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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SBC Today and Spurgeon

In his ongoing attempt to defend the peculiar doctrine of the “Baptist Identity” movement, David Worley posted a quote by Spurgeon on the SBC Today Blog where Spurgeon makes several comments that have been used for years by the proponents of the Landmark (Now Baptist Identity) movement to bolster support for their inflated claims concerning Baptist History.

Here is Spurgeon’s comment:

”We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the Reformation, we were reformers before Luther or Calvin was born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the Apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor, I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man. We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove, but we are not ready to accept any help from the State, to prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with Government, and we will never make the Church, although the Queen, the despot over the consciences of men.”

I am not at all embarrassed that Spurgeon made these comments… I believe the “Baptist Identity” guys take these comments and grossly overstate Spurgeon’s agreement with the peculiar view of Baptist and Church history promoted by their fringe movement, but I am not embarrassed by Spurgeon making them. If Spurgeon were alive today I think it would be very enlightening to hear his explanation of these comments, and I think David would be very disappointed with Spurgeon’s explanation.

On a slightly different note, I am very pleased to see that the guys over at SBC Today have decided to adopt Spurgeon as the authority on Baptist doctrine and Identity… Very Pleased Indeed! Why? Because the same Spurgeon who made the above comment also made the following comment:

"The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again."—C. H. Spurgeon

Are you guys at SBC Today sure you like Spurgeon?


Grace Always,
Greg

18 comments:

Marvin Merriweather said...

I like Spurgeon because he preached Christ. His soteriology was perhaps wrong, but hey, when you claim to smoke cigars to the glory of God, it's obvious you're not 100% right.

Anyhow, God worked through Spurgeon's ignorance just as He works through the narrow-mindedness of most Calvinists.

Greg Alford said...

Marvin,

I lean more towards believing that Spurgeon's soteriology was perhaps "Right"... But I agree with you in that I like Spurgeon... cigars and all.

Grace Always,

Gary said...

Greg,

First, it is good to see a post from you in over two months! Too long between posts.

Second, the folks at SBC Today are more than happy to cherry-pick whatever they can which supports their own little festival. Don't confuse them by shining the light on the whole cloth of Spurgeon. Their heads may explode.

Grace, Mercy, and Peace,

Gary

Ben Stratton said...

Greg,

What do you think that Spurgeon meant by this quote? I think its pretty clear that Spurgeon believed in Baptist perpetuity / successionism. If there's any doubt, notice the quote below:

“We are the old apostolic Church that have never bowed to the yoke of princes yet; we, known among men, in all ages, by various names, such as Donatists, Novations, Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussities, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists, have always contended for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government. Our fathers . . . present to us, their children, an unbroken line which comes legitimately from the apostles, not through the filth of Rome, not by the manipulations of prelates, but by the Divine life.” Charles Spurgeon in New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 7, p. 613

Somehow people got the idea that only Landmark Baptists believed this. This could not be more wrong. The fact is that all Baptists (north and south, American and European) before 1890 believed this.

Greg Alford said...

Gary,

Things have been a little hectic lately… I will try and get back in the swing of posting more often... And yes those guys over at SBC Today are just as happy to cherry-pick Spurgeon’s comments as they are the Scriptures… It should surprise no one that they have already said in the comment stream that they do not agree with everything Spurgeon believes.

So I guess they would have us believe that Spurgeon is a reliable source on Church History, but not when it comes to the doctrine of Salvation? I would just like to ask them… “Which of the two is the most important, Church History or Salvation?”

Grace Always,

Greg Alford said...

Ben,

It is pretty clear from the quote that Spurgeon did “NOT” believe in Baptist Perpetuity / Successionism.

It never ceases to amaze me how some people (myself included) are often guilty of reading into someone’s comments what they want them to say. Unless you are willing to embrace the Donatists, Novations, Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussities, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists as all being in truth “Baptist”; then you have overstated the meaning of Spurgeon’s comments.

