Heretics – Why I Love (Some) of Them

I Love (Some) HereticsI like rebels. Let me rephrase… I like some rebels. They go against the grain, refusing to be bound by tradition. In movies, they’re the heroes. They’re the ones who don’t “fit the mold”. They’re the ones musicians write songs about.
But they gain our respect and confidence anyway. They are the heretics.

What Is Heresy?

Being labeled a heretic, in any context, isn’t considered a good thing. A heresy is a departure from an essential bedrock doctrine; for example, denying the deity of Christ or His bodily resurrection. And while heretics claim to be part of the Christian tradition they’re not true converts. Converts believe the essentials. Heretics don’t.

What Is Heterodoxy?

Heterodoxy is the milder cousin of heresy. It’s a departure from, or denial of, a non-essential doctrine; for example, denial of the canonical status of Second Peter. While this departs from traditional Christian belief, it is not something that would cause Christianity to fall apart. When most people use the word heresy or heretic, they actually mean heterodoxy. That’s how I’m using it in this article.

Essentialism is the difference between heresy and heterodoxy.

I Want To Be A Little Heretical

Part of me wants to be just a little heretical. But I’m not. I’m not even close to being a heretic. I’m a traditional evangelical. I toe the line on every issue. If a heretic is double-chocolate rocky road cookie dough ice cream, I’m a vanilla shake. I believe the basic evangelical confessions of faith:

  • The Trinity
  • The inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible
  • The sixty-six book canon
  • A future second coming
  • That Moses wrote the Pentateuch

I don’t depart much from my tradition. Yet, I almost wish I could. I wish there was some minor doctrine that caused me to be a bit rebellious. Why? Because rebels often get more cred than traditionalists.

Rebels often get more “cred” than traditionalists.

People seem to find it easier to believe someone’s being intellectually honest when they subscribe to some minor heresy (or heterodoxy). Sometimes I even feel this way. After all, it’s not hard to go along with the crowd, but it takes “guts” to be a heretic.

Exhibit #1 – Greg Boyd

I absolutely love Greg Boyd. His writings really encourage me. His talk about doubt that I listened to the other day made him seem real. However, Boyd is an open theist. An open theist doesn’t believe that God knows the future or is timeless. Boyd is wrong.

His belief isn’t something that destroys the essence of Christianity. It does, however, depart from important Christian doctrine. Because he’s had to fight for it, Boyd’s heterodoxy makes his defense of the faith stronger.

Boyd’s heresy is barely a stanza. The gospel is his chorus.

Please don’t think I want anyone to be an open theist. I don’t. But there’s part of me that’s glad that Boyd is.

Boyd rarely talks about open theism. The central elements of the gospel form the core of his teaching. To borrow a musical metaphor, Christ crucified is Boyd’s chorus. Open theism is merely a stanza.

Exhibit #2 – C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis, one of our top ten theologians, had some pretty controversial beliefs:

I love and trust C.S. Lewis. I’m sad that he departed from traditional Christianity. At the same time, I’m glad for his “heretical rebellion”. It makes his testimony more trustworthy.

If Lewis can believe the gospel despite his heterodoxy, how much more should we, who are orthodox, be settled in our faith?

Heresy for Heresy’s Sake

Dwight Pentecost used to say that we’re all entitled to one pet heresy. I think he meant that when we get to heaven we’ll all have some doctrinal surprises.

We’re all entitled to one pet heresy.

However, when I say I love some heretics, I don’t mean those who identify themselves (and everything they teach) with their heresy.

There are many on heretical trajectories, not because they’re dealing honestly with the evidence, but because they have rebellious hearts. They’re so consumed with the attention their heresy earns them, it eventually becomes their identity.

Their heresy eventually becomes their identity.

Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

Let’s get down to brass tacks. I don’t want anyone to be wrong or to depart from Christian doctrine in even the smallest way. This article is not meant as an encouragement to rebels who find in theology another channel to express themselves.

That being said, none of us has perfect doctrine, belief, or understanding. And there’s something to be admired about those who go against the grain, take the punches, yet continue to preach the core tenants of Christianity; Christ crucified and risen.

80 Responses to “Heretics – Why I Love (Some) of Them”

  1. “I like some rebels”

    Maybe, but we need to be careful. As one “rebel” said:
    “It’s a trap”.

  2. Todd Mccauley July 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Micheal, i’m sometimes troubled by some of the things you write. It seems to me that you enjoy dancing close to the edge. I don’t get it. How can a guy like Boyd be commended? He gets God wrong on purpose and yet he’s “that a boy’d” because he supposedly holds to the “core tenants” of Christianity. I don’t get it!! You eqaute getting God wrong to a mere stanza? Correct me, but it sounds to me that Christ crucified is the only core tenant of Christianity therefore whatever else you may believe may be wrong but not the Chorus. The only thing necessary for Heaven is believing that Christ was crucified, but everything is merely a stanza.

  3. “Part of me wants to be just a little heretical. But I’m not. I’m not even close to being a heretic.”

    :) Hey, now! Don’t lose sight of the big picture here….you’re a PROTESTANT!
    Rebellion IS part of your identity! :)

  4. Is “Believed in evolution” still really so controversial to be included there? I know it can be controversial like the Calvinism/Arminianism debate, but put together as an “heretical rebellion” belief is too much.

    • RE: Is “Believed in evolution” still really so controversial
      I think so. Jesus was there during creation, and when he came here, He could have corrected the Genesis record of 6 days of creation. He did not- he let it stand as accurate. So in summary, the Genesis record is what God wants us to know…there are no mistakes.

      • …..According to your interpretation of Genesis 1. Others interpret it differently because they see it as a different type of genre, which is not trying to portray the detailed history of creation.

        • “Believed in evolution” is not phrased correctly. C.S. Lewis accepted the theory of evolution, due to evidence of the process. This is what makes the distinction. Faith is believed, while theories are accepted. A good read on this is “I Love Jesus and Accept Evolution” by Denis O. Lamoureux.

      • I don’t think Jesus cared about “correcting the Genesis record”…assuming he even had knowledge, while on this earth, of what actually transpired way back when, knowledge apart from what the scriptures actually say.

  5. God loves ALL heretics.

    We don’t love as God does. But we certainly ought to correct falsehoods regarding the Christian faith, when we here them.

    We certainly won’t be saved by our good doctrine, as important as it is…but by the blood of Jesus.


  6. Michael,

    You have completely lost me. How being wrong about part of what is taught can make one more believable about the rest of what he teaches is not logical. What is says to me is the exact opposite, “If this guy is so obviously wrong on this issue, what makes me think I can trust him in other matters of doctrinal importance?”

    And you admit to wanting to be a bit rebellious in order to gain credibility? Come on Michael, is that anything like the attitude you see the Apostles teaching in the Bible? Paul for instance who was bold enough to tell us to follow his example?

    They wanted people to come to unity of faith. They told people to believe what they were teaching. They were precise in teaching truth and denouncing error. They did not in any way make error and confusion sound like a good and positive thing that should make what they said more trust worthy.

    • Quite true, Cherylu.

      Why would you take a movie recommendation from someone when you hated the last one he gave you?
      Why would you trust the advice of a doctor who misdiagnosed you last time?
      Why would you believe the verdict of a theologian even more since in some other verdict he is obviously wrong?
      If anything, the heresy is an obstacle to trust, that would have to be overcome somehow, rather than an encouragement to trust.

