Posts Tagged ‘Heresy’
“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).
While listening to some podcasts on the doctrine of the Trinity, I begin to consider how we pray. People often pray without thinking about the theology behind their prayers. For example, I have heard people pray, “Father thank You for saving me. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. Father, thank you for loving me enough to sacrifice Yourself for me.” Yet this is not biblical. The Father did not give Himself for our sins but instead He gave His Son for our sins (John 3:16). The Father no doubt has poured out His love upon us in His Son (1 John 3:1-3) yet the Father did not die on the cross. The Son died for our sins on the cross.
Biblically speaking, we are to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is Trinitarian praying. The entire Trinity was involved in our salvation. The Father sent the Son to die for the sins of humanity. The Son obeyed the Father perfectly (John 8:29; Philippians 2:5-11). The Son shed His blood to save us from the wrath of a holy but loving God (Romans 5:8-9). The Spirit raised the Son from the dead (Romans 8:11). Acts 2:24 says that God raised Jesus from the dead. True! God the Spirit! All of this, the incarnation of Jesus (Luke 1:35) to the perfect life of Jesus in obedience to His Father (Hebrews 5:8-9) and Jesus’ death on the cross and His being raised from the dead was for our salvation! The entire Trinity was involved in this saving process!
This is also true for prayer. Jesus is our faithful high priest (Hebrews 4:14) who mediates for us before the Father (1 Timothy 2:5). The Lord Jesus prays for us (Hebrews 7:25). The Spirit also prays for us (Romans 8:26-27). We come before the Father in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14). Jesus taught us to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9). This doesn’t mean that we cannot pray to the Lord Jesus since even Stephen prayed to the Lord Jesus when he was being killed for his faith in Jesus (Acts 7:59). However, prayer should normally be addressed to the Father in the name of Jesus who is our high priest before the holy Father. We find Paul praying to the Father in Ephesians 3:14.
As we begin to think through our praying and realize that we are speaking to a trinitarian God, we begin to see the beauty not only of our redemption unfold but also the New Testament comes alive as we see the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. We see their work in the New Testament and we see how precious the doctrine of the Trinity would have been to the Apostles. We see a faithful Jew such as Paul the Apostle taking the great doctrine of God from Deuteronomy 6:4 and showing God in His fulness in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 with the Father and the Son being declared the one true and living God.
The doctrine of the Trinity helps our prayer lives explode with praise as we ponder the deep things of God. I confess that I don’t understand the Trinity fully. It is beyond my understanding. I do confess to my faith in its truth. There are simply too many passages that affirm the doctrine of one God (monotheism) while yet at the same time the Father is called God, the Son is called God, and the Spirit is called God. We either can deny monotheism and embrace tritheism or polytheism or form heretical views about Christ (almost all heretical views attack Christ). We can deny Christ His full deity or that He was a created being (Arianism). We can teach that Christ is fully God but He takes on three modes (modalism). We can teach that Christ was not eternal but rather that He had a beginning and was adopted as the Son of God at His baptism by John (adoptionism). We can deny the full deity or full humanity of Christ and created a sort of half God, half man doctrine (see Bill Johnson and Bethel for this heretical view revised). Either way, the person of Christ is the One who gets attack by those who want to deny the Trinity.
In the end, I choose to pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. I rejoice that Jesus died for my sins, that He rose again, and that He sits at the right hand of God till His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1). I rejoice in Pentecost, the glorious truth that the gift of the Spirit was poured out as promised by God the Father (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4). I praise God that all three person of the holy Godhead were fully involved in saving a wretch like me. It humbles me. It makes me want to worship Him who is true.
Here is a doctrinal statement taken from a church. Can you spot the doctrinal errors?
There is one God, who has revealed Himself as our Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and as the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is God manifested in flesh. He is both God and man (Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16).
