Thursday, August 31, 2006
Modernism for Christianity: the not so great exchange
"The crucial ingredient, then, in the mix that produced an enduring unbelief was the choice of believers. More precisely, unbelief resulted from the decisions that influential church leaders--lay writers, theologians, ministers--made about how to confront the modern pressures upon religious belief. Not all of their selections resulted from long thought and careful reflection; part of our humanity, after all, is that we have much in common with lemmings. But they were choices. And the choices, taken together, boiled down to the decision to deal with modernity by embracing it--to defuse modern threats to the traditional bases of belief by bringing God into line with modernity".
James Turner, Without God, Without Creed, p. 266-7
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Taking false teaching with apostolic seriousness
"After reading such verses [2 Peter 2:1; Jude 3-4], we might wonder if any of us have the same kind of heart for purity of doctrine in our Christian organisations, and the same sort of sober apprehension of the destructiveness of false doctrine, that the New Testament apostles had in their hearts. If we ever begin to doubt that false teaching is harmful to the church, or if we begin to become complacent about false doctrine, thinking that it is fascinating to ponder, stimulating to our thoughts, and worthwhile for discussion, then we should remind ourselves that in several cases the New Testament specifies that the ultimate source of many false teachings is Satan and his demons".
Wayne Grudem, "Why, When, and for What Should We Draw New Boundaries?", in Beyond the Bounds, p. 342
Dealing with Polemical Blind spots
One of the things that you are taught on your first driving lesson is that there is a blindspot over your right shoulder. No matter how much you check your mirrors there is an area that you cannot see. Ignorance of that blindspot has the potential for causing accidents. It is like that with sin. We can deceive ourselves that our actions are acceptable in one area, and our consciences are clear, but lurking in the blindspot are thoughts, attitudes and even actions that are dishonouring to the Lord. This may well be the case in our zeal for the truth in the context of controversy. Engaging in polemics can blind us to our own sins.
That we can sin in this way should come as no surprise to us. After all there is no other situation that we experience where we are free from temptation. When engaging in controversy there are particular sins that we will face.
Before getting to the main part of the argument there are some preliminary matters to bear in mind. Those who vocalise concern over false doctrine are of course an easy target. There is a consistent, and at times quite inaccurate, typology at work in these debates. There is the stigma of being branded unloving, ungracious, narrow, harsh, and even schismatic, for defending the truth. Strong words about error are not allowed. But that is itself a narrow-minded view, far narrower than the Bible.
There has to be room for Paul's responses to the Galatian and Colossian false teachers, and Christ's words to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. I'm sure that it is possible for us to be strong on condemning error and yet to be humble at the point of assessing the reasons for our own right understanding--at the same time. Whether we are guilty of pride in our own orthodoxy is a matter to search our own hearts about. It isn't something that can be read off automatically and infallibly whenever we see someone become angry because of destructive heresies.
But although sinful attitudes are far from synonymous with condemning error they are not totally unavoidable. Consider Francis Schaeffer's description of the sins in the blindspot:
“Thus whenever it becomes necessary to draw a line in the defense of a central Christian truth it is so easy to be proud, to be hard. It is easy to be self-righteous and to self- righteously think that we are so right on this one point that anything else may be excused— this is very easy, a very easy thing to fall into. These mistakes were indeed made, and we have suffered from this and the cause of Christ has suffered from this through some fifty years.” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, p. 352).
We can examine ourselves along these lines both positively and negatively. What graces am I expected to display even when I am dealing with theological opponents? What attitudes and actions am I to avoid when dealing with perceived error? Paul takes this two-fold approach in 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (ESV):
23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Opponents of the gospel are in a desperate spiritual situation. Is there any hope for them? Maybe the Lord will grant them repentance so that they will come to know and believe the truth. Until, or unless, that happens they are ensnared by the devil. Failure to think in these categories seems to be the cause of the ungodliness that can exist on the part of the defender of the gospel. Right belief of the gospel, true saving faith, is a work of grace. There is no room here for pride in our rightness but thankfulness. Who, after all, has made us to differ? What do we have that we did not receive? Patience, gentleness, kindness, and a refusal to be quarrelsome are the fruit of consciously knowing that there is a great spiritual battle going on. John Newton provided solid counsel from Paul's words here:
“If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy; but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose”.
