Thursday, February 08, 2007

Have All We Like Heretics Gone Astray?


"Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." (John 9:48)

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8)

"So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (John 8:7)


Down through church history theologians and priests have prided themselves in being defenders of the faith. The have considered their teachings to be the foundational and critical doctrines of the faith. Systematic theologies have been developed, zealous followers have been created, and heretics have been tried. These acts have occurred because men believed that they had a significant repository of truth within themselves to allow their interpretation of scripture to become the standard against which to measure the teachings of all others. In classic legalistic fashion heretics have been burned at the stake, tortured to recant, and massacred. Catholics and Protestants alike have been proud heresy hunters.

I wonder - does the same self-evaluation which Jesus required of the Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to Him apply to us in respect to the issue of heresy hunting as well?

Could Jesus just as easily have said, "Let him who is without [heresy] cast the first stone," and meanwhile have written strange teachings each person held in the dirt with His finger? I believe He could have, but I also believe that not one of them would have seen their own false beliefs as being false. The identification of a sin which is contrary to the very things we all teach is an evident hypocrisy which we can not deny, but the strange interpretations of scripture which Christians devise are not readily seen as false. Those teachings often become the source of what we believe are the deeper teachings of the Christian life.

Just as we have all been forced to admit that we are all sinners, could it be that we should also have to admit that at some level we are all heretics doing our best to recover from the ravages of false doctrine which has filled our minds over the years? and that we all have itching ears which like dogs we seek to have someone come and itch?

Pete Rollins, and others from the Emergent Conversation are suggesting that we are all heretics who like idolaters have built false images of God in our minds.

What do you think? Should we have to admit that at some point we are all heretics?

21 comments:

Webb Kline said...

The very best any of us can hope for is to come stumbling into the Kingdom. Hmm..that sounds familiar.

I've often remarked that if salvation were contingent on right doctrine, it could very well be that no one would enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Praise God that loving my neighbor as myself, and looking after orphans and widows fulfills the Law and the prophets. As you full-well know, not everyone sees it that way, do they?

carl said...

Yes indeed, I have been tossed back and forth by certain winds of doctrine(teachings). I recieve revelation and think I got "the answer" only to find myself at unrest in my heart.

Some doctrines seem to contradict each other. Those contradicting parties tend to accuse each other of being heretics. That is human nature. I find that there needs to be a balance between the extremes. Both sides must be fully considered, discerned and if everything is legit applied in our personal lives as well as in our community. To keep the heretic within away we must keep ourselves in relationship with God and with others.

Of course that's waaaay easier said than done and so the other alternative is to burn people, that seems pretty easy too. ;)

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Carl,

Good words.

I suppose in some way I am less concerned with the Heretic within, than I am about the Pharisee within. The Heretic is a sinner on one count. The Pharisee is a sinner on two counts being a Heretic as well.

hylander said...

I agree and disagree.

First, the apostle Paul warns us in the book of Acts to be careful because there is a two-fold attack against the church; e.g. one from within and one from without. These attacks, I believe are centrally doctrinal. An example for today would be similar as the J.W.'s or L.D.S teachings. On the other hand, we certainly do have an attack that is within as well, as demonstrated by such extreme teachings as the false "Health and Wealth" gospel from our friends affectionately known as "Copen-Hagen"; or even more grievious as those who maintain "Jesus Only" and have absolute disregard for the sacredness of the Trinity. Even some of those who embrace the extreme "Emergent" theological waters regarding the relevance of truth, I would consider abherent. So, I agree that when it comes to the point of where people battle over how many angels can dance on the point of pin that it becomes truly counter productive, non-edifying, and as a result, we end up conducting ourselves in a manner that is considered "heretical".
However, I disagree that doctrine is not important, because Paul also told us to rightly divide the Word of truth. There is certainly a fine balance that must be maintained, or at least attempted, in my estimation. Propositional truth is truly under attack by some of those within the Postmodern movement, sadly. We are to worship God with all our heart, "mind", soul and strength. Sure, the message of the Gospel can be simplified as Jesus stated, "Follow Me". But, we must use our mind in the process according to His Word.

I do concur with Phil in that I am more concerned with the Pharisee within than the heretic within. I admit that I do not have 100% pure doctrine, and I realize that that is not what saves me, or anyone else for that matter, hence: Grace!

Great topic Phil,

Blessings,

hylander

ded said...

I wonder how much "Christian" doctrine floating around these days qualifies as pure examples of "every wind of doctrine?"

...though it may cause me to be labeled "heretic", I even wonder if there needs to be a "doctrine" of the trinity. Clearly there are three expressions of the Person of God in the Scripture, but why must that be a "doctrine?"

If a person is confessing Christ as per Romans 10:9-10 and the life lived out is fully an example of the fruit of the Spirit against which there can be no law, are we to point angrily at God if He blesses such a person with grace and eternal life, though such a one does not espouse a "doctrine" of the Trinity?

Going back to the context of the fruit of the Spirit revelation in Galatians. The context of the whole book is a statement against those who would make Jewish law again a test of who knows God and who does not. Do we make a "Christian" law intended to do the same?