Did you notice how they defined the Godhead? This is nothing more than modalism. Notice the wording, “God has revealed Himself” and they say that God has manifested Himself as our Father, in His Son, and as the Holy Spirit. We don’t have three distinct persons here but rather one God and three manifestations of the one God. This the age-old heresy called modalism. It has many problems. One is what do you do with the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:13-17? What do you do with the incarnation of Christ in Luke 1:35? What do you do with the clear distinctions made by the New Testament writers about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?
The best books I have read on this subject are:
1. A Definitive Look at Oneness Theology by Edward Dalcour
2. The Forgotten Trinity by James White.
3. The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders.
4. What The Bibles Says About God the Redeemer by Jack Cottrell.
5. Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity by Gregory Boyd.
I keep up with a few watchdog ministries in blogs, Twitter, and listen to one watchdog ministry on iTunes so I am familiar with watchdog ministries. I do believe that we need men and women of God who love the Lord, His Word, and desire for sound doctrine to be preached in the Church. I appreciate their emphasis on examining major ministries and pointing out doctrinal issues involved with them. Recently we saw this helpful when James McDonald hosted his “elephant room” meetings with men such as Mark Driscoll, T.D. Jakes and several others. Jakes is known for his oneness Pentecostal beliefs and his rejection of the orthodox position on the Trinity. Driscoll asked Jakes what he believed about the Trinity. Jakes seemed to approve the Trinity but watchdog ministries were helpful to show that his view is still flawed and not clear. In other words, Jakes did what he always does on the Trinity, seemed to affirm it but didn’t which helps him maintain his status in both trinitarian and oneness Pentecostal circles.
What bothers me about some aspects of watchdog ministries (and this is not true of them all but several of them) is that they can be flat-out rude. For instance, I am no fan of seeker churches nor do I have a high view of seeker preachers but I don’t believe that I should pick on seeker pastors and how they dress or how they do their hair. Who cares? Let’s stay focused on doctrinal issues and not become rude and make fun of how people look. After all, we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and this means that we are all unique before Him. Psalm 139:14 is true of us all no matter our skin color or our eye color or our hair color. We are unique and loved by God.
Now again, I have no problem with pointing out errors theologically but Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:24 that God’s worker must not be quarrelsome and 1 Peter 3:15 says that we are to answer people with gentleness and respect. We are not to be argumentative. We are not to be arrogant. We are not to be rude. We are ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and we are to reflect our King who is loving and good (1 John 4:7-8).
So please, watchdog ministries, please continue to help us understand where ministries are errant in theology and help us to correct our own wayward theology through truth but I also urge you to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) and to seek to be at peace with all people (Hebrews 12:14-15). I urge you to answer others with the truthfulness of the Word of God but do so with grace and mercy and not arrogance and pride. I also ask you to pray for those whom you critique, that God would bring them to repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-26). I have no problem naming names of people who are teaching heresy after all, Paul did (2 Timothy 1:15). But let us seek to answer these heretics with grace and with love and not anger or bitterness or wrath.
Can. 1 “If any man says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal, so that whether he sinned or not he would have died, not as the wages of sin, but through the necessity of nature, let him be anathema.”
Can. 2 “If any man says that new-born children need not be baptized, or that they should indeed be baptized for the remission of sins, but that they have in them no original sin inherited from Adam which must be washed away in the bath of regeneration, so that in their ease the formula of baptism ‘for the remission of sins’ must not be taken literally, but figuratively, let him be anathema; because, according to Romans 5:12, the sin of Adam (in quo omnes peccaverunt) has passed upon all.”
Can. 3.1 “If any man says that in the kingdom of heaven or elsewhere there is a certain middle place, where children who die unbaptized live in bliss (beate vivant), whereas without baptism they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, that is, into eternal life, let him be anathema.” [The authenticity of this canon has been brought into question, though there is some reason to believe that it was part of the original canon listing. In some manuscripts Canon 3.2, listed below, is listed here.]
Can. 3.2 “If any man says that the grace of God, by which man is justified through Jesus Christ, is only effectual for the forgiveness of sins already committed, but is of no avail for avoiding sin in the future, let him be anathema.”
