From time to time discussions arise over thorny questions of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy. Often the discussion procedes to how diverse answers to these questions might limit fellowship and cooperation with other believers. I'm thinking about issues like immersion vs. sprinkling, Calvinism vs. Arminianism, providential preservation vs. supernatural preservation of God's Word in one translation, etc. Time and again, it seems to me that the final arbiter in many of these discussions is the statement that "Historically, good men have disagreed on these points of theology, so we are not required to separate ecclesiastically on these grounds."
Apparently, since good men have disagreed, divergent views may be tolerated and even overlooked. Concerning other issues (the thinking seems to go), all "good men" in history have agreed, and no differences of opinion may be tolerated today. Perhaps some examples of issues concerning which dissent is not tolerated come to your mind, as they do to mine.
This argumentation raises two immediate questions in my mind: 1) Who gave us the right and the capacity to identify "good men," and more importantly, 2) When did "good men" become the arbiters of the issues concerning which truth is too ambiguous to be defended zealously?
The historical analysis of arguments, definitions, and movements may be instructive, but it is not definitive. History is merely what men thought, said, and did—men who may or may not have been "good". Perhaps our historical analysis needs to be taken with a grain of salt. At the very least, it seems that our historical arguments need to examine more than the past 85 years of church history.