23 January 2006

New Theology?

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon


PyroManiac devotes Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. This item is an excerpt from an article that first appeared in the January 1884 issue of The Sword and the Trowel.

There will be no new God, nor a new devil, and we shall never have a new Savior, nor a new atonement: why should we then be either attracted or alarmed by the error and nonsense which everywhere plead for a hearing because they are new?

What is their newness to us; we are not children, nor frequenters of playhouses? Truly, to such a new toy or a new play has immense attractions; but men care less about the age of a thing than about its intrinsic value.

To suppose that theology can be new is to imagine that the Lord himself is of yesterday. A doctrine which is said to have lately become true must of necessity be a lie. Falsehood has no beard, but truth is hoary with an age immeasurable. The old gospel is the only gospel. Pity is our only feeling towards those young preachers who cry, "See my new theology," in just the same spirit as little Mary says, "See my pretty new frock."

C. H. Spurgeon

He was right, of course.

Phil's signature


Mike said...

I definitely agree. Solid post.

I must confess that my church history is not as good as it should be. I try to read as much as I can but I fail endlessly. Nevertheless, from what I can grasp, it does seem that much of Church history is more likely to fall into the "Cessationist" side of the currnet issue. That is something that if true scares me with my position (and I think rightfully so).

On the other hand, it does seem that if we are a Church, a body that is founded on those who have gone before, that we would be constantly building on that foundation and it could be impossible that we discover something new (I suppose that is the view my dispensationalist friends would have to hold).

The idea of "new" and "new theology" is something I have tried to think through lately. Thanks for the brief but solid post from the great preacher.

In Christ alone,

afp763389 said...


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Jeremy Weaver said...


Daniel said...

A truth that is so self evident I am baffled that people miss it, and miss it big.

David Mohler said...


C.Stephen said...

Good stuff Phil. I know this is somewhat of a tangent, but the quote does bring up a question about Spurgeon's recurring theme of scorn for the “playhouse”. What application does that portion [we are not children, nor frequenters of playhouses. . .] have for us? Today, would he be preaching against movies? What other diversions would he accept or endorse? (I do know that he spent no little time by the sea, but it almost seems he viewed it as a necessary evil to be away for a season) More importantly, is there a biblical basis for spending a portion of our time and money on things that are purely diversions for us? I sure hope so, because I do enjoy my hobbies (and movies on occasion), but am ready to bend the knee if necessary.

Mike Morrell said...

Yes, but context should not be ignored. The panorama of Scripture unfolds a progressive revelation of God, and God's ultimate speaking in Jesus Christ resounds anew every day in fresh dialects, as the Word incarnates into ever-fresh community expressions, challenging, affirming, and inviting us into the Mystery.


wordsmith said...

"If it's new, it isn't true - and if it's true, it isn't new."

puritanicoal said...

Great post, Phil. It reminds me of what you call "Spong's spew," i.e., Bishop Spong's "new" Christianity, et al.

By the way, I just picked up "At the Master's Feet," a devotional made up of excerpts of Spurgeon's sermons and writings, put out by Zondervan. Got a take on it? My only complaint so far is that it doesn't cite where each of the excerpts is taken.

Rose~ said...

So true. In order to make sure we have the most authentic theology, we must look all the way back to the NT writers and be willing to question any teaching, whether it be from the Catholic Church, the Reformers, Spurgeon, or any modern day movements. These are all, in relation to Paul and the other apostles, "Johnny-come-latelies." Only if a "school of thought" lines up with the complete Bible truth, is it timeless. If it doesn't seem to, it should be questioned vigorously. This is what Martin Luther did with the Catholic teaching, which was very well established at the time. It is good we have the Bible in English so we can all do this.

Anne H. said...

A church in Pennsylvania, on New Year's Day, passed out envelopes which contained either a $10 bill, or a $20 or a $50 to each congregant who were told then to take that money and "invest" it in the kingdom. The story was picked up by the local newspaper. I wonder what Spurgeon would think of this.

And yet, what was Spurgeon observing in the 1800s that caused him to write what he did? (Probably not handing out money in church.)


CuriousSaint said...

Just to make sure...I assume he is not talking of "new" in reference to "mysteries" that have not yet been revealed to us that are in Scripture. Surely, once those are revealed, it will at least be new to us...right? Please advise a curious saint.

donsands said...

I love the "prince of preachers' Monday. Thanks.
We can neither add to, nor take away from the Holy Word. God forbid. And that is so encouraging and exciting, to have the truth given to us in such a way where we can feel safe and secure. Amen.

CSB said...

Allow me disagree. I think that ‘new’ does not indicate wrong. I do not believe that the current benefit of increased specialization and broader manuscript availability and scholarship doesn’t present the possibility that 'new' theology may have a lot to say. God is eternal (so any new theology is of course not really new if it is true) but God is also limitless so we could speak new true things about him all day long everyday and not cover everything. Also, I think as protestant it would be quite hypocritical to assume that any existing traditions are infallibly right and not open to critique and review.