Can. 4 “If any man says that this grace only helps not to sin, in so far that by it we obtain a better insight into the Divine commands, and learn what we should desire and avoid, but does not also give the power gladly to do and to fulfill what we have seen to be good, let him be anathema.”
Can. 5 “If any man says that the grace of justification was given us in order that we might the more easily fulfill that which we are bound to do by the power of free will, so that we could, even without grace, only not so easily, fulfill the Divine commands, let him be anathema.”
Can. 6 “If any man understands the words of the Apostle: ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,’ to mean that we must acknowledge ourselves to be sinners only out of humility, not because we are really such, let him be anathema.”
Can. 7 “If any man says that the saints pronounce the words of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘forgive us our trespasses,’ not for themselves, because for them this petition is unnecessary, but for others, and that therefore it is, ‘forgive us,’ not ‘me,’ let him be anathema.”
Can. 8 “If any man says that the saints only pronounce these words, ‘forgive us our trespasses,’ out of humility, not in their literal meaning, let him be anathema.”
Can. 9 “It has already been ordered by a former plenary Council, that those communities which became Catholic before the Imperial laws against the Donatists were issued by Honorius, are to remain in the dioceses of those bishops through whom they became Catholic; but that if they entered into communion with the Church after the publication of those laws, they shall be made over to that diocese to which they, while they were still Donatists, belonged (de jure). But as many disputes have arisen and do arise among the bishops from this cause, it is now decided that if in any place a Donatist and a Catholic community have existed side by side, and belonged to different dioceses, both shall be made over to the diocese to which the Catholic section belonged, whether the conversion of the Donatists took place before or after the publication of those Imperial decrees.”
Can. 10 “If the Donatist bishop has himself become Catholic, the two bishops (he and the Catholic one) shall divide equally between them the two communities now united, so that one portion of the towns shall belong to one, and the other to the other bishop. The bishop who has been longest in office shall make the division, but the other shall have the choice. If there is only one township of this description, then it shall belong to whichever See is nearest to it; but if there are two equally near, the people shall decide it by the majority of votes. If the votes are equal, the elder bishop has the preference. If, however,
the towns to which both parties belonged are of unequal number, so that they cannot be equally divided, the remaining one shall be dealt with as was prescribed above, in the preceding canon, with regard to a single town.”
Can. 11 “If, after the publication of this edict, a bishop has brought back a place to Catholic unity, and has held undisputed jurisdiction over it for three years, it may not be taken away from him. But if a Donatist bishop is converted, no disadvantage shall accrue to him from this arrangement, but for three years after his conversion he has the right of demanding back those places which belonged to his See.”
Can. 12 “If a bishop seeks to get into his power a diocese to which he thinks he has a claim, not through an episcopal decision, but by other means, and is opposed by another, he thereby forfeits his claim.”
Can. 13 “If a bishop takes no pains to win over to Catholic unity those places which belong to his jurisdiction, he shall be exhorted to do so by the neighboring bishops. If he does not do so within six months from this warning, they shall belong to the bishop who wins them to the Church…In disputed cases, arbiters shall be chosen by the primate or by the parties themselves.”
Can. 14 “There can be no further appeal from judges who have been unanimously elected.”
Can. 15 “If the bishop of a mother-diocese shows no zeal against the heretics, he shall be warned by the neighboring bishops; and if in six months from that time he does not bring back the heretics, although those deputed to carry out the Imperial decree of union have been in his province, he shall be deprived of communion until he does so.”
Can. 16 “If, however, he falsely asserts that he has brought back the heretics into communion, when this is not true, he forfeits his See.”
Can. 17 “If priests, deacons, and inferior clerics complain of a sentence of their own bishop, they shall, with the consent of their bishop, have recourse to the neighboring bishops, who shall settle the dispute. If they desire to make a further appeal, it must only be to their primates or to African Councils. But whoever appeals to a court on the other side of the sea (Rome), may not again be received into communion by any one in Africa.”
