I’m late in getting this out today, but Thursday’s are for pastors.
One of the most historic battles in Christendom that wore the life of perhaps the greatest preacher post apostolic named C.H. Spurgeon was called the Downgrade Conflict. The issue was the authority of Scripture. It was a time that Spurgeon was willing to unite with Arminians who believed the Bible rather than professed Calvinists who did not. He said:
“we care far more for the central evangelical truths than we do for Calvinism as a system.”
Moreover, he describes the conflict as:
“Our warfare is with men who are giving up the atoning sacrifice, denying the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and casting slurs upon justification by faith. The present struggle is not a debate upon the question of Calvinism or Arminianism, but of the truth of God versus the inventions of men.”
There is much more to learn about the Downward Conflict than is here; and we may revisit it later. But for now, I share simply there was such a thing and it was not over the doctrines of grace, but over the foundation, the authority of the Bible.
My observation in just a brief perusal of the matter thus far is that it is difficult to pin down what the Downgrade was about. Often in stressful controversies this is the case. Moreover, these types of controversies can be of great stress on the minister to even bring him to his death. Such was the case here with Spurgeon whose body was likely impacted at the time.
What can we learn just from an introduction to the Downgrade? I think we can learn that controversy has a high cost. To enter it we must be sure not only we can handle it emotionally, but that in the event that it may wear us thin–we must be sure it is worth it.
It appears at this point in study of it that Spurgeon believed it was. Brothers, we have to chart our own course in this matter. Study the cost, and be willing to risk all for the right things. But let us make sure they are the right things.
At conference this week I found myself in a conversation with an experienced pastor who spoke about being careful that we don’t do our ministries with a capital C or a capital A, meaning calvinism or arminianism. We certainly have our systems, but our systems aren’t worth dying for. I can say I can work with those of different systems who believe in the authority of Scripture in both their confession and practice. Moreover, I would probably say I am more concerned about someone who will not hold to the six days of creation more than I am concerned with the five points of calvinism, though I hold to both. Biblical authority is chief, and when people start messing with the foundations, what will the righteous do?