There are many, many scriptures where Paul discusses false doctrine. He is passionate about it. There is no question that there are wrong teachings out there. Sometimes I get the impression when I read here that some people think it is wrong to point out heresy. But there is such thing as heresy and Paul tells us that it is a really dangerous thing. For those of you who don’t like the use of the word “heretic” or some other synonym, when is it appropriate for it to be used? Is it ever OK to expose someone else as a “heretic”, in your opinion?
I find no reason to make any judgments before it’s time because nobody but God and that man knows the heart of that man.
The problem is that we Christians can take it to an extreme, for instance. I once heard a young earther call an old earther a heretic for not believing that Adam and Eve really existed. That is not heresy albeit abhorrent teaching to come to such a conclusion. Heresy IMO is when the nature and character of God has been deliberately changed and the gospel is corrupted thus making God a liar. As long as one has the right heart and that they do it biblical then there is nothing wrong in calling out when the desires are righteous.
That’s a great question.
There is no doubt a time and place for that.
If your question is in regard to this forum specifically, I think the main thing is that we’re here to discuss opinions and ideas, not to make the decision that other people’s ideas are “damnable”. The word “heresy” is emotionally charged and implies that something is unquestionably wrong and anyone holding to the teaching is an evil false teacher.
Discussing and explaining why you think something is incorrect is perfectly acceptable, but just yelling “Heresy!” at something or someone is not.
(BTW, I don’t think the moderators have discussed this, so if others disagree with me on this, please say so!)
Maybe this will help
This is by Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands. It’s mostly scripture with a few comments:
[size=150]A Sampling of Paul’s Instruction Re: False Teachers and Sound Doctrine[/size]
*"Another prominent themes in Paul’s pastoral epistles–1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus–is that of false teaching, false teachers, and the errors they foster. In fact, the entire New Testament rings with constant alarm about those who pervert the way of truth. Not surprisingly, then, we find the pastorals addressing teachers on their responsibility to both teach the truth and respond to error.
Below is a survey of Paul’s comments to Timothy and Titus:
“…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work–which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about our what they so confidently affirm.” (1 Tim. 1:3-7) “Some have rejected these [faith and good conscience] and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymanaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:19b-20). Deacons “must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Tim. 3:9). “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:1-2). “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch you life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16). “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim. 6:3-5). “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:10b). “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entruted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Tim. 1:13-14). “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:16-18). “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:23-26). “They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres oppose the truth–men of depraved minds, who, as fas as the faith is concerned, are rejected” (2 Tim. 3:1-8). “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it…” (2 Tim. 3:12-14). “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep you head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:2-5). Elders “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of teh circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain” (Titus 1:11). “Rebuke them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth” (Titus 1:13-14). “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1a).
Is the Apostle Paul a lover of controversy? Does he go out of his way to find a heresy under every rock?
Would he find a comfortable home in our assemblies? Would our “tone” and “emphasis” in the ministry match the apostle’s? Or, would Paul likely be cast off as “unteachable,” “hard-hearted,” and unkind?
How much attention should the pastor give to false teaching? How “worked up” ought we to be about error?
Perhaps a fresh appreciation of Paul’s instructions in the pastorals would be helpful in our day of polite-above-all attitudes. Though Paul warns the pastor not to be quarrelsome, in the same breath he says refute error. And it’s clear from the various kinds of effects false teaching has on the people of God that failure to refuse error and teach sound doctrine is simply dereliction of pastoral duty. It’s cruel neglect. No pastor should find solace in appeals to charity or tolerance or grace when facing false teaching. Be charitable, tolerant, and gracious–but reject the error! We have it on divine authority that this is the pastor’s duty."*
Paul is not at all shy about letting us know that we should stand up for truth and call a lie a lie. I don’t think there is even any debate about that. The big question becomes, then, what type of “lie” do you call out on the table? There are some things that would be major, some moderately important, and some a bit insignificant. What would Paul consider to be unsound doctrine? He gives us some examples, such as the Judaizers (sp?). What are examples of legitimate complaints and when have people gone too far in crying “heresy”? I actually read a guy yesterday who criticized a woman as teaching false doctrine when she said that Jesus still did miracles today! He was of the opinion that miracles ceased in the first century and that a claim that they were continuing was heretical.