      I think there is reassurance seeking involved. The heresy proves that the heretic isn’t just swallowing whatever he is fed. He’s his own man. Yet he still holds to certain “essential ” beliefs. This shows that those “essential” beliefs are worthy of belief even after examination.
      But this seems to be useful only if you don’t trust your own examination of those beliefs, right?

  7. Todd Mccauley July 21, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I have some additional thoughts. This post really disturbs me in several ways: 1st, I sense that it’s part tongue in cheek, but I also think that the author kinda believes what he’s writing. The Author mentions Greg Boyd a former Theology Professor (Bethel Seminary) and current Pastor of Woodland Hills church in St. Paul MN. That’s kind of Ironic an Open theist teaching in a place named after Saint Paul a biblical theist. 2ndly, The author states that [open theism] “…isn’t something that destroys the essence of Christianity…” I beg to differ. How can you call yourself a Christian and not believe that He is..(Heb 11:6). You can’t be a Christian and not believe that Jesus is God. The God of Open theism is NOT the God of the Bible. Therefore if God the Father of the Bible is future challenged He is NOT God at all and if he is Not God Jesus is NOT God and if Jesus is not God then the Spirit is NOT God. One Cannot be a Christian and not Believe in the deity of Christ. Therefore the thought that Open Theism “…isn’t something that destroys the essence of Christianity….” is false.
    (Part 1)

  8. Jailer to Paul: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

    Paul to Jailer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household. Make sure you are a Biblical theist, and if someone asks, you’re pre-trib, immersion baptism and KJV only. The 1611 kind. I know it hasn’t been written yet, but it’s the only one you are allowed to use. Lastly you must believe in eternal security. If you don’t you will lose your salvation. Clear?”

  9. Todd Mccauley July 21, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    3rdly, The fact the Mr. Boyd is a local church pastor is really disturbing. This means that God’s people are being infected with this poison teaching, not to mention his other poison teachings (e.g., Annihilationism, Pragmatic relativism, Women elders, etc). 4thly, the author states that Mr. Boyd is someone to be admired. “…there’s something to be admired about those who go against the grain, take the punches, yet continue to preach the core tenants of Christianity; Christ crucified and risen”. The Death and Rez of Christ, albeit critically important does not define the entirety of the core tenants of Christianity. Open theism is not just going against the grain. Women Elders is going against the grain, Open theism is something else. 5thly, for whatever reason the author has given Mr. Boyd (He doesn’t deserve the title pastor) for whatever reason a pass. The Apostle Peter certainly didn’t do this for Simon Magus who had a faulty view of the Holy Spirit, “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin”…….(part 2)

  10. A little rebellious…nice post Michael. I was trying to see where I fit on those examples and learned the term “open theist”…I guess the opposite is “closed theist”?

    Did get surprise in the category of evolution, I thought the trend was changing with modern DNA discovering (BioLogos and Francis Collins). I don’t preach to my fellow Christians what I think about it but with an unbeliever I settle the questions of evolution quickly then go on to explore Jesus resurrection and evidence for the existence of God through cosmology.

    As for God knowing exactly what color of socks I am going to wear tomorrow, I just think it is almost a futile conversation for God’s omniscience we can’t ever know anything about! After all we are condemned to be free, free will is how we obtain consciousness and if my suspicion that my consciousness/mind/heart/spirit = soul (the non material of me) then that’s how I can and should understand existence and not formulate a doctrine to guide my life by something I am not in my essence (omniscient) and can never really identify with. It is God’s essence, not mine and I guess I can’t live vicariously by the attributes of God when I am a mere human.

  11. 7thly, Mr. Boyd wrote a book last year entitled, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty. First off, what a title. He calls certainty an idol. Read Mr. Boyd’s own words concerning the Scripture. “The earliest disciples didn’t believe in Jesus because their scripture (Old Testament) proved to them that he was the Son of God. They were rather convinced by Jesus’ claims, his unique life of love, his distinctive authority, his unprecedented miracles, his self-sacrificial death, and especially his resurrection. Once they believed in Jesus, they looked for him and found him in their scripture. But they never would have been convinced that Jesus was Lord had they started with scripture alone.Unfortunately, most evangelicals today are taught to do the opposite. They base their faith in Jesus’ Lordship (as well as everything else) on their belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. This is “unfortunate” because this way of structuring our faith leverages everything on the perfection of this book, forcing the Bible to carry more weight than it was ever meant to carry. Every single problem people find with scripture now threatens to undermine their faith ( part 3)

  12. Cheryl, I tried to make it clear that there is no virtue in believing in a heresy in and of itself (obviously). The point is, for me, when someone departs in this area or that, yet continues to defend the essence of the faith (the person and work of Christ), it shows me that they are not trying to tote some party line. When this happens, for skeptics (such as myself), I tend to believe that they are dealing issues in an intellectually honest way. Now, this does not mean that those who do not depart are less genuine in their faith (I hope not or I am in trouble!). I suppose my biggest departure is in methodology and approach (as this post would evidence!!)

  13. Btw: I have the same view about politicians.

  14. “I tend to believe that they are dealing issues in an intellectually honest way”

    Some may be dealing with them in that way, yet some may be just more honest (w/o the intellectual), while others may be doing it out of just personal preference

  15. Open Theist here. I have a couple of thoughts! Most open theists (at least the ones I know) affirm many of what you called the “basic evangelical confessions of faith”: The Trinity, The sixty-six book canon, The inspiration of the Bible.

    I differ on the whole Moses wrote the Pentateuch thing. There are too many inconsistencies within the Torah. For example, references in the Torah to Moses in the third person, such as his being modest, or naming Edomite kings that lived after Moses died. As Speiser says in his introduction to the Anchor Bible Genesis, “the conclusion which virtually all modern scholars are willing to accept, is that the Pentateuch was in reality a composite work, the product of many hands and periods.” Most scholars agree that a Redactor or editor brought together material into a single set of writings we know as the Torah. I’d also like to point out that abandoning Mosaic authorship does not require a denial of divine content in the Torah. It is not difficult to believe that the sources were divinely inspired, notwithstanding that they often had other agendas as well.

    I also disagree that “The inerrancy of the Bible” is a basic evangelical confession of faith. I reject the notion that Christians have to affirm total inerrancy or abandon all claims to truth. Total inerrancy or rejecting truth is a false dichotomy. Affirming the truth of the Bible does not require us to require that the Bible be perfect because truth can be delivered through imperfect vehicles. To say that Paul’s writings were not influenced by Greek philosophy would be a grave contextualization error. There are a lot of concepts/phrases that Plato puts into Socrates mouth that are eerily similar to phrases/concepts used by Paul. Such is the case with the Bible. It did not drop magically from heaven. It was written by human beings, human beings inspired by God, but that inspiration did not supersede their humanity. That is why Paul calls it “God-breathed Scripture” not “God-written scripture.”

    • Charles Horton July 27, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      Brian: “…their inspiration did not supersede their humanity.” Perhaps, but even in their bare human state, the writers must have been very close to God, people who had already had some excellent understanding of who God is, what he is like, and what he is doing. Could God really use and inspire someone to write for him who was not close to God, who did not know him very well?

      And btw, could you give a few examples of Platonic/Socratic concepts and phrases in Paul’s writings? TIA.

