Krauth on the Three Stages of Error in the Church
A modified version of some commentary originally written by 19th century Lutheran pastor Charles P. Krauth about the progression of error in the church:
“When error is admitted into the church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: “You need not be afraid of us, we are few and weak. Just let us alone, we shall not disturb the faith of the others. The church has her standards of doctrine, and of course we shall never interfere with them. We only ask for ourselves that we be spared from interference with our private opinions.”
Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error become two balancing forces. The church is permitted to do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is considered bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth — because it is truth — is partisanship. Any points of doctrine that the friends of truth and error hold in common are considered to be “fundamental doctrines,” and any points of doctrine on which they differ are effectively set aside by being labeled “non-essential doctrines.” If anybody objects to such a watering-down of the truth, he is labeled a disturber of the peace of the church. At this point, truth and error have become two coordinate powers, and the goal of church officers is to be skillful in diplomatically preserving the balance between them.
From this point, error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. The adherents of truth began by tolerating errorists, and then they themselves come to be merely tolerated, but only for a time. Error henceforth claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. Men are placed into positions of authority, not — as at first — in spite of their departure from biblical truth, but because of it. They are rewarded for repudiating the doctrines of the faith, and are given positions from which they can teach others to repudiate them, and help make them skillful in combating them.”