I wonder if you can guess the century in which the following quote was written:
"I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing church of the _____ century is as much damaged by laxity and indistinctness about matters of doctrine within as it is by skeptics and unbelievers without. Myriads of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with color blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound. If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and heterogeneous his sermons may be.
"They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error. Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Spirit or no Holy Spirit, future punishment or no future punishment, high church or low church or broad church, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism, nothing comes amiss to them: they can swallow all, if they cannot digest it! Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody is going to be lost.
"Their religion is made up of negatives and the only positive thing about them is that they dislike distinctness, and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong...The only point you can make out is that they admire earnestness and cleverness and charity, and cannot believe that any clever, earnest, charitable man can ever be in the wrong."
Well, what's your guess?
If you said the 19th century, you were right. The preceding quote comes from J. C. Ryle's classic book, Holiness (Charles Nolan, 2001: 354-55). But oh how this quote captures our own times as well. I said in my sermon last Sunday that I think the greatest danger to the Body of Christ in our times is coming from within the church, not from without.
So many pastor/teachers are not teaching their people the Word of God, and thus they are not teaching them sound doctrine as they were commanded to do (e.g., Titus 1:9, 2:1). Therefore, the people are unable to discern sound doctrine from false doctrine, and they are sitting ducks for 10,000 heresies.
In my estimation, people like Brian McLaren are much more dangerous than people like Bart Ehrman, because McLaren claims to be an evangelical and so many just roll over and take him at his word. Never mind that he denies the fact that on the cross Jesus Christ absorbed the wrath of God for all who would be saved. Never mind that he denies hell and teaches that if hell exists the cross is false advertising for God. Never mind that he denies and otherwise undermines so many essential doctrines.
If he claims to be evangelical, the modern church just rolls over and accepts it! Oh Lord Jesus, help us.
How I pray with all of my heart--and how I call you to join me in this prayer--that Christ will cause a great revival in our land and that it would start with the clergy! Oh that texts like Ephesians 4:11-16 will again grip the hearts and minds and plans of those who have been appointed as under-shepherds of the church of Jesus Christ:
"11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."