They are culpable since they have chosen to embrace error, but they are also deceived. Now, what else but knowing that a change of heart is something solely God given can temper the approach of the polemicist? What other explanation is there for patience and gentleness as appropriate dispositions? Coming to a knowledge of the truth has never been self-generated. Calvin wrote that “when we remember that repentance is God's gift and work, we shall hope the more earnestly and, encouraged by this assurance, will give more labour and care to the instruction of rebels”. Such gentleness and patience should not be confused with moral weakness and softness. Paul's words here are consistent with those written to Titus on silencing the false teachers, rebuking straying believers sharply, and after two warnings having nothing to do with divisive people.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Schaeffer on the Body Snatchers
Here is Francis Schaeffer on the recurring theme of alien worldviews using the church as a host. Hiding beneath the surface of Christian vocabulary, and coming out of the mouths of preachers and seminary professors, is unbiblical philosophy. In Schaeffer's day it was old and new forms of liberalism. See previous posts on The Invasion of the Body Snatchers:
"The real difference between liberalism and biblical Christianity is not a matter of scholarship, but a matter of presuppositions. Both the old liberalism and new liberalism operate on a set of presuppositions common to both of them, but different from those of historic, orthodox Christianity".
The Church Before the Watching World, Complete Works volume 4, p. 118
"The new theology is simply modern thought using religious words...Historic Christianity and either the old or the new liberal theology are two separate religions with nothing in common except certain terms which they use with totally different meanings".
Ibid. p. 132
"I would repeat that liberal theology is only humanism in theological terms" A Christian Manifesto, Complete Works volume 5, p. 442
If that has been the case in recent times with modernism/liberalism, and true in other eras of the Church, then shouldn't the present case for postmodernising the faith by viewed with deep suspicion? Isn't the onus on those who wish to welcome postmodernism to show that it isn't the latest move in a long tradition of subverting orthodox Christian belief?
John "The Hammer" Owen
John Owen was justly christened, writes H. J. McLachlan, a "hammer of the Socinians". In 1655 his work Vindiciae Evangelicae: or the Mystery of the Gospel vindicated and Socinianism examined was published at the request of the Council of State. Here are two quotations from the lengthy preface charting the history of Socinianism. They both indicate that heresy is a matter not merely of the head and intellect but of the heart. The choice of heresy is a spiritual and moral matter and concerns our orientation to God's Word and contentment with his verbal revelation. The first quotation touches on the cause and cure of heresy:
"This I am compelled to say, that unless the Lord, in his infinite mercy, lay an awe upon the hearts of men, to keep them in some captivity to the simplicity and mystery of the gospel who now strive every day to exceed one another in novel opinions and philosophical aprehensions of the things of God, I cannot but fear that this soul-destroying abomination will one day break in as a flood upon us."
And in the second Owen sets this in a broader framework of the causes of heresy:
"Not to speak of the general and more remote causes of these and all other soul-destroying errors, or the darkness, pride, corruption and wilfulness of men; the craft subtilty, envy and malice of Satan; the just revenging hand of God, giving men up to a spirit of delusion, that they might believe lies, because they delighted not in the truth".
Owen's work is a massive exegetical and theological defense of the gospel. In the end it is the Scriptures that are the court of appeal and the arena where he refuted the Socinians. In that regard Owen held that knowledge of the original langauges was needed to stop his opponents escaping and evading his counter-arguments.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Gresham Machen on polemics
"...a large part of the New Testament is polemic; the enunciation of evangelical truth was occasioned by the errors which had arisen in the churches...At the present time, when the opponents of the gospel are almost in control of our churches, the slightest avoidance of the defense of the gospel is just sheer unfaithfulness to the Lord. There have been previous great crises in the history of the Church, crises almost comparable to this. One appeared in the second century, when the very life of Christendom was threatened by the Gnostics. Another came in the Middle Ages when the gospel of God's grace seemed forgotten. In such times of crisis, God has always saved the Church. But he has always saved it not by theological pacifists, but by sturdy contenders for the truth".
