Saturday, April 18, 2015
The History of Heresy
Heresy is a break from unity in Christ. To be specific, it is a break from the truth that binds us together in Christ. From the beginning, heresy has served up death and destruction on the human race since the father, and first heretic, Satan, introduced it. Satan created a schism between himself and God. Essentially, he rejected God’s truth. He substituted his own word in place of God’s word. Jesus said he was a liar from the beginning. Jesus also said, “unless you believe I am He, you will die in your sin.” (Jn. 8:24) Literally, the text says unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins. The Satanic alternative to the words of Christ is a rejection of Christ, His Word, and His truth. That reject may be dressed up as a partial acceptance. But a partial acceptance of God and of Christ and of God’s Word is a rejection of God and His truth. In its place, the heretic supplies his own self, his own word, and his own truth.
Satan separated himself from God along with the angels that followed his thought process. Additionally, he drove a wedge between God and man by asking man to reason independently, apart from God. Man adopted his own self, word, and truth as his final standard, exchanging the truth of God for a lie. Paul tells us that the minds of the ungodly are blinded by Satan to do his will. (2 Cor. 4:4) Christians are commanded to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (1 Cor. 10:3-5) Elders are told to reject, avoid, have no care for, and to push away a heretic after a first and second warning. (Titus 3:10) Heretics seek to contradict God’s truth and in so doing, they seek to destroy it. The point of this paragraph is that Christians have to take heretics more seriously than they have in recent years. They are enemies of God and of Christ and they seek to destroy the Christian faith. They are not sincere Christians that love Jesus with whom we have a casual and insignificant disagreement.
Deut. 18:29 lays down the punishment for heretical prophets who come bearing a false word as if from God. When the prophet claims that this truth is God’s truth and it turns out not to be God’s truth, that prophet shall die. The Torah dealt harshly with heretics. Satan offered up an alternative to divine truth and was cast out of heaven. Adam and Eve thought they could substitute their own truth in place of God’s truth and introduced death upon all their progeny. Prophets that offered an alternative truth under the law were executed under divine law. Moreover, Deut. 13:5 instructs Israel to execute any prophet that gives counsel that contradicts divine law. God views ungodly beliefs and advice as counsel to violate His revealed will, His divine command. Hence, when we hear men like “Dan” advise us that God honors gay marriage and gay sex when Scripture clearly forbids it, we see Dan providing counsel to people that is perfectly justifiable to rebel against God. Our response cannot be one of a mere casual shrugging of the shoulders and agreeing to disagree. The situation is far more serious than that. In both the Old and the New Testaments, the heretics were purged from the community of faith. So must they be in today’s church.
False Apostles & Teachers
The ancient Christian apostle, Peter, issues an ominous warning to his audience in his second letter: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned. (2 Peter 2:1-2) Paul tells Timothy that false teachings will spread like cancer. (2 Tim 2:17) As an example he mentions Hymenaeus and Philetus who have erred regarding an early form of Preterism, claiming the resurrection had already taken place. Paul, using the OT instance of Jannes and Jambres, informs Timothy that false teachers, even though they invoke the name of Jesus, oppose the truth, are men of depraved minds, and are rejected in regard to the faith. (2 Tim. 2:8) Paul uses the metaphor “savage wolves” to describe false teachers: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. (Acts 20:29)
Paul warned the Corinthians about false apostles, saying, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” (2 Cor. 11:13-15) These men actually look like apostles of Christ. They wear the same disguise as the true apostles wear. But upon closer examination, they are exposed. Jesus said that many would come in His name saying that they were one of His, and claiming that they embraced and proclaimed His message. But they are liars, fakes, and pretenders according to Jesus. In the end, it is those who hear His word and do it that are the true teachers and followers of Christ. (See Matthew 7) The point here is that the NT documents are filled with Christ and His apostles identifying again and again false teachers and their teachers and correcting those ungodly ideas with the truth of God with the message of God that has been reduced to the written text. That written text is the only protection we have to keep us safe from error that damns and condemns the soul. Perhaps now it is easy to see why the false teachers, the liberal pastors and scholars, continually focus their main efforts around contradicting Christianity by attempting to weaken or discredit the Scripture, contradicting it, and leading people to believe it is not God’s word, it is not authoritative, it is not binding, and there is no single interpretation to which the Christian is obligated.
The “Ancient Roman Symbol” R stands out as a witness to the attitude of the church concerning the serious nature of heresy and false conversion. Moreover, it points up to the remarkable emphasis that the ancient church placed on sound belief and the confessions required of new converts even at their baptism. This practice served as the basis for what would eventually become the Apostles Creed. The volume of competing ideas and non-Christian influences were just as enormous for that culture as they are for any culture today. It is essential that the modern churches continue to take measures to ensure that such leaven does not make its way into the community. For, if it does, as Paul said, it will spread like a cancer.
