In one of his books, Francis Schaeffer depicts the two problems that can afflict those desiring to be true to the Christian Faith in days when biblical truth is under attack. On the one hand, some become hard and brittle in their response to errorists and develop low tolerance levels. Such men and women become schismatics and dare to break fellowship over secondary, even tertiary, issues. The history of the Church in North America in the twentieth century is strewn with such. But there is another danger. In such times, the desire to be balanced and to act in love can lead to a latitudinarianism that has lost any geographical sense of where the boundaries of orthodoxy lie. Such people, albeit, I trust, acting out of good motives, become so tolerant that they do not realize they are no longer faithful gatekeepers. They fail in affirming the boundaries that guard the core of biblical Christianity and thus betray what has been entrusted to them. As Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., has rightly noted, “A word that can mean anything means nothing. If ‘evangelical identity’ means drawing no boundaries, then we really have no center, no matter what we may claim.” [“Reformist Evangelicalism: A Center without a Circumference,” in A Confessing Theology for Postmodern Times, ed. Michael S. Horton (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 146].
I have never forgotten being told by one who was entrusted with an important charge that as he got older in the Christian life, there was more and more that was simply grey and unclear. I am thoroughly convinced now that at work in such a life was a loss of biblical priorities and imperatives and the emergence of an unhealthy latitudinarianism.
For the past thirty years or so Evangelicalism has found herself increasingly embattled within as she is being forced to engage with what are concessions to the spirit of the age that imperil the gospel. And no surprise, we are seeing the emergence of a latitudinarian spirit that is deeply disturbing. Let us guard the gospel and affirm the clear boundaries of the Faith—and let us do so with love. “Speaking the truth with love”: both are needed.