What if trying to be like God and wanting to know the difference between good and evil is heresy? This is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place; isn’t it. Maybe Paul was saying this. BTW he was put to death for his teachings on
What matters if one be a Student of the Word, and handle it correctly.
2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Aren’t we called to do so by Our Lord when He speaks?: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. that seems to be different from what you are saying.
I’m not talking about judging the heart of a man. I’m talking about judging the teaching based on what the bible teaches. You might be a great guy who happens to teach that Jesus never really did die. Or you may be a good-hearted guy who unintentionally was teaching that Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead. Whatever the case, it is the wrong teaching that can lead someone astray and it is the wrong teaching that would need to be addressed (in this case - yes a person can lead someone astray with the “cult of personality” thing, but I"m simply talking about incorrect teaching).
Here’s where I place myself: I think that in the conservative evangelical church there is a tad too much “truth policing” going on. There is a solid respect for the scriptures, but, as is the nature of humans, some people take it too far and take it upon themselves to be the “guardians for truth” and start splitting hairs and making big deals out of them. I’ll read comments on blogs between Christians sometimes and it is embarrassing. It is because of people like this that I started the thread about “worshiping a different Jesus”. Someone will come up with a different interpretation of scripture and WHAM!! the person serves a different Jesus, preaches a false gospel and is destined for hell! On the other hand, there are other people who think it is a bad thing to make a judgment on teaching no matter what. It’s as if it is wrong to make ANY judgment on whether something is scriptural or not. If someone teaches something that is blatantly unscriptural, we ought to say something about it, in a peaceable and gracious manner.
Hmm, Lets see.
“Truth Policing”…”Mind Cops”…”The Spanish Inquisition”
Calvinism is going through a revival amongst Evangelicals these days and Calvinists in particular are great heresy hunters…and they see heresies everywhere, especially in books written by non-Calvinists.
Bright, earnest young reformed Seminary students are the best heresy hunters and they are usually very good at it. They find the most ancient and pernicious of heresies buried or ‘implied’ in the most simple and spiritually uplifting books recently written.
The question then, I suppose, is what should we do about all these heresies when we find them and who should we complain to? What can be done about it? Thats the biggest problem.
Having discovered a heresy one can take it to the Church Leaders.
Church leaders can sound the alarm and warn the faithful of the flock, preach sermons against it, write blogs and books about it and threaten those who are promoting these heresies with the wrath of God or excommunicate church members if they start to publicly or privately discuss any of these new heresies in a sympathetic way.
We must protect them and keep the faithful (who like sheep are not very bright) from being tossed about by every wind of new doctrine and from any new movement and new understanding or any new so-called ‘move of the Spirit’
Keeping the doctrinal lid screwed down as tightly as possible is one of the first prerogatives good church leaders, even if the pressure builds up to explosion point inside the congregational pot. All new or innovative understanding must be suppressed or kept at arms length. It is not welcome here in our midst.
One way to ensure the hegemony of correct doctrine in our religious group or denomination is to refuse to make any distinction at all between what the bible says and what we say it says. That works really well.
In the Bible all the essentials are totally self evident and blindingly clear to those with the right attitide and a teachable spirit. There is nothing ambiguous at all about the language of Scripture when it speaks of God or salvation or of the ‘things to come’. There is no need for us to interpret the Bible because it infallibly interprets itself. What we say the bible says is what the Bible says. Full stop. No argument. To argue on that point is to argue with the Bible and the argue with the sacred oracles of God is to argue with God and if you argue with God He will get REALLY ANGRY WITH YOU! REALLY, REALLY ANGRY WITH YOU
The fact that other Christian groups and denominations or historical streams of Christianity may see and read some of the texts of the Bible differently from us and give them a slightly different interpretation should not bother us at all because we know deep down in our hearts that they are wrong and dangerously misguided and that we are right. The Truth belongs to us and our tradition and only to us. Only our doctrinal tradition is the true or correct one. All the others are sunk in error and the members of these groups are probably not even saved.
So the question is not so much “what is truth” but…ARE YOU ONE OF US, MR… ? Are you REALLY one of us or not! Don’t play with words.Are you one of us or not?
