Monday, April 20, 2015

The Children of Men: Understanding Human Origins of Heresy

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Gen 3:15) “And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one.” (Matt 13:37-38) “So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev. 12:17)

Lately, I have been focusing my blog posts on the subject of heresy. I am convinced that American Christians, for the most part, have completely lost touch with the true nature of heresy. This is due in no small part to ignorant pastors who, for the last 30 years have been bellowing from the pulpit that doctrine doesn’t matter. I used to attend an Independent Baptist Church where the pastor loved to bash those who took doctrine seriously by characterizing them as people who treated the Bible like a math book. While that statement can be true in a certain context, it is not true in the context in which he presented it. In fact, he did more work for the kingdom of darkness in those moments than he did for the kingdom of God. That is regrettable and more than a little unfortunate. It was and is irresponsible for any pastor or elder to belittle Christian doctrine. As I have always said to men who do this: Christian love never elevates itself at the expense of Christian truth. Heresy was an immediate threat to the Christian Church, has been a threat throughout her long and rick history, and remains an ever-present threat to her today. Christians, elders, and pastors ought to respond accordingly.

A heretic is one who is unregenerate, but who resembles, even remarkably at times, and portends to be, one of the regenerate. He is one that has rejected the faith while pretending to accept it. He claims to love Jesus, to be loyal to God, and to love the Church, all the while spreading his false and damnable teachings. That makes me wonder, whatever happened to damnable doctrines? In modern American Churches, the incidents of heresy are growing at an alarming rate and it is especially growing among the young. It is as if the Christian culture must mimic the worldly culture and where the worldly culture is overthrowing traditional values because it is the interesting thing to do, many young Christians have fixed their attention on orthodoxy and her creeds and confessions, see it as dull and uninteresting, and in the name of carving out their own spot, they have climbed into the seat of heresy and buckled-up for the excitement it promises to offer them. The hiss of the serpent can be heard in nearly every evangelical community. What can I say? A little hyperbole is a good thing now and then.

It is no small matter to call into question the sacredness of things like the nature of Sacred Scripture, the divinity of Christ, and the sacred institution of marriage. But at nearly every turn, evangelicals find themselves doing precisely that. We are debating things we are obligated to receive and believe with all humility. And for some strange reason, we think this behavior is somehow more sophisticated, more expressive of progress, even more noble than not. Young evangelicals seem to view the practice of challenging orthodoxy through the lens of updating an outdated policy manual at work. The casual approach to such things is telling and reveals a very disturbing trend in many, if not most, evangelical churches. I believe this trend can be traced to the refusal of the Church to test those who claim to be believers and teachers and leaders who are not! I believe the trend is in no small part to be blamed on pastors and churches so interested in growing their membership and attendance that they have relaxed church membership requirements to the point that Satan would be a good candidate for the deaconate in many communities. They have deluded themselves into thinking that any standards for membership at all are the equivalent of legalism. The apostles of Christ who gave us the teachings of Christ would have disagreed!

Gonzalez points out that “the challenge posed by heresy provoked a series of reactions that would have great consequences for the future life of the church. The creed, the New Testament canon, and the doctrine of apostolic succession are three of those reactions.” [Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought] The church should be no less busy today contradicting and stopping the mouths of heretics as it was from its beginning. Instead, many in the church have adopted the tactics and strategies of the world. They begin by labeling people who are concerned with doctrinal truth as unkind and mean-spirited and overly critical of others. Perhaps some would accuse them of being intellectual bullies. This kind of name-calling and classification is used to manipulate people’s behavior. No one likes to be called a bully or unloving. Hence, the tactic succeeds in silencing those who are simply concerned about the well being of the church and it cuts the fence line so that sheep can wonder out, and wolves may wonder in! Don’t buy into the weak-minded tactics of these swindlers of God’s flock is my advice.

I hope to take you back in time to look at some of the ancient heresies with which the church had to contend from nearly her inception. It is my goal to link those ancient heresies with the modern ones about which we contend today. Moreover, my purpose is not merely to call out these things, and to help you make these connections. Instead, my purpose is to influence change. I want the church to begin to excommunicate the heretics, be they simple members, Sunday school teachers, elders, pastors, theologians, and scholars. There is no place for the serpent in the church, regardless of the disguise he may use. When we find the snake in the garden, we cut its head off. When we discover the heretic in God’s community, we take swift action. We lovingly confront them, at first giving them the benefit of doubt. We continue to work with them while managing their influence. In time, if they refuse to recant, we excommunicate them and let them know they are not welcome in community until they repent and receive with all humility, that which has been preserved and handed down to us from the apostles at the beginning.






12 comments:

  1. It has occurred to me in the past that perhaps the problem that some more "fundamentalist" types might have is just a simple difficulty in understanding reality. To that end, I will return to ask a few more questions dealing with basic real world facts that are easily observed and demonstrated, to see if you can recognize reality or if that is the problem you're having perhaps.

