Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Seven Habits: 4. They refuse to reject what are ultimately man made ideas

Heresies cannot be attributed to God's revelation. They must come from outside of revelation and take over. Like a cuckoo they are the wrong egg in the wrong nest that pushes out what really belongs. Heresies realign the teaching of Scripture and gain control. They are, quite simply, another gospel. As Hilary of Poitiers helpfully put it:
Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written. The guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text.
There are two common ways in which heresies displace orthodox doctrines. The one is the substitution of truth with error without changing the words used to convey the truth. The other is the choice of method that filters what God's revelation is permitted to teach. These approaches work in tandem.

When an alien world-view is decorated with Christian terminology the result is heresy. G. P. Fisher articulated the intrusive nature of heresy into the thought world of the Bible:
When Christianity is brought into contact with modes of thought and tenets originating elsewhere, either of two effects may follow. It may assimilate them, discarding whatever is at variance with the gospel, or the tables may be turned and the foreign elements may prevail. In the latter case there ensues a perversion of Christianity, an amalgamation with it of ideas discordant with its nature. The product then is a heresy.
As far back as Tertullian's day this was recognised. Concerning the connection between Christianity and pagan philosphy he wrote "the same subject-matter is discussed over and over again by the heretics and the philosophers; the same arguments are involved." Similarly Hippolytus of Rome noted that:
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.
We see this impulse at work in the New Testament. When Paul states the things of first importance to the Corinthians he includes the atoning death and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-3). The chapter, however, is taken up with the resurrection and not the cross. Paul does of course explain that believers would still be in their sins, which the cross is said to have dealt with, but he mentions this as a logical consequence of the denial of the future resurrection of believers (1 Cor. 15:17).

Given that the future resurrection of the just and the wicked is an Old and New Testament doctrine, the denial of the resurrection is the intrusion of an alien doctrine into the body of Christian belief. The incompatability of this foreign element is demonstrated by Paul's logic. This heretical belief effectively unravels the very fabric of Christian truth.

Were this not enough we ought also to mention that a method that regards reason as an arbiter of what ought to be believed, or a radical biblicism that demands that doctrine be stated in a certain way to qualify for Christian belief, is also injurious to the whole counsel of God. The source of this criteria is alien. A course is then set that acts as a canon within a canon. Human wisdom becomes the determiner of divine revelation. James White has a helpful comment on this tendency in his book
The Forgotten Trinity:
When men approach God's truth with a haughty attitude, they often decide that particular elements of that truth are not "suitable" to them, so they "modify" the message of the faith to fit their own notions. Since the Trinity is the highest of God's revelations concerning himself, it is hardly surprising to discover that many groups deny it...An unwillingness to worship God as God has revealed himself lies behind every denial of the Trinity that appears down through history. We want a God we can fit in a box, and the eternal, Triune God does not fit that mold.

1 comment:

Drew Costen said...

Hey, where are parts 5, 6 and 7? I need more info on how to be a more effective heretic. ;)

Interesting series so far, by the way. :)