September 7, 2007

C. H. Spurgeon (1834–1892) on THEOLOGY—Ought Not to be Petrified Scripture

PETRARCH'S works are said to have laid so long in the roof of St. Mark's, at Venice, that they became turned into stone; by what process deponent sayeth not. To many men it might well seem that the Word of God had become petrified, for they receive it as a hard, lifeless creed, a stone upon which to sharpen the daggers of controversy, a stumbling-block for young beginners, a millstone with which to break opponents' heads, after the manner experienced by Abimelech at Thebez. A man must have a stout digestion to feed upon some men's theology; no sap, no sweetness, no life, but all stern accuracy, and fleshless definition. Proclaimed without tenderness, and argued without affection, the gospel from such men rather resembles a missile from a catapult than bread from a Father's table. Teeth are needlessly broken over the grit of systematic theology, while souls are famishing. To turn stones into bread was a temptation of our Master, but how many of his servants yield readily to the far worse temptation to turn bread into stone! Go thy way, metaphysical divine, to the stone-yard, and break granite for McAdam, but stand not in the way of loving spirits who would feed the family of God with living bread. The inspired Word is to us spirit and life, and we cannot afford to have it hardened into a huge monolith, or a spiritual Stonehenge—sublime, but cold, majestic, but lifeless; far rather would we have it as our own household book, our bosom companion, the poor man's counsellor and friend.
Charles Spurgeon, Feathers for Arrows; or, Illustrations for Preachers and Teachers (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 243–244.

I was very glad to see that this book is available online for free. I've been meaning to get it for years. It's filled with excellent illustrations and quotations.

The above quote made me think of how some men, particularly the young and aggressive sort, use philosophical and systematic theology as a means to beat people up and flex their intellectual muscles. They are not really impacting people's lives or persuading, except maybe their own opinion of themselves. Apologetics should be done with a view to persuading (that they may repent and come to the knowledge of the truth--even as we are continually doing the same ourselves), even when exposing the folly of an opponents position. But some men seem to engage in debate to merely crush and scornfully treat their opponents, which bespeaks pride. The living bread of the Word has turned into stone, to use the language of the illustration. Rather than produce converts to the truth, they only produce a following for themselves (usually sycophants) and ultimately harden the one they oppose against the truth. Their theology is only cold weaponry and their treatment of others is abusive. The former results in the latter.

NKJ James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

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