What is YOUR Heresy?
My pastor began a sermon series this morning based on a book by a popular Christian author. This prolific author, who shall not be named, writes Christian Living, Theology, Devotional, Inspiration, etc. I’ve read a couple of his books and found them very thought-provoking and encouraging. I recall being so profoundly struck by one particular passage in one of his books that I took to social media to share the encouraging perspective. A few days later, I was very discouraged when someone commented that this author was a heretic. Or maybe the commenter said the author had “heretical beliefs.” Normally, I blow such comments off because well, it’s social media and… haters gonna hate. But the person who commented was not a stranger to me and cited several articles that I went and looked up, read, and found pretty solid. And yet…
The author in question has had (and continues to this day to have) an incalculably powerful impact, drawing people to Jesus. I am one of them. I am the first to admit that I am not the most spiritually touchy-feely, but I know that I have felt my soul tweaked by this author’s writings. I fully believe the Holy Spirit is at work in this author’s life and teachings. Multiple thousands of reviews offer similar support. As Paul might transition, “So what are we to say, brothers?” Can a genuine Christian have a heresy? Can an otherwise devoted follower of Jesus have a heretical belief or perhaps more than one? And, if so, does that invalidate everything else that person is or does?
My conclusions are as follows—first question: yes; second question: absolutely not. At this point, some of you are probably deciding that I am a heretic. Or maybe your being nice and saying, “Yikes, he has a heretical belief.” That’s both okay and not okay. It’s okay, because, like as not, I’m probably guilty as charged. If the heresy isn’t the point I’m making in this message, then, I am quite certain there is something else in my theology that qualifies.
I once went on a trip with one of my best friends, a person I also consider to be one of the most learned Christians I’ve ever met. We had been friends for many years, ten at least, and I thought we pretty much had the same biblical belief systems. In an unguarded moment, when I was already in a bit of a mental maelstrom, my friend admitted a tenet of his Christian theology that gutted me. It was the antithesis to a major belief upon which I had pretty much hung my eternity. I was crushed and admitted such. I very nearly ditched the trip and drove home. One thing stopped me. My friend, learning my intentions to leave, said, “That’s not Jesus.”
On a book tour with several Christian fantasy authors in the early 2000s, we attended a huge homeschool gathering that might have led to another, even more massive opportunity with a substantially larger homeschooling group. The authors had all FedExed copies of our flagship books to the president of the group. Unfortunately, this woman, a Christian leader, told us not to bother coming but that she was in fact, grateful to have screened our books, particularly my book, The Door Within. She called it a “tool of the devil” and promised to warn every other Christian homeschool association to avoid us and our evil books. Now, occasionally, I might accurately be described as a “tool.” But… “a tool of the devil?” Sheesh, I sure hope not.
Another writer I know has a very peculiar Christian belief that permeates his life and, to a detectable degree at times, his writings. It’s a belief so uncommon among American Christians and so personally troubling to me that for a season, I had to cut ties with this person. And yet, I know this man and his writings have led many thousands to Jesus. I’ve witnessed testimonials of young people who turned away from suicide to the hope of the Lord due to this man’s stories. And, I have witness the love of Jesus in this man, time and time again. For about a year, God started nudging me, okay, poking me. Well, if you really must know, slapping me upside the head, so that I would restore fellowship with this man. Thankfully, he was receptive and I can again call him friend.
These are just a few of the anecdotes of one man’s Christian experience. I suspect you have several of your own, events or discoveries about people, even friends or family members that caused you to question the sincerity of their faith or even whether the person ever had genuine faith in the authentic Jesus at all. Here is where the title question “What is your heresy” reveals its depth. Do you have a heresy? Do you believe a heretical belief? Are you honestly convinced that you know the bible well enough and God well enough that you can say with complete assurance that you have no dangerous false beliefs?
Whatever your answer to that series of questions, consider these: Are there certain beliefs that you immediately notice in other Christians and call into serious question, maybe even thinking the “H” word? What about certain sins? What if in all other ways, a person seems to be glowing in the dark with the love of Jesus, but there’s one certain sin they are committing and it doesn’t seem to bother them? How quickly do words like “pagan,” “abomination,” “heretic,” or “blasphemer” come to your lips or even to your mind? What about falsely accusing someone of heresy? Surely, that would be sin, but does it undermine the Gospel enough to also be a heresy?
I raise these questions because I think that a lot of us go through the Christian life, picking up tidbits of theology all over the place. We might learn a foundation from parents or family or a certain church, but surely other leaders, friends, or important faith figures will add influence. Of course, a big source of our private theologies is our own private research and study of the bible. Along with those potentially credible sources, however, come a motley crew of other “moralistic” beliefs, axioms, and gut feelings that we seldom examine with due caution. In that great mixture, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth, but we also have, if we’re honest, a kind of knee-jerk pride that leads us to believe we don’t have to clear the planks from our own eyes before addressing the splinters found elsewhere.
To quote the prophet J.R.R. Tolkien, as spoken through the priestly wizard Gandalf, “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
To that end, I add, leave room for God to work on people. If my understanding of scripture is accurate, discipleship is a process, holiness, a journey. If you see the fruit of the Spirit is someone’s life, don’t go a’hunting for the peach pit. Rather, ask God to gently reveal our own “peach pits” and gracefully help us learn and grow.