Sunday, November 26, 2006

Does Heresy Matter?

Yesterday, I asked readers if the Church of Latter-Day Saints is heretical. Brian of The Faithful Skeptic commented:

I'd argue that the average joe and jane methodist/presbyterian/episcopal/catholic, etc. probably don't have a thorough understanding of their church's theology either.

I'd agree that mormon theology sounds downright wacky. But then sometimes I think the only difference between catholics and mormons is that the catholics had the good sense to stop making stuff up 1500 years ago.

But aside from all of the theology, I know a lot of mormons. And at the risk of stereotyping them, they tend to be very good, caring, hardworking and honest people that truly love God and frankly do a lot more to embody Christian love than many other Christians.

That being said, I don't have a lot of enthusiasm for deciding whether they are heretics or not. While Joseph Smith was probably a total kook, most of his followers today are not. I think God probably has room for them too.

Emphasis added. I can understand that an excessive focus on doctrinal purity can hinder the mission of the people of God, but defending correct doctrine from false matters at some level.

Given the massive amount of text in the New Testament devoted to the importance of identifying and combating heresy, particularly the epistolary writers, either calling out heretical ideas and practices matters, or the NT writers were wrong.

As for the specific errors of the LDS, I suggest this handy brief from the Watchman Fellowship.

Now, to the harder matter: differentiating varying opinions from heresy. How do we say that a certain view is a minor error which God will not hold against the believer (e.g. Calvinist soteriology), and another is one that will result in damnation (e.g. Mormon anthropology)?

What is heresy as an evaluative criterion?

67 comments:

Keith Taylor said...

John,

Many good Christians throughout the ages have pondered and thought about this question. They basically have boiled it down to the following:

(1)The inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures.
(2)The Virgin Birth and Deity of Christ.
(3)The Blood Atonement of Christ on the Cross for mankind's sins.
(4)The Actual Bodily Resurrection of Christ.
(5) Christ will return again to Earth.

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, as well as the major established mainline Protestant Churches (Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Church of England, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, etc. all pass this test.) We may differ greatly on many other things, but we all agree on these.

Thus, that is the list that I use.

John said...

Keith, how do you define inerrancy?

bob said...

John, I like keith's list but I would add to his first point. I think inerrancy might be to broad and that it might be more appropriate to say errors in interpretation of Holy Scripture that changes the nature of God. Some errors being only minor and don't change our understanding of God.

codepoke said...

The Nicene Creed sure seems adequate to me.

Of course, I speak as might' near being one of those Calvinist people.

Anonymous said...

Nicene Creed might be one place to start but it says nothing about Biblical inerrancy which leads me to think this was not at the top of the council of Nicea's list of beliefs. I would have to go with Code on Nicene Creed its older than the Canonized Bible.

P.S. Remember when the Nicene Creed was formed there was NO New Testament and scattered writings from different communities.

But the real question here is not does heresy matter, it is does a specific heresy (i.e. believing the second coming to be a different coming than a literal one) prevent someone from being a Christian (and getting into those pearly gates).

Dale Tedder said...

I think they seem fairly "protestant" until someone actually studies what they believe. Then it becomes pretty clear that they are not Christian. I know for a while the World Council of Churches would not even allow them to be members (and who is more liberal than the WCC?). I'm not sure what the WCC's position is now, but their old position seems to speak volumes about the theology of Mormonism.

Keith Taylor said...

Keith, how do you define inerrancy?

John,

The Bible states in Timothy II 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

When he was personally tempted by Satan, the Lord went back to and quoted direct scripture verses for each and every temptation that Satan threw at Him.

I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, written by mortal men, but governed and/or supervised by the Holy Ghost. I believe that when the Canon was debated, the Holy Spirit was present in the room. The books that made the Canon are the books that God wanted. The books that were rejected, were rejected by His supervision as well.

I am a United Methodist. I know that his belief is on the conservative side of what the UMC believes. However, I find nothing in the Bible itself, the 2000 year old history of the Church, rational thinking by historic saints of the Christian faith, or their experiences that lead me to believe otherwise that the Holy Bible is anything other than the inerrant Word of the Living God.

Dan Trabue said...

Regarding your five points (inerrancy, virgin birth, etc), aren't these all extrabiblical impositions of what it means to be saved?

Y'all really think you have to believe in a virgin birth to be saved?

On what biblical basis would you make that judgement (ie, where does the Bible say that one must believe Mary was a virgin to be a part of the body of Christ? Or that one must believe in the inerrancy of scripture - whatever that means - in order to be saved?)

I'd suggest that we go with what Jesus told us we must do in order to be saved: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Why add to how Jesus defined salvation?

Anonymous said...

Dan,

No, our salvation does not hinge on JUST believing in the virgin birth. It DOES hinge on what Christ said in John 10:9, to enter through himself as the true gate.

Jesus said that loving God & neighbor were the greatest commandments. But to be saved--to be rescued from sin and hell--goes deeper than faithful worship and feeding the poor. It flows from Christ, whom the scriptures testify was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, shed his blood for our justification and rose from the dead by the power of God. That's why I trust Christ for my salvation...not because he said to love God and neighbor. Anyone can say that. Christ was not just a religious advice-giver; the powerful, miraculous things he did are evidence that he can be trusted for matters of eternal significance.

Dan Trabue said...

"That's why I trust Christ for my salvation...not because he said to love God and neighbor."

I know I'm outside the evangelical norm here, I'm just more of the opinion that we trust Christ for our salvation based upon what he actually said rather than upon all these extras.

For instance, I've accepted Jesus as my savior. I recognize my sinful nature and inability to save myself and have asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. I've been baptized, attend church and all that jazz.