      • chris rushlau July 28, 2014 at 2:12 pm

        The Demi-urge was the Platonic device by which the One, the pattern of all being, the head of the great chain of being, manifested itself in various ways in all the things that exist, via all the various Ideas, which are the patterns of each particular kind of thing. So if, with St. Augustine, you match Platonism to Christianity, finding the One’s counterpart in the Father, then you would find the Demi-urge’s counterpart in the Son, the Logos, “by whom all things were made”.
        Widening the scope to religion and philosophy in general, I find it compelling that Judaism began its shift from “kill all the Canaanites, man, woman, and child” to “the law is in your hearts and on your lips” at about the same time that Buddhism arose. Although Buddhism seems to be full of at least as many foul superstitions as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, it does seem to have a responsible version, in the (Hinduism) idea of “tat tvam asi”, “thou art that”, the law of dependent origination, which says that any attempt at self-justification, by asserting knowledge one does not actually have, fails. If you try to explain something, say, the Jewish state in Palestine, as a means to justifying your own behavior, say, your failure to respect all the people involved in that crisis, then your attempt will succeed only in showing you to be a hypocrite: putting on an act, creating a false image of the situation in order to put across a false image of yourself, perhaps aimed at convincing yourself as much as others.
        Religious faith does not give us a God’s-eye-view of the world. It teaches us to respond to the little that we actually do know from time to time.

        • Charles Horton July 29, 2014 at 9:11 pm

          “So if, with St. Augustine, you match Platonism to Christianity, finding the One’s counterpart in the Father, then you would find the Demi-urge’s counterpart in the Son, the Logos, “by whom all things were made”.

          Actually, what Paul was doing, as he said he did, was “when in Rome to do as the Romans do, or with the heathen, as the heathen do”, etc. For example, when he was at Mars Hill, there was a monument inscribed “to the unknown god”. Paul saw this as one of the peoples’ gods, but seized that moment to use something in their understanding as pointing toward the Creator God he knew and was promoting. In other words, he would find something in another’s belief or culture that he could use as a starting point to tell the person about the true God, the Creator, the Father. So what you find in Paul’s writings that cause you to say he was influenced by some other, similar sounding god, not so. Paul merely used that as an introduction to explain for the person the true God, God the creator of all things, and God, Father of Jesus.

          Further, any attempt to say that Paul was influenced by the pagan gods falls short, because the God that Paul preached was the God who would allow his son to die to save others from their sins, and as well the God who would raise that son up alive again from his grave, giving his followers hope for themselves of the same. These two ideas, the essence of what the New Testament writers were saying, would be utter foolishness to the people whose gods you say influenced Paul. Keep in mind that all humans have been created in God’s image, and it is natural for humans in general to have a sense that there must be a greater power out there somewhere, but only through the writings of the Hebrew scriptures, and now the New Testament, are we able to know the only true God as he really is. And he said that those who seek after him will find him. That is Good News, because he is a loving God and cares for all of his people.

          • “And btw, could you give a few examples of Platonic/Socratic concepts and phrases in Paul’s writings? TIA.”
            “So if, with St. Augustine, you match Platonism to Christianity, finding the One’s counterpart in the Father, then you would find the Demi-urge’s counterpart in the Son, the Logos, ‘by whom all things were made’.”
            Note my word, “if”.
            This is fruitful so far, including your response, as far as it goes.
            What do you think of the concordance in time (about 500 BC) of the rise of Buddhism out of Hinduism (which I take, on minimal research, to be the rise of ethical Hinduism: “tat tvam asi” etc.) and the transition of Judaism from genocidalism to ethicalism: what I will call the Eurasian rise of conscience in the abandonment of tribal idolatry? If finding Platonism in Christianity (we’ve barely scraped the surface in that inquiry) brings bushels of harvest for a few seeds of faith in a sane God, the wider question of creation-redemption-sanctification, across the world’s religions would, I think, complete the mission Paul set to himself: to bring Judaism to the world (Gideon Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament”) by showing that God had already showed Herself in every time and place. You’ll note that Islam uses that same approach, the Qor’an almost quoting Romans on the finding of God in nature and reason.
            Islam, and Judaism today in its embodiment in Israel, also raise the practical question for Christianity: what is authority? What does God expect of us in leading each other to Him?
            Funny how God can change from a Him to a Her, eh?
            Let me mention a wonderfully inspiring, doctrinal, personal, and informative book on this link or relationship I suggest between Hinduism/Buddhism and monotheism: The End of Religion, by Dom Aelred Graham. After twenty years, I need to ask myself why that title, given what I just said about him, and I will say that he says, with Catholic authority, that the end of religion, its purpose and proper use, is to bring us as close to a reasonable relationship with God and thus ourselves, each other, and the world of facts, as God has prepared for us to walk in (as the Book of Common Prayer would put it). The way to achieve that goal is to talk to everyone about God and pursue the conversation with anybody who responds.

  16. I like the idea of a “heterodoxy” category For me it seems to allow for every generation to approach and wrestle with the scriptures along with the cultural “truths” that surround the theologian. Augustine didn’t have modern science as a context to deal with. There are philosophical questions that differ in emphasis from periods of history. I don’t have a problem with each new generation of Christian thinkers to revisit and affirm inerrancy or to have to wrestle with Gen 1 and 2 and “age of the earth” questions. No offense but I find Ham to be too simplistic in his approach and because of such there will be many people in the scientific community that will never make it to the New Testament because they can’t get out of the first chapter of Genesis

    Perhaps “heterodoxy” allows for enough “wiggle room” that more may be encouraged to take a look and Jesus and “come see for themselves”

  17. Todd McCauley July 22, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Weak blog rules, weak!!!

  18. Michael,

    Like some others, I find it hard to follow your logic at some points in this article, even reading carefully and looking back some. That I don’t agree re. what is heresy and what is “authentic” Christianity is an aside, for the point about the logic and what your real points are.

    And I’m not at all clear on what basis you include “inerrancy” and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch as parts of “the basic evangelical confessions of faith”. I know a lot of people who consider themselves faithful and faith-filled Evangelicals who would soundly differ with you on those points, at the least. For one thing, the “inerrancy” concept is a relatively recent “invention” in the span of Christian history.

  19. D. Charles Pyle July 23, 2014 at 1:52 am

    Another thing C.S. Lewis believed was that men and women are potential gods and goddesses that a mortal man might be tempted to worship if he saw them. You won’t find this in his sanitized, abridged versions of his books. For instance, see his fully unabridged The Weight of Glory, and compare that to the expunged versions normally found in Evangelical bookstores. It is fairly rare to see an unabridged copy in such stores. I have read the unabridged version.

    On pages 14-15 of the unabridged 1949 MacMillan copy is the following:

    “It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humanity can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or another of these destinations.”

    Another paragraph in the unabridged MacMillan copy (in my copy it is on page 160) of Mere Christianity is the following:

    “The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him–for we can prevent Him, if we choose–He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright and stainless mirror which reflects to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.”

    If you see the above paragraphs in your copies of “Mere Christianity” and “The Weight of Glory,” the copies most likely are unabridged copies.

    • Charles, C.S Lewis’ writings have had a huge impact on me and I have treasured him and his writings for over 30 years since coming to the Christian faith. Though I could see where Lewis would use such descriptive words as “gods and goddesses” in a context of relating to humans, I think it is ALWAYS done so as it relates to Christ within a redeemed and glorified human. For a humanity with often a low view of itself, Lewis had a way of “shocking” his audience to contemplate and embrace the awesomeness and transforming work of God in their lives.

