On the near-heretical abuse of the word “heretical”!
Hamburger? Hockey? Hollywood? Helicopter? Hatchet? Hotdogs? Hound dogs? No, the word I have in mind is “Heresy”. “Oh that word,” you say. “Haven’t you written on that often before Bill?” Yes, sadly I have written numerous pieces on this issue – specifically the need to be very careful in what we call heresy and who we consider to be a heretic.
Regrettably on a regular basis I see Christians recklessly and foolishly throwing around various forms of the H word. In doing so they have roundly abused and misused the word. I get so tired of this to be honest. On the social media especially, seldom a day goes by without one Christian calling another Christian a heretic, or labelling some theological position that they oppose as heresy.
Just STOP! To have a different take on a whole range of biblical, theological, hermeneutical, and ecclesiastical matters does NOT necessarily make you a heretic. It may simply mean you think for yourself, you seek to stay true to Scripture, and as a result you may end up differing with other believers on numerous points – be they doctrinal or experiential.
Guess what? Christians can agree to disagree on all sorts of issues. They can all love the Lord, have a high view of Scripture, be led by the Holy Spirit, and yet have some differing understandings on a whole range of issues. That is OK. There is a place for some give and take on all sorts of matters.
And here is another thing to always bear in mind: none of us have all the truth. There is not one single Christian who has perfect theology, a perfect understanding of Scripture, or has perfectly mastered the mind of God. Not one. Sorry to burst your bubble here. So a little bit of humility can go a long way here.
Let me try to lay this out for you as simply as I can:
-If a Christian prefers Arminianism, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian prefers Calvinism, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian is charismatic, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian is not charismatic, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian prefers newer Bible translations, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian prefers older Bible translations, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian is premillennial in eschatology, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian is postmillennial in eschatology, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian is partial to one understanding of the atonement, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian is partial to another understanding of the atonement, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian likes Trump, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian dislikes Trump, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian loves Hillsong, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian hates Hillsong, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian prefers hymns, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian prefers modern Christian choruses, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian is covered in tattoos, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian abhors tattoos, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian loves to celebrate Christmas, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
-If a Christian prefers not to celebrate Christmas, that does not necessarily make him a heretic.
The list is endless. None of this is to say that these issues are unimportant. They are, and I may have strong views on a number of them. And note carefully that in all those scenarios I included the word “necessarily”. Some of these issues, if pushed too far, or twisted in such a way, can indeed become heretical or cultic.
But they are not necessarily in themselves matters deserving the H word. There is some room to move there in other words. Christians CAN have different understandings and convictions on some of these things. That is OK, and that does NOT make a person a heretic if they differ from you on so many of these things.
Of course there most certainly is such a thing as heresy. If you deny the deity of Christ, then yes, the H word is appropriate. If you deny the Trinity, then yes, we are moving in the realm of heresy. If you say people can get saved apart from the finished work of Christ at Calvary, then yes, we are starting to deal with heretics.
We need to be careful about not allowing a theological Gresham’s law to occur here. That term, derived from the world of economics, seems to fit rather well here. As one site explains: “In economics, Gresham’s law is a monetary principle stating that ‘bad money drives out good’. For example, if there are two forms of commodity money in circulation, which are accepted by law as having similar face value, the more valuable commodity will gradually disappear from circulation.”
We are driving out good theological terms and debasing our theological currency when we wrongly and carelessly use the H word every time we dislike what another Christian says or believes. We are ruining a perfectly good word by over-using it, mis-using it, and abusing it.
Again, it is time to stop. We do untold damage to the cause of Christ and to our witness when we spend all our time attacking other believers over secondary matters. Yes, by all means, on primary theological matters we must stand firm and we must not allow genuine heresy to rear its ugly head and cause so much harm.
But on many things we just need to chill a bit. We can show some Christian grace for a change. We can actually love the brethren when they differ on some matters, and seek for unity when and where possible. Sure, as I keep saying, real heresy must be resisted, and resisted strenuously.
And sometimes there are just plain nutjobs out there who simply should be given a wide berth. If they are not heretics themselves, they can come close to it in their ugly, pharisaical heresy-hunting. They can drag the name of Christ in the mud just as much as any real heretic can – and do just as much damage.
So avoid the heresy hunters and theological nutters like the plague. And if you do not know exactly what I mean by all this, let me provide you with a perfect example of it. It came in the form of a comment to this site just hours ago. If there ever was a comment that qualified as “Certifiable Whackjob Moonbattery of the Month” it would be this.
Let me explain. A few months ago I wrote a piece on ten Christians that had made such a huge impact on me – as well as on millions of others. Countless people were either converted through their ministries and writings or soundly discipled. You can see my list here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/07/21/the-10-most-influential-authors/
Yet I had this complete crackpot sending in a comment abusing me and calling out and trashing these great and wonderful men of God. Unbelievable! This is what he actually said:
Birds of a feather……………..
Martin Lloyd Jones; closet charismatic
C S Lewis: self-avowed atheist and occultist—see his autobiography
Tozer, Carson, Packer, Ryle, all preached a false gospel of free will, the innate abilities in man to approach God and covered their lies in pseudo-reformed terminology.
Stott: an ecumenical hack that was more interested in sucking up to the anti-Christ pope than anything else.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon the master of disguise, the prince of peons, the angel of light that preached his false gospel similar to that of Tozer, Carson, et al, catering to the free willers by combining the Doctrines of Grace with the heresies of Arminius and stating that a man has the ability to “come to Christ” at a time and place of his choosing thereby giving legitimacy to the false doctrines of the Jesuit and popish heresies that his predecessors fought against.
Oh good grief! Puh-leeese! That guy is as out to lunch as they come. He is either a hyper-hyper-Calvinist or a hyper-hyper-grace proponent. But just imagine this: Tozer, Spurgeon, Ryle, Stott, Lewis, etc., are all of the devil in this guy’s eyes and should be avoided like the plague.
Um, the only one to be avoided like the plague is this theological fruitloop. He is not just a bit odd, he is a full-blown loon, doing the devil’s bidding. Needless to say I did NOT print his ludicrous and ultimately diabolical comment. So yes, there are some folks out there that we just need to stay away from altogether. And this guy is Exhibit A of this.
But on so many issues we can indeed simply agree to disagree with our Christian brothers and sisters. We do NOT need to break fellowship with them over lesser matters, beliefs and convictions. Yes, some people can be utterly troll-like, pugnacious or carnal as they push these more minor beliefs, and sometimes for the sake of peace there is a place to let go of folks like that as well.
But here I refer to mainly well-meaning and good Christians who simply have some other understandings of some things than we do. For the third time now, just because they think differently on some biblical matters does not necessarily make them a heretic. So just cut it out, will you?!
And by the way, if this article has not yet sold you on the need to take care in this area, try consulting my earlier pieces on this!