On the Virgin Birth - I don't necessarily DON'T believe it, I'm just indifferent to it. I find it to be an extrabiblical teaching.

You think I'm not saved based upon that?

John said...

Keith, I agree with your understanding of inerrancy.

Is belief in the Virgin Birth necessary? Well, given that the Bible is extremely clear that the virgin birth really, really, really happened, and no finding of modern science can contradict it (unlike, let us say, the 6 day creation or the Great Flood), I find it baffling that anyone would deny the virgin birth.

I would like to see an argument against the virgin birth just to see what the cause of dispute is.

Anonymous said...

"I'm just more of the opinion that we trust Christ for our salvation based upon what he actually said rather than upon all these extras."

You've defined the virgin birth as an "extra" and the deity of Christ, his blood atonement, resurrection and second coming as "extrabiblical impositions." So why exactly do you believe in Christ as your Lord and Savior? Based on his words only? Christ said some powerful things, to be sure. So has Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa and T.D. Jakes.

Why not trust them for your salvation?

Lorna said...

On the Virgin Birth - I don't necessarily DON'T believe it, I'm just indifferent to it. I find it to be an extrabiblical teaching.


erm, am I missing something here. But isn't the virgin birth actually biblical?

and what is important is that because of the "overshadowing" of the Holy Spirit - Jesus was from God as well as from human - son of God, son of Mary. The 100% divine, 100% human factor.

mystery? yes. Mind baffling maybe - but essential to our faith!

Dan Trabue said...

"I would like to see an argument against the virgin birth just to see what the cause of dispute is."

"am I missing something here. But isn't the virgin birth actually biblical?"

I'm of the mind that Mary was a virgin, given her age and the words written about the birth in the Bible. All I'm saying is that defining that as a criteria for salvation is extrabiblical.

And as with the Virgin Birth, so with these other criteria - I'm not saying that they are all in and of themselves extrabiblical, I'm saying that requiring these five tenets as a prerequisite for salvation is extrabiblical and wholly beyond Jesus' teachings.

Anonymous said...

Dan,

You refer to Jesus' teachings as a basis of salvation. Are you saying, then, that we must perfectly follow his ethical instructions from the Sermon on the Mount in order to be saved? Have you never lusted, been angry with someone, or neglected to pray for your enemies?

Salvation is not based on striving to follow the teachings of Jesus, however noble that is. It happens when we enter through the door, who is Jesus. The WHOLE witness of scripture includes the virgin birth, the cross and the resurrection of Christ--and, yes, his teachings. But many of Jesus' ethical teachings hark back to the Hebrew scriptures-and you're not going to tell me that we have to follow the law to be saved, are you?

Dan Trabue said...

No, we are saved by God's grace as described in the Bible. I just reject extrabiblical requirements for salvation.

Salvation by Grace is evident throughout the Bible, especially in the NT. Salvation requiring belief in Virgin birth, "inerrancy" (again, whatever that means), that God's middle name is "Bob," and many other hoops some would like to require folk jump through is not evidenced in the Bible, God's Holy Word.

We are saved by God's kind gift to we sinners, who are much in need of grace. That salvation is evidenced and borne out by our following the teachings of Jesus, our Lord. Those teachings being summed up in this: Love God and Love People.

A Virgin Birth, Blood Atonement, etc, can be argued and discussed amongst Christians and cases made and debated, but they are far removed from any kind of "essential" status. Again, I'd ask, on what biblical basis would you say that I MUST believe in a virgin birth in order to be saved?

Keith Taylor said...

Dan,

You do not "have" to believe in the virgin birth to be saved. You only "have" to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.

Go back to the original question here of "what is Heresy?"

Well, to put it simply, Jesus and "anything else" is heresy. There are some faiths that say you must trust Jesus and "worship on Saturday", or your must trust Jesuse and "only eat certain foods" or "wear certain undergarments", etc. The minute you add the "and anything" you have committed a heresy. You only have to trust in Jesus. The minute you add anything else, you add a heresy. However, with that said, there are some implied assumptions. If items 1-5 aren't true, then if you are holding fast to Christ for your salvation, what exactly are you holding on to?

If 2-5 of my list are false, then Christ is a liar, an egomaniac, and a lunatic. Basically, Jesus becomes just another David Koresh. Also, if that is the case, then the Bible is also a lie. Then I would have to ask you, what exactly are you putting your faith in? A lie? A lunatic?

Keith Taylor can tell you to love God with all your heart and soul and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. So what? That doesn't make me your savior, does it?

This is an excellent discussion.

Anonymous said...

Dan,

If I can't trust the Lordship of Christ, why should I follow his teachings? There were plenty of other people in Jesus' time who claimed to be messiah.

What differentiates Christ from the pretenders is not his teachings per se. C.S. Lewis noted in Mere Christianity that a comparision of moral teachings from different civilizations shows how alike they are.

The Lordship of Christ hinges on the sum total of who Jesus was and is. I can't separate Christ's teachings from the rest of what the Bible says about him--and those most certainly include his unusual birth, his sinless life, his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

You would be correct to say that the Bible does not explicitly command belief in the virgin birth as a prerequisite to salvation. But you also called the blood atonement "far removed from any kind of 'essential' status."

Huh? How many scriptures do you want me to quote to point out how wrong that is?

Dan Trabue said...

My point, Mark, is not to debate whether or not Jesus shed his blood, but whether or not the Bible tells us anywhere we have to believe that in order to be saved.

We are told, rather, to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." I just don't think it's as complicated as y'all appear to.

