The accidental cheapening of heresy

word-balloons

There once was a man named Seth. Seth was a popular author, especially among creative and “non-traditional” leadership types. He wrote with an unusual buzzwordiness while sharing many truths and many half-truths about tribes, lynchpins and meatballs on top of sundaes.

He wrote of our desperate need for people unafraid to challenge the establishment and chart their own course for the good of the many.

He called them “heretics.” But we should not.

This week I was reading a very good book on social media that embraced Seth’s “heretic” ideal. Not theological heresy, the author stressed, but ideological—being willing to push the boundaries of comfort in order to reach as many as possible.

But I’ve got to be honest, whenever I see Christian authors use the term “heretic” in this way, I get a little nervous. It’s not because I disagree with the sentiment (I generally don’t)—it’s the danger of cheapening the word “heretic.”

Imagine you’re in a room with no windows and only one door, which is at the farthest point from you. The door opens a little bit and someone throws a grenade in, which promptly explodes (as it is intended to do). This is what calling someone a heretic is like. Or at least, it should be. Churches have split over heresy. Ministries have been destroyed because of it. It’s a big word, and just like a grenade, once you pull the pin, there’s no going back.

So why do we treat it so flippantly?

Why, following along with a popular book, are we redefining a word that carries such weight and power—transforming a profanity into a virtue? Truthfully, I don’t believe it’s of malicious intent. I think it’s simply that we’re careless with words. We don’t give them enough weight; we don’t consider carefully what they mean.

Seth used the word “heretic” intentionally. He knew the power it holds, otherwise he wouldn’t have used it. We, on the other hand, have simply poured ourselves a nice, tall glass of his Kool-Aid.

When we assign foreign meanings to familiar words, we wind up cheapening the concepts they represent as a result. When it comes to a word like “heretic,” we must avoid this at all costs. And this is but one example. We’ve transformed tolerance into something wholly intolerant. We’ve desecrated love, turning it into a mere feeling flitting about with no depth or power. So love becomes preference, disagreement becomes prejudice, truth becomes error… Careless words cheapen powerful truths.

Links I like

Worship in Spirit and Truth

David Mathis:

The issue is not whether we will worship, but what. Even better, whom and how.

On this Sunday, as many of us ready ourselves for corporate worship, perhaps the most significant single biblical text for guiding the essence of what we’re pursuing together when we gather is Jesus’s words in John 4:23–24.

Don’t Teach the Bible

Phillip Jensen:

There is an important difference between teaching the Bible and teaching people the Bible. It is easy to be so engaged in what we teach that we forget whom we are teaching. We can even be oblivious to the fact that we are not teaching anybody. This is particularly true of the sermon. The monologue engages the preacher’s mind but can completely miss the hearers’ thinking.

What Are Your Thoughts on “Minced Oaths?”

R.C. Sproul Jr:

A “minced oath” is a bowdlerization of words or phrases otherwise deemed offensive or blasphemous. Common examples would be the substitution of darn for damn, heck for hell, gosh for God. Some argue that when we use these substitutes we nevertheless stand guilty of using the originals, that gosh takes God’s name in vain, and darn belittles the reality and horror of damnation. While I am sympathetic to that perspective, and give thanks for those who seek to be deliberate and to honor God with their tongues, I do not share that conviction.

Work, value, and the gospel

Paul Grimmond:

Paul’s absolute conviction is that the church is made the way God wants it. So when I sit in church on a Sunday and I look around, I ought to find people there who are wildly different to me. I ought to meet toenails and pancreases, knuckles and elbows, kidneys and eyeballs. And more than that, as someone who belongs to Jesus, I am called to see how each of them is necessary to the life of God’s people. I am to learn to rejoice in the gift that God has given me in them and them in me!

7 Councils: The Council of Ephesus

Tim Challies:

This council came at time of conflict over authority within the church. The First Council of Constantinople had established the bishop of Constantinople as second in authority following Rome, whose bishop carried the title of Pope and who claimed his authority from the line of Peter. Alexandria and Antioch were also powerful bishoprics and their schools of Christology historically came from different positions. Leo Davis explains: “Just as all philosophers are said to be basically either Aristotelian or Platonist, so, roughly speaking, all theologians are in Christology either Antiochene, beginning with the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels and attempting to explain how this man is also God, or Alexandrian, beginning with the Word of John’s Prologue and attempting to understand the implications of the Logos taking flesh.” This council would further expose the rift between the two schools of Christology.