If you are not with us you are against us and we are against you.
If you were with us you are no longer with us and you are showing by what you are saying and writing now that you never were one of us.
We are all in a life and death spiritual war and we know we are on the right side and that you, and those who like what you are saying and who indorse your book as a good thing are on the wrong side of the track and despite what they say they cannot be one of us either, otherwise they would not have endorsed the book
So woe and anathema to you if you do not agree with us.
Woe and anathema are you if you do not hold to our interpretation of Scripture on these important matters.
You are clearly possessed by an unclean spirit of deception and error and you must be exposed and shamed and shown for what you really are and driven out from amongst us…
If this were 300 years ago we would have you burned at the stake for the salvation of your soul and as an example to others but we are not allowed to do that anymore. It was better when we could…and DID!
OK, I’m new to this site and may be missing the point of the discussion but here goes.
It seems to me that in most of the cases where Paul is correcting false teachers he is addressing the false teaching of the Jews who wanted the gentile Christians to be primarily Jews and not primarily Christians. It is an argument of faith in Christ or faith in the law. Paul is primarily concerned that we walk in faith in Christ, trusting in God’s grace and walking in the Spirit. That walk with the Holy Spirit results in a person who looks like God exibiting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness etc. That is what a true follower of Christ looks like. The one who is trying to force the new gentile believer into being an Old Testiment believer did it to maintain the religious status quo, the motivations were selfish and results were emnity and strife and factions etc. The man of truth is one who believes that what God has said, done and asked is true and will then, in dependence upon that real and amazing God, walk with Him and be like Him. The man who is making a point or defending a doctrine, even misguidedly for “god” and not in dependence ont the REAL God will find himself in strife and emnity etc., not acting like God at all. That is the real false teacher, the real heretic.
The Bible is a Rorschach test. God intentionally made it so. It is a two-edged sword, cutting to reveal our spirit. Proponents justified slavery with “clear unambiguous textual support”. Scripture is God’s word, but as CS Lewis said, if you read someone’s letters without knowing the person, you wouldn’t know what was hyperbole, metaphor, parable… NO-ONE knew the scriptures better than the Pharisees.
But The Spirit brings Truth. And how are we told to judge any spirit, any theological “tree”? By it’s fruit.
If your theology begets Hopelessness, Hating your neighbor, heart-closing; blaspheming Gods Spirit, judging another mans servant, then that spirit is not Christ. I call that heresy. If your theology (like “soul sleep”) has no discernible impact on “how then shall we live”, then I’m not interested, and I doubt God is either, as he is jealous of us and our time and the works that are the fruit of our faith. Paul warns us (sternly!) of trivial controversy.
Most excellent post Nottirbd! I agree totally.
I hope most people twigged to the fact that my HERESY!!! post was totally satirical.
YES!..having undertaken a satire (below) of self-appointed heresy hunters and asking the question what do we do about heresy when we ‘find it’ and what do with do with the ‘heretics’ once they have been identified…I admit you have a point and agree that this is what Paul said and that he meant it.
Let me just point out that the HERESY ISSUE (specifically the fear of heresy as if heresy were some kind of thought virus easily caught)… and the fear that theologically healthy, evangelical preachers, pastors ,church leaders (like Rob Bell) may turn into the equivalent of a Typhoid Mary…(an otherwise healthy carrier of a deadly pathogen) which threatens the spiritual health of the WHOLE COMMUNITY)… as it raises its horned leering head above the parapets of the more Calvinistic wing of evangelical community (one would expect Evangelical Arminians to be more open to what Bell is saying)…does cause one to reflect on what on earth is really going on!
If you reflect on Church History you will find that every major change or shift in UNDERSTANDING of the biblical revelation gets accused of heresy beginning with the ‘split’ between the Western (Catholic) Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church over the Filioque issue, to the Reformation (Protestant Heretics) to the endless splits within Protestantism over issues of doctrine and confessional standards, each accusing the other of heresy…the most recent example (now quieted down) being the emergence of Pentecostalism and the charismatic renewal, initially branded heresy
The biggest heresy hunters today still remain the Calvinistic Reformed who see themselves as the orthodox party and this would include the vast majority of Evangelical Calvinists.
