Thursday, December 21, 2006

Terrier Dogs Searching for Rats

Many know the story of Charles Spurgon and the Downgrade Controversy in England. Mr. Spurgeon, pastor of the largest evangelical Baptist church in London in the 1800's, voiced his opposition to a denial of the fundamentals of the faith by his fellow Baptists. He vigrously opposed 'the modernists.' Spurgeon pointed out that in the pulpit ministries of these modernists "the Atonement is scouted, the inspiration of Scripture is derided, the Holy Spirit is degraded into an influence, the punishment of sin is turned into fiction, and the resurrection into a myth." Spurgeon did not hesitate to separate from those Baptists, and others, who rejected the plenary inspiration of the scriptures and the substitutionary atonement.

On the other hand, Spurgeon never let his opposition to classical liberalism stir him up to castigate any of his fellow evangelicals who disagreed with him on secondary or tertiary issues. While he opposed encroaching liberalism in the Baptist Union of England, an act for which he was eventually expelled from the Union, Spurgeon always insisted that there must be unity among all evangelicals who held to the fundamentals of the faith.

Spurgeon said "We are not to be always going about the world searching out heresies, like terrier dogs sniffing for rats, and to be always so confident of our own infallibility that we erect ecclesiastical stakes at which to [figuratively] roast all who differ from us." (From the "Forward," to An All-Around Ministry, page 55.)

Greg Wills, associate professor of church history at Southern Seminary, goes so far as to call Spurgeon "a poor sectarian and a weak fundamentalist," (a phrase I would view as a compliment) because of Sprugeon's views on the church and evangelical cooperation.

Wills says, "Spurgeon's view of the church encouraged his emphasis on evangelical unity. He held that there was only one church and it comprised all believers" (emphasis mine). The universal church was both visible and invisible. Dr. Wills continues expounding on Spurgeon's views of the church by explaining, "The invisible (church) referred to the regenerating work of the Spirit hidden from human eyes. The visible church referred to the work of the Spirit as made visible by the profession and deportment of believers. Since the church comprised all believers, ecclesiological differences had little importance. There were many denominations, but only one church. ("The Ecclesiology of Charles Spurgeon: Unity, Orthodox, and Denominational Identity" by Gregory Wills).

Spurgeon based his commitment to open communion on this broad ecclesiology, or generous definition of the church as composed of all believers. It is perhaps the best known of Spurgeon's ecclesiological principles. He held that the only proper qualification for participating in the Lord's Supper was conversion. Hence he invited all who believed in Jesus to receive the bread and wine. Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, whether immersed on a profession of faith or sprinkled as infants, were all welcome if only they were born again.

We Southern Baptist pastors could learn a great deal from the ministry modeled by Mr. Spurgeon. While cherishing the fundementals of the faith, may God keep us Southern Baptist pastors from becoming terrier dogs searching for rats.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


irreverend fox said...

so then it turns out that Spurgeon was a wonder you admire him so Burleson!

CB Scott said...


Spurgeon was not a liberal. In some areas he was imperfect, as are we all, but he was no liberal. It is just not true to say or to infer he was a liberal.


jasonk said...

Wade, I love your heart. I started life as a Methodist, then at age seven became a Southern Baptist. Other than college, where I studied and fellowshipped with the Wesley Foundation, I spent thirty years in the SBC. Last year, I rejoined the United Methodist Church. The church where I am a member is much more conservative than many Methodist churches. Last year, our church added more than three thousand members, many as a result of profession of faith. We are committed to Christ and His word.
My pastor, whom I love dearly, likes to quote John Wesley when he said, "if your heart is as my heart, take my hand."
It is uniquely Christian to join hands with our brothers and sisters, even those with whom we disagree. The sad thing is that so many Southern Baptists just don't get that. I'm glad you do.

Bob Cleveland said...

I sure don't know enough theology to throw rocks at Spurgeon, but one might suggest that folks examine the results of his ministry when he was alive, and also the legacy he left behind. Before complaining about some part of it.

Reminds me of the boy who got a "D" on his report card. After his father finished berating him, he asked the boy "Just what did you EXPECT me to do?". The boy said "I kind of hoped you'd notice the 6 "A's" on the card".

Spurgeon had a lot of "A's". So did Adrian Rogers. And so do many of our contemporaries on whom we've sic'ed our terrier dogs.

irreverend fox said...