As to Keith's excellent points ("If 2-5 of my list are false, then Christ is a liar, an egomaniac, and a lunatic.") I'd just add that this may or may not be the case, but if you're going to talk about Jesus' "essential" teachings, why stop at just those 5? Why not add, "Love your enemies" (which I'd consider a much more essential Christian teaching than "believe in the Virgin Birth")?

Surely if "Love your enemies," is not a true statement, then Jesus must be a madman and not the Son of God.

Why not add, "Sell your belongings and give them to the poor," or "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners..." or "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth"?

What I'm asking is why make essential those particular 5-ish tenets and not any of the more meaty parts of what Jesus actually had to say?

Myself, I am saved by God's Grace through Jesus the Christ and naught else. From there, let's discuss "doctrine," if we must - but let's do so mostly in context of what Jesus tells us is most essential - Love God, Love people.

JD said...

I agree with Keith and John on their comments about the bible and its inerrancy.

I believe the importance of Mary being a virgin is at the time of Christ's birth and God's hand in the conception, otherwise, Jesus' life is the best pregnancy cover-up ever. I do not believe Mary was a virgin her entire life, but whether she was or not is not the basis for our faith…..Just for the conception and birth of Jesus.

I believe that we would not be saved, without Christ's shedding of His blood and Him following the will of His Father. What if Jesus actually told His Father, "Yea, I know you love these guys, and I do too, but I am not ready to face this pain. I'll take a rain check on that one?"

I believe that our bodies and souls will be pure and whole at the ultimate resurrection just as Christ's resurrection. I believe that during the final resurrection, our bodies and souls will be one again, in perfect form, as they were in Eden before the Fall.

I use the term "deal breakers" when discussing these things. In discussions with Catholic friends, we debate the scriptural reference to purgatory. In the end, whether we believe it to exist or not is not a "deal breaker" for our salvation, so why argue it. Some consider it heresy, but is it really?

There was a sect in the Catholic Church in about 300 or 400 AD, do not remember their name, that felt it was important to be baptized every time you sinned. The church considered it heretical and formalized that any baptism done by the church is all that is needed for the forgiveness of original sin. To baptize over and over again denies God's saving grace. Was that heretical? The church said it was. I believe it to be, but the discussion in the early church helped us understand the need for our forgiveness and confession of sin…not necessarily Reconciliation as defined by the Catholic Church.

I think a great deal of the debates that the Christian church in America and around the world have are non-deal breakers, i.e., woman preachers, married pastors, Jesus' real or supposed brothers, purgatory, intercession of the saints. If it is a distraction from our focus on Christ, then these things are wrong on that level, but are they necessarily heretical?

Just a little more to think about. (can you sense the former Catholic and logical Methodist in my comments?) :)
PAX
JD

Dan Trabue said...

To answer my own questions (Why not add, "Love your enemies"? Why not add, "Sell your belongings and give them to the poor," or "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners..." or "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth"?)...

I'd suggest we don't treat these as "essential" because they require something of us, whereas it costs me nothing at all to say that I believe in a virgin birth or inerrant scriptures. What'dya think?

codepoke said...

I'm sorry I'm late getting back to this.

I believe the cart and horse have parted company here. "That which is born of Spirit is spirit." "You must be born from above."

A baby *could* be born and believe that it had been hatched from an egg, by space aliens, into a world of lizards in disguise. That belief would not change the fact that its mommy was human.

Even so, the Spirit bears life in a human as a result of processes explained by true doctrine. We are born again by a spiritual work of God. Our faith is spiritual, not intellectual.

The baby above is not likely to believe the lizard story, because he will be raised by nice people. If the baby were to be seriously psycho, though, he would have problems with life.

Even so the Christian. Good doctrine leads to good conversation.

I stand by the Nicene Creed. The bible is inerrant, but a good brother can doubt that every word was captured perfectly, and still know Christ well.

Anonymous said...

Dan,

I'm confused, which is a natural state for me.

Earlier you said, "I'd suggest that we go with what Jesus told us we must do in order to be saved: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Why add to how Jesus defined salvation?"

Now you're saying that you are saved by grace alone.

So which is it? Are you saved by grace (which the Bible explicitly ties to the Cross & not our strivings) or are you saved by trying to obey the Great Commandment?

Dan Trabue said...

I apologize for stating my position in a confusing way, Mark. We are saved by grace. Naught else. Certainly not our works.

My point has been, continues to be, as I stated earlier:

What I'm asking is why make essential those particular 5-ish tenets and not any of the more meaty parts of what Jesus actually had to say?

And in asking that question, I'm hoping to point still to Grace, God's sweet Grace when we've accepted it (we are free still, of course, to reject it). I wouldn't add anything to that.

FROM THAT POINT, I'm wondering why those particular doctrines (inerrancey, virgin birth, etc - that which is extrapolated from the Bible) are important to some moreso than Jesus' direct teachings.

I'm not adding anything to God's Grace, just asking, OF ALL the more obvious and direct teachings, why those?

JD said...

This has gotten interesting. I feel like I am watching the Scopes Monkey Trials, except it is not about monkeys and we are not in court.

Great debate!

PAX
JD

Anonymous said...

Dan,

I'm pretty sure I have a grasp on your position. It appears to me that you are subordinating teachings about Jesus (e.g., those contained in certain sections of the Gospel, the Pauline writings and epistles about the virgin birth, atonement and resurrection)to the actual words of Jesus, especially those that have to do with right conduct. However, Jesus said a lot of strange, disturbing things that had nothing to do with ethics: he claimed he was one with the Father, that he would give himself up as a ransom, that he would rise again and return in power with the host of heaven. I am not extrapolating those statements from the Bible, as you say, but directly going to the words of Jesus himself.

