Sunday, November 26, 2006

On Lurking Heresy

There is nothing that men will not pervert. The very words of God, inscripturated for us, can be twisted, distorted and altered to give new meanings (2 Peter 3:16). They are the same words but with a totally new content. That is what makes heresy so insidious.

It is never even safe to trust that men are orthodox by the words that they use (God, Christ, sin, salvation, atonement, substitution, Trinity, justification, hell etc.). It is the meaning that those words are given that counts. God has joined names and things that belong together, heretics always separate them.

As Augustine says:

"We have, however, the catholic faith in the Creed, known to the faithful and committed to memory, contained in a form of expression as concise as has been rendered admissible by the circumstances of the case; the purpose of which [compilation] was, that individuals who are but beginners and sucklings among those who have been born again in Christ, and who have not yet been strengthened by most diligent and spiritual handling and understanding of the divine Scriptures, should be furnished with a summary, expressed in few words, of those matters of necessary belief which were subsequently to be explained to them in many words, as they made progress and rose to [the height of] divine doctrine, on the assured and steadfast basis of humility and charity.

It is underneath these few words, therefore, which are thus set in order in the Creed, that most heretics have endeavored to conceal their poisons
; whom divine mercy has withstood, and still withstands, by the instrumentality of spiritual men, who have been counted worthy not only to accept and believe the catholic faith as expounded in those terms, but also thoroughly to understand and apprehend it by the enlightenment imparted by the Lord".

Augustine, A Treatise on Faith and the Creed, Chapter 1

Friday, November 24, 2006

Why do heresies and false teachings arise?

Among contemporary Christian authors Wayne Grudem has been at the forefront in dealing with theological errors that are being welcomed as acceptable, even preferred, options for evangelicals to believe.

In doing so he has sounded a note that is rarely heard today. Rather than merely analyse the human dimension of error he raises the issue of the purpose of false theologies in God's providential dealing with his people.

Consider the following from his recent book Evangelical Feminism: A New Path To Liberalism? Speaking of the use of the argument from experience to justify women fulfilling the same role as men as elders, pastors and teachers he says:

"This gives us an opportunity to decide whether we will follow God's Word or allow ourselves to be led away fom his Word by experiences that seem to bring blessing to people. Though not everyone will agree with me at this point, I believe this is a test of our faithfulness to God and to his Word in our generation. Eventually the consequences of each decision will become plain."

Grudem p. 129

The text that I think he is alluding to here, and which he cites in his excellent chapter in Beyond the Bounds, is Deuteronomy 13. Here is verse four of that chapter, "For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul."

The context is an admonition to the people to resist the turn to idolatry by following the lead of false prophets. Life would be easy if idols always had different names from that of the true God. But that is not always the case. Consider John's closing command in his first epistle to "keep yourselves from idols." Unless that verse is totally unconnected to the content of the letter, which I very much doubt, then the idolatry John has in mind is the belief in an idol called "Jesus" whom the false prophets are proclaiming. Then there is the "Jesus" of the super-apostles in Corinth who is "another Jesus" than the one that Paul proclaimed. And from the Old Testament we have the prophet Hananiah delivering the Word of "Yahweh" (Jeremiah 28). But the "Yahweh" he speaks for is not the true one but an idol of the mind.

Spotting deception is not easy, but unless it is spotted it will lead to great damage to the Church. As strange as it may seem, we can be led astray from the Lord by the claims of teachers who are insistent on their faithfulness to the Word of the Lord.

Why does God allow this? To see if we love him with our heart and soul.

When you think of heresies ancient and modern, obvious and exposed, subtle and concealed, ask yourself "what is God teaching his Church through this?". And then ask, "how can I respond to this distressing problem in a way that will bring honour and glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?" And see if the answer to each question does not involve your love, trust and submission to the apostolic gospel and authority of the Bible. I'm sure that it will.

And then pray:

"O Lord my God please look upon me in mercy and grace, please keep me from the sin of idolatry.

O Lord, grant that I would always be satisfied with your truth, and grant me always a submissive spirit to humbly bow to your Word whatever the cost.

Keep me from the wilful pride that would place your Word beneath the authority of my own thoughts and wisdom. Lord in your perfect and infinite wisdom you have permitted your Church to be in danger of deception to test the hearts of your people to see if they love you.