J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 174
Friday, August 25, 2006
The Fatal Attraction of Heresy
One of the deeply perplexing things about heresy is its appeal. Who, in their right mind, would want to believe what is false?
Perhaps we can make allowance for those who believe a heresy because they are sincerely ignorant about the truth. After all imagine reading a version of the Bible that deliberately misinterprets and misrepresents the full deity of Jesus Christ and the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit. Then add to that the environment of being taught error by zealous, well meaning people.
But such allowances are no help toward a comprehensive explanation. There are people who deliberately choose not to believe the truth, and instead openly choose to embrace error. What accounts for this wilful behaviour?
There are two interconnected parts to the appeal factor of heresy:
1. A biblical theology of heresy understands that destructive error ultimately originates with Satan. Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 unmasks the super-apostles. They are really servants of Satan, even though they masquerade as servants of Christ. And Paul likens their approach to the Serpent deceiving Eve by his cunning. The Corinthians are being lead astray from a pure devotion to Christ. Having abandoned the faith, Paul writes to Timothy, some will follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Timothy must gently instruct his opponents knowing that they are in the trap of the devil.
Incidentally John Owen viewed the rise of anti-trinitarianism during the Reformation as a change of strategy by Satan because of the success of Luther in recovering the gospel of justification by faith alone. One of Owen's theological opponents, the Socinian John Biddle, returned the favour. Biddle believed the Trinity to be a Satanic deception mediated through Platonic philosophy.
The origin of heresy is demonic. Behind the false teachers is the deceiving work of the ancient Serpent, the Devil. As unpalatable to the taste as it may seem this is the inescapable reality of heresy in the biblical worldview. And recognising this fact leads to the second part of understanding the appeal factor.
2. Heresy is theological disobedience with alleged benefits. It is a different perspective on the truth that promises better things than the Word of God. It is makes the "truth" easier to believe. It tells reason not to be a servant but an autonomous judge, it turns that which is incomprehensible, but revealed and accommodated to our understanding, into a flat pack that is easier to assemble.
Why else would you believe it unless it offered to deliver the goods? This is C. Fitz-Simon Allison's thesis in The Cruelty of Heresy. Heresy is the way we would like things to be, not God's way which is infinitely better. It appeals to some aspect of our sinfulness and confirms it by becoming the truth that we really want. There is something in every heresy that appeals to us, but the appeal is not to our love of goodness and truth.
This is how Irenaeus put it:
"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 an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself".
Isn't this the way it was in the Garden? There, the truth that Satan offered was so much better than what God knew but kept from Adam & Eve. Without these inducements why else would someone turn away from the truth and embrace error? Think of heresy as a moral problem instead of it just being a neutral choice among theological options.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
The Inevitability of Deceit
Calvin on Acts 20:30
"This amplifies the grievousness of the evil, because there be some wolves within, and so hiding themselves under the title of pastors, [which] do wait for some opportunity wherein they may do hurt. Also, he declares what danger these wolves do threaten, the scattering abroad of the flock, when the Church is drawn away from the unity of faith, and is divided into sects. Neither are all those wolves who do not their duty as they ought, but there be oftentimes hirelings, a kind of men not so hurtful as the other. But the corruption of doctrine is a most deadly plague to the sheep. Now, in the third place, the fountain and beginning of this evil is noted, because they will draw disciples after them. Therefore, ambition is the mother of all heresies".
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The Problem is really with the Truth
Why do the same old heresies keep on coming back again and again? After the work of the ecumenical councils in defining the boundaries of orthodox biblical views of Christ and the Triune nature of God you would think that the matter was settled. Not so. In century after century the same denials reappear. Even during the reformation there was a revival of anti-trinitarianism. Here is Harold O. J. Brown's explanation of persistent error:
"A still more striking indication of the fact that the doctrines of historic Christianity are based on realities and are not merely intellectual theories is offered by the persistence and recurrence of major heresies. Over and over again, in widely separated cultures, in different centuries, the same basic misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the person and work of Christ and his message reappear. The persistence of the same stimulus, so to speak, repeatedly produces the same or similar reactions" (Heresies, p. 10).
This isn't the only explanation, or the whole picture. But it does provide a good reason as to why 21st century opponents of Trinitarian belief (for example) are not that far removed from Arius in the 5th century, and why John Owen's 17th century response to Socinianism is required reading for defenders of penal substitution today.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
"Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written. The guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text"
Hilary of Poitiers
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
In confutation of false doctrines, he (the preacher) is neither to raise an old heresy from the grave, nor to mention a blasphemous opinion unnecessarily: but, if the people be in danger of an error, he is to confute it soundly, and endeavour to satisfy their judgements and consciences against all objections
Directory of Public Worship
How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us (part 2)
Similarly, in dealing with those who differ, we ought not to quibble about language just in order to pounce on our opponent because he or she has not used accurate wording. It is more effective to seek to apprehend what is meant and then to relate ourselves to the person's meaning. If we don't do that, of course, there is no encounter because this person speaks at one level and we are taking the language at another level; and so the two do not meet, and the result is bound to be frustrating. So if we really want to meet, we might as well try to figure out the meaning rather than to quibble on wording.
Moreover, I would suggest that we owe to people who differ from us to seek to understand their aims. What is it that they are looking for? What is it that makes them tick? What is it that they are recoiling against? What are the experiences, perhaps tragic experiences, that have steeled them into a particular stance? What are the things that they fear and the things that they yearn for? Is there not something that I fear as well or yearn for in the same way? Is there not a possibility here to find a point of contact at the very start rather than to move on with an entirely defensive or hostile mood?
As an example, it may be observed that in the fourth century Arius, and undoubtedly many of his supporters, were especially leery of modalism, a serious error in the conception of the Trinity whereby the Godhead manifested Himself in three successive forms or modes as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit rather than to exist eternally as Three Who have interpersonal relations with each other. From Arius' vantage point, the orthodox doctrine of the full deity of the Son ans the Holy Spirit did of necessity imply a modalistic view. It did not help that one of his very vocal opponents Marcellus of Ancyra did, in fact, border dangerously on modalism. Arguments designed to show the biblical and logical strengths of the doctrine of the Son's full deity or vice versa the weakness of Arius's subordinationism would not be likely to be effective unless the instinctive fear of an implied modalism were addressed and shown to be without solid foundation. With all due respect to the soundness, courage, and perseverance of those like Athanasius and Hilary who consistently resisted Arianism, one may yet wonder if a more effective method of dealing with this error might not have been to allay the fear that orthodoxy inevitably would lead to modalism".
Monday, August 07, 2006
Sunday, August 06, 2006
A sensible discussion about the concept of heresy can be difficult to get started
This is because heresy is something usually discussed when other theological work has already been done. That is, once our most important convictions and presuppositions have been worked out. Then it becomes clear that some theologies logically cannot be at peace with each other on questions of ultimate importance. They are antithetical concerning the nature of the gospel. Unless this point is recognised from the start the conversation about defining heresy will never really get going.
Another reason why sensible discussion is difficult is because heresy is a term you apply to another position and not to your own. No one really thinks that they are a heretic. That is the way things are. It is always someone else who decides if you are a heretic or not. Everyone thinks that their viewpoint is right and their opponent's theology needs straightening out. No one in their right mind really thinks that they are a heretic.
Labelling yourself a heretic is a rhetorical device. It will get you a hearing just because it sounds sensational. The heretic is the outsider, the unconventional thinker, the individual against the system, the daring soul who refuses to tow the line and maintain the tradition of the elders. But underneath all that rhetoric every heretic believes themselves to be orthodox. Calling someone a heretic is a consequence of recognising their fundamentally different position on the question of authority and/or beliefs of first importance.
I am considered to be a heretic. I believe that there is only one living and true God, that there are three persons in the Godhead and that each of these persons is fully God, co-equal and co-eternal. I believe that Jesus is both God and man, having two natures in one person. That though he was and is God over all blessed forever, for us and for our salvation he became man and suffered and died and rose again. I believe emphatically in the full deity and distinct personhood of the Holy Spirit. I believe all these things to be the true teaching of the Bible, the Word of God written, totally trustworthy in all matters of belief and behaviour. But as far as a Unitarian, or a Jehovah's Witness, is concerned my belief is heretical. I refuse to recant my beliefs and therefore I am judged to be a heretic.
Furthermore I am an evangelical and believe that I have been justified by God's grace alone, through Christ alone, and that I have received this by faith alone. Sinful and guilty I am, but Christ's righteousness is counted as mine. Because I hold to this conviction, the anathemas of the Roman Catholic Church, as articulated in the Canons of the Council of Trent rest upon me. I am an accursed heretic judged by that standard. That's the perceived seriousness of the error involved.
Heresy is no ordinary kind of error. Heresy is error on the most essential beliefs. It is the denial of one or more of those beliefs. Heresy is the choice to deny “the faith” and to replace essential saving truth with something else. However much it may look and sound like the real thing, it is in fact something quite different. But what is “the faith” that is being denied and replaced? It is the thing that has to be defined before you can recognise what counts as heresy.
So who decides what counts as heresy? Who determines the boundaries of acceptable belief? Who has the right to referee on matters of error? Now to answer those questions would inevitably involve giving an explanation, and defense, of the entire biblical worldview. Debating heresy happens once questions of truth, authority, and the doctrines of first importance have been determined. These things need to be defined first, and then we can get to the definition and details of heresy.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
"We are called upon by the Lord to contend earnestly for the faith. (Jude 3) That does not necessarily involve being contentious; but it involves avoiding compromise, standing forth for what we believe, standing forth for the truth of God-without welching at any particular moment. Thus, we are bound to meet, at various points and various levels, people with whom we disagree. We disagree in some areas of Christian doctrine. We disagree as to some details of church administration. We disagree as to the way in which certain tasks of the church should be pursued. And, in fact, if we are careful to observe the principles that I would like to expound for you, I would suggest that they may be valuable also in disagreements that are not in the religious filed. They also would apply to disagreements in politics or difficulties with people in your job or friction within the family or contentions between husband and wife or between parents and children. Who does not encounter from time to time people who are not in complete agreement; therefore it is good to seek to discover certain basic principles whereby we may relate to those who differ from us.
It seems strange that one should desire to speak at all about Polemic Theology since we are now in an age when folks are more interested in ecumenism and irenics than in polemics. Furthermore, Polemic Theology appears to have been often rather ineffective. Christians have not managed in many cases to win over their opponents. They have shown themselves to be ornery; they have bypassed some fairly important prescriptions of Scripture; and in the end, they have not convinced very many people. Sometimes they have not even managed to convince themselves! Under those circumstances, one perhaps might desire to bypass a subject like this altogether.
In order to approach this subject, there are three major questions that we must ask; and I would like to emphasize very strongly that, in my judgement, we need to ask them precisely in the right order: (1) What do I owe the person who differs from me? (2) What can I learn from the person who differs from me? (3) How can I cope with the person who differs from me?
Many people overlook the first two questions and jump right away to: "How can I cope with this? How can I bash this person right down into the ground in order to annihilate objections and differences?" Obviously, if we jump to the third question from the start, it is not very likely that we will be very successful in winning over dissenters. So I suggest, first of all, that we need to face squarely the matter of our duties. We have obligations to people who differ from us. This does not involve agreeing with them. We have an obligation to the truth that has a priority over agreement with any particular person; if someone is not in the truth, we have no right to agree. We have no right even to minimize the importance of the difference; and therefore, we do not owe consent, and we do not owe indifference. But what we owe that person who differs from us, whoever that may be, is what we owe every human being-we owe them to love them. And we owe them to deal with them as we ourselves would like to be dealt with or treated. (Matthew 7:12)
And how then do we desire to be treated? Well, the first thing that we notice here is that we want people to know what we are saying or meaning. There is, therefore, an obligation if we are going to voice differences to make a serious effort to know the person with whom we differ. That person may have published books or articles. Then we have an obligation to be acquainted with those writings. It is not appropriate for us to voice sharp differences if we have neglected to read what is available. The person who differs from us should have evidence that we read carefully what has been written and that we have attempted to understand its meaning. In the case of an oral exchange where we don't have the writing, we owe the person who differs from us to listen carefully to what he or she says. Rather than preparing ourselves to pounce on that person the moment he or she stops talking, we should concentrate on apprehending precisely what the other person holds".
"As you are likely to be joined in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side, for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours, might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not, therefore anxious for the event of the battle; but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph not only over your adversary, but over yourself.
If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a coat of mail; such armor, that you need not complain, as David did of Saul's, that it will be more cumbersome than useful; for you will easily perceive that it is taken from that great magazine provided for the Christian soldier, the Word of God....
As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him to earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab, concerning Absalom, are very applicable: "Deal gently with him for my sake."
The Lord loves him and bears with him, therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself....And though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.
But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit ), he is a more proper subject of your compassion then of your anger. Alas!" he knows not what he does." But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the Gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes and not his. Of all people who engage in controversy, we . . . . are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation.
If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy; but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose, "if peradventure, God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth." (2 Tim. 2:25) If you write with a desire of correcting mistakes, you will of course, be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind, or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their prejudices, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable".
Friday, August 04, 2006
Here is an example of a body snatching alien invasion supplied by Doug Wilson:
"J. Gresham Machen was once speaking with B.B. Warfield about whether the mainstream Presbyterian church (at the beginning of the twentieth century) was going to split over the issue of liberalism. Warfield said that it was not possible, and his reason for this is that "you can't split rotten wood." Machen was to go on to win renown for his great battle with liberalism, and in my view, his greatest contribution on that front was his book Christianity and Liberalism.
In that book, Machen argues that liberalism is another faith altogether; it is not a variant form of the Christian faith. It does not involve minor doctrinal adjustments here or there, it is rather the result of global assumptions that affect every doctrine. This is why liberalism has afflicted every kind of denomination -- as liberalism has done its work, it has functioned as a universal corrosive. This rot of unbelief cannot be said to be a peculiar unfolding of, say, Reformed presuppositions, or Free Methodist presuppositions, or Roman Catholic presuppositions.
Liberalism is a parasite that has been able to function within any number of host bodies.
Roman Catholics used to say that liberalism was a "logical consequence" of Protestantism, but now liberalism has shown its ability to flourish within the confines of Rome as well.Postmodernism is the same kind of thing. It crops up in all sorts of surprising places -- among liberals, sacerdotalists, dispensationalists, new perspective guys, anti-new perspective guys, and more".
This is essentially the same observation that Tertullian made.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Heresy is the takeover of Christianity by an alien world-view
The words may stay the same but the concepts and ideas are alien. Persecution is like War of the Worlds, heresy is like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But both kinds of aliens are intent on destroying the church.
Here is Tertullian's take on it:
PAGAN PHILOSOPHY THE PARENT OF HERESIES. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN DEFLECTIONS FROM CHRISTIAN FAITH AND THE OLD SYSTEMS OF PAGAN PHILOSOPHY,
These are "the doctrines" of men and "of demons" produced for itching ears of the spirit of this world's wisdom: this the Lord called "foolishness," and "chose the foolish things of the world" to confound even philosophy itself. For (philosophy) it is which is the material of the world's wisdom, the rash interpreter of the nature and the dispensation of God. Indeed heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy. From this source came the AEons, and I known not what infinite forms, and the trinity of man in the system of Valentinus, who was of Plato's school. From the same source came Marcion's better god, with all his tranquillity; he came of the Stoics. Then, again, the opinion that the soul dies is held by the Epicureans; while the denial of the restoration of the body is taken from the aggregate school of all the philosophers; also, when matter is made equal to God, then you have the teaching of Zeno; and when any doctrine is alleged touching a god of fire, then Heraclitus comes in. The same subject-matter is discussed over and over again by the heretics and the philosophers; the same arguments are involved.
What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? what between heretics and Christians?
Our instruction comes from "the porch of Solomon," who had himself taught that "the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart." Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief.
New theological discoveries as old as dirt
Doug Wilson on Open Theism:
"Because we do not have a comprehensive grasp of church history, many modern Christians tend to breathlessly discover things that are as old as dirt. The Church has been around this block before, and these questions have been raised--and answered--before".
Bound Only Once, p. 135