é─˙worse than controversyé─¨
Last week, when I wrote about the need to be willing to objectively examine those whom we have admired, I had no problem following that with a few excerpts from Iain Murrayé─˘s Evangelicalism Divided on Billy Graham. I have always been in almost total disagreement with Grahamé─˘s theology and methods, and extremely dubious of their alleged results.
The experience changes considerably when the spotlight is turned toward those whose work I have appreciated. In that same volume, Murray turns his attention toward evangelicals within the Anglican church, most notably, J. I. Packer and John Stott, and how they, Packer in particular, incrementally sold their evangelical birthright for a mess of unity-pottage. The story is exceedingly disheartening and difficult to summarize in a short space.
The struggle during the 1960s and é─˘70s within the Church of England was between evangelicals and liberal anglo-catholics. In the beginning, evangelicals wanted to insist that the relatively evangelical Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (the churché─˘s official statement of faith) define who was an Anglican. The anglo-catholics wanted to accept anyone, regardless of profession, who was baptized into the church.
As unity was pursued, compromise led to compromise, until those who had held the evangelical position became willing to call virtually anyone a Christian who wished to be called one. As Murray records, é─˙Those who deny the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Christ, [Dr Stott] affirmed, do not é─˛forfeit the right to be called Christiansé─˘é─¨ [Evangelicalism Divided, 119.].
How sad that these evangelical Anglicans forgot the words of their own Bishop Ryle:
Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion. They weaken the cause of true Christianity . . . But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved. False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin . . . The old saying must never be forgotten, é─˙He is the schismatic who causes the schismé─˘ . . . Controversy in religion is a hateful thing . . . But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.
é─ţJ. C. Ryle, quoted in Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided (Banner of Truth, 2000), 141.