The Down-Grade Controversy

Discussion in 'Christian / Church Histories' started by Pegasus, May 22, 2017.

  1. Pegasus

    Pegasus Member

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    In March 1887, Spurgeon published in his monthly magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, an article titled “The Down Grade.” The article, published anonymously but written by Spurgeon’s friend Robert Shindler, declared that some ministers were “denying the proper deity of the Son of God, renouncing faith in his atoning death. . . . ” They were, Shindler said, on a slippery slope, or “Down Grade,” away from essential evangelical doctrines.

    In the following month’s Sword and Trowel, Spurgeon wrote, “We are glad that the article upon ‘The Down Grade’ has excited notice. . . . 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.” That summer Spurgeon wrote further on Shindler’s theme. Controversy developed, Spurgeon became the focal point of the charges, and the Baptist Union, which was bitterly divided over the question, ultimately voted to censure him.

    Explaining the tangled affair is Dr. Mark Hopkins, lecturer in church history at Theological College of Northern Nigeria.

    Full article here:

    https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/down-grade-controversy/
     
  2. reba

    reba Staff Member Administrator

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    The church battles have been around for ever
     
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  3. Pegasus

    Pegasus Member

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    Indeed. I have another to post in a few minutes which should be interesting.
     
  4. Pegasus

    Pegasus Member

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    In another article on the 'down grade controversy' they give a more detailed report of the events leading up:

    In that first article, Shindler recounted the history of the major protestant denominations in England since the beginning of Puritanism's decline in 1662. He noted that in the first generation after the Puritan era, virtually every non-conformist (non-Anglican Protestant) denomination in England drifted from orthodoxy toward an ancient form of theological liberalism called Socinianism. Shindler recounted how hundreds of post-Puritan churches had abandoned sound doctrine in favor of rationalistic skepticism, Unitarianism, and other liberal beliefs. The downward slide usually began slowly, almost imperceptibly. He suggested that denominations often "got on the down-grade" when they abandoned Calvinism (which emphasizes God's sovereignty in salvation) in favor of Arminianism (which makes human will the decisive factor). Other groups embraced Arianism (which denies the full deity of Christ). Still others simply became enamored with scholarship and worldly wisdom; consequently they lost their zeal for truth.

    More here:

    http://www.spurgeon.org/downgrd.php
     
  5. Anto9us

    Anto9us Member

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    Well hello my friend Peg and all!

    And allow the hard-core Arminian to RETORT!

    It is, imo, a MISREPRESENTATION of Arminianism to say that it "makes the human will the decisive factor", but first let me address Church History itself for a few matters:

    What "denominations" abandoned Calvinism? What "denominations" ever had Calvinism? ( I would say -- Presbyterian, "Particular Baptists" as opposed to General Baptists, and elements within Anglicanism ) These denominations, or elements of them, still have Calvinism. If they hold it to a lesser degree than in the past -- I submit that you wouldn't know that from present-day Christian message boards -- the presence of Calvinists/Calvinism on message boards is strong and quite vocal.

    One truth about Church History which I hold to be self-evident is this: the majority of Christians, both present, and throughout history - do believe/did believe in Man's (or "Hupersonity's") FREE WILL; whether they ever read one word of Jacob Arminius, or ever heard of him. Too many verses in the Bible where God speaks of CHOOSING - i.e. Joshua - "Choose this day whom you will serve", etc. CHOOSING means use of FREE WILL.

    Arminius, as I have read him, believed in PREDESTINATION BY FOREKNOWLEDGE -- God, not bounded by time, sees who will believe AND PERSEVERE, and those be THE ELECT -- and as near as I can paraphrase him, it is impossible for a believer to lose his salvation, but it might be possible for a person to CEASE TO BE A BELIEVER (as it was the person's FREE WILL , working in synergy with God's GRACE, which effected her/his BECOMING A BELIEVER.)

    Further point of history -- Arminius was once designated by the Beza bunch (followers of Calvin) - to refute the writings of a guy named Koornheert. Arminius was a Dutch Calvinist in Holland, Theology Professor and Preacher. In studying what he was supposed to refute (in behalf of the Calvie crowd) Arminius felt he could NOT refute it - that he in fact agreed with it - and so became the first "Arminian".

    Arminius' followers after his death (the Remonstrants) were divided about the OSAS vs OSnAS issue -- they (Episcopius and his comrades) were chased from Holland after the Synod of Dort -- and this "threat to Calvinism" was pretty much silenced.

    Until John Wesley.

    Wesley proposed Arminianism, even published THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE for years, and a great revival happened in England - Wesley the Arminian and Whitefield the Calvinist both preaching in the open air anywhere they could -- highly irregular in the Anglican world of the time. I mention Whitefield the Calvinist in fairness, so as not to insinuate the revival occurred solely because of the Wesleys

    Methodism and Church of the Nazarene are Wesleyan in Theology, among some others.

    Whether one of God's earliest commands -- i.e. -- DON'T EAT of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; had "the human will" as a "decisive factor" or not...

    is for all of you Bereans and Spiritual Giants to deem for yourselves.

    God didn't MAKE Eve and Adam eat the forbidden fruit -- they CHOSE to do so.


