; they set about the conversion of the erring brother; they treated him as a person who needed conversion; and viewed him as a man who, if he were not converted, would suffer the death of his soul, and be covered with a multitude of sins.

They were not such easygoing people as our cultured friends of the school of "modern thought", who have learned at last that the Deity of Christ may be denied, the work of the Holy Spirit ignored, the inspiration of Scripture rejected, the atonement disbelieved, and regeneration dispensed with, and yet the man who does all this may be as good a Christian as the most devout believer!

O God, deliver us from this deceitful infidelity, which, while it does damage to the erring man, and often prevents his being reclaimed, does yet more mischief to our own hearts by teaching us that truth is unimportant, and falsehood a trifle, and so destroys our allegiance to the God of truth, and makes us traitors instead of loyal subjects to the King of kings!

C. H. Spurgeon


Anonymous said...

justification by doubting


Coram Deo said...

Slamma Jamma! Way to follow up your Elephant Room post, Phil! Somebody's on a roll! Do I sense a sermon series or Shrpherd's Conference workshop in the making?

In Christ,

David A. Carlson said...

They were not such easygoing people as our cultured friends of the school of "modern thought", who have learned at last that the Deity of Christ may be denied, the work of the Holy Spirit ignored, the inspiration of Scripture rejected, the atonement disbelieved, and regeneration dispensed with, and yet the man who does all this may be as good a Christian as the most devout believer!

If today's Mathew 7 ministries would keep their eye on and stick to concern about others basic doctrinal beliefs as those enumerated by Spurgeon I would be right on board. I am less sanguine about their attempts to push further and further down the rabbit hole in defining who needs to be burned at the stake (figuratively speaking)

Tom Chantry said...


I'm having a very hard time trying to decide which of the two issues of your post needs to be addressed first. I'll take them in reverse order.

1. We live in a day in which all Christians of all stripes agree that the execution of others for heresy is murder - plain and simple. We reached that point because of the arguments of sound, orthodox Scripture teachers (such as the early Calvinistic Baptists) who argued that Scripture does not sanction capital punishment for error. However, in our day, those who would push for every false teaching use the sordid history of heresy executions to argue that they should be allowed to spew their filth in the churches. For instance, when my Southern Baptist college objected to the viewing of a film on campus because of the gross disrespect it showed toward the Lord Jesus, the atheists began chanting that we (the Christians) would be burning them at the stake soon. This is an absurdity worthy of atheists, not of believers like yourself. I would suggest that you toss this particular charge out of your rhetorical bag; there are too many idiots who take it seriously - even if you add the words "figuratively speaking."

2. Have you been following the discussion online this week? Do you know the context of Phil's choice of a post, here? And if you do, would you agree that Trinitarian orthodoxy fits in the same category as the Deity of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the inspiration of Scripture, the atonement, and regeneration? Your post makes it unclear.

David J. Houston said...

A movie should be made about this post. Spurgeon vs. Postmodernism in the octogon. The role of Spurgeon will be played by Phil, of course, and Postmodernism would have to be played by a whiny kid in tight jeans who 'wuvs' puppies, rainbows, and heretics. Copy of Love Wins in hand. Spurgeon wins easily with the ol' ground and pound.

Jennifer McSparin said...

Jules: Thank you for pointing that out. I found the same Chandler/Furtick video on this blog: http://mrclm.blogspot.com/2011/04/matt-chandler-and-steven-furtick-at.html

And here is the MacDonald/Noble video: http://pit.lefora.com/2011/04/19/highway-to-hell-and-the-elephant-room/

For your viewing pleasure! :)

myinnuendo99 said...

1Cr 13:6 "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."

Hebrews 10:38"But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."

KimMalk said...

That Spurgeon. The timing of this was perfect as I sat through a text-book seeker sermon last night...

donsands said...

What a way to say what I have such a struggle at saying. Thanks for the post, it's edifying and helps me be a bit stronger in the joy of Christ's truth and promises, and so speak out against those who teach love shall grant all an entrance into God's court; as long as this love is from your heart, and you love as best you can.

I remember when my pastor a few years back stated that according to Mother Theressa's own words, she did not have Christ's salvation as her own. Man, did he take on a barrage of flak. Yet, he is a fine pastor, and longs for all sinners to come to the truth of God's gracious gift of salvation thru grace alone, thru faith alone.

David A. Carlson said...

@tom c
I pretty much agree with Micheal Patton on this issue - http://bit.ly/arEjVz

Tom Chantry said...


I have some (strong) disagreements on particulars there, but I think I at least understand what he is getting at. That said, one of the essentials which Spurgeon listed was inspiration, which Patton has listed among the "Essentials for Historic Orthodoxy," along with (of course) the doctrine of the Trinity.

So again, would you agree that the current controversy over the legitimization of non-Trinitarian "Christianity" is justified? Is this one worth fighting over?

David A. Carlson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David A. Carlson said...

@tom c

Any claim that uproots the basics of christian faith in belief or practice should be vigorously contested. So yes, the Trinity should be defended.

a side note - if you or any one else construed my comment to be commentary on P, D or F, or on any of their posts, it was not. It was intended to be an observation about that segment of bloggerdom that spends their time pulling weeds, but more often while the hours away pulling up wheat.

If I had meant to excoriate P, D or F, I would of done so explicitly.

Tom Chantry said...

Fair enough, Dac. As I said, I wasn't entirely clear on what you were after. This clarifies it. Thanks.