I don't know which Spurgeon you are referring to...but the one described by Wade is clearly a liberal...and that is, clearly, why Wade would admire him so... why else would Wade promote the guy unless he IS a liberal...think about cb...

Anonymous said...

um, methinks irrevrend fox is being sarcastic, cb. or hyperbolic. or both.

Rex Ray said...

I agree with Spurgeon’s belief that the one Church of Jesus will be only those born again regardless of the name they go by or got ‘stuck’ with.

The first ‘stuck’ and hated name was given to Anabaptists 251 AD.
Presbyterian Edinburgh Cyclopedia: “…Baptists are the same sect of Christians…from the time of Tertuillian.” (225 AD)
In 1524, Cardinal Hosius wrote, “Baptists have been…cut off with the knife the past 1200 years.”

Why were they hated so much? Today, we see the ‘hate’ toward pedophiles, but much worse was felt toward those who refused to baptize their babies to keep them from hell.

Around 1663, Governor Endicott told Obadiah Holmes, “You have denied infant baptism! You deserve death!” Holmes was strung up and whipped until blood ran down his clothes and his shoes overflowed.

History estimates fifty million were killed in the Dark Ages. In the 1500’s on 30 miles of one highway, there were stakes every few feet with the head of a martyred Anabaptist.

Do those martyrs cry in their graves because some deny they were the ancestors of Baptists today?

We clung to our heritage until a few years ago when terrier dogs started sniffing for what they thought were rats. They barked and howled at the beloved book, “The Trail of Blood” that wrote of the information above.
They labeled it false because it didn’t fit their view of inerrancy.

Their damage control also took in “Foxes Book of Martyrs” by changing the view of James from a Catholic priest to a Baptist preacher.

These terriers even changed Matthew from the girl being “even now dead” to nearly dead in the Holman Bible.

They bark, “Moderates = liberals.” Someday these terriers will discover the rat they think they’re chewing on is the tail of a bulldog.
Rex Ray

Scotte Hodel said...

At first I thought irreverend fox was practicing sarcasm, but then I wasn't so sure.

I took a leave of absence from my university while my kids were approach their teen years. I deliberately did not attend a Baptist church during the two years I was away so that my kids could recognize what was Christian and what was culture.

One year at a Foursquare Church, one year at a United Methodist Church.

If that makes me a liberal ... well, mom always said I went to a conservative church so that I could feel like a liberal.

Tim Sweatman said...

He held that the only proper qualification for participating in the Lord's Supper was conversion. Hence he invited all who believed in Jesus to receive the bread and wine.

I'm honored to find myself in such esteemed company. This stance has recently caused me some trouble with a few search committees, but I find it to be the most biblical position.

davidinflorida said...

Pastor Wade,

Ive read Charles Spurgeon, Ive studied Charles Spurgeon, I belive that if it were possible, Charles Spurgeon would be a friend of mine. Charles Spurgeon was no liberal.

Few men have had the passion for the lost as Charles Spurgeon. He was very liberal in speading the true Gospel. He told the un-watered down truth on what was to come.

CB Scott said...


I often feel like a "Masterless Ronin" roaming around various blogs so if I have or am overstepping tell me and I will sheath My "Bushido blade" and roam away.

I would like to engage Fox once more before you expell me from your land, if I may. If your desire is otherwise you may behead (delete) me now.


In all that I have read which Wade has written (and that is much, both written and read) I have never known him to state he admired liberalism. He has quoted some that I cannot agree with but never has he presented that he admires the classic liberal position. He always states that he believes the same "fundamentals" as do I and other evangelical conservatives do.

He has actually called himself a Fundamentalist a few times, I think. I must take him at his word and have no reason to think otherwise.

To disagree on areas of theology does not make one a "liberal" and the other not. It makes us what we are: "Pilgrims seeing through a glass darkly at this present time"

We will all think the same when Jesus gives us that which is uncorruptible to replace that which is, now, very corruptible.

To use the word "liberal" is most definitly correct in describing some people living and dead. It is not a proper word to describe Spurgeon, Gill, Pink, Barnes, Wesley, Whitfield, and many others that have spoken differently from us and each other about various topics of theology, history and Scripture throughout Christian history and in contemporary times.

Liberal is not a proper word to describe Burleson, Duren, Rogers, Rogers, Green, Cole, Reynolds, Gaines or Patterson and many others.

Each and everyone of these persons will agree and disagree on various subjects of great importance, but none are liberal. Also, some of the above have been described as not being Christian.

What a lie from Hell that is.

On any day this "Ronin":-) will unsheath his blade to battle any and all that will be so shallow as to call any of these men liberal or not Christian. They are all different and do not agree "lock-step" with each other, but none are classic liberals and all believe the "fundamentals" of the Christian faith as can be easily established by their statements, faith, theology and life-style.

cb said...


Very nice post CB.

I must confess, I thought fox was being over the top sarcastic. However, I am sure, CB, that your post will speak to others, if not fox.

RM said...

Wade Burleson a liberal? Surely you jest... If I called him anything I would call him the following:


He can preach in my church anytime!

Timothy Cowin said...


Great post. I have been in some SBC churches that to this day still will only offer the L.S. to church members...of course not because of Landmarkism... what a joke. I do not think that there is a Landmark movement, but it is clear that many SB's have beliefs that have evolved from that system of thought.

If a person is in the Body of Christ, it would be wrong to not break bread with them. Unless they are in unrepented sin and under discipline. Spurgeon and Gill had it right. Sorry CB if that makes me weak to agree with them on something, no on further thought, I am not sorry:) (inside joke)


irreverend fox said...


I guess then you are a liberal also...

Wade takes a few weeks off and then everybody forgets about my ways?

CB Scott said...


It is just really hard for me to trust a guy that leaves his wife's dog out in the rain no matter his theology, be he conservative, moderate, fundy, liberal or convoluted:-)

irreverend fox said...


it's really hard for me to trust a guy who admires a liberal like Spurgeon...that's why I don't trust Wade...he admires those kinds of liberals...

CB Scott said...

Tim C.,

I did not say you are weak. I did not say John Gill was weak. I said he was great. I noted one weakness in Gill's work.

I also stated we are all weak in some area. If it is a problem for you to accept the fact that you are weak in some area as are we all, then maybe pride is a weakness you should examine.

There has never been or will be a theologian of complete human origin that is without flaw in some disipline of theology.


CB Scott said...

Tim C.,

Now, we see one of my "legion" of weaknesses.

The word should be disciplines not disiplines:-)


Anonymous said...

Bro. Wade,

You have overlooked two historically facts in your article on Spurgeon:

1. The Baptists in America repeated rebuked Spurgeon for his open communion pratices during his lifetime. There are many, many quotes from Southern Baptists during Spurgeon's lifetime which say he was a great preacher, but too liberal on the Lord's Supper. Remember during this time 99.9% of Southern Baptists rejected open communion.

2. Spurgeon changed his views on open communion at the end of his life. This is documented in John T. Christian's book "Close Communion" and I believe it is mentioned in Willis' article on Spurgeon. Spurgeon said that he believed restricted communion was bibilcal and that the best Baptists in the world were the Baptists in the south in America and if he would come to America to live he would join a Southern Baptist closed communionist church. He said that the reason he church was open communion in pratice was that he was never able to get the leaders to change to restricted communion.

irreverend fox said...

to whom it may concern...

I'm so conservative that I make Spurgeon, Wesley, Moody and even the great Wade Burleson look like confused, wishy washy, LIBERALS!

I'm also far more humble then all of them, and most of you, as well...

volfan007 said...

i have a deacon that lives very close to me. he has a lab that hunts moles, and he does a great job at it. moles tear up a yard in the worst kind of way, so i am very glad when this deacons dog comes over and digs up those moles and kills them.


Stephen Pruett said...

Kill the moles (i.e., those who don't agree with me). That's clearly conservative, but not biblical. Please show me an example where someone in the Bible was excluded from the church for anything but heresy or living openly in unrepentent sin. Paul dealt with all sorts of doctrinal problems and sinful behavior by warning and persuading, not by excluding. Why is this clear biblical example not appropriate for us now?

volfan007 said...


i said nothing about people who dont agree with me. where did i say that? i said moles. not people. moles tear up a yard. they destroy. the dog does me a favor by hunting them down and killing moles.


Roger Ferrell said...

I must confess, I don't know much about Spurgeon. Could anyone recommend a good biography?

Anonymous said...

Here here to this post!

Bryan Riley

CB Scott said...


Here, here?

I would have thought it: Arf, arf, arf:-)

Stephen Pruett said...

Volfan, Sorry, it's just that moles eat grubs that can destroy your lawn, so I just wouldn't let that Lab run amuck amongst them.