One of the fiercest battles over truth and the gospel in the ancient Church was that of a Judaizing effort within Christian circles. As one can imagine, since most Christians in the earliest times were Jews, the dangers of Jewish influences within the Christian community were ever present. The number of different strains varied from Ebionism to Essenianism to Elxaism. These systems involved errors that ranged from of law-based salvation to aberrant views of the nature of Christ. The dangers were so real that Paul pronounced an anathema on anyone found guilty of preaching a gospel contrary to the one he had published and peached. Can you imagine what the results would have been if the attitude of the Church was similar to men like “Ted?” These are all opinions of equal weight and therefore, each man is free to think as he pleases? There is no set of authoritative teachings providing the basis by which we, as Christians, must form our beliefs.
Another very early heresy that also contained many tentacles was called Gnosticism. “The Gnostics would take any doctrine that they found valuable, without any regard for its origin or for the context from which it was taken. When they came to know early Christianity and saw its great appeal, they attempted to take those aspects of Christianity which seemed most valuable to them and adapt them to their systems.” [Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, Vol. I]
Just as exists today, there was a dualistic tendency in some early heretics. Marcion comes to mind. Gonzalez calls it “an exaggerated Paulinism.” Marcion held radical views, such as his belief that the God of the NT was a different God of the OT. He held a negative view of the OT Scripture. Are these sounding familiar? The gay, anti-Christian movement espoused by “Ted” makes the exact same move. Both Marcion and Ted destroy the God of the OT. Marcion destroys it literally while “Ted” destroys it literarily. But each man’s view has the same devastating consequences.
This particular heresy is a bit more complex. It can typically be divided into two aspects of a similar effort: Dynamic Monarchianism and Modalist Monarchianism. Dynamic Monarchianism basically viewed Christ as a mere man and was close to Ebionism in that respect. Modalist Monarchianism took the nature of Christ a different direction. The divinity of Christ was identified with the Father. This view eventually was adopted by its most famous proponent, Sebellius and became more widely known as Sebellianism. The church at Rome condemned dynamic Monarchianism, in 195 AD. Dionysius, bishop of Rome, condemned Sebellianism in 262 AD.
Logical Preconditions of Heresy
I want to talk about the necessary and sufficient conditions for heresy. First, the necessary condition for heresy is that truth exists. If truth did not exist, heresy could not exist. In order for heresy to exist, it is necessary for truth to exist. Truth then is a necessary condition for heresy. But the mere existence of truth is not a sufficient condition for heresy just as being a woman is not a sufficient condition for being a mother. A sufficient condition for heresy is that one adopts a contradictory view to certain kinds of truth. Unless certain kinds of truth exist, and unless men are capable of adopting contradictory views to these truths, it follows that sufficient conditions for heresy would not exist. Moreover, if this were the state of affairs that has obtained, heresy would not be possible. But we know, according to Scripture, that not only is heresy possible, but that it exists, and it has existed from the earliest times in the history of Christianity. Moreover, we know that if heresy existed, then necessary and sufficient conditions for it must have existed.
Upon close examination of views like that put forth by men like “Ted” (see the com box in my previous blogs for his real name), we discover that sufficient conditions for heresy would be impossible. Ted’s denial of the binding and authoritative nature of Scripture is a denial of the very kinds of truth that make heresy possible. In other words, Ted’s argument eliminates heresy as a viable option from human behavior. The reduction of all truth to mere subjective, non-binding opinions is to remove any and all sufficient conditions for the existence of heresy. However, since heresy existed in the time of Christ and His apostles, we know that such a move is not philosophically plausible, logically coherent, and most importantly, it is not consistence with the unambiguous teachings and events recorded in Scripture.
What men like “Ted” do is not really the denial of absolute truth. If you read Ted’s argument and accusations of me, you will see a clear self-refutation emerge. Ted is merely exchanging one authority for another. He is not denying all authority, practically speaking anyways. He is replacing biblical authority with his own set of beliefs. That is not difficult to see, at least for the non-Ted’s that are reading the discussion. Ted is exchanging the truth of God for the truth of Ted. And his descriptions of me reflect deeply on Ted’s convictions that his views not only apply to him, but they extend to me. Moreover, Ted’s accusations of me show that Ted at least thinks his views transcend humanity and apply equally to all those in my category. So we also see in Ted the unavoidable logical end of self-refutation. This is why I referred to Ted as a walking contradiction.
The Ignorance of Ignoring Heresy
Modern cultures, due to the pervasive infection of postmodern relativism within them, cannot be trusted to provide the appropriate response to heresy or heretics. The notion that man is the measure of all things, even in the backhanded sort of way Ted suggests, is insufficient in its ability to deal with the seriousness of damnable dogma. Far too often, local churches and entire denominations, being influenced by the academy and the so-called sophistication of modern biblical scholarship, downgrade the heresy of false doctrine that the ancient Christian apostle Paul himself, compared to the deadly disease of cancer. As a matter of fact, the downgrade of heresy, far from advancing the Christian ethic, and enriching Christian knowledge, more often than not, ends in disastrous consequences. Indeed, if we continue to extend this strategy, such policies will inevitable result in the total eradication of biblical Christianity.
In short, the long history of the existence and condemnation of heresy testifies against the arrogance of postmodern thinkers like “Ted” and Rob Bell and others. Historically, the Church has been dealing with heresy for nearly 2,000 years. And for those who want to soften how that practice occurs, the Church has been dealing with heresy harshly and seriously for nearly 2,000 years.