    • Charles Horton July 27, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      Wow! I am really surprised that C. S. Lewis used the words “gods and goddesses”! I wish I could ask him why he chose those words that sound so much like the characters in Greek/Roman literature, instead of the Bible’s “priests and kings” which Rev. 5 tells us that Jesus is working to create in us now. I wonder why he did that?!

      • CS Lewis’ back ground was in Norse and Greek mythology prior to many of his apologetic writings. This may explain his use.

  20. I don’t know how we can reach full consensus on what is to be included (or excluded) from the “basic evangelical confessions of faith” that will define — well, orthodoxy. I’m not sure it’s possible to draw bright lines. (Example: Must one believe in the divinity of Christ? Must one then also believe in the Trinity — a very different concept (there are binitarians out there)? How about the filioque thing?) Who thinks it IS possible, and what criteria shall we use?

    I also haven’t a clue what “evangelical” adds to the “confessions of faith” under discussion. Pardon my ignorance, but what IS that?

    [Of the two paragraphs above I am ten times more anxious to get comments on the first, but I have a hunch I’ll get ten times as many comments on the second!]

  21. Charles Horton July 23, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Here’s a bit of orthodoxy for you all to think about that for some reason gets very little attention in the universal church. Perhaps the reason is that it so easily flows into another bit of orthodoxy that most Christians probably have never heard of, or like most here, I’m guessing, choose not to pay attention to: the millennial earthly reign of our Savior.

    I’m talking about the very orthodox doctrine of our bodily resurrection when Jesus, Emanuel, God with us, returns to the earth. The church should return to the faith once delivered to it during the time of the apostles, especially Paul, and during the time before Constantine when Jesus was expected to come back here to reign on the earth along with all of his resurrected followers. With so much biblical evidence of our bodily resurrection, and comparatively little biblical evidence of going to heaven when we die, Christians need to begin to think seriously about the meaning to them, personally, of our bodily resurrection here on the earth, which Paul describes so explicitly, for example in 1 Thes. 4 and 1 Cor. 15, and the meaning, as individual resurrected saints, of reigning on the earth as priests and kings to our God, which Rev. 5 tells us that Jesus is making of us now.

    Given this high and surprising hope of our bodily resurrection here on the earth, am I like the rebel Michael mentioned to want the church to start thinking more about it? Well, what I’m saying isn’t heretical, or even heterodoxical, so what do you think, Michael? Is teaching Christians that our glorious hope emphasize our bodily resurrection, and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ now, that we may become priests and kings to our God to reign on the earth after his return here, is this rebel enough for you?

    • D. Charles Pyle July 23, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      Yes, it’s true that many ignore the Bible’s teaching on the resurrection of man and the millennial reign of Christ. Typically, that is because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:44-50 and failure of consideration of other passages that speak clearly of the resurrection of the flesh. People also ignore the rather plain meaning of Revelation 20. It is pretty clear from that that there is a 1,000 year reign of Christ, with those in the first resurrection “[reigning] with Christ a thousand years.” Some even pit John 5 against Revelation 20. And, that isn’t all. Those raised to glory also will judge (in the sense of ruling over) angels, if 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 are any indication. But, perhaps that sort of thing is too heretical or heterodox for some. :-)

      • Charles Horton July 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

        D. Charles: BTW, my post toward the end of this thread, beginning with “Well, the millennial reign of Jesus” was in response to this post of yours, and I wanted it to follow your comment. Sorry!

        But, while believing that Jesus will rule on earth during the 1,000 years is not core doctrine to our personal salvation, it certainly says something about the salvation through Christ to all the families of the earth in the world to come, whether or not they are believers right now at this moment.

  22. If I recall correctly, we are told to test both teachings and spirits: heresies arise from difficult teachings and honest heretics have provided the impetus for the discovery and elucidation of orthodox belief by testing teachings and coming up with wrong answers that require refutation. That isn’t to say that heresies don’t lead to corruption, but only that in their initial push-back they provide a useful service. I think the same dynamic applies to heterodoxy. We need to explore the issues we don’t get and that sometimes leads us into contentious territory. What I see Michael saying is that he appreciates the integrity and transparency of an honest search for the truth. It undoubtedly can lead us astray, so humility is also a critical aspect of being a searcher for truth. There is so much that is not clear that this will be fertile ground until the end of time, giving us ample reason to continuously seek after the wisdom of God. Simply awesome!

  23. I think I understand the point Michael is making: that a unique error in theology shows that a person is not just swallowing a “pre-existing set of doctrines” without thinking through the issues for himself. It would lend more “credibility” to that person’s other beliefs because the thinker in question, who has proven their willingness to reject what they don’t find tenable, has accepted their held beliefs after careful and thoughtful deliberation. I can see how this would be impressive to a skeptic who thinks that Christians don’t think for themselves.

    So, because we do want to intelligently contend for the faith, but don’t want to fall into heresy, our challenge becomes to think through every issue as much as the most outlandish heretic, but also to pray all the while that God in His grace will steer our faulty, fallen sense of reasoning into His truth. That way we can prove through intelligent and reasonable discussion that we have used all of our God-given faculties to think through the big issues and have still come to agree with what God says about it.

  24. Molly, good summary and interpretation of what Michael may be trying to say (I won’t presume). Personally, I’m beyond his heterodox definition, but consider my faith within the very broad Christian tradition. Heretical to some, yes. But not out of “rebellion”. Rather, unrelenting search for truth.

    My concern is about even having a clear doctrinal definition for any “orthodoxy”… something which supposedly should not be departed from. Heresy is defined only in relation to some orthodoxy. But whose orthodoxy, established when/where? Even limited down to “Evangelical”, orthodoxy is heavily debated, with no settled definition. Revert to Lutheran or Reformed Protestantism? Revert back to prior to the Roman-Orthodox split? Revert back to Constantine’s time and the Council of Nicaea? Or of Constantinople?

    What about the nearly 300 years of “The Way” and Christianity prior to Nicaea? What was orthodoxy then? Or are we supposed to trust the highly politicized, coerced nature of not only Nicaea but the many decades following, during which agreement on “orthodoxy” was sought?
    Our “received” view of early Christian unity is tainted heavily by the book of Acts. It’s very selective and slanted story is in serious conflict with the testimony of Paul on some key points. Paul’s words are much earlier and clearly “first person” so must be given the greater weight. We can’t even be sure who “Luke” was or when his Luke-Acts volume was completed, but almost certainly not until well after the major impact of the destruction of Jerusalem… probably a couple decades or more after!

  25. Belief in heresies is a sin, and a our sin leads to death, not hell. For if it did, then why did Christ die on a cross?
    I like what the theology program at Credo House taught me about “essential truths”. There has always been controversy amongst the believers with non-essentials, but long as we have the essentials down: Jesus Christ is the son of God, and we have accepted his death on the cross for our sin debt, and we are in agreement with God that sin is wrong, and we confess that we are sinners, then we are safe and headed to heaven. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We don’t do the work, He does. Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
    Bible study is a life work, and there will always be controversy. We must rely on the holy spirit to lead us unto truth, for we are imperfect and cannot do it on our own.
    I am so glad that we have the scriptures to give us our hope in salvation. Luke 18:9-14 tells us how to humble ourselves before God, and Luke 23;42-43 indicates how easy it is to become saved. For when the sinner on the cross said nothing but “remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” For Jesus knew that he was sorry for his sins, and was asking for forgiveness. Thank you for your ministry, Credo House.