Spurgeon was not claiming that these groups were “Baptist”… Nor was Spurgeon claiming “Baptist Perpetuity” or “Baptist Successionism”… You have taken his comments completely out of context.

What Spurgeon was claiming was Perpetuity throughout Church History of those who “have always contended for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government.” This does not make these groups “Baptist”… And many of them held distinctive doctrines that most Southern Baptist would not agree with, and were these groups still with us today I do not think the SBC would be rushing to welcome them into the family.

Grace Always,

Ben Stratton said...

Greg,

It seems that you are so anti-landmark that you don't want to admit the truth about Spurgeon. Look at the quote again with my comments adding in:


“We [Who is the "we"? Answer: Baptists] are the old apostolic Church [What is he saying? Answer: Baptists are the New Testament, apostlic church] that have never bowed to the yoke of princes yet; we, [Again, who is the "we" - Baptists] known among men, in all ages, by various names, such as Donatists, Novations, Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussities, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists, [What did he just say? Answer: Baptists used to be called Donatists, Novations, etc.] have always contended for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government. Our fathers . . . present to us, their children, an unbroken line [Any unbroken line? That's sounds like a succession to me] which comes legitimately from the apostles, not through the filth of Rome, [Spurgeon is looking for his Baptist ancestors outside of hte Roman Catholic Church] not by the manipulations of prelates, but by the Divine life.” Charles Spurgeon

Greg, if you posted this quote without the name of any Baptist blog or website people would be screaming "That's a landmarker" or "That's a successionist." It's only when they find out it's Spurgeon that people begin to say we are cherry-picking quotes. Facts are facts and the fact is Spurgeon was a Trail of Blood Baptist.

Greg Alford said...

Ben,

“Facts are facts and the fact is Spurgeon was a Trail of Blood Baptist.” Laughing out Loud! Man, you are a hoot!

Ben, you can believe pigs can fly… but that does not make it so.

“Baptists are the New Testament, apostlic church.” Ben, you do realize that this is an exclusive statement? You do realize that in this statement you have arrogantly excluded all other Evangelical Christians as not belonging to the New Testament Church? Spurgeon’s willingness to work alongside other Protestant/Evangelicals of his day and his willingness to withdraw from the Baptist Union because of their progressive liberal doctrine proves just how ignorant both of your above statements, claiming Spurgeon was a trail of Blood Baptist and that Baptist are “the” New Testament apostolic church, really are.

With this doctrine at the “Core” of Landmark Baptist beliefs is there any wonder why this fringe group have caused so much division in the past? And why they are still causing division in the “New Testament” church today?

Ben, you are right about one thing… I am very “ANTI-LANDMARK”!!! And I will continue to warn my Baptist brothers of the SBC of the poison of such arrogant beliefs.

Grace Always,

Ben Stratton said...

Greg,

You just don't get it. The question is not what Charles H. Spurgeon believed about pulpit affiliation, ecumenticalism, or any other doctrine. The question is what did Charles Spurgeon belive about Baptist origins. He belived four things:

1. He belived there was an "unbroken line" between Baptists and the apostlic church.

2. He believed that Baptists had formerly been known as " Donatists, Novations, Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussities, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists."

3. He belived Baptists existed before the Reformation and were never a part of the Roman Catholic Church.

4. He belived that Baptists are "the original Christians."

Now please tell me what is the difference between what Spurgeon belived about Baptist origins and what J.R. Graves, J.M. Carroll, or G.H. Orchard belived about Baptist origins? Please enlighten me.

Greg Alford said...

Ben,

I get it just fine… You, on the other hand, have clearly proven true that some people are so passionate about defending their beliefs that they are often guilty of reading into others comments only what they want them to say.

The subject matter upon which Spurgeon sought to illuminate with his comment was not Landmark “Baptist Perpetuity/Successionism” at all… It was not an “Identity” with these groups that Spurgeon was seeking to establish in the minds of his listeners, but instead Spurgeon was seeking to flesh out the historical foundations of select Baptist Principals/Ideals. Specifically, Spurgeon sought to defend the Baptist Ideals of “contending for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government” as not new or novel ideas invented by modern day Baptist. To go beyond this is simply an exaggeration of what Spurgeon actually said.

