From the very beginning, the church has had to preserve its integrity and purity by protecting and fencing its membership. Jesus said that many would come in his name and make claims to faith falsely. Paul told the Ephesian elders that ravenous wolves would arise even from among them who would not spare the flock of God. Peter warned that just like false prophets arose among ancient Israel, so too, false teachers would appear from among the ranks of the visible church. Jude also warned that men have crept in unnoticed, men who were long ago marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness.
It is clear from her history that the church, from her very beginning, has had to wage war against false teachings and the false teachers who peddle them. One of the false teachings that the church has had to contend with is minimalism. Minimalism is the move to reduce the Christian confession down to as few cardinal doctrines as possible in an attempt to be as inclusive as possible. If we travel back to the 17th-century, we find a group engaging in just this very practice. What they have in common with modern evangelical liberals is uncanny.
If we rode the train of church history from its inception and stayed on for about 1500 years or so, we would find ourselves living in the 17th century. This was the time of the reign of Charles II and the puritan war. This was the era of men like John Owen and Benjamin Keach. I want to draw your attention to an interesting set of events that came to be known as the Clarendon Code, named after the Earl of Clarendon. These acts were aimed at forcing all protestants to conform to the Church’s practices. The penalties for refusing to conform to the code were severe. This was a unique time from the standpoint that a protestant state was engaged in persecuting protestant churches. It was during this period that the Cambridge Platonists appeared. They bore the name Cambridge because that is where they studied and/or taught. Needham says “Never were theologians more devoted to toleration and liberty of conscience than the Cambridge Platonists.” [Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power]
The Cambridge Platonists got their latter name because of the role that philosophy played in their theology. They believed that the heart of Puritan faith was irrational, anchored in an emotional fanaticism. According to the Cambridge Platonists, the Puritans never really laid any solid foundations for why a person should be a Christian or even a theist. [Needham] Moreover, they especially objected to the Calvinist view of divine sovereignty, thinking that it was destructive of human responsibility and morality. The Cambridge Platonists gave rise to another group that came to be known as the Latitudinarians. They were given this nickname because they insisted that a person needed only to affirm truly little to be a Christian. Some believed that all you needed to affirm is that Jesus is the Messiah. We tend to refer to this view as Christian minimalism.
When men like Russell Moore and Tim Keller affirm others like Martin Luther King, Jr., they are doing exactly what the Latitudinarians did. They are stripping the Christian confession of its component parts. They are saying that you can be a Christian and reject the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ. They are saying that you can be a Christian and overtly reject the Bible’s mandate regarding Christian submission to the civil authorities. They are saying that one can be a Christian and carry on a sexually promiscuous lifestyle.
When Sam Allberry says that you can have unnatural and degrading desires for sexual relations with someone of the same sex, he is saying that you can be unholy and impure in your thoughts and actions in an unrepentant way, and still be a Christian. It is interesting that the Latitudinarians often lacked theological depth in their preaching as do 95% of evangelical pastors. In addition to this, their pragmatic view of reason made them strong supporters of the new scientific thought. Perhaps this is why homosexuality is making inroads into the churches so quickly. For years now, we have heard modern Latitudinarians like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, and others scream that doctrine doesn’t matter.
Paul tells us clearly that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. He appears to be what he is not. So, it is no surprise when his servants disguise themselves to be servants of righteousness. Their end, Paul tells us, will correspond to their deeds. I am not suggesting that anyone mentioned in this article is a servant of the devil. I am merely pointing out that Christians have been warned as to the devil’s cunning and we would be wise to heed those warnings and receive them with the same soberness with which they were given. The whole point of camouflage is to go unnoticed, to blend in with your surroundings. Therefore, many of the modern false teachers can sound so orthodox so often. The discerning Christian must ask if this is genuine or if it is camouflage? Are these men servants of righteousness or servants of unrighteousness? Are they godly teachers or modern-day Latitudinarians?
While the Latitudinarians are busy stripping the Christian faith of its offensive components, especially around the issue of homosexuality, gender dysphoria, and same-sex attraction, the latest studies show indisputable proof that these behaviors are not immutable after all. As Christians, we already knew this. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the Latitudinarians. All that matters is that we make Christianity as rational as possible, as reasonable as we can, and that we do so using the world’s criteria for what passes as reasonable.