24 May 2013


Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This is a re-post from March 2012. Phil explains why "erecting boundaries" is often a positive and necessary thing to do.

As usual, the comments are closed.

We're often told by gurus of church-growth and guardians of postmodern values in the evangelical community that we mustn't erect "boundaries."

I gather from the way such comments are often bandied about that the word boundaries is supposed to have totally negative connotations. Honestly: I don't see why. I can understand how worldly people whose minds are enslaved to earthbound, man-centered, self-indulgent thoughts might wish for a world without any lines or borders. But candidly, it's an attitude that's hard to reconcile with the whole tenor of the New Testament.

Contemporary evangelicals' resistance to boundaries is especially hard to reconcile with the fact that pastors (the word means shepherds) are expressly charged with guarding the flock and keeping predators out of the fold. And there simply is no realistic way to keep sheep in the sheepfold and wolves out if you refuse to observe any boundaries. In John 10:7, Jesus famously said: "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep." I cannot envision any useful purpose for having a "door [for] the sheep" if there is no sheep-pen or enclosure of some kind with well-defined, secure barricades, sturdy fences, or a protected perimeter of some kind.

But mainstream evangelicals have been indoctrinated along with the rest of postmodern society to think walls and borders are inherently sinister. We're conditioned to favor a whole different set of more stylish and more politically-correct values: tolerance, openness, diversity, mystery, indecision, broad-mindedness, and liberality. It's considered humble and generous to entertain perpetual qualms about what we believe. We're not supposed to think any single perspective can righteously claim to be true to the exclusion of all others.

So today's evangelicals bend over backward not to sound the least bit dogmatic. Because certainty is perceived throughout our culture as a kind of cruel arrogance. Clarity, authority, careful definitions, and firmness are likewise looked upon with deep suspicion. Stating your beliefs with settled conviction is a sure way to start trouble these days.

Want proof? Just page through our blog and read any random comment thread where 30 or more people have replied. You'll see, I think, that the most common complaint we get from angry commenters is that we sound too sure of our position—or some variation on that theme. (We're too rigid; too reluctant to change our minds; too emphatic in the way we make our case; or whatever.) We're expected to qualify and over-qualify everything we say in a way that practically nullifies every critique and ultimately countermands every concern. We are told we always ought to look for things to commend if ever it is absolutely necessary to criticize something, and above all, we must be brotherly to everyone who comes in Jesus' name.

See: the concept of "unity" commonly touted today has nothing whatsoever to do with "being in full accord and of one mind" (Philippians 2:2). Instead, it is a broad, visible, ecumenical homogeneity without boundaries.

And that is nothing like the biblical concept of unity.