Can. 18 “If a virgin is in danger of losing her virginity, because a great man demands her in marriage, or some one desires to violate her, or because she fears to die before receiving the veil, and the bishop, at the desire of her parents, gives her the veil before she has reached the age of twenty-five, the synodal decision with regard to this age shall not hinder him.”
Can. 19 “In order that all the bishops present at the Council should not be detained too long, it was decided that the General Council should make choice of three persons invested with full powers from each province. From the province of Carthage were chosen Vincent, Fortunatian, and Clarus; from Numidia, Alypius, Augustine, and Restitutus; from the Byzacene province, besides the saintly old man, the Primate Donatian, the Bishops Cresconius, Jocundus, and Aemilianus; from Mauretania Sitifensis, Severian, Asiaticus, and Donatus; from the province of Tripoli, as usual only one, Plautius. These, with the senex, namely, the Primate Aurelius, shall decide everything. The Synod also prayed that Aurelius would sign all the documents to be published.”
Does everyone go to heaven when they die? Many today want to answer with an overwhelming “yes” to that question. However, did Jesus Christ hold such a view? The Bible says in Matthew 7:13-14 the following:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (NASB)
Jesus goes on later to tell His disciples that He alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Jesus doesn’t say that He is one way or one truth or one life but He says that He is the way to God. If Jesus were dying for the salvation of all (universalism) then Jesus’ statements in Matthew 7:13-14 or that no one can come to the Father but through Him is meaningless. Yet Jesus said that the Scriptures cannot broken (John 10:35). The Scriptures are true in all that they teach (John 17:17).
This also is why you should not grow weary in evangelism. Few will believe the gospel and be saved. Few will enter into the narrow way of eternal life. In Matthew 13:18-23 we read about the sower sowing the seeds of the gospel. You’ll notice that most of the souls do not respond to the gospel. Only one bears fruit. Our job is to take the seed and cast the gospel out to all. God saves sinners and our job is not to save a soul but to preach the gospel to all (John 6:37; Acts 2:39). Let us go forth in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) trusting that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17).
However, don’t forget to pray for the lost to be saved through Jesus Christ and for His glory (Romans 10:1-4; 1 Timothy 2:1-7).
John MacArthur completed his short series of posts on the Grace To You blog and I must admit that his points are exception and why I enjoy his teaching ministry so much. I don’t agree with Dr. MacArthur on all points but we agree on enough that I enjoy listening to him and do support him with money from time to time. If he would come to a house church, I would gladly have him come and teach the Word.
In his posts on Rob Bell, MacArthur dares to do what others have feared doing and that is to say that Rob Bell is not even saved. Bold words but he backs them up by showing that Bell is no friend to the Church but a heretic. He shows that Bell’s views on hell are not a surprise to anyone who has actually been reading his past works. MacArthur shows that Bell does not hold to orthodox views on many issues and that the Church of God would do well to simply avoid him as a false teacher (Matthew 7:15-20). I was impressed to say the least.
Yet underneath was a lesson for Arminians to learn as well and that is that we too need to defend the truth. We may differ with Calvinists on many issues regarding how we got saved but we agree on one thing: salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Our debate with Calvinists is not are they saved but is in the perimeters of our salvation. I gladly call Calvinists my brothers and sisters in Christ even if we disagree within our salvation over how we came to be saved by God’s grace.
But even more sadly is that too few Arminians are willing to be as bold as John MacArthur and declare that Rob Bell is heretical in his views and is a wolf. We should be bold and stand with Paul who gave his life for the truth of God. He told Timothy to watch his life and teachings closely (1 Timothy 4:16) and he told Titus to teach sound doctrine in Titus 2:1. The truth is worth dying for and we should defend it boldly (Jude 3). The Holy Spirit will help us if we will remain in the teachings of Christ (John 8:31-32).
I pray that the Lord will help me to defend the truth of God. I pray that I would be willing to lay down my life even for the truth of the Lord.