What is Downgrade? Downgrade is a colloquial expression meant to convey a doctrinal dumbing-down or theological slide into apostasy. The term denotes a rapid decline in orthodoxy or the approval of heterodoxy that would not have been approved long before.
For well over one hundred years, Southern Baptists considered Campbellites a false and sub-Christian sect because of their teachings on baptismal justification, and the SBC Sunday School Board produced material to counter their false teaching. Now, Campbellites are recruited to attend SBC seminaries and Lifeway (formerly known as the SBC Sunday School Board) sells books from Campbellites in their retail outlets. Someone might say to that, “That’s Downgrade.”
Another example might be the Elephant Room debacle of 2012 in which notable evangelical leaders gave a proverbial “thumbs up” to TD Jakes, a Oneness Pentecostal and Prosperity Gospel preacher. Not believing in the Trinity (and its classical definition) was ruled a heresy at the Council of Nicaea, but modern day evangelical leaders failed to grasp the severity of Jakes’ errors (and his prosperity preaching was not addressed at all), endorsed him as a brother in Christ. Someone might rightly rule that, “Downgrade.”
“Downgrade,” as a colloquial expression, comes from the historical “Downgrade Controversy” of Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, published a number of articles in 1887. The first several articles were written by Robert Schindler and later articles by Spurgeon himself, and they alleged that after a time of relative peace, the church-at-large had become complacent and watered-down their doctrine.
Schindler coined the term “Downgrade” in the first of those articles, when he claimed that (after giving a history of post-Reformation Europe to then modern day, churches and denominations were prone to get on “the down grade” (he used the term in two words rather than one) after abandoning key doctrines of the faith.
MODERN DAY DOWNGRADE
Listen to this message, preached in 2013, entitled “Modern Day Downgrade” at the 2013 Reformation Montana conference, which was widely listened to around the country and played on numerous Christian radio programs.