With this being said, I beleive that traditional protestantism holds up pretty well under the glare of new critiques.

CSB said...

guess I shouldn't have used the rev jj psuedonymn for that serious comment (blogger default did it).

-and no cracks from the peanut gallery expressing suprise that the comments were intended to be serious-

marc said...

Seriously Will?

NPE said...


You ask what Spurgeon was speaking of?

I bet it was dispensational and premil theology. That was pretty new at the time.

Any contextual thoughts Pastor Phil?

Sharad Yadav said...

Will & Nate,


geoffrobinson said...


However, error tends to repeat itself throughout history.

Gordon said...

Good post. I fear that my generation has developed the habit of always seeking the "new and improved". We need to realize that you can't improve on the truth.

Mike said...

I bet it was dispensational and premil theology. That was pretty new at the time.

Dispensational Pre-mill was new (but not popular). Historic Pre-mill had existed for at least 1700 years by that time. I doubt he was talking about Dispensational Pre-mill.

Phil Johnson said...

Nate: I bet it was dispensational and premil theology. That was pretty new at the time.

No, Spurgeon himself was premill, though not dispensational. He didn't like dispensationalism, and at my website I've posted several of his Sword and Trowel pieces against Darbyite dispensationalism. (Google spurgeon.org for "Darby" to find them.)

But in this case, he was talking about modernism. He especially objected to modernism's attacks on the doctrine of penal substitution and the authority of Scripture.

Which actually underscores the other side of the truth Spurgeon was talking about: in theology, ideas that claim to be "new" rarely are. Many are simply recycled versions of old heresies.

Another curious reality evident in today's theological milieu is that those who claim to be trying to rid the church of "modern" ideas are actually recycling some of the same discredited "novelties" the early modernists were so infatuated with and Spurgeon was so opposed to.

So Spurgeon's remarks are as relevant now as the day he wrote them.

T.B. Vick said...

Theology is dynamic and changing as history changes. What this does not mean is that truth changes, it is always the same. However, the way in which we understand truth changes, this can clearly be seen throughout Church history (especially during the Reformation).

Moreover, we do not have a complete and full understanding of all the truths of the Bible (anyone who thinks they do is fooling themselves), therefore, from generation to generation we gain knowledge and understanding and this actually helps develop our theologies.

For instance, when the King James Version of the bible was written (1611) there were about 5 to 6 extant manuscripts of the Bible. So, the translation and understanding of the text was small. However, today there are over 5500 extant manuscripts of the Bible and our understanding of the text (and its theologies) are far greater than in 1611. In that sense theology does change.

Also, the first three hundred years of the (church especially during Athanasius’ day) held to an Arian view of Christ. And it was not until about 100 years after Athanasius (and after the Council of Nicaea) that the Church, in the fullest sense, accepted and embraced the orthodox view espoused at Nicaea. Here is an example of how it took 400 years for Christians to gain a better understanding of the theology of Christ (i.e. Christology).

Anyone can look back in history and see how theology has changed - this is especially true in the time of the Reformation, a set of beliefs that were built on “new theology” as opposed to what the Reformers thought was bad “old theology.”

So "New Theology" and Spurgeon's ideas, while prima facie seem noble and correct, they are certainly in need of qualification.

NPE said...

Thanks for the clarification Pastor.

I knew that he was more of a JC Ryle type premil-but modernism is a rascal isn't it?

HooverBranch said...

Wow, that was a good quote. Currently I am reading Fools Gold and a few chapters back it talked about the New Perspective on Paul. I feel like I am in a bubble where I am right now. I never heard such a theology. But having read about it and looked it up a little I am apauled at what it stands for. (or DOESNT STAND FOR)

Thanks the Lord for giving us His Word in order for Discerning between is of Him and what is NOT.

James- Ohio

HooverBranch said...

hey Phil, dont know if your going to check your old blog or not. Since you went to the new one. But I just wanted to say. I just realized you wrote the Chapter on the New Perspective on Paul. I just thought that, that was cool...

Anyways thanks for the insight in that chapter and I see you wrote another chapter that I have not yet gotten too. So I am sure I will want to say thanks for that one as well.


Unknown said...

How about starting with matter and stop
making Religions for the conceded Humanity and always
praising Biolife as we know it.
If you see creation and you compare it with Life you will notice that
probably there is very little life in the Universe but instead 99.9% matter.
Instead of asuming life is something special it could be that life is just
the degeneration of matter.Or in other words life is just infected matter.
So what the use thinking about evolution or not. Matter is sick!! That`s all.
And these is the reason why people killed themselves in the name of God.
It`s better if life goes and leaves matter in peace.
Perhaps such Religioncould make mankind Humble and
stop people praising themselves as the ultimate word
of creation.
Yours: A virus called Ernest Ewing.