Charles Spurgeon and the Importance of Consistency with Scripture in Theology

I think Charles Spurgeon comes as close as anyone I’ve read to articulating what Scripture as a whole reveals. Sadly, though I attended both a good Bible college and a good seminary, I never read Spurgeon or learned anything about him. I’d been a pastor for ten years before I discovered him, and then I couldn’t get enough of him. The Bible oozed out of his pores, and he let Scripture be Scripture, rarely twisting it to fit his theology. (One of my books on Heaven, We Shall See God, contains segments from his sermons on Heaven, so about 60% of the book is Spurgeon. It was one of my favorite books to work on, since I extracted my favorite portions from many of his messages. One day I’ll meet him and say, “Don’t know if you realized we were co-authors. There really wasn’t any way I could ask your permission!”)

Spurgeon demonstrated the importance of consistency with Scripture over consistency with one’s preferred theological leanings. He advised, “Brethren be willing to see both sides of the shield of truth. Rise above the babyhood which cannot believe two doctrines until it sees the connecting link. Have you not two eyes, man? Must you needs put one of them out in order to see clearly?” [1]

Spurgeon maintained that no man-made theological system is authoritative. He said, “My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God.” [2]

While the Bible is God breathed, theological systems are not. They are valid not to the extent that they’re self-consistent but to the degree they’re consistent with Scripture.

Spurgeon didn’t try to reconcile paradoxical doctrines (like the ones I write about in hand in Hand: The Beauty of God's Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice). He said, “That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other….These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity.” [3]

He warned against attempting to solve, by means of shortsighted logic, every apparent biblical problem: “Men who are morbidly anxious to possess a self-consistent creed,—a creed which they can put together, and form into a square, like a Chinese puzzle,—are very apt to narrow their souls.… Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of Divine revelation.” [4]

Spurgeon never apologized for his Calvinism, but first and foremost he was about following Jesus and being faithful not to just some, but to all of God’s Word. He said, “I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.” [5]  

I appreciate that he said “in the main,” meaning that he felt the freedom to disagree with Calvin when he believed God was saying something different in His Word. I have read Arminian theologians, including those I disagree with, who are equally devout and committed to Scripture. Spurgeon’s sentiments should be true of Calvinists and Arminians and every Jesus-follower. If we disagree in our theology, let us disagree with complete commitment to accepting all that Scripture says, not just the parts that best fit our backgrounds and preferred theology.

Notice what God says about HIS word that He does not say about my words or yours:

“Rain and snow fall from the sky.
But they don’t return
    without watering the earth
that produces seeds to plant
    and grain to eat.
That’s how it is with my words.
    They don’t return to me
without doing everything
    I send them to do.”

Isaiah 55:10-11, CEV

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, “Faith and Regeneration” (sermon 979, March 5, 1871, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington).

[2] C. H. Spurgeon, “Salvation by Knowing the Truth” (sermon 1516, January 16, 1880, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington).

[3] C. H. Spurgeon, “Sovereign Grace and Man’s Responsibility” (sermon 207, Royal Surrey Gardens, August 1, 1858).

[4] C. H. Spurgeon, “Faith,” in An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students.

[5] C. H. Spurgeon, The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, 1834–1854, comp. Susannah Spurgeon and Joseph Harrald (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1898), 1:176.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries