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Would Spurgeon Attend the G3 Conference

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At one time, the G3 Conference was – along with the Shepherds’ Conference – considered by many of us to be the benchmark of the solid Christian conference. With names that are almost venerable to conservative evangelical believers – Paul Washer, Voddie Baucham, et al – the conference was seen largely as a flashy display of brilliant orthodoxy. The climate in evangelicalism has changed – as well as the speaking roster at the popular Atlanta conference – and many are questioning whether it’s prudent to attend the get-together happening this week and others are asking if it’s proper for certain speakers to speak alongside others who they themselves admit are theologically problematic.

My contention, as with the Shepherd’s Conference, is that the compromise (there is no other word to describe it) of good and honorable men to take the stage with those guilty of teaching subversive theology (for surely this is how men like Josh Buice, Phil Johnson, Justin Peters, and other signers of the Dallas Statement have already described the social justice taught by David Platt, John Piper, and Mark Dever, although perhaps afraid to speak their name) is inexcusable. My use of the term inexcusable does not mean damnable but merely means that their claiming that social justice is subversive and dangerous for our Gospel witness while simultaneously locking arms with the greatest proponents of said error cannot be defended intellectually or honestly. It can only be answered (as it has thus far been) with guffaws and eye-rolls rather than their characteristically thoughtful argumentation.

My invoking of the name Spurgeon in this article is not because I believe him the thirteenth Apostle and not because the Prince of Preachers is the infallible rule of faith and practice. I invoke the name Spurgeon because I believe it’s a name revered by many of the men speaking at G3 who ought to know better than to do what they’re doing. Surely if they respect our elder brother, Spurgeon, they ought to care about what that man would think about their stance (or lack thereof) on the topic of doctrinally ecumenized compromise. If they are going to quote the man (which they have and will continue to), they should at least give a farthing of thought about what he would think about them.

Spurgeon, you see, was a separatist. There is not a better word to describe him. It is my contention than that in spite of the adulation of the 19th century preacher among the more solid brethren at G3, none of them seem to grasp the very thing about Spurgeon that made him who he was.

Far too many want to profess the faith of Spurgeon without undergoing the agony of Spurgeon. Therefore, they rationalize their ungodly allegiances and remain with the crowd. – Ernest Dinwoodie Pickering

I hang this quotation about Spurgeon around the necks of my friends speaking at G3 like an albatross, and pray they repent. Surely it stings.

Will they really profess the faith of Spurgeon but not undergo his agony? Are the Dallas Statement signers really willing to draft and sign a document about the dangers of social justice but unwilling to suffer the agony from disinviting Dever, Piper, Platt and (in the case of Shepherd’s Conference) Mohler from their conferences? Are they unwilling to suffer the agony of losing mortal friendship for the sake of their immortal Savior?

Such unwillingness to suffer the passion of Charles Spurgeon should shame them to utter his name from off their lips.

As Pickering says in his book, Biblical Separation, Charles Spurgeon was “one of the great separatists of all time.” Speaking of the creep of liberalism into the British Isles, Pickering writes:

Liberalism was present among the Baptists of the British Isles, but it was covered over by professions of loyalty to the evangleical faith and not publicly debated. Charles Spurgeon…was not easily fooled by outward appearances, however. Not only was he a great preacher, but he possessed a deep understsanding of doctrine and a strong commitment to the old fashioned faith of the apostles.

Liberalism, of course, is always “covered over by professions of loyalty to the evangelical faith.” In polemics today, we call that being website orthodox. As when Phil Johnson and Todd Friel (two wonderful men) recently assumed that Beth Moore was a sister in Christ (while commendably encouraging people to avoid her, to their credit) based upon nothing but her profession, many in Spurgeon’s day fell for the shallow, false confessions of the most subversive teachers. In the great theological crisis of every age, believers have to re-learn the Biblical teaching that wolves come in sheep’s clothing, which is nothing but a spirit-inspired way of saying “false professions.” Sadly, those with short historical memories only seem to learn the hard way. Such undeserved charity at taking every false teacher at their word is not only foolish, it’s biblically ill-advised.

Spurgeon wanted the Baptist Union to adopt a doctrine platform that would clearly articulate what was and was not the Gospel (as well as the other foundations of the evangelical faith) in order to “smoke out” those false professors who were a part of the Baptist Union only to maintain employment or spread their heresies. His attempts at his “proto-Dallas Statement” were rebuffed, however, because the liberals of Spurgeon’s day (like the liberals of our day) fear clear statements of doctrine lest their real beliefs be exposed.

When it became clear that his contemporaries would draft or sign no such doctrinal statement, Spurgeon dealt with the topic of separation:

It now becomes a serious question how far those who abide by the faith once delivered to the saints should fraternize with those who have turned aside to another gospel. Christian love has its claims, and divisions are to be shunned as grievious evils; but how far are we justified in being in confederacy with those who are departing from the truth?

No doubt, the brothers speaking at G3 would claim that the social justice warriors – Platt, Dever, Piper – are not guilty of infringing upon some kind of “Gospel issue” (such a defense has been provided of a similar roster at ShepCon). The problem with this argument is the long line of quotations from these men stating that social justice is a Gospel issue. If for these subversive teachers it’s a Gospel issue, it must be a Gospel issue to all of us for someone, somewhere, misunderstands the Gospel.

Spurgeon would leave his friends in the Baptist Union because they would not separate from error. About this he wrote:

It is our solemn conviction that where there can be no real spiritual communion there should be no pretence of fellowship. Fellowship with known and vital error is participating in sin.

Keep in mind that all those who Spurgeon criticized in the Baptist Union – all of them – professed loyalty to the evangelical faith. Spurgeon, however, didn’t have to buy what they were selling. He did not suffer from the same naivety under the guise of charitability as the speakers at G3.

As Spurgeon withdrew from the Baptist Union, the Baptist Union retaliated by censuring him on the way out. In the end, they voted by a margin of (roughly) 2 thousand against a mere seven to censure Spurgeon for (essentially) being a curmudgeon. In reality, he was just a separatist who valued holiness over unity.

And ultimately, this is what it comes down to for so many who turn a blind eye to the G3 Conference or Shepherd’s Conference or wink at such error because it’s committed by so many well-meaning and kind-hearted brothers. It seems that Buice and company at G3 value unity regarding this odd assortment of Calvinisty people who represent the Reformed Resurgence. The rest of us more highly value holiness. Unity is important, I would argue, but it is not more important than holiness. Here, I would agree with Spurgeon, and let the speakers at G3 agree with the Baptist Union who censured him.

Spurgeon would write:

Above all things, these prudent brethren feel bound to preserve the prestige of ‘the body,’ and the peace of the committee. Our Unions, Boards, and Associations are so justly dear to the fathers that quite unconsciously and innocently, they grow oblivious of evils which are as manifest as the sun in the heavens.

Some have misguidedly – in a way that I think is intellectually beneath them – believed that partnering with the Social Justice Warriors in such an endeavor will provide an “opportunity for discussion,” as though the only way for them to interact with one another is in the green room at a conference. Certainly, we should pray for opportunities to discuss Rob Bell’s errors but I couldn’t imagine him being invited to speak at G3. And the moment anyone says “social justice isn’t that bad,” I’ll just bang you over the head a thousand times with the word of the Dallas Statement drafters themselves and demonstrate you’re moonwalking. Or perhaps you’ve forgotten John MacArthur saying that this was the biggest polemical battle of our day?

Certainly, Josh Buice and the G3 have felt the criticism of so many of their attendees regarding the invitation of at least three wrong-headed men to speak, and so they are attempting to quiet that distemper by having a pre-conference event to discuss social justice. Surely this is enough to silence opposition?

Certainly not.

As Spurgeon would preach:

I have taken a deep interest in struggles of the orthodox brethren, but I have never advised those struggles, nor entertained the slightest hope of their successs. My course has been of another kind. As soon as I saw, or thought I saw, that error had become firmly established, I did not deliberate, but quitted the body at once. Since then my counsel has been, ‘Come out from among them.’ I have felt that no protest could be equal to that of distinct separation.

I would ask the question, has the error of Piper, Platt, and Dever not been firmly etablished when it comes to the greatest polemical battle of our day? Certainly, it has. To argue that their error is still unclear is intellectual dishonesty that I can’t tolerate. The best protest against error is to separate from it entirely.

The brothers at G3 may quote Spurgeon this week, but if Spurgeon were alive, he wouldn’t be in the room to hear it.