Eric Reitan: On Heresy & Universalism (a response to Olson)


"]A couple of weeks ago, Roger Olson–a theology professor at Baylor University–took up the issue of universalism on his blog, asking, “How serious a heresy is universalism?

Of course, this is a loaded question. It assumes that universalism is a heresy. But how do we decide that? To engage this question seriously, we’d first need to wrestle with the concept of heresy itself. Olson does offer a brief definition of heresy in a parenthetical remark, saying that heresies are “theologically incorrect beliefs,” but he doesn’t consider the adequacy of this definition in the face of alternatives. A “theologically incorrect belief” is presumably a belief about God that doesn’t correspond with the way God really is. If this is what a heresy is, then we’d expect–as Olson immediately concedes–that all Christians are heretical about something or other, and that heresy needn’t be a very serious issue. The (laudable, I think) implication of this way of conceiving the matter is that the cry of heresy loses much of its force. Being a heretic ceases to be an eggregious matter, at least as such.

On the heresy of universalism

Very nice. I like the way he thinks.


It’s also important to note “heresy” implies a different view *compared *to those judging the view of another. Meaning, “If you don’t think along the lines of the established “church” institution, you are a heretic.” IMO, organized religion is not qualified to make that decision. Not only is it biased, it has much to gain in keeping people chanting the same dogmas. As well, it is an inanimate beast itself, and can not be changed. Only the people can change, learn and grow. When they do, those who are not changing are challenged to reevaluate themselves. It is a thing some will not or can not do. The only thing left to the unchanging one is to use the “dogma club” to beat the heretic into subjection.


Good points, KellyS!


Heresy and heretic are quickly becoming my least favorite words as of these last few years.


i suppose there were a few views in Paul’s time that were “heresies”.
i understand that the Gnostic view was countered many times in his writing…

i think we need to be careful, because there are errors that are detrimental to the health of the church or individuals.
for example, prosperity “gospel” is a vile cancer that parasitises the poorest nations and people. i won’t mince words about that.

but i think when there’s sufficient doubt of a fondly held doctrine, then to merely disagree is not heretical. also, given that i in my defense of belief A may in fact be wrong, and have to be humble enough to admit it, i should be able to discuss with a proponent of belief B, and perhaps even if we don’t come to an agreement, we can see our own views more objectively.

Jesus gave us a clue to look for when testing things: is the fruit good?


Exactly, and that is why some claim problems with universalism; at least some universalist thinking has not produced good fruit. The problem comes in when non-universalists point to this as an example of all universalist thought (generalization), while not recognizing that exclusivism has produced far more damaging fruit.


Gospels that inspire men to steal from the orphans and widows, to steal their houses, their grain, and their goods -
Gospels that inspire men to refuse visiting, and caring, and loving their fellow neighbors as themselves -
Gospels that inspire men to judge the souls of men where they have no authority, to steal the throne of God and make themselves God over their neighbors and their equals-
Gospels that inspire men to dismiss God and hate him with a vile, devilish, and purposeful hatred-
Gospels that inspire hate, killing, stealing, and destroying-
Are heresy.
Gospels that differ on this or that doctrinal point, or interpretation, or even issues of the faith; are not heresy, but matters of discussion, and application; things to be judged by their fruit. Test all things and hold on to the good.

The Truth himself will make the Truth known.


Will God’s people be known by their loving actions, or by their purity of doctrine?


A), If we believe the scriptures!


Love is the purest doctrine! :wink:



Love that Sonia, “love is the purest doctrine!”

I’ve just grown so accustom to people calling me a heretic that I’ve grown a certain fondness of the word and am happy to call myself one. Now, maybe that’s just weird! :confused: