Anglican bishop, J.C. Ryle (May 10, 1816 – June 10, 1900), on the inclination of the church to compromise in his day. He may have a thing or two to say to the church today as well.
The consequences of this wide-spread dislike to dogma are very serious in the present day. Whether we like to allow it or not, it is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specially among young people. It produces what I must venture to call, if I may coin the phrase, a jelly-fish Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power. A jelly-fish is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation. Alas! It is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, “No dogma, no distinct tenets, no positive doctrine.”
We have hundreds of jelly-fish clergymen, who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity. They have not definite opinions; they belong to no school or party; they are so afraid of “extreme views” that they have no views at all.
We have thousands of jelly-fish sermons preached every year, sermons without an edge, or a point, or a corner, smooth as billiard balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint.
We have Legions of jelly-fish young men annually turned out from our Universities, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion, and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth. They live apparently in a state of suspense, like Mohamet’s fabled coffin, hanging between heaven and earth. Their only creed is to be sure and positive about nothing.
And last, and worst of all, we have myriads of jelly-fish worshippers—respectable church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors. They think everybody is right and nobody wrong, everything is true and nothing is false, all sermons are good and none are bad, every clergyman is sound and no clergyman is unsound. They are “tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine”; often carried away by any new excitement and sensational movement; ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old; and utterly unable to “render a reason of the hope that is in them.”
Never was it so important for laymen to hold systematic views of truth, and for ordained ministers to “enunciate dogma” very clearly and distinctly in their teaching.”
-J.C. Ryle, Principles for Churchmen, The Importance of Dogma, pp. 97-98
(h/t Brett Davisson)
(h/t Brett Davisson)