|H is for Heretic. Bad cow!|
CS Lewis, Bill Johnson, and Greg Boyd are some of my favorite unrepentent heretics. I also admit to thinking highly of Tony Campolo, Ted Haggard, and Donald Miller, and--with reservation--Rob Bell. In each of those cases I've spent some considerable time studying the accusations against them and am usually pretty alarmed at the mean-spirited videos and articles that are aimed at "bringing truth and light." These watchdogs set out looking for dangerous heresy and found themselves in equally dangerous hysterisy.
Then this weekend I happened to be at a church that has taken The Shack off their shelves because of accusations of heresy that have lapped up on their shores. The Shack, heretical? Until a month ago I hadn't re-read The Shack since my first exposure in 2008, though several times I've handed the book to friends and have recommended it on our church website: www.sgfbend.org/our-flavor. This winter when I finally had a chance to read it a second time, I did so with a very fine-meshed theological screen. I approached it from the standpoint of 1) knowing that it's a good and important message, but that 2) it deals with some pretty messy theological areas. I wasn't going to burn the book if I found theological error in it (I'd already benefited too much to want to do that), but I wanted to know for myself what small error it might contain. (Remember, this is before I'd heard of accusations of heresy.)
I read it with cheese-cloth filter, alert for problematic areas. I re-read several passages because I thought there might be a problem, but my most careful reading exonerated those passages. To my own surprise, I had finished the The Shack and had nothing on my notepad of "problem areas."
Yesterday I read part of a heresy-rant book Burning the Shack, and I now realize that sometimes WHO wrote something is as important as WHAT he wrote. I still feel comfortable with The Shack, in part because of the editing and writing team that collaborated on it. I'm not at-ease with the doctrine of universal reconciliation, and I'll watch for it in any future novel I read from Paul Young and others, but this unease probably won't compel me to start a new blog called www.watchdogs4jesus.com to track my findings and alert others to slippery-slope theology.
Until yesterday I had never even thought to try a Google search for "Paul Young Heretic." Wowie! He is some kind of bad guy! Curiosity. How about the other guys we like? Turns out that more than half of the people I've listed on SGF's "our-flavor" page are Heretics (the kind that make one capitalize the word). The others on my list probably aren't famous enough for the brand.
Q) How do we keep ourselves safe from the deception of heretics?
A) I'd love to know your answer to this. I don't have a good one on me.
Q) How do we keep ourselves safe from the heresy-sniffer watchdogs?
A) Chose any one of these:
- Don't ever become famous.
- Don't EVER admit to questioning.
- Find the hardline Scribes of your day and only wear the colors they wear and eat in the cafes they eat in. (Don't even think about dining with a tax collector or smiling at a prostitute!)
- Publish scathing articles about other people's heresy. McCarthyism lives! Publish or Perish--Scathe or be Scathed!
My dad and I were engaging this morning in a fun conversation about the heretics that we appreciate, and we decided to do some Googling to try to find a prominent Christian leader who hasn't generated a nice wad of angry heresy-accusations.
Try it for yourself.
Who do you follow who hasn't been blasted for heresy?
Pretend that that was the end--that's what I wanted to say today. I'll keep this part brief as a post-script:
Beneath the bravado of self-labeling as Heretic in the post-title, I don't want to really engage in heresy. While I believe that there are far fewer actual heretics actually doing damage to the faith than alarmists would have us think, I'm not disappointed to find that I'm still as orthodox as ever. Here are two good litmus tests (can you affirm the articles of both?):
National Association of Evangelicals: Statement of Faith
- We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
- We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
- We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
- We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
- We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
- We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.