Positions I Don’t Think Are Necessarily Heretical (Maybe Though)
“He is a heretic” is a common phrase thrown around by many who love theology. I have seen people named a heretic for simple disagreements over end times views. I myself have been called a heretic because I reject the teaching of the rapture of the Church. I have been called a heretic for rejecting Calvinism. I have been called a heretic once by a charismatic because I reject the “laughter movement” of the 1990’s. The term “heretic” is thrown around too much in my opinion.
And no doubt this has been true at times in Church history. The Anabaptists were severely persecuted by Martin Luther and the Reformers. Luther stands before the Diet of Worms and gives his famous stand for the Word of God only to turn around four years later and condemned the Anabaptists to death for their views on baptism. The Anabaptists were largely hated by the Reformers though the Reformers preached that we should test all things by the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21). What was the main “heresy” of the Anabaptists? Baptism of believers by immersion. The term “Anabaptist” was applied to them because the term means “two baptisms” because the Reformers stood with Roman Catholicism in agreeing with infant baptism and thus condemned the Anabaptists for re- baptizing adults whom the Reformers saw as already baptized because of their infant baptism.
In our day baptism is not so much the issue. Most Reformed who hold to infant baptism (and even some Arminians as Arminius held to infant baptism) reject that we should kill those who baptize by immersion. They also reject that those who hold to believer’s baptism would be heretics and vise versa. There is peace there in this debate.
Yet there are positions that some hold to be heretical that I don’t consider necessarily heretical. I might not agree but I don’t think that there are heretics nonetheless. I once did in some cases. Years ago I use to view myself as the orthodox believer and all others had to fall in line. Not so now. After dealing with my own sins, I see my need for God’s forgiveness and grace and I see that I fall terribly short in many ways. I need reforming myself and I praise God for His grace towards me (1 Timothy 1:15). I rejoice that perfect theology is not the standard for salvation. Who could be saved? The standard is you must know you’re a sinner and see your need for a Savior. That is me (Luke 19:10). “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17 KJV).
So what positions do I know see as non-heretical though I might not agree with them.
Calvinism – A few hold that Calvinism is heretical. I don’t. I see them as my brothers and sisters in the Lord and greatly love my Calvinists friends and family. Some of my favorite preachers and teachers and theologians are reformed.
Open Theism – Though I am not an open theist, I don’t believe that all open theists are heretics. They are wresting with the mystery of divine omniscience and how this works in a free world. By the way, Calvinism wrestles with the same issue though they go the opposite of the open theist.
Conditional Immortality – This is the position that rejects eternal conscience torment in hell. I know a few brothers who condemn brothers who reject eternal conscience torment in eternal hell as heretics but this should not be the case. Men such as Edward Fudge have wrestled with the texts and reject eternal conscience torment while maintaining salvation as a gracious gift from our eternal God.
Original Sin – I know brothers who reject the doctrine of original sin. Most Arminians reject the Calvinist teaching on original sin yet I know some who reject the teaching altogether and believe that babies are born sinless while born into a sinful world. While I can see how this teaching could lead to perfectionism teachings, I don’t believe these brothers are rejecting original sin because they have not searched the Scriptures. I am somewhere in-between on this teaching and aligned more with inheriting a sinful nature from Adam while not inheriting Adam’s sin.
Infant Baptism – I hold to believer’s (or better Christian) baptism by immersion but I don’t reject those who disagree with me as heretics. I know of godly Arminians who hold to infant baptism and love them as brothers. We all agree that salvation is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ and not in our works (Titus 3:5-7).
KJV Only – While I completely disagree with the KJV only camp, I know some godly men who preach the gospel while holding firmly to the KJV. By the way, I even know a Reformed brother who would qualify as a KJV only follower but he is not extreme and loves the Lord Jesus. The truth is that Jesus saves us by His grace (Ephesians 2:1-9) and not by our Bible translations. I was saved using the NIV. Others have been saved using the KJV. God saves us by the gospel (Romans 1:16-17) and not by our Bible translation though I do believe a good Bible translation is vital (for example the erroneous New World Translation of the JW’s though I read a testimony of a brother who was saved even by the NWT).
Soul Sleep – I know some brothers who hold to soul sleep. These are not Seventh-Day Adventists but actually Reformed brothers who hold to this view. While I am not sure on the doctrine, I don’t believe a person is a heretic for this view.
Perfectionism – I know a few brothers who hold that they don’t sin anymore. One guy boasted on Facebook that he had not sinned in like 22 years. While I think that this view is really stupid (yes just stupid), I praise God that He saves us from ourselves by His grace. I once held mildly to this view. I completely reject it now. That said, I don’t think that a person is completely a heretic because they teach this. I think the teaching leads to bondage and not freedom and puts too much emphasis on us and not on the work of Christ for our sins (Ephesians 1:7) but I don’t necessarily think these people are complete heretics who know nothing of God’s love.
Various End Times Views – These too many to tell. All seem to want to label the others are heretics. I am not there. I am a partial preterist but I don’t reject those who disagree. I reject dispensational theology but believe dispensationalists to be saved. I reject premillennialism but hold them to be brethren in Christ. Again, the standard for salvation is not our end times views but our confession of Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10).
Charismatics – Again, like the above, too many to label. While I do think some charismatic teaching is very bad (see the Prosperity Gospel for example) and there are many bad teachers in this bunch, I know many godly Pentecostals and charismatics who truly love Jesus and desire to glorify Him. Some of my heroes of the faith are Pentecostals who taught me how to pray and how to love and study the Bible. I have such great memories of godly Pentecostals teaching me how to witness, how to pray, how to worship, how to love God, how to think of Christ in all we do, etc. While some want to label many in this group heretics, be careful as there are many godly saints here.
Seeker Driven – I am not a seeker driven church guy. Never have been. Never will be. I have attended some seeker churches in the past and I think its a joke. That said, I don’t think that all seeker pastors are heretics and I’m sure that many of them do love souls and long to see people saved. I praise God for that. While I reject their model and often their tactics and will continue to preach against them, I don’t think they should just be labeled heretics. I think many of them are probably orthodox in their theology while holding to church practices I disagree with. I’m okay with that. Of course, I pray that many of these leaders will come out of this movement and preach the whole gospel but that beyond the point here. Again, Jesus saves sinners and not theology perfectionists.
I closing I pray that you extend me grace here. If you hold to these people above being heretics, perhaps you’ll throw me in there too. I pray not. I am nothing. I am a sinner who needs Jesus. I confess that need. Don’t follow me or you’ll end up in hell. Follow Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).