How often do you hear of a Christian using the word Heretic? Hopefully, not often and if it is used, hopefully it is being used properly and not being thrown around unnecessarily. Dropping an H-Bomb can at times be more hurtful to the bomber than the one being bombed. I began to think about the use of the word and how I’ve heard (or read) its use in the past. Too often though, it is used improperly and out of context, this may me due to the fact that in the past heretics were burned at the stake but not any more. Maybe we need to re-introduce this practice but also apply that if the person accused of heresy is not found to be one then the accuser should be treated as a false witness and given the same punishment. I think this will stem the tide of the word being thrown around so much.
On Sunday, October 14, 60 Minutes ran a piece on Joel Osteen, the personable pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston who is on national television espousing his brand of the Wealth and Prosperity gospel. He is not a big showman with gaudy suits and lots on jewelry. He is very charming, good looking and has a great smile but not once have I heard him say anything about sin, hell, repentance or heaven for that matter. His brand of “gospel” is for temporal benefits, sadly since he never mentions hell or mans sinfulness, he doesn’t preach that man needs to be saved from his transgressions. If I could ask Joel Osteen one question it would be, why then do we need Jesus? The reason I bring this up is because in the piece, Dr. Michael Horton of Westminster Theological Seminary, California was also interviewed. He was asked what he thought of Joel Osteen, he replied by saying that he was a heretic. I am not expert on Joel Osteen, but I think that Dr. Horton is right in calling him a heretic.
There is much divisiveness in the Church these days where there should be unity. Many times there are issues that shouldn’t keep us apart, keeping us apart. Something even as trivial as what Bible translation one reads is enough to have one labeled a heretic. There are people who claim that the only true word of God is the King James Bible, the rest are merely perversions and those that read anything but the KJV are heretics. Before his passing, Dr. Jerry Falwell called those who hold to particular redemption, heretics. Chuck Smith, founding pastor of Calvary Chapel called Calvinists, blasphemous and even said that the teaching of the Doctrines of Grace are satanic. Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries, on his webcast The Dividing Line, rebutted the comments made by Pastor Chuck on his radio show. Dr. White begins the portion with Pastor Chuck about 15 minutes into the show. Even when I attempted to have a dialogue with Mr. Scott Berner over his YouTube videos regarding Calvinism, he merely resorted to name calling.
What is happening here? Why are we being so quick to denounce other Christians? I think my non-Calvinists brothers are still my brothers. I can, hopefully, by the grace of God take my non-Calvinists brothers to scripture and show them that they are wrong for believing what they do. What I can’t do is take them to scripture and show them that their belief is sinful and will take them to hell and if I were to tell them so without showing them, then I am in the wrong and in need of forgiveness for such an accusation.
I borrowed this following portion from The Assembling of The Church Blog.
In 2 Peter 2:1, Peter warns that false prophets and false teachers will bring “destructive heresies” with them. These false prophets and false teachers will not be known for disagreeing with other believers, but instead they will be known for “denying the Lord” (2 Pet 2:1), “sensuality” (2 Pet 2:2), “covetousness” (2 Pet 2:3). Thus, these false prophets and false teachers are not ones who simply disagree with other Christians, but those who deny that Christ is Lord, and live a life that demonstrates that they are not children of God.Perhaps, from this connection of “heresy” with false prophets and false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1, we should also recognize why these people are called “false prophets” and “false teachers”. Perhaps one of the most important passages to help us understand what it means to be a “false teacher” is 1 Timothy 1:3-11. Here, those who teach “other doctrines” are those who teach contrary to the gospel (1 Tim 1:11). In many other passages, the authors of Scripture encourage their readers to teach and live in accordance to the gospel of Jesus Christ – that is, the good news that God has provided a way for all people to accepted as his children.
So, according to Scripture, who are the true “heretics”? Heretics are those who deny the gospel of Jesus Christ. Heretics are also those who live in a manner contrary to the gospel – that is, according to the flesh, not according to the Spirit. Similarly, heretics are those who cause and encourage divisions and dissensions among the followers of Jesus Christ.
When Person A calls Person B a “heretic” for a teaching that Person A disagrees with, but which is not contrary to the gospel, and when Person A refuses to fellowship with Person B because of that teaching, then, according to Scripture, Person A is actually the “heretic”. Person A is the one causing division among the followers of Christ and is thus promoting true heresy.
So, let’s be careful, thoughtful, and prayerful before we drop the “H” Bomb. It could be that we are the true “heretics”, not necessarily because our opinion is “wrong”, but because our words and actions are divisive – and this is the type of heresy that Scripture warns us about
We need to think twice before dropping an H-Bomb on another Christian.