  26. Denis, you said: “Faith is believed, while theories are accepted.” I like that. It’s always sounded weird to me when I tell someone “I believe in evolution.” You have given me a more appropriate phraseology. Thanks! :D

  27. Jeremiah 23:1
    Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the LORD.

    Colossians 1:28
    We proclaim Him admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

  28. Michael, I’m a little bemused over this. I do appreciate your appreciation for “heretics,” but your core doctrines which must be believed in order to be saved (and others with which God will be more lenient) seem strange to me. I’ve been to many sorts of churches, but I grew up in the Methodist church. This is what we said every Sunday — we all had it memorized:

    1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

    2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

    3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

    4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

    5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

    6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

    7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

    8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

    9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

    10. The forgiveness of sins:

    1l. The resurrection of the body:

    12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

    The only thing here that I would worry about anyone “orthodox” disagreeing with is the one about the holy catholic church. In this context, catholic means universal, not the Roman Catholic Church in particular.

    This I believe with all my heart. But I’ll bet you’d call me a heretic all the same, if you knew me better.

    I don’t see anything here about Moses writing the Pentateuch. In fact, I see no reason I SHOULD believe that Moses wrote the Pentateuch as all the scholarly research weighs in on the side of Moses NOT having written the Pentateuch. Does this affect my trust in our Father? My appreciation of or gratitude for the Pentateuch? Not in the least. In fact, it enhances it.

    I see nothing about the necessity to be a young (or old) earth creationist in this ancient creed. Nothing about a particular canon. Are the RCC’s the various Orthodox, not saved because their canon is different from ours? How do we know we’re right and they’re wrong? If we’re making a mistake there, are we going to hell? And while I do believe in Jesus’ immanent return, I don’t see that in the Apostles’ Creed. Nor do I find there our modern insistence on the plenary inspiration of the collection of documents we call the Bible, wonderful though it is.

    There are certainly devout and dedicated followers of Jesus who are open theists. Is this a tenet of faith in ANY of the original great creeds? What about scriptural inerrancy? (Leave aside the issue of the INTERPRETATION of scripture, not to mention the translational difficulties of many key passages we use to shore up our various preferred doctrinal flavors.) As for inclusivism, well, I guess we’ll probably have to excommunicate St. Paul right along with CS Lewis for that one if you take his epistle to the Romans at face value.

    I think we have a regrettable tendency to accuse anyone who disagrees with our pet doctrines (whether found in scripture or not, and many of these pet doctrines DON’T make any appearance in scripture) of heresy.

    Are we gnostics, that we believe people will lose their salvation for getting some bit here or there wrong that we think is important enough to damn them for? Or do we believe that anyone who calls on the Name (whenever they call on that Name) will be saved?

    • Cindy, why do I need Jesus?

      • Jmick,

        Sorry that I missed your comment. For some reason this is the first time I’ve seen it here. I guess I’m not as observant as I ought to be. But your question puzzles me. Well, not the question, but why you would even ask it. What do you mean, why do you need Jesus? (I assume you’re a Christian — if you’re not, then I understand your question.) Would you please clarify?

        Thanks! Cindy

    • Charles Horton July 27, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      Well, reading over the discussion again, I’m reminded that we live in the times of relativism, as in, “All things are relative; you’ve got your truth, I’ve got mine,” and “You’ve got your orthodoxy, I’ve got mine.” One of’s dictionaries defines orthodox as “of, pertaining to, or conforming to the approved form of any doctrine, philosophy, ideology, etc.” Most of the other definitions there include words like “conform” and “approved form”, so the definition itself of ‘orthodox’ seems to invite other opinions because we want to ask, “is it possible that somebody way back there made a mistake?

      The problem is once we begin to establish in our thinking “our own orthodoxy”, which idea seems to be part of what we are talking about – although in our case here, I believe most posters are in it due to a sincere quest for truth about God – our human pride starts getting us to thinking that “our” orthodoxy is the most important, and thus we miss obvious truths still surrounding us after we begin to formulate our own.

      Just a quick example right here in these posts are some of Cindy’s comments – not picking on Cindy, but she touched on a couple of things that, I confess it, MY orthodoxy is made of. She said, “…while I do believe in Jesus’ immanent return, I don’t see that in the Apostles’ Creed.” Well, isn’t it right there in her points 6 and 7? “6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: 7. From thence he shall COME to judge the quick and the dead:” This pretty clearly says to me that Jesus will leave his place at the right hand of the Father, and come back to the earth and judge the quick and the dead…here on the earth. I believe that the early disciples who wrote the Creed believed this. That’s what Peter and the others asked Jesus about in Matt. 24:3.

      And as Cindy says, there is much that’s not mentioned in the Creed. For example, I don’t see where it says anything about going to heaven as our great hope. Rather it says in points 8 – 12, “8. I believe in the Holy Ghost: 9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints: 10. The forgiveness of sins: 11. The resurrection of the body: 12. And the life everlasting.” Isn’t this saying that, as a community of saints, believing that our sins are forgiven, our hope is – just as we see in the life of our Savior Jesus, who died on earth and was raised up to life again on the earth – isn’t this saying that our hope is the resurrection of our bodies, which will happen when Jesus returns, and the life everlasting, which will commence immediately at our resurrection, right here on the earth?

      So in this case, “my” orthodoxy concerning Jesus’ return and our bodily resurrection is made up of some things I read in scripture, and is backed up by what believe the writers of the Creed apparently wanted all Christians to be able to believe and say together in one voice. So I’m convinced that these things are a part of Christian orthodoxy, and therefore are a part of “my” orthodoxy. But aren’t there Christians who disagree?

      • Charles,

        You’re right — I did miss that. Sorry. I guess my thoughts on the second coming often float off to the “rapture mania” of my youth, and perhaps that blinded me. The creed does indeed endorse Jesus returning to judge the living and the dead. Sorry ’bout that.

        Regarding the resurrection, you’ve made a good point. People believe differently as to how that will play out. You appear to believe people are either asleep or dead or nonexistent until the resurrection (forgive me if I’m mistaken). I lean toward those who are “in Christ” being immediately with the Lord, and as to how to fit the physical resurrection into that scenario, I’m not quite certain, but like you (and Paul), I see that as essential. So . . . I may be right or wrong. I feel scripture is a bit ambiguous on that point. We’ll all find out in the end — meanwhile, I wouldn’t call anyone a heretic because s/he believed a slightly different eschatology than I.

        I guess for me, the bottom line is that we are all brethren. We will nevertheless all get certain points of doctrine wrong, and we won’t know what those points are, because WE think we’re RIGHT (or else we’d change our minds). How much of this mistaken doctrine are we allowed before we go to hell forever? Honestly, I think the thing that has an impact is our love and relationship with our Lord and with one another — not getting all the doctrinal ducks lined up correctly (though that’s a good thing to do.)

        Blessings, Cindy

        • Charles Horton July 29, 2014 at 9:33 pm

          That time between the day we die and our resurrection at Jesus’ return here, is called the Intermediate State. Nobody knows much about it. I’m not saying we will not be conscious during that time. Many of course believe we will be. My point is that the scriptures, both OT and NT have much to say about our future resurrection, and little to say about the intermediate state. If you made 2 lists of Bible passages that talk about each, it would be a very lopsided list, with far more entries, and explicit ones at that, on the bodily resurrection side of the page. In addition, both Jesus and Paul referred to those who died in the Lord as merely being “asleep”. And since Jesus’ resurrection, “the first fruits of many” is our example for the hope that is in us, it seems to me that it is time for Christians to start emphasizing this wonderful truth for the future of believers instead of keeping it shoved way on the back burner, like it has been for way too long.