These teachings of Christ sound heavily theological to me and suspiciously close to the doctrine that you seem hesitant to fully embrace.

Am I misinterpreting your position?

Anonymous said...

jd,

Whew! For a moment there I thought you were going to call me a monkey.

Just like everybody else does.

Dan Trabue said...

"These teachings of Christ sound heavily theological to me and suspiciously close to the doctrine that you seem hesitant to fully embrace.

Am I misinterpreting your position?"

My position on Keith's 5 points are that they it is not necessary to believe them for salvation. I don't necessarily reject any of them as totally bad teachings - except for the "inerrancy" one (and even there, I don't reject the Inerrancy of God's Word, just our ability - in our fallen nature - to adequately sort out the parable from the fact from the allegory from the fiction from the simile).

I think to require belief in these doctrines is adding to God's Grace - by which we are saved - giving us additional hoops to jump through.

I further think that, of the teachings in the Bible, I'm less interested in one's position on whether or not Jesus will return again to earth than I am in how one is dealing with the Jesus we DO have on earth (what you have done to the least of these, you have done to me...THAT Jesus).

In other words, I don't reject these five as necessarily bad teachings, instead, I'm rather indifferent to them as lesser teachings.

Anonymous said...

Dan,

Guess we're not going to see eye-to-eye on this. "That Jesus" that you refer to repeatedly predicted his atoning death, resurrection and return to earth. I simply cannot dismiss those as "lesser teachings."

Having said all that, I believe to ignore his commands to care for the least of these, pray for your enemies and display mercy is as perilious as blowing off his eschatological teachings or references to his divine nature. Guess I'm trying to shoot for a holistic view and not compartamentalize this over that.

Anyway, good debate.

Keith Taylor said...

JD,

I'll be in Dayton, TN on Wednesday. I'll drive right by the courthouse that the Scopes trial took place. Do you want me to send you a souvenir? LOL.

Dan,

This thread has taken on two parallel discusion.

The original question is (1) "what is heresy?", specifically, "how do we as Christians identify heresy in false church, a cult, or a sect. " I used the five historical points, fundamental to Christianity, to answer that. These points are where the term, fundamentalist, comes from, but that term took on a negative connotation in the latter half of the 20th century, even though they are fundamental beliefs to basically every legitament Christian Church, both liberal and conservative.

The second question that has crept in here is "what is required for salvation?" That is a totally different question. John Wesley always asked, "are you right now trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation?" Rev. Wesley is correct. That is all that is required.

Of course, that is all that is required. But, our point is that unless you believe that Christ is the co-eternal, 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, who lived as a man on earth the same as you and I, except without sin, that he died and his blood attonement covers mine and your sin from a just and righteous God, that he bodily arose from the dead as a sign of his diety and defeat over sin and death, and that he promised he would come again and since he promised it, it has to happen since he is God and cannot lie, and all of this is recorded in the Holy Scriptures, if your Church doesn't teach that, then it is unreasonable to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, he was instead an idiot and was mentally derranged, and our salvation is totally not true and the muslims are correct, we are infadels.

Whew, how is that for a run-one sentence? Hey, I'm a mechanical engineer, not a theologian. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I guess heresy does matter

John said...

Yup. Either Jesus was who he said he is (and will return, etc.), or he was a liar and a lunatic. His moral teachings are irrelevant if he was not the son of God, and the Gospel witness of his teachings which Dan espouses is dishonest and unreliable to communicate those teachings if it screwed up something as significant as being born of a virgin.

Gord said...

As I look at Kieth's list I note that it is in fact very similar to the "5 fundamentals". I also note that I have trouble with the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, Substitutionary atonement theory, and bodily resurrection.

Am I therefore a heretic?

In the end, especially in the early centuries post-Constantine, a heretical point of view was the one which lost the argument.

Dan Trabue said...

Keith said:

"But, our point is that unless you believe that Christ is the co-eternal, 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, who lived as a man on earth the same as you and I, except without sin..." etc, etc, etc.

I understand. And my point is that there are many "unlesses" you could add to that list. Unless you believe that Christ would have us love our enemies, side against oppressors in support of the poor and marginalized - and do so while turning the other cheek, that Christ would have us cast our dependence upon God and not mammon, etc, etc, etc.

I could add many caveats as to who or what Christ is. Some people may indeed have cast their dependence upon a Christ that is not the Christ of the Bible and that could be to their own harm.

But I maintain that it is extrabiblical to tie that Christ to your five criteria exclusively. I would come much closer to identifying Christ by Jesus' own words than I would by these theological tenets pried from scripture.

But given several affirming responses that we ARE saved by Gods' grace alone (and not these criteria), then we agree that I'm not doomed if I don't agree with your idea of inerrancy or a virgin birth?

I think one difference between anabaptists (with whom I identify) and y'all is that we may think your 2-5 are all well and good, but we place much more weight upon what you're doing, not what you're thinking.

That is, we're saved by accepting God's Grace, thank God. But we'll come closer to wondering about the fella who hates his enemy than we would someone who questions a virgin birth or that Christ will return again to earth.

We hang tight to the notion that Christ IS on earth, in the least of these and in our fellowship with each other, much moreso than some distant return.

Dan Trabue said...

John said:

"His moral teachings are irrelevant if he was not the son of God"

Why? Is Truth not Truth, no matter who speaks it?

Phil said...