    Two facts:

    1. The word "heresies" appears ONE time in the Bible, 2 Peter 2.

    "But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall secretly bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction."

    2. "The word heresy comes from haeresis, a Latin transliteration of the Greek word originally meaning choosing, choice, course of action, or in an extended sense school of thought then eventually came to denote warring factions and the party spirit by the first century." (wikipedia)

    Do you agree to these facts?

    In this ONE passage (and a few others that deal with "false teachers") we can see that what is being talked about are people who are intentionally, deliberately spreading "destructive schools of thoughts..." They are called "false" (or "plastic," I believe the Greek word hints at) who "secretly" bring in these schools of thoughts, these differing opinions.

    In fact, in other places that speak of false teachers, we see that they are doing it for profit or for power. There is evil, deliberate intent involved.

    Can we agree to that?

    Two more facts then:

    1. I, and people like me, do not fit that description of false teachers. We are NOT doing anything secretively. We are not doing anything falsely. We honestly and sincerely believe that our understanding is the more Godly, righteous, rational and moral understanding on these points.

    You could accuse us of being sincerely mistaken, but you can't accuse us of being false or secretive.

    As a point of fact. Do you agree to that reality?

    2. The ONE time that "heresy" is used, it's speaking of one specific problem, those who deliberately "deny" Jesus.

    As a point of fact, we are not doing that. We love God and follow Jesus, the risen son of God, and do so by God's grace, through faith in Jesus. There is NO denying of Jesus there, nor is there any deliberate attempt to deny his Lordship.

    Again, you could accuse us of being sincerely mistaken about how BEST to follow Jesus, but you can't accuse us of denying Jesus or his Lordship, not in the real world.

    Can you see that reality?

    And again, I'm just speaking of facts, here.

    I'm not talking about interpretations or hunches or opinions, I'm speaking of simple factual reality.

    Are you able to agree with reality, Ed?

    ~Dan

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    1. Actually you are just flatly mistaken in how often that word is used in the NT. Your entire approach is fallacious and when i have more time, I will demonstrate why. You do realize just how unreliable wiki articles are, don't you? So Luke can't be trusted to get it right, Paul was wrong to speak as if he had some authority, and wiki articles are a good source of theological training? Really?

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  2. Yes, of course I know wiki's limitations. I used wiki as a short cut and believe it to be generally reliable in this case. Am I mistaken, or is that just a red herring?

    And on the "heresy" thing, I was going from memory, my fault. I re-checked and indeed, there are a few uses of the word "heresy." A simple mistake on my part, for which I apologize.

    In the translations I normally use, it appears, I think, one time. I see that in KJV and maybe one other, it appears a few times, including this one...

    We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect (heresy, in KJV)

    But then, that's just an emphasis of how the term was apparently used at that time period... more of as a school of thought than what it morphed into in later centuries.

    With that correction, my points stand, the facts are what they are.

    I repeat: Are you able to accept reality?

    (But boy, am I embarrassed at what happens when I go from memory!)

    Chagrined in Christ,

    Dan

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    1. I use the Nestle-Aland 28 because the NT was written in Greek. My response to this will be brief.

      αἱρέσεις is the word Peter uses. It is used 9 times in the GNT. It refers to doctrine, a school, or religious group (sect). However, Peter uses this accusative form with the adjective ἀπωλείας. That entire word group is used to express loss, violence, destruction, and annihilation. Put the words together and you have a doctrine or teaching that is destructive of the human soul.

      Now, we have to ask if such a thing is even possible given your philosophy that everything is a matter of personal opinion and mere human interpretation. Lets take Peter's words and try to make sense out of them in your scheme. Well, Peter's words are not binding according to you. If that is true, then Peter is merely expressing his opinion. After all that is how you classified Paul's dogmatic pronouncements. Additionally, since we cannot know God's opinions of Peter's statement, then we cannot know if Peter is right or wrong, can we.

      The point is that your philosophy, just as the philosophy of the religious of Jesus' own day, invalidates the Word of God. Peter's words are reduced to utter nonsense, mere rhetoric, perhaps propaganda even.

      There are a hundred other things wrong with your philosophy Dan. I simply cannot spend hours pointing them out. You are not going to receive them anyways. My advice is that you go back to your roots. They were far more right than you think they were even if they were wrong about a lot. You have not moved closer to the truth. You have abandoned it altogether.

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  3. "Gonzalez points out that “the challenge posed by heresy provoked a series of reactions that would have great consequences for the future life of the church. The creed, the New Testament canon, and the doctrine of apostolic succession are three of those reactions.” [Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought] The church should be no less busy today contradicting and stopping the mouths of heretics as it was from its beginning. Instead, many in the church have adopted the tactics and strategies of the world."
    Ed, do you agree with Gonzalez' three reactions? Were they effective in "stopping" 'heresy'? Would they be effective today?

