Jason K. Allen

Keeping the Faith: Spurgeon and the Downgrade Controversy

Written by Jason K. Allen |
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
The controversy cost Spurgeon dearly. It cost him his friendships. It cost him his reputation. Even his own brother disowned his decision. Yet, for Spurgeon, to remain within the Union would be tantamount to theological treason.

As Christians, we are called to share our faith, but we are also called to keep it. Like the Apostle Paul, every believer should aspire to the epitaph, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”
Perhaps no one in Baptist history better kept the faith than the illustrious Charles Spurgeon—especially as seen through the prism of the Downgrade Controversy.
The year was 1887, and Spurgeon was in the winter of life. For more than three decades, he had enjoyed singular status as the world’s most well-known preacher, but just over the horizon, storm clouds gathered.
The Downgrade Controversy began slowly at first, with three anonymous letters appearing in the March, April, and June (1887) editions of the Sword & Trowel. The three letters (later revealed to be authored by Spurgeon’s friend, Robert Shindler) warned of doctrinal slippage on a downhill slope, thus, a downgrade.
While the anonymous letters drew interest, the controversy did not explode until a few months later when Spurgeon directly entered the fray. In the August 1887 issue of the Sword & Trowel, Spurgeon threw down the gauntlet in his six-page editorial entitled, “Another Word on the Downgrade.”
At that time, Spurgeon was less than five years from his death. He was near the height of his popularity both in the Baptist Union and globally, but near the depth of his personal anguish.  Physical ailments like failing kidneys and chronic gout wracked his body, and depression plagued his soul. Simply put, he did not need, nor was he much poised for, the conflict he was about to enter. Withdrawing the largest Baptist church in England from the Union would have dire consequences.
Nevertheless, Spurgeon entered his Westwood study, fountain pen in hand, and proceeded to join the battle himself by drafting for publication the six-page article.
I own the original six-page manuscript Spurgeon wrote that day in 1887. It is fascinating to review his words, penned in his hand, with his markings, alterations, and emphases. It radiates the spirit of Paul and the urgency of keeping the faith.  The first paragraph especially has taken on immortality:
Read More
Related Posts:

Living in Light of Jesus’ Return

Written by Jason K. Allen |
Sunday, March 6, 2022
The church’s attention to Jesus’ return seems to be seasonal, with interest rising and falling based upon a host of issues, most especially current geo-political events. The need of the hour is not for more end-times speculation or an unhealthy preoccupation with the sequence of eschatological events. Such interests should give way to an eschatological anticipation that impacts how we live the Christian life until he returns.

“There are two days in my calendar: this day and that day,” quipped Martin Luther in reference to Christ’s second coming. We have come a long way since Luther’s statement, with most believers erring dramatically in one of two directions.
Second coming sensationalists are the most egregious, and widely lamented, offenders. They predict the timing of Jesus’ return; but, of course, they do so in vain. Jesus stated no man knows the day or hour of his return. The most infamous prognosticator in recent years has been Harold Camping, who on multiple occasions has predicted the specific date of Jesus’ return, thus embarrassing himself—and the name of Christ—before a watching world.
As irresponsible as Camping and his ilk are, one can argue the greater danger facing the church is not hyper-expectancy about Jesus’ return, but a slumbering church that acts as though Jesus isn’t returning at all. This seems especially to be the case in the year 2013. Twenty years ago, sermons and literature on the second coming were plentiful, but such interest seems to have gone the way of the el Camino car or the waterbed, an out of style fad from a previous generation.
This ought not be the case, for evangelicals are a second coming people. Though we hold differing positions on both the millennium and on the tribulation, we are unified on the literal and soon-coming return of Christ. For Christians, though, the most important questions to ask are not if Jesus will return—that is settled—and not when he will return, that is unknowable. The most helpful question to ask is: “So what?”
Jesus’ second coming is not an abstract doctrine with no bearing on the Christian life. Rather, the New Testament refers to Jesus’ return with applicability. The Bible is replete with references to Jesus’ second coming. These passages come not as an eschatological data dump, but as a forthcoming event that is to shape a Christian’s life. The Pauline corpus speaks with special relevance. Paul frequently references, and even elaborates on, the timing and circumstances of Christ’s return. In studying Paul’s many references to the second coming, one finds that the Apostle gives special emphasis not only to Jesus’ return, but to the church’s posture as the bride in waiting. What Jesus will do and when he will do it are not unimportant considerations, but they are not the most urgent. The most pressing consideration for believers is how we should live in light of his impending return.
An Expectant Hope
In Titus 2:13, Paul describes Jesus’ second coming as the church’s “blessed hope.” For most Christians throughout church history, expecting the second coming was more than the hope of moving from a good life to a more perfect eternal state. Rather, it was a yearning for deliverance from pestilence and war, a yearning for deliverance from death and destruction, and a yearning for deliverance from poverty and persecution, or even deliverance from martyrdom.
Read More

Do You Love the People of God?

Written by Jason K. Allen |
Thursday, September 2, 2021
In many ways, ministry is like marriage; you sacrifice for, love, and serve the body of Christ. You cannot do this—you will not do this—unless you serve out of a heart of love.

Have you ever known a married couple who confessed they didn’t love each other? I have, and trust me, there is nothing more painful. As a husband, I can’t imagine waking up every morning beside a woman I didn’t love. I pity such a person.
On a couple of occasions, I’ve had such couples meet with me. Their stories tend to be similar. Life is rote. Their relationship is boring. They are married, but they feel more like individuals sharing a home and splitting the bills. For these people, romance left town long ago. They feel trapped because they understand divorce isn’t an option.
I can’t imagine the boredom, frustration, and disappointment that type of life must entail, especially for those who, like me, believe that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.
This is what one who enters the ministry without a love for the church will feel. In many ways, ministry is like marriage; you sacrifice for, love, and serve the body of Christ. You cannot do this—you will not do this—unless you serve out of a heart of love.
Perhaps you’ve seen pastors like this. They look for every opportunity to be away from their congregation. They erect barriers between themselves and their church. They view other activities, ministerial or otherwise, as more important and more satisfying than just serving God’s people. They seem to view God’s people as an interruption to their ministry, when the people are supposed to be their ministry.
Read More

Scroll to top