“Explain why it is necessary for the Church to respond to heretical teachings.”
February 15, 2004
Often times within a life of trial and suffering, the human mind seeks to find a purpose and meaning for its current state of uncertainty. Finding a purpose to such events helps the psyche to cope with the suffering by minimal zing its transitory pain and uncertainty by emphasizing the greater picture that it helps to create. Tribulations are regarded as nothing more than a pixel to a composition, and they are seen as absolutely necessary to the existence of the composition in whole. Everything that is within the picture is working to complete the picture and the elements that appear to corrode its design can be rationalized as relevant and necessary to the designs completion. If Christianity is the design of God, than its heresies are Christianities corrosive elements. The orthodox view of heresies based upon the method of coping used by the human mind presents heresy as an unwilling agent of good that is unwittingly working to perpetuate strength within the very system of beliefs that it intends to destroy. Hidden within this interpretation of heresy lies a clause that heresy is necessary for the outworking of what is good. This dualistic interpretation of the application and tactics of scriptural living places a paradoxical need for evil in the outworking of right and denies the sovereignty of righteousness by establishing a connection of necessity with evil.
The concept that heresy is necessary for the productivity of faith is not a new concept. It is found in the literature and artwork of every major religious belief system that the world knows. Some beliefs take the necessity to the furthest extreme, such as eastern mysticism. This belief system holds what is evil, and what is good as being equal and necessary to each other. Orthodox Christianity may not technically support that good and evil are one, but it does place an emphasis on Lucifer, or Satan, as being directly in opposition with the will of God and therefore implies it. Lucifer, and his plans within common Christian theology, has become a worthy God’s equal adversary. He is a roaring lion whom we should watch out for because at any moment he could destroy us. His lies and deceit are things that are always in opposition to the will of God and therefore should be paid close attention to. We have countless amounts of literature detailing spiritual warfare against the lies of the devil. Heresy is only one such lie. We are taught to be on the lookout for these destructive falsehoods, and to fight for the sovereignty of the will of our God. However, this is the first problem with believing that responding to heresy is a necessity for the outworking of God’s will.
If the heresies present, are present, in order to ultimately facilitate growth in the body of Christ, than there is a relationship of a symbiotic nature that is seeking to destroy itself. This idea is a rationalization of heresy based upon a need for Good to supercede evil. Christ himself was accused of containing such a paradoxical nature when he cast out demons in front of the Pharisees. They claimed that he was Satan casting out Satan. In like manner, if we believe that heresies are a part of God’s plan, yet we cast them out, than we would be a body divided. Christ himself said that a body divided does not stand. The idea that heresies are necessary is antithetical to the way we treat them within the body.
Believing that heresies are evil and should be responded to poses yet another problem within the idea of God’s sovereignty. If God is a sovereign god, than nothing happens that is outside of his will. This coupled with very tangible evidence leads us to the conclusion that heresy as well as its founder, evil, must be within God’s sovereign plan. This is hard for man to understand because man himself can be rationalized as an example of God’s design coexisting with evil in order to bring glory to God. This realization once again leads us back to the idea of a symbiotic nature between good and evil. The idea presented of heresy within this context, has not been created by a need for good to supercede evil, but for good to acknowledge evil’s presence. This idea comes at heresy from the perspective of Mankind, yet does not address heresy from a Christ like perspective. The scriptures are quite clear that Christ defended truth, but did not use it as a weapon, nor did he seek out heresies and evil to fight with. On the contrary, it was the heresies and evils that sought him out. The book of Jude sums it up very well as it talks on this very subject. Jude admonishes believers to defend the truth, and have faith that the Lord will defend them. The scriptures emphasize awareness. They present the idea that where the truth is attacked, it must be defended. This could be taken to mean that where truth is being attacked, we must fight back, but this is not the meaning of the word defend. Jude then sums it up by emphasizing Christian living based upon the principles of Christ and scripture. Nowhere is there a contingency plan presented for the disposal or containment of the heresies of the moment. Even Christ himself did not attack or address evil until it addressed him either in mind or tongue. Even the attack on the temple moneychangers was actually a strategic defense of his Father’s house from the merchants who had attacked the sacred worship ritual and settled in, defiling it by their greed. The example that we see within scripture is not one of good addressing evil as an equal, but rather good being addressed by evil as if it is its equal. Even after this address, good very rarely attacks the evil, but instead strengthens itself.
It is quite clear that heresy is often given a place that it does not deserve within the mind of the common Christian. It is often times implied to be an equal and worthy adversary of God’s will and treated as such. This should not be so. Other times it is addressed by the overzealous Christian theologian as being a threat to the faith of Abraham. This should not be so. Heresy exists as a reaction to Christianity. The very word “heresy” implies the pre-existence of a force to oppose. Christianity is not linked to it, although it often times links itself to Christianity. God’s sovereignty is neither disturbed by its presence, nor is it threatened. If it was threatened or disturbed, than God could not be sovereign. Taking God’s example, neither should we be. As believers we should be relying on the infinitely exponential truth and productivity created by the presence of the Holy Spirit to cause us to grow in our faith. With this said, it would be neglectful not to acknowledge the fact that the presence of heresy has stirred many a Christian philosopher and theologian to strengthen the conciseness of the faith, but it is a fact that is regretful. It is a sad thing that the church relies so heavily on the presence of evil to be its catalyst for growth in what is right. Therefore heresy is not a necessary device of God’s plan, nor is it one that presents a threat to the body of Christ.