Steve Ray Thinks Spurgeon was “Dillusional”

Yes, Steve Ray spelled it “Dillusional,” though I suspect he meant “Delusional.”  But what is the basis for Ray’s complaint?  Ray quotes Spurgeon as saying:

It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.

Ray does not provide the context.  Here is the statement in its original context:

In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. My chat this afternoon is not for these great originals, but for you who are content to learn of holy men, taught of God, and mighty in the Scriptures. It has been the fashion of late years to speak against the use of commentaries. If there were any fear that the expositions of Matthew Henry, Gill, Scott, and others, would be exalted into Christian Targums, we would join the chorus of objectors, but the existence or approach of such a danger we do not suspect. The temptations of our times lie rather in empty pretensions to novelty of sentiment, than in a slavish following of accepted guides. A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences. Usually, we have found the despisers of commentaries to be men who have no sort of acquaintance with them; in their case, it is the opposite of familiarity which has bred contempt.

(Commenting and Commentaries, Lecture I)

Ray tries to justify his claim with the following argument:

But isn’t it ironic that Spurgeon is guilty of what he accuses others of neglecting? The Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles and early bishops and their writings and practices are easily accessible.

Even if that were true, it wouldn’t justify calling the great evangelist “delusional.”  In point of fact, though, Spurgeon is accusing others of neglecting the use of commentaries.  He himself did not neglect their use.  So, no – Spurgeon is not guilty of what he accuses others of neglecting.

Moreover, the way in which the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles and other prophets (not “early bishops” in anything like the modern Roman sense of “bishops”) is not what Spurgeon is talking about.  Spurgeon is not, for example, suggesting that modern day Charismatics have an insufficient respect for Scripture.  Instead, Spurgeon is talking about people who engage in “Solo Scriptura,” and literally ignore what other exegetes have found in Scripture.

Ray has completely missed the mark with his usage of Spurgeon’s quotation.

Ray then stated:

They practiced the primacy of Rome, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, new birth through water baptism, a church structure with bishops, priests and deacons.

They didn’t “practice” papal infallibility, transubstantiation, or the papacy.  The apostles themselves didn’t provide a church structure of bishops, priests, and deacons.  Steve Ray is being awfully selective in his description of what things some of the fathers taught or practiced.

Moreover, it is one thing to “ignore” what the early fathers taught, and another to disagree with them.  What is interesting is that we can justify our departure from their teachings (where we depart from them), whereas Mr. Ray cannnot.  Why?  Because oral tradition is not one of our sources of authority.  We don’t assume that important things – things necessary for salvation – were omitted from Scripture.

If, however, what the early fathers taught they taught because of oral tradition, why doesn’t Mr. Ray agree with them on everything? The answer, of course, is that in reality and in practice the “magisterium” trumps both Scripture and tradition for a member of the Roman communion.  It doesn’t matter that not one church father taught, held, believed, or practiced (for example) papal infallibility, transubstantiation, or the bodily assumption of Mary.  It doesn’t matter that Scripture doesn’t teach those things.  Rome says it, they believe it, and that settles it.  Sola Ecclesia.

Ray continues:

The 2nd century “church service” was a perfect blueprint of the Mass today and does not even remotely resemble the “Baptist church” of today.

Quite the opposite.  While there would certainly be differences from what one might think of at a “Baptist church” (which one does Ray even have in mind), there would have been a complete absence of Roman missals from a second century church – and an absence of idols, as well.

Ray concludes:

Why does Spurgeon think so much of what he supposes the Holy Spirit showed him (a tradition unknown before the 16th century) while he ignores what the Holy Spirit universally revealed to the early Church and which has been taught and practiced in an unbroken line in the Catholic Church for 2,000 years?

In point of fact, of course, Spurgeon didn’t ignore what Rome claims to teach.  Moreover, Rome’s historical claims to teach what was revealed 2000 years ago are lies.  Ray knows very well that the early church didn’t hold to papal infallibility, transubstantiation, prayers to Mary, the bodily assumption of Mary, and so forth.  That’s why he words his claims in squirrely ways, as we saw above.

For example, he claims that they “practiced the primacy of Rome.”  How exactly does he think they did that?  They didn’t take that to mean that the bishop of Rome was infallible.  They were comfortable conducting large councils that were not called by – or even attended by – the bishop of Rome (councils like Nicaea).  They settled theological disputes by appealing to Scripture, not to some papal ruling.

Rome didn’t even have a singular bishop in the beginning of the church at Rome.  Once Rome came to the point where it had only a single bishop, he may have received a lot of respect.  But that’s hardly all Rome requires people to believe – nor does Rome deserve the respect it once did.  It no longer has the kind of track record it did when some of the early fathers praised it.

– TurretinFan