Just to add a thought, Jesus isn't the only religious figure with supporting scripture to have a miraculous birth. In those times attributing a miracle to the birth mythology (using the term as "story", not as "myth") was a way to ascribe importance to the figure, whether true or not, much like ascribing other miracles. Especially since the accounts of Jesus' "miracles" were written so long after the time when they supposedly happened, how can their veracity be proven? Who's to say they weren't just used to make him seem more likely to be the messiah? (Which seems to have worked well at getting people to believe.)

Heresy only exists in relation to the institution of the church and is certainly up to interpretation and debate and may, in fact, change with time. What is heresy for one may not be heresy for another. Many saints were considered heretics in their own lifetime.

There is such a need by many Christians to define who's in and who's out of the club. If salvation is by grace alone than what we say, do, and believe plays no part. So why does it matter what we believe if salvation is external to ourselves?

Finally, to answer the original question, heresy only matters to those who decide what is heretical.

John said...

As I look at Kieth's list I note that it is in fact very similar to the "5 fundamentals". I also note that I have trouble with the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, Substitutionary atonement theory, and bodily resurrection.

Am I therefore a heretic?


If you reject these, then yes.

phil said...

Also, ditto to Dan's question in the preceding comment.

John said...

Why? Is Truth not Truth, no matter who speaks it?

No. If Jesus lied about his divine nature, then he does not speak the Truth.

Anonymous said...

Phil,

I've picked on Dan some, so now it's your turn. You said,

"If salvation is by grace alone than what we say, do, and believe plays no part."

Salvation itself is not contingent on what we say, do or believe. It is based solely on the work of Christ on the cross. Christ has made it possible for all of humanity to be saved...BUT...we must appropriate that salvation as a starving man would reach for a piece of bread. It will do him no good to ignore the bread that has been provided and eat a sofa cushion instead.

Dan Trabue said...

Phil:
"Am I therefore a heretic?"

John:
"If you reject these, then yes."

How about if I just reject the one notion of an inerrant bible (depending upon how that's defined)?

Am I not a christian? Or am I merely a heretic?

And is a heretic a Christian?

And I will keep asking the question: on what biblical basis would you reject someone's Christianity for not thinking the Bible is inerrant?

Keith Taylor said...

Dan,

I will not reject your Christianity if you reject the inerrancy of the scriptures. I'll tell you that I think you are wrong, but so be it.

Alot of Good Christians thought the world was flat. That didn't make it true, and it didn't make them any less Christian.

Jesus says in his own words in John 5:39 (NLT) "you search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!"

Now, if Jesus says that, then what scriptures are you going to start taking out? Which ones don't point to him? and, how can you tell?

We like to think that God is all powerful and there is absolutely nothing that God cannot do. That is absolutely not true. GOD CAN NOT LIE!. So, what part of the scriptures do you want to start removing since Christ himself says, the Scriptures point to him.

JD said...

Ok.

Mark, I could call you a monkey, but wouldn't that offend the monkeys? :)

Keith,
Not sure what a souvenir from their would look like, so I will pass.

Let's make things simple, to me, inerrancy means God said what He meant and meant what He said (someone else more profound than I made that comment) through the writers of the Bible. If you think it to be in error, take it up with God.

Secondly, reading the Oswald Cahmbers My Utmost website the other day, I came across this for 11/21:

November 21st.

IT IS FINISHED

"I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." John 17:4

The Death of Jesus Christ is the performance in history of the very Mind of God. There is no room for looking on Jesus Christ as a martyr; His death was not something that happened to Him which might have been prevented: His death was the very reason why He came.

Never build your preaching of forgiveness on the fact that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. It is untrue to Jesus Christ's revelation of God; it makes the Cross unnecessary, and the Redemption "much ado about nothing." If God does forgive sin, it is because of the Death of Christ. God could forgive men in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted to be Saviour because of His death. "We see Jesus because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour." The greatest note of triumph that ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ - "It is finished." That is the last word in the Redemption of man.

Anything that belittles or obliterates the holiness of God by a false view of the love of God, is untrue to the revelation of God given by Jesus Christ. Never allow the thought that Jesus Christ stands with us against God out of pity and compassion; that He became a curse for us out of sympathy with us. Jesus Christ became a curse for us by the Divine decree. Our portion of realizing the terrific meaning of the curse is conviction of sin, the gift of shame and penitence is given us - this is the great mercy of God. Jesus Christ hates the wrong in man, and Calvary is the estimate of His hatred.


I think that sums up a great deal of the debate that has been going on....or I just opened up another can of worms.

PAX
JD

phil said...

By saying that WE must appropriate the salvation, that means that we have something to do with the salvation. You can't say "Salvation itself is not contingent on what we say, do or believe. It is based solely on the work of Christ on the cross." and then say that it is contingent on our appropriation. It's a charming metaphor, though.

And Dan, it isn't up to me to decide whether you are or not, so I wouldn't be so arrogant as to say one way or the other.

Dan Trabue said...

"I will not reject your Christianity if you reject the inerrancy of the scriptures. I'll tell you that I think you are wrong, but so be it."

That's all I was asking for: A little grace. We can disagree without having to say that the Other is not a Christian.

As to the specific question about Scripture, it depends upon what you mean by "inerrancy." That every word is literally true? None of us think that. We all realize that there are allegories, stories, parables, rules given for a particular people at a particular time, etc.

The Bible is not to be taken word-for-word literally. Many times, that's what people say they mean by "inerrant."

I reject the notion of a literal Bible.

So, what do y'all mean by "inerrant?" I'll buy your definition (Timothy's definition) earlier:

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

So I can agree that all of God's Words are profitable and instructive and from God. If that's all you mean, then I'm okay with an inerrant Bible.

It's when folk start adding other definers such as "literal" to the Bible that I start disagreeing.

Also, as I pointed out earlier, God is perfectly capable of inerrancy. We aren't. So even if God's Word is profitable and instructive, we may very well be misunderstanding it.

jake said...

JD:

God could forgive men in no other way than by the death of His Son

I think God can forgive by any means and isn't limited to the death of Christ. I believe God can, and does, forgive in other ways.

And truth is truth, no matter who says it. It is up to the reader of scripture to discern which is truth and which is not. Scripture was written down by the faulty hands of human beings, no matter how inspired by God it was, so there's no way that it's inerrant.

Anonymous said...

The church use to burn heretics, some of us should be glad they don't anymore.

To sum up what I have read so far:

One side believes: Faith in Jesus Christ is enough.

The other side believes: Faith in Jesus Christ requires faith in everything else, the whole shebang, or it is not true faith.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

Keith Taylor said...

J.D. said,

Let's make things simple, to me, inerrancy means God said what He meant and meant what He said (someone else more profound than I made that comment) through the writers of the Bible. If you think it to be in error, take it up with God.

:-) Thanks J.D. I like that alot. I may have to use that again.

Gord said...

WEll John then many of the people with whom I have worshipped, studied and worked are also heretics (I don't mind, my whole denomination has been called heretics more times than I can count).

THere is more than one atonement theory--even if one goes back to the earliest centuries. The virgin birth story many of us seee as myth (in the best way mind you). Inerrancy of Scripture is a ludicrous concept as it is often defined. ANd there is lots of room for doubt about the bodily resurrection--even Paul's own experience isn't clear on the topic (although he hints heavily for it in 1 Cor 15).

If the Imperial power had favored a few different people 1600 years ago it is possible many things we see as heretical would be orthodox and vice versa. THe church is a political intstituion after all.

phil said...

Here, here, Gord!

John said...

I didn't like answering your question, Gord, but you did ask....

If Constantine and the early Christian emperors had made different decisions, would I now be a heretic? No. The truth of Christ does not change, even if no one believes or everyone believes. Orthodoxy is not determined by votes or polls; it is an objective truth. A thing is orthodox, or it is not.

Could a series of Arian emperors (for example), have stamped out orthodoxy? No. God promises that his saints will persevere. It is impossible for the true, invisible Church to be destroyed.

John said...

One more thing:

THe church is a political intstituion after all.

No. The Church is instituted by God. Although politics may be involved in individual, local decisions, it is God who guides and protects the whole Church through history. It is beyond the capacity of humanity to snuff out God's truth.

Jason Woolever said...

I'm coming in on this conversation rather late but I just want to say, I'M WITH KEITH on this one!

John said...

I'M WITH KEITH on this one!

In theological arguments, this is generally a safe bet.

John said...

Dan Trabue asked:

And I will keep asking the question: on what biblical basis would you reject someone's Christianity for not thinking the Bible is inerrant?

2 John 1:7-11
Romans 16:17
2 Corinthians 11:3-4
Gal 1:6-9
2 Thessalonians 3:14

JD said...

Jake:

I think God can forgive by any means and isn't limited to the death of Christ. I believe God can, and does, forgive in other ways.

If you look throughout the Old Testament, God, as you said, did forgive in other ways. Biggest problem, they did not get it.

He destroyed the earth through the great flood, they still sinned. He freed them from Egypt and gave them the commandments; they danced around a golden bull. He said I love you, and gave His people the laws in Leviticus. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah sinned, He destroyed it. The peoples tried to work together to build a tower to heaven, he gave every nation a different language so they could not communicate.

I think that God realized that if we were to end up in eternity with Him, it definitely was not going to be due to our ability to follow rules. We proved that we couldn't do that. Ultimately it came down to the fact that God loved all His children so much that He wanted to give them one more chance. He gave His only son as a final sacrifice for all of our sins. Because of His death on the cross, and only because of that, can we be forgiven and live in eternity with Him.

Also remember that Oswald Chambers made that comment, but I am glad to defend it.

Yes, the Spirit can move through us to help us interpret scripture in a way that is beneficial to us, and the truth is the truth. That being said, the Bible is inerrant. What God meant to be written in the Bible, was written in the Bible. Nothing added, nothing taken away. That does not necessarily mean that the Bible is open for interpretation. Does that mean that a day in creation was 24 hours, or millions of years (like my reference to the Scopes Trial)? Does it really matter? Because of that conversation, does that mean the Bible was in error? No. Believing the Bible is without error does not independently mean that it is not open to interpretation, but when things are pretty straight forward, they are what they are and are not open to interpretation in a way that changes their meaning because we are a "more open society." God and His word is now and forever. Amen. Sorry, the former Catholic in me felt the need for an Amen there.

Anyway, I will leave this discussion for more learned individuals.

PAX
JD

JD said...

Stephen,

I think you are right, but I thought what Keith was trying to say is that there are 5 basic tenets that define the basis for what the Christian Church believes. To call one's self a Christian would entail, accepting Christ as your savior and believing that with this acceptance of Christ is Truth. These Truth entails the 5 tenets defined by Keith. To deny one, denies what Christ came to accomplish, His divinity, and all the other good stuff that goes with it. Are you heretical? I am going to side on the side of grace and say, not necessarily, but there is a great argument to be made for that possibility.

I will always hold this true with any discussion that I have about theology and faith, which are very different, Faith without reason is faith that is lost. If you do not have a measure of reason and understanding in what you believe then you are giving up the second greatest gift God gave us, Free Will (First was Christ for those that missed this whole discussion). God does not want automatons. He wants us to understand and believe through the knowledge in our heart and mind. The one thing that I do respect about the Catholic Church is their true understanding of what it means to love the Lord with all your heart(emotions), all your mind(intellect), all your strength(physical senses), and all your soul(spirit).