          Blessings to you too, Cindy. I love your willingness to search and make mention of it if/when you discover something to amend your faith toward growing in grace and knowledge of Christ.

          • This is a general comment pertinent to your (Charles) and Cindy’s discussion, not aimed at you particularly: I’m continually confounded that very few Christians, of any theological “stripe”, seem to care to study and discuss the large amount of data about “heavenly” kinds of experiences in either “near death” or other circumstances…. Both kids and adults having clearly “nonordinary-states-of-consciousness” experiences that are very often life-transforming and spiritually beneficial (regardless of the experiencer’s faith/religion, or lack of it, before or after).

            It seems that for Evangelicals (I was one for 27 adult years plus all of childhood), it is confusing as to how to treat this data… and this relates to the orthodoxy/heresy theme here. For one thing, the data (of which there is now a LOT and studied, categorized, etc. in some depth, if one explores just a bit) is not always seemingly consistent. And not “authoritative” in the way orthodox folks see the Bible.

            Yet most of the same people believe God’s revelation comes also through the natural world and our experiences with it and within our individual consciousness–our encounters with both physical and spiritual realms. So here is this giant body of evidences that clearly seems to signify SOMETHING about the nature of the afterlife, although tough to pin down in detail and grasp with certainty. (Except the experiencers themselves, who are often quite certain of spiritual “realities” they experienced, and live accordingly… some as Christians, Jews, etc., some as among the “nones”… so they should be taken seriously.)

            And even if one (perhaps rightly) says NDE experience is not a reliable representation of what one will experience if one actually, “permanently” dies… is not eventually resuscitated…, it should be taken as at the least a glimpse into the kinds of spiritual existence people seem to have, at least briefly, on a generally in-common basis. And that basis seems, when the phenomenon is looked at as a whole, to NOT be tied to any particular biblical or other religious faith.

          • Howard, that’s an interesting comment (about NDE’s). It’s a fascinating topic, and not less because the experiences (the semi-believable ones) are uniformly positive. At least I’ve never read a negative experience that I though even slightly credible. Maybe I’m misjudging some of them, but ehhhhh . . . I don’t know. They don’t seem nearly as sincere somehow . . .

            You speak of a large body of reportage. I’d be very grateful if you would be willing to share some of your favorite resources with me. I’m not sure whether that’s appropriate or not here, but if you think it isn’t, I’d be happy to have you drop them in a comment at my blog. You can get to that just by clicking on my name. As you say, there’s a LOT out there and I’d sooner have the help of someone who’s already scoped out the landscape. If it’s too inconvenient for you, I definitely understand.

            TIA, Cindy

          • Thanks, Cindy,

            This comment won’t indent below yours apparently, so hope you find it. But I will go to your site and give a few more details. For now/here, just a couple key sources I’d suggest you or anyone start with (more on your site later): The fairly recent work (2011) titled “Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience” by Pim van Lommel (A Dutch physician). At the time (and perhaps still) it was the best meta-study of earlier research on NDE’s. I was also familiar with some of his good earlier work, and I note on Amazon he’s co-authored another, more application-oriented book, just this year.

            A much earlier meta-study by one of that period’s solid researchers (PhD, psychology, I believe) was done by Kenneth Ring… I forget the title… easy to find. Then PMH Atwater, who is brilliant and thorough, though not a scientist, has written perhaps the most of anyone on the phenomenon, with the added edge of being a 3-time NDE experiencer herself. You might enjoy perusing her numerous books on the subject… These three just for starters.

          • Thanks so much, Howard. :D I’ve already left you a response at my blog, but I did find your comment here. I think they’re all kind of hard to find. I just copy a bit from the comments that come to my mail box and then do a ctrl->f and then paste in the random phrase I’ve copied. Much easier for me than scrolling around.

            Thanks again! Cindy

          • Charles Horton July 31, 2014 at 1:38 pm

            I too sense that those who experience NDE are given a glimpse of the next life. I do wonder about the details, as you say Howard, that vary with each experiencer, and even with scripture sometimes. But the unifying thread in all that I’ve read or read about is a tremendous freedom of love that is shared by the person and all the characters they meet – a powerful and unforgettable love and joy. I think all who inherit the next life with God will experience this love as normal and everlasting, whether in the intermediate state, the resurrected state on the earth, or some other way, a love that God can reveal to anyone regardless of their professed religion or faith specifics.

  29. Cindy, I think you have misunderstood this article. I would never say that those are core doctrines. The core is the person and work of Christ. I have written extensively on this.

    Hope this clears up the confusion my inability to communicate probably caused!

    • Thanks for the clarification, Michael. I appreciate that. :) I ought to have read more carefully.

    • Michael,

      Per your reply to Cindy (of 7-23, 10:30 p.m., per my Pac. timer… in case this does not appear below it), might I suggest you write a new post which clarifies the issues not only she but several others may be misunderstanding in what you are meaning to say? I’m still not clear. Could it be that you are in a time of adjusting your own beliefs (which we all do, at least occasionally, and is only appropriate and important) and that is why your statements come out with some lack of clarity?

      If you or others are not following it, there has been a fascinating and important series of at least ten Christian scholars sharing about various “aha” moments (and gradual transitions as well) in terms of their beliefs on Peter Enns’ blog on Patheos. Highly recommended!

    • Charles Horton July 27, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      I would say that everything in the Apostle’s Creed is core doctrine.

  30. An open theist doesn’t believe that God knows the future or is timeless. Boyd is wrong.

    Have you read what Nicholas Wolterstorff has said about the claim that God is timeless, in God & Time: Four Views? He seems to make a decent case that God isn’t timeless, that only one verse can really be construed to support this, over and against many others. Shall I quote a bit of what he said?

  31. Well, Boyd did write a whole book about open theism.
    And a gospel wherein the major player (God) doesn’t have any way to know whether he can save anyone is not really the Gospel.

    • Rhology,

      I haven’t read Boyd’s book, but the open theists I personally know don’t claim that God doesn’t have any way to know whether He can save anyone. They claim rather that God knows full well that He can and will save everyone. They say He knows this not because He knows (as someone else here quipped) what color socks you’ll choose tomorrow morning, but rather because He knows His own abilities and His plans, and that He will succeed in bringing them to a satisfactory completion no matter what.

      As for me, I could be an open theist, maybe. I don’t have enough information to sway me one way or the other at present, so I’m just not sure. I do NOT think the open theists I know dishonor God at all, though. They seem to me to have every bit as much confidence in Him (if not more) as I’ve seen in those who hold the traditional view.

      • I know they CLAIM those things, but their actual position is incompatible with those assertions.
        Read Isaiah 40-48 and tell me that it’s not 9 chapters of YHWH taking the god of open theism to the woodshed.

  32. You seem to think these folks I mention are trying to deceive me about what they believe — but why would they do that when their goal is to tell me what they believe? Besides, I know these people personally and have no reason to doubt their honesty in sharing their thoughts.

    The chapters in Isaiah are beautiful and always worth a read, so thanks for that. But they don’t prove the open theist position is wrong. Open theists don’t assert that God can’t predict the future or that He can’t predict His own future actions (or ours, for that matter). Mostly what I hear from them is that the future doesn’t exist yet and that therefore it isn’t a thing that can be known — it isn’t a thing at all, in fact. There’s nothing to know.

    Maybe they’re right; maybe wrong. The alternative which I’ve read (if I remember) in CS Lewis, is that the whole expanse of time exists already and to God, everything has already happened. This scientists call the “block universe theory” (and another name I’m not remembering at the moment). Their explanations make sense to me, but that’s hard for me to judge as I’m not a physicist. Nevertheless I can’t bring myself to accept them. I dunno. It just doesn’t feel right.

    So, as I say, I’m undecided. As with other theologies, there are various flavors of “open theist,” with slightly different details. It’s hard to put people and their ideas into an adequate box. I’m okay either way. God is good and I trust Him absolutely. I don’t need for Him to have already set everything in concrete. I think He’s competent enough to handle things as they come if that’s the way things are (and if it IS the way things are, then it’s that way because that’s the way He made it.)

  33. To say “the future doesn’t yet exist and therefore isn’t a thing that can be known” needs some qualification. I would distinguish between two flavors of predicting the future: predictions of what will happen by virtue of the natural laws of the universe, and predictions of what will happen as a result of human choices. Surely Open theists should have no problem with an omniscient God knowing the former.

    Imagine two trains on the same track speeding toward each other, one in a tunnel, the other just around the bend — so they can’t see the impending accident. But suppose YOU can (say, because you are on an adjacent mountain top looking down at the train entering the tunnel and the train around the bend). You know how long it takes a brakeman to stop a train and therefore you can tell with 100% certainty what the future holds, the laws of physics being what they are — a horrible crash!

    Now imagine a God who sees everything, and is so smart that he can tell how all physical laws will order the universe out over a zillion permutations. Why can’t we say He can predict the future? Only one reason I can see: the element of randomness interjected by human (and maybe animal) choices yet to be made.

    • Good points, Frank. However, there is not a clear-cut distinction or separation between physical or natural laws and effects of human choice. Physics has demonstrated clearly that even the act of human observation has some effect, even if small, on “physical” phenomena. While there is a practical general distinction, there is not pervasive distinction between mental/spiritual and physical realms.

    • Good point, Frank. Of course non-sentient things — tectonic plates and wind currents and the flavor of pepper can have no true freedom to choose, but I wonder whether Father doesn’t leave them alone for the most part to do what comes naturally.

      But yes, surely He knows how all these tensions and sunspots and etc. will interact. You COULD even say He knows this about humans, but if that’s the case it does cause me to wonder whether I oughtn’t become a Calvinist. I think when He breathed life (divine life, consciousness, whatever) into us, He took His hands off, to at least some extent.

      And as Howard says, we also can have some effect on the environment, even if only so small as to cause a particle into wave collapse (if that’s what’s really happening) by the mere act of looking at it. It’s all fascinating stuff, though. :)

  34. I’m kind of curious about how you believe you can distinguish between “we who are orthodox” and “those who are heterodox.”

    In asking this, I’m “standing outside myself” in a sense. I mean, I agree with you about the inerrancy of Scripture and probably most other things, so I’m going to agree with you that you’re “orthodox.”

    But here’s the problem: Can you give a PRINCIPLED argument that when you use the word “orthodox” you don’t just mean, “what I myself believe to be true?”

    It’s very easy to show who is orthodox if you have an objectively-determined “target” (painted on a wall, perhaps) and if you allow yourself, and a few other folks, to shoot their doctrinal arrows at the target. In that case, all that one needs to do is examine the target to see which arrows hit within the outermost ring of the target, and which arrows missed the target entirely.

    But that, so far as I can tell, is not what you’re doing.

    To me, it looks like you shot your own arrow at the wall. After it landed, you painted a target around it such that your own arrow would be in the bullseye. And then you invited others to shoot their arrows, and judged them heterodox if they were in the target but outside the bullseye, and heretical if they were entirely off-target.

    Isn’t that a pretty accurate analogy for what you’ve done, here?

    There’s an objection I can imagine you making, to this criticism:

    You might say, “I didn’t arbitrarily draw the target around wherever my arrow happened to land. I first aimed my arrow at the place where Holy Scripture taught me was the right place…and then, yes, I painted a target around that spot, too.”

    Which is all well and good, except that, out of the many folks who disagree with you on one topic or another, they ALL believe their own arrow-strikes are equally guided by the Holy Scriptures. Yet they disagree with you, because all of your arrow strikes are actually guided by your interpretation of Scripture, which differs from others’ interpretations through well-meaning human error (and because the Holy Spirit chooses not to prevent error in Scripture-interpretation).

    So what we really have here is a lot of well-meaning, Spirit-filled, “orthodox” Christians are aiming their arrows where they (in their fallible understanding of Scripture) believe they should be aimed. When their arrows land, they paint targets around them. When their bullseyes overlap with a neighbor’s, they call the neighbor “orthodox”; when their bullseyes don’t overlap but their outer target rings do, they call him “heterodox”; when their targets fail to overlap at all, they call them “heretical.”

    Isn’t that true?

    So it’s all pretty subjective.

    What I do NOT see is that you have an objective basis on which to prefer your own definition of orthodoxy over that of, say, Martin Luther or John Wesley or John Calvin or Oswald Chambers or C.S.Lewis or N.T. Wright or Rob Bell or Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) or Dimitrios Archontonis (Patriarch-of-Constantinople Bartholomew).

    That I myself have sympathy for your particular formulation of orthodoxy is also subjective. I’m talking about a standard that everyone could identify without recourse to their own personal opinions: A target which was already painted on the wall — presumably by Christ — BEFORE we got there.

    Any response?

  35. Charles Horton July 26, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    But Paul did go on to say that ‘all’ of the scripture – OT at least – was profitable for doctrine, rebuking, correction, and instruction in righteousness that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. It doesn’t say it’s ‘inerrant’, but Jesus does say we can live only by every word of God. Every word can be relied on for learning and being corrected towards perfection.

  36. chris rushlau July 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    “an opinion of private men different from that of the catholick and orthodox church” [Johnson], c.1200, from Old French heresie (12c.), from Latin hæresis, “school of thought, philosophical sect,” used by Christian writers for “unorthodox sect or doctrine,” from Greek hairesis “a taking or choosing, a choice,” from haireisthai “take, seize,” middle voice of hairein “to choose,” of unknown origin, perhaps from PIE *ser- (5) “to seize” (cognates: Hittite šaru “booty,” Welsh herw “booty”).
    The scriptural nature of the Eucharist is two-fold: the bread and wine are the body of Christ and the people are the body of Christ. A double metaphor allows all kinds of resonances, but I’ll assume the writers had a common purpose, so the one point of the double metaphor is that the people are meant to be blessed and broken and given to others.
    Would Jesus, God, have devised a plan for universal salvation, for the church, based on schism? Based on heresy? Based on choice?
    When do you most esteem God for having given you sense and reason: responsibility? So often you wish you had someone to tell you what to do, to still the controversies in your head. So rarely do you see someone who not only accepts sense and responsibility: responsibility but actually seems to enjoy it. But when you see two people in an honest dispute, there you see the hand of God in human destiny: people in good conscience trying to correct each other for the benefit of all.
    We should talk about whether salvation is a personal or a social matter.
    But let’s give God credit for giving us senses and reason: responsibility. It, like democracy to Churchill, may seem the worst possible system with the exception of all the rest, but it is manifestly God’s system.
    If you think you have the truth on, say, evolution, let’s hear your reasoning and evidence. That will tell us whether you believe in God or in brute force, which is to say, believe in a stupid God who put you in charge and who didn’t give you anything to prove your authority with.