Did Spurgeon believe that there had always existed throughout Church History separate groups of Believes who held these Ideals sacred? Yes!

Did Spurgeon believe that there had always existed throughout Church History groups of believers who existed outside of, and apart from, the Roman Catholic Church? Yes!

Did Spurgeon believe that Baptist shared certain beliefs/principals/ideals with these groups? Yes!

Does that mean that Spurgeon believed the claims you make in points 1-4? No!

I have “Sixty+” large volumes of Spurgeon’s Sermons in my personal library. I have almost every biography and history ever written about Spurgeon’s life and his ministry. They occupy over 10 feet of book shelves in my library. One would think that with such an exhaustive record of Spurgeon and his ministry, available for all to read, that if your claims were indeed valid concerning what Spurgeon believed then the evidence would be overwhelming and widely accepted. This is simply not the case.

Ben, Spurgeon indeed believed the same things as you and I (and anyone who has studied Church History) believe concerning the historical origins of certain Ideals that we Baptist now hold sacred. To go beyond this and to make the claims that you have made are simply unsupported by the historical record of his life and ministry. I do not know how I can enlighten you any further.

Now I have done my best to carefully explain my position in this debate… I wonder if you would indulge me just one question. This matter/issue of “Baptist Perpetuity/Successionism” does not appear to be a major issue with the vast majority of Southern Baptist that I know. Why is this issue of such prominence with you?

Grace Always,

Dr. James Willingham said...

Good comment Greg. The folks like the person you have answered would despise Spurgeon, and they despise the founders of the Southern Bapist Convention. No Arminian was ever elected president until the 20th century. Unfortunately, even some ofthe Reformed folks are not too happy with our past. I mean, after all, Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall had eldresses who exhorted the men. Stearns must have been a whole lot smarter on the issue. Three-four years after he reported on eldresses among the Separate Baptists, Morgan Edwards wrote a paper advocating the same view. Edwards had attended Bristol College, and he was recommended to the FBC of Philadelphia by no less than John Gill. Most people don't realize it, but your original liberals were calvinists. They were the ones who came up with the idea of religious liberty and put it in to law in Rhode Island, forced Washngton, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson to adopt the religious liberty statue which Jefferson wrote, and put pressure to James Madison to get religious liberty in the national constitution.

Greg Alford said...

Dr. Willingham,

“ No Arminian was ever elected president until the 20th century.” How true… Perhaps this is why I have always felt I was born in the wrong century?

“ Most people don't realize it, but your original liberals were Calvinists.” Ouch!!! Now that hurt. The label “Calvinist”, like the label “Baptist” can be loosely applied to a wide and diverse variety of believers. That is part of the reason why these two labels continue to cause so much confusion when used in debate today, and why for clarity sake one should always use an adjective to describe what sort of a Calvinist or Baptist you are referring to when using these two labels. For example the type of Calvinist you mention as being the “original liberals” were what I would refer to as “Institutional Calvinist”.

“They were the ones who came up with the idea of religious liberty” Personally, I have always viewed the doctrine of “Religious liberty” as a conservative doctrine. But then again, I suppose all one has to do is look around at all the foolishness in the Liberal Churches of today to see how this doctrine has been abused to promote a liberal agenda. However, I would be very hesitant to give this doctrine up; do to the fact that although it gives liberals the freedom to go very astray… it also gives me the freedom to remain true to the faith of our fathers.

Grace Always,

Ben Stratton said...

Greg,

All four of the things I mentioned were taken directly from the Spurgeon quotes. The quotes make it clear that Spurgeon believed Baptists had an "unbroken line" (His words!!!) back to the New Testaments through the Anabaptists, Waldenses, etc.

I'm glad you have so many books by Spurgeon. I'm sure you are aware that in 1868 Spurgeon wrote a favorable review of J.M. Cramp's "Baptist History" in the Sword and Trowel in which he recommended this book. Cramp's history is subtitled, " from the foundation of the Christian Church to the close of the eighteenth century" and is placed in the successionist catagory by Leon McBeth.

Now if Spurgeon didn't believe in Baptist perpetuity, why did he write so favorable about this book??? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....

If you had of told Spurgeon that Baptists were only 400 years old or that Baptists had originated in the Protestant Reformation or the English Separtists movement, he would have laughed at you. He did NOT believe these things.

He belived that our Baptist heritage went back to the apostlic church through the Anabaptists, Waldenses, etc. That's all Baptist perpetuity means and that's what Spurgeon believed.

I have provided three strong original sources showing Spurgeon believed in Baptist perpetuity. I have several more I could add to this. Can you provide a single evidence showing that Spurgeon did not belive this?

Greg Alford said...

Ben,

You “have provide three strong original sources.”??? Hardly!!!

What you have proved is ample proof of your willingness of misrepresent Spurgeon. Brother, you are putting words in Spurgeon’s mouth that he did not speak. If, as you say, Spurgeon believed this nonsense then he would have left absolutely no room for doubt. For example; there is no doubt that Spurgeon was a Calvinist. Why can I say this? Because Spurgeon preached and published a sermon titled: “A Defense of Calvinism” Where is Spurgeon’s sermon “A Defense of Baptist Perpetuity”? Answer – It does not exist!

As I have said (and proven with the very quotes you provided) Spurgeon believed in a perpetuity of “Baptist Principals” not “Baptist Perpetuity”. There is a very big difference between these two things.

By the way, it is up to you to provide the proof for your claims not me…

Grace Always,

Ben Stratton said...

Greg,

You wrote:
"Spurgeon believed in a perpetuity of “Baptist Principals” not “Baptist Perpetuity”. There is a very big difference between these two things."

What exactly is the different between those two things? Keep in mind that principles and ideas don't just exist in the air. They exist when people and churches hold to them.

Greg Alford said...

Ben,

The Baptist Faith and Message contains an array of “Baptist Principals”, which according to the preamble of our statement of faith, contains; "certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified." and that “they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us.”

Simply Holding in common with the modern Baptist movement the two Principals Spurgeon was commenting upon, (“contending for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government”) does not in any reasonable argument form a foundation upon which to claim that these historical groups of Christians were actually Baptist. That is a huge leap that I do not believe any credible Christian Historian (present company excluded) is willing to make.

------
You still have not answered my question of “Why is this such an important issue with you? Really, What difference does it make?

Grace Always,

Ben Stratton said...

Greg,

I notice you refer to Spurgeon's words "“contending for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government."

What did Spurgeon mean by this? By "purity" he is referring to the fact that the Anabaptists, Waldenses, etc. didn't allow unsaved people to join their church and by "separation from human government" he means these groups didn't believe in the Catholic / Protestant doctrine of a state church. Spurgeon is claiming that the Anabaptists, etc. believed in a regenerate church membership and separation of church and state. These are two of the biggest Baptist distinctives. But Spurgeon believed much more than that. Notice the next quote:

"By immersion the converts to Jesus in Apostolic times made their public profession. In Godly and Pious communities of the one church of Christ, the Primitive ordinance of discipleship has been practice through an unbroken succession." The New Park Street Pulpit, 1859, pg. 347

Spurgeon believed these groups also practiced believer's baptism by immersion. These are the three main Baptist distinctives.

I could send several more quotes. Spurgeon believed Baptists came from the Anabaptists. (Not the Protestants or the Reformers!) Spurgeon believed the Waldeneses, etc. held to the main Baptist distinctives and that there was an "unbroken line" (His Words!) between Baptists and the Apostolic church. This line went through the Anabaptists, Waldenses, etc.

Show these quotes to any Baptist historian professor in one of our seminaries and they will tell you Spurgeon believed in Baptist perpetuity.

As to your comment about no credible church historian believing this today, you again are wrong. Jeff Faggart, James Beller, James Duvall, Charles Blair, Robert Ashcraft, I.K. Cross (who just died) or Phillip Bryan are just a few. And there are many, many other names I could mention.

The reason this is important to me is because it is a forgotten part of our Baptist heritage. Take Spurgeon for example. You have all of those books about Spurgeon, but did you know about these quotes before hand? Probably not. Or take the Founders Conference. They publish many things I enjoy, but they totally ignore the fact that the founders of the SBC believed in Baptist perpetuity.

I will close with one more quote from Spurgeon:

“I am not ashamed of the denomination to which I belong, sprung as we are, direct from the loins of Christ, having never passed through the turbid stream of Romanism and having an origin apart from all dissent or Protestantism, because we have existed before all other sects.” Charles H. Spurgeon in New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 16, p. 66.

Greg Alford said...

Ben,

Thanks for the quotes… but once again you are reading into them (only) what you want them to read. Let’s take them in order.

1st Quote - "By immersion the converts to Jesus in Apostolic times made their public profession. In Godly and Pious communities of the one church of Christ, the Primitive [ordinance] of discipleship has been practice through an unbroken succession." The New Park Street Pulpit, 1859, pg. 347

Spurgeon is here speaking of the [ordinance] of baptism being practiced through an unbroken succession back to Apostolic times. He is NOT claiming here (as you say) that “The Baptist Church” has an unbroken succession back to Apostolic times. Ben, just because someone practices the ordinance correctly does not make them a member of the Baptist Church. The Mormons also believe in a “New Birth” conversion, a public profession of faith, and Baptism by immersion… that does not make them Baptist.

2nd Quote – (which is yours) “Spurgeon believed Baptists came from the Anabaptists. (Not the Protestants or the Reformers!)”

Since you make such a bold claim for Mister Spurgeon, and since you make so long a list of “credible” church historians who believe this revisionist church history today… I offer you a little history on the 1644, 1677, and 1689 Baptist Confessions of Faith.

----
In England during the 1630’s and the 1640’s Congregationalists and Baptists of Calvinistic persuasion emerged from the Church of England.

Their early existence was marked by repeated cycles of persecution at the hands of the established religion of crown and Parliament. The infamous Clarendon Code was adopted in the 1660’s to crush all dissent from the official religion of the state. Periods of rigorous application and intervals of relaxation of these coercive acts haunted Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists alike.
Presbyterians and Congregationalists suffered less than did Baptists under this harassment. No little reason for their relative success in resisting government tyranny was their united front of doctrinal agreement. All Presbyterians stood by their Westminster Confession of 1646. Congregationalists adopted virtually the same articles of faith in the Savoy Confession of 1658. Feeling their substantial unity with paedobaptists suffering under the same cruel injustice, Calvinistic Baptists met to publish their substantial harmony with them in doctrine.
A circular letter was sent to particular Baptist churches in England and Wales asking each assembly to send representatives to a meeting in London in 1677. A confession consciously modeled after the Westminster Confession of Faith was approved and published. It has ever since born the name of the Second London Confession. The First London Confession had been issued by seven Baptist congregations of London in 1644. That first document had been drawn up to distinguish newly organized Calvinistic Baptists from the Arminian Baptists and the Anabaptists. Because this second London Confession was drawn up in dark hours of oppression, it was issued anonymously.

-----

I know you are aware of this fact, and I do not mean to belabor the point but I feel I must do so at this point in our discussion… The very first line of the 1644 confession of faith (upon which the 1677 and 1687 confessions drew, which Mister Spurgeon himself adopted and published) says the following:

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A CONFESSION OF FAITH of seven congregations or churches of Christ in London, which are commonly, but unjustly, called Anabaptists; published for the vindication of the truth and information of the ignorant; likewise for the taking off those aspersions which are frequently, both in pulpit and print, unjustly cast upon them. Printed in London, Anno 1646.
-----

I find it therefore… Very strange that you would claim that Spurgeon claimed Baptist kinship/succession directly from the Anabaptist!

Grace Always,