You might be a heretic if…

Kurt Willems writes:

There is an unspoken (or, often overly spoken) code of theological, cultural, and political beliefs that many within evangelical churches often champion as “TRUTH.” Rather than admitting that we all need to be humble in these matters, some are quick to drop the “heretic” bomb (just read the comments section of any blog about the work of Rob Bell :-) ). The link between “heresy” (well, some folks’ definition of that word) and evangelical rejects is sad and obvious. Many faithful disciples of Jesus find themselves in situations where they are labeled a “heretic” because their views don’t line up with the status quo.

Sometimes, if I’m honest, I’m tempted to pull the lever on a reverse heretical bomb. I’d love to give some people a taste of their own medicine. So, l when I’m accused of not fitting some sort of unspoken code or litmus test, I often think that demonstrating the fallacy of such thinking and labeling it as “heresy” might be a fun reversal of fortunes. I think of saying: O, so you believe that the world was created in 7 literal days… Well, you know, that reading the bible in its proper genre, historical, and theological context renders your view as heretical. What if some of these issues that get us deemed “heretics” were labeled as the new “conservative” viewpoint, and we started calling various forms of fundamentalism the new “liberalism?” But then, that thought quickly fades as I remember how it feels to be labeled a heretic and thereby become an evangelical reject. Such a reversal would lead to more infighting, which should not be our goal. I long to be part of a movement of reconciliation – on every level.

My personal view is that outside of the Apostle’s Creed and the four convictions of evangelicalism, that we do well not question the sincerity of anyone’s commitment to evangelical Christian faith. I would say that the four convictions may not be necessary for those expressions of faith that have not historically claimed such a label. The movement of Jesus is diverse and we should have a “big tent” that allows for multiple voices. Sure, there is tons of value in identifying with a specific tribe (Anabaptist, Pietism, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan, Reformed, Orthodox, Anglican, etc.), but within those traditions and as they interact with each other, wouldn’t we do well to not drop the “heresy” bomb every time someone has a view that diverges from one’s own?

Do you ever experience rejection from evangelical culture? Perhaps you know what it’s like to have “heresy” bombs tossed in your general direction. I’ve decided that I’m okay with being labeled a “heretic” – in quotes – because ultimately I’m convinced that this sort of heresy isn’t heresy at all. Sure, none of us will get every part of our belief system absolutely perfect. But if “heresy” in quotes helps us partner in the mission of God, then I’m convinced that being a “heretic” of this sort isn’t so bad after all.


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  • pietrosquared March 6, 2013 Reply

    I love the “7 literal days” comment, because I’ve run into too many Evangelicals who make that a litmus test for orthodoxy. Sheesh… get a life, okay?

    For me, I’ll take the proto-creed from 1 Corinthians 15 (read carefully) and the resulting Apostles’ Creed… and LEAVE IT AT THAT…

  • James March 6, 2013 Reply

    I love it! Thanks for your refreshing comments. I’ve been a part of the “evangelical” wing for most of my life. And until recently, I’ve bitten the hook of evangelicalism as truth. For a lot of folks, good friends and family, the acceptance of faith included buying the whole evangelical emphasis, which most of it has become an excuse to be lazy in researching the scriptures for oneself.
    Seven literal days, Old earth, New earth, baptism emersion: dunking, sprinkling, forward, backward etc.
    My tent has become very very large, and yes I’ve been hande the left hand of fellowship and labeled “one of those”.
    However, the freedom I now live with, the love I now experience in Christ has become my new path of faith. And for that, I could never go back.
    Like Paul I can say, “not looking back, but keeping my eyes focused forward, on Christ, the author and finisher of my faith.” (Paraphrased of course).
    Once you’ve tasted the ever expanding realm of God, and the ever expanding revelation of HIs love for Him and our ability to love others, all the rules, tight fisted sermons will never do.
    However, there is a risk and a cost. It may cost you your former friends, ministry position, reputation among the “established” community. For me, it has been worth it all.
    Blessings in your pursuit of truth and Grace

  • Frank March 7, 2013 Reply

    I am post-trib, pan-mil (it’ll all pan out in the end!), 5 point Calvinist, open on baptism, open on age of earth/ willing to consider theistic evolution – but dubious of it, believe all spiritual gifts are still available – but none is “the initial physical evidence….”, and suspicious of many claims of healing and revelation. So I tick a lot of people off. Yet I fervently believe we must be rock solid firm on the essentials. Scripture is my inerrant standard, and I find the essentials articulated well in the Nicene and Apostles creed.

  • Gary Ellis March 7, 2013 Reply

    Frank…I would probably agree with your positions on some of what you state. The big catch for me is the phrase, “Scripture is my inerrant standard…” I agree with that if modified to, “What I understand Scripture to say at this time is my standard.” It’s not a matter of not having any firm biblical foundations as long as the “firmness” is couched in a teachable mind and heart. There are too many things I used to think and state was “clearly scriptural” until I began to learn things I didn’t realize about culture, language, and context.

    • James March 7, 2013 Reply

      Hello to Gary and Frank;
      I like to weigh-in just a little. I agree with both of you, and especially Gary on the “inerrancy” of Scripture. I’m not a Biblical scholar with a degree, but I have studied scripture my whole like, including the Latin Vulgate and Septuagant texts. Scripture is only “inerrant” in the fact that God spoke to man. What man may have heard and how he wrote down is filled with errors, both in context, syntext, and grammar. God’s revelation is always pure, but man’s understanding is always flawed with his own humanness, bias, prejudice, and frame of cultural significance.
      Does that change my respect and awe of Scripture? Not one jot or comma. It simply makes me aware that when I come to scripture I’m careful of the preconceived filter I bring to it. As every Preacher brings every Sunday his “persuasion”, bias, prejudice, focus, filter etc. As you pointed out Frank the points of Calvinism, baptism etc.etc. All those modes contain bias, prejudice, emphasis, and de-emphasis.
      Gary and Frank we are in good company because if we tick people off, so did Jesus.
      We can make folks upset with us because we’re hammering some sin, or we can encourage, and even push them to “THINK” and take responsibility for themselves on God, Jesus, H.S., scriptures truly mean to them.
      When we stand alone with our Father, I don’t think he’ll ask us which school of theology or thought we embraced, as if one was better than the other.
      I believe His loving eyes, will know what’s in our heart whether or not we embraced and were love to all those who needed it, in Jesus example, power, and person.
      Thanks for your “mindfilled”, and transparent thoughts. Much appreciated and refreshing.

  • Chuck March 7, 2013 Reply

    “Sure, there is tons of value in identifying with a specific tribe (Anabaptist, Pietism, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan, Reformed, Orthodox, Anglican, etc.), but within those traditions and as they interact with each other, wouldn’t we do well to not drop the “heresy” bomb every time someone has a view that diverges from one’s own?”

    Fine… but Pentecostals/Charismatics are fair game, right?

  • Gary Ellis March 7, 2013 Reply

    To me, everybody is fair game, Chuck. I, as a pastor of a non-denominational with evangelical roots, have appreciated and subscribed to some of what is known as “Revival Culture” (Basically neo pentecostal) However, I am rapidly tiring of that label as well. Labels so quickly become limiting institutions.

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