    • chris rushlau July 27, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      rarely do you see someone who not only accepts sense and responsibility: responsibility but actually seems to enjoy it

      I should have written, “not only accepts sense and reason: responsibility but actually seems to enjoy it”

  37. Charles Horton July 27, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Well, the millennial reign of Jesus and his resurrected followers gives much cause for a heart to rejoice. We rejoice not only that our sins are forgiven, that Jesus rose from the grave, that the Holy Spirit lives in us and guides us, that we have new life in Christ in this life, and that salvation is ours, but we rejoice to know many additional wonderful things in God’s plan for humanity too numerous to list here. But here are a few that the millennial reign opens the window for us to see:

    God’s unchanging faithfulness will cause what he began in the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve disobeyed him, to be completed: a world inhabited by peoples who live according to his will, who replenish the earth and dress and keep it to his glory. This is not a horrible thing. This is wonderful!

    We, resurrected, who are reigning with Christ during the millennium will be able to witness all the nations of the earth flow into the mountain of the Lord where the Lord’s house is established in Jerusalem. We will rejoice as we witness many peoples and nations say to each other “Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” This is exceedingly Good News. And from this follows:

    We will witness the leaders of the nations telling their people to “beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks,” or as I would put it today, “their tanks and artillery into tractors and reapers.” And they will never learn war any more. That is something to cheer and cheer and cheer about, and as resurrected saints of our Lord, we’ll be able to watch it happen and aid in its disposal. How could this ever happen if we didn’t have Jesus, Emanuel, God with us, reigning here on the earth, to cause humanity to see this through?

    There are many more, but finally, have you ever really considered a world where a little child, a lion and a lamb, an asp or a leopard will play together without fear for the child, or without fear that any of the animals will harm another? What a joyful scene this is.

    The millennial reign, with the devil banished from all influence on the earth, (Rev. 20 again) makes for a world in which these wonderful OT prophecies, and many, many more, can come to life and fulfillment. Could these things happen any other way, except Jesus be here with us, as his name, Emanuel, informs us? When God made the heavens and the earth and everything in it, he declared it all to be very good. Why would he not finish what he started here? Is this heresy, or heterodoxy?

  38. chris rushlau July 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Where is the comment I submitted in answer to “where are the Socratic-Platonic influences on the New Testament” or what-not?

  39. Charles Horton July 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    This is a test. I can’t seem to get my post published.

  40. Charles Horton July 31, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Well, I’ll try again.
    Chris – this in response to your post about Hindu/Buddhist above. Part 1: Well, I am not at all up on Hinduism or Buddhism, and I don’t know what you mean by Judaism’s genocidalism. So first, by genocidalism, are you talking about the many times in the OT that the Lord commands Israel to destroy her enemies? If so, then what we learn about the Judeo-Christian God is that he is jealous for those people he created to stay loyal to him. These he calls ‘his chosen people’ – thanks to their father Abraham’s relationship with him – and he is jealous for them because he loves them wants their loyalty, just as he is loyal to them. Their enemies, also whom God created but would move Israel to follow after their ideas of god, and away from the True God, he would let die in order to preserve the holiness – meaning ‘chosen-ness’ – which he incorporated into his Israelite people. There would be a time in the distant future (prophecies from both the OT and NT – especially Revelation) for them to learn of God and come to know him and to eventually learn to walk according to his way.

    But I’m not sure what you mean by the change from genocidalism to ethicalism. This happened around 500 BC?

  41. Charles Horton July 31, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    How frustrating. My submissions aren’t getting through.

  42. Charles Horton July 31, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Part 2. In other words I am not familiar enough with the histories you describe of the various religions and the idea that around 500 BC they all went through a transition toward a more peaceful way of living. Apparently there is some speculation (your mention of Dom Aelred Graham) that this occurred.

    • This Dom, which is some kind of officer-status in English Catholicism, he was a Benedictine monk, went physically to Asia, met with various people and wrote about it. He may have implicitly groped in that book toward the link I assert, but not in any big way. I would say he pursued the Catholic concept of the relationship of reason and revelation, which is presumably what this website is about. If you ask another guy what “tat tvam asi”, “thou art that”, means, like Aldous Huxley, he might say that it means you are God (“Perennial Philosophy”) but that is obviously an incoherent claim: if you are God, why do you stick around this joint? On the other hand, if you are not part of God in some sense (what we call the analogy of being, the idea of participation, Rahner’s “intensity of being”), then you don’t exist at all, which is an incoherent claim. This all is a riff on the concept of being. In Rahner’s Spirit in the World, which I’m rereading, I’m just into the part where he’s about to introduce the concept of the Vorgreif, the pre-apprehension, of being, as the means by which we affirm that anything we sense and apprehend reasonably (“this is one of those”). If we don’t start out with a template, a touchstone, of what existence is, we cannot affirm that a given real, sensory, material experience is of an existing thing, not even that an hallucination was a real hallucination (to add my own gloss at the end there). If you think of creation as God pushing something away from God-self, but not so far that it loses all causation and ceases to exist, then you cozying up to this realm of thought. Graham relates “tat tvam asi” to “the law of dependent origination”, which again may be used to deny that things exist outside my thinking of them (I think) but he uses it to say that we so readily shirk our responsibility for the things we apprehend sensibly and reasonably by erecting rationales and justifications about supposed things of concern that only serve to justify and rationalize ourselves and indeed our lack of care for those things. Gaza in the current moment would supply plenty of examples of that.
      It might come down to whether one who fears God would even think of God much less name God, lest one try to drag God down to one’s level and thus bury the sense of holiness.
      I don’t think “holiness” is derived from a word meaning “chosen”, but rather from something like “whole”. It would be an interesting dictionary exercise.
      Have you heard of the “scandal of particularity”? It inquires as to what special burden God would put on a certain person or group to justify that person or group receiving special gifts from God.
      Posed in that sense, we see it would be a violation of God’s justice, and thus an incoherent claim, to claim that some person or persons are holy in their DNA or protein elaboration of DNA. If one DNA is holy, all DNA is holy. “God creates by assuming and assumes by creating.” “Man proposes and God disposes.” Catholics have a million great little one-liners, most of which most Catholics have never heard of. “Reason never contradicts revelation.” That one is usually used to support total tripe, like some saint’s miracles, against rational analysis, but it works much better the other way around. Creation itself, then, is neither reasonable nor unreasonable: so we can regard creation as a revealed truth.
      As for genocidalism to ethicalism, it seems a claim like “the law is on your lips and in your heart” cannot distinguish between, say, an Israeli Jew and an Israeli non-Jew, that all lips and all hearts must be subject to this same access to truth. If you say, “only my beloved sons and daughters have this access”, then someone must ask you, what about that illegitimate son you never talk about: does he have it too, and what about his buddy there in the orphanage where you abandoned him? If God plays favorites, the definition of God breaks down.
      is Graham’s obituary from 1984.

    • Charles Horton August 1, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      PART 3: Without knowing more than I do, I can still respond to all this with things we learn about God in the Bible. First, as I mentioned before, we have God’s claim that he created humans in his image, which means that everyone who ever lived or will live has the capacity to sense that there is an all-encompassing god in charge of everything, or something like that, something omniscient or omnipresent. Given that we are all made in his image, this seems quite natural and understandable. Even a Richard Dawkins believes in something greater than himself – his belief in science’s nature to produce all the life on this planet supports this.

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