Galatians 5:6 is an interesting little nugget in the midst of the discussion; "nothing matters except faith expressing itself through love." What if the attacks against the gospel of which Paul warns are all teachings which add to the simple meaning of the grace be free from all the rancor of this life and thus lifted up to live only as it is done in Heaven?

Peace of Christ to you all,
Your local southern heretic

hylander said...

Hey Ded,

I'm not certain either as to how much or which teachings would qualify as "every wind of doctrine" today. But, I do know that any serious student of christian history could probably trace some very interesting breezes of peculiar teachings or doctrines over the past couple millenia. Even today, some of the extremes of post-modernism certainly go beyond the fringe traditional historic orthoxy, in my opinion. I know, that is such a bad word today, ewwww, "orthodoxy", yuck! Even in the heighth of this current era of "political correctness." I wonder if that social construct has actually penetrated the church in the guise of "emergent" ? hmmmm.

Anyways, I certainly would not call you a heretic. Although, I do sense some rhetoric which is a bit thick and perhaps a couple lines beg the question, logically. But, I think I understand and realize that there is a little bit of "rebel" in me too! :)

Anyways, just for grins and giggles, take the heretic test and let me know what kind of heretic you are, lol :) I'll post my results after some others have posted theirs. Here is the linkage:
Heretic Test

Peace and Blessings,

William/Hylander

hylander said...

Sorry Ded and all, for some reason my html tags are not working or, quite possibly, it is operator error :) me.

Anyways, here is the link, you will have to manually copy/paste in your browser the old fasion way.

http://quizfarm.com/test.php?q_id=131773

Good luck! :)

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Hylander,

You said, "However, I disagree that doctrine is not important, because Paul also told us to rightly divide the Word of truth."

I'm not sure if you are saying that I somehow have commented here that doctrine is not important. That is not something I have either said, nor is it something I believe. Rather I am saying that we need to rethink our approach to heresy hunting, and perhaps consider Pharisaical behavior high on the list of heresy.

Pastor Phil said...

ded,

Your post has some challenging thougths. Though I apppreciate a definition of God found in the Trinity, your post does make us reconsider defining thers by this doctrine alone.

Pastor Phil said...

Hylander,

I took the heresy test and posted it my other blog - http://philwyman.blogspot.com

ded said...

I accept the Trinity as a real vision of God. Water, the basis of life on earth in the physical can be found in three forms.

However, I wonder about the way we categorize people based on their acceptance of one doctrine over another, when those doctrines are not based on clearly stated Scripture. That is, there is no verse which mentions "Trinity" in the original text. Nor is there anywhere that any of the NT authors penned such a belief as needed to keep one from being labeled heretic.

Phil, the original post here is excellent. I raise the issue of "Trinity" not because I have a particular feeling about it, but within that context. A Christian lady I know, in whom the fruit of the Spirit was unmistakable, went so far as to question the "Trinity" based on the lack of Scripture in a Sunday school class of the largest, most active, local evangelical church in our community. (Remembuh I live in the Bible-belt, and folks down heah take theyuh religion seriously!) She was dragged through numerous meetings to get her doctrine "up to snuff"; and when she wouldn't speak the words they wanted to hear, was politely told to leave. I only bring up the topic as a thinking point, not a challenge to anyone's position.

ded said...

Hylander,

I took the test, and I passed. It said I was not a heretic because I answered according to the Chalcedon Confession of 451, 100% of the time.

Wow!! Finally glad to know I have some sort of pedigree; I have been such a mutt my whole life.

8^)

hylander said...

Phil,

Thanks for the clarification. I was not certain whether or not that that is what you had meant. My apologies for my misunderstanding. I do agree that we need to rethink our approach to heresy hunting because I understand the implications and results of what has happened in the past, from a historical christian church perspective and also due to what has happened to me personally; hence our kindred spirits. :)

Blessings to you Phil!

hylander said...

Ded,

I had no doubt that you were 100% Chalcedon compliant. But, you know what, I would have still loved you no matter what the result of the test :)

Peace,

hylander said...

Ded,

I had no doubt that you were 100% Chalcedon compliant. But, you know what, I would have still loved you no matter what the result of the test :)

Peace,

Pastor Phil said...

ded,

I'm with you on your approach to the Trinity - good for me, and a great definition for my view of God. Do I demand that every Christian think of like myself to be considered saved? no.

Pastor Phil said...

Hylander,

After our experiences (yours too I'm sure), I have discovered that being orthodox on the issue of grace requires we live differently. Spouting doctrines of grace, and not living it may be a larger heresy, than getting it a little wrong, and living unmercifully toward others.

Pastor Phil said...

So - it appears that by the internet test we are not heretics! darn.

ded said...

hylander,
thanks for the affirmation of love...I rejoice and return it to you, for the glory of the Father.

hylander said...

Phil,

Every mornin I wake up and am thankful for that beautiful cup of Grace and ask that as the spirit fills me with it, that I may be able to share it unconditionally with someone else. Every night, before my head hits the pillow, I ask for that grace again because I know somewhere during the day I missed it somewhere and need a fresh filling of mercy too. Phil, thanks for keeping it in perspective!

ded said...

You've seen this before probably, but on the off chance you have not...
the complaint agains the Trinity is often that it defies logic.

Well...

1 + 1 + 1 = 3 but
1 x 1 x 1 = 1