Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Can we talk about heresy?

The following is an extract from Thomas C. Oden's article "Can we talk about heresy?" in the April 1995 edition of the Christian Century. Three comments by way of introduction.

1. Oden's critique accords with the obervation that heresies are alien worldviews dressing themselves up in Christian language (see previous posts on "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers").

2. In the second paragraph, Oden has a remark about Christians being intentionally responsible for the disappearance of the concept of heresy. But doing that surely exposes that such people were Christians in name only. When the concept of heresy left it took the truth with it.

3. Finally, he draws attention to the moral corruption that follows false teaching as night follows day.

"An interloper who steals property must be caught and charged. Thinly disguised atheism and neopaganism are interlopers in liberated church circles. They have engaged in the theft of church property. The stolen property must be reclaimed and the thieves brought to justice.

To point this out means raising the issue of heresy. But in the "liberated" church circles of oldline denominations heresy simply does not exist. After centuries of struggle against recurrent heresies, Christians have found a quick way of overcoming heresy: they have banished the concept altogether. With absolute relativism holding sway, there is not only no concept of heresy, but no way even to raise the question of where the boundaries of legitimate Christian belief lie.

This is like trying to have a baseball game with no rules, no umpire, and no connection with historic baseball. Only we continue to insist on calling it baseball because a game by the name of baseball is what most people still want to see played.

By "liberated" church circles I refer to the sexual experimenters, the compulsive planners of others' lives, the canonical text disfigurers, and ultrafeminists (as distinguished from the great company of godly Christian women who are found at many different points along the scale of feminist reflection). The liberated characteristically understand themselves to be free from oppressive, traditional constraints of all sorts and shapes. "Liberated" is not a term applied from outside, but a term they frequently apply to themselves. By liberated they usually imply: doctrinally imaginative, liturgically experimental, disciplinarily nonjudgmental, politically correct, muticulturally tolerant, morally broad-minded, ethically situationist, and above all sexually permissive.

The intellectual ethos I am describing is not liberal in the classic sense of that word, but intolerant and uncharitable when it comes to traditionalists of any sort, all of whom are capriciously bundled under the dismissive label of 'fundamentalists'."

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