Keep me O Lord from abandoning your gospel, and from turning aside to that which is no gospel at all.

And may your Church submit to the teaching of your Word and not to the thoughts of men, the ways of the world, or the dressed up lies of the evil one. For the sake of the glory of your Son, without the true knowledge of whom no man may know you. Amen."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

On Controversy, Clarity and Church History

One of the benefits of doctrinal controversy is that it can lead to clearer statements on disputed points.

Those who advocate orthodox views are forced to meet objections and state their case with exegetical precision and fulness, and to synthesise these textual materials into a comprehensive doctrinal summary. Critics often do a great service in tightening up how the truth is expressed. Loose expressions and analogies are reined in by the challenges of those who stand in opposition. It seems strange to say it but theological opponents can be thanked if they send us back to the Bible to see if what we are teaching is really there.

Because that is the case we must look back at the previous history of how that doctrine was believed, taught and confessed with great care. We may expect to find the same kind of precision before that doctrine became controversial as we find in doctrinally summaries after the doctrine was settled. But is that really the right way to read history?

Here is Archibald Alexander giving expression to this issue when dealing with Augustine vs. Pelagius on original sin:

"Pelagius did, indeed, in his controversy with Augustine, allege that this father had invented the doctrine of original sin, which was unknown to the preceding ages; but in answer to this charge, Augustine appealed to many writers of the first ages to show that they entertained views as those which he advocated. These testimonies are not so explicit as could be collected from the writings of those who lived after the discussion of this subject took place. But this is always the case.

When any point of doctrine is undisputed and received by all, while it is everywhere tacitly admitted or incidentally referred to, it is never made the subject of accurate definition; nor is it expounded with that fulness and caution which become necessary after it has been called in question or opposed.

When Augustine was urged to bring forward proof from the fathers who preceded him, he answered the demand in the following sensible manner:

'What occasion is there that we should search the works of those, who, living before this heresy arose, had no necessity of handling this difficult question, which doubtless they would have done, if they had been obliged to answer such men as we have to deal with?'"

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Emergent Village opens the door to unorthodoxy

Even with a title like Against Heresies my aim with this blog has not been to scour the contemporary Christian world for heresies. Instead, my aim has been to post my notes, quotes, musings and articles on an issue of vital importance and yet, I think, strangely neglected. That is why the focus has been on the concept of heresy, with illustrations from the past rather than the present.

So this post is as rare as a hen's tooth. I have been an interested observer of the Emerging Church and Emergent Village (books, blogs, podcasts etc, etc.). I have written three short pieces on these things that are in print, but am not interested in posting them here.

But I was so impressed by Brett Kunkle's wise, thoughtful, and well researched paper that if you have not found it and read it elsewhere then let me commend it to you.

Kunkle makes the case that Emergent Village (based on the words of prominent leaders Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones) opens the door to unorthodoxy. He is not saying that they are at this moment in time unorthodox, nor that they are on their way down a slippery slope that will lead them inevitably to unorthodox theology. But the door to unorthodoxy is now open. Why? Because no dogma is sacred theology, everything can be questioned. And contrary to what I had been told Emergent Village is about changing theology.

Take the following from Tony Jones' blog, "Doug thinks that there ought to be no Dogma. There should be nothing that is not on the table for reconsideration."

This is the antithesis of the definition provided by Herman Bavinck in his observation of the use of the word, "dogma...denotes that which is definite, that which has been decided, and is therefore fixed."

And as an example the dogma cited is...the Trinity.

Between Two Worlds: Kunkle Paper on the Emerging Church

On the concealment of wolves

Another extract from Vincent of Lerins Commonitorium (not, I should add, with unqualified support and approval for everything he stands for in that book). But on the danger and deception of heresy he has this to say:

"It was for this reason that the Saviour cried, 'Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.' What is meant by 'sheep's clothing'? What but the words which prophets and apostles with the guilelessness of sheep wove beforehand as fleeces, for that immaculate Lamb which taketh away the sin of the world ? What are the ravening wolves?

What but the savage and rabid glosses of heretics, who continually infest the Church's folds, and tear in pieces the flock of Christ wherever they are able ?

