Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What is Heresy? The Biblical Definition

You have heard heresy defined as "that which causes division"...that is a very close definition but it leaves open for people to claim any talk that causes people to divide from one thing to another then are advocating heresy AGAINST Christianity. This would leave Jesus open to the accusation of causing heresy if we apply the narrow definition to say His statement here:
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (Luke 12:51-53)
Also, many times today we see people claim if you don't use sugary-sweet speech & talk in vague (non-divisive) terms, then you are being "divisive". The definition of heresy as being "that which causes division" is only half the definition. Division of & from what???

The Biblical Definition
I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. (Romans 16:17-18)
So, as we can see it ISN'T just any ole "divisiveness" that is considered heresy, but it is when the speech or more specifically the speaking of doctrine is COUNTER or CONTRARY to "the teaching you have learned" that it is then considered HERETICAL.

The next question should be, "learned from where/whom?". Well, who was it doing the teaching? Jesus & the Holy Spirit-guided apostles.
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thes 2:15)
Here then is the minimal PROPER application of the word & concept of heresy. If a person comes teaching a doctrine that is completely out of sync with the teachings of Jesus & His hand-picked apostles, then that person is teaching something that is contrary & will cause people to divide from the community of saints. For example, I've been known for combating a small group of heretics called hyperpreterists that teach the following heretical "doctrines":
(1) Jesus came back once & for all in the year AD70
(2) The resurrection of the believers happened in AD70
(3) The judgment happened in AD70
(4) There will be no consummation of God's plan
These "teachings" are heretical because they are contrary to ALL of historic Christian interpretation AND they divide people away from what is Christian to embracing views that have NEVER been Christian. Now, before someone thinks or says it, Martin Luther & the other Reformers did NOT come teaching some NEW or contrary thing. Justification by Faith was long the central teaching of the Church. It can be shown from the writing of Augustine & others. What Luther, John Calvin & the others did was simply articulate an important doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church had blurred. The Reformers used Scripture AND historical theology to show that Justification By Faith Alone was ALWAYS the teaching of Jesus & the apostles. (i.e. historical Christian interpretation, confessions, creeds, & councils were actually on the Reformer's side, as well as Scripture). So, let no would-be heresy try to claim Luther & the Reformers as their model. They are not the same thing.

However, when a REAL heresy is put forward it MUST show contempt for ALL of historic Christian interpretation. It MUST claim in essence that historic Christianity has failed. This is why every cult, be it Mormons, JWs, Islam, or hyperpreterism MUST first try to get the potential convert to believe 2000 years worth of UNITED Christian interpretation on the basics has been wrong. REAL heresies & cults MUST first "divide" a person from "the teachings they have learned". Once the person accepts the notion that God failed, Jesus failed, the apostles failed, the Holy Spirit failed to effectively guide the Church in the basics of the Christian faith, then the heresy can go to work in replacing the persons faith with the heresy. And as Rom 16:17-18 says, heresy usually doesn't come knocking with a sign saying, "WARNING: Heretical Teachings", but rather it comes via "smooth words & flattering speech". Mormons or JWs at your door are some of the most pleasant people you could interact with. Muslims, especially the Louis Farrakahn types are taught to be very polite ("yes sir", "yes ma'am") using very calm tones.

So, to conclude heresy ISN'T just something we don't like or something different than our denominational perspective. Heresy is teachings that are contrary to the bulk of historic Christian interpretation (i.e Scriptural understanding as has been guided by the Holy Spirit throughout Church history). Heresy divides people away from any resemblence of historic Christianity into some "new" teaching.  Whether the false teaching ultimately affects a person's salvation is NOT the point.  Error is error & ought not be tolerated within the community of saints.

For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (1 Cor 11:19 KJV)
Heresies MUST be so as to contrast lies from truth. How else can light shine unless in darkness? So, when a person sees a heresy, he or she can contrast the lie & see the truth more evident & more manifest.

No comments: