Monday, September 04, 2006

The Cruelty of Heresy

This book got me thinking seriously about the nature of heresy. I came across it in a footnote in Don Carson's The Gagging of God and then found it by accident in a book shop that seemed to specialise in the kind of material that the book warns against.

Reading about ancient heresies can be like looking at preserved specimens in glass cases. Some with strange names have died off, others have descendants who are running around today passing on the family genes. As a 17 year old starting to read theology I learned from Anthony Hoekema that the Jehovah's Witnesses who knocked on my door were serving up the same Jesus that Arius preached in the 4th century.

The Cruelty of Heresy stirred me to think about the pastoral nature and effects of heresy.

Here are some extracts from the Introduction:

"We are susceptible to heretical teachings because, in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way we would have it be rather then the way God has provided...heresies pander to the most unworthy tendencies of the human heart. It is astonishing how little attention has been given to these two aspects of heresy: its cruelty and its pandering to sin". p. 17

"It is now almost shameful to call oneself 'orthodox', while the label 'heretic' is worn as a badge". p. 18

"Cynics who have relinquished any search for truth have claimed that 'orthodoxy' is what we believe, as heresy is what others believe". p. 19

"Successful heretics soon claim their opinion to be 'orthodox'". p. 19

"...we do not lack objective standards to which we can appeal when we disagree about whose doctrine is 'correct'". p. 19

"If a teaching is wrong opinion rather than right opinion the consequences are cruel, the Christian faith is distorted, and people who follow these teachings are hurt". p. 20

"...orthodoxy, over time, seems to keep its form but lose its substance". p. 22

And one from the opening of the first chapter:

"In spite of popular ideas concerning heresies, they are, in fact, narrow and limited ways of understanding Christianity". p. 25


Gareth said...

George Carey wrote the foreword to that book. Is that the former Archbishop George Carey? If so, what heresies did he buy into whilst Archbishop? How ironic.

Martin Downes said...

Sadly men do not remain faithful.

That's the force of Paul's warning in Acts 20, "and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them".

So putting our confidence in men is always a bad move. And there but for the grace of God goes every true minister of the gospel.