Theonomists are spiritual orphans of the twentieth century. Without a lineage predating RJ Rushdoony and being repudiated as a factious and doctrinally troublesome by every orthodox branch of Christianity, the few clingers-on to the doctrine of civil-Judaizing have always been eager to find theonomicish people in the annals of Christian history who they can posthumously christen as one of them.
Sadly, Joel McDurmon at American (re)Vision has chosen to use the anniversary of Charles Spurgeon’s death to claim that the preacher proclaimed Christian Reconstruction.
Yeah. Not making that up.
Posting an excerpt from Spurgeon’s sermons, The Scales of Judgment, McDurmon argues that “Spurgeon exhibits a crucial tenet of Christian Reconstruction.” Christian Reconstruction, in case you were unaware, is the illegitimate parent of charismatic Dominionism (NAR-style Dominionism was birthed out of a meeting between Theonomists and Charismatics in 1987) and is effectively a focus on turning Christianity into a “power religion” that conquers government and culture as a part of a post-millennial conquest of the world. This, for those who know the work of Spurgeon, couldn’t be further from the theology of the Prince of Preachers.
McDurmon argues that Spurgeon might reject certain “labels” (Spurgeon would have rejected more than “labels,” but would have rejected the entire notion of Reconstruction, would have found the basic tenets of theology vomitous, and would have anathematized most theonomic leaders as sub-christian scalawags), but still ascribes to him a posthumous tendency for Reconstruction…
While Spurgeon would probably not have accepted any of our labels, and perhaps would have rejected aspects of our theology, his intense desire to follow the Bible where it leads drove him to express this element of Reconstructionism which is largely denied by the theology and practice of most evangelical and Reformed Baptist churches today: God judges nations in history, and we must therefore confront specific national sins, and preach national repentance and national righteousness, in hope for the whole world and all aspects of life to be redeemed. Spurgeon believed this. So do I.
The excerpts provided by American (Re)Vision from The Scales of Judgment are hardly a script for 20th Century Rushdoony-spawned Reconstruction. Consider this excerpt…
There has never been a deed of persecution—there has never been a drop of martyr’s blood shed yet, but shall be avenged, and every land guilty of it shall yet drink the cup of the wine of the wrath of God. And especially certain is there gathering an awful storm over the head of the empire of Rome—that spiritual despotism of the firstborn of hell. All the clouds of God’s vengeance are gathering into one—the firmament is big with thunder, God’s right arm is lifted up even now, and ere long the nations of the earth shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire. They that have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication, shall soon also have to drink with her of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath; and they shall reel to and fro, their loins shall be loose, their knees shall smite together, when God fulfils the old handwriting on the rock of Patmos.
What Spurgeon is preaching is just plain stone-cold Bible, and is nothing the slightest bit controversial, whether for the Dispensationalist or the Covenant Theologian. And, there is nothing in any of the excerpts provided by McDurmon that would be distinctively Reconstructionist. Or, should I say, even Reconstructionistish. Those desiring a cross-infused Pinky and the Brain kind of world takeover do not have a monopoly on believing the truthfulness of “vengeance is mine, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19) or that God will give just recompense to whom it is due (Hebrews 2:2).
What separates our dear Spurgeon from former theonomist, Joel McDurmon’s Reconstructionism is that Spurgeon practiced the very same kind of relatively light political engagement for which McDurmon attempts to skewer Dr. John MacArthur and blame “pessimistic premillennialists” for the downfall of mankind. The only reason McDurmon would try to turn the politically hands-off Spurgeon into a Reconstructionist is that he’s dead and can’t defend himself. Should MacArthur pass from this world before McDurmon’s liver give way, I fear that he may attempt to make even MacArthur into a posthumous Reconstructionist.
