The “Perilous Business” of Shrinking the Gospel

I think there is a certain kind of putting aside secondary matters and doctrines and unifying with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ which brings great glory to God and is needed among fellow Christians, yet I think when the overwhelming ethos of a person or a movement is to shrink the gospel to its bare minimum one risks far too much.

We do not adorn the gospel by becoming ruggedly doctrinaire or pompous in the way we hold to God’s gracious good news, but we do not adorn it either when try to shrink the magnificent ocean of gospel truth down to a puddle on the side of a curb to splash our footsies in.

I understand the heart behind this. There is a desire to not cut off anyone from the faith, avoid pride, walk in love and humility, and honor Jesus’ passion for unity in his prayer in John 17. Obviously, these are wonderful things and Christian virtues that are essential in a polarizing world.

We do not adorn the gospel by becoming ruggedly doctrinaire or pompous in the way we hold to God’s gracious good news, but we do not adorn it either when try to shrink the magnificent ocean of gospel truth down to a puddle on the side of a curb to splash our footsies in.

We must not equivocate pompous with those who have a passion for doctrine or humble with those who tend to minimize it. Pomposity and humility come in all kinds of shapes and sizes among all types of pastors and laypeople, networks and denominations.

J. Gresham Machen in his book What is Faith? offers a warning to those who engage in the  “perilous business” of shrinking Christian doctrine down to its bare minimums:

For our part we have not much sympathy with the present widespread desire of finding some greatest common denominator which shall unite men of different Christian bodies; for such a greatest common denominator is often found to be very small indeed. Some men seem to devote most of their energies to the task of seeing just how little of Christian truth they can get along with. We, however, regard it as a perilous business; we prefer, instead of seeing how little of Christian truth we can get along with, to see just how much of Christian truth we can obtain. [(Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991, first published 1925), 159-160)]

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