Tag Archives: C.H. Spurgeon

More Than Doctrine, But Not Less

St. Theophan the Recluse:

Christian faith is not a doctrinal system but a way of restoration for fallen man.

Question: how does “restoration for fallen man” make any sense apart from doctrine? And how is one supposed to communicate the need for (and beauty of) this restoration without using doctrinal language?

As my pastor pointed out, “restoration for fallen man” is, in and of itself, a deeply doctrinal statement with massive implications. How did man come to be fallen? What does this fallenness mean? Can man truly be restored? If so, how? These are doctrinal questions in need of doctrinal answers. We help no one – least of all the lost – when we pretend otherwise.

Spurgeon understood this well. “The gospel,” quoth he, “is a reasonable system, and it appeals to men’s understanding; it is a matter for thought and consideration, and it appeals to the conscience and the reflecting powers. Hence, if we do not teach men something, we may shout, ‘Believe! Believe! Believe!’ but what are they to believe? Each exhortation requires a corresponding instruction, or it will mean nothing. ‘Escape!’ From what? This requires for its answer the doctrine of the punishment of sin. ‘Fly!’ But whither? Then must you preach Christ, and His wounds; yea, and the clear doctrine of atonement by sacrifice. ‘Repent!’ Of what? Here you must answer such questions as, What is sin? What is the evil of sin? What are the consequences of sin ? ‘Be converted!’ But what is it to be converted? By what power can we be converted? What from? What to? The field of instruction is wide if men are to be made to know the truth which saves. ‘That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good,’ and it is ours as the Lord’s instruments to make men so to know the truth that they may believe it, and feel its power. We are not to try and save men in the dark, but in the power of the Holy Ghost we are to seek to turn them from darkness to light.”

(Hark! What is that I hear? ‘Tis the sound of St. Theophan having his butt handed to him by the Prince of Preachers. C.H. didn’t even break a sweat.)

St. Paul:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

The Christian faith isn’t just about head knowledge. It cannot be reduced to doctrine. But to echo the words of Dr. Trueman, “it cannot be meaningfully separated from it either.”

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On Doctrine

In the spirit of last week’s post, here are a few more quotes on the subject of doctrine:

“Nobody objects to a nondoctrinal Christianity because there is nothing to object to.” – Kevin DeYoung

“A nontheological faith cannot explain itself, but too theological a faith loses contact with the reason for its existence… Too much enthusiastic faith without a corresponding degree of theological understanding is almost certain to lead to error, perhaps to serious heresy. Too much doctrine unaccompanied by a living and growing faith is the recipe for dead orthodoxy.” – Harold O.J. Brown

“How is God’s name hallowed among us? When both our doctrine and living are truly Christian.” – Martin Luther

“The one thing I am here to say to you is this: that it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is virtually necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion about what the church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.” – Dorothy Sayers

“As a man is known by the company he keeps, so it is with a doctrine.” – A.W. Pink

“There is nothing which is so wrong, and so utterly false, as to fail to see the primary importance of true doctrine. Looking back over my experience as a pastor for some thirty-four years, I can testify without the slightest hesitation that the people I have found most frequently in trouble in their spiritual experience have been those who have lacked understanding. You cannot divorce these things.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Indifferentism to doctrine makes no heroes on the faith.” – J. Gresham Machen

“The gospel is a reasonable system, and it appeals to men’s understanding; it is a matter for thought and consideration, and it appeals to the conscience and the reflecting powers। Hence, if we do not teach men something, we may shout, ‘Believe! Believe! Believe!’ but what are they to believe? Each exhortation requires a corresponding instruction, or it will mean nothing. ‘Escape!’ From what? This requires for its answer the doctrine of the punishment of sin. ‘Fly!’ But whither? Then must you preach Christ, and His wounds; yea, and the clear doctrine of atonement by sacrifice. ‘Repent!’ Of what? Here you must answer such questions as, What is sin? What is the evil of sin? What are the consequences of sin ? ‘Be converted!’ But what is it to be converted? By what power can we be converted? What from? What to? The field of instruction is wide if men are to be made to know the truth which saves. ‘That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good,’ and it is ours as the Lord’s instruments to make men so to know the truth that they may believe it, and feel its power. We are not to try and save men in the dark, but in the power of the Holy Ghost we are to seek to turn them from darkness to light.” – C.H. Spurgeon

“If Error be harmless, then Truth must needs be useless.” – Abraham Booth

“Moral power has always accompanied definitive beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever.” – A.W. Tozer

Featherbed Soldier

“There is no glory in being a featherbed soldier, a man bedecked with gorgeous medals, but never beautified by a scar, or ennobled by a wound. All that you ever hear of such a soldier is that his spurs jingle on the pavement as he walks. There is no history for this carpet knight. He is just a dandy. He never smelled gunpowder in battle in his life. If he did, he fetched out his cologne to kill the offensive odor. Oh, if we could be wise enough to choose, even were as wise as the Lord Himself, we would choose the troubles which He has appointed to us, and we would not spare ourselves a single pang.” – C.H. Spurgeon

Everywhere But On His Throne

“Men will allow God to be everywhere but on His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth. And when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter; then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust.”

~ C.H. Spurgeon