Consider the political approach of Spurgeon in A Political Dissenter from Sword and the Trowel (March 1873) that is quite the opposite of the cultural crusader overdrive of Reconstruction Dominionists. Spurgeon laments the necessity to only occasionally and when required by a specific Texts to deal with politics…
To the spiritual Churchman we would say:—Take the eighteen volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, and see if you can find eighteen pages of matter which even look towards politics; nay, more, see if there be one solitary sentence concerning politics, which did not, to the preacher’s mind, appear to arise out of his text, or to flow from the natural run of his subject. The abstinence of the preacher from such themes would be eminently praiseworthy, if it were not possibly censurable; for he may have neglected a distasteful duty.
The truth is that many of us are loath to touch politics at all, and would never do so if we were not driven to it. Our life-theme is the gospel, and to deal with the sins of the State is our “strange work,” which we only enter upon under the solemn constraints of duty.
Then, Spurgeon gives this epic blow to the moral of any Reconstructions who would seek to co-opt the preacher as a mascot for their political shenanigans…
For a Christian minister to be an active partisan of Whigs or Tories, busy in canvassing, and eloquent at public meetings for rival factions, would be of ill repute. For the Christian to forget his heavenly citizenship, and occupy himself about the objects of place-hunters, would be degrading to his high calling: but there are points of inevitable contact between the higher and the lower spheres, points where politics persist in coming into collision with our faith, and there we shall be traitors both to heaven and earth if we consult our comfort by slinking into the rear.
And yet, Spurgeon says that there are indeed causes which necessitate, on occasion, Gospel men to be political (in the context of his article, it was religious freedom for Nonconformity)…
Because we fear God, and desire his glory, we must be political—it is a part of our piety to be so. When nearest to God in prayer, we pray that his church may neither oppress nor be oppressed; when walking in holiest fellowship with Jesus, we long that he alone may be head of the church, and that she may no more defile herself with the kings of the earth. Let not our opponents mistake us: we dare carry our cause before the throne of God, and habitually do so. Our protests before man are repeated in our prayers to God. Our deepest religious emotions are aroused by the struggle forced upon us. We will not say that Nonconformists who are not abused as political Dissenters are not pious, but we will say that, if we shirked the work which makes us political, we should prove ourselves traitors to the Lord our God.
For Spurgeon, political involvement was a necessity that only on occasion was demanded, and then only for matters of extreme importance. This would be far removed from McDurmon’s conquer America “one county at a time” Reconstructionism.
Spurgeon warned greatly against preaching becoming political, saying “Ministers do well to give their votes and to express their opinions for the guidance of the people, but in proportion as the preaching becomes political and the pastor sinks the spiritual in the temporal, strength is lost and not gained.”
Could you imagine a Reconstructionist, like McDurmon, arguing that the more political one gets the less spiritual strength they will have? It would never happen.
Now, please don’t read what I’m not writing. Spurgeon wasn’t contrary to speaking out on important social issues. Spurgeon loathed slavery, and called it a “soul-destroying sin.” Spurgeon promoted laws that enforced Sabbath observance, like Joel McDurmon used to before he abandoned theonomy. Spurgeon favored laws limiting the availability of alcohol (something I don’t think McDurmon would ever favor). His political affiliation was well known. He said things like,“I often hear it said… ‘Do not bring religion into politics,’ but this is precisely where it ought to be brought, and set there in the face of all men as on a candlestick.”
What Spurgeon did not advocate for, however, was implementing Old Testament judicial law as the law of the land, or expecting the civil magistrate to do the work or responsibility of the church. In fact, Spurgeon’s membership in the Liberal Party – like all other nonconformist ministers, was precisely because they didn’t want the government to establish religion, which is a fundamental benchmark of Christian Reconstruction (Rushdoony, North et al, lamented the “religious pluralism” made possible by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment).
In fact, from everything we know about Spurgeon, we can surmise that he would have used his voice to protest politically – and do so loudly – against everything that Christian Reconstruction stands for.
Listen, friends…you are entitled to your own opinions. You are not entitled to your own history. It is simply disrespectful to abuse Spurgeon on a day in which he should be honored, to impugn his character by implying that he would countenance the sub-christian teaching of so-called “Christian” Reconstruction.