PAX
JD

bob said...

Stephen said one side believes in faith in Jesus alone and the other side believes in faith in Jesus plus faith in everything else. I would ask how do you know who Jesus is if not through the everything else. If we pick and choose those things attributed to Christ in the Bible to suit our own ideals aren't we changing who Christ is.

Dan Trabue said...

John provided 5 passages to attempt to answer my question "on what biblical basis would you reject someone's Christianity for not thinking the Bible is inerrant?"

Those five passages are all about "the teachings" or "Jesus' teachings" or "this letter" but nothing about "These 66 books of the Bible as written in one language and translated several times to other languages and pulled together by a group of men centuries ago must be believed as inerrant or you're hellbound."

As I said before, I'm not saying that God is in error, I'm saying that it is entirely reasonable to think that our interpretation of God's Word is. Given our fallen state, it would be unreasonable to assume otherwise.

Dan Trabue said...

You see, the problem that at least some of us have is that to say that this created Thing is Perfect smacks us of idolatry. We are to worship God and God alone.

A second problem we have is just practical: In the real world, we HAVE to interpret what the Bible says and not assume every line means just what it means.

For instance, in the Old Testament, we are commanded by God to kill disrespectful children (and a good number of other sinners). So do we take that verse as God's Word or must we interpret it through all else we know about God as found throughout the Bible? Clearly, we must interpret it our own fallen selves.

Now sure, we ought to be praying for guidance and understanding as we read and interpret, but interpret we must. And as soon as fallen humanity starts trying to interpret things, there's a likelihood that we'll get things wrong. At least this side of heaven.

Now it makes most of us more comfortable to say things like, "The Bible is God's Word and that's that! God said it, I believe it and that settles it." But we still must pray for the wisdom to rightly understand God's Word and the grace to be covered when we misunderstand.

JD said...

Dan,

But we still must pray for the wisdom to rightly understand God's Word and the grace to be covered when we misunderstand.

I believe that, in a different way, is what I am trying to say, but I take it a bit further. "What God meant to be written in the Bible, was written in the Bible. Nothing added, nothing taken away. That does not necessarily mean that the Bible is open for interpretation.... Believing the Bible is without error does not independently mean that it is not open to interpretation" Could men make errors when translating the Bible? Yes. Was the Holy Spirit guiding the translation? I believe so. So with that, does God make errors? No. So the bible is inerrant. The whole if a=b and b=c then a=c thing that I use to describe the Trinity applies here too.

If you disagree, I am ok with that. No I am not Catholic, but I played one for 22 years :) Anyway, I say that because I quote the following. Pope Benedict wrote, before he became Pope, the following in "Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions":

"There is nothing else for it; reason and religion will have to come together again, without merging into each other. It is not a matter of preserving the interests of old religious bodies. It is for the sake of man and the world.... yet persuasion can only be achieved with difficulty amid the multitude of pressures and demands to which people are subjected. We must venture an attempt to find the way, however, so as to make plausible once more, through various converging indications, something that for the most part lies far beyond the horizon of our own interests." (p. 84) (hat tip Adoro te Devote

I understand this may be taken a little out of context, but it really addresses what we need to understand as Christians and through the depth of this discussion. The truth is the truth, to deny the truth is to deny God.

PAX
JD

Charlie said...

Wow, there is alot of thought on these things. Sadly, alot of it wrong.

As to the whole "inerrancy" thing, my question is "If you do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, then how do you know Jesus Christ existed at all?" How do you know anything about the Bible? In what do you place your faith?

As to the virgin birth, if Jesus was not virgin born, He contained a sin nature, which means He was corrupted from birth. The sin nature seems to be passed along via the male, and so Jesus did not have a biological father, and could not have had one if He were to be a spotless lamb.

The Bible does indeed say that without the shedding of blood, there be no forgiveness of sins. It also says that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. This would conclude that the only appropriate sacrifice would be Jesus Christ, the only perfect lamb. Over and over in Scripture it is said that if one does not believe in the death and resurrection, one is NOT a Christian.

Paul also says that without the resurrection of Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied, for we are still in our sins and dead. Sounds important to me.

I would add two things to that list. I would add the Trinity to it, and I would add sola fide\sola gratis to that list. Faith alone, grace alone. In adding it to the list, that weeds out the Catholic church (as it should.) If you truly, honestly believe that you must add some kind of works to your faith, then you are in error.

Now, if someone doesn't believe in the inerrancy or any of those points, are they still a Christian? Are they a heretic? That depends. If they do not believe it because they do not know better, and will change when informed, then yes, they are a Christian. But if they stubbornly refuse to lay down those false things, then they are NOT a believer. I don't know that I'd say a heretic, but definitely a non-believer.

Dan Trabue said...

Then how are you defining inerrancy?

John said...

Dan correctly argues that there is no Biblical basis for the canon of the New Testament.

This is something that we must take on faith -- that God worked through the early church councils to establish his Word.

------

I think that we're all hesitant to call other people heretics -- even those that deny the divinity of Christ as seen in his virgin birth and bodily resurrection.

But this is contrary to the experience of the early church. Many openly declared heresies were far less serious than those we face today. The Pelagians thought that humanity was morally neutral. The Arians thought that Christ was an angel and not fully God. Yet even today, we do not hesitate to refer to these people as heretics. But if these ideas are heresies, then surely the rejecting the divinity of Christ is a heresy.

Anonymous said...