    I would submit that it is "casting slurs" on Arminius to lump him in with:

    “denying the proper deity of the Son of God, renouncing faith in his atoning death. . . .
    giving up the atoning sacrifice, denying the inspiration of Holy Scripture"

    Arminius never did any of that - yet the SLUR is he is lumped with those who did!

    and I couldn't let Arminius "take the rap" for the "DOWNGRADE" of the OP without providing this historical explanation
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
  6. reba

    reba Staff Member Administrator

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    Do not take this thread to a personal battle..

    Not necessarily directed to the last poster..
     
  7. Pegasus

    Pegasus Member

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    Good morning brother Anto9us! Looking at the Downgrade piece posted via the Spurgeon site, I can see why you take Shindler's opinion to task. It was his 'observation' of denominations of his time (late 19th century) based on where they were heading with church doctrine---which he called the 'new theology' or the 'downgrade, which today theologians coin 19th century liberal theology. Arminius was Trinitarian, devoutly defended the Scriptures as the Inspired Word of God. My estimation is Shindler and Spurgeon were not taking aim at Arminianism but the Arminian denominations which allowed the new doctrine to creep in. For their part (Shindler and Spurgeon) can be debated on such as a subjective observation. And as Spurgeon points out in Downgrade IV the same creeping in was seen in Baptist and Evangelical churches which once were of the Puritan/Calvinist persuasion.

    However, the Downgrade is not Calvinist vs. Arminian. It was orthodoxy vs. the 'new theology.' This new theology (really not new as the early church faced Pelagianism, semi-pelagianism, Arianism, Socinianism et. al.) assailed the Deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the infallible Holy Scriptures. None of which Arminius nor John Wesley and their followers assailed.

    So I ask everyone to please see this Downgrade subject in that 'light' of what is Biblically orthodox vs. what was creeping in....the challenge to the Deity of Jesus Christ, the infallibility of Holy Scriptures, substitutionary atonement of Christ, the Virgin Birth, and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is what Shindler and Spurgeon were fighting in the Downgrade controversy. It is why Spurgeon resigned from the Baptist Union.

    My point in posting these historical accounts is to show that today there is a revival of the 'old' 'new theology'---Liberalism. One only has to visit various Christian chat sites to see the challenges of the Deity of Jesus Christ, the Bible as God's infallible revelation to mankind, the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ and the Virgin Birth.

    In my observation of the Downgrade, Spurgeon and Shindler were pioneers in calling out the error creeping in. An effort taken head on in the US by the Fundamentalist movement of the latter 19th century into the early 20th century. The American Fundamentalists (for example RA Torrey) wrote books and pamphlets on the core beliefs, or 'fundamentals' of the Christian faith: the Deity of Jesus Christ, the infallibility of Holy Scriptures, substitutionary atonement of Christ, the Virgin Birth, and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Later these were known as the 5 fundamentals of the Christian faith.

    Lastly, of note, late 19th-early 20th Century fundamentalism has very little to do with what is called 'fundamentalism' today.
     
  8. Anto9us

    Anto9us Member

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    and sadly. I gotta admit, Methodists were a denomination that did -- back then -- and today...
    I don't know what will happen to United Methodist Church, maybe it will get UN-united and there will be a split...

    Other Arminian denominations (Nazarene, Wesleyan) do not seem to be/have been subject to the 'old new liberalism'; or much of any kind of liberalism at all; I can't say I haven't thought about trying out Nazarene...

    But first, Pegasus, I gotta get thru one more minor surgery at Temple VA on the 15th
    Then I hope the doctors will leave me alone for a while

    And I stay Methodist and see what happens.

    Spurgeon and Arminius seem to have one thing in common -- neither desired to be the centerpiece of any kind of schism -- and in some sense maybe both were "driven to an early grave" by being frontstage of schisms despite their desires.

    Yes, Calvinism and Arminianism aside --

    If the Nature, Person, Deity and Pre-Existence of Christ is shaky (heresy to me involves errors in these) -- then the door opens for anything -- no Virgin birth, no substitutionary Atonement, no real Resurrection, and all.

    A denial of Trinity USUALLY is accompanied by weak views of Christ's Deity -- I say USUALLY because not always do non-Trinitarians tamper with Deity of Christ, but a lot do. I can think of John Milton (who wrote Paradise Lost/Regained) as a non-Trinitarian that upheld Christ's full deity -- but that's rare.
     
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  9. Pegasus

    Pegasus Member

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    Well Brother you know I will be praying for your upcoming surgery. Thank you so much for the wonderful dialogue.

    On another note, I will send you a link to a recent article on the UMC which is getting airtime on another site.
     
  10. Anto9us

    Anto9us Member

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    Prayers are appreciated, Pegasus!

    Monday I go for a round of "Pre-Op" appointments, then Thursday it happens.

    I read the stuff on UMC -- for a long time now, plain ole Texas Methodists just shake our heads about what others do elsewhere -- I know there are UMC churches in California where THEY DON'T EVEN BELIEVE IN GOD !!

    But, oh well.
     
  11. Pegasus

    Pegasus Member

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    This "phenomenon" has infected all quarters.

    I posted this over at the other site last year:

    https://www.christianforums.com/thr...-canada-responds-to-atheist-minister.7929687/

    Here's an article on the same "pastor" from last year:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...tor-canada-gretta-vosper-united-church-canada
     

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