I love everything about Charles Spurgeon and have been a big fan for my entire ministry life. In fact, I’m related to him – five generations back. My great grandmother was a Spurgeon. So to cast him here in a negative light isn’t something I do lightly.
On Sunday September 5, 1855 this famous and very fruitful nineteenth century mega-church pastor, the one we call the Prince of Preachers, preached a message simply titled Election. In his third point he commented on Evolution which of course became very popular in his day…
Years ago we thought the beginning of the world was when Adam came upon it; but we discovered that thousands of years before that God was preparing chaotic matter to make it a fit abode for man, putting races of creatures upon it, who might die and leave behind the marks of his handiwork and marvelous skill, before he tried his hand on man.
Frankly, it baffles me that he said this because it so blatantly contradicts other passages I know he wouldn’t budge on. If indeed there were millions of years of extinction, death and killing before sin entered the world through Adam then all that is in Romans 5:12f about death entering the world through Adam becomes entirely false. Certainly Spurgeon wouldn’t toss aside Romans five to accommodate scientific theory with it’s fantastic speculations and faith-based impossible odds and so I’m left to think he didn’t think through the fact that without Genesis, there is no need for Jesus.
Here we had an opportunity for nineteenth century mega-churches and very popular ministers on both sides of the Atlantic to stand up and smack down an anti-god, anti-life ideology in it’s infancy. Who knows, they did influence many key men who did go on to shape the world, so what’s to say they wouldn’t have influenced a few key university founders and professors on this issue? Instead, Darwinism began to dominate and today Darwinism has resulted in many millions being exterminated and millions more turning from God entirely. Sadly, kids today are taught they are just the next accidental and random mutation in an unguided evolutionary process. Instead of a teaching a concern for the most vulnerable in society, we teach survival of the fittest as a fixed rule of life.
Why don’t big churches take on big issues? To some extent they do; poverty, clean water, human trafficking to name a few. But we are really selective with our salt and our light is notably intermittent. Issues like evolution, abortion and marriage are left alone. Or how about how violence in society is escalating? Why don’t big churches take on these big issues too? One reason is pastors fear their churches won’t be big for long if they venture into things controversial. Pastor, if this is your concern I’d ask what other passages are you avoiding so as to keep people in their seats? My story is that when I started speaking out on big issues my church grew – people today are looking for spiritual and moral leadership. There is an enormous moral leadership vacuum today and the truth is, someones worldview is going to shape this next generation, the only question is whose?
Losing more than we’ve saving
One of the concerns is that these issues are a diversion from the Gospel and our primary task of saving souls. However, think of how many millions have been killed by the tentacles of social Darwinism and its offshoot “favored race” eugenics fueling various atrocities and holocausts. Think of how many more millions are headed to hell because they’ve graduated our universities entirely secularized. Spurgeon spoke to an impressive 10,000 in his church week after week and many thousands were saved. However, because he and others like him did not take on this big issue it just may be that millions more were lost forever.
The Gospel is more than just getting people to heaven. The message of forgiveness of sin is just the door into the kingdom. And though Jesus said “my kingdom is not OF this world” his kingdom is absolutely IN this world. While pastors today are working hard to get people to heaven, Jesus is chompin’ at the bit to return to the earth. Heaven as we know it today is temporary, a place of rest and reward. However, we will be raised and return– we come back! –that’s the classic Christian Hope. Until then, Jesus taught us to pray on earth as it is in heaven. That means part of our task is to bring heaven’s culture and values to earth.
Do we believe the Bible speaks to all of life or don’t we?
Today, traditional values are being undermined and marriage and family are being re-defined… all on our watch. It’s not hate to love only what God loves and then champion it with boldness. Do we believe the Bible speaks to all of life or don’t we? The Bible has much to say about the economy, about devalued currency, about debt- borrower/lender nations, about working for what we eat as opposed to entitlement mentalities, about healthcare, care for the elderly, good and bad presidents/kings, immigration, crime, punishment, prisons and justice, the value of human life, fatherlessness, marriage, etc, etc. The Bible has a public and a private theology and we ought to preach more than messages pertaining to just our personal relationship with Jesus.
Pastors, I have a suggestion for a book to put on your summer reading list. It’s called A City on a Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History. America does have a long history of pastors shaping the conversation. Don’t worry about the IRS, you can talk about any issue you want from the pulpit and you should. Pastor, are your sermons changing history?
There is lots of talk these days about people’s views on marriage evolving. We are fools if we think marriage evolution stops at gay marriage. If this is all evolving, who’s to say this or that can’t marry what or whom they love? When marriage becomes anything, it becomes nothing. Maybe preachers should look ahead prophetically at marriage evolution and what that means for society.
A Prophetic Preventative Role or a Pastoral Consoling Role?
Another hero of mine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said the task of the Church is not just to tend the victims run over by the wicked wheel of society, the task of the Church is to drive a spoke in the wheel itself. In trying to stop Hitler, he did that with his life. Today pastors need to decide if they are called to a prophetic and preventative role or merely a pastoral role tending victims wounds. Are we only called to comfort or are we called to confront cause factors? When our nation experiences a horrific shooting, pastors shift into comfort and consolation mode. Wouldn’t it be better to be preventative and prophetically decry violent movies, video games and violent sports like cage-fighting, or whatever else and use our influence to champion Sermon on the Mount non-violence?
America had a prophetic voice like Amos in Martin Luther King Jr.. America today needs an Amos! “When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” (3:6) “I withheld rain… struck your fields and vineyards… sent plagues… yet you have not returned to me…” People today wonder what the heck is going on. We need to do more than just rightly divide the Word, we need to rightly interpreting the times. America needs an Amos who can rightly interpret the times, prophetically.
This summer I’m ramping up for a series I’m calling Hot Potatoes. Week after week the plan is to talk about a variety of issues most churches won’t touch with a ten foot pole. Stay tuned for more on that series.