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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Heresy

When the word, “Heresy” is spoken, what comes to mind? For some, it is some old church word no longer used, but they know it is a negative term. For many, myself included, it brings to mind thoughts of the Inquisition and the burning at the stake of Joan of Arc and William Tyndale. These types of attachments to the word "heresy" have essentially removed it from public discourse altogether.

However, it should not be so. A study of the history of the church shows that the struggle against heresy within the church was of prime importance in the second and third century A.D. What makes this a significant note is that the church was suffering its worst years of persecution at the same time. While the government and the populace was oppressing the church physically from without, the primary concern of the church leaders was the internal batlle against heresy. While the edificatory writings of encouragement in the face of persecution were important, it is clear from Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Hippolytus and their contemporaries that the focus of the church had shifted from the apologies of the first century that explained and defended Christianity to the polemical writings of the second and third centuries that aggressively pointed out, revealed, explored and vetted the heresies of the day.

Why is this relevant to today? Heresy is among us, and we do not call it what it is. Because we seek “unity”, we tolerate heresy to avoid looking like fractured political groups to unbelievers. Consider this – how can we present a united body when there are all manner of foreign objects within the body? Isn’t it better to point out the beam in our eye, remove it, and then we can do both better? Consider the words of Irenaeus in 160 A.D.:

"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in on attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself." Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.2

An examination of the heresies of the day is in order. What we shall find is that there is truly nothing new under the sun, and that the heresies of today are the heresies of the second and third century. As Irenaeus pointed out, they look attractive and “Christian”, but neither they nor their proponents belong in the community of the faithful. Those who are children of the living God can be corrected by exposing the heresies and their logical conclusions (a favorite tactic of the church fathers) and those who refuse to call their heresy as such will be exposed as the heretics they are – not to be burned at the stake, but to remove their influence over the body.

From the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry:

“Theologically, the Bible teaches condemnation upon false doctrines and false teachers. Gal. 1:8-9 says, "But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (NASB). See also 11 Cor. 16:22; 2 Cor. 11:1315; 1 Tim. 1:18-20; Titus 3:10. Why is this taught in the Bible? The reason is simple. Christians are saved by faith in the work of Jesus on the cross. But faith in itself is not enough. Faith is not a substance you can put in a jar. It is belief in something. Faith is only as good as who it is placed in. If you put your faith in a false God, you are lost because a false god cannot save anyone. This is why God says in Exodus 20:3, "You shall have no other gods before Me." Faith is not what saves, but faith in the true God is what saves…Heresy has the ability to damn because they have the ability to confuse the gospel sufficiently to make it powerless.

Team Hammer will be conducting a weekly post on heresy – what is, what is not, and how to combat it when we see it. We hope to see you here checking it out and contributing.

15 Comments:

  • Good start, Hammer. I look forward to a substantive discussion of “what is and what is not” heresy. Certainly, unity is the goal, if indeed the Truth is that which unifies.

    By Blogger Robert, at 9/27/2005 10:28:00 PM  

  • Me, me me me!!

    (That's me raising my hand at the back of the class. I know a heretic when I see one and it is me!)

    Guilty as charged, sir!

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/27/2005 10:52:00 PM  

  • In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, what did the "fathers" consider heresy? Weren't they loyal followers of "Catholic" teachings? Heretics? If not them, when did the heretics get control of the church? I look forward to your future posts on the subject.

    By Blogger gomatter, at 9/28/2005 02:04:00 PM  

  • It is unity which is the goal, Robert, as you said. As we've both seen, unity achieved by ignoring the twisting of the Gospel is no unity at all, but begrudging silence in the face of, well, heresy.

    Mark - you'll find that you are not a heretic at all!

    GoMatter,

    Good questions all. I'll address all of these issues in longer posts, but the short answers are:

    1) You'll see.
    2) There was no papal church, or capital "C" catholic church. Thus, they cannot have been followers of its teachings!
    3) Some were branded as such in times during and after their age. Many of them went back and forth between the label over time!
    4) Heretics do not control the church, but they may control a church or even a denomination labelled as Christian.

    Check back soon!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 9/29/2005 02:11:00 PM  

  • I'll assume I don't qualify as a heretic because I don't claim to be Christian. (I recently summed up my belief as believing in the Holy Sprit but not the other two parts.) If you are talking about some other reason, though, I'm very curious to learn more.

    I'm even more curious how you keep between the twin goal-posts you set for yourself: fundamentalism and heresy.

    To me the big problem is confusing spiritual faith with physical faith. When you start using faith to understand the physical world you are setting yourself up to oppose observation and science.