But that they may with more successful guile steal upon the unsuspecting sheep, retaining the ferocity of the wolf, they put off his appearance, and wrap themselves, so to say, in the language of the Divine Law, as in a fleece, so that one, having felt the softness of wool, may have no dread of the wolf's fangs.

Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, Chapter XXV

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Usual Suspects: No. 3 The Temporarily Inconsistent

According to Bob Sheehan this is the third type of errorist found in the New Testament.

"Peter's terrible blunder at Antioch was a contradiction of everything that he had taught and practised hitherto. Because Peter's sin was public, and because he was a prominent Christian leader, it was necessary for Paul to practise his own teaching and to publicly rebuke a person of authority who sinned before the Church (1 Tim. 5:20).

This public confrontation was face to face (Gal. 2:11) and involved the charge of hypocrisy (Gal. 2:13). Paul emphasised Peter's own inconsistency with the gospel he preached (Gal. 2:14). He demonstrated that Peter was acting in a manner which revealed dual standards and which contradicted the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith alone (Gal. 2:14-16).

Paul's decision to adopt a policy of confrontation was because of the seriousness of Peter's error, his importance in the Church and the implications for the Church and the Gospel of his actions.

Whilst it is significant to note that Paul did not shrink from public confrontation even with a fellow apostle, it is also important to note what Paul did not do. He did not dismiss Peter as a heretic; he did not call down the divine anathema on him.

He recognised that Peter's action was an inconsistent deviation from his normal commitment to the Gentiles. He recognised that the root of this deviation was fear. He knew that Peter's intention was not to repudiate the Gospel. Paul knew that Peter did not desire to change the teachings of the Gospel. He was passing through a period of temporary fear and inconsistency but not had a change of heart.

In the light of all this Paul confronted him with his error, revealed the serious implications of it and gained restoration to the truth and the maintenance of fellowship between Jews and Gentiles within the Christian church."

Some observations:

1. In this episode we see the outworking of the fear of the Lord as well as the fear of man. Paul's courage here would probably earn him frowns and criticism if he did the same thing today. One wonders whether he would receive more criticism for his actions than Peter would. Nonetheless for the sake of the Gospel and the Church he was observing good orthopraxy. Public confrontation is risky and costly, had Paul failed to apply it the cost would have been far, far greater than loss of face on Peter's part.

2. Paul's approach showed knowledge of the error and the person. He didn't conclude that Peter was unregenerate, or a false teacher. What would be the equivalent kind of gospel compromise today? Participation in inter-faith worship? Evangelicals leaders attending mass? Peter's behaviour had doctrinal compromise written all over it, and it was compromise on the things of first importance. Peter was inconsistent with his own gospel convictions and needed his behaviour to be corrected.

3. Error rarely remains a private matter. Peter's fall pulls down many with him. That is part of the tragedy of error. It is also why it cannot be left alone.

4. Paul's intervention clearly had the result of winning Peter. Does that tell us something about Paul? Something about Peter? Or both? If Peter had responded differently would that not have necessitated him making a clear doctrinal compromise? If he defended his behaviour would that not have led him to a reformulation of his gospel?

This incident shows that a great deal of humility was needed by Peter, and repentance. He was inconsistent, thankfully it was only temporary.

Friday, November 17, 2006

On Faith and Knowledge

"The content of faith, after all, lies outside of us and only becomes our possession by faith. The intellect is not productive but receptive and is made receptive, sanctified, and renewed by the truth that comes to us from without, from Scripture.

However, since the content of faith, i.e., the divine truth, exists independently of us and apart from us (and as such can be accepted only by faith), it has its own principle, its own method, and its own system. Scripture contains the full divine truth in its entirety."

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1: Prolegomena, p. 64

What happens to the Christian faith if the mind is regarded as productive of the content of faith and not just receptive?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

On Slippery Slopes, Sermons and Consciences

Here is an extract from a letter on the ministry of the Gospel written by the Welsh preacher John Elias. The letter is dated 16th January 1840:

"There is a great defect in the manner of many preachers. It can scarcely be said that the Gospel is preached by them. Their sermons are very confused; they contain many expressions which are not taught by the Holy Ghost; and subjects are so clothed with new words, that it is difficult to know what is meant.

