What Charles Spurgeon Said About the Emerging Church
The emerging church represented by Brian McLaren and the Emergent village is not as new as it appears to be. It was already raising its ugly head in the late 19th century, because Charles Spurgeon described it perfectly in his comments on James 5:19-20.
He called it “modern thought” and “deceitful infidelity.”
Spurgeon also described the tolerant attitude of modern evangelicalism that puts up with emerging heresies. He called this “latitudinarianism.”
SPURGEON’S COMMENTS ON JAMES 5:19-20
“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
It was not merely that he fell into a mistake upon some lesser matter which might be compared to the fringe of the gospel, but he erred in some vital doctrine--he departed from the faith in its fundamentals. There are some truths which must be believed, they are essential to salvation, and if not heartily accepted the soul will be ruined. This man had been professedly orthodox, but he turned aside from the truth on an essential point.
Now, in those days the saints did not say: ‘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 their having 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 easy-going 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, “Restoring Those Who Have Erred,” Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, pp. 139-142).
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