    The Garden of Eden. the Flood, those are just stories. Good stories, but stories nonetheless. Now, like the battle of Troy, it may turn out that some of these stories are true, but you shouldn't take it on faith.

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/29/2005 06:59:00 PM  

  • Mark, my friend!!!

    What are you saying?...lol

    That you're a heretic who "has the ability to damn because they have the ability to confuse the gospel sufficiently to make it powerless.” ? Are you saying that you want to be known as someone who knows the truth but wants to confuse people so that they can't determine the truth? That's sure what it sounds like to this here country bumpkin! I don't think I'd be putting that sticker on my bumper...lol.

    Hammer, am I understanding this correctly? Is that what Mark said...essentially?

    By Blogger David Hunley, at 9/30/2005 01:10:00 PM  

  • The highest type of the orthodox Christian does not forget; neither does he learn. He neither advances nor recedes. He is a living fossil embedded in that rock called faith. He makes no effort to better his condition, because all his strength is exhausted in keeping other people from improving theirs. The supreme desire of his heart is to force all others to adopt his creed, and in order to accomplish this object he denounces free thinking as a crime, and this crime he calls heresy. When he had power, heresy was the most terrible and formidable of words. It meant confiscation, exile, imprisonment, torture, and death. - Robert Green Ingersoll

    By Blogger LiberPaul, at 10/03/2005 11:21:00 AM  

  • Obviously, despite his intelligence, Ingersoll did not understand what heresy means. Instead, he takes the misappropriation of the term by others, and assumes they are the same.

    He did not understand heresy because he did not seek to understand. His worldview would not allow it.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 10/04/2005 02:31:00 PM  

  • Heresy as I understand it is any teaching contrary to the standard line......depends on who is running the show then. Heresy, like morals are relative to the time, place and culture. Are Catholics Heretics in your eyes, what about the many, many other denominations?

    I just like the Ingersoll quote, because it is so true, in times past heresy was a death sentence.

    By Blogger LiberPaul, at 10/04/2005 03:45:00 PM  

  • WHOEVER has an opinion of his own, and honestly expresses it, will be guilty of heresy. Heresy is what the minority believe; it is the name given by the powerful to the doctrine of the weak. This word was born of the hatred, arrogance and cruelty of those who love their enemies, and who, when smitten on one cheek, turn the other. This word was born of intellectual slavery in the feudal ages of thought. It was an epithet used in the place of argument. From the commencement of the Christian era, every art has been exhausted and every conceivable punishment inflicted to force all people to hold the same religious opinions. This effort was born of the idea that a certain belief was necessary to the salvation of the soul. Christ taught, and the church still teaches, that unbelief is the blackest of crimes. God is supposed to hate with an infinite and implacable hatred, every heretic upon the earth, and the heretics who have died are supposed at this moment to be suffering the agonies of the damned. The church persecutes the living and her God burns, for all eternity, the dead. - Ingersoll

    By Blogger LiberPaul, at 10/04/2005 03:48:00 PM  

  • LiberPaul,
    I'll be explaining heresy, and will address the Catholic question, too. Unfortunately, there are several "denominations" which practice heresy. It has little to do with orthodoxy and nothing to do with who is in power. You'll find the defintion is different than you thought.

    Ingersoll was not only willfully ingorant of what heresy is, but he clearly is willfully ignorant of its origin. He chose the example that best fit his atheistic/agnostic worldview - that of the "heresy" of the medieval Catholic church. We'll find that was a misuse of a term - as is common with many terms today. Liberal, conservative, choice and civil rights come to mind.

    My first heresy post will be written on the plane ride to my reunion. I am not sure if I will be able to get it up on Thursday or if it may be all the way until next Monday. I apologize for the delay.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 10/05/2005 02:13:00 PM  

  • I am interested on this one. Look forward to the post.

    By Blogger LiberPaul, at 10/05/2005 02:50:00 PM  

  • You know, I have thought about this alot. And I came to the conclusion that under Hammers definition (and Webster's... I looked it up) that I would be considered a heretic. And quite frankly, I'm okay with it. I believe many things not taught in the Church, and have even gotten into arguements over a few of my beliefs. But, I still believe them. And until I stand before God and He tells me I was a little off on some of His teachings, I will continue to believe them and furthermore, defend my beliefs. Burn me at the stake!

    By Blogger sah mom, at 10/06/2005 10:33:00 PM  

  • SAH-
    You cannot agree with my definition of heresy...because I have not given it. My next post will be up today.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 10/10/2005 10:47:00 AM  

  • Sorry, I misunderstood, but I did look up Websters and was much disappointed actually to see that I would fall into that catagory.

    By Blogger sah mom, at 10/10/2005 10:34:00 PM  

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