Editorial -- By: Anonymous
JODT 16:48 (August 2012) p. 5
“The Down-Grade Controversy of 1887–88 was the most dramatic and the most disastrous episode in [Charles] Spurgeon’s career.”1 In March 1887, Spurgeon published the first of two articles entitled “The Down Grade” in his monthly magazine, The Sword and the Trowel. The articles were first published anonymously. The author was Robert Shindler, who was a close friend of Spurgeon and fellow Baptist pastor. Spurgeon granted Shindler a definite endorsement with the following words: “Earnest attention is requested for this paper. There is need of such a warning as this history affords. We are going down hill at breakneck speed.”2
The Down Grade controversy began when Spurgeon discerned an aggressive promotion of a “new theology,” which involved blatant denials of biblical truths. Moreover, the theology of both Baptists and Congregationalists with regard to the sovereignty of God in salvation remained in the confessional statements and within the trust deeds of many local churches, yet such doctrine was not within the hearts and minds of the church leadership or the congregations. Biblical truths were not being attacked; rather, they were simply ignored because the primary emphasis among the local churches was upon evangelism, missions, and practical social work. Doctrine was assumed and its importance was minimized.3
Shindler summarized the condition of evangelicalism from Puritanism to his current time by observing that every true revival will be assaulted by a compromise of doctrinal truth and will eventually denigrate into general apostasy. He compared this to a downward spiral, or “the downgrade.” Shindler wrote, “The Presbyterians were the first to get on the down line. They paid more attention to classical attainments and other branches of learning in their ministry. . . . It would be an easy step in the wrong direction to pay increased attention to academical attainments in their ministers, and less to spiritual qualifications; and to set a higher value on scholarship and oratory, than on evangelical zeal and ability to rightly divide the word of truth.”4 He did not believe that comprehensive apostasy
JODT 16:48 (August 2012) p. 6
was the intent of all “on the down line.” Some, of course, concealed their heresy but others who did not intend to deny “the proper deity of the Son of God, renouncing faith in his atoning death and justifying righteousness, and denouncing the doctrine of human depravity, the need of Divine renewal, and the necessity for the Holy Spirit...
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