Going back to the original issue of heresy, I dusted off my Christian history books from seminary & discovered that most early heresies had to do with the nature of Jesus Christ. Arianism, for instance, asserted that Jesus was a lesser being than God the Father. Docetism believed that he couldn't have been truly human and that his body was only a shell. Adoptionism said that Jesus assumed his divine nature when God 'adopted' him at his baptism.

All of these, and more, were condemned as heresies in the apostolic and patristic eras of the church. The Person & Nature of Jesus was the flashpoint of the earliest controversies. It makes sense for Satan to attack the identity of Jesus, since Christianity rises or falls with this one figure.

But the early church got it right. If Jesus was less than divine or or only a spirit being, he could not have reconciled humanity to God through the Cross. Therefore, I believe, we must be diligent to protect an orthodox understanding of Christ. And this understanding ties back into the topic of inerrancy. If the biblical writers mythologized anything about Jesus, or made things up to push an agenda, then it follows that we should question the integrity of the record they left us.

I would agree with Keith, John, et al that the inerrancy of scripture-
that God preserved it from serious error, especially in regard to the nature of the Lord Jesus-is an indispensable doctrine.

j2 said...

Yes Heresy does matter!

But it doesn't have anything to do with a person accepting and receiving salvation, nor losing it. The question is directed at the relationship of christians to each other, and as a body in relation to God. The latter digression on the essentials of salvation are solely concerned with the relationship of the individual to God.

Our common understanding, and hence teachings, must be refined and intelligent, reasoned and wise. God places an enormous burden on those who teach. For the sanctity of all sinners, not for the sanctity of God, our wisest and strongest leaders through the centuries have sought out such fundamentals.

America is a very unique experiment in Christianity in that anyone was and is free to break away when they cannot agree with church authorities. Mormons offer an example of how far apart one persons faith can grow when led astray. But they do at least admit how different they are and set themselves apart honestly. I couldn't recommend a Mormon become Catholic, it just wouldn't make sense. Likewise, I wouldn't recommend Methodist continue in "conversation" with heretics who refuse to let that body's "discipline" mean "no" when it means "no"! No one is deprived[by the church] of their salvation who cannot in good conscience accept fundamentals, even if they are wrong for doing so. But they endanger only themself and like-minded followers when separated from the larger whole. Many lament the divisions we see today, but in many ways it is healthy - if only for being an honest exploration of differences.

So, to get back to what is a heresy, then, it is clear that radical departure from accepted Church doctrine of the most fundamental nature is required. More so, one must publicly deride those fundamental beliefs and seek to sway believers to their different view. Merely lacking a personal conviction of a fundamental precept doesn't qualify. Declaring one's doubt about the virgin birth isn't a heresy, but preaching with presumed authority that the virgin birth never happened is a heresy.

JD said...

j2, you said:

"Many lament the divisions we see today, but in many ways it is healthy - if only for being an honest exploration of differences.

I posted, in the past on someone else's blog, the following statement. I think that it does fit, and I appreciate that input.

"One of the most astute observations/brain ticklers made these last three classes was by a friend of mine who is really into the apologetics. He stated that the protestant reformation and the splits of the church, starting in Acts with the Jews vs. the Gentiles, has in one way or another, when built upon a foundation of Orthodox Scripture (my words there), have been a true catalyst to the evangelization of the church as a whole. I have never really looked at it that way before, but since I have been looking so deeply at Christian Church Unity in America and John 17:20-23 (yes, there it is again), it is an observation, per chance a theory regarding the spread of Christianity. When you get down to it, the faith is there in all biblically based churches, the "religion" is a little different.

Charlie, you said:

"Faith alone, grace alone. In adding it to the list, that weeds out the Catholic church (as it should.)"

I have to disagree with this for a few reasons.

1. Just because most Catholics put the cart before the horse and have some mis-understanding that doing good works gets them into heaven, does not mean they are heretical. I was catholic for 27 years of my life, and I never thought that I would go to heaven just because I lived a good life. I knew that the "good works" would come and be apparent if I was saved, a sign of my salvation, as defined in James 2:14-26.

2. To say that the Catholic Church is heretical is a little strong, misguided at times, maybe, but heretical, no. There are some teachings that are completely misconstrued by the protestant community, more so due to their practice by individuals than a church teaching. Every major teaching that I have studied in the Catholic Church is based on scripture. The problem lies with the different "interpretations" of that scripture, not the scripture or the teaching itself. i.e., there are certain churches, the Catholic being one of them, that do not allow women priests or ministers. This, more often than not, is based on an interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 than something of a heretical nature.

3. To say that the Catholic Church, in and of itself is heretical, is to say that Christianity, before Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was heretical. Before this time and even after the Great Schism, The Catholic Church was the Christian Church in the world. The problems of the church stemmed from power and greed of the individuals running the church rather than the teachings of the church as a whole.

Again, you may disagree with the “traditions” of the Catholic Church,(or any church for that matter) but that does not necessarily make them heretical unless they spit in the face of scripture in their teachings. Hey, according to the very staunch Catholic, since we Protestants do not partake in the Eucharist we are going to hell because Christ called us to eat His body and drink His blood. We celebrate the occasion, but most do not believe that we are eating Christ’s flesh and blood. Heck, because I left the Catholic Church, there are people that I know that say, no matter what, I am going to Hell. Are they right? Let’s show a little grace here. Some of us feel at home in the Methodist, Catholic, Pentecostal, etc. churches, but if we believe in the 5 tenets that Keith originally mentioned, the traditions and other flamboyancy doesn’t really matter.

By the way, a good read, is a link posted originally by about Evangelical-Catholic Unity. Check it out sometime.

PAX
JD