Thought these preachers may not be accused of saying wht is false, yet, alas, they neglect stating weighty and necessary truths when opportunities offer. By omitting those important portions of truth in their natural connection, the Word is made subservient to subjects never intended.

The hearers are led to deny the truth that the preacher leaves out of his sermons. Omitting any truth intentionally in a sermon leads to the denial of it. Indeed, there are several deficiencies in many ministers; some acknowledge and lament them. There is room to suspect that those defects are intentional in others."

What do you think? Was Elias' assessment in the last paragraph right?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Theological Rhetoric as Master and Commander

Bad arguments would not get as far as they sometimes do if we carefully distinguished between rhetoric and substance. It is amazing how much preachers can get away with in print and from the platform just by their rhetoric. For example:

"How we have come to believe that at the cross this God of love suddenly decides to vent his anger and wrath on his own Son?"

Two things to note from this statement.

1. It sounds as if we have ended up drifting thoughtlessly, and recently, into this belief ("how did it ever get to this?").

With a wave of the hand the fact that Christians have believed this truth throughout the history of the Church is passed over (not to mention the libraries of exegetical and theological works that have explained and defended it, the product of great theological minds).

2. Since when was this a sudden decision and act on the part "this God of love"?

And that puts penal substitution in a bad light. It is not just a question but a loaded question, and an unfair question, because it is distorted.

That said we should not be opposed to rhetoric (there are plenty of examples of it in Scripture), but we must not confuse it with worthy arguments. The Serpent after all was remarkably persuasive about the benefits of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We haven't done our work in assessing an opponent's argument until we have figured out if the rhetoric being used serves the argument, or if it is posturing as master and commander.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We trust in the blood of salvation

One of the most perplexing and distressing features of evangelical publishing in recent years has been the promotion of Socinian theology. The very ideas that were levelled against the recovered gospel of the Reformation churches are now presented as legitimate evangelical beliefs. This is to turn church history on its head, and to make complete nonsense of the word evangelical.

"Whether Christ laid down his life as a
substitute for sinners was never a question with me. All my hope rests upon it; the sum of my preaching the gospel consists in it. If I know anything of myself I can say of Christ crucified for us, as was said of Jerusalem, 'If I forget thee, let my right hand forget; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.' I have always considered the denial of this truth as being of the essence of Socinianism."

Andrew Fuller, quoted in Rober Oliver, History of the English Calvinistic Baptists, p. 149

Monday, November 13, 2006

Heresy: The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers

There is no doubt that many heresies can be explained as the dressing up of philosophy in Christian language. Biblical doctrine is abducted and philosophy lurks beneath the surface of Christian words. This is one of the reasons why heresies are so deceptive.

Here is Hippolytus of Rome on The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers:

“It remains, therefore, to hasten on to the refutation of the heresies; but it is for the purpose of furnishing this (refutation) that we have put forward the statements already made by us. For from philosophers the heresiarchs deriving starting-points, (and) like cobblers patching together, according to their own particular interpretation, the blunders of the ancients, have advanced them as novelties to those that are capable of being deceived.”

Hippolytus of Rome, Refutation of all Heresies, Book 5 Ch 1

“It now seems to us that the tenets of both all the Greeks and barbarians have been sufficiently explained by us, and that nothing has remained unrefuted either of the points about which philosophy has been busied, or of the allegations advanced by the heretics. And from these very explanations the condemnation of the heretics is obvious, for having either purloined their doctrines, or derived contributions to them from some of those tenets elaborately worked out by the Greeks, and for having advanced (these opinions) as if they originated from God”.

Book 9, Ch 26

Friday, November 10, 2006

On Gangrene

In 2 Timothy 2 Paul describes false teaching as spreading like gangrene.

Think very carefully before you look at the physical effects of gangrene. You will be sickened by it I assure you. And after the wave of nausea has passed you will feel deep pity for whoever suffers from it.

Do you get the point? How bad is heresy? What kind of metaphors are appropriate to convey to us the damage that it does?

It eats away at life and destroys spiritual health. Whatever is vital is destroyed by its corrupting influence.

In that one word Paul directs our thoughts and feelings to the utter horror of false teaching. Never treat it lightly. By using this image Paul is making an impact not only on the mind but also on the stomach. So much for reducing doctrine to abstract ideas. Bad doctrine is not merely intellectually wrong it is also rotten and stinking.

