If adherence to the truth and its final authority in all matters of faith and practice, is what constitutes an evangelical, departure from this historic position delineates a non-evangelical. It is not a belief in the need for conversion that demarcates the evangelical from the liberal but his faithfulness to the teaching and rule of Scripture in all matters.
Now, if ‘evangelicals,’ as seems to be the case today, are prepared to overlook, ignore, or even disobey Scripture on ecclesiastical and spiritual matters, where does that leave them? In the same camp as their liberal colleagues. For there is no difference. If the liberal churchman is known for his despising of Scripture, and professing evangelicals do exactly the same under the cover of adherence to Scripture, that leaves them in precisely identical positions on this crucial matter.
Liberals are accused by conservatives of being dishonest when they take their ordination vows. They subscribe confessional standards with their ‘fingers crossed’ behind their backs (metaphorically speaking). But are evangelicals any different? Listening to them, you could be forgiven for thinking there is no difference. While they may be more truthful when it comes to confessional subscription, when the matter of church reform is raised, that’s the one subject they object to profoundly. The reason for this is some kind of inane belief that his church might need a little tweak here and there, but overall she is as near to the perfect church there is on earth. Many have convinced themselves that this is so. Some admit that things are pretty bad within their denomination, they know there is much unfaithfulness within her, they know who the ministers are who do not preach the Gospel, but they will defend her to the death against all comers.
The really interesting thing is that they all do it. Every churchman believes his church is the closest to Scripture. Some do not even measure it against Scripture, but see it as a lovely socio-religious body that keeps people from thinking too deeply about eternal issues.
While evangelicals belong to churches that hold such or similar views, they are being fundamentally dishonest when they resort to defending the indefensible. They ‘paper over the cracks’ in an attempt to show the church in better colours. They will defend the church at whatever cost to themselves or their members, but they will not so defend the Gospel or the cause of Christ in the world when these are under attack from within their churches. The church looks after you well, but the Gospel tends to get you into trouble, not only with the world but with the church itself. The church is a comfortable place to be, but standing with the Gospel is dangerous. That stand has the effect of isolating you, of causing alienation from the crowd, of leaving you friendless. And who wants that?
So to avoid that, we will keep on the road of dishonesty. We’ll go on playing the children’s game, Let’s Pretend.’ That’s good fun. We enjoy that. It’s only a game, and no one gets offended. Dishonesty gets you through church life successfully, and might even get you promoted. Dishonesty pays, but honesty, while being the best and only policy, can be too costly.