For me, I see classic 5 point TULIP Calvinism as one of the greatest of of heresies ever perpetuated within the history of Christianity with its roots in Augustine’s platonic theological determinism. The tight doctrinal system of Augustinian/Calvinistic theology not only distorts biblical exegesis but it turns God into a sadomasochic monster & the ultimate source of all suffering, sin and evil in the world. Of course Calvinists do not see it that way and any criticism of their theology will be interpreted as possible only from a heretical standpoint and perspective…which means I am the heretic.
And on we go around and around the mulberry bush. Clearly all this is counterproductive and gets us nowhere.
So what do we do with Paul’s warning about correct ‘doctrine’ ? Well, first it is important to emphasise that ‘doctrine’ in the systematic confessional sense of modern Protestantism was unknown to Paul and he did not practise it. Paul is referring here to the absolute basics of the Gospel as preached and lived out by the primitive church…as there were clear non-negotiable items of confession associated with that…like the divinity and Incarnation of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead,the ‘implied’ Trinity’ and the basics of the Gospel narrative…more specifically 'the elemental principles of Christ, repentance from the dead works, faith towards God etc ( Hebrews 6:1-3)…the non-negotiables.
It should be remembered in these informal heresy trials, debates, and misrepresentations associated with ATTACKING Bell’s book LOVE WINS are actually about the very strong 'universalist and inclusive texts written by Paul himself. (such as 1 Corinthians 15:21 ff) and about the final defeat of the powers of darkness through Christ.
So in an important way the present controversy is over biblical interpretation, which, when taken to the wire, includes an unresolved controversy by Greek scholars over the meaning of the Greek term "aeon’ .
When it is being suggested, and preached that my whole salvation depends on a handful of greek scholars agreeing on the meaning of a single Greek word OR upon my accepting all the finer points of Calvinism as the only adequate ‘filter’ through which to read my bible ‘properly’ …I know in my heart of hearts that I am dealing with some very disturbed, unhappy; scared and hateful people worried about losing their power or authority…as God movers by His Spirit to shake up the church and to bring His Kingdom into history and to encourage people to read the Bible for themselves.
But you still have a point. Some extra-biblical confessional standard is necessary. But which one.
My choice would be the most ancient Ecumenical Nicene Creed…If you can, hand on heart and with a clean conscience, without any reservations, recite that Creed and mean it…that is good enough for me. [web.me.com/billemail/Jesusmatrix/Nicene_Creed.html].
If that is the acknowledged extra-biblical standard of right Christian teaching and doctrine (not the Westminster Confession) Rob Bell will not appear to me a heretic. If your standard is one of the Protestant reformed Confessions…he is.
Thats good enough for me.
I accept that I am a heretic. Being a heretic doesn’t mean you are wrong.
The whole Christian Church is a heretical sect of Judaism.
Protestantism is considered heretical by the Catholic Church.
I embrace the term with pride.
AND the Pentecostals.Charismatic were considered heretics by the 5 Point Calvinists many of whom have now been won over (See Wayne Grudem’s Calvinistic/charismatic Systematic Theology…which means it is no longer a heresy.
But, I don’t know how old you are, but it is slightly more acceptable to have a few heretical notions when you are over…say…and perhaps even mandatory if you are to show some kind of independence of thought…but being a young heretic (say from the age of 20-40) can cause you a lot of grief as you can attract a lot of viscous theological bullying from ambitious middle-aged ‘elders’ and the guardians of the once heretical but now orthodox consensus who want to run a tight ship and have serious control needs probably because they were spiritually abused when growing up themselves.
So as a mild 68 year old heretic I get on OK in my church. I guess because I don’t push it or try to win people to my cause…at least not directly or overtly…
The great part about being a heretic is that you get to see and experience and understand really wonderful things about God and Divine Revelation which those who play it safe totally miss.
I like that, Bill!
Plus, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that “heresy” just means “choice”, as in; I choose to believe differently.
But it is definitely an emotionally charged word, like judgment. We think we know what it means, but most of Christendom really doesn’t know what judgment really is, or what it’s for.