The Politics of Heresy

I think I have heard the word heresy used more times in the past month than I did in the entire decade of the 1990s.

This could mean there is a sudden rise of heretical teaching out there. But I don’t think so. The same bad teachings have been around forever, or at least since the early church. Perhaps it’s increased use reflects its political power.

The word heresy carries a surprising amount of venom. It’s a scary word. It is a label most pastors, professors, authors, or speakers would have a hard time living with if they were stuck with it.  So the word becomes a perfect club for bullies.

If you use the term to describe others, ask yourself what they do to earn the moniker. I believe the term should only be used if certain fundamental, central, and traditional doctrines of the Christian religion are being broken or corrupted. If the Trinity and incarnation are defined in the historical ways, if the inspiration of Scripture is upheld, and if the central role of grace is proclaimed then the use of the word heresy is inappropriate.

If you expect everyone to agree with you, right down to the minor details, the problem may be your conceit instead of their heresy.

The Christian life should have a balance. Understanding which issues to stand on resolutely is important. But it’s just as important to be able to have unity with someone who disagrees with you on minor issues.

The trick, of course, is defining which issues are major and which are minor. Many of us have our favorite topics. Don’t label people heretics just because they oppose your favorite soapbox.


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