Fighting for the truth was a fight, as we saw last time, that Charles Spurgeon believed killed him. The battle raged around issues highlighted in a series of articles in his church magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, that described the slippery slope that had repeatedly carried the evangelical church from the peaks of orthodoxy to the valleys of heresy. The author of those articles, Robert Shindler, called this The Down Grade. It was recurring in their day, and it is back again now.
In the first article in the series, in March 1887, Shindler acknowledged that nobody deliberately sets out to be a heretic. So, he wrote,
As is usual with people on an incline, some who got on ‘the down grade’ went further than they intended, showing that it is easier to get on than to get off, and that where there is no brake it is very difficult to stop. Those who turned from Calvinism may not have dreamed of denying the proper deity of the Son of God, renouncing faith in his atoning death and justifying righteousness, and denouncing the doctrine of human depravity, ...and the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s gracious work in order that men might become new creatures; but, dreaming or not dreaming, this result became a reality.
The mangled ruins of these precious doctrines was the wreck at the bottom of the slippery slope. The article offers a familiar list of truths that are being battered today as the evangelical juggernaut hurtles down the piste toward post-modernity. But what is it that got the snowball rolling in this avalanche of doctrinal destruction?
The author of ‘The Down Grade’ articles located the start of the slide at the rejection of the authority of Scripture. In the historical examples he cited, that rejection was a capitulation to the Age of Reason. While the liberalism of today may be a strange mixture of the impact of both Reason and Non-Reason, the first flakes coming together to start the momentum of the avalanche revolve around the challenge to Scripture.
Shindler likened the earlier models of down grade dare-devils to mariners setting out with no reliable chart when they depart from the faith in the divine inspiration of Scripture. He wrote in the second article in April 1887:
In the case of every errant course there is always a first wrong step. If we can trace that wrong step, we may be able to avoid it and its results. Where, then, is the point of divergence from the "King’s highway of truth"? ...The first step is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures... Let a man question or entertain low views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible and he is without a chart to guide him.
In Shindler’s estimation, the problem was exalting reason above revelation, and that problem is alive and well in our day. We too are surrounded by self-proclaimed evangelicals who believe the Bible to be fallible – a slope that starts with fallibility in matters like science and chronology, and then careers headlong into fallibility in some of its teachings both in doctrine and practice. Yes, they say – it is inspired (like great poetry). It sprang out of the God-given religious consciousness of its human writers: not a divine revelation but a human perception of what the writer at the time perceived to be a divine revelation.
And the same subjective view of inspiration has hurtled down the hill in our day where the inspiration is now located in the reader’s perception rather than the writer’s intention. What’s important now is our subjective experience of what we feel is the revelation we see, rather than what God actually said. And as the vehicle of doctrine crashes into the obstacle of this particular heresy, all the wheels come off.
Spurgeon put his physical frame in the path of this luge of liberalism that he saw roaring down the slope. He did not die at the stake like many of his heroes, but knowing that so much was at stake, he put his life on the line. The authority of the Word of God is one of those things that are worth fighting for.