Why are evangelicals so hair-splitting about doctrine?
My first reaction was "oh great, a liberal trying to instigate," but I've been inclined to give our friend Mr. Anonymous the benefit of the doubt, especially in view of the fact that he/she certainly would be right to say that God desires unity, not dissension. As passionate as I can be about certain debates, I myself must make the conscious effort to realize I will always have more in common with the most liberal of my brothers and sisters in Christ than with the most conservative and moral non-believers.
So, to get to the question, then, why are evangelicals (and fundamentalists) so hair-splitting about doctrinal positions in light of the clear commands to "agree with one another so that there may be no divisions" (1 Cor. 1:10)? Have some men simply come under the sin of pride and fascination with quarrels? Perhaps some have. But it is important to understand that the pursuit of agreement must be held in balance with the pursuit of sound doctrine that we see in Paul's pastoral epistles (i.e. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). A theistic world view teaches us that there is absolute right and absolute wrong. I believe many good-willed Christians are genuinely pursuing God's glory as they adamantly defy those who, in their opinions, do injustice to His revelation.
While it could be called "hair-splitting" for Christians to debate over scriptural inerrancy, God's sovereignty, baptismal traditions or any of the countless debated topics, it could also be crucial. It all depends on your perspective. For an example, let's assume that God told His people through a prophet that He got a 1600 (perfect score) on his SAT's. What if I heard it wrong and told everyone, "He's pretty bright, you know, a 1500 isn't bad." That's not giving God all the glory He deserves. What's worse could be, "Well, He said He did, but the original transcript got lost when He moved out of his dorm, so all we have is a photocopy. But hey, it's not really important. All that matters is He loves you." Obviously that's not all that really matters because He took the time to tell you He got a 1600.
We should all share a common passion for God's glory. For anyone who has come to especially revere God for a particular attribute or who has found great purpose in serving God according to a particular doctrine, the way a hair gets split could be the difference between ultimate glory and lesser glory. If we can all share a mutual desire for the same cause, namely His glory, we can more respectfully approach our differences. Personally, however, I am more dedicated to the glory of God than to my peace with fellow man, although I do not believe the two must be mutually exclusive.