"Paul aptly compares false doctrines with this deadly contagion. For if once they are allowed in they spread till they completely detroy the Church. Since the contagion is so destructive we must attack it early and not wait until it has gathered strength by progress, for then there will be no time to give assistance. The dreadful extinction of the gospel among the Papists came about because, through the ignorance or sloth of the pastors, corruptions prevailed for a long time without hindrance and gradually destroyed the purity of doctrine."

Calvin, Commentary on 2 Timothy

Heresy: An allegory

Whilst he is away on a journey the city of a great king has come under attack. If the city falls the kingdom will be overrun by the enemies of the king.

Now the king's enemies are crafty men. Even though the serve another master they have disguised themselves as loyal servants of the true king. They are seeking to overthrow the king's rule by changing his decrees and laws. But as they do so they never fail to swear their loyalty to the true king.

Some of the king's subjects have been thrown into great confusion by this. Who has the right to speak for the king and to interpret his wise laws and decrees? Others say that there is room enough in the city for all the officials who say that they serve the king, even if there are differences in how they think about him.

Yet there is hope. The king has true servants. These men are experts at understanding the ways and decrees of the king that he has written down for them in a book. They have been trained to rightly handle the king's law and have been entrusted to oversee his kingdom.

The king's enemies want to overthrow the kingdom not by laying the city to siege but by persuading the king's subjects to follow their interpretation of the king. Instead of attacking the city with a sword they want to poison the minds of the citizens of the land so that they will be duped into a rebellion against the king. When the true king returns they will not recognise him or be willing to live under his rule. What is worse the true king will say that he does not know them. They have been serving someone else all along, even though they claimed (and many no doubt sincerely believed this) to be loyal to him.

If these infiltrators succeed the kingdom will fall. These impostors must be fought. They must be engaged in debate. Their lies must be exposed. The king's subjects need to see who is telling the truth and who is misrepresenting the king. These men are pretenders who must be removed from the city so that their poisonous ideas will be stopped. Their cunningly devised fables are making the king's servants change the allegiance of their hearts.

Even though the king's true officials are peace loving they know that if they do not fight they will have betrayed their king and let his honour be stolen from him.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Don't trust the snake's interpretation

"Since the early modern era, a number of historians and theologians have tried to demonstrate that the heretics--the innovators, the non-conformists, the protestors--were the truest and best imitators of Christ, no matter how far removed their doctrines might be from what he did and taught...It is not necessary to think that heretics are the truest Christians, or the best followers of Christ. Indeed, we should not, for to do so would be false."

Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies, p. 4

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Think of a heretic...

Who is the first heretic that comes into your mind?

These days mine's an Italian by the name of Sozzini

(Please include your choice for the record. Comments are appreciated)

Against Heresy Hunting or "Look Ma I shot a big one!"

In the mudslinging that goes on between different, or shall we say competing, orthodoxies, one side can safely secure points by accusing the other one of being heresy hunters.

Sometimes the mud sticks. It is possible to be pre-occupied with error in a way that is spiritually unhealthy. If you start using your Bible predominatly as a text to prosecute the errors of others then you are in trouble.

Sometimes it doesn't stick, but if you throw it anyway you will make your accusers look bad, even if they are right in their assessment and motives.

There is more to theological warfare than sound arguments. Indeed, bad arguments can be very persuasive and tenacious just by using clever rhetoric.

But who ever said that killing snakes was easy?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

So what is the first thing that comes into your mind...

...when you hear the word heresy?

It has to be the very first thing

And please leave a comment

How far can you go?

Q. When someone moves from orthodoxy to heresy how far can they go?

A. All the way to hell.

That is shockingly blunt. You ought to read the question and answer again with what Packer calls a "traumatic awe." We do not want it to be so, but we are not fit to arbitrate on these matters or to run the universe.

Orthodoxy is serious. Heresy is serious. Neither are playful word games.

"...just as there are doctrines that are true, and that can bring salvation, there are those that are false, so false that they can spell eternal damnation for those who have the misfortune to be entrapped by them."

Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies, p. 4

Monday, November 06, 2006

Against Salvation

"Traditionally, the church has been symbolized by an ark; those who board the ark will survive the deluge. Heresy not merely undermines one's intellectual understanding of Christian doctrine, but threatens to sink the ark, and thus to make salvation impossible for everyone, not merely for the individual heretic."

Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies, p. 2

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Usual Suspects: No. 2 The Sincere Misinterpreter

According to Bob Sheehan this is the second type of errorist found in the NT:

"With great sincerity people can turn the meaning of Scripture into something quite other than that which the author intended."


"The Corinthian church had evidently received a letter from Paul in which he had instructed them to be separate from the immoral, the materialistic and the idolatrous. They understood him to mean that they must work out of a monastic lifestyle by which they kept their distance from all such people in the world (1 Cor. 5:9)."

"For the Corinthians to interpret Paul in this way was not at all unreasonable. They were surrounded by religious Jews who sought to avoid contact with immoral and idolatrous people. Did not the pharisees bathe themselves if they even came into contact in the market with some Gentile?...It was not unreasonable to think that Paul was encouraging some sort of Christian asceticism."

"Even though it can be argued that the Corinthian interpretation was not unreasonable, it was wrong. Paul was requiring disassociation from the person who calls himself a brother, the professing Christian, who is immoral, materialistic or idolatrous."

So far, so good.

"Because he had been misunderstood in something that he had written, Paul had to deal with the misrepresentation, to take away the misconception that had arisen in the Corinthian mind. Condemnation and rebuke might have satisfied some but it would not help the people in Corinth."

And finally:

"Paul's method in dealing with the Corinthians is, of course, the only pastorally responsible method."

A few observations:

1. We are dealing here with the type of person who is fundamentally submissive to apostolic doctrine and authority but who has, at the same time, fundamentally misunderstood an aspect of that teaching. The error is one of wrong interpretation and application rather than a lack of knowledge.

2. There are unhelpful consequences that follow from this misinterpretation for Christian living. These need to be pointed out and corrected. But there is no indication here of a bad attitude that needs to be sorted out.

3. Although he doesn't mention it Sheehan has used a passage where, in the preceding verses, the church has been taken to task and rebuked for failing to deal with immoral behaviour. Paul's approach is measured according to the different kinds of error found in the same church.

4. Without recognising that this kind of error exists it is easy to harm well meaning believers who have sincerely misunderstood the truth. This calls for wisdom. How easy it would be to create further problems by assuming the worst about the motives and mindset involved. The point is not only to be right but to help others to have right understanding.

5. This also calls for humility on the part of those being corrected. Those who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture must recognise that one of the functions of those Scriptures is to provide correction.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Against narrow-mindedness

Accusing someone of being narrow in their theology is a great rhetorical device.

It is guaranteed to cast your opponent in a bad light. Describing your opponent's theology as narrow instantly makes it, and them, appear extreme and uncharitable. Even good arguments , once they are claimed to be narrow-minded, are looked upon with less favour. The reason for this is obvious. Narrowness is associated with intolerance and being ungenerous. And these, of course, are character traits that we generally wish to shed, not reinforce. Does the verbal mud stick?

It may do. We could of course be narrow about the wrong things. We could be Baptists that exclude from the Lord's table gospel believing Presbyterians. Or we could be charismatics who regard those who have not spoken in tongues as therefore not Spirit-filled believers.

But painting an opponent as narrow minded, of itself, says nothing about the rightness or wrong headedness of their beliefs. And it doesn't communicate anything intelligent about the value and appropriateness of those beliefs, or the character of the person believing them. Of itself it predisposes us to consider that person to be bigoted. The irony of it is that the one making the accusation may well be the intolerant narrow-minded party.

But accusation of narrowness, as I said, is simply great rhetoric. The word itself stirs up the desire in us to be dismissive, and particularly to be dismissive of the intellectual value of an opposing position. But those "narrow views" may well be definite thought out convictions, and definite convictions about things that really matter. And definite convictions that are logically incompatible with other beliefs, and vice versa. Narrowness is an epithet that tells us nothing about the value of someone's beliefs, nor, for the record, their character.

"Narrowness does not consist in definite devotion to certain convictions or in definite rejection of others. But the narrow man is the man who rejects the other man's convictions without first endeavouring to understand them, the man who makes no effort to look at things from the other man's point of view."

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 160