Subtle men do the most harm

Reading another excellent post on creeping egalitarianism by the Bayly brothers reminded me of this Martyn LLoyd-Jones passage:

[The] process of change is never a sudden one. It is always a subtle and slow process.. Perhaps the clearest demonstration of this that one can give is what happened in the [19th] century in connection with the so-called Higher Critical movement. At the beginning of that century there were a numbr of evangelical denominations and bodies. Then gradually a change came in, a change of emphasis, a change of teaching, but the striking thing about it was the slowness and the subtlety with which it came.

There were, of course, men who were very extreme, and who made bold statements, and almost everybody could see that they were wrong. They did not do the harm. They never do the harm. The obvious, open, arrogant heretic generally produces a reaction, and he is not the dangerous person. The really dangerous man is the man who introduces some very slight or very subtle change … Now the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon saw all this, but when he began to denounce what he called the ‘Downgrade’ movement he was attacked ferociously by evangelical people. They said, What is the matter with Mr Spurgeon? He’s become hypercritical; he’s turning molehills into mountains; he’s exaggerating! History has proved that he was not exaggerating. He saw these subtle changes. Others said of the men whose influence Spurgeon feared, They are still evangelical; they say this and they say that, but they are truly evangelical. They did not pay attention to some of the other things that these men were beginning to say, and therefore they missed the very subtle process which was insinuating itself into the life of the churches. -from What is an Evangelical, Ch. I

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