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    1. It is not that heresy would be eradicated. Heresy will exist so long as sin exists in the world. My overarching point is removing heresy from the Christian community. That is done one heresy and one heretic at a time. My post is a call to action, not further debate. When a professor, who is a member of a community, writes a book that includes heresy, say, that Jesus was not really divine or might not have been divine, the church must take steps to bring about repentance or to excommunicate if the professor refuses to submit to his elders and receive instruction with all humility. I think that is the point. We will not rid the world of sin. Only Christ can do that and He will do that at His coming. But we do have a responsibility to react to behaviors in the community that are out of accord with the Scripture. The problem is, we are doing nothing. Many people would debate Dan as if he were a fellow believer and in so going, possibly condemn themselves. I cannot do that because I see just the opposite behavior in Scripture.

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    2. But Ed I'm still not sure why you quote Gonzalez. Isn't he saying that scripture alone actually wasn't enough in the early church to deal with heresy?

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  4. So, are you saying you can or can't distinguish between reality and your opinion?

    In this passage where "heresy" is used, it's speaking of one specific problem, those who deliberately "deny" Jesus.

    As a point of fact, we are not doing that. We love God and follow Jesus, the risen son of God, and do so by God's grace, through faith in Jesus. There is NO denying of Jesus there, nor is there any deliberate attempt to deny his Lordship.

    Again, you could accuse us of being sincerely mistaken about how BEST to follow Jesus, but you can't accuse us of denying Jesus or his Lordship, not in the real world.

    Can you see that reality?

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    1. No Dan, that is NOT the heresy they are guilty of. That is the result of the heresy they are spreading. Their heresy had to do with greed and lust, hence the references to Sodom. They had corrupt desires and despised authority. Hint, hint Dan. You too despise authority. You have rejected any authority Scripture has over you by claiming that it is NOT authoritative or binding. You rejected traditional Christianity, despising authority, denying even the Lord who supposed bought you.

      Jesus Himself said, this people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Titus 1:6 They profess to know God but by their deeds they deny Him. John said by THIS we know that we have come to know Him, IF we keep His commandments. The one who says I have come to KNOW Him and does not keep His commandments IS A LIAR.

      Dan, that describes you. Scripture, in your view, by your own admission, contains no commandments for you because, in your own words and by your own admission, it is NOT authoritative, nor is it binding. And since every supposed commandment is just an interpretation and someone's opinion, you are obligated to nothing. That is the absurd logical end of your foolish view. Can you see THAT reality?

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  5. The point that you seem just entirely blinded to is that I/we are NOT failing to keep God's commands in our hearts. We have as our life long work to walk in Jesus' steps by God's grace. We take care of the least of these, work for them and alongside them in our lives regularly. We love one another (and as Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."), we work for peace and justice, we love our enemies, we live simple lives, we are good and loving parents, etc, etc. We ARE following God's commands, albeit imperfectly. Again, the worst you can say about us is that, "But on some points, what you THINK is moral is not!" And could we be mistaken on some points? Sure. We're human. As are you.

    But, Ed, how do you know that it's not YOU who is mistaken? And if you are, does that mean for lack of perfect knowledge about a behavior or three, that you are doomed?

    Ed, that is a salvation by works heresy. Do you not see that?

    It is NOT our perfect knowledge that saves us, Ed. It is God's grace.

    May your eyes be opened to God's abiding grace and love.

    Ed, I love you in the love of Christ. Can you say the same thing to me? If not, what does that say about your salvation? Your witness? Your integrity?

    "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

    ~Jesus

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    1. Your argument is with John sir, not me, with Jesus and Paul, not me. You embrace and endorse gay sex. You deny the authority of Scripture. Based on your philosophy, we can have no historical knowledge of the text.

      and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

      New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 1:32.

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  6. The irony in all this, Ed, is that the worst you can say about us is that we are sincerely mistaken on a few points where you happen to disagree with us. But being sincerely mistaken is NOT a heresy, it is not what the Bible talks about when it talks about "false teachers." It is simply being mistaken, which is not damnable, by God's grace.

    You, on the other hand, by insisting that those who are mistaken on some points CAN'T be sincerely mistaken and be saved, are preaching an actual heresy: The notion of salvation by works. That, in orthodox Christianity, IS considered heretical by many. It IS a dangerous claim. It is what the Bible talks about when the false teaching of the Judaizers are spoken of. You would load upon us a series of rules we "must be correct" about in order to be saved, as the Pharisees added rules upon the people's shoulders, weighing them down in deadly legalism.

    Actual heresy, Ed.

    No where, not one time ever, does the Bible teach "You must agree about gay marriage in order to be saved. You must affirm an 'authoritative' idea of the Bible in order to be saved. You must affirm a literally historic Genesis in order to be saved..." Rule upon rule that you are adding to the actual words of the Bible, rules NOT FOUND IN THE BIBLE but that are the inventions of men. Of Ed.

    And what does the Bible say about those who add words to the Bible?

    Ed, be careful, man. We may be mistaken on some points, but we are not heretical, nor are we false, lying teachers. You, on the other hand, are flirting with actual heresies and actual blasphemies.

    Careful.

    Dan

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