“Defend the Bible? Would you defend a lion? Loose him; and let him go!” When he spoke of Scripture, Charles Haddon Spurgeon consistently returned to two closely related themes. First, the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God. Second, this inspired Word bears testimony to the Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ.
Authority and Inspiration
The authority and inspiration of Scripture was especially important to Spurgeon throughout his life. As Lewis Drummond concludes, “Spurgeon realized the ultimate question in all theology has to be the question of authority. Where does one find the source of reliable truth concerning the Christian faith?” (Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers). The answer to this question for Spurgeon was clearly and unequivocally Scripture. Reflecting on Psalm 119, Spurgeon comments: “What is truth? The holy Scriptures are the only answer to that question. Note, that they are not only true, but the truth itself. We may not say of them that they contain the truth, but that they are the truth: ‘thy law is the truth.’ There is nothing false about the law or preceptory part of Scripture. Those who are obedient thereto shall find that they are walking in a way consistent with fact, while those who act contrary thereto are walking in a vain show.” (Treasury of David: Spurgeon’s Classic Work on the Psalms)
Full and Complete Authority
In fact, for Spurgeon, recognition of the full and complete authority of the Bible was essential to theological dialogue. Without this, there is no room for further discussion: “We can be tolerant of divergent opinions, so long as we perceive an honest intent to follow the Statute-book. But if it comes to this, that the Book itself is of small authority to you, then we have no need of further parley: we are in different camps, and the sooner we recognize this, the better for all parties concerned. If we are to have a church of God at all in the land, Scripture must be regarded as holy, and to be had in reverence.” (A Book for Parents and Teachers on the Christian Training of Children)
A Sword in the Hand of the Holy Spirit
For Spurgeon, the authority of the Bible was based on its inspiration. Therefore, this inspired and authoritative book is the Holy Spirit’s tool for accomplishing his work in the believer: “When work is done nowadays, it is, as a rule, badly done. Work done by contract is usually scamped in some part or another; but when a man does a work for himself he is likely to do it thoroughly, and produce an article which he can depend upon. The Holy Ghost has made this Book himself: every portion of it bears his initial and impress; and thus he has a sword worthy of his own hand, a true Jerusalem blade of heavenly fabric. He delights to use a weapon so divinely made, and he does use it right gloriously.” (The Sword of the Spirit)
Unleash the Lion
At the end of the day, Spurgeon was adamant about the authority of the Bible because without it, there is no sure foundation for the church and the gospel. Ultimately, the message of the Bible is Jesus Christ:
Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible. He is the constant theme of its sacred pages; from first to last they testify of him… The Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the holy child Jesus; unroll them and you find your Saviour. The quintessence of the word of God is Christ (Morning and Evening).
Throughout his ministry, Spurgeon willingly entered controversy only because of his uncompromising commitment to the authority of the Scripture. However, Spurgeon’s aim in such controversy was not a meticulous defense of the Bible’s inspiration and authority. Instead, his aim was simply to “unleash the lion.” For a more in-depth treatment of what the theological giants in the Christian tradition have taught about Scripture, check out Christian Theologies of Scripture. You can also read the introduction online.