Taming the Tongue: Sinclair Ferguson on James 3

A conversation with a good friend got me thinking about this message from the 2008 Desiring God National Conference.

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.924357&w=425&h=350&fv=clip_id%3D9728371%26server%3Dvimeo.com%26autoplay%3D0%26fullscreen%3D1%26md5%3D0%26show_portrait%3D0%26show_title%3D0%26show_byline%3D0%26context%3Duser%3A2177508%26context_id%3D%26force_embed%3D0%26multimoog%3D%26color%3D00ADEF%26force_info%3Dundefined]

more about “The Tongue, the Bridle, and the Bless…“, posted with vodpod

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James 3:1-12

The mature person is able to “bridle” his tongue. The person who can do this is master of the whole body. The spiritual masters of the past understood this to have a double reference. The control of the tongue has both negative and positive aspects. It involves the ability to restrain the tongue in silence. But it also means being able to control it in gracious speech when that is required. Sanctification in any area of our lives always expresses this double dimension—a putting off and a putting on, as it were. Speech and silence, appropriately expressed, are together the mark of the mature.

Sinclair Ferguson, “The Bit, The Bridle and the Blessing,” The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, page 48

The tongue is “set among our members, staining the whole body.” How careful you are as you put on a dress for a wedding, especially if it is your own. How nervous about that new silk tie during dinner. The spot need only be a small one, but it ruins everything. So it is with the tongue and its words. No matter what graces you may have developed, if you have not gained tongue mastery, you can besmirch them all by an unguarded and ill-disciplined comment. Graces are fragile; therefore guard your tongue lest it destroy them.

Sinclair Ferguson, “The Bit, The Bridle and the Blessing,” The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, page 51

Everyday Theology

“God helps those who help themselves.”

You’ve heard that one before, right? What about:

“Money is the root of all evil.”

Or how about this one:

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

And my personal favorite:

“Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words.”

We’ve all heard these phrases before, haven’t we? Little nuggets that sound kind of like something you’d think was in the Bible.

It’s everyday theology. People build their worldview on sayings like these; whole ministries and movements are built at least one of these.

But how often do we stop to wonder whether or not these sayings are true at all?

So let’s talk about them over the course of the next few days. Let’s find out if they’re true. If so, then how do they affect our lives. If not, how do we need to respond? Bring up some others that you’ve heard in the comments.

Looking forward to discussing these later this week.

Sunday Shorts (05/31)

Just Do Something: A short interview with Kevin DeYoung

Over at Buzzard Blog, they’re featuring a brief interview with Kevin DeYoung, author of Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. Look for a review of this book here in the next few weeks.

And: Words and Deeds

Hunter Beaumont at The Resurgence offers wise counsel on the relationship between our words and our actions.

Strangely, many emerging pastors say that if a church effectively embodies the gospel, then preaching becomes less important. Others fear that if we welcome unbelievers, we have to water down the message. In reality, just the opposite is true!

Read the rest at The Resurgence.

Should We Use Twitter During Church?

John Piper and Josh Harris both agree: No, probably not. Read both of their reasons why at their respective blogs.

Did you know…

Blogging Theologically is now available for your Kindle. If you’re so inclined, you can subscribe at Amazon.com

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Persevering Prophet: Harsh Language A look at the harsh language that the Bible uses to describe sin.

Made in the Image of God: Relationship and Responsibility Looking at how humanity images God through our relationships and different responsibilities.

Week Five: Am I an Adrenaline Junkie? What I’m learning during my fast from podcasts and theology books.

The Persevering Prophet: Harsh Language

PP-Language

Reading through the first several chapters of Jeremiah, I am struck by the harshness of Jeremiah’s preaching. Throughout the book, there is a palpable hatred of sin, that is expressed with incredibly strong language.

Before I continue, if you are offended by such language, you may not want to read this post (perhaps this light-hearted one instead?), as I’ve pulled together some of the more intense examples from the early chapters of the book of Jeremiah.

Within the book’s first five chapters, we see the following extremely intense words preached by Jeremiah: [Read more...]